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October 31, 2008



Unless I'm much mistaken, both of the BBC shows that the Kirk Elder mentions long predate the supposed US equivalents.


"Do we really want to incur these costs?"

We don't get a choice and isn't that the crux of the matter?

David Snell

What was wrong about 'that' broadcast was that it contained exactly the same taunting behaviour as is rightly condemned among school children. Yet the BBC paid two people to behave on air as if they were overgrown toddlers. Maybe the BBC thinks that its audience is composed of overgrown toddlers.

Bullying can never be excused as 'just having a laugh'. The kind of BBC I want would understand that proposition. It would never, ever give the common or garden bullies of this world the comfort of being able to say, "Well, if it's OK for the BBC, why shouldn't I do likewise?"


I think it just shows how utterly clueless the BBC management is that it can't deal with a bit of swearing without it blowing up in their face. Just pointing out that the Daily Mail is a competitor would have muddied the issue enough that people wouldn't know what to think.

But let's face it: pissing away 6 mill on Woss wasn't the smartest thing (management failure again), and they were bound to get the knife plunged in at some stage. Swearing is just the excuse that's needed.

john b

But you'd have to be either stark raving mad, or to have not read the transcript [*], to class Brand's actions as bullying.

Oh, and:
Silent Witness: 1996
CSI: 2000
24: 2001
Spooks: 2002

I'd be amazed if CSI's producers hadn't partly based the concept on Silent Witness. I'd be equally amazed, given the long-term popularity of Spy Stuff and the closeness in first transmission dates, if Spooks was at all inspired by 24.

[*] http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/tv_and_radio/article5023135.ece (wish Chris would allow proper links...)


Thanks for correcting me on Spooks/Silent Witness (the error's mine, not KE's). Perhaps it's just me who gets the impression that they are pale copies of their US equivalents.

Bob B

I've seldom heard such a load of ridiculous sophistry about why BBC licence fee payers should continue to stump up for the celebrity pay of presenters who evidently believe that leaving lewd messages recorded on the answerphone of a retired actor is remotely funny when this bullying behaviour is very properly condemned when perpetrated by school children.

The comments of Georgina Baillie, the subject of the messages, seemed timely and entirely appropriate to me:

Btw whatever happened to Angus Deayton, who used to get £50K a show?

Luis Enrique

Bob, what ought to determine which light entertainment presenters the BBC hires, and how much it pays them? Might how popular they are have something to do with it? How popular are Brand and Ross? Very popular. I know many people who love Brand's radio show, and Ross's audience stats speak for themselves. Is that sophistry?

If a random poll was conducted, which involved making respondents actually listen to the broadcast, I wonder what proportion would share the supposed general outrage? It's a shame that the BBC can't defend itself by pointing out that the majority of license payers could give two shits about this, and can just about handle the concept that not every entertainer employed by the BBC will be to their taste. The distress caused to Sachs is another matter, but he shows every sign of having survived the ordeal.

paul ilc

Ragheads being 'offended' by the Mo' cartoons is not equivalent to me being offended by the Brand/Ross vulgar bullying of Mr Sachs: I pay for the latter, the ragheads don't pay for the former.

Publicly funded bodies should focus on providing what the private sector cannot profitably provide - eg swimming pools and quality broadcasting.


I'd like a smaller BBBC, with a smaller licence fee that only does those things that commercial TV can't or won't. At the moment its a case of "due to the special way the BBC is funded, we are making programs indistinguishable from our competitors"

Bob B

Hi Luis: "I know many people who love Brand's radio show, and Ross's audience stats speak for themselves. Is that sophistry?"

If they really are that popular, why not leave it to mainstream commercial radio to do that kind of show so the BBC can truly focus on path-breaking margins and "push the envelope"?

I mean, what with Frank Bough, Angus Deayton, Nicholas Mosley - along with the wife of a serving MI5 officer - and now Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross mentioned in dispatches from the BDSM front so to speak, I'm becoming intrigued by the accumulating evidence of more or less extensive celebrity engagement in the Bondage, Dominance, and Sado-Masochistic scene.

Just how pervasive is this "revealed preference", in economists' jargon?

If the BBC really feels obligated to serve what it conceives to be the broad range of "popular taste" to justify the universal licence fee - which is its usual official rationale - then BBC output should extend to encompass this dimension as well if only to avoid charges of hypocrisy and selectivity.

Perhaps to make amends for the hurt inflicted, Georgina Baillie would qualify for a starring role in a BBC drama with a BDSM or Satanist theme or feature in an episode of East Enders or two.

In fact, the mainstream cinema has long since surpassed this. To my surprise on doing a search, Channel4 broadcast this classic although I don't know how many cuts were made:

Bob B

Btw if any readers are sufficiently enraged at this point to suggest that BBC programmes with BDSM themes would challenge our prevailing moral values, then I can only venture to suggest they reflect deeply on these news reports:

"The Roman Catholic Church has issued guidance for future priests to have psychological tests to weed out those unable to control their sexual urges."

"A Vatican-backed college is launching a new course for exorcists - Roman Catholic priests who cast out evil spirits from the possessed. Lessons at the prestigious Athenaeum Pontificium Regina Apostolorum will include the history of Satanism and its context in the Bible."

