What happens if I complain…


3:00 pm - October 30th 2008

by Steven Baxter    


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…about something on the BBC?

Your complaint must be logged and investigated under the terms of the BBC’s charter. You can complain about a programme even if it doesn’t directly affect you, and even if you didn’t see it at the time. If it is decided that any guidelines may have been breached there will be a further investigation. Action may be taken against those responsible for the programme/story in question. You can also complain to Ofcom, who have the power of unlimited fines. All this will be backed up by a torrent of media hysteria involving other newspapers and broadcasters, all of whom have a vested financial interest in seeing the BBC’s credibility damaged and their own profits boosted, given that their primary responsibility is to shareholders, not to their readers.

…about something published by the Daily Mail?

Your complaint will be recorded and you might get a letter or email back. If it’s about a story that doesn’t directly involve you, you cannot take the matter further. If it does directly involve you, you can write to the PCC. The Mail can write a letter explaining editorial policy to you. If you aren’t satisfied with that very generous offer, the Mail can write an apology if they deem it necessary. If they don’t, or even if they do and you still want to take it further, and if the PCC – which is chaired by the editor of the Mail – decides the Mail has got it wrong, it could write a ruling that says the newspaper has got it wrong. There is no further sanction or redress, unless the Mail has libelled you, and even then, it’s up to you to prove it has damaged you personally. You can get the case taken on as a conditional fee arrangement, but that’s harder than it sounds, as the big players are only interested in upset celebrities, where there are opportunities for big payouts without the necessity of having to go to court, rather than ordinary people, where it can be argued that the financial damage suffered to their reputation was much less.

So, it’s easy to see why the Mail has taken the moral high ground.

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About the author
This is a guest post. Steven Baxter (aka Anton Vowl) writes, mostly about media issues, on the blog Enemies of Reason.
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Reader comments


Errrr….Anton, the Daily Mail isnt paid for out of the public purse – thank goodness.

It’s the fact that Radio 2 is a public media outlet is what makes this ‘manuel-gate’ affair so outrageous. Explain why we should pay two prats to leave sick messages on an old man’s answering machine?

Errr Ewen…..the reason Radio 2 should pay those prats is because, sadly, its what their audience want to hear. If it wasn’t then they would have had 1,000s of complaints about it as soon as it was aired…not after the Daily Mail published a story about it a week later.

Circle the band wagons we have a witch to be hunted…

Well John, if a bunch of dick-heads want to listen to Ross and Brand taunting an old-man then they can go and it on a commercial radio station. I’m sorry but as far as I am concerned, it affects me because I am PAYING for this shite under threat of imprisoment! This man, Jonathan Ross gets £18 million of our money. – don’t you think something is seriously wrong here? The BBC should have reacted by sacking Ross and Brand immediately, but they didn’t do this. That is why they deserve the stick they are getting. In fact, I dont think there has been enough fuss made about this.

The BBC has a duty to do programmes for dick-heads too…..see BBC Three as an example.

“In fact, I dont think there has been enough fuss made about this.”

Ewen has, officially, been living in a caravan on Mars with no windows for the last 2 weeks.

Why the hell does Sachs’ age matter? It’s patronising crap – “you may have survived the Holocaust, and you may have been a fine actor appearing in a wide range of offensive and inoffensive comedy shows, and you may still be working – but because you happen to be past 65 you’re a doddery loon who needs protecting from naughty answerphone messages”…

Ah, I think I have it now. The BBC should only ever spend money on things Ewen wants to listen to or watch.

The thing is, the BBC is often berated for chasing the ratings, but it has to cater to all tastes, because if they don’t there really is no justification for making everyone pay the license fee.

“The BBC has a duty to do programmes for dick-heads too…..see BBC Three as an example.”

Your missing the point. Nobody who has scanned through the radio stations on his car radio could possibly be under the misapprehension that a taste for frivolous shite is not adequately catered for by commercial broadcasters. There is SO MUCH choice; and so there is therefore absolutely NO EXCUSE for the existence of a state-promoted and publicly-funded idiots like Jonathan Ross and Russel Brand. The only justification for the existence of a public service broadcaster is that it broadcasts programmes that would not otherwise be produced, and that are of high artistic or intellectual worth in themselves. Of course someone has to decide as to what is of intrinsic intellectual and artistic value – which is the tricky question. However, if it is not prepared to do this then we are just subsidising of what requires no subsidy. A ‘deadweight loss’ to society in other words. Beacause all we are doing is transferring public money into the pockets of people who would be enormously rich anyway.

