Melon Farmers Unrated

Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross

Winding up Andrew Sachs and Voluptua

10th January

TV Fit for Teletubbies...

PC-mad BBC where even church bells and Teletubbies are vetted

BBC staff say they have been forced to spend hours vetting preschool children's series and classical music concerts for sex, violence and inappropriate language under idiotic compliance rules introduced after the Jonathan Ross scandal.

taff have told The Sunday Telegraph that his legacy is a burdensome bureaucracy which stifles creativity while being unlikely to prevent further incidents.

Under the enhanced compliance procedures, which apply to most pre-recorded programmes, every second of material to be broadcast must be watched or listened to check for unacceptable content, and a seven-page form must be filled out.

Among the programmes subjected to the new procedures are parts of the BBC's Armistice Day coverage. All episodes of the Teletubbies must be vetted, despite the show being aimed at under-threes and containing few or no normal words. Also being vetted are many Radio 3 concerts of works written after 1900.

...Read full article


21st November

 Offsite: One Year On...

Is censorship taking over the BBC?

See article from


15th November

Update: Rhubarb and Guff...

Russell Brand unrepentant about Sachs gag

Comic Russell Brand said he would never tone down his comedy routine and was not afraid of censure. As hundreds of fans flocked to a DVD signing session in London yesterday, Brand leapt to the defence of fellow stand-ups Jimmy Carr and Frankie Boyle, who were criticised recently for offensive routines.

Frankie Boyle is brilliant and Jimmy Carr is brilliant, he said. They're not trying to be offensive, no-one is actually offended, the people saying they're offended aren't actually offended, the whole thing is constructed.

He added: If you hear it (the joke] delivered cold, like vomit into the nape of your neck, it might be offensive, but mucking around I don't think is offensive.

Last year, Brand resigned from his job at BBC Radio 2 after a scandal surrounding a series of lewd messages he left on actor Andrew Sachs' answer phone. But he insists Manuel-gate , as Brand prefers to call it, was just rhubarb and guff and he would do the same again.

I would've done nothing differently. I apologise for the thing I did wrong to the person I did it to, but the whole subsequent scandal was funny. It's just rhubarb and guff.

And he vowed never to tone down his own material for fear of further censure: I will not lose my edge.


7th November

Update: Beeb Goes Bland...

Channel 4 is the sole guardian of nonconformism and provocation

Channel 4 logoFear of causing offence has left TV in danger of becoming too bland, Channel 4's programme chief has said.

Julian Bellamy told the Royal Television Society that recent scandals were preventing broadcasters from taking creative risks.

He said the BBC appeared to avoid controversial ideas like the plague in the wake of last year's Radio 2 prank calls row: After a string of scandals about taste and decency, it seems to avoid disruptive, potentially controversial ideas like the plague. Time and again, producers tell me this and I believe it.

Bellamy said the industry's compliance spiral threatened to bland out the medium to no-one's benefit . But he said Channel 4 would continue to take creative risks even when public sentiment risks being offended . He described it as the sole guardian of nonconformism and provocation on Britain's most powerful cultural medium . I genuinely believe if Channel 4 retreats into conservatism we will cease to be a meaningful cultural force .


25th June

Update: BBC in an Era of Easy Offence...

BBC recommendations in response to Russell Brand Show

The BBC Trust ordered a review of acceptable standards following the row over obscene phone messages left for the actor Andrew Sachs by Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand.

The report - written by BBC creative director Alan Yentob and director of archive content Roly Keating - calls for clear guidelines on intrusion, intimidation and humiliation to to ensure that everyone involved in programme making understands that such behaviours are unacceptable.

Of 2,206 adults aged over 16 were questioned for an Ipsos Mori survey.

