Culture Secretary Maria Miller has written to the BBC voicing her concerns over John Inverdale’s remark about the looks of Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli.
Inverdale’s comments that Bartoli was “never going to be a looker” before the women’s singles final on Saturday 6 July have since attracted 674 complaints, with Miller now writing to BBC director general Lord Hall for “an update on any further action that is likely to be taken.”
Though it is unclear when Miller, who is also minister for women and equalities, wrote the letter she expresses her “concerns over the comments” writing: “I have particular regard for the portrayal of women in the media generally, and I have also identified increased coverage of women's sport as one of my key priorities.”
She continues: “It is therefore a matter of some concern to me that any comment on the looks and stature of a female athlete could be made in the context of one of the highlights of the UK's, and indeed the world's, sporting calendar. I am sure you will agree with me that it is vital that young women and girls in this country feel motivated both to take part in and to watch coverage of sport, and to know that they are included in the enjoyment of sport, and catered for by the media just as much as the male audience.”
The BBC has made attempts to make it clear that Inverdale’s comments were “unacceptable” and issued a statement commenting: “John sincerely regrets that he made such an inappropriate statement and for the offence caused. As he said on air the following day, he has written to Marion Bartoli to apologise and the BBC has also apologised for John's remarks.”
Despite acknowledging Inverdale’s apologies both on air and to Bartoli in person via a letter she says “there may be positive steps that the BBC could take in future to ensure that the perception of and commentary on female athletes, and women's sport generally, are as positive and inclusive as possible.”