Hook con­tro­versy high­lights se­ries of fail­ings at New­stalk

Irish Independent - - NEWS - Kirsty Blake Knox

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

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