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Saturday, November 22, 2008

The BBC doing what it does worst

The BBC Trust report on Editorial Standards and the Jonathan Ross/Russell Brand affair would make a good little drama. Something for BBC Four, maybe.

The BBC has always been run by well-intentioned, clever, admirable people. They would probably have difficulty prospering in a commercial organisation; however they are ideally suited to the demands of a bureaucracy. At school you can imagine them organising societies while the cool kids were busy having ill-advised sex behind the cricket pavillion. Dashing they are not. Dash is not called for.

Ever since I've had anything to do with the BBC, its executives have seemed to have a kind of crush on the cool kids. Their role as custodians of the biggest train set in media and entertainment has provided them with the chance to play with those same cool kids. This would never have happened otherwise.

The problem with the cool kids is that they soon want you to prove your cool by letting them drink your dad's Scotch or borrow his car. If you balk, you're not cool. This is particularly difficult to take because you know they're right. You're not cool. You used to run the Film Soc.

The blow-by-blow of the Brand/Ross affair tells the tale of a sequence of events in which nobody wanted to grasp the fizzing cartoon bomb of responsibility and tell the cool kids that what they did was half-baked, tasteless and only funny for those who were in the studio at the time. Instead responsibility was passed up the line in the hope that somebody would be prepared to be the wet blanket. And nobody wanted to do that where the cool kids were concerned.

Consequently somebody has to go in and bat for them. They can't build a defence on the grounds that these people are courageous, unconventional, ahead of their time, highly principled or even particularly funny. Of all the dumb reasons to lose your job, defending the cool kids is about the dumbest.