Chris Moyles breached broadcasting rules in “homophobic” imitation of gay singer Will Young

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The media regulator Ofcom has found the BBC in breach of the Broadcasting Code following allegations by members of the public of homophobia towards the gay singer Will Young by BBC Radio 1 Breakfast host Chris Moyles.

Eight people complained to Ofcom about an episode of Chris Moyles Breakfast programme broadcast on the 20th January 2009 where the DJ discussed the birthday of the Pop Idol winner Will Young. During the broadcast, Moyles imitated the singer by singing alternative versions to his well known singles ‘Evergreen’ and ‘Leave Right Now. During both songs, the media regulator found that Moyles “adopted an effeminate and high pitched voice.”

The DJ was named as “Bully of the Year” by gay rights charity Stonewall in 2006 after Moyles refused to apologise for describing a ring tone that he didn’t like as being “gay.”

During the alternative version of ‘Leave Right Now’, Moyles sang: “Oooh Will Young here, mmmmh. I’m here, it’s Will’s birthday and as the years go by I get more very gay. When you saw me years ago you didn’t know, but now I’m the gayest fella you probably know. mmm I like to wear a silly hat, I get camper by the hour, oh would you look at the muck in here. I’m Will Young and I’m gay.”

When singing his alternative version of ‘Evergreen’, Chris Moyles broadcast the
lyrics: “It’s my birthday, gonna wear my new dress tonight. And I smell nice. I’ve had
a shower and I’ve shaved my legs. Going out later, might go to Nob-oooh for dinner.”

The complaints made by members of the public to Ofcom claimed that Moyles ridiculed Will Young because of his sexuality. Some added that the comments were offensive and derogatory towards the gay community.

The BBC wrote to Ofcom stating that while it was the sexuality of Will Young that was the main theme of the comments, he was not ridiculed because of his sexuality. The BBC added that Will Young has been a guest on the programme on a number of occasions.

However, the BBC have acknowledged that Chris Moyles’ comments were misjudged and
unacceptable. The Controller of BBC Radio 1 has told the DJ that “Radio 1 has a wider leadership role with young audiences around acceptance and
tolerance towards sexual orientation – and they should be particularly careful not to
inadvertently perpetuate certain stereotypes.”

Ofcom said in its findings that while Moyles’s show is well known for its “irreverent style and humour” adding that the comments were not intended to be taken as “hostile or derogatory.”

Ofcom ruled that the language used to imitate Will Young (including “gonna wear my new dress tonight…I’ve shaved my legs… Going out later, might go to Nob-oooh for dinner” and “I get camper by the hour, oh would you look at the muck in here”) could have reasonably been interpreted by listeners as promoting and condoning certain negative stereotypes
based on sexual orientation.

Ofcom also found that that the presenter’s use of an effeminate and high pitched voice would have promoted these stereotypes further.

The regulator found that although they were not intended to cause offence, that Moyle’s language could reasonably have been perceived by listeners as “hostile and pejorative” and had the potential to cause offence.

Given the large audience of children who listen to his programme on the way to school, Ofcom said it was concerned that his comments could have encouraged children to discriminate others because of their perceived sexual orientation. “Such material runs the risk of being imitated by children, for instance in the playground, causing unnecessary distress.”

Finding the BBC in breach, Ofcom said that the public service broadcaster must “take particular care to avoid potentially discriminatory treatment or language directed against sections of society. This is particularly important in programmes which children are likely to listen to.