Mexican to sue Motormouth

It was the Hamster aka Richard Hammond who pipped Jeremy Clarkson to the post in the latest Top Gear offensiveness ratings (though why people watch the show and then complain about the fact it is not nice about their trashy cars or generally rude about females and foreigners may seem a mystery - its like watching a porn channel and complaining that it is depraved) - except the BBC and Ofcom do have some rules that are designed to prevent public sector broadcasters from beaming out potentially offensive remarks such as - in this case - branding Mexicans as "lazy, feckless, flatulent and fat" (as opposed to the average hard working, energetic, never-farting, athletic countryfolk - where?).

Anyway, while the Hamster thought he was out-quipping his mates he did in fact attract the wrath of several non-flatulent Mexicans and in particular a student who has seen or persuaded to see this as a suitable new test case for the new but not yet fully in force Equality Act.

What is interesting here - irrespective of whether you are a middle aged, middle class, white motorist or an outraged Mexican - is that it could prove (if it ever gets beyond a positioned headline) a test case for the new reaches and effectiveness of the Equality Act. The statement that a whole nation or race are 'feckless' or 'flatulent' may be offensive but it is not enough to engage defamation laws as it does not (beyond a whole nation) identify an individual who could personally be defamed. The new Equality Act (once it is fully in force and understood) however holds the yet to be explored provision relating to discrimination by a public body. Now then, the BBC is a public body and if it broadcasts content that can be deemed to be discriminatory then it could well fall foul of the Equality Act.

Beyond the excitement of the headlines which will be serving both Top Gear and outraged Mexicans well, there is the question as to whether in allowing the broadcast of the offending material, the BBC was actually and actively discriminating against an identifiable person or persons.

The other and related point here is to what extent is it permissable to allow/include a certain amount of outrage or morally/politically correct latitude in the editorial process to facilitate a boost in ratings? People don't rush to read dull headlines or watch sanitised TV. There will always be someone out there who takes exception to something but when the exception becomes the story then both sides sell out and the loser is the underlying principle that may have been at stake.

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