BBC defends satirical show over 'homophobic' complaint

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The Independent Online

The BBC today denied it had been "homophobic" after a complaint was made to police about an episode of Have I Got News For You.

The complaint was made about an extended edition of the programme, broadcast over the weekend.

A discussion was taking place over reports that Iranians had failed in a bid to create to the world's biggest ostrich sandwich.

"On the plus side they do still hold the record for hanging homosexuals," guest host Alexander Armstrong said.

In a pun on words, comedian Frank Skinner joked that homosexuals are often "ostracised".

A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police confirmed: "A member of the public has made a complaint regarding comments made in the programme.

"The complaint is currently being reviewed."

The BBC defended the current affairs show as crisis talks were being held by the BBC Trust into the prank phone calls made to Andrew Sachs by Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand for a Radio 2 show.

A BBC spokeswoman insisted that rather than being homophobic, the intention was quite the opposite.

She said: "The presenter never intended for this comment to be homophobic - quite the opposite.

"Viewers are more than familiar with HIGNFY use of satire - in this instance aimed at the Iranian regime and not the Iranian gay community."

Armstrong has recently been hotly tipped to take over as the new Countdown presenter, something he was ribbed about on the BBC show. quoted a man named Lionel Wright from London, who said he had put in complaints about the matter to various bodies including the police.

He said: "I'm a middle-aged gay man who, in common with millions of others lived the first decades of my life under the shadow of prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities and at a cost in personal happiness and fulfilment."

He said he was "sickened" at the BBC.

But rights campaigner Peter Tatchell disagreed.

"I appreciate the complainant's concerns and good intentions but I interpreted it as an anti-Iran joke, exposing and mocking Iran's murderous homophobic regime," he told the website.

"It was parody and satire, I think, not an endorsement of executions."