Saturday, November 1, 2008

Further evidence that the BBC is clueless

The BBC just doesn't get it.
After 33-year-old dandy "comedian" Russell Brand and his guest on his BBC Radio 2 program, 47-year-old comic and TV show host Jonathan Ross, landed themselves in seriously hot water by leaving rude prank messages on 78-year-old actor Andrew Sachs' home answering machine—referred to as Manuelgate, given the fact that Sachs played the waiter Manuel in Fawlty Towers—the BBC saw fit to accept Radio 2 controller Lesley Douglas' resignation instead.
Brand left three messages on Sachs' machine, taunting him about the fact that he'd had sex with his grand-daughter and suggesting that Sachs might kill himself as a result of this disclosure. Then, Ross joked that they should break into Sachs' house to delete the messages they had left, and Brand crassly suggested that he masturbate Sachs to cheer him up.
In any other instance, abusing an elderly man in such fasion would have led to a police investigation and caution. But guess what? Ross and Brand received no such punishment under the law. The police did investigate the incident, but nothing came of it. If Sachs had wanted to persue this, Brand and Ross might have received jail sentences of up to six months, but Sachs declined to do this, just wanting peace instead.
The BBC suspended both Brand and Ross after enraged listeners lodged 31,000 complaints against the organization. Just a day after his suspension, Brand resigned from the BBC and said he'll concentrate on his career elsewhere. Ross is so far content to sit out his suspension with an eye toward returning to his TV show.
The most galling aspect about Ross is that he earns £6 million a year of publicly-funded BBC money for his TV show. A year ago, Ross callously joked about the massive job losses at the BBC, boasting that he was "worth 1,000 BBC journalists." That's when I personally decided that I loathed Ross and would never watch his show again.
Greg Dyke, the former director-general of the BBC, asserts that the corporation will continue to lose public support if they insist on paying its presenters and other assorted "celebrities" such high and lavish wages. One can only hope that Dyke is correct.
Even though veteran television personality Terry Wogan predicts that this is the end of Ross, at least as far as his career at the BBC is concerned, it is hard to see how this has damaged him as much as Wogan stipulates. The market will dictate that Ross receives a £2 or £3 million salary at ITV or Channel 4 instead. (The best that can be said for this is that at least it will be private money paying Ross' undeserved wages.)
The BBC should have cut Ross lose, and that would have been the best form of damage control. Instead, the BBC only suspended him for three months while allowing Lesley Douglas to leave instead.
Douglas had transformed Radio 2 during her tenure there, making the station more hip and attractive to younger listeners, after years of losing out to Capital Radio and Virgin Radio. She had made a mistake by hiring Russell Brand, but she was aware that Brand was big among the Big Brother-worshipping, slack-jawed, fried chicken-eating yout's of this country and knew, therefore, that the sex-obsessed Brand would bring a lot of clout to the station with his own radio show. Douglas should never have hired that former heroin addict, but should she have paid the price for his ill-minded immaturity? Should she have shouldered all the guilt for Manuelgate instead? Douglas had never heard the tapes before they went out over the air. Being so high up, she couldn't be expected to edit and hear everything.
It was Jonathan Ross who need to be kicked out from the organization. But the BBC's failure to do the right thing, and its insistence on trying to save their precious middle-aged prima donna, shows just how extensively the moral rot has spread throughout the once-proud organization. Their obsession with trying to outdo the wastelands of ITV and Channel 4 are only too indicative of this.
The BBC likes to pretend that it listens closely to the concerns of the population which funds them, but that claim too is nothing but a sick prank.

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