Ted Rib

Buy the book, 'Crazy Billionaires speak' at amazon.com


To Bob B -

What in heaven's name are you wittering about? Do you know what BDSM is? Have you seen a single programme on the BBC that even mentions the lifestyle? Or are you basing this entirely on what tabloid newspapers have revealed about TV presenters' private lives? Because if you are, I demand a fully-annotated transcript of everything that's ever been said or done every time you've had sex, you know, just to make sure that you've never done anything an idiot on a website could take the piss out of.

Nick Cohen

I'm starting to like Midweek with Libby Purves. Death cannot be long coming.

Bob B

Steve: "What in heaven's name are you wittering about?"

I do my research and suggest you might be as exacting.

"After the belated apologies, resignations and pay cuts the dust is finally beginning to settle on the controversial 'prank calls' by Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand.

"Burlesque dancer Georgina Baillie has said she is 'happy' that the comics have been punished for their 'humiliating' treatment of her grandfather Andrew Sachs. As the woman at the centre of the scandal, 23-year-old Baillie gained overnight notoriety due to her relationship with Brand. . .

"It has been revealed that the brunette advertises herself as Mistress Voluptua - a dominatrix who charges clients £110 an hour for the dubious pleasures of being treated as her 'slave'. . . "

The Timesonline link I posted before includes this:

"Miss Baillie admitted that she had slept with Brand, and said that she felt 'totally and utterly exposed and betrayed' by the calls that were broadcast on Radio 2."

The New Statesman link includes this:

" . . Frank Bough (who only once survived a sex scandal involving prostitutes, drugs and sadomasochism; the second time he was out for the count) . ." and this:

"By the next morning, the Sunday Mirror had revealed Angus Deayton's [of: Have I got news for you] predilection for sex, drugs and prostitutes"

If the alleged "humour" of Ross and Brand is as popular as our Luis said above, their illustrious broadcasting careers will continue to flourish on commercial radio thereby liberating many millions of licence fee money to be spent on other risky broadcasting ventures at the margins to push the envelope - which was claimed to be the essential justification for broadcasting the humour of Ross and Brand.

The evident preferences of some broadcasting celebrities for BDSM activities could be one such "edgy" direction for the greater delectation of a wider audience and I mentioned that Channel4 (a publicly owned institution, after all) had - to my personal surprise - already broadcast this film classic:


"Put yourself in the shoes of Lesley Douglas’s successor as controller of Radio 2. You know that a few seconds of bad radio might cost you your job. So what do you do? You insist that every broadcast should be run past you, or your deputies.
Such a Stalinist approach has huge costs."

But Chris, huge costs or not, that's exactly what DID happen - except that Douglas passed it for broadcast.

Radio 4 news last night said that Douglas was aware of the content before it went out.
So it was just a terrible misjudgement by LD.

(the source of the story ? DG Mark Thompson)

Bob B

News update:

"THE BBC has been urged by ministers to end the culture of 'fat cat' pay for top presenters or risk cuts to its £3.4 billion a year of public funding.

"Andy Burnham, the culture secretary, has issued a warning that the seven-figure contracts given to stars such as Jonathan Ross are undermining licence fee payers’ confidence in the broadcaster. . .

"Figures obtained by the News of the World under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the BBC's top 50 highest paid executives earn up to £14.3m a year between them; 50 managers earned more than £190,000 last year, with Mark Thompson, the director-gener-al, on a package of £816,000."

And read Libby Purves on all this:

" . . After years of foul-mouthed, sneering, tittering ninnies having their backsides kissed by BBC management, the majestic old worm has turned. Yay!"

Tim Almond

"How hierarchical should the BBC be? Put yourself in the shoes of Lesley Douglas’s successor as controller of Radio 2. You know that a few seconds of bad radio might cost you your job. So what do you do? You insist that every broadcast should be run past you, or your deputies."

Right, so you hire someone like Russell Brand who has plenty of previous (eg making a prank call to a rape helpline) and don't monitor every little thing he does?

The fact is that amongst the talent in any team are people who present a higher risk than others. Wogan is never going to present a problem like this, because he's a safe pair of hands. I'm not saying that you only want Wogan types, but when you hire people like Brand, you have to manage them a lot more.

It may well be that the BBC will just take a safe route and avoid people like Brand. And they can, of course, because they're not answerable to their customers in any tangible way.

The only answer is to privatise the BBC, and let the people decide. If enough people feel OK with the BBC employing Brand and Ross, they'll pay for them. If not, there's plenty of other homes for them, and people can choose those.

Bob B

Privatise the BBC?

That's a lovely bone. There's a strong case for privatising (the most populist) parts of the BBC but isn't there an equally strong case for the notion of Public Service Broadcasting to protect and maintain publicly funded independent critical journalism covering public affairs and arts and science programmes of minority interest which would not survive the thrust of competitive broadcasting where broadcasting companies each seek to maximise audiences? The classic reference is Steiner, Peter (1952), “Program Patterns and Preferences, and the Workability of Competition”, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 66(2), pp. 194-223.

But see Mark Armstrong: on Public Service Broadcasting:


if Ross/Brand's clumsy SKOOLBOY humpour counts as wit, how do you class this:

Text message from Gary Glitter to Jonathan Ross: I fucked your daughter. Who's laughing now?

Like a Vice

We need to accept some mediocrity from time to time.

Privatise the BBC is not the solution. BBC servers a purpose that private corps can't or just won't.

Nothing is perfect.

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