BBC coverage of Elton's baby provokes claims of homophobia

Gay rights campaigners urge viewers to boycott licence fee in protest

The BBC is facing action by gay viewers and listeners, who have been asked to withhold the licence fee in protest at a succession of broadcasts that have been criticised as homophobic.

In an important development, the influential Pink News website has published an editorial calling for viewers to take co-ordinated action against the corporation as a way of making their voices heard on this issue.

"No other group of people is subjected to the same level of insult by the BBC as the LGBT community," it said, suggesting that viewers who only watched on-demand television could avoid paying the licence fee.

The call for action has been triggered by the BBC's decision to allow a fundamentalist Christian, Stephen Green, to be the sole commentator in a report in its News at Six bulletin on the surrogate birth of a son to the gay couple Sir Elton John and David Furnish. "This isn't just a designer baby for Sir Elton John, this is a designer accessory," said Green, who represents the group Christian Voice and is an outspoken critic of homosexual relationships. "Now it seems like money can buy him anything, and so he has entered into this peculiar arrangement. A baby needs a mother and it seems an act of pure selfishness to deprive a baby of a mother."

Pink News accuses the BBC of irresponsibly seeking extremist views: "Would they ask a member of the Ku Klux Klan to comment on the birth of a surrogate child to a mixed raced couple?" The controversy follows a succession of previous incidents, including Ofcom's criticism of Radio 1 presenter Chris Moyles for his comments on the gay singer Will Young, a BBC3 programme that was criticised as "offensive" by the BBC Trust for the way it discussed lesbians, and a debate about Uganda's policy on homosexuality on the BBC's website being headlined "Should homosexuals face execution?"

Of the coverage of Sir Elton's baby, which included an old clip of the pop star talking about parenthood, the website said: "Enough is enough. This isn't the most serious offence that the BBC has ever committed against [gay] people, but it's the one that in the view of tips the corporation over the edge."

It said that the BBC, as a publicly funded organisation, was under a moral obligation to cater to all sections of the population.

"Even if LGBT people chose to watch no BBC programmes at all, and stuck to the more tolerant ITV or Channel 4 instead, they are still forced to fund the BBC. This monopoly over an effective tax on television consumption means that the BBC has a greater duty than most accurately to reflect the nation."

The BBC defended its coverage. "The practice of surrogacy is a sensitive subject and remains controversial in some quarters. Our short news bulletin featured Elton John talking about wanting to have a child, and an opposing viewpoint. All sides of the debate on surrogacy have been widely reported in the news media, and our coverage has reflected this."