Japan protests BBC jokes about atomic bomb survivor

Saturday, January 22, 2011

LONDON - The BBC has been caught in a diplomatic row after Japan protested about a comedy quiz show of the broadcaster which has been accused of insulting a survivor of the two atomic bomb strikes on the country during the World War II.

The Japanese embassy said that in an episode of the show QI, host Stepehn Fry insulted Tsutomu Yamaguchi, who was described on the programme as “The Unluckiest Man in the World”, the Daily Mail reported. The BBC apologised for “any offence caused” and said it would be writing to the embassy.

Panellists and the studio audience were seen laughing and joking about the experience of Yamaguchi. The corporation has been described as insensitive over the broadcast, while the man’s family said they could not forgive the show.

The businessman was the only person who has been recognised by the Japanese government as having survived both the bombing of Hiroshima Aug 6, 1945, and that of Nagasaki three days later. As many as 200,000 Japanese are said to have died in the bombings.

The blasts hastened Japan’s surrender and the end of the war - averting the need for a land campaign that would have cost tens of thousands of Allied and Japanese lives

Yamaguchi, who died last year at 93, was badly burned in the first attack but got on a train the next day to go home to Nagasaki. On the BBC show, which was first broadcast shortly before Christmas, comedians such as Alan Davies and Rob Brydon were seen joking about his story.

Davies, when asked to work out what the man’s link to the nuclear attack was, suggested the “bomb landed on him and bounced off”.

When Fry asked whether the man had been lucky or unlucky, Brydon said: “Is the glass half-empty, is it half-full? Either way it’s radioactive. So don’t drink it.”

Davies then said: “He never got the train again, I tell you.”

One of the Japanese viewers contacted diplomatic staff in London while others are understood to have emailed the show. Embassy officials reviewed the footage and sent a protest letter to both the BBC and producers Talkback Thames.

The source said the embassy’s letter had pointed out that the atomic bombs were “seared into the Japanese psyche”.

Yamaguchi’s daughter Toshiko Yamasaki, 62, said she could not forgive the show “as it looked down on my father’s experience”.

A QI producer said: “We greatly regret it when we cause offence.” He also admitted that he “underestimated the potential sensitivity of this issue to Japanese viewers”.

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