Thursday, October 30, 2008
BBC Director General Mark Thompson is trying to assess the damage to the broadcaster as complaints pile up over the Brand/Ross phone prank mess, and Jonathan Ross said he was sorry for the "juvenile and thoughtless remarks" he left on actor Andrew Sachs' answering machine concerning, among other things, companion-in-idiocy Russell Brand's relationship with Mr. Sachs' granddaughter, Georgina Baillie (who no longer seems to be out for blood). In a storm reminiscent of that over the recent Don Imus controversy, and over remarks that are just as offensive and uncalled for, the BBC now wonders whether it should continue the Faustian bargain it has made not just with the now departed Mr. Brand but with other artists who dance along the edge, when it hires them to fulfill a public trust, to create diversity and to bring in ratings. Mr. Thompson quite obviously doesn't want a repeat of "Sachsgate," "Manuelgate," or whatever one wants to call it, can a broadcaster regulate taste? And if it can, how does it do so? For the public services broadcaster, long a bastion of "good" taste, but battered by a string of faux pas and scandals, that, right now, is an important question. An answer may be forthcoming when the current investigation into the matter is concluded and Sir Michael Lyons, head of the BBC Trust makes a statement on it, possibly by the end of the week.
Here's an explanation, from three Guardian writers, of why the Brand/Ross story went from prank to controversy, and major headache for Mr. Thompson and the BBC, in just a few days.