Sunday, November 02, 2008

Last Word on Ross & Brand

The Sunday papers are full of the supposed crisis at the BBC. The Telegraph leads with a story by Melissa Kite saying that the Tories want to clip the BBC's wings by cutting the licence fee by a massive £6! Wow. Mark Thompson rubbished the story on Andrew Marr this morning saying that he had had a call from a senior Shadow Cabinet member saying there was no truth in it.

The Express leads with the fact that John Prescott was paid £40,000 for his series of Class. But the real story is the lead on the cover of the News of the World. They reveal that more than 50 BBC managers are paid more than the Prime Minister (£190,000). I am a great believer in the maxim that if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys, but reading through some of the job titles I am at a loss to see how the BBC can justify some of these salaries.

Two last comments on the Ross/Brand story. I got panned by many of you for pointing out what I thought was the bleedin' obvious - that it was the show's producers and Radio 2 management who had to share the blame with Brand and Ross. Clearly Ross and Brand were idiotic and insulting in the extreme - and having now read the transcript, it was far worse than I had imagined - but the show was prerecorded and therefore someone, somewhere in the chain of command should have spotted that this sort of behaviour was unacceptable.

I thought Jack Straw put it best when he asked if anyone seriously imagined that if these had been two local radio presenters they wouldn't have been fired immediately? And this highlights one of the main problems for the BBC in all this - their complete inability to react quickly to a crisis. You would think a media organisation would recognise the demands of the 24 hours new media, wouldn't you? Had they done so they might have been able to close it down.

The other thing the BBC needs to look at is the awarding of contracts to so-called independent production companies which just happen to be owned by the person who is presenting the show. It is quite outrageous that Jonathan Ross's production company is being paid compensation for the cancellation of his shows over the next 12 weeks. The BBC say that Ross himself will not benefit from this! Do they think we are completely stupid? He's a major shareholder in his own company so of course he benefits.

My final point is this. In a week when the world economy continues to crash, when the war in Afghanistan is being lost, when the US election looms large and much more besides, what does it say about the triviality of our news coverage that for day after day this story led news bulletins and was on the front page of every newspaper - not just the tabloids.

39 comments:

Alan Douglas said...

Parkinson's Law - the board spend 2 mins discussing the New nuclear plant costing say £ 25m, 20 mins on expanding the offices costing £ 1m, and 3 hours on the new workers' bicycle shed, cost £ 2,500.

Large figures are to big to comprehend, small ones can be faced up to. World economic crisis, what can we dooooo, Ross and Brand, we KNOW our minds, harumph.

Alan Douglas

James Higham said...

The deterioration in decency in our dealings with one another, especially in public, is the first point in the anger towards Ross. His ability to still hang on to his job when other heads fell is another. That's about corruption. The third is the waste of the licence fee.

I would suggest that the small details do matter. From these the fabric of society is woven.

Unsworth said...

Iain

"therefore someone, somewhere in the chain of command should have spotted that this sort of behaviour was unacceptable." Well, yes, but this was after Brand and Ross had taken liberties.

As to your point about these trivial items taking priority over more important matters in the mainstream media - well this is just bread and circuses. You have to ask, Cui bono?

Anonymous said...

Oh, come on, smell the hypocrisy here as Simon Cowell [!] complains about people being paid too much !

How ironic is that ? And then News of the Screws goes on to complain about the amounts people earn over and above 'the Prime Minister's salary', when there huge numbers of people in Fox News who must earn INXS of 10X what the US President earns !!!

I dare say people like Rebekah Wade are hardly struggling by either. This is fatuous journalism and a facile argument and I think you know it.

"Oh, look, there's a bandwagon - let us jump on it !"

Auntie Flo' said...

This revolting business raises important questions about our national broadcaster.

Editing the tape would not have altered the fact that Ross and Brand had already left their sick messages on Andrew Sachs' answer phone. The only way to stop this form of abuse would have been for the BBC either to have not given this seedy pair of broadcasting accidents waiting to happen a public forum from which to abuse others, or to have dealt with Ross and Brand as soon as they began abusing those they interviewed.

Instead, Thompson and the BBC did nothing, does that make them co-abusers?

The BBC's failure to act allowed Ross and Brand to:

Repeated harass and bully a 78 year old actor with far more talent than Ross or Brand will ever have. They rang him four times. They Leered that Brand had f....d his granddaughter and graphically described this. They savaged Sachs' professional ability. Joked that he might be slumped over the phone in tears. Joked that these calls might make him commit suicide. Joked that they could go on doing this all night, even after the show finished

Its been reported that, in another tape, they joked about breaking into his home & sexually abusing him.

