I'm all for honesty in the media, but this whole business of `truth' finally crossed the line into farce this week. I can't remember if I mentioned it in my earlier ramble, and I can't be bothered to go back and check, but the BBC children's programme Blue Peter
fell victim to the recent witch-hunt when it was discovered that they had faked the results of a phone-in competition. Technical problems meant that real phone calls couldn't get through to the studio, so (presumably because Blue Peter
is a live show and it would have messed things up to just abandon the phone-in) a child visiting the studio was asked to pose as a real caller. For this, the BBC was fined £45,000, and another £5,000 for repeating the programme on one of the digital children's channels. Okay, that was wrong, but I see why they did that and to be honest I can forgive them for it.
But that pales into insignificance compared to what Blue Peter
For the villagers on the other side of the village pond, Blue Peter
has been running on the BBC for...oh, ever such a long time. It's a bit older than me. And what Blue Peter
has always had is pets. The idea, way back in the day, was that children who didn't have pets of their own could sort of collectively `adopt' the Blue Peter
pets, see how they were looked after, how they grew up, feel involved in their lives, which I've always thought was a lovely idea from a BBC that honestly cared about its viewers. It's also an idea from a far more innocent time.
Anyway, one tradition that goes right back is that the viewers name the pets, writing in to the show with their favourite names, and the name that's most popular is given to the pet. Which is how the programme came unstuck.
A little while ago, Blue Peter
got a new kitten, and they asked children to phone in to suggest names for the little feller. The most popular name was `Cookie.' Now, I understand from stories in the media that `cookie' is slang for a rather intimate part of a lady's anatomy. I know, it was news to me, too, but there you go. But apparently someone in the Blue Peter
production office spotted this and smelled a rat. As I understand it, they reasoned that someone - `the sort of people who get a laugh out of writing `Jedi' in the `Religion' box on the Census,' as one commentator put it earlier this week - had voted for `Cookie' over and over again in order that the Blue Peter
kitten would have a rude name and they could snigger about it.
So. Again, as I understand it, the production team decided to ignore the vote for `Cookie' and name the kitten `Socks' instead. Socks was duly introduced to the country's children and everything was copacetic.
But in the present Culture Of Fear at the BBC, it was not copacetic. The deception was uncovered, and, ah hell, you can read about it here
. Now Blue Peter
has a kitten called `Cookie' and someone, somewhere is having a good snigger.
I don't know about you, and I of course welcome your opinions, but this whole business seems to me to have gotten entirely out of hand. The most popular name was deemed to be a rude one and the production staff decided it wasn't suitable and used another one (which might, for all I know, have been the second most-popular) Suppose for a moment the most popular name had been `Asshole.' Would they have been bound to give the kitten that name? Were they being underhand in not telling the audience? No, I don't think so.
The line seems to be that, by not using the name `Cookie,' the programme was defrauding the people who phoned in with that name. Well, I'm sorry, if it is
a rude word and people were just phoning it in for a giggle to see if they could get a Blue Peter
cat a rude name, they deserve
to lose the cost of their phone call. But no. In the present climate heads must roll.
Now. You could make a convincing case for saying this is a storm in a teacup and that it doesn't amount to a hill of beans, but I think it does matter. It's symptomatic of the state of the BBC today, a sort of hair-trigger cringe
at any hint of impropriety. On the one hand, this is a good thing - keeps them honest. On the other hand, it cultivates a culture of terror, and I don't like that at all.
I know someone who would say this is all good stuff. BBC wankers, they deserve to be taken down a peg or two. But
this is the world's preeminent public service broadcaster, a truly mighty thing, and it's being hamstrung by increments and turned into a meek little kitten of a television channel. In any sane world the Blue Peter
producers would have said, "fuck off, we believed the vote was being rigged by some jerks who thought it was funny for a cat on a kiddies' programme to have a rude name and we took steps to correct that. Sue us. Go on, I dare you."
You could knock the BBC down with a feather right now, and I for one find that very sad.
On the other hand...
I did howl with laughter at this
, in which the Culture And Media Secretary was found to have been Photoshopped into a publicity picture from a visit to a hospital building project. I've been heartened this evening to see this story running prominently on News 24. Hah! Those who live by the sword...
I know I go on about this stuff, and you're very kind to have read this far (particularly since I didn't stick it behind a cut) but it's important to me. I'm a huge fan of the BBC and what it represents, and I don't think the phrase `witch hunt' I used earlier is too strong. Sometimes, when I see this kind of stuff in the press, I flash on an image of the villagers storming Victor Frankenstein's castle with blazing torches and various dangerous agricultural implements. There seems to be a concerted effort on the behalf of the Government and other arms of the Media to bring the BBC to its knees, and often the only reason I can detect for this is the BBC's supposed hubris, and I think that's just plain wrong. I said earlier that I thought there was a class element involved in all this, and I still think that, but I think an element has also crept in where other parts of the media (okay, the print media) are eager to get themselves the scalp of a major broadcasting organisation, at any cost, just for The Story and the warm glow and increased circulation it would bring.
The BBC isn't perfect, but no large organisation is, and I'm sick of seeing it having the legs cut out from beneath it by people who are by no means blameless themselves. I do wonder how many of the newspapers which have been reporting the BBC's latest Calvary with such glee would survive a similar scrutiny of their
competitions. Let alone their reporting methods.
The alternative is Fox News.
Time someone said `enough.'