Friday, October 31, 2008

I know you've been wondering what I think about Manuelgate

I like Paul Gambaccini but he does reach for the extra colour before it's called for, likening Lesley Douglas to Achilles on Five Live this morning. What he has to say is broadly very true: that only presenters who "drive the desk" have the radio professional's approach to their work or awareness of their responsibilities to their audience.

Somewhere in Brand and Ross's minds must have been the thought that somebody else would save them from themselves by cutting the controversial bits out, as they would undoutedly have done in a pre-recorded TV programme. Nobody did.

I've talked to a bunch of people in radio this week, in the BBC and elsewhere. Their view boils down to this: if you hire people like Brand you must at least try to produce them. If you can't control them because you're 25 and this is your first job, you pass it up the line to somebody who can. If you're going to use the word "fuck" in a pre-recorded item on any BBC service it has to be signed off by a senior executive. That's literally "signed off".

All the stuff about the Daily Mail, Mosley, how much Ross is paid, how many people complained, the effect on the licence fee, the eventual fate of "edgy comedy" and all the rest is just a distraction., no matter which side of the argument you're coming from.


  1. And allowing both presenters to have their 'edgy' shows made by the production companies which they own, leaving a chink in the armour of inexperienced producers who are rather in the thrall of their bosses too afraid to say 'no' on matters of taste and decency.

  2. Is it just me, or is the 'storm' surrounding this story the kind of thing more associated with the height of silly season in the summer?
    When the prime minister is forced to comment on phone calls to Andrew Sachs you know that 24 hour media has got out of control.
    In the run up to arguably the most important presidential election for a generation, I for one am worried by Obama's lack of opinion on Bad Lashes' exit from the X Factor. Is this the man we want with his finger on the button?
    And the fact that no one seems to have used the obvious 'Andrew Sacks' headline is deplorable, the quality of subediting is plummeting.

  3. Anonymous6:30 pm

    "Everything we ever say on the radio will be remembered by somebody somewhere." He should be so bleeding lucky.

  4. I am at a loss to see what is "edgy" about the sort of prank phone call involved here. Kids have done this for years. If it is worth the money Ross earns I can put the Beeb in touch with my 17 year old who could do the same for a lot less.

  5. Andrew's right. Unprecedented subbing opportunities have been squandered. I've been waiting all week for "Russ 'n' Ross,the notorious Sachs offenders", but in vain.

  6. She certainly had it coming. This was the official response to George Lamb being rude about Ray Davies a few weeks earlier:

    **Whilst the show may indeed be 'laddish' in tone at times, it does not set out to be offensive. All the humour on George Lamb's show is clearly tongue in cheek, light-hearted and not to be taken too seriously and listeners on the whole appreciate this. George is an energetic and spontaneous presenter which can mean his humour is near the knuckle but, as explained, it is never meant to be offensive.**

    The people that wrote in didn't care whether he meant to be offensive, they just wanted an apology for him being offensive. It comes down to putting your "talent" before your listeners.

  7. I couldn't agree with you more David. When the ego's that big, just about any producer's going to find it hard to stand up to the "talent" - they're the stars after all. The producer is just a facilitator.

    And I see that Richard Allinson is filling in for Jonathan Ross this morning, and not George Lamb as claimed on the BBC Ten O'Clock News last night...

  8. I think the BBC were spineless over this and massively over-reacted to a stupid mistake by an inexperienced producer and their own confusing chain of command.

    Having said that, I'm glad Leslie Douglas has gone as she is responsible for hiring the hideously arrogant and utterly talentless George Lamb. For that Ray Davies interview alone, he should have his bollocks removed. Talentless little twat.

  9. Imagine a world in which you could be fined (or even imprisoned if they wanted to make an example of you) for not taking out a yearly sub to Zoo or Heat magazine. It's too ridiculous to contemplate, isn't it.

    For most of us poor bloody infantry not employed in the media or creative industries, all the blether about edginess, editorial controls, inexperienced producers, driving desks, the Daily Mail etc. completely misses the point. We're just tired of being forced to pay for something we don't want to watch or listen to. Ever.

    The technology exists to carve up BBC output into innumerable conditional access (pay per view/ listen) channels to suit all and sundry tastes. So what are the politicians waiting for? Presumably yet another tiresome "scandal" to ram home what has been abundantly clear for years: that the concept of public service broadcasting embodied in a monolithic BBC is dead.

  10. Anonymous9:17 am

    Ian Hislop was very anti-Brand on HIGNFY... I was slightly shocked by that.

  11. Yes we can go on about the structures of the BBC and how this awful stuff got broadcast but... a 33 year old man and another guy ,aged 47, need a 25yr old to point out to them when their "comedy" goes too far.

    The immaturity of these guys beggars belief.

  12. Do you think there'd have been such a fuss if they'd called, say, Jim Davidson or Jeffrey Archer? Does the identity of the prankee matter?

  13. Anonymous11:28 am

    Interesting point raised in the Guardian yesterday saying that many comedians know that their 'near-the-knuckle' stuff will get edited out before transmission, citing programmes like The News Quiz as well as saying that Jonathan Ross has been with his producers (radio and TV) for years, so these comics don't worry.

    The issue in this instance seems to have been Russell Brand thinking he was god and being treated as such by Lesley Douglas.

    Don't forget The Daily Mail kindly brought some of the material that wasn't actually broadcast to our attention, in case their readers hadn't been 'offended' enough already.