IT was inevitable that George Floyd’s killing would reverberate arounds the media and lead to an outpouring of self-recrimination. We had seen the script before in the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein trial. Film and television are by their nature sensitive and often self-obsessed industries, but they are also made up of creative people working away on the imprecise role of being a motherboard of national taste and tolerance.

To reach out to its massively diverse subscribers worldwide, Netflix has launched a new curated list dedicated to Black Lives Matter featuring a collection of 47 series and films reflecting the black experience and giving a platform to black storytellers.

Other services hurriedly announced new and repurposed content. Almost every television station cleaned out the cupboard, stripping out embarrassing material and placing context around programmes from the past.

Even classics were not immune to widespread public feelings. The American Civil War epic Gone With The Wind, long since criticised for its portrayal of black slaves and their white owners during the 1860s, has been removed from the streaming platform HBO Max.

As anger permeated from the streets to the executive corridors of the media, Nigel Farage, the corduroy elitist who has somehow positioned himself as a man of the people, became a very visible victim of change.

During a furious row on Good Morning Britain he could not resist the opportunity to overstate events, comparing the Black Lives Matter movement to the Taliban. Within hours, Farage’s contract with the talk radio station LBC was terminated and he was dragged like a toppled statue draped in a Barbour jacket and dumped into a proverbial canal. Farage’s contract was coming to an end, and it is unclear whether it was going to be renewed, but the station’s owners Global Radio came under siege from presenters, listeners and staff alike and took the decision to sack Farage.

A spokesperson for the company later claimed they had taken a very British solution – to set up a committee “to improve its inclusivity”.

The original reality show Cops, which took viewers behind-the-scenes of the police force in urban America, has also come to an ignominious end. Paramount has confirmed that, in the wake of the current anti-racism protests and calls to defund police forces, the syndicated series will not return for its previously planned 33rd season. In an era in which the term “defund the police” has become a thing, the achingly tired show will not be mourned.

A new mood is reverberating through the media and the days of sneering detachment and haughty knowingness are over.

The ghosts of television’s past are returning to haunt the present, forcing the streaming service Britbox to hurriedly reflect on its output. Little Britain was taken down, the remnants of Bo’ Selecta! have been buried without trace and a Britbox spokesperson said that “times have changed” since it first aired.

Netflix followed suit, pulling the Matt Lucas and David Walliams series on Friday, along with their other comedy Come Fly With Me. Both shows include scenes where the comedians “black-up” to portray characters from different ethnic backgrounds.

Inevitably, there were those who saw a left-leaning conspiracy in which the very plinth of Britishness was being chipped away. Ben Lawrence in The Daily Telegraph wrote “if the series is to be ‘cancelled’ from history it poses a real threat to the comic imagination”.

Conservative MP and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden also objected, saying that he “wouldn’t be inclined” to pull Little Britain from streaming services.

Britbox has also attached warnings of potentially offensive content to two of the UK’s most popular sitcoms, Only Fools and Horses and Fawlty Towers. UKTV went further and originally removed the infamous The Germans episode of Fawlty Towers from its services only to reverse the decision when thousands came to the episode’s defence, rightly arguing that it was a satire on Basil’s ridiculous post-war attitudes to Germany and the Major’s bumbling racism about the West Indies cricket team.

As ever, it was not quite as simple as many suspected. The internal debate at UKTV, a BBC Studios subsidiary, actually involved an opening scene in the show in which Fawlty’s wife Sybil is lying in a hospital bed awaiting a minor operation. Fawlty visibly panics when he realises that the doctor who is going to be treating her is, in fact, black.

In view of the renewed sense of public respect for health service staff and higher rate of deaths among BAME doctors and nursing staff during Covid-19, an arguably ludicrous scene comes perilously close to inappropriate racism. Context is all.

SIGNIFICANTLY, the actor who played the doctor was Gambian-born Louis Mahoney, a co-founder of the Black Theatre Workshop, a vice-president of Equity between 1994 and 1996 and a prominent figure in the union’s anti-racist activities.

Mahoney’s generation was restricted to demeaning scenes, stereotypical roles and brief walk-on parts.

Perhaps for once, it is through his eyes rather than through the more privileged perspectives of John Cleese, who played Basil Fawlty, that we should view these decisions.

The case of Little Britain is even more laden with contradictions. In 2017 Lucas said: “If I could go back and do Little Britain again, I wouldn’t make those jokes about transvestites. I wouldn’t play black characters. Basically, I wouldn’t make that show now. It would upset people. We made a more cruel kind of comedy than I’d do now.”

What astounds me about the Little Britain case is the brazen way that the comic creators have managed to play sleight of hand with time. It was 1967 when the Campaign for Racial Discrimination first lobbied the BBC to cancel the Black And White Minstrel Show, describing it a racist embarrassment. Yet two bright and well educated young men were still pandering to the same comedy device decades later.

Lucas talks about the show as if it was produced in the dark ages, when Alf Garnett was on the box and Love Thy Neighbour was ITV’s primetime riff on immigration.

But these events are far from simultaneous ... Little Britain came more than 30 years later. When the show first hit our screens the Invasion of Iraq had been launched, Beyoncé emerged to dominate the R&B charts and the inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence by a racist gang was already six years old.

To characterise it as a time when there was less awareness of racial sensitivities is playing games with history.

Last week comedian Leigh Francis was more direct with his apology. In a video shared on social media, he said: “Back in 2002 I did a show called Bo’ Selecta! and portrayed many black people. I didn’t think anything about it, people didn’t say anything – I’m not going to blame it on other people. I’ve been talking to some people and I didn’t realise how offensive it was back then and I just want to apologise. I just want to say sorry for any upset I caused, whether it was Michael Jackson, Craig David, Trisha Goddard – all people that I’m a big fan of. I guess we’re all on a learning journey.”

Francis’s parody of the R&B singer Craig David was by some distance his cruellest routine, humiliating the singer and undermining his credibility in the urban music market.

The two men have had a long and tense stand-off about the portrayal but have since supposedly made up. In a conclusion oozing with media entitlement, Leigh Francis claims they met at a celebrity wedding and resolved their differences with long reassuring hugs.

As the reverberations from George Floyd’s death continued to impact around the world, it took the streetwise comedian Mosiah “Mo” Gilligan to send a candid message to the media industries here: “Don’t be posting #BlackLivesMatter if you’re not going to change the landscape of the industry you’re part of.”

Taking down a 15-year-old sketch show is the least that can be done in an industry where the days of well meaning apologies are over.