It is simply an example of coporatist corruption on the part of the British State – No foreigner would accept this arrangement. Why do think there has been too much of a fuss? Can you imagine how such a story would go down in a country like say, Italy or Germany? Do you think they would tolerate such an outrage?

You are trying to defend a position which is indefensible, again, allow me to put the rhetorical question to you; if you think Jonathan Ross deserves £18 m, why not hold a collection day for him and see how much of the £18million it manages to raise?

“The thing is, the BBC is often berated for chasing the ratings, but it has to cater to all tastes, because if they don’t there really is no justification for making everyone pay the license fee.”

Not quite true Jono, we dont have difficulty in principle in demanding that people pay taxes to support cultural institutions that will never be used by the vast majority of the population. No one, at least as yet, has suggested that the British Library be dispersed (because it will never be used by 99 % of people). You cannot surrender to this demotic, Red-top newspaper thinking – you are conflating elitism (which is morally neutral) and social exclusivity (which is morally wrong)

And anyway if the BBC was shorn of its need to compete with commercial broadcasters by doing what they do more efficiently, it could be reduced greatly in size, and therefore in cost. Now if the licence fee were reduced likewise, YOUR argument; that BBC needs, to attract large audiences (in the name of equity) by means of the kind of programmes like Brand’s and Ross’ would be greatly undermined.

hoho, I think Ewen you’d go down a storm on the Daily Mails comments.

Personally I can’t stand either Brand or Ross, but what I hate more is the frenzy papers like the Daily Mail stir up on non stories.

400,000 minus 2 who don’t like sweary words disagree with you, the Radio 1 listeners who are able to use a mobile and listen to the radio at the same time are “txt’n” in their 1000s supporting Brand and Ross.

Alan Armstrong made, in my opinion, a worse joke on Have I got news for you last week about the 7th of July London bombings….no mention of that….oh bugger don’t tell the Daily Mail.

10. Different Duncan

Ewen, the same general argument could be applied to most of what the BBC outputs, regardless of its controversy.

If the BBC only produced elitist programming, then it would be unjust for them to charge the licence fee to everyone. However if the BBC did only produce populist programming identical to what was available commerically the BBC would be irrelevant. They need to produce both in order to be viable.

“Well John, if a bunch of dick-heads want to listen to Ross and Brand taunting an old-man then they can go and it on a commercial radio station. I’m sorry but as far as I am concerned, it affects me because I am PAYING for this shite under threat of imprisoment!”

We all have to pay for “shite” we don’t like, that way everyone gets programming and broadcasting that fulfils their wishes in some way. I don’t like paying for songs of praise, but if it means a bit of Johnathon Ross is thrown in then I’m cool with letting the religious shit fly.

“Not quite true Jono, we dont have difficulty in principle in demanding that people pay taxes to support cultural institutions that will never be used by the vast majority of the population.”

Speak for yourself – The Tate modern should pay for itself IMHO. I have never heard a convincing argument as to why a working class lottery ticket buyer should subsidise the weekend amusement of a hedge fund manager and provide a coke fund for a trustafarian drop out. And the reason I’ve never heard a convincing argument is that there isn’t one. “Art” is no more worthy of public subsidy than football or sumo wrestling.

Speak for yourself – The Tate modern should pay for itself IMHO. I have never heard a convincing argument as to why a working class lottery ticket buyer should subsidise the weekend amusement of a hedge fund manager and provide a coke fund for a trustafarian drop out.

This is typical right wing stuff – pretend concern for the working class while patronising the hell out of them. Art galleries? Not for the likes of you mate – stick to the football where you belong.

This is about more than two, edgy performers on the BBC overstepping the mark. There are so many agendas here. First of all, it’s the Right wing press doing what they enjoy most………kicking the BBC. It is one of their specialist chosen subjects. Next, you have the politicians jumping on a Daily Mail bandwagon. The Tories have been doing this for years, now New Labour does the same.

Then you have the issue of Ross’s salary, which has been an irritant to the right and left wing press for some time. We can’t have Ross earning more than Darce, can we? Then you have the old chestnut of tax payers paying for culture, and what should the money be spent on. And then we have the granddaughter of the ‘victim’ of the phone calls. How many people want to make a bet that she is getting a lot of mileage out of this.

