Tsutomu Yamaguchi - BBC Controversy

BBC Controversy

On December 17, 2010, the BBC featured Yamaguchi in its comedy program QI, referring to him as "The Unluckiest Man in the World." Stephen Fry, the host of QI, and celebrity guests drew laughter from some members of the audience in a segment that included examples of black humor such as asking if the bomb had "landed on him and bounced off." A clip from the episode was uploaded by the BBC after the show, but was later deleted. A BBC spokesperson told Kyodo News that "We instructed our crew to delete the file since we have already issued a statement that the content was not appropriate."

The episode triggered criticism in Japan. Toshiko Yamazaki, Yamaguchi's daughter, appeared on NHK's national evening news and said: "I cannot forgive the atomic bomb experience being laughed at in Britain, which has nuclear weapons of its own. I think this shows that the horror of atomic bomb is not well enough understood in the world. I feel sad rather than angry." Commentators in the UK and elsewhere complained that some Japanese viewers had failed to understand the context of the clip, which they considered respectful towards Yamaguchi because it focused on the failures of the British rail system in comparison to the Japanese one, and highlighted the irony of Yamaguchi's situation rather than attempted to insult anyone. Other commentators, particularly on one right-wing UK newspaper site, took the view that Japan's wartime activities should have been acknowledged by the Japanese side.

The Embassy of Japan in London wrote to the BBC protesting that the programme insulted the deceased victims of the atomic bomb. It was reported that Piers Fletcher, a producer of the programme, responded to complaints with "we greatly regret it when we cause offence" and "it is apparent to me that I underestimated the potential sensitivity of this issue to Japanese viewers."

On January 22, 2011, the BBC and Talkback Thames jointly issued a statement. In addition to the joint statement, the BBC delivered a letter from Mark Thompson, Director-General of the BBC, to the Japanese Embassy.

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