Fawltygate – how Brand and Ross really brought low the BBC

Smashie and Nicey

Smashie and Nicey

I’ve tried really hard to avoid the whole Brand/Ross debacle. I wasn’t remotely offended by what they did or said. And I feel sorry for none of the central characters.

The only thing that does me in the whole sorry episode is the response of the newspapers – particularly the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday. Rather predictably, they looked for a cheap way to stir up the most vulgar and visceral emotions in their readers.

I’d love to have been in on the news conference where Associated Newspaper’s finest decided – in a blaze of Middle England crusading righteousness, no doubt – that a bearded and unfunny Lothario and a speech defected TV institution suddenly posed the greatest risk to the nation’s moral fibre (all for a juvenile broadcast made almost a week earlier which had sunk without a trace!).

At what point, I wonder, will Brand and Ross dip back below immigrants, gypsies, the MMR jab, Labour politicians, public policy tsars and social workers as the Daily Mail’s hate subjects of choice?

However, the Mail isn’t a alone in throwing out all editorial balance to stick the boot into the Beeb for its, er, flawed editorial policy. Most of the papers have enjoyed having a go. Yet, the most delicious irony of all is this: to get clear, insightful and balanced debate about the Fawltygate affair, there was only one place to go – the BBC.

Best I heard was a piece which went out on Radio Five Live’s breakfast show on Friday (oct 31). During the original live broadcast, Nicky Campbell was uncharacteristically quiet as he gave veteran DJ Paul Gambaccini free rein to let rip about the whole affair.

In a five minute assassination the American-accented throwback to Radio One’s 1980s heyday painted a colourful picture of Brand as a monstrous and damaging ego who is apparently universally loathed by the backroom staff at the Beeb.

Gambaccini also claimed the hirsute and worryingly hormonal comedian had been allowed to gut the Beeb’s usual chain of command, by successfully demanding the sacking of at least six producers who had the temerity to stand up to his worst excesses.

Next he railed against the iniquities of celebrity culture – which he suggested had seen devoted and professional radio people ousted to make way for those whose only qualification is some sort of fame. Gambaccini even slated Ross and Brand for standing up during their now notorious broadcast – as this was evidence of their complete inability to operate the basic radio console/desk/hardware.

After telling listeners there simply weren’t enough superlatives with which he could praise the saintly Lesley Douglas (the former station boss, who fell on her sword over the affair), Gambaccini then went on to berate her.

In his opinion she’d committed an impossibly dimwitted faux pas – not only did she hire the snake-hipped Brand, she stuck by him through thick and thin as some sort of obsessive pet project.

These jaw-dropping assertions were all delivered with a the kind of faded theatricality we simply never hear on radio these days. And Gambo (as Campbell cringemakingly insisted on calling him) wasn’t content to stop there.

Oh no. Next up he announced that only once in his 40 year careeer had he ever felt compelled to write a letter of complaint to BBC managment. Surprise, surprise – it was penned when it was announced Brand was to join Radio 2. 

Gambo even managed to sound pained while bigging himself up for so accurately having forseen what was to come – Brand was indeed proved to be a “timebomb” who was entirely inappropriate for a slot on Radio 2.

This was pure radio gold – and I would have loved to have ripped the full, uninterrupted interview and shared it with you. However you’ll have to make do with this Guardian report of the piece instead (click here) – and these edited highlights, below.

You see,  the Gambaccini interview is no longer available in full. Only a carefully edited version is available – with this disclaimer: “There are a couple of edits on legal advice”.

And THAT is how Brand and Ross have really brought the Beeb low.

I’m not worried about the fact their schoolboy shenanigans were allowed to air without even the lightest touch from the thought police – but I’m desperately disappointed it set in motion a chain reaction which has led to this genuinely engaging (and entertaining) piece of commentary to be censored.

Can someone explain that one to me? You couldn’t make it up.

Here is the censored version, which still gives a pretty good measure of just how embittered Gambo is. Its marvellouse to hear this Smashie and Nicey-style rant. Rock-a-tock-a-tabulous, Mate!

Scottish Press Awards prove a major success – but where’s the recogntion for freelances?

Tobin Spread which was nominated for an award

Congratulations to al the winners from last night’s Scottish Press Awards. Those honoured on the night included Joan Burnie, the grand dame of the Daily Record, who collected a heartily deserved Lifetime Achievement award.

Also, big thanks to Anna Steven from the BT press office, who invited our own Lauren Crooks to join the BT table at newspaper land’s biggest bunfight. Lauren is bleary eyed today, but had a fantastic time. By all accounts, most of Scottish journalism had a racuous and thoroughly enjoyable night out.

Lauren was the only Deadline Press & Picture Agency representative at the do, because there aren’t any categories which cater for reporting or photographic staff with press agencies. Which is a real shame, considering the vital role they play in the news chain.

However, there IS an award ceemony specifically for news agencies, which has been running for just a few short years but is gaining in credibility and popularity. The event is run by the National Association of Press Agencies (NAPA) and took place last weekend in London.

Two Deadline stalwarts attended – Brian Lewis and Doug Walker – and were delighted to be nominated in the main category, News Story of the Year.

The nomination was for an exclusive sold to the Scottish Daily Mail. It revelead that a former home of Peter Tobin - the man who murdered Angelika Kluk – was being systematically taken apart by forensic experts looking for clues into the 15-year-old mystery surrounding the disappearing of West Lothian schoolgirl, Vicky Hamilton.

