Not Shy

John Humphrys’s reticence about his pay packet wasn’t down to personal shyness after all. They’re restrained by a BBC gagging order.
Harriet Harman’s equality bill has its uses, says Andrew Gimson of the Telegraph. It seems that will un-gag them.
How brilliant of Miss Harman to turn this modish argument against the BBC, that home of modish causes.

I know you will love this

HERE! – Mandelson (Mandy) in cosy sofa chat on BBC news programme declares support for BBC contestant on BBC show (Come Dancing redux); confesses (shock!) to envy at Sergeant’s success. Now that really is a major story worthy of frontpage note and not at all an indication of an inbred backscratching culture and the unfair hybridisation of commercial with state interests.



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.)

    Spectator :

    “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.


    I notice that Amanda Platell has picked up the weekly scam that is the Jonathan Ross programme. She points out that on his Friday night show last week, Ross felt compelled to ask gorgeous but utterly vacuous Kelly Brook why she smelled so good. It turned out she was launching her new perfume. As a PR stunt, it was shameless. As TV, it stank. Worse still, we are asked to fund this egomaniac on stilts.


    I’m sure you will have been reassured by the news that a report due out later today and commissioned by the BBC Trust makes it clear that the BBC is not paying “stars” such as Jonathan Ross beyond the going market rate. The review will also say such salaries have not inflated pay in the talent market. It comes after pay details were leaked last year, including a three-year deal for Ross reportedly worth £18m. So,£6m a year for being an oily self-obsessed vulgar sycophant is the going rate? In which universe might this be? Ross is a particularly obnoxious character whose Friday evening lewd programme represents a nadir in the values that BBC allegedly espouses. When I see the words “BBC” and “Trust” together, I know I am going to be misled and this latest white-wash will not cover up the wanton wastefulness of the State Broadcaster.

    Spurious balance in the celebrity culture

    Isn’t it terrible how today we are exposed to so much idiocy, not least through the BBC, just because of the cult of celebrity?

    The response to the post David made about “most disliked” BBC personalities just shows the flip-side to the pursuit of celebrity- which is that many people are sick of their inanity.

    This blog is about bias, but there are some intersecting themes. Sometimes a comment is made and reported not because of newsworthiness per se but because of celebrity. How can a journalist be balanced starting from a statement like “Chefs should be fined if they haven’t got ingredients in season on their menu.”? Mussolini, Hitler, would have been proud of such high kitchen standards.

    If your ten year old brother said it you’d tell him to shut up, but if Gordon Ramsay said it, and you were a BBC journalist, it’d be “news” (there again, who made G.R. except the BBC-led media establishment?).

    Two lines of criticism have been picked up by the BBC, unworkability! and trade for poorer countries, but as Neil Reddin points out, the biggest of all is missing: the freedom argument.

    “See what was missing? Of course, there was no mention of consumers making their own choices over where their food comes from. Individual freedom and all that. Hard to believe that the BBC, an organisation funded by a mechanism that gives its consumers no choice, could miss that one *cough*.”


    OK, it’s Friday evening here in the People’s Socialist Republic of Gordonstan and it’s time to unwind a little. So, which BBC personality winds YOU up most and why? I know it’s a target-rich environment but I have two nominations. 1. Nicky Campbell – the personification of smug and leftist. 2. Jeremy Bowen – I think I’ve covered this one on my posts! So, the space is yours – ready, take aim……