John Inverdale’s Bartoli remark prompts Miller letter

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She wrote to BBC director general Lord Hall for “an update on any further action that is likely to be taken”.

Inverdale apologised for saying Bartoli was “never going to be a looker”.

The BBC said it had made it clear that the presenter’s comments were “unacceptable”.

A BBC spokesperson said: “John sincerely regrets that he made such an inappropriate statement and for the offence caused. As he said on air the following day, he has written to Marion Bartoli to apologise and the BBC has also apologised for John’s remarks.”

Inverdale said the remarks, made on BBC Radio 5 live ahead of the Wimbledon women’s final on 6 July, were “clumsy” and “ham-fisted” and had “understandably caused something of a furore”.

Portrayal of women

Extracts from Mrs Miller’s letter have been published in the Daily Mail but it is not immediately clear when it was sent to the BBC.

Mrs Miller, who is also minister for women and equalities, said she was writing to express her “concerns over the comments”.

Maria Miller Mrs Miller said she was keen to see increased coverage of women’s sport

“I have particular regard for the portrayal of women in the media generally, and I have also identified increased coverage of women’s sport as one of my key priorities,” she said.

“It is therefore a matter of some concern to me that any comment on the looks and stature of a female athlete could be made in the context of one of the highlights of the UK’s, and indeed the world’s, sporting calendar.

“I am sure you will agree with me that it is vital that young women and girls in this country feel motivated both to take part in and to watch coverage of sport, and to know that they are included in the enjoyment of sport, and catered for by the media just as much as the male audience.”

Mrs Miller goes on to acknowledge that Inverdale had apologised both on air and directly to Bartoli in a letter but asks “whether there may be positive steps that the BBC could take in future to ensure that the perception of and commentary on female athletes, and women’s sport generally, are as positive and inclusive as possible”.

The culture secretary has met broadcasters a number of times in the last year to encourage them to improve coverage of women’s sports, her aides say.

‘Amazonian athletes’

While chatting on air about Bartoli’s technique as a player, Inverdale said: “I just wonder if her dad, because he has obviously been the most influential person in her life, did say to her when she was 12, 13, 14 maybe, ‘Listen, you are never going to be, you know, a looker.

“‘You are never going to be somebody like a Sharapova, you’re never going to be 5ft 11, you’re never going to be somebody with long legs, so you have to compensate for that.

“‘You are going to have to be the most dogged, determined fighter that anyone has ever seen on the tennis court if you are going to make it,’ and she kind of is.”

After complaints on online social networks, the BBC issued a statement in which it said the remarks had been “insensitive and for that we apologise”.

The following day, at the beginning of the coverage of the men’s Wimbledon final, Inverdale made his apology and added that Bartoli was a “fantastic example to all young people that it’s attitude and will and determination, together obviously with talent, that in the end gets you to the top”.

He said the point he was trying to make was “the public perception of tennis players is that they’re all six-feet-tall Amazonian athletes”.

A spokesperson for the BBC said: “‘The BBC has made clear that John Inverdale’s comments were unacceptable and fell well beneath the standards expected of our presenters.

“The BBC has a proud record of supporting women’s sport with the current coverage of Euro 2013 the most recent highlight in a summer of unprecedented coverage. We have also appointed an editorial lead specifically for women’s sport, which has helped ensure significantly increased coverage across our daily sporting output.

“More generally the BBC, following the Respect at Work Review, is taking steps to clearly communicate to those who work for us what constitutes inappropriate behaviour or language.”

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Posted on July 18, 2013, in Tennis and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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