Newstalk and George Hook

 

Sir, – I write regarding Fintan O’Toole’s article “Why I will not appear on Newstalk again’’ (Opinion & Analysis, September 12th).

In the first instance, I am perplexed by the author’s claim that Newstalk is ‘‘not a private business’’ on the basis of its being licensed by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

Is every pub or restaurant now to be considered a public body because its ability to trade is premised on its receipt of a licence from a statutory body?

Second, if in the author’s opinion we are all ‘‘complicit in an operation that is staggeringly and systematically sexist’’, I should like to have been presented with some evidence as to the systematic and staggering nature of Newstalk’s sexism (not to mention my complicity).

The author, however, sought to accomplish this rather burdensome task by reference to two statements made by one presenter two years apart, and by reference to the impugned station’s predominantly male presenting staff (which, depressingly, he quite obviously imagines to be explicable only on the most egregious basis possible).

Third, the author claims, without qualification, that those female presenters who have since ceased to be employed by the station “are at least as good at their jobs as the men who are replacing them”.’ This is an opinion, masquerading as presentation of fact.

The author’s derisory comments about reactionary opinion-led radio and the abandonment of any pretence of objectivity by Newstalk are thus hypocritical in the extreme.

He would do well to pause before he next writes. – Yours, etc,

DARRAGH CALDWELL,

Terenure,

Dublin 6W.

Sir, – There has been widespread acknowledgement that George Hook’s comments last Friday were both unacceptable and indecent.

The uproar that followed his words was contagious, probably rightly so, and has now sparked a call from numerous colleagues in Newstalk for him to resign.

I’m a regular listener to Hook’s show – outlandish opinion and inflammatory comments are what attracts his listeners.

He treads the line on every broadcast and on this occasion he may have crossed it, but not with malicious intent.

To quote his colleague Pat Kenny, Hook’s apology was “genuinely contrite” and his regret is unquestionably sincere.

Should Newstalk axe one of their most senior broadcasters for overstepping the mark? Hook lives on the mark, he thrives on it, he’s built a career on it.

In my opinion, if someone as opinionated as him is willing to denounce their own opinion then that’s a sign they are “truly sorry”.

Give the man a second chance. – Yours, etc,

THOMAS CONWAY,

Ballina,

Co Tipperary.

Sir, I will not be reading Fintan O’Toole in the future. I will continue to read The Irish Times, which, thankfully, still believes in free speech. – Yours, etc,

ARCHIE HINFEY,

Dundalk,

Co Louth.

Sir, – In light of Fintan O’Toole’s promise to never again appear on Newstalk, I have decided to become a permanent listener to that station! – Yours, etc,

MARK ONIONS,

Portlaoise,

Co Laois.

A chara, – Time to sling your hook, George. – Is mise,

DON REILLY,

Santry,

Dublin 9.

Sir, – I see that in the wake of the George Hook controversy we are once again pretending that this is somehow a debate over “free speech”.

Without addressing the merits of Hook’s remarks, let us consider what is actually happening.

A radio personality said something deeply offensive during his broadcast.

As a result, advertisers who pay money because they perceived a benefit from affiliating their brands with said personality decide that this is no longer the case and withdraw their support.

The radio personality – whose principal job is to present a show that advertisers want to be affiliated with so that his station can profit from advertising revenues – faces negative professional consequences as a result.

Additionally, as most decent people found his comments to be deeply offensive, the radio personality also faces negative personal consequences.

You will note that at no point in the above was there any involvement of the State or its agents, nor did the radio personality face legal peril and/or the possible deprivation of his liberty.

This is not to say that the issue of corporate censorship isn’t a real one, particularly in the Irish media environment.

But in this case, the issue is not “free speech” – the issue is the consequences and reactions that arise from expressing an opinion, in this case a particularly odious one.

Hook’s supporters don’t want “freedom of speech”, they want freedom from criticism or any personal or professional repercussions arising from speech (a freedom confined exclusively to people who think and act as they do, of course).

In other words, “freedom of speech for me, but not for thee”. – Yours, etc,

DARAGH McDOWELL,

London.

Sir, – The most effective response by decent female and male listeners to the stale, sexist, shock-jock schlock being peddled on Ladtalk radio is to “move the dial”. –Yours, etc,

PATRICIA MULKEEN,

Ballinfull,

Sligo.