The main findings were:

  1. Where audiences are concerned about the area of taste and morality on television as a whole, this is often connected with broader concerns about falling standards in terms of quality and the over-reliance on reality formats.
  2. Standards of morality, values and behaviour in the media in particular are not a top-of-mind issue for the majority of the public.
  3. The BBC overall performs well in the audience's perceptions of standards of morality, values and behaviour, compared to other channels and broadcasters. The audience also has higher expectations of the BBC.
  4. In general terms, the public do not want increased censorship or regulation. The majority value the creativity of the BBC and accept that it may sometimes lead to offending some people.
  5. When prompted, a significant proportion of the audience have various concerns about standards of morality, values and behaviour in the media as a whole, including newspapers, magazines, broadcasting and online content.
  6. Strong language is an area of concern for some audiences; they recognise when language is used for clear purpose or effect within a programme - including comedy and entertainment - but dislike 'unnecessary' or excessive use.
  7. In certain genres, the offensive potential of strong language can be compounded when it is combined with apparently aggressive or bullying behaviour. This reflects broader public concerns about aggression and bullying within society as a whole.
  8. There is little public consensus or agreement about what constitutes offence: it means very different things to different sections of the audience.
  9. The context in which potentially offensive content is placed is of paramount importance to audiences, as are judgements of quality. Both can make the difference between whether something is acceptable to audiences or not.
  10. Tone and intent can also make strong material acceptable: the 'twinkle in the eye' of a performer and their skill in delivery can make the decisive difference, even with potentially offensive material.
  11. Age and socio-economic group go some way to describing who in the audience is more likely to have concerns, but they do not tell the full story.
  12. Younger audiences (11-15 year-olds) are uniquely self-selecting in their choice of media content, through the web and magazines as well as broadcast material. Though strongly drawn to more sexual content, some express unease about the sexualised nature of the media world in which they live and the pressure to 'grow up fast.'
  13. Sexual content on television and radio was a matter of relatively low concern for audiences. There was an expectation that the television watershed should be respected, and content on radio appropriately scheduled. There is no appetite for a watershed in radio.
  14. Some respondents commented that the transfer of some successful series from BBC Two may bring a somewhat ‘edgier' tone to BBC One.
  15. Respondents expressed few concerns about standards on BBC Radio. However, of all the BBC's services, Radio 1 has the most divided response in terms of morality, values and behaviour.
  16. Audiences are conscious of the challenges presented by the growth of online and on-demand content, but there is little awareness of the BBC's 'G for Guidance' systems, or understanding that iPlayer has a parent password protection scheme which prevents children accessing adult content.


  1. Audiences accept potentially offensive content but believe it should be there for a purpose. They have a sophisticated sense of different programme genres, from serious documentary to reality and entertainment. Producers should ensure that any potentially offensive material has a clear editorial purpose and ask themselves is it necessary? Does it enhance the quality of the experience for audiences?
  2. Viewers understand and value the television watershed. The BBC must respect and maintain its significance as a crucial contribution to audience confidence in television standards. There is no audience demand for a radio watershed.
  3. Of all BBC services, BBC One is the most sensitive, because of its ability to unite generations and families in shared viewing. The bar for the strongest language between 9pm and 10pm must therefore remain significantly higher than on other BBC television channels.
  4. On all channels, producers, presenters, commissioners and controllers have a shared responsibility to ensure that the force and value of the strongest words is not weakened by over-use. The mandatory referral of the most offensive language to Channel Controllers reflects this and must be maintained.
  5. Mischievous banter, practical jokes and formats, which include elements of confrontation and criticism, can all be legitimate, indeed the public tell us that they can add greatly to their enjoyment; but programme makers, on-air artists and presenters must ensure that they never tip over into malice, humiliation or harm.
  6. Audiences admire performers who take risks but have the expertise to know when to draw a line. To support such talent, producers and controllers must always be candid and open with them about judgements of tone and content, and be prepared where appropriate to take and enforce tough decisions.
  7. Risk-taking is as vital a part of the BBC's mission in comedy, drama and entertainment as it is in other genres. As with all programme making, the greater the risk, the greater the thought, care and pre-planning needed to bring something groundbreaking to air.