A few short months later that led experts to another house formerly occupied by Tobin (this time in the South of England), where the bodies of two young women were uncovered. One set of remains were confirmed as Vicky’s and her family were finally able to lay here to rest. Tobin is now awaiting trial for murder.

You can read the full Daily Mail article here (in pdf format). It earned Deadline a second place – with the overall award going to Splash News, who tracked down Anne Darwin, the wife of “missing” canoeist John Darwin (see the resulting Mirror splash, here), who was actually hiding out in Panama.

You can’t really argue with that – given the quite astonishing amount of global coverage the Darwin story generated. A proper, good, old-fashioned marmalade dropper.

Everybody involved in the running of NAPA has been delighted with the success of this year’s events. These are tough times for news agencies, but there were more entries than ever before and the standard wowwed the judges.

Here is a Media Guardian report on the awards, which, rather inevitably, have now become known as the NAPAs. Let’s hope next year’s will be even bigger and better, with more freelances and agencies joining the organisation.

I’m a bit blogjammed – maybe it’s because of the Liverpool Barn Cake

What is the official term, I wonder, for the pressure that builds up just behind the eyes when you have loads of subjects you want to blog about – but no time to get them typed out?

Blogjam? Bloggage? Backblog?

Whatever it’s called, I’ve got it bad. I’ve had one of those busy periods of such intensity there’ve been times when I wondered if the old ticker will see me through to my 40th later this year. And the casualites (along with family, social life and regular sleep patterns) have included any faint hopes of regular blog updates.

So I’ve got plenty to catch up on. Earlier this week one of those busy days was spent driving to Liverpool to meet with a potential new PR client. It was my first ever trip to that fine city and I hope to hear soon if we’ve been successful with our pitch.

While I was drawn there by work, the venue was next door to historic Aintree Racecourse, better known to millions of previous visitors as the home of the Grand National. However, gambling is not one of my many vices, so I don’t profess to know much about the nags.

What I DO know about is breakfast. Anyone who’s worked with me knows my epic, albeit unorthodox appetites – especially in the morning. For instance, here is a recent missive from Danny Groom, the man who now runs the dailymail.co.uk website and whom I caught up with recently for the first time in years:

Spookily, I was telling one of my colleagues the other day about the famous Douglas breakfast of a baked bean toastie, jam on toast and a banana – all served by a drug-fuelled lunatic with dirty fingernails.

Danny, who has worked on the newsdesks of PAThe Observer and the Daily Mail, was referring to our time together on the Newcastle Evening Chronicle. There was no canteen in the building so we used to send out for breakfast to the local sarnie/snack shop – which had dodgy hygiene standards but would deliver to our desks.

Anyway, I digress, purely to explain why the horseracing Mecca of Aintree held little interest for me, particularly when my belly started rumbling after a four hour drive down the M6 (including a rather scary white out experience on the Biggar Road).

Within minutes of arriving I’d found my way to a greasy spoon cafe (bypassing the fish and chip shop which was, bafflingly, open for business at 11.30am) dragging a reluctant Raymond with me. I knew exactly what I wanted: a cup of tea and a roll with sausage and brown suace.

This proved frustratingly difficult to get hold of. The Scouse woman behind the counter made extremely hard work of my accent – and after several minutes of negotiating, still seemed not to understand the concept of a roll with sausage.

At one point she tried to serve me a baguette. The fact this run down caff even had fresh baguettes was a minor miracle – but didn’t divert me from my hunger for a simple breakfast roll. Finally the woman grasped that all I wanted was a round roll – “Ahhhh – a barncake!” she exclaimed.

Shortly my cuppa arrived – along with the most ginormous roll I’ve ever been served. This thing was like a gargantuan, floury, freak-of-nature big brother of the roll I’d been expecting. And I swear, there must have been six or seven separate sausages on it.

Raymond’s eyse widened in awe. Mine simply widened in anticipation.

True to form, I polished it off in short order and have to offer my hearty congratulations to the makers of Liverpool Barn Cakes, which seem to be a regional variation of the Stotty Cake I’d previously encountered in Newcastle.

An hour or so later it was lunchtime, and our hosts laid on a fine spread of fruit and sandwiches. I felt obliged to tuck in again.

Ahem. blogjam, indeed.

Speccy jogger Rob has a new book near the top of the best-seller list

During the summer months, Rob Robertson can often be found jogging round Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. While wearing his glasses.

I only mention the glasses, because Rob hardly wears them for anything else – so why for jogging?

Since he’s always had an eye for the ladies I boldly suggested to Rob that he dons the specs to admire the lycra-clad women runners. He denied the allegation vehemently. But he is still to come up with any other reasonable explanation.

Fleet footed lechery aside, Rob is a well-kent face in journalistic circles and recently made the move from The Herald to become the rugby writer at the Scottish Daily Mail. Meanwhile, he’s also carving himself a second career as an author, having penned books about Hearts and tennis star Andy Murray.

His latest offering is a biography of Aberdeen legend Willie Miller. Rob tells how the book could have been called The Miller’s Tale – but the publishers opted for the snappier title, The Don.

Unsurprisingly it is selling extremely well in the Granite City and also doing not bad across the rest of Scotland. Well enough, certianly, to put it in the top three on the Scottish books Best Seller list – just in time for Christmas.

Sitting at number three in the charts is no mean achievement – especially when the latest Rebus instalment from mega-selling  Ian Rankin is sitting at number two.

And the literary classic occupying the top spot? None other than Maw Broon’s Cookbook.

Book your copy now to avoid disappointment, (like when your porridge fails to set properly in the greasepaper-lined drawer at the but ‘n’ ben).