Not only should Ross and Brand have been sacked, the police should be investigating the possibility of prosecuting them. And perhaps the police should investigate the BBC's collusion in this too.

Brown says he deplores all of this. He'd certainly want any one of us who was responsible for such abuse prosecuted.

So why did he allow our subsidised national broadcaster to get so badly out of control and to get away, for so long, with what was so obviously the seedy run up to this scandalous state of affairs?

MB said...

How many News International executives earn more than the Prime Minister.

It would also be interesting to see how much they pay their columnists.

Anonymous said...

Yes, there are more important things to worry about, but here's hoping the NoW will ferret out just how much compo he'll be claiming, enabling us to watch his reputation slide even further down the pan; which may be our only consolation, as it appears we are helpless to prevent our money from still pouring into his bank account.

Mr Jabberwock said...

Lots has been said about this but I think its significance has frequently been missed. Underlying everything else this is a "watershed" story in the sense that it will mark the change from "lodsa money" boom society to a less effusive bust society ethos. So whilst the whole thing was outrageous on all counts; if you like it is the "drunk text" of the easy times, it is interesting not for its importance as a cause but its significance as an effect.

trevorsden said...

The BBC are still paying the salaries of Ross' production company. What toss.

He is responsible for them ... if he is suspended he should lay them poff or pay for them out of his own pocket.

And just what IS a 'production company' anyway?

And gawd 'elp us just what can possibly go on in a 'production company' dedicated to Jonathan Ross?

Auntie Flo' said...

anon said:

"it appears we are helpless to prevent our money from still pouring into his [Ross's] bank account."


Ross's abuse of Sachs was gross misconduct. However watertight the contract Ross has, surely nothing can protect him from a claim along the lines of breach of contract for bringing the BBC into disrepute?

Any lawyers in the house?

We are also not helpless in terms of clawing the money back from the BBC and should do just that.

Auntie Flo' said...

And why aren't the police involved?

Tom FD said...

See also the jingles Chris Moyles plays on his radio show. He owns the rights to all of them, so every time he plays one, the BBC has to pay him royalties.

Auntie Flo' said...

Very true, Mr Jabberwock, it is a watershed story delineating the change from boom to bust. I think it's more than an effect, however.

52,300 people have now posted comments on this to BBC's Have Your Say forum alone. My guess is that around 60-70% of these are highly critical of Ross and Brand and the BBC's failure to sack them. To my way of thinking, that outcry is as much a cause as an effect of the mess Brand and Ross and the BBC find themselves in.

What is important is that this is linked back to the ones ultimately responsible: Brown and nulab for allowing, indeed, encouraging the BBC to run wild.

Remember what Burnham has said he is a "friend of the BBC". It's time we explained the effect of this nepotistic relationship on the BBC's unaccountability to the public - and BBC Have Your Say is a good place to start.

Andy said...

Iain, what is offensive here? Ross and Brand's behaviour? Or the fact that it was broadcast? Are you more bothered that the tree fell in the woods, or that there was someone round to hear it? It's only relevant who authorised the broadcast if you're wallowing in self-indulgent offense. If your concern, like mine, is pretty well solely with Andrew Sachs, then the question of who let it be broadcast doesn't come into it. Are you saying that you would be quite happy for this to have happened, as long as it wasn't broadcast, so you never had to hear it? What a bizarre reading of the situation.

Yes, of course the BBC's procedures, in this case, have been shown to be at fault to some degree here. It looks, from the report in the IoS today, as if the resignation of Lesley Douglas was perhaps more reasonable than it initially looked, because she had repeatedly taken responsibility for giving Brand free reign.

As for the reason this took over the news agenda, it seems mainly because everyone was a bit credit-crunch weary. It was initially driven by a combination of Daily Mail manufactured outrage and then BBC self-flagellation (BBC news types never happier than when grilling their own bosses and navel-gazing about the future of TV) which meant it was hard for anyone else to drop it. When a large baying mob of Incensed From Tunbridge Wellses is up in arms about something, and people more generally are grasping desperately onto a human sized issue, woe betide the news organisation that suggests that anything else is more important.

As for compensating Jonathan Ross's production company, I can appreciate where you're coming from, but at the same time there are many people who are now out of a job for three months, through no fault of their own, who presumably will need compensating to some extent.

Iain Dale said...

Andy, so basically you agree with me but are desperately trying not to!

You put words into my mouth. Of course I am concerned for Andrew Sachs but I am also concerned that it was broadcast.

