Wednesday, 17 February 2010

BBC newsreader comes out. Or does she?

I bet you’d never think that if you filled in a few words about your home life for an interview in your work’s newsletter you’d be splattered over whole-page spreads in every paper on the racks by New Year.

You might have thought the five little words “FAMILY: lives with partner Sara” buried in a three-hundred-odd word article about working on Christmas day, which was published in mid-December, would have had very little impact, since all your colleagues knew all that anyway.

So, pity Jane Hill, then, who did precisely this and made the journey from BBC newsreader to tabloid sensation (“Male Fans of BBC Newsreader Jane Hill, Brace Yourself For Disappointment” as she “admits” and “reveals” and “outs herself”) in the news-barren week between Christmas and New Year.

I did actually read the actual article in Ariel, the BBC in-house magazine, in the week it was published, because my own partner, who also works for Auntie, tossed the paper at me one evening after work and said “See - I said.” I did see. It did say. But it didn’t say very much, just those exact words above, along with a whole lot of other stuff about mince pies and breaking news. I didn’t text or tweet or Facebook; it said so little that it wasn’t really worth passing on.

The papers, though, were a different matter. The holiday period is a notoriously barren time for news, so they really went to town, squeezing the Ariel article like a toothpaste tube to ease out every last droplet – Jane is an Archers fan, likes the gym and has a dog called Mavis. She found the Madeleine McCann story hard to do - and faking sensation from a single matter-of-fact statement.

The Daily Mail, usually a purveyor of the finest ‘why-oh-why-do-homosexuals-believe-we-need-to-know-the-details-of-their-private-lives line’ was exercised enough to wring out not one but two articles from it - in the same edition.

Several hundred members of the message board community were so unbothered by the news that they felt it necessary to commit the fact that they didn’t care to writing. You should read some of the comments, though, treading as they do that delicate line between uproariously funny and grimly depressing. I have harvested some of the best ones:

“Why do we all have to tell the world what our sexuality is! I thought that was private between two people!!”

“I am really annoyed!”

“WHY oh why do we need to know what people get up to sexually or who they kiss and so forth????? Because that's what it comes to by saying I am a virgin or gay or blah blah blah ...”

“i dont mean to be cynical but why is it some gay people seem to need to parade their sexuality around. there is a certain conceit and smugness about the whole thing. 'look at me - im gay' . well im pleased she is happy. but to be honest. most of us dont care.”

“who cares. Did i mention, i'm NOT gay? Just thought i'd mention it as i'm sure people want to know what i do behind closed doors.”

“Women and men are not GAY they are lesbians and ****sexuals. Why have they taken over one of the best words in the English Language?”

“Why does ANYONE think the NATION needs to know that they prefer Brand X entertainment in the BEDROOM!!!???”

The most unfair thing is that the excessive exclamation mark-using sections of society pour its ire on Hill for broadcasting her bedroom antics to the nation, when she did no such thing. She talked to her employer’s newsletter but it’s papers like the Mail (hellfire! I’ll single it out for criticism because it deserves it!) that manufacture sensation because they employ people to rake through in-house publications looking for something they can flag up as tittle-tattle to fill a couple of pages in the slack news week after Christmas.

It must have been difficult to know what to do in the circumstances, because there’s a whole world of difference between being out to everyone around you in your everyday life and having “BBC NEWSGIRL: I’M GAY” staring back at you when you open the morning papers.

There was not an entirely dissimilar issue in my household several years ago, at a time when my girlfriend was the newsreader for a particular larger-than-life DJ whose star was in the ascendant. Because he knew that this newsgirl was gay, he would make sideways remarks about lack of boyfriends and stuff about how badly dressed she was. Now, she can give as good as she gets (example: she called him a “fat twat” on air), but I thought that she should just say it outright in a programme and pop his little bubble of innuendo. She didn’t, though, not least because she’d only just come out to her parents and didn’t think it would be a good time to have it splashed all over the papers. Which it probably wouldn’t have been. Unless it was a particularly slow news week and the Daily Mail was looking for a couple of pages to fill.

Also, there is another issue at stake: that the general public can behave, sometimes, a little oddly. If you’re in the public eye at any level whatsoever, people can feel like they have some kind of share in you. At one end of the scale there are the people who post on internet sites, outraged in their mistaken belief that Jane Hill had done some kind of exposé on her sex life, and at the other end there is Jodie Foster. I used to be all Michelangelo Signorile about her and think she was a wuss for not coming out, but now I kind of understand that if a stranger shoots the President of the USA in the belief that it will make you love him, you might not actually want anyone to know anything at all about your private life.

And people remember the oddest personal details, as my girlfriend discovered just the other day when she read about herself on a website. A fact-fan with a microscopic eye for detail had written, in the last couple of months, the precise date (in 2001!) that she’d left a particular job. “I didn’t even know that, and I’m me,” she said, slightly unnerved.

It’s a shame, but perhaps not a surprise, given what happened to Hill over the last couple of weeks, that the other lesbian journalists on the telly and radio aren’t more vocally out. There are a few, for sure. I’m not even sure if they’re even in, but I’m not going to say who they are here. After all, it just might be a weak week for news.

Kim Renfrew


  1. Hill and her dyke "partner" (note how all politically correct types use this, including non-dykes - I think - like the obnoxious hypocrite Victoria Derbyshire) got their jobs due to the backroom homosexual bias at the BBC. Just this morning, it looked like another female was showing a totally different look - crew cut and big earings, and looked hideous....but VERY lesbian. Is she ? Don't know. But there are plenty others. A disproportional amount. Typical BBC - the homo freemasonry - giving jobs to their fellow middle class dykes and queers.
    And you think this is right ?
    Just another damn P.C. hypocrite or another Pink Nazi ?