BBC praised for response to Reggie Yates 'fat Jewish guy' comment - or has it been hijacked by 'usual Twitterati hysteria'?

A crisis PR expert has praised the BBC for a "considered" response after presenter Reggie Yates withdrew from Top of the Pops over comments that angered the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism (CAA) and others - but an entertainment specialist has said the BBC appeared to have overreacted.

Yates is 'stepping down' from Top of the Pops duties (image via
Yates is 'stepping down' from Top of the Pops duties (image via

Yates announced yesterday that he was "stepping down" from duties with the festive versions of the show following recent comments.

It comes two weeks after he apologised for using the phrase "random fat Jewish guy from North West London" to refer to managers in the music industry, during a podcast. "I'm hugely apologetic for this flippant comment," said Yates, whose comments were criticised by CAA chair Gideon Falter as evoking "the ugly stereotype of Jews as untrustworthy and money-grabbing".

"We take these issues very seriously and Reggie is in no doubt about the BBC's view of his comments," a BBC spokesman said.

The mini-saga provoked two very different responses from PR practitioners talking to PRWeek.

'Forgivable after serving a penance'

Chris Gilmour, director at Beattie Communications, said: "Does he really think going with 'fat Jewish guy' because it sounds softer than 'fat Jew' in any way disguises the sentiment of what he’s saying any more than it would if someone used negro instead of the other N-word? It's not even funny, so there's no free pass on the humour front."

He went on to say that the BBC had done the right thing. "I would give the BBC a free pass, though, because they’ve taken the only possible option, but in a considered way rather than allowing it to be hijacked by the usual knee-jerk hysteria from the Twitteratti – let’s hope this is their blueprint for the future. If you're on a high horse you sometimes fall off," he commented.

Gilmour also said there should be "no lasting damage" to Yates' career, saying the incident was "forgivable after serving a penance".

BBC 'always goes over the top'

Gary Farrow, chair of entertainment PR agency The Corporation, who has worked with Ozzy Osbourne, Elton John and George Michael, said he thought Yates was the victim of a world in which it was "too easy to complain" and people were too quick to take offence.

He said he imagined a lot of Jewish people, in and outside of the industry, "would laugh at it, because they know how things were, back in the 60s or 70s, the perception was that stars were all managed by a Jewish agent sat in a comfy chair with their cigar".

"It's unfortunate that he said it, I don't think that it's meant as offensive or malicious," Farrow added, and commented on the TOTP withdrawal: "We don't know if it really is his decision - the BBC always goes over the top, they've not kept up with the times, they've got to realise that when you take on this young talent, you will get a bit of cutting edge, although that doesn't have to mean being rude.

"But then the talent has to realise that whether you're doing something on a podcast or on national TV or whatever the media outlet, you're going to be monitored, so there is a need to be accurate and responsible."

Read next: Gary Farrow profiled by PRWeek in 2007

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