herald

Friday 15 December 2017

Claire Byrne: Why I called Susan Boyle a 'freak' on my radio show and now I've been deemed 'offensive' by the authority

The definition of the word 'freak' is one that is markedly unusual.

Susan Boyle is markedly unusual. Isn't that what we all thought when she arrived onto the stage? Were the judges and audience not sniggering behind their hands at this woman who dared to imagine that she could impress them?

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has decided that because I verbalised what the majority of us were thinking, I was 'offensive and disrespectful' to the singer.

A listener to Newstalk Breakfast heard an on-air conversation that I was having about Susan with my co-presenter Ivan Yates and Tom Dunne. In a hasty comment, I said I couldn't watch Britain's Got Talent because she was a freak.

I concede that I should have chosen my words a little more carefully. When Susan Boyle was referred to in the papers as the 'spinster hairy angel', it made me cringe with embarrassment on her behalf, so I should have been more delicate in my own approach. But I would like to elaborate on the point that I was trying to make in that rushed conversation.

Susan Boyle became an object of fascination for millions because she is different. She doesn't look or act the part of a singing superstar, but suddenly she was projected onto an international stage and hailed as a singer to beat all others.

Why did this happen? It was, in my view, because Susan Boyle surprised people. How could someone who looked the way she did, middle-aged and single, sing so well? The whole phenomenon served to patronise not only the woman herself, but every one of us.

The beautiful people expressed amazement at the woman who didn't belong, who would never be one of them, but who had to be given attention because she could sing.

Her own brother came out at the weekend and said that she now needs 24-hour care because of her precarious mental state. She was recently seen using a mop to wipe the shoes of fellow passengers at an airport.

Susan Boyle has been exploited and manipulated by an industry that should have left her alone. Instead, the big money boys spotted a meal ticket and opted to cash in, without having regard to the toll it would take on her and her psychiatric condition.

The BAI is the body that is tasked to regulate my industry and so I and Newstalk are obliged to accept its ruling. There is no system of appeals, so the case that I have put before you today will never be heard by them, in any official capacity.

I work on an opinion-led programme -- it is my job to express my views and reflect those of others who listen, contribute and appear on the show. Not everybody will like those opinions.

In the case of the listener who was offended by my comments about Susan Boyle, I would respectfully suggest that they ought to take greater offence at the music bosses who continue to run a vulnerable woman through the mill and have compromised her mental health as a result.

Related Content


Promoted articles

Entertainment News