Steve Allen in breach for Portuguese comments

LBC has been found in breach of the Ofcom code for comments made by early morning presenter Steve Allen during a show last autumn.

A listener complained that he had been discriminatory towards people from Portugal during the broadcast at around 5am on 17th October 2016.

While talking about a TV programme he had seen that mentioned a £63,000 loan, Steve Allen read out a response from a listener.

Ofcom’s report on the link records the presenter as saying: “Somebody called Joel, who does have a surname, he said ‘you said the person owes £3,000 they have to pay back’ — no, no, you’re not listening properly are you? It’s a shame. They owed £63,000. I can’t help thick people this morning, I really can’t, honestly. You know sometimes, I mean I’ve heard some stupid people over the time, but Joel would be the one actually. He comes from Portugal. Obviously, the further you get abroad, the dumber they become really. No, no, no, they offered £3,000. I can’t be bothered to explain it to you. You’re too stupid for words, aren’t you really? Where do you come from? Are you just some sort of just…”

He went on to say: “Oh, he’s a bit simple isn’t he Joel? As I say, he’s from Tavira in Portugal. The gender he can’t quite work out what it is. I suspect old woman. He’s obviously a regular listener, but unfortunately you’ve just gone into the ‘sin bin’ so now you’ve got nobody to write to anymore. What are you going to do? What are you going to do? Never mind. I’m sure you’ll find somebody. Perhaps your local police office can probably find you somebody to talk to.”

Shortly afterwards, when discussing an unrelated story about ‘evil, unhinged parents’, Mr Allen said: “…I suspect they are living in Portugal. That’s about the saddest place we have found at the moment where they are really are a bit thick. I mean honestly, it’s almost too embarrassing for words.”

Around five minutes later, when speaking about another topic and referencing his brother, Mr Allen said: “…imagine if I banned my brother. Like anybody from Portugal at the moment, you know, because this one was really thick. How stupid you can be? Obviously very, very stupid with a surname like he’s got. I mean God, you do worry don’t you!? These people, perhaps they vote. Perhaps he’s not intelligent enough to vote. I bet he’s not working either.”

A response to the regulator from Global-owned LBC defended Steve Allen’s style of broadcasting and “acerbic view of topical issues”, saying that as the listener had mentioned their location he had decided to play on this in response to emphasise his irritation at the man for “not listening properly”. LBC said the reference to Portugal was “irrelevant” and that their presenter did not intend to make a serious generalisation about a particular nation, and believed his listeners would be familiar enough with these ‘exaggerated moments’ to understand this.

The regulator said it didn’t accept Global’s view that the reference to Portugal was irrelevant. Ofcom concluded that the presenter “clearly linked his view of
Joel as ‘stupid’ and ‘simple’ to the fact he came from Portugal”. Ofcom also said it didn’t accept LBC’s view that Steve Allen’s comments were “a spontaneous overreaction to one listener’s comments”, highlighting that the disparaging references towards Portuguese people continued a further three times when the topic had moved on from the original one. The regulator described the remarks as “a series of insulting comments towards a listener’s level of intelligence and an unwarranted indictment of the intelligence of Portuguese people generally.”

Ofcom also highlighted that the listener had not been given the opportunity on air to challenge or respond to the criticism levelled at him. It said that the reaction from Mr Allen, delivered in a repeatedly, deliberately mocking and belittling tone, would have exceeded audience expectations and were therefore capable of causing offence.

A breach of Rule 2.3 of the Ofcom Code was recorded against LBC.

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