On 23rd October 2012, LBC 97.3fm Presenter Steve Allen launched an unprovoked scathing attack on the Licensed London Taxi trade.
Throughout his 3 hour show he repeatedly ranted about London’s Taxi drivers and continually made negative comments towards our trade, including some which alleged criminal behaviour.
Allen described all Taxi drivers as ‘dishonest’ stating “You will never find an honest cab driver”, claiming that “None of them pay their correct taxes”.
He also accused us of being thieves who steal luggage and by ripping off our passengers through tampering with the meter. He also said we take elongated routes and deliberately sit in traffic jams to increase the fare.
Allen, LBC’s longest serving presenter claims to be an expert on the Taxi trade saying that “there is nothing that you can tell him about the trade that he doesn’t already know”.
Heathrow’s Taxi drivers also come in for scathing criticism and criminal allegations with Allen stating that they are all ‘gambling addicts’ who play cards for money and when they lose they ‘rip’ their passengers off to recoup their losses.
You can listen to some of Steve Allen’s comments below…
The United Cabbies Group are outraged that Steve Allen has made these unsubstatiated comments about our trade and we have contacted LBC’s management with the following emails…
Dear Ms Birt
I am writing today in my capacity as the General Secretary of the United Cabbies Group (UCG) and as a senior administrator of the London Taxi Drivers Forum (LTDF) with over 4,000 members. I also consider myself and colleagues to be regular contributors and listeners to LBC. Indeed I have personally contributed to a number of shows by invitation from numerous presenters this year, particularly in the run up to the Olympics.
It has recently been brought to my attention that one of your presenters, Steve Allen, made a number of scathing attacks and allegations towards the licensed London Taxi trade on his show earlier this week.
During his regular show on 23rd October Mr Allen made reference to the black cab trade and stated that London taxi drivers “often rifle through passengers luggage and steal items”.
Furthermore, while on air Mr Allen also claimed that he has seen a device in a Taxi that in some way accelerates the metered fare ahead of the normal tariff which is set and stringently checked by Transport for London and that ‘you get a lot of that’
He went on to state that there are no honest Taxi drivers and none of them pay their correct taxes, Mr Allen also claimed that he could back up all of these allegations ‘every second of the way’.
As a result of these comments made live on air, I have received numerous complaints from UCG and LTDF members.
As I’m sure you will know and understand, taxi drivers are rightly proud of our reputation having undergone the Knowledge of London to earn the right to ply for hire. On average it takes an applicant four years to complete the Knowledge. For the fifth year in a row the London taxi trade has recently been voted the best taxi service in the world through an independent survey – a title we are rightly proud of. The unsubstantiated comments made by Mr Allen have therefore understandably shocked and outraged many of our members, a large number of whom are usually avid listeners of LBC.
I listened to the podcast of the whole show today and whilst I fully understand that a talk show host will always attempt to provoke debate I cannot help but feel that Mr Allen’s attack on the taxi trade was insulting, offensive and lacking in factual content. It soon became clear that Mr Allen has a personal vendetta against the taxi trade and his stereotypical views of the trade left a very bad taste in the mouth, so much so that We are considering forwarding this email to OFCOM for their views.
It is our belief that the comments made by Mr Allen will inflict serious damage on the Licensed London Taxi Trade’s proud reputation. While visitors to the capital are important customers, we are well aware that most of our business comes from customers that live and work in London and are likely to be regular listeners of local radio stations such as LBC.
The UCG recognises that as in all walks of life, not every taxi driver is perfect. However, given the process a driver has to go through in order to obtain and retain his / her badge, we are confident that the vast majority of drivers would never jeopardise their livelihood or the reputation of the trade as a whole by undertaking the crimes alleged by Mr Allen.
We trust that the comments made live on air by Mr Allen were genuine and were not made to be controversial, as can sometimes be his style.
However, we would like you to investigate this matter and clarify the situation.
We would also urge you to encourage Mr Allen to provide any evidence he has of wrongdoing by any licensed taxi driver to Transport for London or the police so that a full investigation can be carried out, if he hasn’t already done this. We absolutely do not condone any driver behaving in the way that Mr Allen alleges.
However, even if the allegations that Mr Allen made are true, it should be acknowledged that the vast majority of London’s 25,000 taxi drivers are law abiding citizens who provide a first class service to customers.
These drivers have now had their reputation tarnished, live on air, by a ‘responsible’ radio station. We would therefore appreciate it if it could be clarified, live on air, that Mr Allen was clearly talking about the very small minority of drivers, if indeed he is assured through first hand experience that these incidents have happened at all. Furthermore, an on air apology to the majority of the taxi trade would go a long way in restoring our faith in LBC.
I trust that you will take this matter seriously and thank you for taking the time to understand our concerns. Should you wish to discuss this further I can be contacted on xxxxx xxxxxxx.
I look forward to hearing from you.
United Cabbies Group Secretary
Here is Deputy Editor Louise Birt’s reply…
Dear Mr Osborne,
Thank you for your balanced and detailed email. I am very well aware of the controversy caused by Steve’s comments – in fact he clarified them on air yesterday morning. I’m sorry you’ve had so many complaints and that you’re considering taking this further. As I have said to a number of emailers, cabbies are part of LBC’s lifeblood and all the staff are well aware of your reputation and the result of the recent survey. I have copied our Managing Editor, James Rea into this email and I will talk to him about this when he returns from leave.
Deputy Editor, LBC
We have replied with this email…
Dear Ms Birt
Thank you for your swift response and for the apology you have offered on behalf of Mr Allen and LBC.
As you acknowledge in your response, cabbies are part of the lifeblood of LBC and while an apology from you is greatly appreciated, we believe Mr Allen’s Comments live on air have caused significant damage to the Taxi trades reputation and believe that it is only right that he also clarifies his position, which I would hope would include a full on air apology.
I don’t wish to labour the point but in your email response you said that Mr Allen since clarified his comments on air, however I have listened to the podcast and I cannot find an apology from Steve which is what we are seeking. Perhaps you would be so kind as to help me locate the comments you refer to?
As I mentioned in my previous email, there were many allegations Mr Allen made against the trade and although many of the remarks were stereotypical and cliched, the comments that cause us most concern are the ones of a criminal nature, therefore we would like Mr Allen to clarify whether he has any evidence that he could provide to the Police and Transport for London so they can investigate these allegations in full.
I’m sure you will understand that we are anxious to get to the bottom of this as we are keen to eradicate this type of alleged behaviour in order to protect our trades reputation as the best in the world.
Perhaps, once you have discussed this with the Managing editor, James Rea you would let me know his views and what action you will take?
As you can imagine, our members are still rightly very aggrieved by these slurs against our profession.
Once again I would like to thank you for your time in dealing with this issue.
I look forward to your reply
We await any further reply from LBC.
Taking into consideration that Mr Allen claims he can back up his allegations “Every step of the way”, the United Cabbies Group believe that the Police and Transport for London should launch a full investigation and seek any evidence that Mr Allen may have.
Or Mr Allen makes a full retraction and apology live on air.
Watch this space for further developments…