With regard to your last para, Ross's production company were at fault and it is they who are liable for people's salaries, not the BBC or the Licence payer.

Auntie Flo' said...

"Ross also appeared to breach the terms of his lucrative BBC contract by indicating his support for Labour. He said: ‘I like him [Gordon Brown]. If I could say where I’m going to vote, I’d vote for them. But I can’t say where I’m voting because I’m forbidden by my BBC contract.’ " (Mail online)

Well that clarifies it somewhat, doesn't it?

JPT said...

Pre-recorded or not - the message was left on Sach's answer machine.

Man in a Shed said...

"the war in Afghanistan is being lost" - I think you'll need to come back to that point.

Why ?

Because I think your right.

What's worse is I think our politicians know this, but its easier to lose a few soldiers every month than admit the problem and solve it or pull out.

And that, if true, is the real scandal.

tachybaptus said...

You pay peanuts, you get monkeys.
You pay millions, you still get monkeys. Ain't nothing but monkeys out there.

Andy said...

Iain: I don't agree with you, sorry. Personally, I couldn't give a crap that it was broadcast, from an offense point of view. It was after the watershed, with a warning about the language it contained before hand, and anyone who doesn't expect edgy humour from Russell Brand is an eejit.

The only reason I agree with Douglas's resignation is because Sachs requested that the calls not be broadcast and seemingly nobody authorised the disregarding of that request, because of the culture of cowering before Brand that she had fostered. If 37,000 people read about this and decided to go find the programme online/heard it on the news and complained, that's neither here nor there. These people fundamentally just dislike Brand and Ross, for the most part. 2 people complained on broadcast, specifically about the language (not the lewd content).

As for Ross's production company, what have they done that puts them at fault? The only person at fault is Ross himself. The Russell Brand Show (where it all took place), is not made by Ross's company, it's made by Brand's.

Chris Paul said...

Why should the crews and the studios and post production etc that have been booked not get cancellation fees Iain? If that's in their contract, that's in their contract. Ross is being hammered by £2 million or whatever. Should he (or other shareholders) also pay the same again in cancellation fees? Even if the production company's contract says otherwise?

Should they all then sue the editor/producer/manager who let the jape through onto the air?

Apart from the obvious point that producers etc are to blame I do think that the Mail have a lot to answer for. It would have been hard to resist, granted, but they're the ones responsible for the scandal and 99.9% of any harm to anyone.

No-one surely can take them seriously when they pontificate about the perversity of the presenters when they are amplifying this 100-fold?

Wrinkled Weasel said...

It does not matter that Ross earns £6 million a year. What matters is that it is paid for by extortion.

It is hypocrisy to rail about this anyway. You can not buy into it in the first place by dumping your tellies, getting a life and moving on. Nobody needs TV. Most of it is crap anyway. The Tories are certainly not going to reel it in.

Aunti Flo: "Have Your Say is a good place to start" No it is not. It bans people, like me, who simply do not agree with its agenda. I suspect on this occasion it had to buckle to public opinion, but you can be sure it is heavily edited.

The BBC is very careful not to appear biased, relying mainly on simply ignoring stories that it does not like.

It tried to do this initially with Ross/Brand, but could not handle it.

I am interested that Jabberwock thinks it's a watershed issue. There has been an outpouring of specious grief, akin to the death of Diana, but I don't see the plebs burning their TV sets, do you?

We need a new kind of government in this country, one that will stop propping up these massive public organisations that do little but keep the regime in power, and I am afraid that until people take to the streets it aint gonna happen.

Auntie Flo' said...

Chris Paul said:

"Apart from the obvious point that producers etc are to blame I do think that the Mail have a lot to answer for. It would have been hard to resist, granted, but they're the ones responsible for the scandal and 99.9% of any harm to anyone."

1. Have you read the transcript of the 'show'? If not, I don't think you can comment until you do.

2. Please explain how the Mail were, in your view, responsible for Brand and Ross bullying a 78 year old man, why you do not regard this harrassment of Andrew Sachs as the scandal and how the Mail are 'amplyfying this 100 fold'. Because from where I'm sitting, your view is complete nonsense.

3. Are you of the view that a transcript of Brand and Ross's attack on Sachs should not have been published in the press or on the internet?

Auntie Flo' said...

Chris Paul said:

"Ross is being hammered by £2 million or whatever. Should he (or other shareholders) also pay the same again in cancellation fees? Even if the production company's contract says otherwise?"


Do you believe the bbc are wrong to 'hammer Ross' for £1.4 million, I believe it is? If so, why?

