Archive for July, 2007

Left-wing lunatics are taking over our quiz shows

Poor old auntie’s been having a tough time of it over the faked phone-in OUTRAGE scandal, along with the faked footage of the Queen. Commentators are calling it another Hutton and questioning it’s very existence.

PDF has, as always, a succinct riposte:

“The BBC showed an invited audience a slightly misleading trailer for a documentary about an old lady being photographed. Another branch of the BBC picked a child from the studio audience to enter a quiz competion after its phone system went down (and also, 30 years ago, pretended a tortoise hadn’t died).
If you think that these utterly trivial accusations prove anything beyond the fact that BBC’s critics will clutch at any straw in their paranoia, you are silly.
If you think this throws into question whether the BBC should exist, you are bonkers.”

Other defences of the corporation come from Simon Jenkins and Matt Wardman. It’s just as diverse a range lining up to defend the Beeb as it is to lay the boot into it.

I’m probably as biased as the BBC is to its critics, but I’m still a fan of the corporation. Their news is still a benchmark for other to aspire to. For those of us working in the commercial environment, which mostly has considerably less resources than the BBC, if we manage to match or surpass the Beeb’s coverage on a big story then it is a cause for celebration [1], and if we don’t then we look as to how we can the next time around.

But to even remotely describe this crisis as another Hutton is a tad OTT. It’s not, to me, on the same level. And while its a wonderful chance for the corporation’s critics to throw out the usual complaints of left-wing bias, stifling the free market and the age-old licence fee debate, with the exception of the latter these criticisms don’t really have much to do with the current issue in hand.

One of the positives you can say about the licence-fee is it does require the BBC to be open and honest. As Matt Wardman concludes his post with:

“Have Sky manipulated their phone-ins? If they had, how would we find out”

Quite. This public aspect entitles us to know about their screw-ups as well as bask in their successs. And there’s no doubt this is a screw up of the highest magnitude.

With the issues on Children in Need, Blue Peter and the like, it’s easy, if not excusable, to see how the situation can be reached. You’ve got a programme broadcasting to millions that includes a heavily-promoted competition. Suddenly the technology goes down, you’re left with the option of no winner or putting in a ‘winner’. To a panicked producer, it’s an easy option. It’s not a pre-meditated con designed to scam you out of millions, rather a fuck-up that leads to a larger and potentially more serious fuck-up.

The only revelation of this saga that does worry me is the pre-recorded shows on 6 Music. No excuse for that, they knew completely what they’re doing there and that’s just plain wrong.

However the rest reminds me of my student radio days, where callers were often sparse for competitions (and the prizes sometimes left a bit to be desired) so Claire from Block A in the Halls of Residence became a regular winner, so it didn’t look as if we had no listeners. Again, not a great way to conduct ethical business, but given we were more concerned with getting the show out, the implications didn’t even cross our minds.

And here’s a thought for further debate: say you’re a phone-in show which is struggling for callers on a particular issue, so the producer emails a friend who has strong views on the topic in hand, asking him to call in. Now this friend wouldn’t have called in normally, and may not have been even listening to the show, but nonetheless is more than happy to air his views, and this goes on to provoke a lively debate for the rest of the show that makes for great radio. Where does this stand? On one level, its deception by the producer, on the other level its provides good radio?

A brief point about the Queen controversy as well, which I find it very hard to get at all excited or worked up either way about. Show me a broadcaster, newspaper or magazine who hasn’t manipulated an image at some point in their past and I’ll happily give them a tonne of rocks to throw at everyone else.

It’s also a bit confusing now where documentaries and reality shows stand. Should they show the full footage, which would extend to several days, so the viewer has a full picture. Whose to say one editor’s cut wouldn’t be another’s key scene, and aren’t both manipulating the story anyway? How about news interviews, edited to fit in to time constraints? Aren’t these at risk of changing the context? And if you’re going to kick up a fuss over one bad edit in the Queen trailer, why has nobody thrown up their arms in anger over that king of manipulation reality TV, Big Brother?

