Commentary and opinion on national and regional politics by Seema Malhotra

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Civilising Society?

The row over Ross and Brand this week has been fascinating to watch, for the reaction it has triggered and what it says about the BBC. We are remarkably inconsistent in our opinions of what is acceptable, but the growing chorus of anxious complainants suggests we are increasingly moving to a culture of public conservatism (as distinct from morality) when it comes to sex and also violence. Which in some ways may be no bad thing. Have we gone too far? Big Brother being a striking example, when what is clearly encouraged in later series (rather than the early few which were genuinely fascinating to watch) is pretty demeaning behaviour that lowers the tone and encourages vulnerable young people to pursue a life of being a tabloid babe with story after story of sex and "relationships". Two things struck me when listening to Jim Naughtie interviewing Michael Lyons, Chairman of the BBC trust on Radio 4 today programme yesterday. The first was the rather innocent question which said "Doesn't the BBC have a role in civilising society?". Good question. A more interesting question might be who doesnt have a role in civilising society, and are we going to start a new conversation about de-civilising society? What are the public standards we now want to adhere to? And a second thought, which made me feel incredibly fortunate to be a British citizen. The mild irony of a BBC news programme, interviewing the Chairman of the BBC Trust, holding him accountable to the public about how the BBC behaves. Fantastic listening. Well done BBC.