  1. New series on television and radio For new series where questions of taste and standards are likely to arise, there must be a discussion with the commissioning executive early in the production cycle to agree appropriate parameters of tone and content, to ensure that all involved, including presenters and performers, have given thought to questions of channel, context and slot. Even when a returning series has established expectations of strong language and content, there should be a similar discussion before the start of each run.
  2. Greater care over cross-channel transfers When a TV series moves to a more mainstream channel - especially to BBC One - producers and controllers should be sensitive to its new context, and give careful consideration to adaptations of tone or format if necessary.
  3. Clearer policy on bleeping of strong language A clearer policy should be set for the use of bleeping in TV and radio programmes. In general, where strong language is integral to the meaning or content of a programme, and other questions of slot, context channel etc have been resolved, it should not be disguised. But when in other circumstances a sequence that is editorially necessary happens to contain the strongest language, it may be right to bleep or disguise the words, even after the watershed.
  4. New guidance on malicious intrusion, intimidation and humiliation BBC programmes must never condone malicious intrusion, intimidation and humiliation. While they are all aspects of human behaviour which may need to be depicted, described or discussed across the BBC's factual and non-factual output, they must never be celebrated for the purposes of entertainment. New guidance is needed to ensure that everyone involved in programme making for the BBC understands that malicious intrusion, intimidation and humiliation are unacceptable.
  5. Clearer audience information and warnings The BBC should always recognise that some sections of its audiences are more readily offended than others. We owe the public the information they need to make informed choices about viewing and listening and to avoid material they may regard as unsuitable for themselves or their families. Each channel must make even greater efforts to ensure that appropriate content information (eg. billings and presentation announcements) is provided which enables informed judgements to be made by all audiences, both pre- and post-watershed, about programme content.
  6. Music radio Music radio thrives on strong personalities, and young audiences value BBC Radio 1 highly; but editorial teams must be reminded that particular care needs to be taken at times of day, such as school runs, when different generations may be listening together.
  7. Major awareness campaign about online guidance The BBC has pioneered content guidance and child protection mechanisms provided by the iPlayer. Audiences are concerned about the internet as a space of unregulated content and are insufficiently aware of the protection available for BBC content. A major campaign of public information is needed as soon as possible to raise awareness of the content guidance and offer reassurance to audiences. The BBC should also work to ensure that the next generation of Freeview and FreeSat PVRs have PIN protection functionality.
  8. More regular audience research In-depth audience research, along the lines of the findings in this paper, should be conducted more often to ensure that the BBC maintains a full and detailed understanding of audience attitudes to taste and standards. To keep up with changes in audience taste, research should be commissioned every two to three years. Careful attention should be given to key tracking questions that will enable the BBC to identify changes in audience and societal attitudes.
  9. Revision of Editorial Guidelines and Guidance The BBC's Editorial Policy department should use the research, general principles and recommendations in this report to inform the current general revision of the BBC's Editorial Guidelines and, in particular, to clarify audience expectations of tone and context. In addition, new Guidance will be required to keep programme and content makers up-todate with audience expectations of BBC content.
  10. Increased commitment to training The research findings offer new opportunities to illuminate the understanding of taste and standards for programme makers across the BBC. The findings should be briefed to leadership groups in all content divisions by the Director and Chief Adviser, Editorial Policy. The Colleges of Production and Journalism should develop new training material that explores audience attitudes specific to each of the key genres, which will be rolled out to programme makers both in-house and independent. The audience research and the conclusions of this report should also be made available through normal Editorial Policy channels to all programme makers. The findings of this study and the materials used in it should inform online courses, which will be used to maintain editorial policy standards.


6th April

 Offsite: Brand Premium...

Call for Ross and Brand to top up expense account funds rather than TV license payers

See article from


22nd November

Update: A Deplorable Intrusion...

BBC Trust have their say about the Russell Brand Show

Calls made by the BBC presenters Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand to the actor Andrew Sachs were a deplorable intrusion with no editorial justification , the BBC Trust ruled yesterday.

Ross will keep his job and escape further punishment over the affair after the trust chairman, Sir Michael Lyons, said he supported the presenter's 12-week suspension. Ross will therefore return to the BBC in January, when his suspension is complete.

Details also emerged yesterday of the approval granted to the contentious recording by the Radio 2 controller Lesley Douglas, who resigned from her £280,000 position over the affair.

Ms Douglas who sent a one-word email from her BlackBerry, Yes, in answer to a question about whether the show should be broadcast, did so despite not having heard it. She did so on the recommendation by email of Dave Barber, Radio 2's head of compliance, who described it as very funny.

