Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The big story in Britain: BBC and the "Sachsgate" scandal

This week, Britain has been obsessed with a scandal involving the BBC and two of its presenters, Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand. The story is being called "Sachsgate" and the media have been giving it greater prominence than the U.S. presidential election or the economic crisis. The disgraceful behavior from two of the BBC's presenters involves a radio programme when they called and left a series of vulgar, lewd messages on the answerphone of an actor, Andrew Sachs and then the prerecorded show with the messages were broadcast, which has caused a national outrage and is the talking point up and down the country. It wasn't just that the messages were in extremely bad-taste (joking and boasting about sexual encounters with the granddaughter of the actor, Mr. Sachs) they really crossed a line when they went on to joke that the actor may kill himself as a result. The British public complained to broadcasting watchdog, Ofcom, which consequently announced its launch of an investigation into the phone calls. More than 27,ooo people complained to the BBC. The Metropolitan Police also received complaints about the telephone messages. The BBC has taken too much time to respond to all the criticisms and the presenters made a half-hearted, jokey attempt at an apology which only made the situation much worse. Then today, the BBC announced that both presenters were suspended (the corporation finally bowed to public anger) and tonight the announcement followed that Russell Brand decided to quit his BBC Radio 2 show. Our BBC TV licence fee pays their salaries. This is basically taxpayer funded bullying! How much lower can the BBC go? I expect the BBC to have some standards if they are going to depend on public funding (via the TV licence fee) especially when that public funding isn't even voluntary. Even Prime Minister Gordon Brown has weighed in, accusing the broadcast of being "clearly unacceptable and inappropriate." You know what really infuritates me in all this debacle? It's when people say they think it was funny and that people who don't like it should just switch off the radio or TV. Charming! Well, it's not just a matter of switching it off since paying a licence fee is not voluntary. The radio show that Russell Brand hosted is aimed at a young audience (their core audience is 16-17 year olds). How many of them pay a license fee? I'm angry because I am being forced to pay a license fee which supports a couple of so-called 'comedians' so they can make offensive comments to an elderly man ( 78-year-old actor, Andrew Sachs) and humiliate him and his granddaughter, which is then broadcast on a radio show to produce a smutty form of entertainment. It isn't a harmless prank - it's a form of harassment. The recorded telephone 'prank' should never have been allowed in the first place. Why should celebrities be allowed to say and do what ever they want without fear of retribution? They made obscene phone calls. It is an offence to use telephone equipment to make such calls, and if you or I had done so we would be facing prosecution and punishment. Someone at the BBC made the decision that the pre-recorded show was okay to be aired. What was he or she thinking? The growing number of complaints are not just about the series of lewd messages that were played on the radio but also because licence payers feel outraged that their money paid for this sick 'prank' which was offensive and abusive, and certainly not funny. I think this became such a huge story because people are seriously upset about the steady decline in the BBC's standards. What kind of example are these "entertainers" setting for the young people in Britain? When did it become acceptable to bully anyone? What are your thoughts?


  1. I think both brand and ross should be sacked. I mean prank calls are sometimes fun but this was taking it a bit far. I would be so mad if someone had called my grandfather and said some of those things to him.
    I had no idea that it was pre-recorded and I agree with you in asking the question who oked it.
    Fire them.

  2. Don't pay the Biased Broadcasting Corporation. They exist today because you and others like you have allowed them to threaten and scare you into paying them.

    I've not paid them for 19yrs and I know others who have gone much longer. You just need to know how ;)

  3. Hi Mari, It will be interesting to see if the BBC will admit who approved the broadcast of the pre-recorded show and if that person will be sacked.

    As far as Brand and Ross are concerned, we know now that Russell Brand has resigned from his BBC Radio 2 show but it might have been a case of "jumping before he was pushed" as I've heard on various news reports. I think Jonathan Ross should be sacked too but will the BBC get rid of their highest-paid presenter?

  4. Hello tvir, I'm seriously considering not renewing my TV licence and just watching programmes via the computer (BBC programmes through the iPlayer service, or the other channel catch-up services) and keepng the TV but only using it for watching pre-recorded videos or DVDs.

    I think the only fair way for the BBC to continue would be through voluntary subscription. Hopefully, this latest scandal will help push it in that direction.

  5. As an American still living stateside, I think it is the fact that you have taxpayer funded television that has caused the people to be upset. Over here, where almost all of our media is corporate owned, very few bother to speak out, as we'll just be ignored anyway.

    I realize it's not a perfect system you have, I'm sure, but I would prefer it to the corporate media we have here. Let's face it, General Electric owns NBC, so any news that doesn't benefit the corporate image of General Electric doesn't get honest reporting.

  6. Not surprisingly I agree with all you say.
    The BBC did to little to late and will have found that its reputation, especially among many licence fee payers, will have diminished even further.
    What I also find sad is the number of younger people who thought that they did nothing wrong and that it was just a prank in bad taste.
    The whole thing is another sad reflection of the world we live today thanks to the likes of Brand and Ross, courtesy of the BBC, promoting such behaviour as being acceptable. xx

  7. Hi flighty, I agree with you that the BBC did too little too late. And I can't understand how anyone can defend what those presenters did. As you say, this scandal has certainly diminished the reputation of the BBC.

  8. Anonymous: You are right that people are upset that their BBC TV licence fee paid for the radio show and people are quite rightly angry since it is basically taxpayer funded bullying.

    The problem with taxpayer funded television (and BBC radio, and BBC internet site) is not just that the BBC is biased - that's bad enough - but the problem is that we don't have a choice about paying for the BBC. Every household with a television has to pay an annual fee. This fee has to be paid even if we choose to watch other (commercial) channels and not watch the BBC.

    It's an unfair tax and the BBC should be funded by voluntary subscription or sponsorship instead. If the BBC are so good they will thrive.

  9. I'm a big fan of the idea of an independent broadcasting operation, funded by compulsory public money. The BBC has a great and well-earned reputation, but it is in serious danger of losing it. I think the salaries it pays some of its top entertainers are ridiculous, and when those entertainers step out of line, the BBC should be quick to act. If the public feels strongly, the BBC should respect that. Freedom of speech is one thing, but that isn't license to offend.

  10. Hello Iota, I find it interesting that you are a big fan of the idea of an independent broadcasting operation, funded by compulsory public money. It's the compulsory element that a lot of people (myself included) think is very unfair. I think the BBC should be supported by subscription or sponsorship.