What would happen if you or I or telephoned an old man we did not know and left a message on his answering machine saying that one of us had ‘f—–ed’ his grand-daughter? What would happen if we then left three more messages, joking about her menstruation and imitating his voice as, in our imagination, he said he would kill himself because of the shame? What if our messages pointed out that most grandparents have pictures of their nine-year-old grandchildren by the telephone on a swing and then went on to say that one of us had ‘enjoyed’ his grand-daughter in that position? What would happen if we also shouted into the answering machine ‘I’ll kill you!’ and added that we would come round and ‘knock his door down and scream apologies into his bottom’? We should surely be arrested, possibly imprisoned. But then you and I are only normal citizens. The two men who actually did all of the above (and more, such as taunting him for being lonely) are Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross, who recorded their calls to the 78-year-old Andrew Sachs so that they could be broadcast on their show on Radio 2. Ross is paid £6 million a year and Brand is paid more than £200,000 by the BBC to do this sort of thing. They are powerful establishment figures. So even their critics are mostly a bit circumspect. Ross and Brand, say shadow spokesmen and chairmen of parliamentary committees, are talented, ‘edgy’, ‘pushing the boundaries’, though they may have gone too far this time. After holding off for nearly a fortnight, the BBC has finally suspended them. Wouldn’t it be better to call the police?
It is impossible to be ‘edgy’ if you are paid £6 million (or even £200,000) out of compulsory television licence-fee money and are backed by the biggest broadcasting organisation in the world.