Wednesday 29 October 2008

angry mob....

So, on a evening radio show on a Saturday night, a couple of comedians make a few "prank" phone calls to an actor much loved for playing a racist caricature of a Spanish waiter. They make a few lewd suggestions about the actor's granddaughter, saying (amongst other things) that she has slept with one of the comedians and that she's in a group called "the Satanic Sluts". The show is prefaced with a warning that it "contains some strong language which some listeners may find offensive", and only two of the half million or so people listening complain .... two.... and both are complaints for the foul language involved and not for the content of the calls themselves.

A full week later, the Mail on Sunday picks up the story and by Monday there have been a further 1,585 complaints. By Tuesday it's 4,772, by Wednesday - a full ten days after the broadcast - it's 18,000. The story features in today's copy of The Sun, with the granddaughter now suggesting (in what looks suspiciously like the language of a Sun journalist) That the two comedians are "sickos" and should be sacked by the BBC.

The BBC suspend the two comedians and presumably the number of complaints continues to escalate.

What a stinking pile of shit.

Granted, the messages that Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand left for Andrew Sachs are in reasonably poor taste, and I'm sure the old boy was pretty upset (and no doubt fairly bemused) when he listened to them. But all this furore? Two people complained on the day the show was broadcast. Two people. That's about 0.00005% of the listening audience. A whole week passed with very little comment before this story started to pick up speed. Now it's got up a head of steam and is driven by a putrid sense of mock-outrage and a feigned moral superiority.

Andrew Sachs perhaps has a right to feel offended, but does anyone else really? Do you really have the right to complain about something on the BBC that you've only heard about via the press, and not something you've actually heard with your own ears? The vast majority of the people who actually did hear the show apparently couldn't give a hoot. Are you outraged by proxy or something?

Does it matter at all that his granddaughter actually has slept with Russell Brand and is in a group called Satanic Sluts?

It's sickening, alright, but not because of anything Ross or Brand have done.

Have we really got nothing better to be upset about as a nation than this?

Yes, Ross and Brand are paid an enormous amount of money by the BBC, and yes they are both frequently juvenile and irritating..... but what else is new? Should we just burn them now and be done with it, or should we wait until a few more complaints are received?

We really, really need to get over ourselves.

Besides, what are we going to watch on Friday night now?


  1. It's not Andrew Sachs I feel sorry for. It's poor Princess Diana that I think is most hurt by this. Oh and our troops in Iraq...

    Eveyone else is an immigrant or a paedophile.

  2. Absolutely agree with your sentiments. The fact that the PM waded in last night revealed just how desperate the government is for any story which isn't about the failing economy. Should he not have more important things to deal with?

    We as a nation are suffering from a chronic lack of perspective.

  3. I'd have suspended them too (for what it's worth.)

  4. ...and I'd also ask the question of how you'd feel if Brand had left sweary answerphone messages on, say, C's grandad's phone bragging about how he'd "f*cked his granddaughter". I doubt you'd see the funny side of it...

  5., I can understand Sachs being upset. It was juvenile and in very poor taste. No arguments from me on that score. It's the after-the-event outrage of the self-appointed moral majority that's annoying me.

    Is it just Brand and Ross that should be suspended when the show was recorded on the Thursday, a good two days before it was broadcast? Someone had plenty of time to decide if that was fit to broadcast. Have they been suspended too?

  6. ..and as the commentator above says, what the chuff has it got to do with Gordon Brown?

  7. I find myself, at times, outraged by something that has happened on shows that I don't watch (there was recently an Anthony Bourdain program in which fat people were called whales, etc. as an example). The reason that I am not outraged immediately is that I don't listen to them because they are not a draw for me.

    But I continue to reserve my right to speak out about something that I feel is unethical, even if I did not hear it during it's original broadcast. Leaving phone messages on someone's answering machine is considered harrassment in my book and is stupid and wrong. It may not be illegal, but as LB points out it's perfectly horrible.

    As a publicly funded corporation, I'm guessing that most people feel they have a say in the content and what's acceptable. Certainly, even with private broadcast corporations here in the US people do. We just have to protest another way (by contacting advertisers).

    I know that this is not as bad as the international economic crisis (don't blame me...I'm a renter), but different people have different priorities.

  8. I totally agree that the furore is out of hand, especially Gordon Brown's input which makes him look even more laughable than usual. But at the same time, the BBC is a publicly funded body, and needs to be seen to be accountable. If someone at my work had made a similar prank call, their feet wouldn't touch the ground. OFCOM have a duty to investigate every complaint received, even if it's only one, and the nature of the regulatory framework means they have to be transparent, which is why the media's come roaring in.

    I do, however, think that the person who allowed the show to be broadcast should be suspended along with Brand and Ross though.

    (I'm currently teaching Damage Limitation as part of a PR course, along with media regulation in advertising - this story's providing me with excellent current material for my classes...)

  9. I totally agree with Spins. If one of my staff was responsible for an error of judgement at work that I didn't spot, and that was subsequenntly pointed out to me I'd expect them to be disciplined as necessary (and me for my omission also). Just because it might not be a huge issue at the time doesn't mean it isn't a huge issue at all.

  10. Yeah, you're right that the 2 complaints on the day might be a red herring, and that perhaps the fact that it's on a publically funded platform like the BBC means that some questions have to be asked.

    I still loathe the tone of the moral outrage in the witchhunt though.

    I see Brand has gone, although I expect Ross will stay. I imagine Brand's genuinely sorry, but I doubt that he needs the show all that much. Ross is a different animal, I think.... he hardly needs the money, but he's much more of a BBC man, isn't he?

  11. Oh, and to be fair, LB pointed out last night that Gordon Brown only spoke about this when asked a direct question at Prime Minister's Question Time the other day.

    David Cameron, on the other hand, made a statement.

  12. ..LB, bless his heart, has now told me that Gordon Brown has in fact now made an unprompted statement on this issue of such grave national importance.


    Will I be reported to someone for *not* complaining?

    Just how much money is the granddaughter (sponsored by the sun, I notice, on all photos now) making out of this now?