Sunday, July 18, 2010

Friday night - part 2

In April this year The Guardian quoted Jonathan Ross as saying he couldn't wait to leave the BBC. As Friday Night With Jonathan Ross drew to an end, Jonathan made a speech thanking just about everyone he could think of, and was generous in his praise for the BBC.

Ross: ... the experience I've had here with the BBC has been just a blessed one. I've been very lucky. I felt very honoured. Sometimes the papers might have made me out to seem a bit arrogant and a bit kind of out of control; but you know that's not the case. I've never come in here feeling anything but grateful and lucky and honoured. ..

Jonathan's peroration had the same whiff of insincerity as his Sachsgate apology when he returned to BBC One on 23rd January 2009.

Many people, including some in the LGB & T communities and at the BBC, believed that Jonathan Ross was gay-friendly. When he was accused of homophobia after a Radio 2 broadcast in May 2009 the Corporation immediately came to his defence, saying: "Jonathan is not homophobic in any sense and never meant for his comments to be taken seriously."

I was interested in the implications of this statement, especially with regard to the BBC's interpretation of the word homophobia. Correspondence with the BBC and with Ofcom ensued. Later, and it appeared to Jonathan's surprise, the BBC didn't initiate negotiations for the renewal of his contract.

Ross, himself, claims he was mortified that some thought he was homophobic. So, what is the truth?

Jonathan Ross employed David Roper, David Wickenden, Ian Parkin and Stephen de Martin, four men who publicly describe themselves as 'poofs' and seemed happy that he introduced them like this at the start of his Friday night shows. Is that evidence that Jonathan is pro-gay? Does it help that he once, in a tweet, called them "some lovely men?" And Ross also commissioned Friday Night guest, Tim Minchin, to write a song with lyrics about "those four lovely guys," implying that the people against them were homophobic Daily Mail readers.

If Ross really is gay-friendly might he actually do something to combat homophobia? Well, his last chance at the BBC to address the issue came when he interviewed David Beckham. Jonathan could have asked David why football has such a poor reputation when it comes to this particular form of prejudice. But even at that late stage it wasn't something he was prepared to raise. Ross wimped out, and all we heard instead was persiflage about footballers giving each other hugs.

At one point in the interview Beckham mentioned he was a good friend of James Corden. Last year Corden, Beckham and several of his footballing chums collaborated on a film for Red Nose Day. I suggested they could have got together to make an anti-homophobia video for the FA. Yet it looks like all of them are too cowardly to stand up and be counted in the battle against homophobia. Will it ever happen? To date no top British footballer has spoken out against the prejudice, or gone as far as Cristiano Ronaldo did when he supported gay marriage in Portugal recently.

Jonathan Ross has a lot of time on his hands between now and when he starts his show on ITV. Let's hope he puts that time to good effect and thinks through a fresh and more inclusive style.

Reports that Graham Norton is to take over from Jonathan Ross are far from encouraging.

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