June 1977 and there’s a blank space at the Number One slot in the charts.
As a kid I didn’t even know why there was a small but vital omission from the chart rundown.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that at the height of our most patriotic period – the Queen’s Silver Jubilee – something else was going on.
The BBC (and other media) had decided, in their ultimate wisdom that The Sex Pistols’ new single God Save The Queen was not fit for public consumption.
For anyone whose never listened to the song the worst thing that John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) says in the song is that she “ain’t no human being” and the head of a “fascist regime”, but there were those who thought the youth movement of the day could bring down society as we knew it. The Pistols would famously appear on a Live interview programme where a drunk presenter would dare them to say rude things to shock. Each time Lydon said a word (mostly not that offensive) he looked slightly embarrassed.
Skip forward 31 years and I’m watching a comedy programme at 9:30pm. The comedians are making jokes and comments about the news of the week. It takes me a short period of time to realise that they’re not even bleeping out the F word. Everyone is using it like punctuation (as everyone tends to do these days)
And yet the news this week in the UK has been dominated by the increasingly dull story of two Radio presenters.
The two radio presenters made a series of pre-recorded prank phone calls to a well known British actor – one of which implied that one of the presenters had had sex with the actor’s granddaughter.
At the time of the original broadcast there were only 2 complaints – since when it has escalated to 30,000? Why?
The purpose of this posting isn’t to comment on the rights or wrongs of censorship – that’s far too thorny an issue and an ongoing fight between the freedom of speech and the freedom of privacy that will not be solved any time soon.
The reason that there have been 30,000 complaints is that anyone who wants to go and be offended by the broadcast has a multitude of formats to do so with. If you miss the original programme you can go to the BBC site, YouTube, Google etc etc and be offended time and time again.
Another example of this is the film Saw V. The Saw franchise is not one that holds any interest for me – I really can’t see the attraction of torture for shock and entertainment purposes (makes you wonder how far we’ve come since we chucked Christians to the lions for entertainment) – but there are posters on the side of busses advertising the latest edition with the message: “Image Banned – go to www… to see the poster in full”
Presumably the point of banning the poster was to stop people seeing the image – but it is freely available on the internet for anyone to look at.
Whenever a programme gets complaints about levels of violence it seems to be written off as “necessary for the plot” and everyone shrugs and carries on as if that makes it ok and the boundaries of what we can and can’t do and show get pushed further back.
Of the two presenters one (a comedian and known womaniser) has resigned – but his programmes are still showing on other channels, whilst the other (a presenter and critic) has been suspended without pay for 12 weeks. Both have books out at the moment – the sales of these will have increased during the argument and their programmes will return to increased ratings as we all tune in to see what the fuss was about. Even the granddaughter (who, it turns out, is an exotic dancer of some kind) of the actor has cashed in and sold her story for a few fleeting minutes of fame.
I’m sorry if you find this posting a bit random – as usual I am in two minds about the issue. Part of me thinks that the presenters went to far and a person’s sexual practices, regardless of their status and job, are really no-one’s business, whilst another part of me thinks that other comedians and presenters have said far worse about other people.
Perhaps the boundaries of what we consider to be tasteful have been pushed so far back that we no longer know where they are? Perhaps we should all be allowed to act like adults and decide for ourselves what we do and do not consider acceptable and use our ability to press the off button accordingly?
If anyone has an answer please let me know – though I suspect there isn’t one