Jubilee backlash is a reflection of our soundbite society.
I was more than amused when my friend Nigel retold the story of his BBC Jubilee experience at our local street party. But like him, I had no idea of the madness that was to ensue. An actor who largely performs experimental theatre, his Jubilee job involved him dressing up as the Queen and knighting children in Battersea Park, for “not beating up my brother” and the like. He’s a six-foot, bearded Welshman. It sounded funny.
When he was initially approached by the BBC to ‘knight a presenter’ during the river pageant, he turned it down, fearing it might be taken out of context, but then thought, sod it, what can go wrong? Well, rather a lot, it would seem.
The now famous ‘Tess Daly and the transvestite’ moment has been hailed as an example of how the BBC has sunk to a new low, its Jubilee coverage symptomatic of ‘celebrity-driven drivel’. Meanwhile, Nigel, as he writes in his blog on HERE this week, finds himself “the transvestite poster boy for the dumbing down of the BBC. Which is an unexpected career strand.”
His blog neatly sums up how a bit of fun spiralled out of control to become emblematic of a corporation in crisis – something, it’s reported, the new DG now needs to address. It sounds insane – and it is.
A media and Twitter-generated scandal that reflects the tendency we now have of taking a soundbite or a 15-second segment of a five-hour spectacle and basing our entire view of an individual, an event or organisation on mere moments.
It also sums up how the Twittersphere encourages people to leap on the bandwagon, often with neither the facts nor the context at their fingertips. And once the storm takes hold in the online world, it’s eagerly whipped up again by mainstream media.
Victoria Coren’s comments on HIGNFY were vitriolic, with the suggestion that the BBC, indeed all broadcasters, treat the viewing public as though they are “morons”. QI, she suggests, is one of the exceptions: “The last programme where they imagine the viewer might be able to spell.”
Leaving aside whether a bid to capture the celebratory atmosphere up and down the country is ‘moronic’, it would be easy to list hundreds of programmes, across channels, that are easily as cerebral as QI.
That’s not to say that the BBC got it right – attested by the flood of complaints from the public. They are right that history, context and grandeur was missing, and had BBC News been more closely involved, the facts and journalistic rigour people were crying out for would have been in abundance.
It’s also true that the lack of a heavyweight anchor let the BBC down. But all those crying out for a David Dimbleby figure should remember the flurry of complaints the Golden Jubilee attracted – some claiming Dimbleby was disrespectful, others that the veteran broadcaster began to flag after four days of saturation coverage. As the BBC well knows, you just can’t win.
Lisa Campbell is editor of Broadcast