OK, so these are the lengths I will go to, to keep abreast of meeja issues while I am a) unofficially on holiday (ie taking calls and juggling freelance commitments, but essentially just listening to the radio all day) and b) redecorating my dead mother’s house in a bid to buck the plummeting housing market. Like a bit of natural hessian paint is going to make a difference and like this is actually a holiday.
I have just listened to a bad YouTube recording of Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross’s now world-famous prank call to Andrew Sachs’ answer phone, which featured in Brand’s Saturday night Radio 2 show on 18 October. As I write it is Tuesday 29 October and today the number of complaints to the BBC over this incident has risen from around 4,500 (about the number of complaints the Beeb had about Jerry Springer, the Opera – and that was an orchestrated campaign) to more than 10,000. The day started with ex-BBC chairman Sir Christopher Bland and comedian Alexander Armstrong commenting on the story and ended with prime minister Gordon Brown referring to Ross, Brand and Sachs by name. What has the world come to?
Most noteworthy, for me, was the means by which I tracked down the actual broadcast. I am almost in media limbo with only the wind-up radio and dial-up internet via a mobile phone for company. So listening to the extract from Brand’s show involved buffering literally every 3 seconds. Yet I persisted, for the duration of the 4 minute 48 second clip I chose on YouTube. All I got for my pains was Jonathan Ross shrieking “He fucked yer grand-daughter” during the duo’s first answer phone message.
Granted, the words grand-daughter and fuck aren’t often combined in the same sentence, but I doubt whether it was an out and out first on either the part of Jonathan Ross or the BBC. Yet it was on this basis that Sachs took offence, complained to the BBC and an astonishing 10,400 have so far done the same. Surely someone is orchestrating this as a campaign? There were just 67 complaints on Monday, before the MediaGuardian and others went big on the story.
All those mitherers should just leave Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand alone and get a sense of perspective. Far worse things are said every week on Have I Got News for You and on Jonathan Ross’ other shows – not to mention Brand’s, which naturally I don’t listen to having something of a life on Saturday nights. If these entertainers weren’t allowed to push the boundaries of taste they wouldn’t be worth listening to. Just look at Graham Norton since he moved to the BBC – no surfing the internet for glove fetishists who will flick themselves off as Joan Collins removes a pair of elbow-length black numbers. It just isn’t the same and, as a result, Norton doesn’t get the critical attention or, dare I say it, the ratings he used to at C4. We don’t want the same fate to befall Ross or Brand.