Thursday 22 February 2018

Viewers will make right decision over Tyson Fury in SPOTY contest - Lord Hall

Tyson Fury beat Wladimir Klitschko to become a world heavyweight champion last month
Tyson Fury beat Wladimir Klitschko to become a world heavyweight champion last month

The BBC's director general has dismissed calls for boxer Tyson Fury to be kicked out of the Sports Personality of the Year competition over allegations of homophobia and sexism.

Lord Hall said he "trusted" the public to make the right decision about who should win the contest.

Fury - who defeated Wladimir Klitschko to become a world heavyweight champion last month - has been accused of classing homosexuality with paedophilia, joking about being violent to women, and saying a woman's "best place is on her back".

More than 130,000 people have signed a petition on the website demanding he be removed from the 12-strong shortlist for SPOTY, the winner of which is due to be announced in a live programme on Sunday.

Giving evidence to the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Lord Hall insisted the decision to include Fury on the list had been taken by an independent panel.

"The panel added those two names, the BBC did not. Those two names were a decision made by the entire panel," he said.

"He has been put on that list for his sporting prowess and not for other things he has been doing."

Pressed on the issue by SNP MP John Nicolson, Lord Hall said: "The panel have made their judgment and what I believe is right is that people now vote - they are voting or will vote - on who will be SPOTY.

"I have been reading a lot of what people are commenting over the past couple of weeks on this, and there is your point of view which I understand and sympathise with. But there are others who say, 'do you know what, we kind of believe in free speech and we will make sure when it comes to the vote, trust us to say what is right when we come to vote'. People are quite split on this actually."

Lord Hall said he had his "private views" about Fury's opinions, but insisted: "One of the things which is key to the BBC is we are impartial and we should be a place where people's views can be heard across a range of opinion in all things.

"For me this is the fundamental principle. I trust our viewers, listeners, our voters to make sense of what is going on."

After the hearing, shadow culture secretary Michael Dugher said: "Lord Hall has failed to adequately justify to the select committee why the BBC is still refusing to withdraw Tyson Fury's nomination for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.

"Tyson Fury has caused serious offence with his recent homophobic and sexist remarks, and he has rebuffed many opportunities to apologise or show regret.

"The Sports Personality of the Year awards are not just about celebrating sporting achievement, they are about honouring role models too. Tyson Fury crossed a line with his comments and leaving him as one of the nominees will be seen by many as condoning his unacceptable behaviour.

"It is clear that Tyson Fury should be removed from the SPOTY shortlist. It's not too late for the BBC to do the right thing and drop him from the programme."

Press Association

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