The BBC has ruled against a radio presenter who was forced to leave his show after calling a homophobic campaigner a ‘bigot’.
Iain Lee, who up until November 2015 hosted the BBC Three Counties Radio show, had interviewed a member of extremist group Christian Concern after a prison gardener was disciplined for quoting Bible passages including calling homosexuality an ‘abomination’.
During the interview, Lee challenged the homophobic campaigner Libby Powell’s views as ‘bigoted’.
He said: ‘Do you support bigotry? Yes, homophobia is bigotry … I guess you don’t know what the definition of bigotry is – and considering you’re from a legal centre, that’s a little bit worrying.’
Both the station and Lee issued an apology, even though the latter said he stands by both interviews in terms of their content and tone.
In a ruling published today (8 March), the trust said the interviewees were ‘not treated with respect but instead faced significant personal criticism and challenge and that, overall, the tone of the interviews was inappropriate’.
They added: ‘They believed that the BBC’s local radio output had a critical role to play in terms of enabling the widest possible public debate and that local radio presenters had considerable leeway to be provocative to engage audiences.
‘However, they considered that where presenters appeared to defend a particular stand on an issue in an inappropriately combative manner the effect was not to broaden debate but was likely to be the opposite – as potential callers might be less likely to contact a radio station if they felt they would not receive a fair hearing.’
Reacting to the report, Lee held strong to his belief that he did nothing wrong in the interview.