Radio 1 DJs encouraging gun crime, says Cameron

David Cameron provoked a row with the BBC by accusing Radio 1 of encouraging knife and gun crime by playing rap and hip-hop tracks with violent lyrics.

In response to mounting concern over a spate of stabbings and shootings, the Tory leader called on the station's disc jockeys to take more care over the music they play. His comments, in which he singled out Saturday night schedules which feature Tim Westwood's hip-hop show, brought an angry response from the station denying irresponsibility.

At a meeting with magazine editors, Mr Cameron said legislation alone was not enough to cut knife crime and insisted youth culture bore some of the blame for violence. He said: "It means saying to Radio 1: 'Do you realise that some of the stuff you play on Saturday nights encourages people to carry guns and knives?' Some people say that's part of the nanny state - I say the opposite."

Mr Cameron said his comments were an example of his having "the courage to speak up when you see something that is wrong" despite the fact that "you will get a lot of bricks thrown at you".

A spokesman for the Tory leader said: "He believes there is a lot of good music out there, and some musicians have been very positive role models and have highlighted important issues. But there are other cases where music encourages and glorifies violence. Governments can legislate, but as David has said before, that can only go so far. There also needs to be a change of culture and you need people to show cultural leadership."

In a statement yesterday, the BBC said: "Radio 1 strongly refutes any suggestion that the station condones or encourages knife or gun culture.

"The station takes its responsibilities very seriously and has strict producer guidelines that govern all of the output.

"Hip-hop is a huge international genre with a vibrant UK scene and that music reflects the sometimes harsher realities of people's lives and cultures."

Mr Cameron was echoing the leader of a government task force which warned that some rap music was affecting discipline in the classroom.

Sir Alan Steer, headmaster of Seven Kings High School in east London, said he was alarmed by the lyrics of songs that refer to women as "whores and bitches" and denounce homosexuals.

Concern over knife crime has been fuelled by the recent murders of the schoolboy Kiyan Prince and Special Constable Nisha Patel-Nasri in London. Police trying to tackle the problem have announced an amnesty for people who surrender knives and other weapons.

The DJ Tim Westwood has himself been the victim of gun crime when he was injured in a drive-by shooting seven years ago.

Five months ago, Mr Cameron appeared on Radio 1 in a bid to show youth credentials. He said he was a fan of the Smiths, Radiohead and Pulp. But when he appeared on Radio 4's Desert Island Discs a fortnight ago, the Tory leader revealed that Benny Hill's 1971 chart-topper "Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West)" was "the only song whose words I can remember".

The Tory leader's willingness to embrace populist issues includes his recent criticism of WH Smith for selling chocolate oranges, rather than oranges, and high-street stores for marketing provocative clothes to young girls.