SBD/January 26, 2011/Media

Sky Sports Fires Analyst Gray After Repeated Sexist Comments

Gray made comments about female assistant referee over the weekend
Sky Sports soccer analyst Andy Gray yesterday was fired "following the emergence of a succession of recordings in which he could be heard making sexist comments," according to Ian Burrell of the London INDEPENDENT. BSkyB said Gray, who made about $2.7M (all figures U.S.) annually under his deal, had been fired after the discovery of "new evidence of unacceptable and offensive behaviour." Gray "had been taken off air after the leaking of a conversation between him and fellow presenter Richard Keys in which the pair mocked" female assistant referee Sian Massey and EPL club West Ham Vice Chair Karren Brady on Saturday, and a "second leaked clip, involving Gray and football reporter Andy Burton, contained further comments about" Massey. The "new evidence, a third clip posted yesterday on the website YouTube, dated from last month," showed Gray "in the studio before going on air, lewdly asking his co-presenter Charlotte Jackson to tuck in a microphone near his waist." The scandal "coincides with a legal action being brought by Gray against News Corp" in which he claims he was a "victim of phone-hacking by the News of the World," one of News Corp. Chair & CEO Rupert Murdoch's U.K. newspapers. A source close to Gray said the firing was "retribution." The source: "This has been done from the inside. The whole thing is murky. I don't want to sound like a conspiracy theorist but Mr Murdoch is in town and Andy Gray is suing" (London INDEPENDENT, 1/26). YAHOO SPORTS' Martin Rogers wrote the "backlash against the pair has been spectacular and highlights just what a significant role Sky Sports has come to play in the English game." Sky's personalities have "become legitimate celebrities" (, 1/25).

WORKING ON APPROVAL: The GUARDIAN's Dan Sabbagh reports Murdoch has "cancelled his visit to the Davos global economic summit in order personally to lead negotiations" with U.K. Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport Jeremy Hunt in an effort to get News Corp.'s $12.7B buyout of Sky "approved by offering guarantees to safeguard Sky News' independence." News Corp. is seeking to buy the 61% in BSkyB that it does not already own. Hunt said he considered the buyout might "operate against the public interest in media plurality." For that reason, he "intended to refer the matter to the Competition Commission." But Hunt "in an unexpected move ... said he would consider an undertaking from News Corp that the company 'could sufficiently alleviate the concerns' he had." Such a move would allow Hunt to "accept its undertakings rather than make a reference to the commission" (GUARDIAN, 1/26).
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