Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Important Note For the BBC

A policy of appeasement towards the Daily Mail will not work. The Daily Mail is not objecting to one particularly ill-judged radio broadcast: they will use anything as a pretext to attack what they still think of the Bolshevik Broadcasting Company. The colour of a newsreaders' tie; an insufficiently groveling news item about the royal family; soap opera story lines which are too depressing; every occurrence of the word "fuck", in any context - nothing is too trivial to be used as ammunition in their war against public service broadcasting.

Why, incidentally, does the
Today programme continue to say things like "he used the F-word"? Whose sensibilities are they trying to protect? Those of the kind of Daily Mail reader who would be traumatized by seeing the word "masturbation" in plain print? When Today ran an item about how some black people have reclaimed the N-word, they were quite happy to actually pronounce it.

The
Daily Mail thinks that in attacking the BBC, it is striking a blow against the liberal, intellectual, metropolitan elite. I have no stomach for a class-war: but if it comes to a fight between the liberal, intellectual, metropolitan elite and the reactionary, ignorant, provincial riff-raff then I know which side I intend to fight on.

I have very little interest in the role-call of minor pop singers and spoiled Hollywood
luvvettes who parade across Jonathan Ross's chat show: but surely any fool can see that he is a consummate master of the medium of live television? He seems to have the capacity to, on the one hand, totally forget, and to make his victims forget, that they are in front of a camera; while at the same time using the camera as a licence to say the kinds of things that you simply wouldn't say in real life. In an era when TV is bigger than Jesus, the man who can do that will naturally command an astronomical salary. I am not especially entertained by a grown man saying "Bum" to an actress that I have never heard of: but I think that "In Search of Steve Ditko" was the single best documentary about comic-books ever made. Ross is the only person who has ever successfully challenged Stan Lee's version of events; only someone with his outrageous interviewing style could have done so. Obviously, someone who is paid for having this persona is going to overstep the mark from time to time.

When the
Daily Mail is looking for an excuse to hang you, it is most unwise to give them any rope. But the idea that sacking a couple of "shock jocks" will silence the Hooray For the Blackshirts brigade is naive in the extreme. Nothing short of the abolition of the licence fee, which they regard as a thievery on a level with droit du seigneur will satisfy them. Do you really think that allowing them to scent blood is going to calm them down? Surely it is a matter of basic human decency to stick up for your naughty kids in public, even if you give them a clip round the ear when you get them home?

Or am I just too inclined to assume that anyone who named one of their children "Kirby" can't be all-bad?

10 comments:

  1. Well... I agree that "In Search of Steve Ditko" was extremely good. But:

    "Surely it is a matter of basic human decency to stick up for your naughty kids in public, even if you give them a clip round the ear when you get them home?"

    Brand is 33; Ross is 48. These men are not children. There are two questions here:
    1) Are there ever circumstances under which it would be appropriate to broadcast the details of a private person's sex life?

    2) If this happened, would it be appropriate for those responsible to apologize?

    Neither of these questions has anything to do with whether "In search of Steve Ditko" is any good or not, whether the Daily Mail is a fascist rag or not, or whether the people who object to paying for vile remarks about a private person's private life can be reasonably described as "Hooray For the Blackshirts brigade" or not .

    BTW, speaking as a fully paid-up member of the "reactionary, ignorant, provincial riff-raff", I'm not entirely convinced that my "liberal, intellectual, metropolitan elite" betters are on to a winning strategy.
    After all, yelling "We hate your values and we hate you! You're stupid and evil" followed by "and please stump up one hundred and forty quid a year so we can keep on hating you and your values" strikes me as unpersuasive. The current varient - of "pony up or Dr. Who and Blue Planet get it" - is as likely to sway me as any other form of blackmail.

    I assume the authors of these slogans have thought the consequences of their sneering contempt, what with them being members of an "intellectual elite" and all.

    Edmund@Political Scientist

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  2. ...yelling "We hate your values and we hate you! You're stupid and evil" followed by "and please stump up one hundred and forty quid a year so we can keep on hating you and your values" strikes me as unpersuasive.

    They have never shouted this at me. Can it be that I am a member of aforesaid metropolitan elite? And if so what happened to my membership card?

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  3. I haven't explained myself very well; let me have another go.

    Gavin Burrows wrote:
    "They have never shouted this at me. "

    I'm afraid I interpret broadcasting someone's private life on the radio for a cheap laugh not so much shouting it as screaming it.

    Perhaps an thought-experiment would help: a politician X has been involved in some suitably degenerate sex-scandal which has shocked - shocked!- the Daily Mail so much that it has decided to devote pages 1-11 to the photographs. The readers, not out of titilation but out of a grim sense of public duty, feel obliged to wage through each and every page.

    Question: would all the worldy-wise and sophisticated types who are so amused by some unfortunate 23 year olds sex life being broadcast, consider that the Daily Mail was risk-taking and pushing the boundaries?

