A harsh lesson 

30 October 2008 tbs.pm/965

Brand quits BBC over prank calls

The resignation of Russell Brand from the BBC can hardly be good for the Corporation. He is – I’ll try not to choke on the words – a talented performer who reaches the sort of youth audience the BBC needs to connect with. The Radio 1 and Radio 2 audience of today is the potential Radio 3 and Radio 4 audience of tomorrow.

Matthew Bannister, speaking on The World Tonight yesterday, said the Corporation’s job is to be edgy and to take risks. Perhaps. Every household with a television pays for the BBC, so the Corporation needs to focus on the mass audience as well as the gaps in the commercial sector. And employing the likes of Messers Ross and Brand was a good way of attracting the notoriously fickle youth market.

But the BBC needs to be careful not to needlessly alienate people. Never mind that the storm didn’t really start until the press got hold of it: the fact that many people, once made aware of what had happened (verbatim transcripts have been available on media web sites), felt cause for complaint is a good indication that in this case they had crossed the line. Mr Brand’s diatribe against the Daily Mail, recalling its 1930s support for fascism, was wide of the mark: just because the Mail would say what it said didn’t necessarily make what it said automatically wrong.

I hope that Johnathan Ross remains with the Corporation for this reason, and that Russell Brand continues to work for the Corporation in future. He should not have resigned. That they had been suspended was, I thought yesterday, the best news I’d heard heard so far that day. They should have been taken off the air for a month or two and used the time to reflect on the stupidity of their actions, then allowed to continue. But Mr Brand’s resignation, whatever I think of the guy personally, is bad for the Corporation and will do nothing to help it attract the most mercurial segment of the population.