Media reality check part 0707

Digital Britain graphic

While most of the TV industry got itself into a light lather over the Digital Britain report which was published today, Tuesday, I was having a much more amusing time thinking about how we actually consume media in our house.

For about two years now, since my older daughter started school, we’ve had to use an alarm again. That’s right, parents of tiny babies, the time does come when you’re not woken by the plaintive cries of a defenceless bag of flesh at 5am never to sleep again for the next 26 hours.

My alarm is a clock radio, tuned to Radio 4 which at 7am is broadcasting the Today programme and, specifically, the news. My partner doesn’t (these days) read a newspaper, because he drives to work, and he doesn’t seem to read news websites preferring instead to look up trivia about The Move or similarly obscure 1960s pop groups. Although some say The Move isn’t obscure at all; it’s quite famous. (Shame on you.)

The point is this. The alarm is on my side of the bed and my first instinct when anything goes off at 7am is to hit it. Thus, for two years (my partner told me this morning) his daily grasp of what’s happening in world affairs has been limited to sentences such as “Gordon Brown has today said [bang! Radio snoozed.]” “Scientists have expressed concern over [whump. Snooze.] “The world of pop has been [thump. Snooze]” “World leaders are paying tribute to [wham. Snooze.]” “The World Bank will this week [ow. Etc.]”

For some reason this makes me roar with laughter. Put that in your fibre-optic cable where the sun don’t shine, Mr Carter, Sir.

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Top marks to Jay Hunt

Gael Monfils. BBC Sport

You’ve got to hand it to BBC 1 controller, Jay Hunt. Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning she ably defended the decision to sack Carol Thatcher from The One Show for using the term “golliwog” in connection with a black tennis player. Hunt also quickly squashed comparisons with the offence Jonathan Ross caused back in October, saying he has apologised on several occasions. Ms Thatcher appears not to have yet apologised for a remark made, as Hunt said, “in a BBC workplace environment”.

Speculation has of course centred on who Thatcher was referring to. Someone with lots of French connections tells me the French press were yesterday naming the tennis players as Gael Monfils (above). Today, thefirstpost.co.uk reckons the person in question is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Either way, it seems Thatcher was talking about a black person when she used the G word.

Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant mined this territory some time ago in hilarious but uncomfortable scenes featuring the hapless Maggie in an episode of Extras. Golliwogs and their associations are still fraught with difficulty. We live in a culture that is still often racist, or must seem so to anyone who isn’t white. So there’s offence all round: to black people; to people who think you should be able to say what you like in certain places; to “gollitoys”. Ultimately the BBC is damned if it does (sack someone called Thatcher for causing offence) and damned if it doesn’t (sack someone called Ross for causing offence).

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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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Obama-lama-ding-dong

US President Obama and VP Biden. barackobama.com

You can’t be a blogger today and fail to acknowledge the excitement, the thrill, the buzz around Barack Obama’s inauguration as the 44th and first ever African-American president of the United States of America. Hooray! Today it’s cool again to celebrate the great things that have come out of America. And at last we in the rest of the world can feel there’s someone leading that mighty nation who gives a sh*t about the rest of us and CAN make a difference to the world.

Listening to his speech on Radio 4’s special edition of PM was moving. Not perhaps as moving as Obama’s victory speech when he won the election on 4 November 2008, but effective all the same. The key passage for us, outside the US? “To all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more.” Oh my God. It’s as if Stevie Wonder himself has been elected President.

Can Obama do everything we want him to? Yes, he can. Well, let’s bloody well hope so.

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John Mortimer, RIP

Sir John Mortimer. BBC/PA

A quick post before the gainfully employed disappear for the weekend to encourage you to raise a glass for the late John Mortimer who died today aged 85.

I wasn’t a big fan of Rumpole of the Bailey, the character Mortimer created for television, radio and books. A bit too stuffy and 1970s for my taste. But Mortimer was one of those really CLEVER people who made the world a more interesting place. After all, he defended Oz magazine in a famous censorship trial in the year of my birth. Nick Higham and Clive Anderson have just contributed to a lovely tribute on Radio 4’s PM.

And Mortimer achieved everything he did with those amazing gnashers. As someone in my family once observed, just imagine what an apple would look like after he’d bitten into it.

Here’s to eccentricity.

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