Months after the BBC ruled that it was a-ok for plodding Morning Zoo wannabe Chris Moyles to deride a ringtone as “gay”, the Independent’s Philip Hensher can’t fathom why he’s expected to foot the bill for such nonsense.
As Philip Larkin said, everything seems to depend on where you are, or who. The other night, on the BBC’s charity fund-raiser Fame Academy, the presenter Patrick Kielty (above) noticed that one of the contestants, Colin Murray, seemed to be moved almost to tears. He derided Murray for being “a big gayer” – charming expression.
A small number of viewers phoned up to complain. Mr Murray is not gay, and Kielty’s comments seemed to rest on the idea that bursting into tears on little provocation, and general emotional incontinence, are stereotypically gay. The BBC, in editorial guidelines from June 2005, said that “We should avoid offensive or stereotypical assumptions, and people should only be described in terms of their disability, age, sexual orientation and so on when clearly editorially justified.”
One might like to compare this to the BBC’s response to these specific complaints. It said “Patrick’s comment was spur of the moment, unscripted and not intended to cause offence. However, we have reminded Patrick to be more careful during the remaining live shows.”
That was it. I wonder what their response would have been if Mr Kielty had advised viewers to “stop being such Jews” and donate to Comic Relief. That seems to me an exactly parallel case, and no more offensive than what he actually did say.
Stonewall, the gay rights group, recently published a report based on the BBC’s output, which contained a number of startling examples of broadcasting which could hardly be classified as “not intended to cause offence”
On a quiz show, the presenter remarked of a participant that he was “more puff than pastry” and asked him with lewd innuendo “what was the strangest thing he had ever put in his mouth”.
A comedy show had a sketch about a man arrested for being gay, and being let off by a gay judge making limp-wrist gestures – that was the joke, that a judge might be gay. Top Gear refers to poor-quality cars as being “gay” and “a bit ginger-beer”. On the BBC website and message boards, racist comments are removed as a matter of policy; homophobic comments are left just as they are.
Personally, I don’t care whether “comedians” or “presenters” make insulting comments about gay people or anything else. After all, the talent of such people as Patrick Kielty, Chris Moyles or Jimmy Carr is practically zero, so they might as well find material where they can. I would much rather they did it while being paid by someone other than me, however. It is a disgrace that a public corporation such as the BBC, or a publicly owned company such as Channel 4 – which is supposed to “appeal to the tastes and interests of a culturally diverse society” – should broadcast such hateful material, and, in response to objections, provide contradictory excuses.
I don’t really feel like being a good sport about this stuff any more. When John Inman died a week or two ago, there was a lot of pressure on gay people to declare that they found that sort of thing funny and charming. I don’t. It seems strange to me that the Moyleses and Kieltys of this world haven’t seen the shame and contempt that has descended on a Love Thy Neighbour, and not wondered what people will think of them in 10 years’ time for having used live media to popularise the terms “gay” and “gayer” as direct insults.