Dr Riko Muranaka is an acclaimed Japanese doctor known for her work promoting the safety of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. Trinh T. Minh-ha on the other hand, is a Vietnamese film-maker, the winner of both the Maya Deren Independent Film and Video Artists Award, and the Cinematography Award at the Sundance Film Festival.
However, staff members at BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour program failed to tell the difference between the two professionals. Hilarity ensued.
During last Friday’s show, host Jenni Murray went on to introduce Dr Muranaka as the recipient of this year’s John Maddox Prize for promoting science on a matter of public interest, and then, as serious and well composed as ever, she turned on to her guest to ask her,
“Riko, why did you pursue this subject?”
…then there was this long, uncomfortable pause.
Murray just tried again. “Why did you pursue this subject?”
To which filmmaker Trinh T. Minh-ha answered a bit confounded,
“Which subject are you pointing to?”
Murray, obviously perplexed at why a lauded doctor and seasoned lecturer at the Kyoto University School of Medicine would ask such a weird question, answered “The subject of the HPV vaccine. The 20 articles that you wrote on it,”
And then came the bomb,
“It’s not me,” Trihn said gently but firmly.
“I’m sorry?” replied the host, even more confused than before.
The filmmaker, who is currently in the UK ahead of the opening of her retrospective at the Institute of Contemporary Arts repeated with a nervous laugh, “It’s not me, I guess you got the wrong speaker.”
Murray, trying to rule out the possibility that she was still in bed and the whole episode was just part of an awkward dream asked once more, “You are Dr Riko Muranaka?”
… but at that very instant, the uncomfortable truth just began to sink in, “You’re not Dr Riko Muranaka…”
“Yo dawg, sure as hell I’m not!” responded Trinh.
Of course, she didn’t say that last bit, I just made that up.
Anyway, the BBC Radio host proceeded to explain to the audience, “somebody has brought in the wrong person for this interview.” and with smooth professionalism promised to return to her later.
Eventually, the staff managed to put the correct guests in their appropriate slots and the world didn’t end. But Twitter, oh boy did they notice.
Embarrassing mixup of guests. It seems that the BBC are unable to cope with 2 different Asian women in the studio at the same time. #theyalllookthesame
— elaine mullings (@elaineym1) December 1, 2017
Listeners described the mix-up on social media as both “funny and quite embarrassing”. One user even suggested, “Perhaps all Asians look the same to the Woman’s Hour team,” while another couldn’t help it and asked, “Are these women interchangeable due to their respective races?”
— Victoria (@MissVCH) December 1, 2017
Although the host offered “apologies for the confusion” the BBC did not follow suit, blaming Trinh for the mix-up. According to the public broadcaster when a junior member of the production team came into the waiting area and called for Dr Muranaka, it was the filmmaker who stood up.
A BBC spokesperson said about the incident, “Guests are brought on air quickly in live radio and mistakes can happen. On this occasion the wrong guest came forward when the names were called in the studio and to suggest this was a mix-up for any other reason is incorrect,”
The most interesting thing here is that these very public mix-ups are becoming sort of BBC’s trademark.
This past january, presenter Jon Kay embarrassingly introduced Professor Todd Landman, a respected political analyst and academic as former soldier and Mount Everest climber Leslie Binns.
And how could we forget, that very public and epic swap back in 2006, when Guy Goma, who was sitting in the BBC lobby just waiting to attend an interview for an IT job, got ushered into the studio and suddenly found himself being interviewed live on the BBC news channel as Guy Kewney, technology journalist.
To make things even more ridiculous Goma actually carried along with the interview, answering every question they shot his way. What a hero.