BBC Radio 2, 9 May 2009, 10:00
During a live and unscripted part of his Saturday morning radio show, Jonathan Ross discussed the prizes for the week’s competition with his producer, Andy Davies. The prizes were primarily made up of Hannah Montana merchandise, which included a Hannah Montana MP3 player. As part of this discussion, Jonathan Ross said:
If your son asks for a Hannah Montana MP3 player, then you might want to already think about putting him down for adoption in later life, when they settle down with their partner.
Ofcom received 61 complaints from listeners who were concerned that Jonathan Ross’ comments were offensive and derogatory towards the gay community.
Ofcom considered these complaints under Rule 2.3 (material that may cause offence must be justified by the context).
Ofcom Decision: Not in Breach
Jonathan Ross’ BBC Radio 2 show has been broadcast since 1999. It has an established format that is largely made up of quirky, humorous stories and on-air chat with the show’s producer, Andy Davies.
The comment complained of was made during a live and unscripted element of the programme as part of a light-hearted discussion between Jonathan Ross and Andy Davies. In Ofcom’s opinion, the comment was clearly presented as a joke intended to make light of the reactions that some parents may have if their child chooses a toy that is very widely recognised to be designed and marketed for the opposite sex. The humour was therefore based on the absurdity of the scenario and was not intended to cause offence. The fact that this comment was intended to be a joke was illustrated further by the reaction from Andy Davies, who was heard laughing. Ofcom therefore considered that the nature of the joke and the tone and manner in which it was presented made clear that it was not intended to be hostile or pejorative towards the gay community in general.
Ofcom took into account that Jonathan Ross is a well known personality, who has an irreverent, challenging and at times risqué humour that is familiar to audiences. Ofcom also recognised that the comment was clearly aimed at an adult audience. Importantly, if children did hear this comment it was unlikely that they would have understood it or its implications. In light of this, Ofcom considered that there was little potential for the comment to be imitated by children, for example in the playground.
Ofcom considered that the comment was in keeping with the usual light-hearted and humorous style and format of the programme. The nature of the joke would have been well understood by the vast majority of listeners and would not have exceeded their normal expectations for the programme.
Taking all these factors into account, Ofcom considered that on balance the material was justified by the context and met generally accepted standards. The programme was therefore not in breach of Rule 2.3 of the Code.