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we iz in ur teevees, defrawdin ur childrin - The Villages

Date: 2007-09-28 21:44
Subject: we iz in ur teevees, defrawdin ur childrin
Security: Public
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 did next...

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.'
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2007-09-29 04:21 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It wouldn't have mattered how the BBC would have handled any of it, they would have been criticized. It is what "we" do now.

I had a teacher in high school who used an expression when a kid messed up and then others started teasing him/her. Mr. Murphy would just say "Quick! Kick him. He's down." That's what it feels like -- snotty adolesents deflecting their own foibles by acting like petty vultures. Difference is between now and then is that Mr. Murphy's gentle sarcasm served as a reminder to the teasers to back off; now, it would be considered an instruction.

What, btw, is a "Shadow Culture Secretary?" (It sounds filthy.)

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User: hutch0
Date: 2007-09-29 23:00 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
There was a time when this kind of stuff would just bounce off the BBC. And I'd be one of the first to admit that one of the Beeb's faults for ever such a long time was that it behaved as though it was invulnerable. But no longer.
ITV and Channel 4 have also copped whacking great fines for faking competition phone-ins, and there's been none of this breast-beating, hair-tearing sackcloth-and-ashes stuff that we've had from the BBC. They've held up their hands, ponied up the money, and moved on. With the BBC, it seems that the whole experience has caused some kind of institutional nervous breakdown so that the slightest error is met with great extravangant mea culpas.
I think you're right about it not mattering a great deal how they handled it; they were going to get schmeissed whatever they did. Of course, they have a lot more to lose than ITV and Channel 4, being funded by the licence fee (the price of which is set by the Government) so they have to tread very carefully. I just hate this utterly over-the-top reaction, though. Yes, we want out broadcasters to be honest, but this belittles and demeans an organisation which has done enormously important work in the past and still has important work to do. *shakes head sadly*

The main opposition party (the Tories, right now) has a Shadow Cabinet, with a Shadow Chancellor, Shadow Home Secretary, and so on. I'm not entirely clear as to the purpose of this, apart from `shadowing' the person in power and bitch-slapping them when they mess up, and putting forward the Tories' policies on each area. I think (and I apologise to Brisingamen if I'm wrong because I know she looks in occasionally) the Lib-Dems have `spokesmen' rather than shadows.
It does sound rather sinister, though, doesn't it? `Who knows what evil lurks in men's hearts? The Shadow Culture Secretary knows...'
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
User: hutch0
Date: 2007-09-29 23:08 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It's a scary old world out there these days, and no mistake. The internet, for all its wondrousness, is not all lolcats. We've seen that not so long ago here on LJ, and it's going to happen again and again and again elsewhere. I'd like to be generous and say that it's still early days for Web 2.0 and all this stuff will settle down eventually, but when you see the fuss one bunch of maniacs with a website and an agenda can cause, you do have to wonder.
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