I’ve not been closely following the Ross/Brand obscene phone call brouhaha, but a couple of things struck me about the BBC’s coverage :
Yesterday’s Today programme was talking about the “controversy” over the call. The word “controversy” implies disagreement, two sides, some who think one thing, some another. Yet in all the coverage I’ve not heard anyone defending what the BBC did, the debate, such as it is, being about the nature and degree of sanctions and who they should be applied to. The BBC must be shy about presenting the people who thought the call was a good idea.
The BBC mot du jour to describe the affair is “prank”, with its overtones of schoolboy larks. Russell Brand is 33. Jonathan Ross is 47.
Brand defended the call on air by asking what was more offensive, the Daily Mail’s support for Mosley’s Blackshirts seventy-odd years back, or his call. I guess the answer to that is that that no-one in the 1930s was forced on pain of imprisonment to buy the Daily Mail !
(Slightly off-topic but irresistible – I bet you didn’t know that the Guardian argued for the Nazi Party’s inclusion in the German government, saying that this would “help to perpetuate this democracy“. Or that the Observer hinted that claims of anti-semitism were exaggerated because “the major part of the German Republican Press is in Jewish hands“.)
UPDATE – No Good Boyo examines the entrails (h/t Sam Paradise in the comments).
I do have some unsolicited advice. The BBC handles these matters badly. The Queen, Gilligan, Barbara & Yasser 4 Eva, phones-in, boycotting Gary Numan, you name it – the BBC always follows the same pattern:
- Managers stoutly defend integrity of initial broadcast.
- Managers actually watch initial broadcast.
- Managers abjectly apologise for initial broadcast.
- Someone called Jonty is sacked.
- All BBC staff go on a “don’t lie or be a bastard/don’t say ffyc” course, run by an independent consultancy recently set up by Jonty.
UPDATE2 – the BBC find a defender of Ross and Brand :
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s World at One, comedian Alexander Armstrong defended them saying people “shouldn’t be too quick to condemn them” for comments made “in the heat of the moment” that were not intentional.
Wouldn’t be the Alexander Armstrong who makes frequent BBC appearances, would it ?
UPDATE3 – the BBC probably don’t need too many supporters like Guardian commenter mitch72 :
“Why has David Cameron piped up? To get more votes and critise the BBC which is supportive of the Labour Party.”
The Guardian “Should Ross and Brand be fired ?” poll is currently running a 70/30 yes/no ratio. (Visitors to the Guardian site can also check out the latest BBC job adverts.)
“Brand and Ross were providing precisely the kind of lowest common-denominator humour that advocates of the licence fee tell us would dominate the airwaves without public subsidy.”
Independent. I must say I hadn’t heard of George Lamb before, a presenter on one of the BBC’s 148 digital “youth” stations, nor his treatment of Ray Davies :
The routine was all about the public bullying of two people on the fringe of public life, one old and one young, neither as powerful as Brand or Ross. It was not a moment of zany individual madness either: the BBC played its part, not only passing the programme for broadcast but also, astonishingly, supplying Sachs’s mobile-phone number to their presenter to use on-air. When the row blew up, sections of the press, with habitual hypocrisy, trilled with outrage while adding to the hurt by sleazily investigating the private life of the granddaughter – in the public interest, of course.
Sachs’s mistake was his non-appearance at the studio. His alpha-male colleagues responded to this lack of respect with an act of petulant retaliation. The great songwriter Ray Davies was on the receiving end of a similar revenge-mobbing last month when interviewed over the telephone by a BBC disc-jockey, George Lamb. “Are you bald?” was one of the first of several idiotic, sneering questions asked. Diplomatically, Davies pretended that the line was bad and discontinued the interview. He was “a moody git”, the BBC man told his listeners, “senile, no sense of humour”; his bad energy would probably cause him to die a horrible death.