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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.