    [Note that the answer to this question, as with the previous two, is independent of the merits and demerits of the BBC, the Daily Mail, the licence fee, the Guardian, Jonathan Ross, Steve Ditko, Mr. Rilstone, Mr. Burrows, and myself]

    Edmund@Political Scientist

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  4. The fact that "In Search of Steve Ditko" was superlative, the film programme is excellent, and the chat show is very good of its kind is quite relevant. The Mail is not arguing that Ross is a consummate broadcaster who did a very silly thing; they are arguing that he is, and always was, a bad thing in himself, and never had any right to be be on the airwaves in the first place, etc etc etc.

    If there had been no fuss about the broadcast, and if the BBC had looked into it according to their own stringent internal guidelines; and if, as a result, Mr Ross's line manager had made some pithy comment at his next annual employee review, along the lines of "Your fired" then they might very well have had a point. What actually happened was that, when no-one at all complained, the BBC did nothing; but when, as a transparent and obvious tactic in their on-going war against the BBC, the Daily Mail whipped up a storm, then the BBC decided that it was really jolly important and started sacking people.

    It's rather like: I have never worn a piece of religiously themed jewelry in my life. (Well, I did once have an icthus lapel badge, but that was in another country, and besides, the wench is dead.) But if a Sillyperson made, or looked likely to make, a law against the wearing of religious jewelery, then I would obtain a crucifix in pretty short order, and keep it on in the bath. So, I assume, would 99% of non-believing liberal-pluralists. In the presence of a Nazi, isn't it the duty of every right-thinking person to claim that they are Jewish?

    (ANALOGY POLICE: The right of someone to wear religious jewelry is much less important than the continuation of the BBC; the abolition of the BBC would be a much lessor evil than Nazism.)

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  5. ... and yet, and yet ... it does start to look worryingly as if the single biggest factor moulding Andrew R.'s opinions is "whatever is the opposite of what the Daily Mail says".

    Wouldn't it be better just to ignore the Mail completely?

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  7. In the 1960s, the BBC said that Mrs. Mary Whitehouse was "not so much persona non grata as persona non exista." This seems to be a very sensible approach: decide where you (your organization)thinks that the lines are drawn, and then dig your heels in. Simply ignore loud mouthed old biddies with an agenda, even if, by coincidence, they happen to be right.

    Obviously, you should consider how much violence is appropriate at 6PM. Obviously, it is a terribly bad error of judgment to graphically depict a drowning at 6.25 PM. A good way of dealing with this error of judgment is to have a chat with you producer and tell him in private not to do it again. A bad way is to do absolutely nothing until Mrs. Mary Whitehouse kicks up a fuss, and then delete the offending scene in the repeat, the VHS release, and, I believe, actually lose the original censored footage. This is true even though, in this particular instance, Mrs. Mary Whitehouse was quite clearly correct.

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  8. I've got to agree with Mr. Taylor. Leaving aside how the BBC dealt with it (and obviously they should have handled it differently - everyone agrees on that), it does seem like even when the Daily Mail is right, it's wrong.

    Unlike Edmund, I'm not going to defend Georgina Baillie's right to privacy. She's a burlesque dancer touring with the group Satanic Sluts under the stage name Voluptua and described her marital status on MySpace as "swinger" with the line "I like to party, I don't care if you call me a 'waster' or even a 'groupie' because I am having more fun than you and living this way makes me happy." I'm not going to complain about someone on the radio saying he had sex with her. The woman has invited such things.

    But, it is simply unforgivably bad manners to call up someone's answering machine and start describing how you had sex with his granddaughter and I couldn't care less how open she is about her sex life. It is even more egregiously bad manners to then broadcast the phone call to a national audience.

    Your point seems to be that once you have made a decision, you should never, ever acknowledge you were wrong as Philip Hinchcliffe did and as Jonathan Ross has. George W. Bush appears to agree with you, but I can't say that I do.

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  9. No, the point is that you should make a decision based on the merits of the case, and not on how much of a fuss is made by your enemies.
    In this case, two men did a very stupid thing indeed.That very stupid thing was also broadcast to the world because of someone else's error (Brand has said that he had asked for that material to be deleted before transmission, and he was under the impression that his request had been honoured). They apologised to the people who had been hurt, one of whom said in essence "that's quite all right - it did upset me but thanks for the apology, now can you please shut up about it?" and the other seemed quite excited about all the fuss.
    If the only people who have been harmed in the slightest by something are satisfied by an apology, then going any further merely to appease those who will never be appeased is a very dangerous idea...

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  10. No, the point is that you should make a decision based on the merits of the case, and not on how much of a fuss is made by your enemies.
    In this case, two men did a very stupid thing indeed.That very stupid thing was also broadcast to the world because of someone else's error (Brand has said that he had asked for that material to be deleted before transmission, and he was under the impression that his request had been honoured). They apologised to the people who had been hurt, one of whom said in essence "that's quite all right - it did upset me but thanks for the apology, now can you please shut up about it?" and the other seemed quite excited about all the fuss.
    If the only people who have been harmed in the slightest by something are satisfied by an apology, then going any further merely to appease those who will never be appeased is a very dangerous idea...


    What he said.

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