There has been much controversy over the statement made on "Talk about Town" by Louis Andlaw to the effect that the women's place is in the home and pregnant. It is correct that Louis should be accorded his full right to freedom of expression. It is all the case that all those who have criticised this statement also enjoy that right to freedom of expression and so to criticise him in the strongest terms. It is not correct to say, therefore, that he is being "victimised", as suggested by Mr Solomon Seruya in his letter published in the Chronic today. If someone makes a comment that is highly offensive to many women and men he must be prepared to weather the storm that such a comment unleashes.
The Gibraltar Constitution prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex. A statement of the type made by Louis may not be a breach of this prohibition, because it is not an act but an expression of opinion, but, certainly, if anyone acted against a woman, in employment or any other aspect of life, on the principle contained in this statement, it would certainly be a breach. This comment is harmful and offensive to the vast majority of women (Odette excepted, although she did express disagreement with the view) and to a large number of men (Richard and David excepted also). In these circumstances should GBC have permitted it to be broadcast?
GBC may be forgiven for the first incident, when it was first broadcast on "Talk about Town". This is a live programme. It is difficult to prevent, in these circumstance, such impromptu statements being broadcast. The statement made by Mr King today in that context would provide an explanation and would distance GBC from the statement. Unfortunately that is not the case. Two whole weeks after the first broadcast, already faced with mounting criticism, GBC positively permitted Louis to restate and reaffirm his belief in the sentiments expressed and, to add more damage to an already appalling incident, allowed Richard, David and Odette to defend Louis.
Mr King now says that Louis' statement do not reflect the views of GBC. I believe a bland statement to this effect is not enough. GBC allowed a reaffirmation of the statement. Implicit in this permissive and conscious act is that, some may well form the view that, perhaps, it does reflect the view of GBC or of some at GBC. Therefore, and under the principle of fairness espoused by the BBC, the right of reply should be given on "Talk about Town" to a representative of those who have so strongly objected and expressed contrary views. It is not enough, surely, to have allowed someone to phone in. It is not enough, surely, for Mr King to say that those who do not share Louis' views " ... are just as free to express contrary views ... on such GBC programme as they might be appearing on", without offering them the opportunity to do so.
The fact that "Talk about Town" is one of GBC's most popular programmes is irrelevant , as is the fact that Louis may be the catalyst that makes it popular. This is especially so as, other than for the News, "Viewpoint" and one religious programme, GBC does not transmit any other scheduled programmes that it produces. Harmful and offensive statements will always have some supporters. The balance on this one is clearly against the transmission of the second programme containing Louis' reaffirmation and defence. It was not a measured, polite debate, which GBC might wish to host, which would be perfectly acceptable, to argue the merits or demerits of what women might do or not do in today's society. It was a rude, harmful and offensive statement spoken rudely and offensively, what if its content had been racist or critical of sexual orientation?
It is not just the content of the statement but the manner and fervour in which it was made that has caused so much harm and offence. A public service broadcaster needs to take care not to cause gratuitous harm or offence. Behaviour on "Talk about Town" needs to be moderated.