By Ian Dunt
Boris Johnson has urged the BBC board to personally apologise to Radio Devon DJ David Lowe after he was fired for inadvertently played a song with the word 'n*****' in it.
Lowe did not realise that the 82-year-old recording of The Sun Has Got His Hat On featured the word, which recently landed Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson in hot water.
Clarkson, whose Top Gear programme is one of the BBC's most profitable products in the overseas market, said the word in a nursary rhyme in unused footage. He was spared his job after the intervention of director general Tony Hall.
But although Lowe offered to make an on-air apology, he was asked to resign by management.
"I admitted my mistake immediately after listening closely to the 'offending' track," he said on his blog.
"I then apologised to my BBC managers, and offered to apologise to the listeners at the beginning of, and again during, my programme on May 11. Alternatively, I offered to fall on my sword.
"A series of emails between myself and the BBC ensued over the following few days, including one which stated, 'we would prefer that you don't mention anything about last week's broadcast.' In the end, the BBC wrote to say, 'regrettably … we will have to accept your offer to fall on your sword to resolve the situation.'"
The forced resignation led to questions about the BBC's judgement over the weekend, but none as high profile as that from the mayor of London, who said the corporation's attitude to the row showed "we live in a Boko Haram world".
He added: "I suppose David Lowe was less valuable to the corporation than Clarkson, which only makes it worse.
"Their treatment of this man is utterly disgraceful."
Johnson compared Lowe's mistake with the frequent screenings of Pulp Fiction shown on the BBC, where Quentin Tarantino is seen shouting: "Did you notice a sign in front of my house that says dead n***** storage?"
He added: "If there were any logic or consistency in the world, the entire cadre of BBC schedulers would be asked to commit harakiri. They should all be sacked, from Tony Hall downwards – every man and woman in the place.
"Their crime is far worse than the offence of David Lowe of Radio Devon. They did it knowingly. They put Pulp Fiction on air, in the full knowledge that the director of the movie – who is white – gives currency and legitimation, out of his own mouth, to a term that they forbid to their own presenters, even accidentally and off the air.
"There is certainly no logic at the BBC. They should restore Mr Lowe to his job – if he will take it – and the entire BBC Board should go down to Devon to apologise in person, and at their own expense."
The BBC has apologised for the way it handled the situation with Lowe and has offered him his job back but he refused, citing a stress-related physical condition.
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.
"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."
Early versions of the Sun Has Got His Hat On by Ambrose and his Orchestra feature the line: "He's been tanning n****** out in Timbuktu, now he's coming back to do the same to you."
Later versions of the song omit the offensive word.
By Ian Dunt