In the past few weeks, some popular TV shows and films have disappeared from a number of streaming services that host them.
Fawlty Towers, Little Britain, Come Fly With Me, The League of Gentlemen and The Mighty Boosh all pulled episodes or were removed entirely because they contain material that is considered racist.
Many American shows have also undergone the same treatment, with certain episodes disappearing or scenes being cut to remove the offending content.
The episodes and films in question are those that contained racist depictions of blacks. Many of the removed shows have been removed because they contain black faces, often for comedy purposes.
In response to widespread protests against Black Lives Matter after George Floyd’s death, many broadcasters have tried to show that they are unwilling to host content left behind by changing times and attitudes.
People who took to the streets in protest did not demonstrate against a number of television programs. So is this just a distraction from the actual goals of the protests?
The guard reports that the decision to do shows and episodes has been heavily criticized by BAME activists as a distraction.
Broadcasters getting rid of episodes of racist content have been described as an “idiotic” move that misrepresented the “deep concern” of Black Lives Matter activists. You were asked to do more on BAME representation. Removing old TV episodes was not required of them.
Moya Lothian-McLean writes in iNews Even if the shows that streaming services take have racist content, it’s not the right time to focus on them.
She writes that a few episodes of a handful of television shows from our screens don’t do much against racism, but undermine the real demands of the Black Lives Matter protesters and offer an easy way to attack those who don’t like the protests.
Switching off some TV episodes is a fairly trivial measure and is easily criticized by opponents of Black Lives Matter as crazy political correctness. Even if the content that is removed is problematic and better gone, it is not the main focus at the moment.
A few weeks ago, demonstrators called for real action to combat institutional racism and toppled a statue of one of Britain’s best-known slave traders. Now the focus is being pulled away from real changes to combat racism and gets stuck in the middle of the distraction of broadcasters trying to show how advanced they are.
While it is not the right time to address the issue and there is a risk of being distracted from the protesters’ actual goals, it is still appropriate to remove or change content that contains racist material.
The heavily criticized removal of the classic Fawlty Towers episode “The Germans” is not the first time that it has been dragged and edited. The BBC had already edited the episode in 2013 to remove the offending content on the air, and this seemed to cause little criticism.
There is at least confirmation that something needs to change. Both racist content should no longer be hosted or the audience should be made aware of the context that it was a product of its time.
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Broadcasters are responsible for the content they host. You can’t just show something and get rid of any responsibility for what it might contain. If you decide that it is not something you want to continue showing your audience, then it is your decision to pull it.
While activists have made it clear that it is not the right time for television broadcasts to focus the conversation on combating racism, this is a concern that should be addressed later.
Many shows that have been removed or whose episodes have been removed can still be viewed on other platforms. The Mighty Boosh and The League of Gentlemen have been removed from Netflix, but they’re still on BBC iPlayer and there are no plans to remove them from there.
Many of the people involved in shows that appear to have been turned off permanently have apologized for their share of racist representations.