I’ve been watching the scandal of Ross and Brand unfold over the week with a real sense of bemusement. Were the calls puerile and offensive? Yes. Should they have been broadcast? Probably not. I say this because its clear that someone at the BBC cleared these for broadcast – as to whether they should have is a whole different issue and we need to wait for the published outcome of the OFCOM enquiry to assess this. Was it right that this whole furore pushed the disastrous news from the Congo, the Indian bombings, the credit crunch and the interminable US elections from the headlines? No.
The wonderful Debi Alper has blogged about this and the bullying of women here . As some of you may know, I work on the business side of the boys clubs that are TV and radio (not on any of the shows presented by Brand and Ross). But, after much thought, I’m not sure that I agree with Debbie in this instance. Apart from the invasion of her privavy, I’m not sure just what Georgina Ballie’s hurt is in all of this – of course you don’t want your grandparents to know about your sex life and to find out about it in such a puerile and public way, but she seems to have confirmed that she had a relationship with Brand. I’ve listened to the calls and read the transcripts (the calls are still available on Youtube should you care). In the calls Brand confirms that they had sex and at one point comments it was ‘consensual lovely sex’. Neither he or Ross say anything about Ms Ballie’s character or morals, so I’m a bit unclear of what she was referring to in her statement on The Sun website when she stated, “Calling me that in public”. They didn’t even reference her membership of The Satanic Sluts. And, of course, she’s so upset about this invasion into her privacy that she has sold her story to The Sun, which I’m sure will include details of her sex life with Brand. In contract, her grandfather, unlike so many in this story, accepted the offered apologies and has now withdrawn from the public debate and is the only person or entity involved in this whole sorry tale who seems to have behaved with grace and dignity.
As for Brand and Ross. Brand has flown off the US to work on a couple of movies ad his career will continue. Ross has been suspended and will return to the BBC one way or another. The most high profile casualty is Lesley Douglas, the only female member of the Radio Management Committee, who has been forced to resign, but as she is a talented and capable executive, she will find another job with a commercial broadcaster and she should get severance package from the BBC.
Friday Night With Jonathan Ross has been cancelled until next year, Brand’s radio show has also been cancelled, while the status of Film 2008 is still unclear. All of this means that freelance members of the production teams and associated service companies will be laid off with little chance of securing other work at this time of year. Oh yes they will get some compensation from the BBC and the production company, which I believe is still being negotiated, but the chances are that it won’t be the equivalent of the salaries and fees they would have earned if the shows went ahead.
So as The Daily Mail, The Sun, which I would remind you is owned by Rupert Murdoch who also owns Sky, and Georgine Ballie crow their delight, spare a thought for the members of the production team, many of them women, who could be facing a bleak Christmas. Oh yes and please also consider whether or not you want The Daily Mail and the other tabloid newspapers to arbitrate just what we can or cannot hear and see on television and radio, as today’s it taste and decency, but tomorrow?