A piece in today’s Times by Matthew Moore:
The BBC has partially upheld complaints about a joke by the comedian Jo Brand that appeared to encourage throwing battery acid at politicians.
Its in-house complaints unit ruled that Brand’s comment on Heresy, a Radio 4 comedy programme, “went beyond what was appropriate for the show”. Brand, 62, had suggested that battery acid might make a better weapon than milkshakes for targeting “unpleasant characters”.
Her comments, in June, were made in response to protesters who had thrown milkshakes at right-wing figures including Nigel Farage, the Brexit Party leader. They provoked a public outcry and a police investigation for incitement to violence that was later dropped by Scotland Yard.
The BBC did not uphold complaints relating to incitement, saying that it had taken into account the context in which the words were spoken. A summary of the findings said that the episode’s wider message had been for more civility in political discourse and that Brand’s contribution had not been intended to be taken at face value.
Brand faced intense criticism after the episode went out. Mr Farage called her behaviour “completely and utterly disgusting” and Theresa May, the prime minister at the time, demanded that the BBC explain how the comments were appropriate for broadcast.
Heresy encourages its guests to challenge established ideas. The joke was removed from the iPlayer after the backlash. Brand defended herself, saying that freedom of speech in comedy was “extremely important”.
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