Media: Forth protests at Mandelson ban in BBC

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The Independent Online
THE ROW over the BBC's ban on any reference to Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Mandelson's sexuality, surfaced in the Commons yesterday.

Tory ex-minister Eric Forthsaid journalists should be "absolutely free to report" on the activities of MPs and others.

In a point of order to the Speaker, Betty Boothroyd, Mr Forth said: "Can you suggest to me what we might do to protect journalists at the BBC against an absolutely unjustified trammelling of their freedom, which seems to have led from some sort of high level cronyism between elements in the Government and elements at the senior level of the BBC."

Miss Boothroyd replied: "I think on these matters that we must all take it upon ourselves to act in accordance with our own consciences."

Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam reportedly protested over the ban when she was a panelist on Radio Four's Any Questions? programme last week. Tory peer Lord Tebbit of Chingford also got embroiled in the row yesterday, after demanding that homosexuals be banned from sensitive Government posts.

In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, Lord Tebbit said gays should be barred from roles like Home Secretary, where they could give favours to other homosexuals. But he was criticised for having outdated views by gay rights group OutRage! and by MPs.

Stephen Twigg, the gay Labour MP for Enfield Southgate, said: "Thank goodness we are no longer in the days when Lord Tebbit's views counted for anything in Government."

The controversy began after Mr Mandelson was named as "gay" on BBC TV's Newsnight programme by the gay former MP and newspaper columnist Matthew Parris. (PA)

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