Tag Archives: Mail on Sunday

Sachsgate & the Mail on Sunday – How people became offended second hand

Mark Boosey at Brunel University yesterday

Mark Boosey at Brunel University yesterday

Yesterday, I was at Brunel University in London, where their Centre For Comedy Studies Research had a panel discussion on Comedy, Class and Offence.

Mark Boosey, esteemed and eternally mysterious British Comedy Guide boss, brought up the 2008 ‘Sachsgate Affair’ in which vast offence was reported after a BBC Radio 2 edition of The Russell Brand Show.

On the show, Russell and guest co-presenter Jonathan Ross had phoned up actor Andrew Sachs (Manuel in Fawlty Towers) to invite him on as a guest. When he did not answer the phone, four messages were left mentioning that Russell had had sex with Sachs’ granddaughter, who was one of the performers in a ‘baroque dance group’ called Satanic Sluts.

Some extracts from the messages are below:

Sachsgate - BBC picture

MESSAGE ONE
Jonathan Ross: ”He fucked your granddaughter… “

MESSAGE TWO
Russell Brand: “I wore a condom.”

MESSAGE THREE
Jonathan Ross: “She was bent over the couch…”

This caused a furore. And Ofcom fined the BBC £150,000.

However, yesterday, Mark Boosey gave the timeline for the public’s outrage:

SATURDAY 18th OCTOBER 2008
The pre-recorded show was transmitted.

SUNDAY 19th OCTOBER
The BBC noted two complaints in its log of listeners’ views. One referred directly to the Andrew Sachs section.

Mail on Sunday - Sachsgate

The Mail on Sunday’s trigger for Sachsgate

SUNDAY 26th OCTOBER
Eight days after the broadcast, the Mail On Sunday ran a main story on the Andrew Sachs answerphone messages.

MONDAY 27th OCTOBER
The BBC received 1,585 complaints.

TUESDAY 28th OCTOBER
The total number of complaints rose to 4,772.

WEDNESDAY 29th OCTOBER
By 10.00am, the number of complaints had reached 18,000 and, at 11.30am, the BBC suspended Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross. At 5.45pm, Russell Brand quit his show.

THURSDAY 30th OCTOBER
By 11.30am, the number of complaints had reached 30,500. At 5.50pm, BBC Controller of Radio 2 Lesley Barber resigned. At 6.21pm, with complaints now at 37,500, the BBC announced Jonathan Ross was being suspended without pay for 12 weeks.

FRIDAY 7th NOVEMBER
Radio 2’s Head of Compliance, David Barber, resigned.


Mark Boosey yesterday pointed out that only two people who heard the broadcast on transmission had been offended (perhaps only one) and it had taken eight days for 1,583 other people to have been offended second-hand.

What it all proves I do not know, but it must prove something. I personally thought what was broadcast (which I have listened to) was way-way-over-the-line into unacceptable offensiveness.

Yet, on 9th November 2008, Russell Brand told the Observer that what had been broadcast had been “toned down”: that “the worst bits” were cut out before the broadcast – presumably they believed the new version was not offensive.

I guess it also shows that, in a world of instant TV, radio and internet, newspapers still have a big effect. And it had a lasting effect even after it ‘ended’.

On Friday 21st November 2008, after publishing a report on the incident, the BBC Trust said that a list of “high-risk radio programmes” should be put together to prevent a repeat of what happened.

That is simultaneously sensible and unsettling and the BBC have, arguably, been running scared ever since.

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Filed under Newspapers, Radio, Sex

Whither comedy? Comics in cowls and fowl-mouthed government ministers

Yesterday, the second annual very well-organised British Comedy Guide’s  Big Comedy Conference in London was mostly about sitcom-writing and actor Neil Pearson posed an interesting question to writers Andy Hamilton & Guy Jenkin, which was Why comedy writers often write in pairs but drama writers almost never do?

Turbaned comic Phil Kay at last night’s Soirée Subterranea

Turbaned comic Phil Kay hosted Soirée Subterranea last night

No-one had an answer to this question beyond the tentative suggestion that you have to try-out comedy on another objective person to see if it is actually funny and it helps to have someone else to bounce ideas off. This is true enough but surely much the same applies to drama plots and (in that awful US phrase) emotional arcs?

Soiree Subterranea

Brunel was known for his large shaft but did not foresee this

I had to miss the very end of the 9½ hour Big Comedy Conference in Clerkenwell to get down to Rotherhithe in time for the start of Martin Soan and Adam Taffler’s Soirée Subterranea where the secret location, only revealed to ticket-buyers on the day, was the disused access shaft to the Thames Tunnel – the first public tunnel under the River Thames (Rotherhithe to Wapping) constructed 1825-1843 by Brunel.

