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Friday, October 31, 2008 

Analysing the ashes.

After four days of moral panic, the BBC's actions in suspending Ross, with the Radio 2 director resigning does seem to have managed to bring the curtain down for the time being on the Brand-Ross-Sachs affair. What then, if anything, have we learned or have those involved learned?

For Andrew Sachs himself, if he had any illusions about what his granddaughter does with her life, he can't have any now. As always happens to those who choose to sell their stories, the rivals have digged up the not quite frankly very difficult to find "dirt" on her. The Daily Sport splashed on the finding of a lesbian hardcore video in which Baillie has a leading role, the Daily Mirror discovered that she was operating as a £110 an hour dominatrix, and even the Daily Mail, which this morning declared that their witch-hunt had led to a "victory for decency", has decided that the young woman they were so avid in defending the dignity of earlier in the week has a "sordid secret life". The Sun meanwhile, having paid Ms Baillie a princely sum for her story, has what looks like an exclusive video featuring Baillie alongside her fellow "Satanic Sluts". For what Baillie decried as an invasion of the privacy of her grandfather and herself, she has been amply rewarded, seems destined to feature in the lads' mags and on reality TV, and is doubtless thrilled with what has occurred. While impossible to know for sure how much Sachs knew about what his granddaughter got up to, it's hard not to think that he might be somewhat more humiliated by what has followed than by the initial insult from a show that he apparently said could be broadcast as long as it was toned down slightly.

For Lesley Douglas, it seems hardly likely that she'll be out of work for long. Just read the Sun's editorial defence of her, and try to dispel the feeling that there will be shortly be an offer coming her way from News Corporation or BSkyB:

POPULAR Radio 2 boss Lesley Douglas is the first person at the BBC to emerge with any dignity from the Russell Brand-Jonathan Ross debacle. But her head should not have rolled.

It was down to the production staff who let the filth be broadcast to fall on their swords or for Mark Thompson to fire them.

Instead, a talented senior executive whose only fault was that it happened “on her watch” felt compelled to take the blame for the whole sorry bunch of them.

A brilliant 23-year career at the BBC was thus ended by the disgusting stupidity of two highly-paid stars, only one of whom also chose to do the decent thing.


But many will question whether he was right to accept Ms Douglas’ resignation.


One thing is certain. Ross owes Ms Douglas an enormous debt for deflecting rather greater flak.

Either that or she already has friends in high places in Wapping.

Ross himself meanwhile has stood down from the British Comedy Awards, perhaps more out of the fact that he would be the joke of the evening rather than out of respect for his hiatus from the BBC. Still, the reporters are outside his home, watching the preparations for a Halloween party. Perhaps Paul Dacre might go along as himself?

As for the "self-appointed, self-obsessed metropolitan narcissists who control so much of our public life", they still must be wondering where this will all end. When year old comedy shows are being dredged for offensive jokes, and not just by the Mail but the Guardian as well, then the possibility for the neutering of Auntie can't be that far away. The Mail has even more examples of "smutty and degrading obscenities" that have recently been broadcast. It apologises to those who might be offended, but quite clearly these things must be repeated, such is the way our tax money is being spent. That there is a Facebook group urging the reinstatement of Ross and Brand which already has 23,549 members, getting close to the total number of complaints made about the Brand show is neither here nor there.

Perhaps though for everybody else this week will show just where the real power really does lie in this land, and it certainly isn't with the politicians. They're just useful when there's a bandwagon already running. No, it's quite clear that for all the advancements of the last decade, even with the rise of blogging and diversification of the media, what really still has the most ability to shape our lives and decide what is and isn't obscene and also potentially what we can and can't watch is the tabloid media. That these people are quite possibly the most unaccountable but powerful individuals in the land has been shown in extraordinary detail. We can at least attempt to get politicians voted out at the next election, but there is no similar way of telling newspaper editors and proprietors with conflicting commercial interests and hypocrisy in spades to take a running jump. Dacre especially, but all the others also will be sitting there tonight absolutely delighted with what they've achieved, and who could blame them? They're meant to be getting weaker, their circulations inexorably dropping, the internet and with it the young and urban now in control, but they've emerged victorious. Who could possibly have known last Saturday evening that two not very funny comedians could have led to such a turn-around over just the course of a week?

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The Sport describes itself as a "family newspaper"...You've godda laff.

the Sun is also factually incorrect.

Radio 4 news last night reported that Douglas knew the contents of the show before it went on air. She's not taking one for the team - she knew and she let it go out. The source for the story ? Mark Thompson.

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