Tesco pulls advertising for George Hook show over remarks
Fellow Newstalk presenter goes off-air in protest at rape remarks
The controversy over comments on rape by Newstalk presenter George Hook has escalated with the withdrawal of at least one major advertiser from his lunchtime show and the refusal by another Newstalk presenter to go on air this weekend.
Tesco confirmed on Thursday evening that it had ceased advertising during Hook’s lunchtime programme, High Noon.
“Our advertising package includes spots during a variety of shows distributed across the station,” a spokesperson for the retailer said.
“We confirm that we have restricted the airing of our adverts around this particular show in the short term, although we keep this under review.”
On Monday, the hotel group Dalata cancelled its sponsorship of High Noon due to Hook’s comments about responsibility in an alleged rape case involving a young woman and a member of the British swimming team.
Also on Thursday evening, Dil Wickremasinghe, who presents Newstalk’s Global Village show every Saturday evening, issued a statement saying she would be going off-air in protest against the station’s handling of the issue.
“My immediate reaction was that this time he has gone too far and surely the station will act appropriately and at the very least suspend him from the airwaves until a decision is made regarding his future,” said Ms Wickremasinghe, who noted she herself had been sexually abused as a teenager.
“I am deeply disappointed that, so far, the only action there has been to address the hurt and distress caused by the comments has been an apology by George Hook and Newstalk.
“In my opinion, this does not go far enough, particularly as this is not the first time it has happened. I felt compelled to voice my discontent to management and conveyed to them that I didn’t feel could share the same airwaves with George until a formal disciplinary action was taken.”
Ms Wickremasinghe said she was “deeply unsatisfied” with the unsupportive approach of Newstalk management to female presenters.
“It is common knowledge that insufficient effort has been made over the years to address the lack of female representation during prime time,” she said.
“As a result, female presenters are segregated to the weekend schedule. I believe this culture is connected to George Hook’s comments.”
A small protest took place outside Newstalk’s offices in central Dublin during Thursday’s broadcast of High Noon. Among those attending was singer Mary Coughlan, who had walked out of a Newstalk interview earlier in the week in protest at Hook’s comments.
Newstalk management had asked staff not to submit a letter of protest on the issue which had been signed by up to 20 employees, and have said the company is currently undertaking a “process” to address the issues.
Referring to the UK rape case on his show on Friday, Hook questioned why the woman had gone back to the hotel room of a man she had just met, asking: “Is there no blame now to the person who puts themselves in danger?”
Hook apologised for his remarks on Monday, calling them “totally inappropriate and unacceptable” and acknowledging that they had caused “widespread hurt and offence”.