AS if the BBC had not been in the headlines enough in recent days, it has come under fire for making ‘woke cuts’ after removing jokes from repeats of classic radio shows.


What shows?

Repeats of old programmes on BBC Radio 4 Extra have been edited by the BBC to remove jokes now considered to be politically incorrect.


Any particular programmes?

They include Dad’s Army, Steptoe and Son, the late Ronnie Barker's sketch show Lines From My Grandfather's Forehead and classic sketch show I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again, starring John Cleese. An anonymous listener to the channel documented the alterations, describing them as ‘woke cuts’ in an article in The Times.



Edits are said to include the removal of a joke by Cleese from I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again. In the original, Cleese - impersonating a BBC spokesman - said: “We have noticed that it is possible to see right up to the girls’ knickers, owing to the shortness of their miniskirts, so we’ve asked the girls to drop them.” Also, the BBC removed a mention of the n-word from a 1972 episode of Barker’s show. 


What else?

A repeat of a 1971 radio episode of Steptoe and Son was quietly edited to remove “poofy” from a line in which actor Wilfrid Brambell said, “You’re carrying on like some poofy Victorian poet”, with a similar cut made from a 1974 Dad’s Army, during which Corporal Jones described Chinese people as “yellow friends”.


What do the BBC say?

The Times reported a listener complained to the BBC about the cuts last year, saying: “It is best for the original archive material to go out uncensored, and let audiences make up their own minds about what might be ‘offensive’.” But the BBC say audience would expect them to edit programmes. A spokesman said: “Listeners enjoy a huge number of old comedies from the archives on 4 Extra and on occasion we edit some episodes so they’re suitable for broadcast today, including removing racially offensive language and stereotypes from decades ago, as the vast majority of our audience would expect.”


It’s not entirely new territory?

On BBC iPlayer, repeats - such as episodes of The Office that are now 20 years old - feature ‘Discriminatory language’ warnings, while episodes of programmes such as Ronnie Barker’s Porridge - made in the the 1970s - feature a warning: “Contains language which may offend.”


What do the stars say?

Cleese has been very vocal about his distaste for political correctness. He previously told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I don’t think we should organise a society around the sensibilities of the most easily upset people because then you have a very neurotic society. If you have to keep thinking which words you can use and which you can’t, then that will stifle creativity.”


The BBC have faced ‘woke’ criticism before?

Last February, the corporation  - currently caught up in a funding row - announced a diversity directive requiring 95 per cent of staff to complete “unconscious bias” training and which aimed for 80% to declare their social class.