Last week, PinkNews.co.uk revealed homophobic comments regarding Lindsay Lohan and lesbians in general during BBC3′s The Most Annoying People of 2008. A BBC presenter speaking about lesbians said: “let the munters and mingers get each other. That’s cool because nobody wants them.” But as Felicity Baker explores this by a long stretch is not the first time the BBC has offended the gay and lesbian community.
In 2006, BBC Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles was named bully of the year by Stonewall supporters at their annual awards ceremony after he refused to apologise for describing a rubbish phone ring tone as “gay”. Far from criticising him, the BBC defended his comments saying that he “met the required editorial standards and did not demonstrate homophobia.”
In 2007, despite the fact that the BBC’s charity fund-raiser Comic Relief supports projects that fight homophobic bullying of children, presenter Patrick Kielty was criticised for using potentially homophobic language.
Keilty who was hosting Comic Relief does Fame Academy referred to the straight BBC Radio 1 DJ Colin Murray as a “big gayer” after he gave a teary-eyed performance during the show. The BBC took no action against the presenter , merely reminded him to be mindful of his language.
Just four months later the outspoken Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson was criticised by media regulator Ofcom after an incident during a recording of the programme An audience member told Clarkson that he would not buy a particular car because it was “a bit gay”. Rather than admonish the member of the public, he quipped “a bit gay, yes, very ginger beer”, (Cockney rhyming slang for “queer”.) Ofcom ruled that “there was no justification for using the word in this way.” But Clarkson never apologised.
More recently, the BBC was forced to defend itself after a PinkNews.co.uk reader complained that a joke made on satirical quiz show Have I Got News For You was offensive to gay viewers. Guest host Alexander Armstrong responded to the news of a failed Iranian world record bid with: “On the plus side they do still hold the record for hanging homosexuals.” But the BBC ignored the PinkNews.co.uk reader’s complaint, despite the viewer referring the matter to the police.
Yesterday, following PinkNews.co.uk’s expose of the offensive and homophobic comments made against the actress Lindsay Lohan and lesbians in general, Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill said: “We are concerned that the BBC Trust has not taken its responsibilities seriously enough in terms of monitoring what maverick radio and TV presenters do.”
But the BBC has also defended itself when challenged by viewers concerned about positive portrayals of gay life.
The public service broadcaster received over 150 complaints in October 2008 after transmitting a pre-watershed gay kiss in EastEnders between Christian Clarke (played by John Partridge) and his on-screen boyfriend Lee Thompson (Carl Ferguson). They rejected the complaints saying: “we approach our portrayal of homosexual relationships in the same way as we do heterosexual relationships. We believe that the general tone and content of EastEnders is now widely recognised, meaning that parents can make an informed decision as to whether they want their children to watch.”
The BBC also rejected two major complaints by the evangelical Christian Voice organisation in relation to LGBT issues. Stephen Green, the self appointed Director of Christian Voice described a civil ceremony storyline on the BBC Radio 4 show The Archers as “nauseating” when it was broadcast in 2006.
He also attempted to launch a blasphemy case against the BBC Director General Mark Thompson saying Jerry Springer The Opera “portrayed Jesus Christ as a nappy-wearing sexual deviant, who said he was ‘a little bit gay.’”