Dan Lees provided a cheese-themed Papal blessing

Dan Lees provided cheese-themed Papal blessing for the mass

The Thames Tunnel Shaft aka The Grand Entrance Hall aka The Great Bore (it was a tunnelling wonder of its time) is under the Brunel Museum. It is apparently half the size of Shakespeare’s Globe and used to host shows by acrobats, tightrope walkers and ‘serenaders’.

Robed and hooded comedians last night

Assembled robed and hooded alternative comedians last night

Last night, amid grey plastic robed and hooded ‘monks’ hiding various alternative comedians, there were chanted comedy routines, a medieval singing trio, classical(ish) dancing, lutes, accordions, three stand-up Isambard Kingdom Brunels and much more. Oh – and it got quite cold, something I had not reckoned with, despite knowing it was in a large underground concrete-and-stone chamber.

The Human Loire pours Rice Krispies into his trousers

The Human Loire pours Rice Krispies into his period trousers

The highlight for me – indeed, the highlight of almost any evening for me – was Michael Brunström as The Human Loire (France’s longest river) reciting a section of The Knight’s Tale from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales with correct Middle-English pronunciation while eating Rice Krispies and milk from his medieval trousers.

The Three Isamabard Kingdom Brunels

Never in Canada’s Delta: Three Isamabard Kingdom Brunels

I returned home to yet another e-mail from this blog’s Canadian correspondent: Anna Smith. For unexplained reasons, she was in the not-totally-vibrant Vancouver suburb of Delta and told me:

“Delta is known for its mud, ditches, boat ramps and pumping stations. Front page news here is BARN FULL OF POTATOES ENGULFED IN FLAMES. The report says: More than twenty firefighters battled the blaze for three hours. No injuries were reported.

The public has a right to know these things...

Front page news in today’s tabloid

Meanwhile, back in the less parochial UK, this morning’s Mail On Sunday front-paged the story: MINISTER STAGED OBSCENE COMMONS DEBATE FOR A BET.

This is a story about the British government’s Communities Minister, Penny Mordaunt, making a speech on poultry during a debate on Parliament’s Easter Adjournment.

As reported by the Mail On Sunday, she “said ‘c**k’ six times, ‘lay’ or ‘laid’ five times and mentioned the names of at least six Marines officers during a debate on poultry welfare.”

Last week, the Mail On Sunday reports, she “confessed to the stunt” while receiving a prize at The Spectator magazine’s Parliamentarian of the Year Awards. Her award was for a speech earlier this year during which she uttered the words ‘penis’ and ‘testicles’.

Whither comedy?

 

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Give me The Daily Mail not the cultural snobbery of The Guardian and The Independent

I was at the Tate Britain art gallery this afternoon, which is obviously replacing the Groucho Club as the in-place to meet media types. On the steps outside, a BBC News crew was interviewing someone. Inside, a film crew was shooting footage for some Channel 4 arts programme. And, when my friend and I were looking at a Damien Hirst painting of spots, we got asked our opinions on modern art in general and Damien Hirst in particular by a reporter for the Mail on Sunday.

He told me that, usually, he had to apologise for being a Mail reporter which doesn’t surprise me as the very name Daily Mail is like a blue rag to a left wing bull.

And why?

Perverse, pseudo-intellectual liberal airheads with superiority complexes, that’s why.

It’s not reverse snobbery.

It’s simple, straight, uncomplicated and very nasty snobbery.

In January this year, the Daily Mail’s average net daily circulation was 2,136,568.

The Guardian’s circulation in the same period was 279,308.

The Independent’s was 185,035.

The Mail on Sunday’s average circulation? – 1,958,083.

The Observer? – 314,164.

The Independent on Sunday? – 152,561

So why deride the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday?

Because ordinary people read them. People who did not go to Oxbridge and do not live in Islington. The sort of ordinary people the Oxbridge Islington wankers look down on. The sort of ordinary people the Oxbridge Islington wankers make increasingly crass TV shows for. They wouldn’t be caught dead watching the TV programmes they make because they think they are better than that.

And the ratings are falling for these entertainment shows.

Britain’s Got Talent and The X Factor are made by people who understand popular culture. Increasingly, though, TV entertainment shows are made by people who don’t; they are made by people with superiority complexes and a contempt for their audiences.

They are made by people who look down on Daily Mail readers as mental and cultural inferiors.

But who is out of step with reality? Who is out of step with what the majority of people in this country think?

From the circulation figures, people who write for and read the Guardian and the Independent.

(More on this topic HERE.)

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Filed under Art, Newspapers, Television