TalkSport rapped for on-air homophobia

Ofcom has strongly reprimanded TalkSport for two separate on air comments judged to be homophobic.

The UTV-owned sports station was ruled to be in breach of rule 2.3 of the code of conduct after two occasions in which presenters associated homosexuality with paedophilia and referred to it as a ‘perversion”.

TalkSport presenter Mike Mendoza, hosting a live phone-in programme on 12 May, mentioned footballers’ public pleas for the safe return of Madeleine McCann in his introductory on air piece to a programme.

Criticizing footballers like David Beckham for becoming involved in the campaign he said: ‘Footballers yesterday jumping on the bandwagon to beg whoever it is that has taken Madeleine McCann away, whoever has grabbed her, to give her back…now you tell me, paedophiles in general are the type of people that surely would not follow football…not many gay people to the best of my knowledge are great football fans.”

After one listener complaint TalkSport suspended Mendoza for a week and said the statements were indefensible. Rule 2.3 of the Code requires broadcasters to ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context. The broadcaster did not attempt to justify these offensive remarks by the context – it admitted they were not defensible and apologised.

In ruling that the broadcast was in breach of Rule 2.3, Ofcom said: ‘We note the broadcaster’s immediate and appropriate action in suspending Mr Mendoza. We nevertheless are very concerned that the presenter chose to make such a remark. To connect homosexuality to paedophilia is highly offensive.

A further breach was incurred by the station in June when former Sun columnist Gary Bushell commented on the gay rights demonstrations in Moscow, referring to homosexuality as a “perversion”.

A discussion on the European Cup final in Moscow next year led one presenter to mention the recent gay rights demonstration and following riots as illustration of Moscow police’s apparent lack of tolerance in relation to civil disturbances.

Bushell, who was on air to promote his programme later on Sunday evening made light of the reference to Peter Tatchell, the gay rights activist who had been attacked at the demonstration by anti gay protested and arrested by the Russian riot police.

When questioned by a co-presenter because he appeared to find the situation amusing, Bushell said: ‘I would not go to another country and try and impose my views on them, it’s up to them what they do. I think there are a lot of things to put right in this country before you go around preaching the gospel of perversion”.

Ofcom noted that there was some attempt by Bushell’s co-presenters to challenge what he had said, but the discussion quickly moved on to football topics.

Whilst welcoming the broadcaster’s acknowledgement that the presenter’s comments were unacceptable, Ofcom did not accept its claim that the comments were made ‘off the cuff”, and ruled in breach of Rule 2.3 again.

In noting the second breach within a matter of weeks, Ofcom warned: ‘We therefore remind the broadcaster that, given these programmes are broadcast live, it is particularly important that its presenters are fully briefed in advance about the potential for certain topics and types of remarks to cause offence to the audience.

TalkSport reiterated its apology in a statement today.

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