Jo Brand's battery acid joke 'went beyond what was appropriate', BBC rules

29 August 2019, 13:27 | Updated: 29 August 2019, 15:37

Jo Brand's controversial battery acid joke "went beyond what was appropriate" for a Radio 4 comedy show but did not incite violence, the BBC has ruled.

The 62-year-old star made the jibe on an episode of Victoria Coren Mitchell's Radio 4 show Heresy in June.

Referring to political figures who had been hit by milkshakes, Brand said: "I'm thinking why bother with a milkshake when you could get some battery acid."

She added: "That's just me. I'm not going to do it, it's purely a fantasy, but I think milkshakes are pathetic, I honestly do, sorry."

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, who got covered in milkshake during a campaign walkabout in Newcastle the month before, said Ms Brand's comment was an "incitement of violence and police need to act".

Ofcom received 65 complains about the episode.

The BBC defended the comedian at the time, saying the show's panellists are often "deliberately provocative" but "not intended to be taken seriously".

The corporation's Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) has now partially upheld the complaints.

However, the BBC noted in an email to Sky News that "the ECU does not uphold the aspect of complaints on incitement of violence as it has considered the context in which the words were spoken".

"Whilst the ECU recognised that the wider message from this episode is an argument for more civility in political discourse, not less, and Ms Brand's contribution is not intended to be taken as face value, the ECU felt that it went beyond what was appropriate for the show.

"So it was partially upheld against generally accepted standards of BBC output. The ECU also noted that in the right context and with the right treatment, there is no subject matter which should be beyond the scope of comedy."

The ECU's ruling also points out the decision to include the joke in the programme was made by the BBC, and that the corporation edited the show after broadcast as well as expressed regret for any offence caused.

Ms Brand later apologised, saying her comment was "crass and ill-judged".

After assessing the matter, Scotland Yard said it would not take action against the comedian.

A BBC spokesperson said in an emailed statement on Thursday: “We note the findings and that the BBC’s ECU concluded the comments did not condone violence and that no subject matter should be beyond the scope of comedy.”