Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mark Thompson scewered on Newsnight.

Did you see Emily Maitlis interview BBC Director-general, Mark Thompson on Newsnight tonight. It must be enormous fun to be given licence to rip into your boss like that. I thought she was great and exposed the BBC's boss as a rather indecisive figure. Really made him squirm. On several occasions he refused to answer her question about whether he thought Jonathon Ross was worth his £18 million. He had to say yes - but just wouldn't do it. . And when she asked him if he thought a disgracefully outrageous joke, based on the age of Queen Elizabeth, broadcast on the BBC last night was acceptable, he was totally stumped - and remained stumped every time she re-asked the question. A few minutes earlier he'd told us that he'd decided the Ross/Brand remarks were unacceptable in five nano-seconds - and nothing whatsoever to do with public outrage. But faced with a similar example of unacceptable comments broadcast on the BBC, he had absolutely no idea what to say. I wonder what Mark Thompson said to and about Emily after the programme.


Shannon said...

Haha, Emily really has no right to judge! Just watched her on an old episode of Have I got News For You laughing along to jokes concerning Princess Diana's death which many people would find appauling! What double standards!

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

Long post - please skip/go to the next post as desired ...

No Glyn, but did you see me? On BBC's Question Time from Washington, DC?

David Dimbleby said before the show started that 40 million (maybe he said 50 million, there was a lot going on, and I was networking like crazy, I think I handed out more business cards advertizing my patent law firm than I have ever handed out before – I also got a collection of cards from people I met – it was like a Japanese business meeting – loads were networking).

Anways/Milliways, I was the guy/lawyer in the back row that spoke first. I spouted on about jobs - to which Elizabeth Edward's responded (quite wrongly as it turns out) that Obama et al. were not going to change the Federal Tax Code (kind of funny as Obama has said repeatedly that he is going to remove tax breaks from US corporations that export American jobs and give tax breaks to US corporations that generate jobs in the USA.

A great time had by all. It was very funny, I also booed (then others joined me) the person who made the sexist remark that America wasn't ready for a female VP (or VEEPEE as they tend to say on the state side of the wee pond). Then later David Dimbleby let me speak twice, which was fun.

It was so cool being there in the audience, but the best bits took place before the cameras rolled. David Dimbleby did a warm up routine – he told us about his pink socks and lifted his pants (trousers) to show them off! Icebreaker I’m sure. He is a very humorous charming soul. Everyone loved him.

There was a warm up session before the show started. People from the audience were asked down to the stage to act as the panel – to warm up the audience ahead of the celebrity panel taking the stage. Five were picked and as luck would have it I got asked down and took the end seat (later occupied by the Simon Schama, Professor of History and Art History at Columbia University on the East Coast). Something really surprising happened during the panel warm up session, a front row guy replied to a question about perceived liberal bias in the US media and he said he proved there was bias at the New York Times – he placed a full advert in the paper only to find out that paid just $65,000 verses what he paid (I think he said $188,000 or $198,000), were later forced to pay the difference. I suddenly remembered that news story, and here was the guy who blew the lid on it. I was blown over. I could add a lot more on this, but will leave it for now.

After the show I talked to Clarence Page (he’s from my neck of the woods (kind of), he worked for the Tribune Newspaper, which is run out of the Tribune Building on North Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago, next to 401 North Michigan where I first worked when I moved to the USA in search of work). I have had more lunches in the Tribune building than I care to remember - it has a great ground floor (first floor in US parlance) canteen/refectory. I used to eat lunch there. Anyway, his right hand found its way into mine – it was the strangest thing, I was just to his side and he held out his right hand which met mine. I shook it and told him that I spent the first five years of my ‘American life” in Chicago and worked for a time in 401 North Michigan Avenue – for a brief moment he was taken aback, and realization dawned on him that I was talking about the building next to the Tribune Building on North Michigan. I told him I worked for a firm of lawyers in 401 North Michigan and loved the building he worked in – it’s a very ornate building. He was genuinely pleased that an immigrant to the USA knew exactly where he worked and loved his building. But David Dimbleby had problems reining in Clarence. Clarence is a famous guy in Chicago, but he seemed more combative than usual in the final panel warm up just prior to the cameras rolling. Dimbleby told him several times that the audience is where the action should be and the audience should be allowed to speak. The only one on the panel I slightly disliked was the Professor, for some reason he decided to be very condescending, at one point he told the guy who broke the NYT story that he would give him a failing grade if he was in his class. What a bee. I have met professors like that - in the USA profs have real power - whereas in the UK there is double blind marking. In the USA while there is blind marking it is not really blind and there is very little, if any, quality control on Prof marking of exam scripts - if a Prof has it in for you, you might as well quit that class.

