Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Brand and Ross Perspective

I'm rapidly reaching the conclusion that one of the most important attributes to possess is a sense of perspective. I wasn't going to comment on the Ross/Brand/Sachs affair but since it's still running out of control like a herd of bulls being stung by wasps in a china storage warehouse, I feel the need to call for calm. Storm, meet teacup.

As I sit here writing there have been 30,000 complaints to the BBC about a broadcast aired almost three weeks ago. That's 30,000 people with nothing better to do, but get on their high-horse and comment on something they didn't actually hear, something they've only read about. Something they have no need or cause to be offended by.

So, a presenter used a swear word. Get over it; it was after 10pm at night. So they might have offended an old man who used to be on TV. They apologised and he's forgiven them, get a grip. They may also have offended a 23 year old woman. I suspect that since she's in a burlesque group called 'The Satanic Sluts', she is not offended easily. She may only have been aggrieved that she wasn't in the Country early enough to take advantage of the resulting publicity. Yep, that's cynical but she has employed Max Clifford and it is 2008. I wonder if Sachs was more embarrassed/outraged by Ross & Brand than he is by his own granddaughter spilling all the gory detail in The Sun.

I've worked in radio for over 20 years and during that entire period I don't think the stations I've worked for would've collectively received 30,000 complaints. In the eight years I spent broadcasting for the BBC (WM), I doubt that I had a cumulative of 30,000 listeners. Thirty thousand is a lot of people, a lot of complaints - but what exactly are they moaning about?


Given that the issue has now reached fever pitch, been in every newspaper and TV bulletin and even discussed in parliament it has moved a long way from the original broadcast and the original issue of offence. I suspect that people are now complaining for one of five reasons:

1. This shouldn't happen on the BBC, because they're an institution to whom we have to pay a license fee
2. They don't like Brand, or Ross, or both
3. They like complaining
4. They like being angry
5. They believe too much of what they read in the Daily Heil Mail

Point 3 is a very important one. I read a lot of letters in various papers describing Ross & Brand as talentless. More than 30,000 people would have to disagree with that, otherwise the BBC wouldn't be employing these incredibly talented people in the first instance. It may be a large number of complaints but it's still a small percentage of the population. The larger number who listen to both clearly can't be bothered to complain about complainers.

This is 30,000 people with too much time on their hands, complaining about not much really. The people who heard the programme were those tuning into Radio 2 specifically to hear Russell Brand, they know what to expect and wouldn't have been offended. Those people might have only complained because it wasn't actually funny or offensive enough. There are a lot of those people which is why Brand was employed by the BBC.

It's become a circus, one with too many clowns and a ton of elephant shit. The complaints escalated from 1,500 to 30,000 within three days; all because of the media coverage, not because it was all so offensive.

The worst thing is that there are more important and urgent atrocities going on in the world for people to complain about. Sadly none of these issues would inflame 30,000 people enough to put pen to paper or finger to phone. Normally these people are too apathetic, which is a very sad state of affairs.

I am beside myself over the tens of billions in profits made by BP & Shell in the last quarter. Yes, I know they're businesses and exist to profit. I also know that BP is a British one paying taxes to our Government so I should be happy. I'm not. BP was a former nationalised industry so previously we'd have seen all of those profits. So, even though I'm not a communist per se I'm still pissed off that during the start of this recession, at the time I was paying over £1.20 for a litre of diesel, the petroleum companies were bathing in our cash.

If I had more time I might write a letter. 'Dear BBC.....'

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