The popular U.K. motoring entertainment show Top Gear just can’t stay out of the spotlight at the moment.
Just six days after Californian electric car automaker Tesla filed a legal case against the primetime Sunday night show for libel and malicious falsehood a broadcasting watchdog in the U.K. has exonerated Top Gear for making racist comments aimed at Mexicans.
With U.K. national broadcasting watchdog Ofcom rejecting the complaints and commenting that the jibes were “justified by the context” we have to wonder if the show’s hosts, Messers Clarkson, May and Hammond, are the equivalent of automotive untouchables.
If that is indeed the case, what does this mean for Tesla, especially since the show seems to be hiding behind a facade of a purely entertainment, not factual, show?
Video: Jeremy Clarkson wins Special Recognition Award
Earlier this year and nearly 18 months after the show which caused Tesla so much anguish, Top Gear’s team of middle-aged, opinionated presenters caused an outcry among Mexican viewers when they criticized the nation, its foods and its customs.
“Why would you want a Mexican car?” jibed presenter Richard Hammond durning a studio segment involving all three presenters. “Mexican cars are just going to be a lazy, feckless, flatulent oaf with a mustache, leaning against a fence, asleep, looking like a cactus, with a blanket with a hole in the middle on as a coat.”
Joking that the comment would go unnoticed, the show’s alpha-presenter Jeremy Clarkson continued, “That’s why we’re not going to get any complaints about this - cos the Mexican Embassy, the Ambassador’s going to be sitting there with a remote like this [slumps in seat and snores]. They won’t complain. It’s fine”
2011 Tesla Roadster 2.5
Naturally the BBC did receive complaints against the segment - 157 in total - for derogatory, racial stereotypes which were cruel, xenophobic, discriminatory and racist.
One of the complainants was Eduardo Medina-Morca Icaza, the Mexican ambassador to the U.K. Icaza placed a formal complaint and threatened legal action under the U.K.‘s Equality Act, but was later appeased with an official apology from the BBC.
“Made for Comic Effect”
In its ruling, Ofcom concluded that the show’s irreverent style would have led the majority of viewers to realize that the comments were “being made for comic effect.”
Pardoning the show of any misdoings in this instance is hardly comfort to Tesla, which has complained that the similarly supposed “comic effects” of the show against its $109,000 sports car has met with anything but humor.
Tesla Motor’s Director of Communications for Europe, Middle East and Africa Myra Pasek has told us that since the show aired in Europe and subsequently worldwide, the company has struggled to throw off the prejudiced and inaccurate claim made by the BBC that its two-seater sports car could only drive 55 miles between charges.
“It’s fine to entertain but you can’t entertain on the basis of lies,” she added.
Entertainment or not, Top Gear seems to be inhabiting a very grey area of classification, especially since it won an award for best factual program at the U.K’s National Television Awards earlier this year.
Either it is entertainment, or it isn’t. Either way, we hope Tesla’s complaint isn’t dismissed as quickly as the Mexican ambassador’s.