BBC presenter criticised by Ofcom and the BBC Trust for ”misogynistic” comments about breastfeeding

Alex Dyke upbraided by the two regulatory bodies for comments some listeners found “shocking”, “sexist” and “disgusting”

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A BBC Radio Solent DJ has had complaints about his comments on breastfeeding women upheld by Ofcom.

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The body was highly critical of Alex Dyke who used his morning phone-in to lambast women who feed their infant babies in public.

In August, the programme’s request for calls about breastfeeding prompted the presenter to recount his experience of seeing a woman feeding her child on a bus the previous day.

He said: “She was quite a big girl… and she starts to breastfeed her baby on the bus. I didn’t know where to look. She’s putting me in an embarrassing situation… I wanted to look away but the bus was packed, there was nowhere else to look.

“Breastfeeding’s unnatural – I just, I mean, I know it’s natural, but it’s kind of unnatural… I mean, it was OK in the stone-age when we knew no better… We don’t want it in public, do we fellas. …I just think a public area is not the place for it – and fellas don’t like it – they may say they do – they may, they want to be supportive of their wives and partners. Of course they do, and there’s nothing more important to them than their baby’s health. But, it’s not a great look – and there’s plenty of formula out there now – with all the same kind of calcium and vitamins in it… are you with me?”

Dyke also referred to women who breastfed in public as: “history teachers, geography teachers”; “librarian-types with moustaches”; “Brownie pack leaders”; and “earth mothers… the ones with moustaches, the ones who work in libraries, the ones who wear hessian”.

He suggested that breastfeeding mothers could wear a sign around their necks or a “hat” alerting people to the fact that they may breastfeed. He also labelled men who support breastfeeding in public as being “wimps who are scared of their wives”. 

Dyke was suspended following the broadcast but later told he could return to the airwaves.

Ofcom has since upheld 45 complaints about the broadcast from listeners, some of who said that they found his remarks “shocking”, “sexist” and “disgusting”. The regulator found him to be in breach of rule 2.3 which covers harm and offence.

Its ruling stated that Dyke “made a series of statements over a substantial part of his programme which both stereotyped women who breastfed and were likely to be perceived as misogynistic.

“We were particularly concerned that Alex Dyke had been permitted to broadcast highly offensive comments with apparently minimal editorial oversight.”

The BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee also found the programme to be in breach of the Corporation’s own rules on harm and offence as well as its strictures on fairness, contributors and consent. It investigated the programme after a referral by the BBC. No listeners complained to the BBC.

The Trust’s report said: “Trustees considered that phone-in programmes were a valuable forum for connecting with audiences, they tapped in to the likely topics of conversation and allowed the BBC to engage with audiences. Trustees acknowledged that presenters had editorial freedom about the choice of subjects they discussed and considerable leeway to provoke opinion; for example, they could choose to use humour, exaggeration and play devil’s advocate. Trustees considered all these devices were well understood and accepted by audiences.

“However in this instance, they considered the comments stepped significantly beyond what would have been deemed acceptable by listeners. They noted in particular repeated derogatory stereotypical comments about the appearance of the kind of women who might breastfeed. Trustees also considered the treatment of one caller in particular was derogatory.”

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A BBC spokesperson said: ‘’We take the Ofcom and BBC Trust findings very seriously indeed. Alex was told at the time in no uncertain terms that his comments were unacceptable, and he apologised for any offence caused on and off air.”