Monday, 26 January 2009

Bad taste TV

Tonight, Panorama will feature a special report by Frank Skinner about the current "state" of television in the UK - namely, is there too much swearing and general bad taste.

Last Friday, Tonight did something not dissimilar, inviting a cross-sectional panel of TV viewers to vote on whether certain clips should have been broadcast or not.

Interestingly, the panel voted 8:4 in favour of the airing of the two clips from Friday Night with Jonathan Ross that had attracted the most complaints.

There was a different outcome when the panel were shown a clip from Little Britain USA, though. The clip in question was one featuring two over-pumped bodybuilder types comparing their bodies in a mirror. For this, both Matt Lucas and David Walliams were wearing full-body prosthetics to give them both a steroidally-boosted muscular look and - comedy alert - a tiny, tiny penis.

Now, you may not find this particularly funny (and I think Little Britain jumped the shark after its first series), but that's not the point. The question is, should it have been shown in a programme that aired at 9:30pm on BBC1?

Only two people voiced their opinions. One, a bloke in his 60s, threw his voting card down in disgust, stating, "I don't want to see this kind of debauchery on my TV screen" in a very I-read-the-Daily-Mail-and-hate-young-people kind of way. Well, no-one's making you watch it, are they? The controller of BBC1 didn't come 'round to your house, turn on the TV, staple your eyelids open, nail you to the sofa and force it upon you, did they, you feeble-minded plank?!

The other opinion came from a woman in her early 40s:
Woman: I'm just bothered by full-frontal male nudity.
Host: You realise it's not real nudity? That those are fake bodies?
Woman: It doesn't matter. I don't want to see male nudity on my TV at any time.
And we're meant to value the opinion of someone who is so ashamed by the human form that they find a plastic cock to be one of the most offensive things they've ever seen? Sorry, dear, but you're not projecting your own social immaturity on me quite that easily.

The problem with complaining about TV and radio shows is that there's no ability for those of us who weren't offended to "counter complain". It's estimated that four million people have heard at least part of the Brand and Ross radio show, and that 37,000 people complained about it. That's less than 1%. If I was asking 100 people what they thought of something and only one of them complained, I wouldn't need to take any action. So why did the BBC suspend Ross? Fuck knows. They're hardly taking a liberal-friendly attitude towards the Disasters Emergency Committee's appeal for aid in Gaza.

So, what we need is an "anti-complaint" option. The chance to contact OFCOM about a possibly offensive show and let them know it didn't bother us. Only then do we have a chance of saving our TV viewing freedom from the kind of deeply hateful, sad and lonely individuals who channel surf in the hope of finding something to complain about.

How else did Babestation become the recipient of a £150,000 OFCOM fine because one of the "models" accidentally exposed her toilet parts? If you're the kind of bloke who finds these hideous plastically-enhanced mingers the least bit attractive, are you going to be sufficiently repulsed by a glimpse of ladygarden that you immediately reach for the phone to complain? Of course not - you're too busy trying to balance a pizza and a box of tissues.

So, dearest Daily Mail reader, or dearest member of MediaWatch, the next time you see something that you think might be offensive on the TV set, don't reach for the telephone and the speed-dial to OFCOM's complaints line. Just reach for the remote control, and press "channel up". Or "down". Or "power off". Some of us might just find Jonathan Ross asking David Cameron if he'd ever wanked at a picture of Margaret Thatcher funny.

And a damn sight less objectionable than having to listen to the opinions of a group of fuckwits who still think homosexuality is "a disease".

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