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Radio station who repeatedly mocked and misgendered Sam Smith feebly claims they never intended to be offensive

Vic Parsons May 13, 2020
Sam Smith: Radio station breached Ofcom code for misgendering singer

Sam Smith performs on stage during Lollapaloosa Sao Paulo, 2019. (Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images)

Sam Smith was “ridiculed” by a Sunshine Radio presenter last year in a programme that regulator Ofcom says was a breach of the broadcasting code.

Paul Ellery, who has since resigned from Sunshine Radio, made the comments in his breakfast show on Sunshine Radio on September 16.

After playing a Sam Smith song, Ellery said: “I can’t get over this that [Sam Smith] says [Smith] doesn’t identify with being male or female, so in future we have to call [Smith] ‘they’.

Ellery continued: “And I heard somebody on – I think it was on BBC News channel over the weekend saying, ‘The easiest way to find out, Sam, if you’re male or female or they, is to take your clothes off – there we go you’re definitely a boy!'”

Broadcasting regulator Ofcom said that it had received one complaint, following which it asked Sunshine Radio to provide the clip from BBC News in which the alleged remarks were made.

Sunshine Radio was unable to provide the clip.

In addition, Ofcom said: “The tone of the presenter’s comments was mocking, dismissive and flippant towards Sam Smith’s announcement that they were identifying as non-binary.”

Sunshine Radio said that Ellery would not deliberately target the LGBT+ community, adding that his comments were not intended to offend and were part of a “throw away short link”.

However, after a review Sunshine Radio concluded that Ellery’s comments had been “misjudged”.

Ofcom agreed, saying that “these comments had the potential to cause offence as they sought to ridicule Sam Smith’s non-binary status”.

“In addition, by referring to Sam Smith using the incorrect pronoun, the presenter appeared to ignore and undermine Sam Smith’s publicly stated gender identity,” Ofcom added.

While the regulator accepted that Sunshine Radio had taken steps to improve since receiving the complaint – including compliance and legal training for presenters – it still found the station in breach of rule 2.3 of the code: “Broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context.”

An Ofcom spokesperson said: “We found that the presenter of this programme ridiculed a music artist’s gender identity, without any challenge or context.

“Those comments had the potential to cause offence and were not justified by the context.”

More: misgendering, non-binary, Ofcom, Paul Ellery, Sam Smith, sunshine radio

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