Friday, October 31, 2008

Is the Tide Turning?

Feathers are flying at Broadcasting House. The BBC top management are in uproar about the public's reaction to the obscene phone calls made by Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross on the late night BBC Radio 2 show hosted by Brand. Over 30,000 complaints have been recorded and even the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have called the jape outrageous and unacceptable.

As the result of the furore both Brand and Ross have apologised publicly and in person to Andrew Sachs, the elderly actor whose telephone answerring machine received the obscene messages. Now Russell Brand has resigned from the BBC and Jonathan Ross has been suspended without pay for 3 months as a sign of the Corporation's displeasure.

Is this an early sign that the tide of public opinion about indecency on the airwaves is turning? I think it is. Both artists are well known for their wild and wacky sense of humour, and for pushing back the boundaries of what is acceptable, but maybe the licence payers have had enough.

If one effect of the outburst of national rage is that producers and editors pay more serious regard to the nature and content of their output then well and good. I have found myself increasingly sickened by the fare served up by the BBC and others broadcasters even before the so-called watershed. So much programming is built around humiliating people, mocking decency, promoting violence, murder and abusive sex. The time has come for a sea-change in British broadcasting - in fact, it is long overdue.

Messrs Brand and Ross may well have done the British public a favour. They deserve no thanks for that, but it is amazing how some good can come out of the most perverse circumstances.