The BBC has launched an investigation into a homophobic slur said on the 1970s British sitcom Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em.
Starring Michael Crawford as the hapless Frank Spencer and Michele Dotrice, Frank’s mild-mannered wife Betty, the series ran for three brief seasons from 1973 to 1978.
Decades on since the last episode aired, and a viewer complaint about its 1975’s Christmas special prompted the network’s internal watchdog to conduct a probe into the show.
According to The Times, the broadcaster’s Executive Complaints Unit ruled the episode in question, “Learning To Drive”, did not breach editorial guidelines.
The Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em episode sees Frank try to hold down a job as a pixie for the festive display at a department store.
“I’m the chief of the pixies, I’m the friend of all the little boys and girls,” he says in one scene as he struggles to control a crowd of rowdy children.
“Oh no you’re not,” a boy says as he turns to Frank. “You’re a p**f.”
“I beg your pardon, block your ears!” Frank replies.
“Learning To Drive” aired 21 December last year as part of BBC2’s Christmas line-up, its scheduling says, with a warning issued beforehand about the episode’s outdated language.
A BBC spokesman told the newspaper: “Attitudes and language change over time and our approach is to tell viewers when a show includes something that may be offensive, inappropriate or outdated.”
British broadcasters have increasingly grappled with how to handle vintage television programmes in recent years.
In 2020, BBC iPlayer joined Britbox and Netflix to strip Little Britain from its streaming services because of its use of Blackface.
“There’s a lot of historical programming available on BBC iPlayer, which we regularly review,” a BBC spokesperson said at the time.
“Times have changed since Little Britain first aired so it is not currently available on BBC iPlayer.”