Brand/Ross – Lesley Douglas Knew

Brand/Ross – “Lesley Douglas knew”

On BBC radio news tonight – BBC DG Mark Thompson has stated that Radio 2 controller Lesley Douglas “was aware of the content” of the Brand show before it went out.

There seems to be a groundswell of support for Douglas from BBC insiders, who held her in high esteem – Thompson’s predecessor Greg Dyke described her departure in the Times as “arguably deeply unfair“. Perhaps this revelation is designed to explain why she had to go.

Whay Manuelgate Matters

Why Manuelgate matters

For all the distaste of the calls to Sachs there’s been some understandable frustration here that it’s this issue the public and papers have got upset about, rather than the constant bias.

This, though, would seem to suggest the result is the same – a lack of trust in the Beeb that can’t help but hit its unwarranted reputation as a impartial source of news:

The PoliticsHome Phi5000 Public Opinion Tracker, powered by YouGov, consists of a politically balanced panel of 5000 voters across the UK… [and] has tracked public perception of a variety of institutions on a daily basis. Since records began, the BBC has been the country’s best loved institution, with an average net approval rating of 30… The BBC’s approval rating, however, has plummeted this week as the Ross/Brand affair has dominated the media. In just four days, it has fallen a huge 24 points to only 6.

My favourite bit, though, bearing in mind the complaint that this has all been whipped up by the press, is this:

This places the BBC for the first time below ‘Broadsheet newspapers’

There’s also this, which will surprise no one: Among Conservative supporters (who initially had a lower opinion of the Corporation), the BBC now has a negative net rating (-3).

Provocative And Original


Provocative and Original

One of the lines I’ve been hearing a lot lately, in the wake of BrandRossSachsGate, aside from all the usual “It must never happen again – lessons have been learned” baloney one has come to expect from such furores, is the idea that the BBC must maintain its right to be “provocative and original”.

Which got me thinking… when was it ever? I mean, this is a station that won’t even repeat “It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum!” Indeed, the BBC is so uncutting edge you could rub your hands all over it for two hours without spilling any blood.

I suspect the supporters of this view also mean… “and good”. After all, trying to turn Ian Wright into a tv presenter was indeed both provocative and original. But when was this golden age? Or are we living in it now? Ross and Brand themselves don’t qualify as original BBCers, either. Ross was doing a Friday night tv chat show twenty five years ago. Brand started on MTV. So who do they mean?

Ricky Gervais? He was knocking around Virgin Radio and Channel Four before Aunty Beeb got her grubby mits on him.

Chris Morris? I’d say he was p and o ( and g ). But it’s fifteen years since he last appeared on the BBC.

So who are all these zany, extremist provocateurs who we all ought to cut some slack from time to time because they all make us all look at life in a new and edgy way? Chris Moyles? John Humphries? Brian Matthew? I’d love to know.

Open Thread

General BBC-related comment thread! Please use this thread for comments about the BBC’s current programming and activities. This post will remain at or near the top of the blog – scroll down for new topic-specific posts. N.B. This is not an invitation for general off-topic comments, rants or chit-chat. Thoughtful comments are encouraged. Comments may also be moderated. Any suggestions for stories that you might like covered would be appreciated! It’s your space, use it wisely.

Poll Positions

Poll positions

We know that, as a matter of editorial policy, the BBC doesn’t run opinion polls commissioned elsewhere as news stories in their own right (except for the odd exception). It never occurred to me, though, that its problem with them was that they could be too accurate. This could be the case, if the ComRes polls for the Daily Politics programme are anything to go by, however. Political Betting has the story, but here’s the key passage:

For the Daily Politics polls have one fundamental difference compared with the standard ComRes voting intention surveys – there’s no effort to ensure a politically balanced sample which almost inevitably means that its skewed towards Labour supporters.

Thanks to Eric in the comments.

Insight Into Editors’ Reading Habits

An insight into the editors’ reading habits

As a key plank in the BBC’s efforts to ensure accountability and engage their audience in the digital age, the Editors blog has done sterling work this week, with a single post about Manuelgate by a Radio One editor suggesting we’re over-reacting. As someone in the comments put it, Answering all the questions you never asked.

Interesting, too, is the ‘BBC in the News’ sidebar on that page. As we know, the BBC has been in every newspaper all week, but where do the majority of the links come from? That’s right, folks, the Guardian and the Independent – the national papers with the lowest circulation figures in the land, outside Broadcasting House.

Drawing A Line

*Drawing a line

The BBC draws a line under radio show – or rather it hopes to. Given the front pages today, the fact that there’s an Ofcom investigation continuing, and the fact that Ross remains in a job, that seems unlikely. But should it? Well, what has the BBC actually done?

Russell Brand went, but was Mark Thompson even back from his holiday when that happened? Anyway – nothing to do with the Beeb.

But what about the Controller of Radio 2, Lesley Douglas, who also quit. That’s altogether more significant. But the decision to go was mine and mine alone, she said. Again, nothing to do with the Beeb.

In fact, has the BBC or the Trust done anything? Well, four days after the story broke and they’ve racked up more than 30,000 complaints Ross has been suspended for three months. And they’re going to do a review, I think.

The important thing to remember is none of it happened because of BBC management or the Trust, which laughably claims to represent your interests. It’s all down – as the Beeb hasn’t tired of reminding us in recent days – to the Mail on Sunday.

