Viewers complain over BBC interview with anti-gay extremist

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Broadcasting watchdog Ofcom has received 95 complaints over a BBC news bulletin which invited an anti-gay extremist to air his views about gay parenting.

Complaints have also been made directly to the BBC but the corporation refused to reveal how many it had received.

A spokesman said the BBC does not release the number when there is “evidence of a lobby”.

The December 28th bulletin, about Elton John and David Furnish’s new baby boy, featured an interview with the homophobic preacher Stephen Green, of Christian Voice.

Mr Green, who has supported the death penalty for gay people with HIV and prison sentences for others, 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.”

In response, the BBC said the decision to interview him reflected a genuine debate over the issue of surrogacy for gay couples.

The corporation said Elton John could not be reached for an interview and that it had used old footage of him speaking about parenting. It would not say whether it had attempted to contact pro-gay commentators or organisations for comment.

In an email sent today to those who complained, the BBC said: “We appreciate some viewers were unhappy that a report on Sir Elton John recently becoming a surrogate father included the views of Mr Stephen Green.

“We recognise this issue can arouse a diverse range of contrasting opinions. This brief report featured Sir Elton John’s thoughts and an opposing view on the matter at hand. It must be stressed that over time we have heard from all sides of this debate, dealing the subject in a fair and impartial manner.

“We acknowledge the strength of sentiment on this matter, thanks again for taking the time to contact us.”

But reader Edward Bentley, who was among those who complained, said: “Their reply acknowledges not a shred of improper behaviour. Furthermore, their reply has about it a tone of arrogance, condescension and ‘Auntie knows best’. It’s like talking to a brick wall.”

Ofcom is understood to be considering whether the programme breached the broadcasting code.

The BBC has a history of offending LGBT viewers. Last year, the corporation apologised after the BBC News website hosted a debate entitled ‘Should homosexuals face execution?’

Along with supporting a proposed death penalty for some gay men in Uganda, Mr Green has also called openly gay rugby star Gareth Thomas a “wicked” role model for children and compared openly gay singer Ian Watkins (H from the band Steps) to a mass murderer.

He also unsuccessfully attempted to bring a private prosecution for blasphemy against the director-general of the BBC after the character of Jesus said he was “a little bit gay” in the satire ‘Jerry Springer: The Opera’.