BBC Radio Sheffield host says “So what?” about suicidal teenager
When told of a 15-year-old child left suicidal due to homophobic hate speech, Toby Foster responded with “So what?”. Despite an initial cancellation and widespread opposition, US evangelist Franklin Graham’s event went ahead at Sheffield Arena last night. LGBT+ people in Sheffield signed an open letter against his appearance and former leader of Sheffield City Council Julie Dore said: "Franklin Graham, who has demonstrated his intent on creating divisions with his discriminatory and repulsive views, could affect the long-established values that we all hold so dear in Sheffield".
Yesterday, Sheffield Against Hate held a demo outside the Arena, while Sheffield Cathedral held an “affirming prayer vigil”, explaining, “We are a place for all people and we believe God loves every person, and delights in them wholeheartedly whatever their gender identity, expression, sexual orientation, race, age or role in society.” So when Vicky Laylor from Sheffield Against Hate was invited onto BBC Radio Sheffield yesterday to talk about the serious impact that homophobia, biphobia and transphobia have on people, she spoke of a 15-year-old who was suicidal due to homophobic hate speech. Host Toby Foster responded to this with “So what?” Heather Paterson, chief executive of LGBT+ charity SAYiT, was shocked to hear this comment live. Heather told Now Then, “We have a mental health crisis in this country and LGBTQ+ people in particular are disproportionately represented in that, so it’s important to consider the platform you have and the impact you could have on those listening / reading.” In a climate where Now Then has reported on soaring anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes in Sheffield, it is especially important that bigoted and dismissive attitudes are not disseminated, whether they come from an American evangelist in the Arena or a radio host on the BBC.
Heather Paterson spoke privately to BBC Radio Sheffield in the afternoon, who agreed with her that Foster had crossed a line and assured her that Foster, and the station, would apologise. The show in question was not available on BBC Sounds or the BBC website. A BBC spokesperson told Now Then: “It’s right we have conversations about all issues no matter how sensitive. However this interview fell below the high standards expected of us and we’re sorry for that.”