Ultimately the Queen fiasco was an incredibly bad cock up. Somebody may or may not lose their job over it and, on balance, it may well be justified. But, Christ, it’s not as if they’re not doing enough hand-wringing and apologising. And it’s certainly nowhere near a big enough cock-up to call into question the very existence of the BBC.

[1] And this isn’t done with laying the boot in either. Often they’re not in direct competition in terms of audience, but in terms of news, you’re chasing the same story, and looking for the scoops and the angles as well. It’s professional competition and respect, and I have a lot of respect for my counterparts at the BBC, many of whom I see out and about on a reasonably regular basis.


The eater of comments

Apologies if you’ve posted a comment over the past month. I’m a bit dozy when it comes to comment monitoring and tend to leave it to the spam guard which, while incredibly efficient, is a bit over-zealous and has probably deleted many genuine comments. Sorry ’bout that.

I’ll have a fiddle in the next couple of weeks when I should have a bit more time.

I’ve been so very quiet

And it’s not because I’ve had a lack of things to say or topics I’d like to look at further. No, it’s that inconvenience real life getting in the way.

Ok, that’s a bit harsh on real life, as I normally keep busy and snatch a quick blog post when I get a moment or two, which makes it sound like an illicit affair or guilty pleasure.  But these last couple of weeks have been absolutely bonkers and I’ve been putting in crazy hours at work while trying to balance some semblance of a social life. This is largely due to a large story on my patch that’s spent the past two weeks displaying precisely no decisiveness whatsoever, which is inconsiderate of it.

Add in staff shortages this week, and I’m shattered. Not just tired, but physically and mentally shattered. I just mistook a book for a pair of shoes a moment ago, which is a clear sign I need some sleep. Not that I get books and shoes confused on a regular basis, although the idea of trampling Hardy into the ground has its appeals.

Thank God I’ve got a training course and some leave booked at the end of the month. I genuinely think I’d start wearing Gingham dresses and carrying a hand-puppet called Mr. Flibbles if this carried on for much longer.

And yes, it’s great that the public have displayed some taste and voted Red Dwarf the best sci-fi show of all time, even if Dr. Who, which is also great, was excluded.

Tied up with indecision

There’s some pre-conditioned part of me that feels it necessary to turn up to work reasonably smart, even on days there’s a good chance I won’t be leaving the office (although I always carry a jacket and tie with me. Just in case). If I’m scheduled to attend press calls  it’ll be the full suit, regardless of the fact I work in radio. I could turn up wearing Bermuda shorts and no top and nobody would be any the wiser.

This isn’t force of habit. At the weekend I’m quite happy to slob around in jeans with a tear on the arse, or amble down to the shop in my pyjamas. But my working week contains an inner sense of smart that you could describe as unshakable, until this week.

First comes the news that Jon Snow thinks there’s no future in ties and prefers Iranian collarless shirts. Part of Jon Snow’s reason for being, I’ve always thought, was to fly the flag for slightly garish, yet compelling neck-wear. His Facebook tie appreciation group would have to shut for a start. I blame Paxman for leading him astray.

But it was a story today that made me question my work style. I spent a large part of the day covering a story of national interest, so all the news networks plus a couple of national papers were present.

I’d staggered out of bed an automatically reached for a lilac shirt and blue, black and lilac tie without thinking when I got the call. Black shoes, as well, naturally. I was the most overdressed person there.

The Sky [1] correspondent had gone for tie and jacket combined with cords and pumps. the BBC were mostly wearing regulation-issue fleeces and jackets with an individual twist. The local papers were definitely dressing down, and the national paper journo could have easily been mistaken for the car park attendant.

It’s a common feeling. You’re in the middle of a field, party or equivalent only to realise you’ve misread the invitation and everyone’s burning a hole in your outfit without actually looking at you.

