Thursday, 3 January 2013

The Mail v Big Fat Quiz of the Year

The Mail has been desperately trying to create 'Sachsgate II' over a few jokes broadcast - after the watershed - on The Big Fat Quiz of the Year:

Originally, Ofcom received only a handful of complaints by people who appeared to have actually watched the programme. After several days of campaigning by the Mail, that number reached 165. Not, exactly, the success they were clearly hoping for:

Ofcom had received five complaints by last night, but that number could quickly grow – in Sachsgate, an initial two complaints rose to nearly 45,000.

The Mail said it made:

no apology for voicing concerns shared by an overwhelming but seldom-heard majority.

So seldom-heard, indeed, that even after days of trying to get a negative reaction, only a fraction of the people who saw the programme, or had read the jokes in the Mail, bothered to make themselves heard. 

The majority of comments on the online versions of the articles were critical of the Mail's stance. When the Mail needed some 'angry' comments to back its position, it chose the 'worst rated' ones from its own website.

Ofcom told the Independent that:

the vast majority [of complaints] were made in response to the negative media coverage.

Yet when defending Jan Moir over her nasty Stephen Gately article at the Leveson Inquiry, Mail editor Paul Dacre downplayed the 22,000 complaints sent to the PCC. He said:

You keep using the phrase "a lot of people" complained about this. You realise that these are all online complaints and this is an example of how tweetering can create a firestorm within hours...Most of those people conceded they hadn't read the piece.

But the Mail expresses no such concerns about the Big Fat Quiz complaints:

it was revealed that complaints to Ofcom and the broadcaster had now reached 165.

At least 80 viewers have complained to Ofcom about the show, which featured puerile sexual jokes and innuendo just minutes after the 9pm watershed. Some 85 have complained directly to Channel 4.

Some of the Mail's anger was specifically aimed at Jonathan Ross, who the paper has targeted since Sachsgate. Ross appeared on Big Fat Quiz and his production company made it. An editorial on 2 January said:

the Mail is quite happy to be accused of being reactionary when it wonders how many more of society’s broader problems are exacerbated by such creeps as Ross.

It also argued:

It cannot, surely, be fanciful to draw a connection between the explicit four-letter outbursts of such TV role models and the epidemic of vile, coarse ‘sexting’ in our schools.

But the paper provided no evidence for such a connection.

The Mail has repeated the (what it calls) 'vile' jokes again and again - including embedding video of 'one of the controversial jokes' on its online articles. It claimed that it had to publish all the jokes so people could make up their own mind about whether they were suitable for broadcast. It said the same when it repeatedly published dozens of images and videos of scantily-clad singers on The X Factor.

The Sun, however, was more coy. It said a joke about the Queen was:

too coarse to be repeated in a family newspaper.

Oddly, the Sun positioned this story and this claim on page 3, next to a topless female model. This is also the very same 'family newspaper' that on both the 28 October 2011 and 11 November 2011 ran full page ads for 'Triple-X DVD blockbusters'.

This morning, the lead story on MailOnline was this:

The headline was clear: Jack Whitehall could be dropped as a presenter at the National TV Awards. But deep in the story, there was this giveaway sentence:

A spokesman for the awards last night said the comedian had been booked and would be presenting an award as planned.

Despite that, MailOnline decided to run it as a major story implying the opposite.

The Independent revealed a few hours later:

Kim Turberville, creator and executive producer of the NTA, told The Independent: "Contrary to spurious reports earlier today, I would like to confirm that there has been no crisis summit over Jack Whitehall’s invitation to present an award at this year’s National Television Awards."

"We are very much looking forward to welcoming him on January 23 for our live show.”

The final word, for now, should go to the Mail, which said - apparently without irony - in its 2 January 2013 editorial:

Indeed, a New Year seems an appropriate time to take stock of what is deemed acceptable in popular culture – and ask what effects a constant diet of filth, misogyny and casual contempt for the vulnerable may have on impressionable young minds.


  1. Brilliant. The Daily Mail really is appalling, a deep and glowering cancer right at the heart of UK culture. Where is our culture secretray to bring them in line? Oh, probably queuing up to have a go at the BBC again...

  2. So on one hand the press as a whole are basically shouting about how much they passionately believe in free speech and how terribly Hitlerian it is to even so much as give statutory backing to self-regulation which (supposedly) enforces a code the press themselves agreed to. On the other, papers like the Mail are openly trying to get stuff and presenters taken off the telly for offending their sensibilities. I'd imagine "it's different" in some way, them being the hypocrite's two favourite words.

  3. "a New Year seems an appropriate time to take stock of what is deemed acceptable in popular culture – and ask what effects a constant diet of filth, misogyny and casual contempt for the vulnerable may have on impressionable young minds."

    That sounds like they're asking for ideas. After all, the impressionable young minds only have so long to be shaped before they are "all grown up".

  4. Welcome to democracy, Mail readers; if you're a silent majority, you wield no power. If you want things done then waiting for someone to make an effort on your behalf isn't going to work.


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