BBC in a pickle over Gaza

It clearly wasn’t enough for BBC director general Mark Thompson to post a defence of the corporation’s decision not to air an appeal for Gazan aid on a BBC News blog on Saturday evening. Noone appeared to have read it. The Sunday papers review on the otherwise execrable Radio 2 Michael Ball show made no mention of Mr Thomson’s defence and neither, clearly, did most of the papers themselves.

Instead Thompson had to bagsy the top slot on Radio 4’s Today programme, at 8.10am, to be grilled by presenter John Humphrys who thankfully didn’t change his acerbic technique even though he was interviewing his ultimate boss.

Thompson’s line appears to be that it would be too one-sided for the BBC to appeal for aid to Gaza and that what’s happening over there is best covered by BBC news programmes. The idea that the BBC was trying to keep its head below the parapet on the weekend that Jonathan Ross came back on air after his three-month suspension has crumbled like so much concrete under heavy artillery.

Now the BBC can justifiably say its own editorial decisions are coming under pressure from outsiders, not least the government which is in favour of the Gaza appeal. But the BBC is a publicly owned, publicly funded broadcaster and as such accountable to anyone and everyone “outside”. Has Thompson decided to get firm over the wrong issue?

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ITV chairman Michael Grade 

Swearing is a subject close to my pysche and, since I read something by Stephen Fry in which he swore blind to stick to swearing because he enjoys it, I’ve become even more addicted to it.

But like all behaviour, some people like it and some people don’t. Sometimes it’s inappropriate. Sometimes you can’t help yourself. Since the Jonathan Ross/Andrew Sachs row last week, swearing on TV and radio has been under the spotlight although, let’s face it, it’s a perennial topic for the ‘country has gone to the dogs’ brigade who read the Mail and Telegraph.

The ‘debate’ about swearing was further stoked on Monday when ITV chairman Michael Grade was asked a question at a BPG lunch with journalists. Grade complied by saying “the prevalence of the F-word is a little bit unrestrained”.

Before we go on, can we just stop being lazy and say something true for a moment? Standards of behaviour and language aren’t slipping. That’s a subjective, pejorative judgement. Standards are CHANGING – they are always changing. Language can be offensive, always will be, but it’s a moveable feast. That’s why we have editors and people to make judgements about what is or isn’t appropriate in a certain context. (Except on a blog, of course, where’s it’s just me fucking things up.)

For Christ’s sake (sorry, Christians), if we eradicate all comment or entertainment that is potentially offensive to some people from our airwaves we will merely be left with Richard Allinson, Ken Bruce and Fiona Bruce (no relation). Then I will have to kill myself. Barack Obama winning the US election is wonderful; but who and what is broadcast on the BBC that I pay for has far more immediate impact on my life. I look at the Mirror’s ‘Stop Swearing on the Telly’ campaign and shudder.

While I’m ranting, Radio 2 has made a mistake with Michael Ball on Sunday lunchtimes. I wasn’t a fan of Parky who was super-annuated and had started slurring his words as old people somtimes do. But Ball is just a chubby singer who is presumably popular with ladies of a certain age. His interview with Philip Glenister last Sunday exposed Ball as woefully unwitty and poorly educated. Get him off. Glenister would be better, though I doubt he’d do it.

Can’t comment on other TV/radio stuff as I am truly disenchanted with the whole blinking lot and not watching/listening to much. Won’t get to see Mock the Week tonight as I’m socialising. Missed Little Dorritt as I was in a TV-free house last week. Will try to find them on the iPlayer if I can be arsed.