Gay rights activist Peter Tatchell has hit out at the BBC’s decision to suspend two presenters who left insulting and lewd messages on the answerphone of a respected actor.
Russell Brand has since resigned and Jonathan Ross has issued a full apology for the prank calls, which were broadcast on Brand’s BBC Radio 2 programme earlier this month.
In the answerphone messages the pair taunted actor Andrew Sachs about the fact that Brand had slept with his granddaughter.
After more than 30,000 complaints from members of the public about the stunt, the BBC took action by suspending the presenters, issuing a full apology to Mr Sachs and the licence fee payers and launching an enquiry.
Mr Tatchell, who is the Green party parliamentary candidate for Oxford East, wrote on The Guardian website:
“The BBC has apologised, condemning the two comics’ antics as “unacceptable and offensive.”
“This is rich coming from the BBC, which until not long ago allowed its music DJs to play records by reggae singers who encourage listeners to murder – yes, murder! – lesbian and gay people.
“Incitement to murder is a criminal offence, yet no BBC DJs were disciplined let alone prosecuted.”
Last Christmas BBC Radio 1 was criticised by gay equality organisation Stonewall for its contradictory stance on homophobic language.
The channel decided to bleep the word ‘faggot’ in the classic Christmas song Fairytale of New York because it thought some members of the audience might find it offensive.
However, Radio 1 previously stood by DJ Chris Moyles and refused to apologise for his use of the word ‘gay’ in a context more associated with homophobic playground language.
Campaigners called for the DJ to be sacked after repeatedly using ‘gay’ in a derogatory manner, most recently to describe a mobile phone ring tone.
In 2006 Moyles was awarded the title Bully of the Year at the Stonewall Awards.
Announcing the award at the Royal Academy of Arts, host Sir Ian McKellen said: “Chris Moyles repeatedly uses the word gay in the playground sense, without apology, that is inappropriate language for a host of a national breakfast show who speaks to millions of young children.”
But Radio1 defended Moyles. A spokesman told PinkNews.co.uk: “Chris’s friends and listeners don’t see him in this way at all.”
BBC governors backed the DJ saying the items “met the required editorial standards and did not demonstrate homophobia.”
The word ‘faggot’ has also been used on the Moyles show.
In October 2006 the derogatory term was used by Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand, who was a guest on the Chris Moyles show.
During what the BBC describe as “friendly banter,” the pair discussed the attractiveness of two of Manchester United’s players, Alan Smith and Paul Scholes.
After much provocation by Moyles, who insisted on asking which team-mate Rio would prefer to date, Rio responded by calling Moyles “a faggot.”
A BBC spokesperson said that as Rio apologised immediately after he made the comment, only a few complaints had been received by the company in the hours after the show was broadcast.