I've been away since Wednesday and only caught the periphery of the scandal that has engulfed the Beeb and most specificially Radio 2 this week.
I am as readers of this blog are probably aware a big fan of Radio 2 (such a big fan it features rather large in Pastures New), and part of the reason I started listening to it in the first place was Jonathan Ross' Saturday show. Yes, he's rude, he's edgy and often puerile, but he does (usually) make me laugh. I generally enjoy his chat show as well, though it does sometimes appear he's just interviewing his mates, and he can appear arrogant. Despite that, I think old JR can be quite engaging when he's interviewing someone he genuinely admires. He's such a fanboy and you can almost see him pinching himself that he is actually interviewing whichever idol it is, though to be fair this tends to be more evident on Film 2008, where his love of film is genuine and his reviews (though never as good as Mark Kermode's) are always worth taking note of.
I am not, it has to be said a huge fan of Russell Brand, and I did rather groan when I heard that Lesley Douglas had hired him - someone chasing the young vote, methinks. (That being said I did actually find his turn in St Trinians rather sweet because it was so against type that he couldn't chat up the head girl).
I therefore have never listened to Russell Brand's show, but figured it wasn't for the likes of me anyway, and was reasonably happy to have it on the edges of Radio 2, as he clearly has an audience, even if I'm not it.
Having said all of that, I think his and Jonathan Ross' behaviour towards Andrew Sachs was totally inexcusable and the pair of them (particularly Jonathan Ross) showed a lamentable lack of judgement in thinking that their "prank" (which I have seen defended in terms boys will be boys type terms) was funny. It wasn't. It was crude, offensive and utterly puerile.
BUT.... apparently before the story broke, only two people actually rang in to complain. After it hit the Sundays over 30 000 did, fed and whipped up by an hysterical tabloid media who clearly can't forgive Jonathan Ross' joke about earning more then they do. (Yes he earns silly amounts of money, but more fool the BBC bosses for giving it to him). Furthermore, there does appear to be some misunderstanding as to whether Andrew Sachs had given his consent to the programme going ahead, the producer was only 25 (poor cow, I hope her career isn't stifled at birth), and Andrew Sach's granddaughter has sought the offices of Max Clifford to tell "her side of the story". Said granddaughter also appears in a band called The Satanic Sluts, which is of course her right and doesn't mean she or her grandfather should be subject to abuse, but is it cynical of me to think that this publicity can't exactly be harmful to her career? Without all of this no one would even heard of her.
My feeling now is that the whole thing has got a bit out of hand, and I cannot STAND it when politicians start pontificating in a self righteous manner about this kind of stuff - when was the last time a politician took the flak and resigned as Lesley Douglas has done? I think she showed integrity in doing so - this did, as she said, happen on her watch, and she appointed Russell Brand and apparently didn't reign him in - but by all accounts she has been a brilliant Controller of Radio 2 and responsible for most of my favourite listening over the last four years. It seems a pity she's had to go as a result of this debacle.
But the thing that sticks in my craw most has been the gleeful malicious joy with which the tabloids have greeted Wossy's fall from grace. Maybe his fault for alienating them, perhaps, but I personally find it distasteful. (I saw a headline yesterday screaming its outrage that the Disgraced Star had dared to have a Halloween Party with his Showbiz Chums. Erm - why shouldn't he???)
I don't for one minute condone what Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand did, and think their punishment is probably fair. But hell. There are far more important things to worry about right now. This could and should have been resolved with an apology by both of them to Mr Sachs and Miss Baillie. The self righteous howlers should have shut up and left well alone. And I really really hope that Terry Wogan isn't right in saying as he did yesterday, that the damage to Ross' career is terminal. He has made a very very bad error of judgement, but he is certainly paying the price. One hopes that in time the great British public might be able to forgive him.
But I also hope that the result of this isn't the Beeb playing safe with everything. Comedy should at times shock and disturb us. Maybe we've had too much of that of late on the Beeb (I like Little Britain, but am growing tired of the insatiable need to shock), but it would be a great pity if the output becomes more anodyne as a result of this show. Auntie hasn't come out of this too well, either it has to be said, having first tried to ignore the problem then (in my view) added to it by navel gazing ad nauseam (they did the same after the Dr Kelly affair). There are lots of problems with the Beeb - not being regulated by Ofcom being one of them, but it still represents broadcasting at its best, and I for one would hate that to change as a result of this nonsense.