In case you have been on holiday over the last few days (like BBC chief Mark Thomspon) you might have missed the incredible media storm over a phone call Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross made to Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs.
It actually went out on Brand’s Radio 2 show on Saturday 18th October (after being pre-recorded on Thursday 16th), but after the Mail on Sunday put the story on their front page all hell has broken loose with both of them getting suspended with even the Prime Minister condemning them (!).
The BBC aren’t rebroadcasting it, so if you missed it then here it is in 2 parts:
Here is their ‘viddycast’ after the show in which the commented on the call:
Although the whole thing has got out of hand, the main reason it spiralled out of control is the combination of the BBC not responding soon enough, shock amongst an older generation of licence fee payers that this kind of comedy goes on (even though it originally went out at after 10pm on a Saturday night) and a media feeding frenzy because this story has so many juicy elements that editors and hacks love (celebrity, outrage, the licence fee and even a classic TV show to boot).
Whatever you think about the original calls and reaction to them, one has to wonder why the BBC were so slow to react to a story like this.
Last night on Newsnight (the flagship current affairs show on BBC2) host Gavin Esler was in the surreal position of having a debate without a senior BBC figure. (David Elstein and comedian Nick Doody were left to discuss it – the segment appears at 26 mins into the programme, which you can watch on iPlayer)
After the trauma of the Hutton Report, the Blue Peter cat fiasco, Crowngate, not to mention the amount of time and money spent on retraining BBC journalists and producers about guidelines, you do have to ask how this pre-recorded show went out and why BBC management collectively passed the buck for 2 days whilst the story exploded in their face.
UPDATE 29/10/08: Russell Brand has now resigned and issued a statement.
> Download an MP3 of the call
> Find out more about Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross at Wikipedia
> BBC News report on the story and also have a timeline of events
> Maggie Brown of The Guardian on the affair