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BBC Must Act More Decisively After Sexism Spat, Says U.K. Culture Minister

Maria Miller at London Olympics - P 2012
Rosie Hallam/Getty Images
Maria Miller

Maria Miller pushes for more action against sports anchor John Inverdale after he described tennis star Marion Bartoli as "not a looker."

LONDON -- U.K. arts, media and culture minister Maria Miller has sent a strongly worded letter to the BBC asking for further action in a sexism spat tied to the public broadcaster's Wimbledon coverage.

Miller's letter of complaint hit the U.K. headlines Thursday after it arrived on the desk of BBC director general Tony Hall asking for "an update on any further action that is likely to be taken" over remarks made by Wimbledon anchorman John Inverdale.

The sportscaster had described women's champion Marion Bartoli as "not a looker" prior to her win in the Wimbledon final.

He said before Bartoli's match against Sabine Lisicki: "Do you think Bartoli's dad told her when she was little: 'You're never going to be a looker, you'll never be a [Maria] Sharapova, so you have to be scrappy and fight'?"

His remarks sparked more than 700 viewer complaints to the BBC.

The BBC apologized, then Inverdale himself said sorry on air and in a letter to Bartoli, calling his comments as "clumsy" and "hamfisted."

Miller, who is also minister for women and equality, said in her letter to the BBC that she was particularly concerned about Inverdale's remarks because she has identified increased coverage of women's sport as a top priority.

"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 U.K.'s, and indeed the world's, sporting calendar," she said in her letter sent to the public broadcaster.

She said that the BBC had not gone far enough with Inverdale's apologies and that she wanted to see more action.

"I would be grateful for an update on any further action that is likely to be taken following these complaints, and whether there may be positive steps that the BBC could take in the future to ensure that the perception of and commentary on female athletes, and women's sport generally, are as positive and inclusive as possible."

The BBC reiterated it had made it clear that the host's comments were "unacceptable."

A BBC representative was quoted on BBC News as saying: "John sincerely regrets that he made such an inappropriate statement and [caused such] offense. As he said on air the following day, he has written to Marion Bartoli to apologize, and the BBC has also apologized for John's remarks."

Miller and Hugh Robertson, the British sports minister, are boycotting the Open golf championship that is taking place this week because the Edinburgh golf club that is hosting it has refused to admit female members. Inverdale is hosting the BBC's coverage of the event.