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Censorship and the Brand-Ross debate

As a regular writer of articles and of course blogs, the issue of publishing material that is never overtly offensive, is of course always uppermost in mind. There should always be self discipline in evidence and not a reliance on the media outlet to take any preventative action. If anything which is deemed in extremely bad taste or tests the legality boundaries slips through the net I would expect the publisher and the creator of the material to be punished in someway.

Having read a number of the many comments posted in various media related mediums, it seems that the general consensus is that, and I agree, the Brand/Ross practical joke on Andrew Sachs, the actor who played Manuel in Fawlty Towers, was in extremely bad taste and lewd in its content especially their comments concerning the sexual relationship between Brand and Andrew's granddaughter. There are two basic questions that arise. Were the prank messages left on Sachs answer phone classed as criminal and what right does the BBC have to broadcast such material?

If Sachs had not been upset by the prank there would still be a question of the responsibility of the broadcaster. Surely as a public broadcasting network they have a high moral responsibility to ensure standards are maintained. Many years ago Kenny Everett was unceremoniously sacked by the BBC for using a swear word. But would this happen today?    

The ability to broadcast is now open to the masses with YouTube and others able to offer worldwide outlets and in many cases has made famous people that in any other age would be anonymous. Would Paris Hilton have achieved worldwide fame without the infamous video? But unlike the man in the street, who would probably not have been able to benefit from the release of such a video and would probably have sought some compensation for their distress, Paris Hilton was able to capitalise from this unwanted fame.

The world is now a very different place with different standards and old fashioned values have been eroded. The issue should not really be one of censorship but a higher moral responsibility to uphold decency and not make a profit from the misery of people innocent and powerless to protect themselves.

Brand and Ross and the BBC have apologised to Andrew Sachs and this is the least that they can do. Its now not possible to amend the situation but a line in the sand can and should be drawn that says that any material broadcast which is likely to offend is checked with the subject first and that broadcasters should be made aware that the airwaves are not theirs alone, they belong to all of us.    


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Gary Wright

Gary Wright


BISS Research

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19 Sep 2007



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