Sunday, October 26, 2008

The yobbish culture at the heart of the BBC

I've not yet received a reply, or even an acknowledgement, to the questions I put to Mark Thompson regarding the source of his claims about religion and atheism (see blog 22 October 2008)

Apart from promoting religion, Mr Thompson has also been outspoken in his support for non-pc presenters such as Jeremy Clarkson and Jonathan Ross. He told Andrew Marr on BBC Sunday AM in 2007: "..I also want to say that when people talk about political correctness, I mean many of the most politically incorrect voices in Britain you hear and see on the BBC. From Jeremy Clarkson onwards. I mean, in other words I think the BBC is in many ways more open to different perspective and different opinions now than it was say five or ten years ago."

A year later he answered questions from Telegraph readers: ".. we have some of the most politically incorrect voices in Britain on the air every week – and I’m glad we do. And Jeremy Clarkson will come round looking for you if you disagree!"

BBC Trustee Richard Tait remarked on the launch of 'From Seesaw to Wagon Wheel': "..BBC audiences believe that impartiality should not lead to political correctness. The BBC agrees and one of our new principles makes clear that impartiality is no excuse for insipid programme-making. Providing space for controversial and passionate writers and contributors of all kinds will ensure impartiality is an antidote to political correctness."

Political Correctness has been one of Mark Thompson's bugbears for a while - his disdain for it is well known. As I put it in an email to Mr Thompson dated 13 March 2007:-

In summer last year the BBC governors defended Chris Moyles's pejorative use of "gay," and within a few days of their decision Jeremy Clarkson repeated the offence on Top Gear. A complaint against Mr Clarkson's remark was upheld in December, but following your wholehearted support to the non-PC Top Gear programme in an article you wrote for the Mail on Sunday (29 October 2006) it was not surprising that Mr Clarkson was far from contrite. Shortly thereafter Clarkson dismissed the complaint decision with contempt. He told The Sun "No one's rung me to tell me off. And it wasn't a gay car — it was actually a bit lesbian."

The article to which I referred in my email included Mr Thompson saying: ".. it's ridiculous to suggest that Top Gear somehow gets broadcast despite the BBC. It's a programme we're incredibly proud of and we know that exhilaration - and yes, risk - are part of the reason for its success. ...I've never met a BBC boss who wants to ban Top Gear. And if I ever do, I'll show them the door. As a viewer, I'm not sure I can face life without it."

This blog has little time for Jonathan Ross, whose house-gay band, Four Poofs and a Piano, is used as an easy target for Jonathan's non-pc jokes about gay people (see blog 7 July 2007). Despite widespread misgiving over Ross's remuneration, he enjoys Mark Thompson's full-hearted backing. According to Mr Thompson "the BBC has always had to go into the market for key broadcasting talent. Our licence fee payers want the very best people on the BBC...Were Jonathan to leave the BBC, you would have headlines about that fact and I think our licence fee payers would be disappointed." And in October last year, even at a time when the Director-General was seeking volunteers for redundancy, again Thompson defended Jonathan Ross.

With this well-known backing from the top level of BBC management, it's hardly surprising to hear of the loutish behaviour shown by Ross, Russell Brand and their senior producers as reported by the Mail today. Andrew Sachs was reported to be deeply upset and terribly hurt by their behaviour. Perhaps there needs to be a code of behaviour for public service broadcasting.

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