Monday, January 22, 2007

Celebrity Big Brother - "unpleasant middle class intellectual snobbery"?

It is fair comment to call some of the attacks on Jade Goody "unpleasant middle class intellectual snobbery", as Ed Maxfield did.

I think the basis of the row is a little more hum-drum than that. "Celebrity Big Brother" became unbalanced or dysfunctional for a week. Channel 4 could have stepped in much earlier to correct the problem. In the end, after a couple of days, they seem to give Jade a talking-to via "Big Brother". They could have done so much earlier, or introduced a guest to support Shilpa Shetty. ...Or loads of other alternatives.

Instead we had Andy Duncan, the channel's Chief Executive and a man more used to marketing margarine than managing a broadcaster, fumbling his response, saying there was no racism involved. Channel Four's chairman. Luke Johnson, didn't even respond when invited to on 'Today'.

40,000 compliants to Ofom is an extraordinary amount. The previous record was five times less and that was caused by a more-or-less organised response to "Jerry Springer - The Opera".

But it is Trevor Phillips, Chairman of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights who has reinforced the seriousness of Channel 4's mistake. Trevor has established an excellent reputation as someone who does not over-react to these sorts of things. He has said:

There is no question that if the Channel 4 board does not say that Johnson was wrong not to talk about it last week, that his executives were wrong to say that there was no racism involved ... if the board does not take that stand then I think Tessa Jowell has to step in and ask if this is a board that is capable of holding a public asset in trust for us. I think it is that serious.

So, this is not something which can be dismissed as "done to death". It cannot be dismissed as "class snobbery". A public broadcaster has made a serious error with extremely offensive results.


  1. 'I think the basis of the row is a little more hum-drum than that. "Celebrity Big Brother" became unbalanced or dysfunctional for a week. Channel 4 could have stepped in much earlier to correct the problem.'

    I fully agree.

    As I said in
    Channel 4 doesn't make it's own programmes, it is a publisher-broadcaster commissioning them from independent producers... ...Ch4 is now as much driven by the ratings war as anybody else, with hours of lowest common denominator TV. The days of the small inventive production companies are long gone, swallowed into a handful of production conglomerates such as Endemol, Mentorn and Ten Alps.
    The fortunes of Ch4 are inextricably tied to the success of these companies...
    And the big money spinner is Endemol - home of Big Brother and Deal or No Deal...
    ...This is all so painfully incestuous there can be no choice but to fully investigate Channel 4. Of course the problem with that is that the only conclusion that can be reached is the Ch4 has moved so far away from it's public broadcaster remit that it has to be consigned to becoming just another ITV, with all that means.

  2. Suggesting that criticism of Ms Goody & Co is 'middle class snobbery' is quite insulting to the many working class people who understand basic good manners.

  3. Duncan and Neil - thank you very much for your comments. It is nice to know I am not out on a limb here!

  4. I'll joing the Lib Dem "love-in" here, by agreeing with you all.

  5. Re Neil's comment, I'm not condoning whatever Jade Goody did or said or criticising the many people who were obviously upset by it - I cant comment on that coz I have never watched the programme. It's important to be clear that I was criticising the media reaction to Goody's behaviour, which I did read and which in places was based more on class snobbery than on anti-racism.

    There's an argument to be had about whether the middle classes have any right to act as moral arbiter of the content of our TV channels but probably not right now coz it will only upset Duncan ;-)