The current media brouhaha revolves around two of the UK's leading, not to mention highly remunerated, broadcast personalities - Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand. Ross hosts a late night chat show (Letterman-style) and Brand is a stand-up comedian and actor who recently burst onto the Hollywood scene starring in the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
The two recorded a sketch where they phoned the answer-machine of one of the UK's well-loved veteran actors Andrew Sachs (most famous for his portrayal of Manuel the Spanish waiter in Fawlty Towers) and leave a trail of obscene messages. The motivation can be seen at the BBC’s web site. The content included the fact that Brand had enjoyed a sexual relationship with Sachs' granddaughter.
This has resulted in over 18,000 complaints lodged with the BBC. The very surprising fact about the whole situation was that the lewd, unnecessary and unfunny sketch had been pre-recorded and had been passed for broadcast by a production team. Usually gaffes of this nature happen in live broadcasts but this incident was totally preventable.
So the mistake was made. What did the BBC do? 'Nothing' is the answer. They stayed quiet while the two protagonists also stayed quiet giving the impression that no one gave a damn. This just added fuel to the media's fire. What could have been an embarrassing news clip has escalated onto front page news and culminated in the Prime Minister demanding that the BBC (an organisation largely funded by tax payer's money) give some answers and take some action.
Had the BBC immediately issued a statement saying they were sorry and looking into the situation then they would have definitely averted the storm. Waiting for days to take any sort of action is at best foolhardy and worst unprofessional. It appears they laid the blame solely at Ross and Brand's doors leaving them to make personal apologies (too little too late).
The BBC took action today, responding to the media pressure by suspending Ross and Brand. As for Andrew Sachs, like a true professional, he responded by speaking to the media, telling them the facts and behaving with dignity and transparency. The BBC should take a leaf out of his book.