In its report, the trust criticised a further incident, when Ross, on his Friday night BBC1 show, told the actress Gwyneth Paltrow he would fuck her. The trust called the remark gratuitous and unnecessarily offensive .

Radio 2 broadcast an apology for the 18 October broadcast on 9 November. But a previous apology on Radio 2 by Brand, on 25 October, was condemned by the BBC trustee Richard Tait as unacceptable and exacerbated the intrusion into privacy and the offence . Tait noted three failures – failure to exercise editorial control, to follow established compliance systems, and failure of judgement in editorial decisions. He added that the trust was nevertheless satisfied with the BBC's response to the controversy.

This is the transcript of the pivotal email exchange between Dave Barber, the head of compliance at Radio 2, and Lesley Douglas, the Radio 2 controller, about Brand's programme on 18 October.

On 16 October, Barber wrote to Douglas:

Russell is pre-recorded this week with Jonathan Ross as his co-host. Jonathan uses the F-word 52mins into the first hour in a sequence about Russell 'fucking' Andrew Sachs's granddaughter. They are speaking into Andrew Sachs's answer machine at the time, and it's very funny – there then follow more calls to the answer phone in the second hour, again v funny. Having discussed it with the producer and listened to the sequence, I think we should keep in and put a 'strong language' warning at the top of the hour. I think it is editorially justified in this context and certainly within audience expectations for Russell's show and the slot. Certainly preferable to bleeping, which would make it obvious anyway (and we don't bleep now for this reason). Jonathan also apologises and Russell's shocked reaction is hilarious. Andrew Sachs is aware and is happy with the results, which were recorded his end for him to hear. Are you happy with this as a plan of action?

On 17 October Douglas responded to Barber: Yes.


21st November

Update: Show Over...

BBC to draw a line under the Russell Brand Show fallout

Jonathan Ross is expected to escape further sanction over the obscene calls scandal.

The BBC is thought to have concluded his three-month suspension was sufficient punishment for a broadcast that sparked 42,000 complaints.

It means that in January Ross will be able to return to fronting all his shows for the corporation.

David Davies, Tory MP for Monmouthshire, said: The BBC is pathetic for not sacking Jonathan Ross. It is a slap in the face to the licence payers to let him stay on.

John Beyer, of the pressure group Mediawatch UK, said: It is difficult to see how this decision can be justified when there seems to be so much public disquiet about employing him at all. He has already had one chance too many. If this is the case they [the BBC] will end up looking like they have not been tough enough.

It is expected that the BBC Trust and managers will issue a rebuke to Ross and Brand today while ruling out further punishment.

A senior BBC source said yesterday: It would be a huge surprise if there was any further sanctions for Jonathan Ross. Much of the drama has already been played out, he is suspended, two senior figures in BBC radio have resigned and acknowledgements have been made about tightening up compliance procedure.

It is believed that an internal inquiry will condemn poor editorial practices on BBC music radio stations. Insiders say the report will claim some controllers have been too weak in policing presenters. Sources are suggesting that the new rules will mean every radio programme, even concerts, will have to be vetted by a senior executive.


19th November

Update: Branded as Slow...

Parliamentary committee questions BBC over Russell Brand Show

BBC bosses have been questioned by MPs over the crude phone calls made by Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross to actor Andrew Sachs.

BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons denied the corporation had been slow in its response to the incident, but admitted lessons could be learned.

The BBC's director general, Mark Thompson, admitted a very serious editorial lapse had occurred.

The pair were speaking at a Culture, Media and Sport Committee hearing.

Conservative MP Nigel Evans criticised the BBC's lamentable slowness in handling the crisis, but Sir Michael replied: There was no lack of speed. I don't think we could've got an apology out any earlier . He added there was a case that the BBC's head of audio, Tim Davie, should have been on the airwaves to make a public statement a little earlier.

MPs also criticised Lyons and Thompson for failing to fire Ross and Brand for gross misconduct.

The primary failing is not the antics of performers, it's the fact it was allowed to go out, Lyons replied: Until we have finished our investigations, I would be careful about terms like gross misconduct which have contractual implication .

