BBC defends Katherine Ryan's 'straight white man' comment

3 weeks ago 17
image captionRyan (centre) was encouraging Tamara (left) to be more confident during the exchange

The BBC has defended Katherine Ryan after she made a quip about straight, white men on All That Glitters: Britain's Next Jewellery Star.

The comic, who hosts the new BBC Two show, told Sri-Lankan born contestant Tamara she would be more confident if she were a "straight, white man".

Some viewers complained to the BBC, saying Ryan's comment was offensive.

The BBC responded in a statement: "We can assure you, we never set out to offend viewers with anything we show."

It continued: "Many viewers of this programme will be familiar with Katherine Ryan's well-established style of comedy after multiple appearances on BBC comedy programmes over the years."

The corporation added that "comedy is one of the most subjective areas of programming".

Ryan is a Canadian comedian based in London who features regularly on TV panel shows such as Mock the Week, QI, 8 Out of 10 Cats and Have I Got News for You. She's also appeared on the BBC's Live At the Apollo with her stand-up act.

What's the show about?

The new BBC Two show is a competition in the same vein as other hobby TV contests such as The Great British Bake-Of , The Great British Sewing Bee and The Great Pottery Throw Down.

It follows eight amateur jewellers as they battle it out over six episodes in the hope of being crowned the winner.

How did the exchange come about?

Contestant Tamara was struggling with one of the tasks and Ryan was giving her a pep talk.

Ryan told Tamara: "You need to really back yourself... do you know how confident a straight white man would be right now?"

"Yeah, I know," Tamara responded.

"Think about Boris Johnson, how pleased he'd be right now,' Ryan quipped back.

"He'd be like, 'Nailed it'. Sometimes we've got to think like these men," she added.

What has the reaction been?

Some viewers who complained to the BBC felt that the comments were prejudiced against white, heterosexual men.

I'm assuming the @BBC will be setting up a special streamlined online complaints form encouraging people to complain just like they did for Prince Philip, right?

BBC defends Katherine Ryan's 'straight white man' joke as new show showered with complaints https://t.co/4wSCxdLtOF

— Ben Harris-Quinney (@B_HQ) April 19, 2021

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

But others defended Ryan.

Why is comedy sometimes problematic for the BBC?

The BBC states in its editorial guidelines that it is "committed to due impartiality in all its output".

It describes the term "due" as meaning "that the impartiality must be adequate and appropriate to the output, taking account of the subject and nature of the content, the likely audience expectation and any signposting that may influence that expectation".

But that can be a difficult line to tread when it comes to comedians and comedy shows.

Political satire is a popular genre but is ripe for accusations of bias.

image captionComedian Nish Kumar hosted The Mash Report

The BBC said it had needed "to make difficult decisions" in order "to make room for new comedy shows".

The Sun welcomed the cancellation of the series, which it said was "preachy, self-righteous [and] left-wing".

But fans and comedians complained, saying it was "the best UK topical comedy show for decades" and "genuinely held the government to account".

It's not the only show to have split opinion.

One of The Vicar of Dibley's lockdown episodes last year attracted more than 250 complaints after it referenced the Black Lives Matter movement.

The BBC said in a statement it "was in keeping with the character and the theme of the show".

The corporation also defended Frankie Boyle's New World Order in September, after he took aim at a number of politicians including Home Secretary Priti Patel.

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