Index relies entirely on the support of donors and readers to do its work.
Help us keep amplifying censored voices today.
When the Press Complaints Commission responded to the outcry about Jan Moir’s infamous column on Stephen Gately in February, it did not uphold the complaint (25,000 lodged complaints with the PCC, an all-time record). Why, then, has it upheld Clare Balding’s?
Balding complained to the PCC that AA Gill’s description of her as a “dyke on a bike” (paywall) discriminated against her in breach of the editors’ code of practice; according to clause 12 of the code, newspapers must avoid prejudicial, pejorative or irrelevant reference to an individual’s sexual orientation. In the case of Gately, the PCC said it could not identify “any direct uses of pejorative or prejudicial language”; in Balding’s case, however, the PCC ruled that “the use of the word dyke, whether or not it was intended to be humorous – was a pejorative synonym relating to the complainant’s sexuality”, and ruled that the newspaper had been in breach of the code.
The application of the code however appears to be a very blunt instrument. Gill is a known provocateur who appears to delight in causing offence. By upholding Balding’s complaint, the PCC has actually weakened the force of its code and undermined the right to freedom of expression.
Columnist AA Gill has been censured by the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) over his “dyke with a bike” comment in reference to the BBC’s Clare Balding. The TV presenter complained to the PCC after the phrase appeared in the Sunday Times earlier this year. She said that the word “dyke” was too often used as a “pejorative and insulting term”. Gill had previously come under fire for saying the presenter looked “like a big lesbian” and then issuing a mock apology. He has been the subject of 62 PCC complaints in the last five years, which have not been upheld.