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Welsh American Rhys Lloyd
"We will be making objection to NBC about putting on publically-regulated American airwaves a person with racist views"
 real 28k

BBC Wales's Penny Roberts
"Her comments have done little to boost her personal popularity in Wales"
 real 56k

Martyn Jones MP, chair Welsh Select Committee
"There are serious question marks over the way the BBC has handled this."
 real 28k

Tuesday, 13 March, 2001, 10:57 GMT
Expats plan trouble for 'racist' Anne
Anne Robinson
Anne Robinson appearing on Room 101
Welsh Americans have pledged to make life difficult for TV presenter Anne Robinson following her "racist" jibes.

A prominent Welsh-born lawyer has sworn to take on her new employer - broadcasting giant NBC - if it goes ahead with plans to use her in a transatlantic version of the quiz show The Weakest Link.

And there are plans to fight for her visa to be blocked, so that she cannot work in the country.


Racism against the Welsh should be treated with no less dignity by the US government than racism against blacks, Jews, or any other racial or ethnic group

US lawyer Rhys Lloyd
Fury erupted when Ms Robinson made controversial comments about Welsh people while a guest on the BBC light entertainment show Room 101.

She said she would consign the Welsh to Room 101 - a kind of virtual skip - because she found them "irritating and annoying".

Paul Merton, Room 101
Paul Merton: Refused to put Welsh in Room 101
But now Welsh expatriates living in the US are planning to get their own back.

Rhys Lloyd, a lawyer and a member of the Welsh American society Twm Sion Cati, says Ms Robinson's comments were unacceptable and he is determined to take action.

"We intend to make it as uncomfortable for her in America as she deserves," he told BBC Wales.

Visa denial

"We will be making a protest to NBC and to any possible sponsors for her programme, and we are also going to call upon the State department and the consul to deny her a visa to enter here," he explained.

"There is a precedent in American law for exclusion and denial of visas to individuals based on pure speech."

Mr Lloyd is a member of the ex-pats organisation which made the headlines in 1993 when it brought a successful lawsuit against NBC for its continued use of the term "Welshing" to describe someone failing to honour an agreement.

Consequently the company was forced to broadcast apologies to the Welsh people on 300 different stations across the US.

'Racist speech'

Mr Lloyd believes Ms Robinson has offended the Welsh just as much by her comments, and she should now be forced to apologise in a similar way - or face losing her visa.

"We believe that her racist speech should be enough to deny her a visa unless or until it is retracted and repudiated."

And, he added: "Racism against the Welsh should be treated with no less dignity by the US government than racism against blacks, Jews, or any other racial or ethnic group."

Despite around 500 complaints about the programme Room 101 - which encourages celebrities to banish their pet hates to the wastebin - the BBC refused to cancel a repeat of the show on Sunday night.

Protests

North Wales Police has confirmed it has been investigating a complaint by a member of the public.

Other annoyed viewers have contacted the BBC and Broadcasting Standards Commission to protest.

And Ms Robinson, 57, has been told she could also be called by MPs to appear before the Welsh Select Committee to explain her comments.

Lord Tebbit said the remarks should be "treated with contempt".

"I would make sure when she next appears on the television, switch it off; just ignore the woman."


If the remarks had been about black people, or Pakistanis or gays it just would not have gone out

Martyn Jones MP
Last week viewers saw Ms Robinson nominate Welsh people for inclusion in Room 101 - named after the fictional space in George Orwell's novel 1984 which contains everyone's greatest fear.

"What are they for?" Robinson asked the show's presenter Paul Merton.

"They are always so pleased with themselves," she added.

Clwyd South MP Martyn Jones, who chairs the Welsh affairs committee, said BBC director general Greg Dyke should be forced to explain why the comments "which bordered on racism" were broadcast.

Martyn Jones , Clwyd South MP and chair of the Commons Welsh Select Committee
Martyn Jones MP: Writing to Greg Dyke
"Anne Robinson's comments must be considered as racist. If the remarks had been about black people, or Pakistanis or gays it just would not have gone out," said Mr Jones.

Mr Jones said Robinson would only argue she was joking if called before the committee and that would give her more credibility than she deserves.

But he said members would be writing to Mr Dyke to find out why the comments had been aired.


People go into the programme knowing they will be making some sort of joke and it will be said in jest

BBC spokesman

Meanwhile, Vale of Clwyd Labour MP Chris Ruane has called for her to be sacked.

"My message to Anne Robinson is: you are the weakest link - goodbye."

As well as complaining to the police, Welsh civil rights group Cefn is pressing for legal action against the star and the BBC under the Race Relations Act.

The matter is now to be investigated by the BBC board of governors.

BBC national governor for Wales Roger Jones said he would raise the issue with his colleagues.

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See also:

08 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Robinson flies to LA after 'race row'
20 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Anne Robinson - Goodbye Britain?
02 Feb 00 | Wales
'Anti-Welsh racism' protest
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