BBC Radio Devon DJ David Lowe loses job over racist word

image source, Michael Marker
image captionMr Lowe said he had made an "innocent mistake"

A veteran BBC local radio DJ has lost his job after playing a song on his golden oldies show containing a racist word.

BBC Radio Devon DJ David Lowe, 68, said he was unaware that a 1932 version of The Sun Has Got His Hat On included the n-word.

Mr Lowe, a broadcaster for 32 years, said it was an "innocent mistake".

He said BBC bosses declined his idea of an on-air apology, and his offer to "fall on my sword" was accepted.

The BBC said it accepted that the situation could have been handled better, and offered freelance Mr Lowe his job back.

'Political correctness'

But the DJ said the incident had exacerbated a stress-related condition and he would not be returning to the corporation.

The second verse of the song, recorded by the UK dance band Ambrose and his Orchestra, features the line: "He's been tanning [n-word] out in Timbuktu, now he's coming back to do the same to you." Later versions of the song omit the offensive word.

The BBC took action after a listener heard the song - part of Mr Lowe's private record collection, broadcast on his self-produced Sunday night programme - and complained.

media captionListen to an excerpt from David Lowe's last show

Mr Lowe, a broadcaster with Radio Devon for nearly 14 years, told BBC News he had written an "unreserved apology" for use on air which he submitted to BBC managers after the song was played on 27 April.

"I offered to apologise or to fall on my sword," he said. "Unfortunately the BBC decided on the latter option. I don't have any quarrels with any of my colleagues. It's the system of political correctness which has turned this into a rather badly-handled affair.

"I think we're all too ready to bow to political correctness. One feels one is following a verbal tightrope, even in casual conversation."

Mr Lowe, whose show was heard on BBC Local Radio stations across the West and South West, added: "I made a silly mistake, my first error in more than 30 years of broadcasting. I am deeply embarrassed by it."

He said a health problem which caused tremors in his limbs had been exacerbated by the "stress" of the situation.

'Very sad'

"It was a magnanimous decision of the BBC to offer my job back and if not for the impact this has had on my health I would have accepted, but my health comes first," he said.

A BBC spokeswoman said: "We have offered David Lowe the opportunity to continue presenting his Singers and Swingers show, and we would be happy to have him back on air.

media captionMr Clarkson responded in a video on Twitter saying he loathed the word

"We accept that the conversation with David about the mistake could have been handled better, but if he chooses not to continue then we would like to thank him for his time presenting on the station and wish him well for the future."

Roy Corlett, former manager at BBC Radio Devon, said: "It's very sad that his broadcasting career has apparently come to an end because of a misunderstanding.

"He was probably treated rather badly for someone who has been at the BBC for a long time. Local radio relies on people to produce interesting programmes like this; they do it for a sense of involvement in their community, and they should be treated with due care."

Fan Marie Trueman, 78, from Exminster, said: "A lot of people over 70 love the songs he plays. His show is a big favourite of mine and something I look forward to.

"I would love to see him back and I am quite upset that he's gone over an innocent mistake anyone could have made."

The incident comes after calls to sack the Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson were resisted by the BBC, despite unbroadcast footage showing him apparently using the n-word. He has since apologised.

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