Thursday 22 February 2018

'I am horrified' - Backlash against Newstalk's decision to keep George Hook on air at weekends

George Hook. Photo: Tony Gavin
George Hook. Photo: Tony Gavin
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

Newstalk's decision to move broadcaster George Hook to a weekend slot following an internal investigation into inappropriate comments he made about rape has been met with backlash.

On Friday, the station announced that the veteran broadcaster is to step down from his lunchtime slot, High Noon.

However, the 76-year-old will return for a new weekend show later this year.

Newstalk has declined to say if the move from a weekday prime-time slot to a weekend morning show in December will affect his salary.

Singer Mary Coughlan.
Singer Mary Coughlan.

The station was also keeping tight-lipped on whether he will be paid for the three months he will be off air and if any disciplinary action has been taken against him.

Singer Mary Coughlan, who walked off air during an interview with Newstalk host Ivan Yates in protest at the comments made by Mr Hook, has said she is "horrified" by the decision.

"I'm horrified and disgusted. All of my faith in Newstalk has really gone out the window. They seemed to be coming to their senses last week and heeding what the public wanted," she told Independent.ie, noting that the public outcry in the wake of the controversy was significant.

Ms Coughlan said she will never appear on a Newstalk show again, despite her affinity with many of their other hosts at the station.

"There is no place for people like George Hook on the airwaves," she said.

The musician, who was a victim of abuse as a child, said it was "heinous" to suggest that any victim of rape or sexual assault was culpable in any way for the crimes committed against them.

"I too always felt I was to blame even though I was much younger than seven," she said.

"Suggesting that anyone is partly responsible is heinous...and he should be taken off the air and kept off the air."

Mr Hook's comments on his show were made while he discussed the case of a woman (19), who alleges she was raped by a former member of the British swim team on his show on Friday September 8.

"Is there no blame to the person who puts themselves in danger?" he asked.

The comments were met with widespread condemnation and Mr Hook issued apologies on air on two occasions in which he clarified his position.

"It was wrong of me to suggest that any blame could be attributed to those victims or that they bear any responsibility in the crimes committed against them."

Meanwhile in a statement issued following the station's announcement today the National Women's Council of Ireland (NWCI) called for training for Newstalk's broadcasters.

“In the wake of George Hook’s unacceptable victim blaming comments, NWCI called for disciplinary action to be taken, and it is positive that Newstalk conducted an investigation and that George Hook will step down following this process," Orla O’Connor, Director of NWCI said.

"However, given that he will return to the station in three months, and also given the fact that Mr Hook has made victim blaming comments on more than one occasion, NWCI believes the station must issue presenters with guidelines for how to discuss and report on domestic and sexual violence.”

“Furthermore, it is crucial that Newstalk send a strong message that Mr Hook’s comments are utterly unacceptable. Violent men are socialised and enabled by women's inequality, and by a culture which erases the actions of perpetrators by focusing culpability on the victim.

"The damage done by these comments is very real, and they cannot be repeated. It is clear that more needs to be done by Newstalk, and that the station must find a way of countering the balance the impact of these comments on women.”

Independent.ie has contacted Newstalk to query if they will introduce training for presenters.

Following the controversial comments made by Mr Hook a number of complaints were made to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and high-profile sponsors began to withdraw support from the show, including the Dalata Hotel Group.

The sponsorship for 'High Noon' was believed to be worth up to €250,000. Other firms, such as Tesco, followed suit.

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