NOW Brand and Ross have f*&$ed up my vow not to rant about newspaper editorial...
So I vowed that when I got back to the UK I wouldn't expend energy on blogging about the editorial side of the media, just the technical side of things. It has taken about two days for me to tear up that pledge because I've got so aggravated about the Brand / Ross / Sachs sex scandal.
As far as I can tell from the reports in the press, between the programme being broadcast and the story appearing on the front page of a Sunday newspaper, a week had elapsed and there had been two complaints - neither of which were about the prank phone calls. Fast forward to when the story had been in all the papers, and over 10,000 complaints have rolled in. Almost certainly 99.99% of those from people who did not hear the programme.
I'm not a fan of Russell Brand. When I lived in Salzburg I dabbled with the podcast of his show because of the hype surrounding it, and found it pretty dull. And I don't think the ansaphone "joke" is that funny. But the press have been describing the furore as 'unprecedented', although they obviously have a short collective memory as the number of complaints so far is still insignificant compared to the campaign waged against "Jerry Springer: The Opera".
What struck me was that I was flicking through Quentin Letts' "50 people who buggered up Britain" book in Waterstones today, and saw that one of his nominees was 'Webnonymous'. Letts complains about the poison of anonymous sniping on websites that has infected society. He writes that as a named columnist he was used to getting the occasional bit of hate mail, but at least in the old days you felt that the person had taken the trouble to pay for a stamp and walk to a post box. He compares the situation now, when it seems that people in Britain are quietly seething with impotent rage and pouring out anonymous invective from their keyboards.
An army of people who this week are specifically seething that overpaid Jonathan Ross dared to swear at that nice actor from Fawlty Towers, but meanwhile don't seem bothered that The Sun took it as an opportunity to print topless photos of the lady whose honour Ross and Brand so beastfully besmirched.
If the taunting of Sachs about his grand-daughter had occurred in a column written by Brand in a newspaper, then my understanding of the PCC code of conduct would be that only Sachs or Georgina Baillie themselves would have been able to make a complaint because it personally affected them. Everyone else would get a polite letter saying, sorry, your complaint isn't the type we adjudicate on. Well, that's what I've always received from the PCC anyway.
By contrast, in the case of the ASA and adverts, they can get pulled with a much lower level of complaints - sometimes it seems just 20 or so complainants out of a population of 60+ million is enough to see an advert withdrawn, and 200+ complaints is a record.
Still, Ofcom are now involved. Given the scale of the Brand / Ross complaints, it seems almost certain that they will levy a fine on the BBC again, just as they did with Blue Peter and "the cat flap". So essentially, a group of Licence Fee payers have been whipped up into a frenzy about a programme they didn't hear, and the end result is that some of their own money will go straight to the coffers of the Government.
Which, if it deprives the BBC of revenue, I think most of them will be pleased about.
It might be rather nicer and more appropriate if the fine didn't go straight into the treasury though, but instead was chipped directly off everybody's Licence Fee for next year, eh?