Burchill, Free Speech and Radio

I have spent today in Bristol. The main reason for going (despite the hideous cold) was a 2-hour Women’s Outlook show on Ujima devoted entirely to LGBT issues. I need to listen to it again just in case I said anything stupid, but I think it went OK and should have links up tomorrow.

The reason I’m blogging now is an incident that happened early on in the show. The subject of Julie Burchill’s Observer rant came up, and Paulette, the host of the show, quoted briefly from what Burchill had written. Shortly thereafter, Donald, the station manager, came in and told us we had to apologize for the words we had used, which we duly did. Our first thought was that some listener had phoned in to complain about Burchill, which would have been awesome. However, it turns out that the short extract the Paulette had quoted contained something that was in breach of Ofcom’s broadcasting code, and Ujima would have been liable for a £2,000 fine had we not apologized immediately.

So, freedom of speech, eh? I wonder how many of the journalists loudly defending Burchill’s right to say what she wanted about trans people knew that her article could not have been broadcast on UK radio. I suspect rather a lot of them.

For the record, I’m one of those people who wanted the article to stay up. I make the comments above to illustrate how complicated this “free speech” issue is, and how dishonest and cynical I suspect the commentariat of having been on the issue.

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2 Responses to Burchill, Free Speech and Radio

  1. Didn’t the Torygraph reprint Burchill’s article after the Observer pulled it? I know I read that somewhere; I didn’t go looking, because I didn’t need to see the vile thing again.

    • Cheryl says:

      Yes, they did. Massive PR coup for them, it was. And of course once they had it they got to moderate any comments on it. I understand that they’ve also been merrily licensing it out to right-wing sites around the world.

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