Magazine article The Spectator

Special Treatment

Magazine article The Spectator

Special Treatment

Article excerpt

Out the Muckspreader would be a good title of a programme for queer farmers; the problem is, there aren't many of them. Down on the farm they're usually stubbornly heterosexual, immune from metropolitan influences. No doubt the government and the BBC will attempt to correct this politically incorrect phenomenon but they'll have a hard job.

Out the Muckspreader, however, might help the BBC to redress its decision to cut almost to oblivion the only real daily programme farmers had on radio, Farming Today. It now goes out for ten minutes before the Today programme begins at 6 a.m. It was typical of the BBC that it should relegate such a programme during the greatest crisis in farming this century while allowing gays and lesbians easy access to their own programme, Out This Week on Radio Five Live on Sunday evenings.

Heterosexuals do not appear to have their own programme. If they did it might have to be called In This Week. But I see no reason why they should, any more than gays and lesbians need to be promoted on the radio. Out This Week does that breathlessly, though last Sunday it made one exception: it dared not speak the name of Peter Mandelson, the Trade Secretary. It was the columnist Matthew Parris, discussing the Ron Davies affair on Newsnight, who said Mandelson was a homosexual. Mandelson, of course, is an old chum and colleague of the BBC director-general Sir John Birt and from then on no mention was to be made of his `sexual orientation'.

I have some sympathy for this line, taking the view that the sexual habits of people, whoever they are, are their own affair; I believe in privacy and as Mandelson, as far as I know, doesn't preach morality to us, it is right that what he does in his private life is no business of ours. However, the BBC should not turn a guideline into an injunction. Nor should it censor contributors to Any Questions when the subject came up on Friday night. Which other FOBs, friends of Birt, will receive the same favourable treatment, I wonder?

The presenter of Out This Week, Rebecca Sandies, announced primly, `In line with BBC policy we have not named the minister.' She was interviewing Parris, asking him why he had outed Mandelson on Newsnight. `Because it's true and perfectly well-known,' he replied. …

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