Letters & Correspondence

Letter to the Isle of Man Communications Commission About Stuart Peters


The Free Speech Union has written to the Isle of Man Communications Commission following the news that it is investigating Manx Radio over remarks made by one of our members – Mr Stuart Peters, who presents the Late Show. The investigation concerns statements made by Mr Peters on the Late Show in a conversation with a caller into the programme, Mr Jordan Maguire, on Wednesday 3rd June.

In the conversation between them, Mr Peters contested the assertion that he has benefited from “white privilege”. This cannot conceivably justify any investigation by the Commission. Surely, in challenging the idea that all white people are, by virtue of the colour of their skin, “privileged” and cannot fully grasp the problem of racism, Mr Peters was complying with the Commission’s ‘Programme Code’, e.g. upholding the principle that “racist terms” and “insensitive comments”, as well as “stereotypical portrayals” that might “cause offence”, are unacceptable. Whether you agree with Mr Peters’ views or not, it is clear that he was exercising his right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Commission on Human Rights, which the Isle of Man is required to uphold under the Human Rights Act 2001.

The death of Mr George Floyd in the United States raises important issues about the criminal-justice system, and whether all races are treated equally in the eyes of the law – on both sides of the Atlantic – and these issues should be discussed in the public square. If we are to fully explore this issue and rectify any injustices, it is essential that all parties are free to discuss the matter without fear of censure. We cannot hope to get to the bottom of the issue if some people in this discussion feel they cannot express their views for fear of being publicly shamed or jeopardising their livelihoods.

Accordingly, we have written to the Commission and asked it to explain why it has launched an investigation into this matter, to confirm that it will be terminating the investigation and exonerating Mr Peters, and to make it clear that no such investigation will be started again in similar circumstances.

Update on Stu Peters

Great news! Stu Peters, the Manx Radio presenter who was suspended for challenging the concept of “white privilege” in a heated discussion during a late-night phone-in, has been cleared of any wrongdoing. The Isle of Man’s Communications Commission – its equivalent of Ofcom – has completed its investigation and concluded that Stu did not breach the Programme Code. In a “decision notice” published on June 24, the regulator said:

Whilst issues surrounding race can be an emotive matter, the debate in question was conducted in a fair and measured way, and for the most part, in a calm and open manner.

This is a significant victory for the Free Speech Union, which went in to bat for Stu, one of its members. On June 7 it wrote to the Communications Commission, asking it to exonerate the presenter. We pointed out that whether you agree with Stu’s views or not, it’s clear that he was exercising his right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Commission on Human Rights, which the Isle of Man is required to uphold under the Human Rights Act 2001.

Happily, the regulator agreed with us. The Commission noted that some of the language in the show – such as a caller using the word “coloured”, which Stu didn’t correct – was “insensitive”. But this wasn’t a reason to reprimand the presenter.

This must also be balanced against the provisions for freedom of expression in both the Code and the relevant Human Rights legislation which is clear that people are free to hold and express opinion without interference by public authority regardless of frontiers.

Toby Young, the General Secretary of the Free Speech Union, says:

The suspension of Stu Peters by Manx Radio and the investigation of him by the broadcasting regulator just because he challenged the concept of ‘white privilege’ is a clear breach of his right to free speech. The attempt to publicly shame people who don’t subscribe to the latest woke orthodoxies and rob them of their livelihoods is reminiscent of the struggle sessions during China’s Cultural Revolution. We would do well to remember that our grandparents fought and died to protect the right to challenge ideological dogma without being punished by the authorities.

Stu Peters says:

I am delighted to announce that I will be returning to Manx Radio’s Late Show on Wednesday 1st July.

I feel strongly that people should be able to discuss things rationally and respectfully – it’s the only way to resolve our differences – and worry that free speech for all could be under threat of being choked by some.

Manx Radio has acted properly and responsibly and I thank them for their faith in me. I would also like to thank the IOM Communications Commission for a thorough and fair report, and the thousands of people who have signed petitions and sent me messages of support. Of particular note is the Free Speech Union who took up my ‘cause’ and provided friendly guidance and practical advice – I would recommend them to anyone who has been told what to think or what to say.