Ross makes a profit from the production company as its major shareholder - the other shareholders may even be his family for all I know. Should he be able to continue to make that profit from the cancellation fees, for doing nothing during during his three months suspension?

The production company's staff must obviously be paid, however, as a major shareholder in a company that he has damaged through his own actions, why shouldn't Ross have to pay these salaries himself?

auntie flo' said...

andy said:

"If 37,000 people read about this and decided to go find the programme online/heard it on the news and complained, that's neither here nor there. These people fundamentally just dislike Brand and Ross, for the most part."


I didn't listen to this program because I'm very deaf and rely on lip reading, so can't understand the radio. I read the transcript because that's what I always do.

Have you any idea how many people are deaf or partially deaf like me? 14% according to the RNID, many of us read transcripts.

Anyway, aside from that, why shouldn't people who can hear listen to this controversial program restrospectively? Have you never done that? Why should you have the right to control what others listen to or when?

Your argument seems absurd to me.

bj said...

You're pretty much right, Iain. (My employer) the Beeb's handling of the PR around all this has been utterly piss-poor. A swift apology early last Sunday morning, together with an announcement that Ross and Brand were being suspended for a short time, and docked pay, would have seen off days of the criticism of the Sachs calls -- and probably saved Lesley Douglas's job.

Two things to note from the morning papers: David Cameron writes in the Sun that BBC bosses should receive less pay. Hear hear. And Jeremy Hunt tells the Guardian that the licence fee is safe under a Tory government. Both utterly agreeable statements -- especially because the latter will piss off the wrongmos on Biased-BBC. Ha.

Anonymous said...

To anyone in business, the BBC is patently and scarily bloated. You are saying they have way too many 'Directors'/managers, but can't make a decision. Anyone running a (private sector?) business could predict the latter, knowing the former fact. They need to chop back severely on non-jobs, non-managers, whole swathes.

I recently heard (on BBC R2) that the whole UK spending on science/research - all our universities, previously world-class labs. etc. totals £3.5Bn./year.

That is also the BBCs annual budget/tax on the UK.

How the hell do 3 or 4 TV channels, and a similar number of Radio channels, equate to the total UK research spend?!

It's bloated off the scale & is actively harming the real economy by distracting some of our Country's finest minds from real work they could be doing.

G.

Auntie Flo' said...

One further point. How our subsidised national broadcasting company spends license payers money is a matter of public interest.

If those contracted to work for that company do not give value for money, engage in gross misconduct and abuse the power that their positions in the company give them, that's also a matter of public interest.

In the view of many license payers, Ross and Brand did not give value for money, engaged in gross misconduct and abused their power when they harrassed, bullied and humiliated 78 year old Sachs on air.

It's complete nonsense for Chris and Andy to suggest that Ross and Brand's scandalous behaviour had nothing to do with those who pay their salaries and that we had no right to look into this by listening to, or reading transcripts of, the program retrospectively. We have every right to do so and we'd be fools if we didn't.

Kezzie said...

What Jonathan and Russell did was a disgrace to their species and their sex. They behaved like dirty old men. Did you see what Ross said to Gwyneth Paltrow when she'd not long had a baby? Disgusting.

Ross should be sacked.

This is not about age v youth either. I'm in my twenties and my friends and I think the pair of them are a disgrace.

Those who are signing the facebook petition to get Ross reinstated are mostly teenagers who have never paid the BBC's license fee in their lives. Says it all really, doesn't it?

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Well, Kezzie, the Beeb is run by embryos, for embryos. By the way, if the licence fee is reduced, it will be Radio Three that gets the chop, not all those silly youf channels.

What the BBC will do is to lobby to introduce another form of taxation to cover the fact that you do not need a licence to watch programmes on your computer. It's coming.

Anonymous said...

Iain

You rightly criticise the BBCs poor response to the story and their failure to close it down quickly.

However, I do believe they were up against a couple of powerful forces that wanted to keep the story open and filling the airwaves:

1) Campbell would have seen this as a perfect chance to get Mandelson off the front pages and to kill that particular story just as it was taking off - it worked

2) Max Clifford saw the opportunity to get his client (the wronged young lady) as much PR as possible - that worked too

3) the journalists and other Radio 2 staff who despised Brand (listen to Paul Gambaccini interview if you can, fascinating) because of his treatment of producers (running to the Radio 2 controller to get them replaced).

