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BBC may find itself in legal battle on “anti-Mexican” remarks

A Mexican viewer in London threatens to sue the BBC over the comment
4th February 2011: The BBC may find itself facing a legal battle over Top Gear presenters in Richard Hammond’s alleged anti-Mexican remarks.
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A Mexican viewer in London has threatens to sue the BBC over the comment after seeing the BBC’s Top Gear programme on Sunday.

His lawyers have also demanded a probe by the BBC and suspension of the show.
The demand comes soon after the BBC received an official complaint from the Mexican ambassador. He has demanded an apology for the broadcast’s "xenophobic" and "offensive" content.

In the programme, the viewer’s compatriots were described as "lazy”, “feckless”, “flatulent” and “overweight".

The viewer, Iris de la Torre, a 30-year-old jewellery design student in London, has issued instructions to his lawyers to initiate legal proceedings against the show under a new equality law.

His lawyers have blamed the BBC for using the tool racism in an attempt to give a fillip to the ratings. They said the case could eventually cost the corporation up to £1m in damages.

The remark by presenter Richard Hammond came, while his co-presenters Jeremy Clarkson and James May described Mexican food as "refried sick."

This is not the first time De la Torre’s lawyers have adopted the course of action. Earlier, they had initiated legal action against Channel 4 for remarks on Indian actress Shilpa Shetty in the reality show Celebrity Big Brother.

In the legal complaint viewed the Guardian and forwarded to the BBC, the lawyers have asserted the remarks are unlawful and a breach of the rules banning discrimination by public bodies.

De la Torre said he was shocked at what the BBC allowed to be broadcast. Torre added he never had a bad experience in the UK due to his nationality and failed to understand how such ignorant people hold such high-profile jobs.

The development is significant, as the complaint could become the first case brought under the Equality Act, in force since last September. As per the law, anyone providing a service to the public is prohibited from anything that constitutes discrimination.

Lawrence Davies of De la Torre’s solicitors, Equal Justice said the remarks were probably calculated and deliberate to fuel anger and hence boost ratings. The presenters apparently feel that they are fighting a battle against political correctness. But they are not permitted to use unlawful means to do so and broadcast their racist thoughts. A broadcast is a service and it is unlawful to produce racist services.

The BBC, on the other hand, said it had not yet received the letter. It would be dealt with through the appropriate channels.

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