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BBC APOLOGY

Embassy of the Philippines

Press Release

October 2008

BBC apologizes to the Philippine Embassy in London

In a letter dated 10 October 2008 to Philippine Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s Edgardo Espiritu, BBC Director General Mark Thompson apologizes for the offence caused by the episode of the UK comedy series Harry and Paul.

The letter, which the Philippine Embassy received only on 20 October says, “…please accept my sincere apologies, on behalf of the BBC, for the offence that this programme caused you.

The apology came following a letter of 3 October from Ambassador Espiritu to BBC Trust Chairman Sir Michael Lyons expressing the former’s dismay over an episode of Harry and Paul, initially shown on BBC on 26 September and replayed on BBC 2 on 29 September. The episode made an insulting reference to Filipino women, typifying them in a dual role as domestic workers and sex toys of their British employers.

Ambassador Espiritu also wrote a similar letter to the BBC Complaints Centre, copy furnished Mr. Mark Pritchard, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group –Philippines and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Sir Trevor Phillips, head of the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission; the Office of Communications (OFCOM|), the independent regulator of the UK communications industries; Sir Christopher Meyer KCMG, head of the UK Press Complaints Commission; London Mayor Boris Johnson; and the Rt. Hon. Harriet Harman MP, UK Secretary of State for Women and Equality.

The episode angered a large number of the 200,000-strong Filipino community in the United Kingdom and led to some leaders of the community to put up an online petition where Filipinos could lodge their protest against BBC and the show’s producer, Tiger Aspect Productions. The online petition gathered more than 2,000 supporters within three days.

A silent vigil was also held simultaneously on 17 October in front of the BBC Office in White City, just outside central London, and Tiger Aspect Productions in Soho in central London.

Tiger Aspect Productions Chief Executive Andrew Zein, issued an apology before the members of the Filipino community who joined the Soho vigil.

“We’re sorry to anyone who was in any way offended by the programme. This certainly was not our intention,” said Zein.

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The Philippines and the BBC

***UPDATE***

There will now be a protest calling on the BBC and Tiger Aspect Production to make a public apology to the Filipino community and to undertake action to ensure that nothing of anything similar in nature will happen again with respect to every multicultural community in the UK.

Date: 17th October 2008

Time: 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Venue: Tiger Aspect Production – 7 Soho Street, London W1D 3DQ

(nearest London underground station: Leicester Square, Charing Cross)

This protest will be held simultaneously with various community groups and concerned Filipinos around the world presenting their own demands to the local British Embassy for an apology from the BBC and Tiger Aspect Production.

Let us make this successful and show the world that Filipinos are united as a people and as a culture. Together let us all demand for respect and dignity for all ethnic and minority cultures.

***UPDATE***


I’m sure most of you have heard about or even seen the “disgraceful and distasteful” sketch in a recent episode of the Harry and Paul Show, featuring hugely successful British comedians Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse.

For those that haven’t, the sketch itself is centred around the running joke of a northerner being made fun of by a southerner. In this installment the southerner is trying to get the northerner to ‘mate’ with is friend’s Filipino maid. The maid is then seen dancing provocatively in front of the northerner with the southerner telling him to mount her, to no avail. He then tells the Filipina maid to go away.

This of course is a shocking indictment of what British society feels is an acceptable way of portraying the Filipino, and especially the Filipina. Let us not forget our only representation on prime time tv soap operas in the UK is a mail order bride on ITV’s Emmerdale! Let us also not forget the running joke on BBC’s ‘They Think It’s All Over’ where they implied Cricketer David Gower had a young Filipino boy under his desk.

It has created a diplomatic situation not seen since the ‘Desperate Housewives’ insult to overseas Filipino medical workers. Both the Philippine Embassy here and the British Embassy in Manila have been forced to comment.

There are of course two sides to this argument…

The first is the British right to satire. As Anthony from Phil-UK points out “It was not the Filipina maid who was being mocked. The target was the British class system and culture. The skit ridicules stereotypes of the dim-witted Northerner and the pompous upper middle-class Englishman. What you see in the ‘Harry and Paul’ comedy series are typical examples of British self-deprecating and satirical humour.”

The second is the “disgraceful and distasteful” portrayal of the Filipina domestic worker in the UK. As Loline from the Overseas Womens Club states “Filipinos have come here to work, aspire to become a part of the British communities and be accepted as equals. Our culture, like other Asian cultures consider our women as honourable and worthy of esteem. The show portrayed a Filipina in a vulgar, sexist way, “to mate a Filipina maid to a Northerner” is sick! These actions in the sketch cannot be excused as a comedy joke.”

Both very valid points. Have a look at the sketch an make your mind up: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00dnf21/

We as Philippine Generations support the petition as the majority of our parents and the parents of our friends came here as Filipino domestic workers. They have lived through many hardships to get us, our generation and future generations the opportunity to live and work as equals here in Britain.

We have come so far as a people that we cannot stand idly by and continually let ourselves be negatively stereo-typed any longer. If some positive stereo-types were thrown in from time to time, maybe it would balance out!

For more coverage also visit:

the BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7656578.stm

the Times:http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article4898603.ece

Make your own mind up and send us your thoughts.


Adrian.