* The picture I’ve stolen from Anorak, which also has this for those that want a laugh.

Question Time Watch

Question Time watch (because I’m not going to)

Frankly, I can’t be bothered to stay up for it, but the comments of those who do will be appreciated. Things to look out for will obviously include how well they labour the fact that one of the two Republicans they’ve allowed on is the grandson of Nixon (after all, why else was he invited) and how the audience is made up. Since they’re only doing this one episode in the US, I know they’ll want to have made sure there’s a balance of Republican and Democrat supporters…

Breaking News

Breaking News!

It’s not often nowadays that the Beeb breaks really big news so when I saw this, among the top stories on its website’s Politics page, I sat up and took notice: Former Conservative party leader Michael Howard’s cousin is bribed with £400,000 while Howard is Home Secretary, and a convict is released on his orders! It may have been a few years ago, but this is hot stuff. But why is no one else reporting it, five hours later?

Hang on, how about this – a report in the Liverpool Echo that, yes…

Labour MP Peter Kilfoyle told the jury as part of the statement Haase, 59, said he had bribed both Michael Howard and the men’s customs handler Paul Cook.

So it looks like this story has got legs after all. But, wait. What’s this bit that I don’t remember seeing in the BBC report?

He told the jury he felt the Michael Howard bribe claim was unsubstantiated.

Ah, so that will be why no one else picked up on it. Good ol’ Auntie.

Open Thread

General BBC-related comment thread! Please use this thread for comments about the BBC’s current programming and activities. This post will remain at or near the top of the blog – scroll down for new topic-specific posts. N.B. This is not an invitation for general off-topic comments, rants or chit-chat. Thoughtful comments are encouraged. Comments may also be moderated. Any suggestions for stories that you might like covered would be appreciated! It’s your space, use it wisely.

Call Me Biased And I’ll Sue

‘Call me biased and I’ll sue’?

I posted the other day about DB’s attempts to comment on Justin Webb’s blog. If you remember, Webb mentioned his comment in a post last Saturday, but it had been referred to the moderators, which made it a bit tricky for readers to know what he was on about. Anyway, as a further demonstration of their ineptitude, it seems the blog moderators have now reinstated the comment (it’s number 6), but only after emailing DB to inform him it was removed for being “defamatory”. This is, well… interesting from a legal perspective, but more so in the context of the Beeb’s accountability (which they’re dead keen on). Don’t forget the Beeb says one of the benefits of its blogs is that they help boost accountability to the audience. But not, it seems, if you want to take them to task for failing to meet their Charter commitments regarding impartiality – or in fact even if you want to remind them to do so.

Russell Brand Writes For The Guardian


Russell Brand writes for the Guardian

No surprise there, of course. They’ve had some oddball columnists in their time, Myra Hindley, Osama Bin Laden, David Cameron, and they still employ George Moonbat. But the last time one of their sports columnists got in trouble for over the top plain-speaking was Big Ron Atkinson, and he got the red card from both ITV and the Guardian.

Will the same happen to Our Russell?

Diversity Of Opinion

A Diversity of Opinion

So I’m sitting there with my Horlicks, and a couple of digestive biscuits, watching Newsnight. The lovely Emily Maitis has convened a panel of three witty, cutting edge humorists to discuss the complex issues surrounding BrandRossSachsGate. First up, Jan Raven:

“They were out of order, but they are very funny and the BBC must not give in to the Daily Mail tendency”.

( I’m paraphrasing btw ).

Second, John O’Farrell:

“They were out of order, but they are very funny and the BBC must not give in to the Daily Mail tendency”.

( I’m still paraphrasing btw ).

I start to yawn. Where are those matchsticks that Tom used to use in the Tom and Jerry cartoons?

Third, and finally. We have Stephen K Amos. Great, someone to break the consensus. What do you think, Stephen?

“They were out of order, but they are very funny and the BBC must not give in to the Daily Mail tendency”.

( Yes, I’m still paraphrasing btw, but I was almost catatonic by then, and I don’t sit there with a notepad anyway ).

Gee. Thanks for that. Thankfully Virgin One were just about to start Sexcetera so at least I had something intellectually stimulating to go to sleep on.

Joining The Dots


Joining the dots

Following Brand’s resignation, a couple of the papers are now tentatively drawing the connection between this affair and the wider problem of the Beeb’s bias. Trevor Kavanagh in the Sun hits out again this morning:

BBC chiefs still don’t get it, do they? While Director-General Mark Thompson was reluctantly grovelling last night, senior Beeb executives were still trying to blame everyone else but themselves, he begins, and goes onto discuss the corporation’s arrogance and its “lofty contempt” for its viewers.

Instead of reflecting their opinions it exudes a smug corporate view on the major issues affecting Britain.

The Telegraph also sees a connection: The depressing aspect of this grubby affair is that it is all of a piece with its arrogant belief that it cannot possibly be wrong on anything. Accountable to no one, and with a guaranteed income of £3.2?billion a year, its own Andrew Marr has described its mindset thus: “The BBC is not impartial or neutral. It’s a publicly funded, urban organisation with an abnormally large number of young people, ethnic minorities and gay people. It has a liberal bias.” In short, it has become dangerously divorced from the majority of people in this country.

UPDATE: Incidentally, the Beeb story almost manages a clean sweep of the front pages today.