He added one of the things the trust was exploring was whether it is right to leave a young producer implanted in a company that is owned by one of the performers, a reference to the BBC producer who was drafted in to work for Brand's production company while the star's regular producer was away.

Thompson added that the corporation would be looking at whether additional safeguards were needed to ensure compliance procedures were being fulfilled in programmes made by independent production companies where the artist has an economic involvement.

Lyons told MPs the trust had not finished its inquiry and that all decisions would follow from that, with nothing being ruled in or out.

Thompson is due to report back to the trust later this week on BBC management's findings over the furore. The trust will announce the results of their investigation on Friday, 21 November.


8th November

Update: More Sachs Sacks...

BBC rolling heads and apologies over the Russell Brand Show

A second BBC Radio 2 executive has resigned over the Sachsgate affair as the corporation prepares to broadcast two apologies.

The resignation of Dave Barber, the station's head of specialist music and compliance, has been confirmed in an internal email from the channel's acting controller Lewis Carnie.

The apologies will be directed to Andrews Sachs along with his granddaughter and the licence fee-payers

The first apology will air just after 10am tomorrow when Jonathan Ross, currently suspended without pay, would normally be broadcasting his radio show on BBC Radio 2.

This will be repeated just after 9pm, when Russell Brand used to be on air with his Saturday night show on the same station.

The BBC will say that the phone call to Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs's answering machine should never have been recorded or broadcast. It will apologise unreservedly to Mr Sachs, Miss Baillie and to our audiences as licence fee payers in the broadcasts.


6th November

Update: Cleaning up on Hypocrisy...

Daily Express editorialises for a TV clean up...

The Guardian's Media Monkey column points out a debate in the Daily Express.

After the Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross fiasco, the opinion page asks: Is It Time We Cleaned Up Television?

Yes, according to chief political commentator Patrick O'Flynn. No, according to TV critic Charlie Catchpole.

But no matter, Express owner Richard Desmond has already made up his own mind. Turn to the TV listings on page 50 and we find listings for TelevisionX, owned by one R Desmond.

Plenty to clean up there, Daily Express!


5th November

Update: Burned at the Stake...

Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross feature on bonfire night...

A fortnight of debate about Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross' phone incident will come to a head this weekend when a 27ft effigy of the pair is burned in a public display.

The town of Edenbridge in Kent is due to unveil this year's 'celebrity Guy' for its annual bonfire night fireworks display on 5 November.

Each year, the town chooses a newsworthy figure to immortalise in the form of a Guy. This year, the figure will be half Brand, half Ross.

The effigy will be unveiled to the press at 9am and burned during the town's Bonfire night celebrations on Saturday.

Meanwhile complaints about the Ross/Brand prank call have continued to roll into the BBC over the last few days, with the figure reaching 42,000.


31st October

Update: I've Also Fucked Your Auntie...

Heads roll at the BBC over Russell Brand prank...

The BBC has ordered a fundamental review of taste and decency standards across the network in an attempt to end the row about the prank phone calls that has engulfed the corporation.

The controller of Radio 2, Lesley Douglas, one of the most influential figures in the radio and music industries, was forced to resign, while Jonathan Ross, the highest-paid man in British broadcasting, has been suspended for 12 weeks without pay. His Radio 2 presenting colleague Russell Brand resigned on Wednesday.

The BBC Trust ordered an on-air apology to licence fee-payers for serious and deliberate breaches of editorial guidelines, and asked the director general, Mark Thompson, to write a personal apology for the scandal. He declined to comment on the future of more junior staff involved but promised to conduct a review of broadcasting guidelines.

Last night's edition of Never Mind the Buzzcocks was also cancelled as it featured Brand – a subsequent version of the show was broadcast in its place. The BBC said it had no plans to show the program at a later date.

The BBC announced a raft of measures it was taking to prevent something similar happening again, including a review of compliance procedures across radio output, and a study into where the appropriate boundaries of taste and standards should lie across all BBC output. Sessions will be held with senior staff on the lessons to be learnt. The director of BBC audio and music will also ensure that all programmes are re-assessed for editorial risk and those with high risk will have additional... oversight.


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