Now none of this should affect my ability to do my job, but the ease which other correspondents gilded from interview to interview made me wonder if I should make a radical move and turn up in one of my two pairs of jeans tomorrow [2]. Non-professional interviewees get nervous enough when a strange man sticks a microphone in their face at the best of times But if he’s wearing A SUIT. That’s one step away from becoming a politician trying to connect with the people. [3]

But dressing down would prevent me with choice. And if there’s one thing I do worse than attempting to blend in, it’s being decisive. I’ve been known to spend an hour deciding what to eat before getting too hungry and nipping out to the chippy. And not only that, I can’t for the life of me do smart casual, so I’ll probably turn up with one of the more inappropriate T-shirts [4] on the day I get called the The Most Important Press Conference In The World Ever. And then I’ll be back to standing in the middle of a field, party or equivalent only to realise I’ve misread the invitation and everyone’s burning a hole in my outfit without actually looking at me.

I’m not going to be able to win on this am I?

[1] Or maybe ITV. I’m not sure. 

[2] Like any good man, I own a couple of pairs of jeans, 4 shirts (2 long sleeve, 2 short) and endless T-shirts with what seemed like amusing slogans at the time. Strangely I own a lot of jumpers. I attribute this to my internal body heating that clearly belongs to an 85-year-old. 

[3] I’m hopeless out of touch with most things. But not *that* hopelessly out of touch. 

[4] They range from ‘Caution: Emilie Heskey’ to ‘Autistic Children Rock’. 

If Razorlight save the earth, I’m emigrating to Mars

A few months ago, just after Live Earth was announced, I voiced my skepticism. If anything, my skepticism has now become full blown irritation. The other day I overheard two people discussing how much they were looking forward to watching the bands on TV, before one of them rounded off without a single mention of climate change.

Seriously, other than appease a lot of middle-class guilt, what good will Live Earth do? As Marina Hyde rather wonderfully notes today:

The Live Earth concerts taking place across the planet over this 24-hour period will undoubtedly highlight two inconvenient truths about our world. The first will be the ineluctable fact of climate change. The second will be our apparent inability to understand a point unless a celebrity is making it – usually fairly badly.

“We are all fucking conscious of global warming,” Bob Geldof claimed charitably this week. “It’s just an enormous pop concert or the umpteenth time that, say, Madonna or Coldplay get on stage.”

A privilege as it always is to take a lesson from Sir Bob on naive initiatives, this is as ill-informed as it is unfair. Mori research this week revealed that the majority of people on our relatively savvy shores still believe scientists are debating whether human activity contributes to climate change.

Now, perhaps its my turn to be a little naive, but if you want to convince people climate change is happening rather than just raise awareness, then a huge concert isn’t going to change anything. At least Live 8’s organisers could reasonably deflect charges of being hypocrites.

I’m fed up of people rallying around a certain issue as a point of catharsis before forgetting about it a few weeks later. I’m fed up of Those Who Know things assuming we’re too stupid to pay attention to anything unless Madonna, David Beckham, or the Red Hot Chilli Peppers are reinforcing this message. And I’m especially fed up of seeing or hearing Johnny Borrell’s face.

Today, I’m going to do my bit for climate change. I’m going to switch off my computer, go for a nice long walk and refuse to watch any of the gushing sycophantic coverage on TV of The Greatest Event The World Has Ever Seen Since The Last One.

That should carbon offset about 10 seconds of Madonna’s set.

[Insert Catherine Tate non-joke/pun here]

Am I the only person not particular angry or even concerned about Catherine Tate’s forthcoming reappearance on Dr. Who?

Granted, her TV sketch show raises approximately half a smile an episode, and she’s somewhat screechy and irritating, but I quite enjoyed the last Dr. Who Christmas special. I’m not sure how high my tolerance will be over the new series, but if they can tone down her screechy irritatingness I don’t think it’ll be anywhere near as bad as everybody’s making out.

Even Ben Affleck’s been in some good films…

RSS What I’m Twittering about

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.
July 2007

Throw letters together and send them to me

Yes, this is my name. And my email. Use it wisely or you're not getting a biscuit with your tea: garyllewellynandrews [at] gmail [dot] com