Hook controversy highlights series of failings at Newstalk
ALOT can happen in a week. When George Hook made those controversial comments seven days ago regarding a rape case, he cannot have predicted the outcome.
Yesterday, after a week of debate, denouncements and people walking out of studios, Newstalk confirmed they would be suspending Hook from his duties at the station.
He will remain off air until the review into his comments concludes.
A spokesperson for Newstalk said the review was ‘ongoing’ and should come to an end in the coming weeks.
The statement came after Tesco confirmed it would be retracting its advertising.
Earlier in the week, Ireland’s largest hotel group Dalata terminated its six-figure sponsorship deal with the programme, as it could not “support any radio station that allows inappropriate and hurtful comments to be made”.
Yesterday on ‘Morning Ireland’, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he abhorred Hook’s comments.
“I think he does understand that what he said was unacceptable,” the Taoiseach added.
Over the past seven days there has been a lot of shift and change in Marconi House. On Monday, Hook apologised for his comments and the profound hurt they caused. But the fall-out continued; singer Mary Coughlan stormed out of an Ivan Yates show, a group of Hook’s colleagues handed a letter criticising his behaviour to the press, before passing it on to management, and presenter, Dil Wickremasinghe said she was going off-air.
Some of his colleagues, however, defended him. Pat Kenny said Hook was “a decent man” who was genuinely contrite.
“I listened to his apology and he meant it. He is devastated by this. He realises what he said didn’t come out right and accepts that some people were hurt,” Kenny said. “He is a decent man.”
Former Newstalk host Sile Seoige said while she was pleased the station had suspended Hook she didn’t want to become involved in what “seems like a George Hook witch hunt”.
As far as the public is concerned, the presenter of a programme on radio or TV is the one responsible for its content.
In reality, the presenter is supported by a whole production team. And part of the responsibility of that production team is to ensure that the presenter does not say or do anything that could cause widespread and profound offence.
If you want to use someone like Hook, and Newstalk clearly did, you need to manage them. In that regard, the production team behind High Noon failed last week.
The issue of “rape culture” is something Hook has touched upon before. In 2015, he questioned the idea of “implied consent” while discussing the case of Niamh Ní Dhomhnaill, who was raped by her then boyfriend Magnus Meyer Hustveit while she slept.
On that particular occasion Senator Ivana Bacik was there to check him, telling him his words were “outrageous”.
After that incident, you would presume Newstalk would have held an editorial meeting with Hook and outlined how he might discuss the issue in future in a more considered manner.
It appears they didn’t, or if they did it was not effective.
Hook has now been suspended by the station, and his long-term future looks uncertain. He has to claim responsibility for his own words – and let’s remember he did issue an abject apology on air. But it would be naive to assume that with his suspension, this matter and all of Newstalk’s problems are over.
George Hook: suspended by Newstalk