James Whale on Talksport Verdict

Earlier this year, Talksport fired James Whale, their long-serving (and high rating) evening phone-in DJ after he made some comments which were seen to be in favour of Boris Johnson in the run-up to the London mayoral election.
At the time, it was all a little unclear. Whale himself was vague in his accounts. Even at the Radio Festival in Glasgow, it still hadn’t been publicly spelt out exactly what he’d said (well – unless you’d happened to have been listening at the time).
Following his dismissal, there was talk of Whale taking his previous employers to court. But he backed out of that, seemingly because of the costs.
Finally, today, Ofcom has announced that Talksport should be fined £20,000 for breaking rules of impartiality.
The transcript is fascinating:
James Whale: Now in the run up to the mayoral election in London, I don’t think we’re supposed to show any, any preference one way or the other. But in an interview earlier today, I heard Ken Livingstone being championed by the prime minister. Gordon Brown said if Londoners didn’t vote for Ken Livingstone, if they voted for Boris Johnson, who I by the way, think would make a fantastic leader of this city. If Boris Johnson was the London mayor, people would have a far better quality of life and would not be ripped off nearly so much, if at all. And for anybody that doesn’t vote for Boris, you’ll get what you deserve because what you’ll get is Ken Livingstone. Now, I’m pretty sure we’re not supposed to champion one…
Producer: Yeah, you’re not allowed to do that.
James Whale: But I don’t give a stuff, I couldn’t care less. If the prime minister feels that he can champion Ken Livingstone, and let’s face it, Ken Livingstone has been nothing but a complete and utter tragedy for the capital city…I think Ken Livingstone running London again will be a complete tragedy. If you don’t walk, you’ll be a non-person.
Producer: It’s good for some people what he’s done.
James Whale: No, not good for anyone. Boris Johnson…
Producer: If you’re a roller blader.

James Whale: “Boris Johnson for mayor of London” that has to be the mantra…
Producer: You’re not allowed to say that.
James Whale: I couldn’t give a stuff.
Producer: You can’t do, sorry you can’t. He’s a nice bloke though, he did the show here when you were off. Really, really, really, nice genuinely nice guy.
James Whale: Vote him in.
Producer: You can’t say anything about his politics. You’re not allowed to.
James Whale: Make sure that he’s the next mayor of London because quite frankly, Gordon Brown…

There’s a further section which you can read for yourself.
What’s clear is that Talksport was very quickly concerned about what had happened and the seriousness with which it would be taken by Ofcom. They’d had a previously incident with George Galloway. The consequential firing of Whale was inevitable. Indeed, it was used in mitigation of the eventual fine.
I suspect that Talksport are pretty pleased with the overall outcome. But, they’re going to need to be very careful in the future – that much is clear. So perhaps that’s why Jon Gaunt recently got fired over a much less important incident (the rights and wrongs of which I won’t go into).
As for James Whale? Well he’s back at work on LBC where one of his fellow presenters is Ken Livingstone. I suspect for them, it’s water under the bridge because in the end, a one-off rant on a single station doesn’t determine who wins an election. But it doesn’t make it right either.
[As always, these opinions are my own and don’t represent those of my employer.]

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