Exclusive – BBC: Gay execution supporter interview was required to ‘balance’ Elton John baby coverage

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The BBC has mounted a defence of its decision to include an interview with a supporter of state sponsored execution of gay men in its coverage of the birth of Sir Elton John and David Furnish’s first child. A spokesman for the corporation told PinkNews.co.uk that the interview with a right-wing Christian fundamentalist allowed the BBC News at Six to reflect a genuine debate over the issue of surrogacy for gay couples.

On the 28th December the BBC’s flagship News at Six bulletin (broadcast at 6:20pm due to the bank holiday) watched by almost seven million people ended with a report on the birth of Sir Elton and Mr Furnish’s first child. The report contained just one interview, with Stephen Green, of right-wing group Christian Voice, without any warning that he is someone who has in the past supported the death penalty for gay men. The report was repeated on a number of occasions throughout the evening on the BBC News Channel.

BBC entertainment correspondent Lizo Mzimba introduced Mr Green by saying: “not everyone is pleased to see such a high profile same sex couple start to raise a surrogate child.” The report then contained an interview that was visibly edited together in which Mr Green told the BBC: “This isn’t just a designer baby for Sir Elton John, this is a designer accessory… [cut] Now it seems like money can buy him anything, and so he has entered into this peculiar arrangement…[cut] The baby is a product of it. A baby needs a mother and it seems an act of pure selfishness to deprive a baby of a mother.”

Yesterday, PinkNews.co.uk reported that aside from supporting a proposed death penalty for gay men in Uganda, Mr Green claimed that gay Welsh Rugby star Gareth Thomas was a “wicked” role model for children, compared pop star Ian Watkins (H- from the band Steps) to a mass murderer when he came out as gay and attempted to bring a private prosecution for blasphemy against the director general of the BBC over a gay related issue. The coverage by PinkNews.co.uk provoked outrage on Facebook and Twitter and scores of complaints by PinkNews.co.uk readers.

Today in a statement, the BBC said: “The practice of surrogacy is a sensitive subject and remains controversial in some quarters.  Our short news bulletin featured Elton John talking about wanting to have a child and an opposing viewpoint.  All sides of the debate on surrogacy have been widely reported in the news media and our coverage has reflected this.”

However, the sound-bite used of Sir Elton significantly pre-dated the announcement of his surrogate child although a BBC source said the corporation did attempt to reach the star for a new interview.

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A BBC spokesman claimed that the coverage on the flagship BBC News at Six programme should be seen in the wider context of all of the BBC’s coverage of the birth of Sir Elton’s child. The BBC claim that there is genuine debate about gay couples having surrogate children and that it was right for the BBC to find someone who was opposed to the practise as the only interview in the report.

The BBC has refused to answer whether other organisations were also contacted to comment on the birth of Sir Elton’s child, or if Christian Voice, a small fundamentalist group with around 500 supporters was the only organisation contacted. A BBC source told PinkNews.co.uk “it is Christmas so a lot of people are away or not answering their telephones.”

The BBC also declined to comment on whether the reporter or producers working on the report, or the programme editor were aware of Mr Green’s background. Although, PinkNews.co.uk points out that a simple search on Google or Bing reveals considerable coverage of Mr Green’s past activities and extremist views.

As yet, the BBC do not have a count of the number of complaints received from viewers in relation to the broadcast. PinkNews.co.uk has produced a simple guide explaining the various methods of complaining about this story.

The BBC has a long record of offending LGBT viewers. Last year, the corporation apologised after the BBC News website hosted a debate entitled ‘Should homosexuals be executed?’

PinkNews.co.uk Comment
The BBC has effectively admitted interviewing a known homophobic extremist in order to ‘reflect’ what they perceive is a genuine debate over gay couples having surrogate children. The corporation makes no apology for the choice of interviewee. PinkNews.co.uk believes that the BBC were unable to find anyone else willing to give an interview on camera in opposition to Sir Elton’s decision to have a child.

The decision to include an interview with Stephen Green was hurtful not just to the millions of LGBT licence fee payers but also to millions of Christians who do not hold or subscribe to the extremist views of Christian Voice. Most Christians would not support the abhorrent views of Mr Green and his small band of supporters who simply smear the name of the Christian faith.

As many on Twitter, Facebook and PinkNews.co.uk comment pages have pointed out, the BBC’s logic would suggest that a racist be asked to comment on a mixed race couple having a surrogate child in order to reflect ‘debate’ in the country. Indeed the membership of Christian Voice is considerably smaller than that of many ‘racist’ organisations.

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