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Wednesday, 25 April, 2001, 17:05 GMT 18:05 UK
BBC: Robinson jibes not racist
Anne Robinson, Room 101
Anne Robinson appearing on Room 101
The BBC's governors have rejected complaints by viewers that Anne Robinson's comments about the Welsh on chat show Room 101 were racist remarks.

Director General Greg Dyke said the incident - in which Ms Robinson called the Welsh "irritating" and "annoying" - was a timely reminder that the BBC had to be sensitive about national identities.

Greg Dyke, BBC Director General
Greg Dyke: 'a context of mutual respect'

But, in a report by the corporation's complaints unit, he said the substance of her remarks were not derogatory and were in the "long tradition" of banter between the nations of the UK.

Ms Robinson's remarks, he added, "did not cross the line into the hurtful stereotyping or suggestions of inferiority which would have opened it to charges of racism".

The BBC received hundreds of complaints from viewers after the host of the Weakest Link made her controversial remarks on the BBC2 programme in March.

On it she nominated Welsh people for inclusion in Room 101 - the fictional space in George Orwell's novel 1984 which contains everyone's greatest fear.


There's still scope for banter, and I hope we never get to the point where cheering for one side or the other at an England versus Wales match is equated with racism

Greg Dyke, BBC Director General
"What are they for?" Robinson asked the show's presenter Paul Merton.

Despite the backlash - from both members of the public and politicians - a decision was made to repeat the programme later that same week.

Explaining the thinking behind that decision, Mr Dyke said: "The question of national identities within the UK is a potentially sensitive one, as we adjust to the new relationships brought about by devolution.

"There's still scope for banter, and I hope we never get to the point where cheering for one side or the other at an England versus Wales match is equated with racism.

"But the jokes and competitiveness need to be in a context of mutual respect, and I am sorry so many people felt we did the opposite in this instance."

Paul Merton, Room 101
Paul Merton: Refused to put Welsh in Room 101

Earlier this month, television watchdog the Broadcasting Standards Commission also rejected viewers' complaints ruling that "neither the overall content nor the style of the programme was racist".

Last month, Welsh American groups threatened to protest at Ms Robinson's Weakest Link shows in the United States.

And the Wales Tourist Board was criticised by Welsh civil rights group Cefn after Ms Robinson agreed to do an Easter advertising campaign.

The group has already pressed for legal action against the star and the BBC under the Race Relations Act.

Newsnight

The BBC upheld complaints that the Newsnight programme was guilty of political bias in its coverage of Peter Mandelson's resignation in January.

The programme was criticised for having only Labour supporters on the panel.

In their quarterly complaints bulletin, the BBC governors said there had been no deliberate bias, but added: "A broader range of speakers would have been better able to tackle the issue of the prime minister's judgement in re-appointing Mr Mandelson after his previous resignation."

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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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