Is it just me, or has this furore over Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross prank calling Andrew Sachs’ answerphone on a radio show been blown out of all proportion? Both men involved have apologised to Sachs, and that should be the end of it. Instead, they are now suspended from their BBC broadcasts, and Sachs’ granddaughter wants them fired (yet she waited until today to express that to The Sun, after all this publicity has kicked off).
However, this situation is entirely the making of the press — most notably the Daily Mail. Look at the figures. The original broadcast was on Russell Brand’s late night Saturday show on BBC Radio 2, on the 18th of October. Brand apologised on his show the following Saturday, the 25th. On Sunday the 26th, the BBC said it had received 67 complaints. After the press coverage on Monday morning, that number reached 1,500. By Tuesday, it was 18,000.
How many of these 18,000 people heard the original broadcast in its original context, over a week ago? How many heard it first on YouTube (in two parts)? How many didn’t actually hear it at all, but consider Brand and Ross to be the worst of the ‘elite’ and ‘overpaid’ celebs at the BBC? Only 67 actually considered it worthy of complaint at the time, and I’m not the only one to have noticed this.
And what of the granddaughter, Georgina Baillie? The Daily Mail has been horrified by all this, horrified enough to publish large photos of Baillie in burlesque outfits (plus a photo of her at 10 months old, to redress the balance, or something) which can’t be doing her career as a self-labelled “satanic slut” any harm. And just a click away, Piers Morgan calls Brand “sex-obsessed”. In the Daily Mail. Take a look their website’s front page. Look at the right-hand column, and scroll down. It reads like a cross between Heat and tmz.com, it’s the worst kind of paparazzi-driven celeb trash.
Still, I guess with the US presidential election looming, and a massive global financial crisis still ongoing, we need something else to fill our headlines. How stupid, as a society, do we have to get before we unnaturally evolve into idiocracy?
UPDATE 2008-10-29 18:25 UTC: Brand has resigned from his BBC show, Gia Milinovich is asking for your comments of support to pass back to Jonathan Ross. Hello, CNN.com readers.
UPDATE 2008-10-30 09:19 UTC: BBC now reporting 27,000 complaints. How is it possible to accept complaints about something that has (a) received such a high level of media attention, thus skewing public opinion, and (b) happened nearly two weeks ago?