The top story on the BBC News website is currently this on the furore surrounding Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross as Gordon Brown wades his sorry way in. I am sorry, but I really do struggle to believe that this is the most important story around at the moment.
In fact, once you put the pieces together, the whole thing looks as though the BBC has been completely stitched up. The phone calls may have been ill-advised, all the more so due to the fact that it was pre-recorded and yet was still broadcast.
But there are too many things about this that just don’t add up for me. I haven’t heard the clip, but having read the transcript it seems very much as though Jonathan Ross was easily the more offensive of the pair. So why is most of the criticism going the way of Russell Brand?
Then there is the time line of events. The story only entered the news agenda a full week and a half after the phone calls were made, and one whole week after they were broadcast. For something supposedly so shocking, people sure took a long time to realise it.
Alarm bells should automatically be ringing when you see that the paper that has stoked up this little fire is the contemptible Mail on Sunday. This has all the hallmarks of a despicable tabloid rag using any excuse to lay into the BBC.
Last Wednesday the Mail on Sunday phoned up Andrew Sachs’s agent, Meg Pool, for a comment. That was the first she — and, incidentally, Andrew Sachs himself — had ever heard of the phone calls. But, probably sniffing the opportunity to get lots of publicity, she began to kick up a fuss.
All the while, the amount of complaints the BBC had received by this time was a grand total of… two. And they were about Jonathan Ross’s swearing, not the nature of the phone calls. Post-Mail on Sunday foot-stomping, the figure stands at 10,000 and rising. It looks to me as though this story is all about the public’s love of a good old bandwagon.
And what does Andrew Sachs say? “[T]he producer called me on my mobile to ask whether they could play the recording in question out.” So the BBC sought permission before broadcasting it. And: “I think Jonathan [Ross] is in enough trouble as it is. I don’t want to add to that.”
That is how it should be. Of course Andrew Sachs should get an apology from both Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross. It looks like he has got it (or in the case of Brand, will get it). Beyond that, the rest of this story stinks of a tabloid rag spying the opportunity to criticise the BBC for the most tenuous reason.
Update: I see that Will Patterson agrees with me.