Of the people on the real panel I found Elizabeth Edwards the most eloquent speaker able to connect to the audience. I agreed with a lot that she said, but not the big where she disagreed with the “man in the audience” about Obama not reworking sections of the Federal Tax Code on which point Elizabeth Edwards is clearly wrong, but I guess she had to disagree otherwise Obama’s intentions to bring jobs back to the USA would be exposed. I don’t know why she thought this was wrong, I happen to agree with Obama on this point, but drew attention to it because it’s a huge elephant in the room that no one dare speak of on the Democrat side because when Obama/Pelosi/Reid do enact changes to the tax code to put in place the necessary legislative changes to carry out Obama’s promise to the American workers unions to bring outsourced jobs back to the USA through giving tax credits to US companies that generate fresh jobs in the USA and take away tax credits of US companies that outsource American jobs. Europeans have barely woken up to this Obama carrot/stick approach to get jobs back into the USA.

I wanted to go on about how checks and balances would be lost if there was a landslide victory (filibusters and Presidential veto will be toast if the Democrats get a supermajority in both the House and the Senate). Obama would find that Pelosi and Harry Reid would be calling the shots and running the USA, which is kind of funny/sad given that Congress (House and Senate) ‘enjoys’ lower approval ratings among the American public than the current US President.

… leave it there

Dylan Jones-Evans said...

Did you mean 'skewered' or 'screwed' as either description applies in this case!

kairdiff (West) Kid said...

The BBC are en excellent broadcasting corporation - the best in the world, and, mostly, the envy of the world.
They showed two tossers being offensive. So what? In a world where politicians lie and keep their taxpayer-funded seats, where taboids rip through people's lives, trample their privacy, drag them through the mud and make money on advertising sex while pretending to be be 'moral' and 'decent', I'll take the BBC with all its errors anyday.
As for the Daily Mail 'Hurrah for the Blackshirts, is I belive, one of their headlines from the late 1930s...), it exemplifies what is worst about British journalism: hypocrisy, closet-fascism and a fixation with hating the poor.
I'll take the Beeb. It's about the only thing Britain is still respected for in the world at large.
Glyn - do you know of any sites or petitions where we can register our support? Personally I'd like to increase my license fee payments.

Glyn Davies said...

shannon - no doubt this is true. But she's not the issue. Mark Thompson's failure tohandle what must have been questions that he qould have been expecting was the issue.

Christopher - I did indeed, and recognised the remarks you made. They have featured on my blog. I almost felt a part of the show.

DJE - Either will do. Bearing inmind the issue, I thought I'd best be super-careful about language!

Kairdiff Kid - I agree with about the BBC. Its especially important in Wales because of its support for things culturally Welsh. But if its going to carry on being funded by the licence fee, there have to be certain standards. I think its right that top management has resigned, even if she was much loved. If the BBC do employ near-the-edge comedians, there has to be a system of proper compliance with decency standards. This incident may well make the BBC more aware of iys reponsibilities in this respect. Politicians who fall below standard are kicked out all the time - and rightly so.

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

Glyn! Glad you feel that way! It was fun being on BBC's Question Time from Washington, DC. I couldn't stop laughing after the show. Some 50 million viewers worldwide and I got my oar in from the get go. It was so funny.

Seriously though - there is a huge downside to a landslide win that Wales/UK/Europe have yet to wake up to.

There's a strong possibility that it's going to cost Welsh jobs - particularly in the more highly paid blue collar manufacturing areas where there are quite a few American companies with plants in Wales.

It won't matter if an American company has spent a tens of millions of dollars on upgrading a plant or two in Wales - when Pelosi/Reid enact the legislation that Obama will use to bring back jobs to the USA and where manufacturing capacity can be shifted back to the USA there will be part-week working, lay-offs, hiring freezes, and plant closures.

The implications for Wales haven't sunk in yet. I have written something that might well get published in the Welsh press on this issue.

Dr. Chris Wood (PhD Chemistry, US Lawyer and Patent Attorney)
Wood and Eisenberg, PLLC
6911 Richmond Highway
Suite 403
Alexandria, VA 22306
TEL: 703-660-9700
FAX: 703-660-9218

Anonymous said...

Wonder what "I'm oh so very liberal" Lembit Opik's view is of all this.
One just KNOWS he's with Brand/Ross, but one also knows that he'll remain silent in the run up to the presidency of his party, because it would not go down well.
But then hypocrisy is his middle name.
Do let's remember that this is the man who was anti fox hunting until he landed a seat in rural Wales.
I think we should be told what his views are on the topic of the hour.
Nah, no chance of that, he'll be far far away, trying to drum up support for his doomed campaign.

Hen Ferchetan said...

Glyn, should the Queen be protected from being the butt of jokes? Mock The Week is a programme with huge following built on such "outrageous" jokes by people like Frakie Boyle. I didn't hear anyone complain when the butt of the joke was Kerry Katona or Jordan or one of the Bee Gees. Why should the Queen be any different?

Glyn Davies said...

hen ferchetan - I'm a Monarchist, so it will not surprise you to know that I thought the comment on Mock the Week to be utterly disgraceful, and if Thompson cannot see that in 5 nano seconds he's not a fit person to run the BBC. Of course that is only my opinion.

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

I agree 100% with you Glyn.

Hen Ferchetan said...

Sorry Glyn, just to double check, you do believe the Queen should be protected from jokes that are regularly cracked off about the less fortunate of us?