Sus­pended Hook may not re­turn to New­stalk air­waves

Irish Daily Mail - - News - By Ali­son O’Reilly ali­son.o’reilly@dai­ly­

IT is look­ing in­creas­ingly likely Ge­orge Hook will not be re­turn­ing to the air­waves on New­stalk fol­low­ing the up­roar over his con­tro­ver­sial com­ments about rape.

On his High Noon pro­gramme on Fri­day, Septem­ber 8, the 76-year-old presenter ques­tioned whether a woman in­volved in a Bri­tish rape case should share some of the blame for putting her­self in dan­ger.

The pro­gramme sparked a storm of con­tro­versy, with two large com­pa­nies – Tesco and ho­tel group Dalata – pulling their ad­verts from the show over his re­marks.

The com­ments were also crit­i­cised by sta­tion col­leagues Chris Donoghue and Dil Wick­re­mas­inghe, who re­fused to present her show tonight in protest over the in­ci­dent.

Hook was sus­pended yes­ter­day while an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the in­ci­dent takes place. Dr Ciara Kelly stood in for him yes­ter­day.

And it is look­ing in­creas­ingly likely that he will not be re­turn­ing

‘Once off-air, it’s hard to get back

to the air­waves at New­stalk, with se­nior sta­tion sources tip­ping Dr Kelly as the favourite to take over should he be sacked.

Dr Kelly – a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor on Mr Hook’s pro­gramme – opened the show yes­ter­day by say­ing ‘Yes, I’m a woman.’

Just af­ter 9am yes­ter­day, New­stalk tweeted that Hook had been sus­pended from his du­ties and that a process aris­ing from his com­ments last week about rape and re­spon­si­bil­ity was on­go­ing.

On its web­site, the ra­dio sta­tion said: ‘New­stalk has con­firmed that Ge­orge Hook has been sus­pended from his du­ties at the sta­tion. The process re­gard­ing his com­ments last week is on­go­ing.’

Hook has been locked in talks with sta­tion bosses all week as an in­ves­ti­ga­tion got un­der way.

His fu­ture at the sta­tion where he has worked for 15 years looked in doubt, with one source say­ing: ‘Once you’re taken off air it is very hard to get back on.

‘There has to be a fair process, so it could go on un­til next week. Dr Ciara Kelly did a re­mark­able job stand­ing in for Hook and she is the favourite to take over the show, along with Sarah McIn­er­ney but she (Ms McIn­er­ney) would not be strong enough to carry a show on her own’.

Min­utes be­fore Hook’s sus­pen­sion was an­nounced Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar voiced his con­cern about the com­ments.

Speak­ing on RTÉ’s Morn­ing Ire­land Mr Varad­kar said: ‘No­body who is raped or sex­u­ally as­saulted is re­spon­si­ble in any way.’

He added that the presenter’s com­ments were ‘in­dica­tive of at­ti­tudes that still ex­ist in Ir­ish so­ci­ety that need to change’.

Hook apol­o­gised on Satur­day and Mon­day for his com­ments.

The Broad­cast­ing Author­ity of Ire­land told the Daily Mail that it has re­ceived a to­tal of 32 com­plaints in re­la­tion to the High Noon broad­cast on Septem­ber 8.

How­ever, it is not the pol­icy of the BAI to deal with di­rect com­plaints and it re-di­rected them to New­stalk.

A spokesman said: ‘All par­ties are in­vited to make a for­mal com­plaint against New­stalk if they are not happy with their re­sponse.’

Ho­tel group Dalata with­drew its ad­ver­tis­ing on Mon­day and Tesco Ire­land fol­lowed suit on Thurs­day. ‘Our ad­ver­tis­ing pack­age in­cludes spots dur­ing a va­ri­ety of shows dis­trib­uted across the sta­tion. 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,’ Tesco Ire­land said.

Paul Mo­ran, of ad­ver­tis­ing buyer agency Me­di­a­works, told the Mail: ‘While the ad­ver­tis­ing com­mu­nity fully ap­pre­ci­ates and sup­ports edi­to­rial in­de­pen­dence I do sup­port New­stalk in sus­pend­ing Ge­orge Hook.

‘We found his com­ments un­ac­cept­able and they caused of­fence to a sub­stan­tial amount of peo­ple and had im­pli­ca­tions for so­ci­ety.

‘In that re­gard we are al­ways con­scious on where we place our clients’ ad­ver­tis­ing in an en­vi­ron­ment which may be per­ceived as be­ing of­fen­sive, or dis­crim­i­na­tory to any group.’

The con­tro­ver­sial com­ments made by Hook have led to broad­cast­ers and jour­nal­ists within the sta­tion tak­ing the un­usual role of mak­ing pub­lic com­ments.

Yes­ter­day, presenter Seán Mon­crieff tweeted: ‘This has been an in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult week at New­stalk. But I’m im­mensely proud of the pro­fes­sional and brave staff here.’

On Thurs­day, Global Vil­lage presenter Dil Wick­re­mas­inghe re­leased a state­ment say­ing that she would not present her Satur­day night show on New­stalk this week­end due to the com­ments.

Hours be­fore Hook’s sus­pen­sion Ms Wick­re­mas­inghe tweeted that she felt ‘deeply un­sat­is­fied with the man­age­ment of New­stalk’.

At that time, she said: ‘I feel un­able to share the air­waves with an in­di­vid­ual who has no re­gard for the duty of care we have to the pub­lic.’

Speak­ing dur­ing his show, on Fri­day, Septem­ber 8, Hook dis­cussed the case of the 19-year-old woman who al­leges she was raped by a for­mer mem­ber of the Bri­tish swim team.

She al­leges that she was raped by the man af­ter hav­ing con­sen­sual sex with a dif­fer­ent man who was the swim­mer’s friend.

‘She was passed around, went the story,’ Hook told lis­ten­ers to his lunchtime show. ‘And ap­par­ently she went to bed with one guy and he goes out and another guy comes in. She doesn’t want to have re­la­tions with the sec­ond guy but he forces him­self upon her. Aw­ful.’

He con­tin­ued: ‘But when you then look deeper into the story you have to ask cer­tain ques­tions. Why does a girl who just meets a fella in a bar go back to a ho­tel room? She’s only just barely met him. She has no idea of his health con­di­tions, she has no idea who he is, she has no idea of what dan­gers he might pose.

‘But mod­ern-day so­cial ac­tiv­ity means that she goes back with him. Then is sur­prised when some­body else comes into the room and rapes her.

‘Should she be raped? Course she shouldn’t. Is she en­ti­tled to say no? Ab­so­lutely. Is the guy who came in a scum­bag? Cer­tainly. Should he go to jail? Of Course. All of those things,’ he said. ‘But is there no blame now to the per­son who puts them­selves in dan­ger?’

‘His com­ments were un­ac­cept­able

Re­place­ment: New­stalk con­trib­u­tor Dr Ciara Kelly

‘Un­sat­is­fied’: Dil Wick­re­mas­inghe

Dif­fi­cult week: Seán Mon­crieff

Sus­pended: Ge­orge Hook

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