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Complaints lodged to Press Ombudsman over offensive Kevin Myers column

BBC presenter Vanessa Feltz has described the column as “horrifying racism”.

Updated at 1.35pm

THE PRESS OMBUDSMAN has received four complaints in relation to the column about equal pay for women by Kevin Myers published in the Sunday Times yesterday.

The opinion piece, which appeared in the Irish print edition, is critical of recent calls for equal pay for men and women in media organisations after the BBC published its list of highest-paid stars and only one woman made the top 10.

Yesterday afternoon, the online version of the article was removed, and both editors of the British and Irish editions issued apologies.

The Press Ombudsman confirmed to that four complaints were lodged in relation to the column.

However, the complaints are not yet formal as the complainants must first take up the matter with the editor of the publication.

The case officer for the Press Ombudsman said:

I will be responding to those complainants this morning letting them have a copy of the Press Council’s Code of Practice, and advising them that the complaint must be taken up with the editor in the first instance.
The editor should be given an opportunity to respond and if he doesn’t respond within two weeks, or if he responds within that time and the complainant is not happy with his response, this office will then consider the matter.

A spokesperson for the Independent Press Standards Organisation, the independent regulator for the newspaper and magazine industry in the UK, has confirmed to that it has received a total of 25 complaints in relation to the column.

In the article, which is entitled “Sorry, ladies – equal pay has to be earned”, Irish journalist Myers argues that men may get paid more for a variety of reasons:

Is it because men are more charismatic performers? Because they work harder? Because they are more driven? Possibly a bit of each.

In a later section, the article highlights that the two highest-paid female BBC presenters are Jewish.

“Horrifying racism”

BBC presenter Vanessa Feltz has described the column as “horrifying racism”.

Speaking on BBC Radio London, Feltz questioned how “something so blatantly racist” was allowed in the newspaper.

“When someone alerted me to it.. I couldn’t believe such a thing had been printed. It is absolutely gratuitous, not cleverly done, it’s blatant racism. When you see it like that it’s very horrifying,” she said.

The editor personally rung me to apologise. He said he was horrified.

Speaking on RTE Radio 1′s News at One, Sean Donlon of the Press Council of Ireland said: “There are many people who have been impacted by this article and it’s up to them to take up their case with the Press Council if they feel it’s appropriate.”

“Like most press councils in Europe, we rely completely on what I might call the court of public opinion,” he said.

We make our views known. We hope that those views will be taken into account and on the basis of our track record over the last ten years, I think it’s fair to say the court of public opinion has been at least as effective as any court of law.

Editorial apologies 

Senior management at the Sunday Times sent an apology to the Campaign Against Antisemitism after it complained about the article.

The British edition of the Sunday Times was unable to confirm how many complaints the publication has received.

Frank Fitzgibbon, editor of the Sunday Times in Ireland, said in his apology yesterday: “On behalf of the Sunday Times I apologise unreservedly for the offence caused by comments in a column written by Kevin Myers and published today in the Ireland edition of the Sunday Times.

It contained views that have caused considerable distress and upset to a number of people. As the editor of the Ireland edition I take full responsibility for this error of judgment. This newspaper abhors antisemitism and did not intend to cause offence to Jewish people.

The editor of the British edition of the Sunday Times Martin Ivens said the column was “unacceptable and should not have been published”.

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