I hate censors. Especially the self-appointed rag-bag of philistine dim-wits who constantly picket the broadcasting authorities, complaining about stuff they’d be better off not watching. My message to them is “Switch off!”
In a civilised society that would be the end of it, but these people are working on an agenda and they are backed by sections of the media who would love to see the BBC toppled. Although the talents of these complainers are distinctly limited, and their collective artistry woeful, they set themselves up as judges and arbiters of what the rest of us can see and hear. These morons would feel no embarrassment in asking Michaelangelo to cover up David’s genitals, Botticelli to banish his bottoms or Chaucer to omit the sauciness from the Canterbury Tales.
The lead letter in our “local” newspaper, the scarily-rightwing News Shopper (you can certainly shop around and get better local news), is a rant from one Miranda Suit (“Address supplied”) headlined “Take bad language off our TV screens”. It speaks of the “controversy surrounding the obscene telephone messages made to Andrew Sachs by Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross” and goes on to urge that we sign a petition to the Prime Minister, “an opportunity for everyone to make a real difference and benefit society.”
This same Miranda Suit turns out to be a leading light in Media March, a Christian protest group with links to mediawatch-uk, the successor to Mary Whitehouse’s Viewers & Listeners’ Association. In 2004 Ms Suit was quoted on the BBC website as saying: “We do need swear words, they are a useful expression of anger, but they need to be used sparingly. The only real swear word there is now is the c-word, and we don’t want that to become normalised. If people have no swear words left, who knows – they might not be able to express their anger and might end up hitting someone.”
She seems to have changed her views since then. Perhaps God told her she was being too liberal; who knows. The Media March website features a letter currently being sent by supporters to the BBC Chairman, which includes the chilling line: “However, while there is much to be justly proud of, the BBC is still not listening to me in a number of important areas.”
I’ve got news for you, Miranda… they’re not listening to me, either.
The letter goes on: “I strongly object to my licence fee being used to fund the following” and lists many of the usual suspects, including “vulgar ‘celebrity’ presenters, obsessed with sex, bad language and insulting behaviour, who are paid millions of pounds in salaries” and “Sleazy, violent soap storylines”, plus:
- Expansion of digital channels and services
- Programmes that can be downloaded from the internet by non-licence fee payers for free
- Continued depictions of violence, sex, bad language, drug taking, etc. which can in no way be described as appropriate for a public service broadcaster
If put into practice, this last objection would mean an end to dramas such as Casualty, which is fuelled by violence and drug-taking. Is Ms Suit and her followers suggesting that violence, bad language and drug taking are not features of life in Britain today? If that’s the case, she should go out more.
The main worry here is that the BBC is on the defensive. Its capitulation in the face of a few thousand people who protested at the Brand/ Ross affair was pathetic. Claims that 40,000 protested is rubbish: this includes thousands and thousands of people like me who voiced support for Brand and Ross and whose contribution was treated as if we had been on the reverse of the argument. Even if you count the entire 40,000 as being against the foul-mouthed duo, it’s not even 0.07% of the UK population of 60,943,912.
And yet things have changed. Even minor swearwords are banned on the BBC and anything regarded as vaguely offensive is now strictlyÂ verboeten. Although I don’t advocate the use of the “C” and “F” words on CBBC, there is such a thing as a 9pm watershed and after that it should be purely a matter of artistic control.
I do not have huge confidence that BBC Director General Mark Thompson is the man suited to be the final arbiter in such matters. He was educated by Jesuits and, according to Wikipedia, worships at a Catholic church near Oxford, which hardly makes him impartial deciding events that may send his soul to eternal damnation! Plus, his background in TV is purely factual – Watchdog, Breakfast Time, Panorama, Newsnight – and so he may not always be on the side of art… especially with Old Nick prodding him in the arse with a toasting fork.
Why can’t dominating idiots like Miranda Suit stick to watching the Disney Channel and leave the rest of us to watch what we want– be it Storyville on BBC 4 or Celebrity Arse-Wiggling on Bravo? I may not personally choose to watch Celebrity Arse-Wiggling on Bravo but I’ll defend your right to watch it – provided it’s on after the watershed, of course.