More troubles at Talk Sport 

6 May 2008 tbs.pm/894

It’s not been a good few years for Talk Sport, the station that former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie fashioned in his old newspaper’s image after buying Talk Radio in 1998 and sacking half the presenters.

First, a lawsuit Mr MacKenzie filed claiming that RAJAR’s audience measurement system was costing the station £1.5m a month in lost revenue was laughed out of court and the company was ordered to pay both sides’ costs.

Next, it suffered the loss of Mike Dickin, who died in a road accident. Mr Dickin, who revelled in his curmudgeonly reputation, infuriated and delighted in equal measure with his trenchant views on a wide range of subjects.

In September 2007, Andy Townsend came in for a pasting from Graeme Le Saux, a former Chelsea footballer, over rumours that he was gay. Mr Townsend saw Mr Le Saux reading the Guardian on a bus and picked it up saying he wanted to look at the sport. He threw it back a few seconds later, according to the Times extract. “There’s no fucking sport in here,” he snarled. The implication? You fucking poof. Mr Townsend currently co-presents the Sports Breakfast on the station at the weekend.

At about the same time, two presenters were rapped over the knuckles over anti-gay jibes. Mike Mendoza was suspended for linking homosexuality with paedophilia, and Gary Bushell, a Sun columnist (that paper, again) said that Russia had more pressing problems to solve before queers started preaching the gospel of perversion.

You could be forgiven for thinking that Talk Sport, set up in its current form by a former Sun editor and with former footballers and right-wing red-top columnists on its payroll, was (is?) institutionally homophobic.

Its most recent brush with the regulator has seen James Whale sacked for urging listeners to vote for Boris Johnson in the London mayoral elections. Perhaps he had been reading Andrew Gilligan’s propaganda – sorry, reports – in the Evening Standard.

Talking of Mr Gilligan, one wonders what he was doing at the BBC in the first place. After all, it was his notorious 6.06 report on Today that lit the blue-touch paper on the bomb whose fall-out led to the Hutton report, the resignation of Gavyn Davies and dismissal of Greg Dyke and severely damaged the Corporation in the eyes of some. Damage, all told, that a fifth colum would have been proud of. Had the Corporation been quicker to dismiss Mr Gilligan’s assertions and shunt him to the Arts or Royal department or something, a lot of damage might have been avoided.

But I digress. Talk Sport’s Wikipedia entry states: “In recent years, the station’s political outlook has been characterised by traditionalist attitudes towards issues such as capital punishment, immigration, and the ongoing military action in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

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