Little Britain sketch branded ‘explicitly racist and outdated’ in new Ofcom research
A sketch from BBC comedy series Little Britain, which was televised from 2003 to 2007, has been deemed ‘offensive’ in new Ofcom research.
The BATFA winning series – helmed by Matt Lucas and David Walliams – has faced severe backlash in recent years for its caricaturist humour, which included the use of blackface and jokes about trans people.
This led to the show’s temporary removal from BBC iPlayer in 2020, along with Lucas and Walliams’ follow-up series Come Fly With Me.
New research from media regulator Ofcom showed participants a number of “potentially offensive” scenes from across linear and streaming television. The Little Britain sketch in question sees Walliams as university worker Linda Flint describing an Asian student, Kenneth Lao, over the phone.
The damaging description included terms such as “yellowish skin, slight smell of soy sauce … the ching-chong China man”.
The report found that some participants “acknowledged they still found the specific clip funny but felt they could not openly admit to that without being judged”, while many participants branded the scene “explicitly racist and outdated, and felt that society had moved on”.
The episode containing the sketch can still be found on BBC iPlayer and “many were surprised that it was available” with some considering the sketch “too problematic” for even an on-demand (VOD) service where viewers can choose what they watch.
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The current content warning on the series reads: “Contains adult humour. Contains discriminatory language.” The report shows participants believe the warning should go further with “a warning about the racist language and an explanation for why it was still accessible”.
A BBC spokesperson defended the decision to keep the sketch on their iPlayer service, saying: “All jokes in our output are judged on context and intent.”
They continued: “The sketches in which the character Linda Flint makes reference to the appearance or race of a series of people are intended to expose and ridicule some of the outdated prejudices and racism that still exist in parts of British society, which is more apparent when viewing the sketches within the context of a full episode, and across the series as a whole.
“The programme is part of the BBC’s comedy archive and information is provided for iPlayer viewers about the inclusion of discriminatory language.”
One father from Scotland said: “If I saw my daughter watching that and then mimicking it, I’d be horrified” He added: “It’s passed off as acceptable behaviour towards fellow human beings that come from a different part of the world.”
Another parent from Wales echoed: “I think lots of the themes are quite outdated. If you want to watch it, then go ahead and watch it. But it’s not something we need to promote on linear TV.”
“If I could go back and do Little Britain again, I wouldn’t make those jokes about transvestites,” he said at the time.
“I wouldn’t play Black characters. Basically, I wouldn’t make that show now. It would upset people. We made a more cruel kind of comedy than I’d do now. Society has moved on a lot since then, and my own views have evolved.”
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