Take all those together and perhaps the BBC didn't stand a chance of closing the story early.

strapworld said...

andy said ..Personally, I couldn't give a crap that it was broadcast, from an offense point of view. It was after the watershed, with a warning about the language"

Nice. So it is okay to ring an unsuspecting individual. Leave a message on his telephone, as he was out. That message containing a profane and disgusting message regarding that persons grand daughter and other things.

And 'andy said' calls that humour!

The fact that the recipient of the call was over seventy years of age, without any regard to the effect that call could have had to a person of that age.

Did the disgusting Ross and unfunny Brand know, for instance, his medical history? He could have had a heart attack..GOD that WOULD have been bloody hilarious!

In this day and age when we are conditioned against bullying (rightly) and harrasment (rightly) does not the content of that threatening call to an elderly person tick both those boxes? BUT it was a JOKE...absolutely side splitting an old geezer being threatened, aint Brand and his mate Ross so so funny!

that the calls itself, in my opinion, broke the law anyway and should have been properly investigated by British Telecom, is another absolute howler, I haven't stopped laughing!

Better still it could have been andy said's parents...now, what an absolute curtain raiser that would have been!

andy said and people like him simply have no care in their hearts. It is ALL in the name of HUMOUR. Sadly I call that sick.

In fact he is a joke. But I am not laughing. I am so so sad for him.

One day he may learn compassion and caring for his fellows.

Anonymous said...

auntie 'flo said:
"We are also not helpless in terms of clawing the money back from the BBC and should do just that"

Yes, I like the sound of that, but how exactly?

verification=exess. HaHa

Gary Elsby said...

Iain, I actually agree with you in part. I blame almost fully that the editor should have carried the entire can. Well, ok, I can see some merit in carpeting the presenters, but post editing a few weeks later?

How did this story turn to money?
What has money got to do with a bad joke or a joke too far? Surely it was about the joke as it was the joke that caused offence and not the money?

Jonathan Ross fills a spot on the BBC that no one else fills in all TV stations. One of humour and celebrity. I feel quite offendedthat we are denied his raw talent until after christmas. What for? To inform other editors where the line is?

Crap all round, three months will come and go, no one died, we all move on. Some will linger to wring every last morsel out. Entertainment loses out in a world of celebrity dancing on ice, jesus superstar big brother.

Without Jonathan Ross on friday nights, the BBC have nothing. Not even Madonna, Daniel Craig, Grace Jones or David Cameron.

A waste and shame all round.

auntie flo' said...

Anon said:

"Yes, I like the sound of that [clawing the money back from the BBC], but how exactly?"


Cut their expense accounts.

Andy said...

Sigh.

Auntie Flo: of course you have the right to look at transcripts of the broadcast, etc. I am questioning the value in setting out to be offended by something you've heard was offensive, listening/reading it, sure enough being offended, and therefore complaining. That seems to me to be completely different to complaining because you were actually listening to Brand's show in the first instance and found it offensive (and for the record, deaf people reading a transcript that they would ordinarily have read counts as listening in the first instance, for the purpose of my argument). As I said, none of Brand's regular audience seems to have complained (although 2 people didn't like the language Ross was using, but that was it). Most of those 37,000 complaints were people being whipped into a frenzy by the Mail et al.

Strapworld: You have the wrong end of the stick. Read my first comment. I would agree that Ross and Brand went too far, that what they did was not funny, that Sachs was right to demand an apology, and that Ross and Brand were right to apologise. But they are the only interested parties, to my mind. 37,000 members of the public wading into this whole thing (most of them, incidentally, after Sachs had already accepted apologies and said he didn't intend to take it further) seems bizarre, and unnecessary, if they were genuinely just worried about Sachs's hurt feelings. What it looks like to me is more than that: it looks like most of these people just didn't like Ross and Brand at all, never did, never understood why they were paid what they were, and were taking full advantage of a media storm to try to have them fired.

Anonymous said...

..."it looks like most of these people just didn't like Ross and Brand at all, never did, never understood why they were paid what they were"...

AND

..."they were genuinely just worried about Sachs's hurt feelings"...

AND very sensibly

"taking full advantage of a media storm to try to have them fired"

Speaks for me.

Anonymous said...

What it says about the triviality of our news coverage - is that most of it is by companies/organisations which are in diret competition with the BBC and have no qualms about using any little bit of leverage to do the oft-used "i'm outraged, you're outraged, it's outrageous - let's shut it down now" skit.

And don't say you're not one of them Iain. I could almost hear you rubbing your hands with glee, even from Israel.

Carl Eve

Iain Dale said...

Is that right Carl. Incisive as ever. One day you might even have an original thought to share with us. Or then again, perhaps not.