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!


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