The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) yesterday apologised for a live interview on its news channel in which Trinidad-born activist Darcus Howe was accused of taking part in riots.
Howe, a well-recognised journalist and black activist living in the England for the past 50 years, was being interviewed by BBC broadcaster Fiona Armstrong on Tuesday about the unrest on the streets of London, when he indicated that the state of the economy played a major part in creating the London riots and he was not shocked by what had happened. Armstrong later said that was not an excuse to go out and cause the damage and then proceeded to ask, "You are not a stranger to riots yourself, I understand, are you? You have taken part in them yourself."
But Howe, speaking from the aftermath of the disturbances in Croydon, responded, "I have never taken part in a single riot.
"I have been on demonstrations that ended up in a conflict, have some respect for an old West Indian negro and stop accusing me of being a rioter because I... you want me to get abusive, you just sound idiotic, have some respect, I have grandchildren," he said.
Following the broadcast, people immediately went onto the social networking sites and accused the BBC of being "biased" and even "racists", calling for an apology.
Yesterday, the corporation apologised for any offence caused following complaints from the viewers, saying that Armstrong had not intended to show Howe any disrespect and the questions were intended to gauge his reaction to the events.
News channel editors acknowledged it had been a "poorly-phrased question", but said this sometimes happened during live interviews and the incident was compounded by technical issues which meant the pair talked over each other.
"We'd like to apologise for any offence that this interview has caused," the BBC wrote on its website.
BBC News also said it had decided to refer to the unrest as "England riots", rather than "UK riots". It said the change was "in recognition of the sensitivities involved for people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland", and was in the interest of geographical precision and clarity.