Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Madness of Britain

If you're flying in to the UK today and in the serenity of your hotel or eventual resting place, switch on the television, or Tele, as we might say here, brace yourself.

The lead and subsequent running story might have you clutching your bag and signaling to your partner: "Sheryl, I think we should leave the UK. I think there are some terrorists on the loose".

Therein, the images of two white adults will flash across the screen; one with a trademark Barry Whitesque facial hirsute, the other clean shaving with Barry White esque Loreal hairstyle.

For the next hour or so, they'll keep cropping up. The baffling bit is the footage that follows depicts middle class people, greying hairs and rinsed wigs not looking fearful, more outraged.

If you're lucky you'll catch an image of one of the perpetrators hosting a radio show and probably scream at your partner. "Sheryl, that bad man is hosting a freakin show, you know like David Letterman..".

Partner: "Oh yeah, lovely suit, what has he done".
Male Partner: Haven't a darn idea"

Mad Britain.
Britain's gone mad.

A crime has been committed.

Now lets not underestimate the crime; here's the background.

Two talented performers, one a major chatshow host, the other a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants stand up, a sort of David Chapell on a really bad day, played a prank that went horribly wrong.

They rang up another performer, an old skool one, you know, someone from the: "Bewitched" era, except this was Fawlty Towers [ I know, I know, that means nothing] and said lewd things on his answer phone.

Things like, oh I have slept with your grand daughter and when you hear this you might commit suicide.

It was bad, pretty bad.

After making the programme, it sat on a shelf ready for broadcast a couple of days away.

The victim of the prank, a pensioner, is said to have pleaded they don't broadcast this recording.

He was ignored and then some days later the broadcast went ahead. On the day itself there were a couple of protests.

Then the newspapers got hold of the story, the Daily Mail, a paper that appeals to conservative England.

Then to use that proverbial expression: "the S*** hit the fan". 30,000 complaints and rising.

As the days unfolded, I thought "oh dear, no one from the BBC's talking".

Then again, I thought if the BBC responded to every event then would they ever make any programmes.

Anti Customer Service
Consider this 'one off' story for instance relayed to me by an acquaintance whom I worked with whilst at the BBC. Our mutual friends is now a senior reporter in the organisation. He picked up the phone from a viewer complaining about something.

After listening to the complainant for a while he said:

"Er did I give you my name".
Complainant: No
"Well **** off then.

So you see the BBC gets complaints every hour, every day.

Yesterday, the two top flight performers were suspended, one then duly resigned, but that wasn't before the Prime Minister, the leader of the Opposition, had weighed in.

And now the BBC is holding emergency meetings.

Yes this is code red: the Madness of Britain.

Comedy is now under threat, the direction of the BBC as a vanguard for young people is under threat. More resignations and sackings are expected.

Damn the BBC might just implode, and then we'll find at last the moon is made out of cheese.

So what's going on?

Ah drama par excellence. Spleen venting of a kind that has its roots elsewhere and has slowly been simmering away.

The financial collapse, fat cat payouts, anger, avarice, gluttony and excesses in the financial system added to the mix.

Ingredient for a distaster
Here are the ingredients.

Jonathan Ross, one of the pranksters, is one of the highest paid presenters £18m ie around $29 dollars give or take some change and this swinging exchange rate. Too many that's obscene, way obscene.

Jonathan Ross presents a number of programmes on the BBC. So if you're not a JRoss fan, you're already complaining about why you should have to put up with this.

And it gets worse for you. His deal lasts till 2010.

Russel Brand, the other transgressor, is also paid a nice sum £200,000 a year for his radio 2 show

Then there's the BBC, whose relationship with the Daily Mail might be described as er "non existent". You might say the Daily Mail thinks the BBC is a $£@^&(()&^%$£@!!!! and the BBC might return that compliment.

The BBC, to its detractors, is the firm you love to hate, you see. Funded by tax payers but with no accountability, if it went to the wall, we'd go psychotic. Yet at the smallest of windows, you'll find groups complaining, sometimes even legitimately.

Then the issue of its funding pops up. Grrr! Why the papers argue are we paying a tax towards an outfit we have no control over, did not elect their management, and they rarely cater for your taste.

Damn if it does and if it doesn't really. Newspapers fearful of their future criticise the BBC's expanisionist ambitions. Must bring em down a peg or two, so this latest saga plays right into newspapers' hand.

And finally the misogynous, aegist and indencency nature of the crime. An apology simply wouldn't do.

So there you are, a warnng to you if you're flying into the UK and want to make sense of this Madness of Britain.

A crime has been committed, those guilty indeed do need to be reprimanded, but a root and branch look at the BBC???

Well then that's it. The press had mooted it, post Sutton, commentators had poked at it in their columns. Think back to another talented performer Chris Evans resigning from his radio show complaining of fatigue to his boss Mathew Bannister.

THere was going to be an endoscopy of the BBC at some time. Thank goodness Jonathan Ross has provided means.

Of course this isn't the first time Ross might be cast into the wilderness. Following on from his highly successful shows in the 80s, the Last Resort and into the 90s, Ross hit rock bottom. He's recounted this story so many times, so will he bounce back.

Yes. In two weeks time all will be forgotten and we'll move on to something like Gordon Brown's masterful curtailment of the banks [ yeah! ] or why Brits hate boxer shots.

Meanwhile did I tell you he story of me when I used to dance on Britain's Soul Train in the 80s while a chemistry maths undergraduate and a rather bossy floor manager kept on prodding us where to stand. His name Jonathan Ross


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