Radio Kent presenter criticises Australians for their ‘slovenly speech’

Comments made by ‘plain-speaking’ presenter James Whale during his BBC Radio Kent programme have been labelled ‘racist, rude and insulting’.

The on-air comments came when the controversial radio host met members of the Tunbridge Wells Operatic and Dramatic Society (TWODS).

They went along to the Tunbridge Wells radio studio as guests on the four-hour show that started at 10am on Saturday [April 9] to promote their upcoming production of Carousel.

Mr Whale used innuendo to play on the acronym TWODS by calling his guests ‘a bunch of TWODS’.

He went further, asking which version of Carousel they were performing. When told it was Rodgers and Hammerstein’s, he said: “Not the other one? I saw it on the adult movie channel the other night. But that’s not the one you are doing?”

When told it was unlikely the people of Tunbridge Wells would appreciate the soft-porn version, he replied: “That’s not what I have heard, not at all.”

He also targeted guest Lelia Di Domenico, an Australian with Italian heritage who has lived in the UK for nearly 16 years.

When he noticed her accent, the presenter – who was fired from TalkSport in 2008 for breaching impartiality rules – said: “So hang on, you’re foreign aren’t you?”

After this was confirmed he said: “So how come you’re over here then? Coming over here taking our jobs, for goodness sake. What’s going on?”

Mother of one Mrs Di Domenico replied that she was here to ‘improve the scenery’. He retorted: “Really? Well, you’re a TWOD aren’t you?”

BBC claims the comments made were light-hearted

He then asked why she hadn’t ‘learned to speak properly yet?’

And referred to her accent as ‘slovenly speech’.

She replied: “You insult me…”

To which he responded: “Well, you are Australian and it entertains me to do so.”

He went on to add: “I would say all this amateur dramatic stuff is what’s killing the proper theatre. We have got to keep it down.

“If you are better, then you should be earning a living out of it. Obviously you are not that good or you would be doing it professionally.”

James Whale is known for his plain-speaking, often acerbic and confrontational broadcasting style.

One listener, Ian Sturmer, told the Times he found the interview ‘very racist, rude and insulting’, including the reference to an adult movie on daytime radio.

“James Whale opened the segment in both a rude and unprofessional manner, forgetting the names of the guests and sounding very unwelcoming.

“He then proceeded to throw racially discriminatory comments at the woman, Lelia, who was speaking at the time.

“As a fellow Australian finding a home within the UK, I found his comments both hurtful and unnecessary.

“Had he made such comments to someone from another foreign country, such as Africa, China, the Middle East, etc, his racism would be taken very seriously.”

A spokesperson for the Tunbridge Wells Operatic and Dramatic Society told the Times: “We have been advised not to make any comment at this time.”

A BBC spokesperson said: “The comments were made in a light-hearted manner in James Whale’s usual presenting style, playing on the friendly rivalry between Australia and Britain, and the interviewee joined in the banter. No offence was intended.”

Readers can listen to James Whale: Something for the Weekend themselves on BBC iPlayer at the following link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03pkxx6

Let us know if you think it’s just light-hearted banter or something more serious. Email: info@timesoftunbridgewells.co.uk