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Thursday, 18 December 2014

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Anger at ‘racist and sexist’ tweet by BBC Radio Cumbria

Radio bosses apologised after a tweet was branded racist, sexist and offensive – but made no comment about the item it was promoting.

BBC Radio Cumbria were drumming up interest on an item on the Mike Zeller show yesterday, which featured a discussion between former Allerdale and Maryport town councillor Richard Hine and his friend Bill Barnes.

The station’s official account on social networking site Twitter wrote: “If you could have a Filipina woman why would you want a Cumbrian one? Join in the conversation on the Mike Zeller Show after 9”.

The discussion the radio station was promoting between Mr Hine, also the former chair of governors at Maryport’s Ellenborough nursery, and his friend heard how Mr Hine had never seen “as many beautiful women as what there are in the Philippines”.

He added: “I feel as if I have given this country the best years of my life .... now it’s me time.”

However, Mr Barnes says that he is “unconvinced” that his friend could find love moving to the other side of the world.

Mr Hine said he could get “younger” and “better” women in the Philippines than he could in Cumbria.

Within minutes of BBC Radio Cumbria’s tweet promoting the discussion, a storm of outrage had broken online, with dozens of people complaining directly to the show and many more trying to attract the attention of BBC bosses in London.

ruth walker-cotton tweeted: “@BBC_Cumbria Racist and sexist in one tweet. quite an achievement!”

While @jessicaAhagan wrote: “Cannot believe the BBC allow this kind of misogyny in 2012! Is this what I’m paying my TV license for? Disgusting!”

Everyday Sexism, a project documenting experiences of sexism to prove how widespread and common the problem is, reported they had received in excess of 300 complaints to their Twitter feed alone.

It challenged the radio station, asking: “Will you apologise for your horribly sexist topic?”

The issue spread far beyond the county, when Christian Christensen, a professor of media and communications at Upsala University, in Sweden, took up the cry.

He wrote: “Congratulations to @BBC_Cumbria for the most racist, sexist, generally offensive tweet of the year.”

A few hours later, BBC Cumbria apologised on Twitter.

“Our earlier tweet was inappropriate,” it said. “It did not explain the context of the programme and was offensive. We sincerely apologise.”

The BBC Cumbria apology was followed early afternoon by a message from Steven Greaves, producer of the Mike Zeller show – who had retweeted the BBC account’s messages.

“I apologise for causing offence today on Twitter,” he wrote. “I did not intend to cause upset and they were in no way my personal views or the BBC’s.”

A spokeswoman for the BBC said: “The programme featured an interview – part of BBC Radio 4’s The Listening Project – with two Cumbrian men in open and honest conversation about finding love.

“As such it wasn’t always a comfortable listen and we did expect it to stimulate debate. With hindsight we could have been clearer about this from the outset.”

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