“Speak for yourself – The Tate modern should pay for itself IMHO. I have never heard a convincing argument as to why a working class lottery ticket buyer should subsidise the weekend amusement of a hedge fund manager and provide a coke fund for a trustafarian drop out.”

Why should I have to pay for The Duke of Westminster, and Prince Charles farming bills?

“If the BBC only produced elitist programming, then it would be unjust for them to charge the licence fee to everyone”

No I dont think so. As I have said, if the BBC budget could be halved and the license fee reduced radically, I think it would cease to be a controversy. I think most people would recognise the fact that there is a special place for ‘eltist’ programming which is of a high calibre, even if they didnt always watch such programmes. And Lee Griffin I think you have a point about Songs of Praise, though it is difficult to see how such a programme could be done in the commercial area. That is why I think there is a case for retaining it. However you have provided no argument for why we should keep Jonathan Ross on the public payroll because you can’t, its unjustifiable.

The only difficulty with arguing from my viewpoint is that our cultural and political elites have lost all confidence in their own judgement as to what is of intrinsic intellectual and artistic value. They should regain this confidence if we want to keep the BBC becuase at the moment the BBC are digging their own graves. Soon we will have no public broadcasting service at all, we are rapidly running out of reasons for why they should exist.

“Personally I can’t stand either Brand or Ross, but what I hate more is the frenzy papers like the Daily Mail stir up on non stories.”

It isnt a non-story. Just because the Daily Mail is slating the BBC, it doesnt mean we should side with the BBC. What Ross and Brand have done is inexcusable. What they have done is unquestionably wrong and it would be wrong to tolerate it. They should go and they should never retuirn to public broadcasting again. F— the retarded radio 2 listeners, let Ross and Brand join Talk Sport and they can listen to them chatting crap till 4 in the bloody morning.

This mock outrage by The Daily Mail is a typical example of a newspaper abusing its position to coerce behaviour from public bodies. Newspapers sees our taxes as a licence to demand absolute and complete accountability from any public body it sees fit for any reason. The Daily Mail rules by prudery and outrage formed from a moral code that seems stuck in the 1900’s, fuelled by a fear of anything that doesn’t live in a Tory postcode with 2.4 children and a Subaru that is currently in fear of losing its job. It is a machine designed to control through fear.

Could it be that a Murdoch controlled newspaper is trying to influence a lucrative BBC employee to become unemployed so they could be offered alternative employment?

If I were able to not pay taxes on things I despise, I, like millions of others, wouldn’t pay for the things we don’t want our Government spending money on : the Royal Family and Nuclear Weapons, for example.

Now, Brand and Ross’ comments were probably in poor taste, and very stupid. I have not heard them, nor am I likely to. And whomever vetted the pre-recorded show as acceptable to broadcast should be sacked. But comedy is – amongst many other things – about offence and wit and subverting expectations and social norms. Offence for offence’s sake is puerile and pointless. When we start having Thoughtcrime about certain topics to be the subject of wit, we are self-censoring and that is a very slippery slope. But anyone whose current employer is “Satanic Sluts Extreme” should be considered to be fairly liberated when it comes to moral boundaries and thus, possibly, NOT offended by such material.

On another note, the role of the BBC is to provide programming to people – even if not every programme it produces represents the interests of everyone. I find the obscene amounts of money the BBC pays to broadcast tedious sporting events and mediocre, meaningless ‘comedy’ sitcoms an absolute insult : but i accept that with the bad comes the good, and plenty of their other programming is far superior than the competition on commercial channels. I have seen the worst television in teh world, and it was not in the UK.

On commercial channels – and make no mistake – the adverts are the programming : the programme is the bait designed to entice the viewer, and whatever brings in the most amount of viewers for the cheapest outlay is all that matters.

The BBC has a remit to provide quality, not merely advertising revenues. The BBC produces mostly quality programming by design : commercial channels it often occurs by accident. The Daily Mail and its ilk want a santisied, bland, characterless BBC which produces nothing but happy programming to take our minds off the impending financial doom and gloom.

This is a false moral outrage designed to lambast the BBC on a fairly flimsy premise. I would estimate that complaints by people who listened to the actual programme – compared to people who were told to complain by a newspaper – have a ratio of around 4,999 : 1.

A storm. In a teacup.

Reading these threads as a newcomer, the so-called liberals appear simply intolerant and abusive on almost every subject. Their attitude towards dissenters is purely fascist and their obsession with the Daily Mail is irrational.

I fully agree with Ewen and Matt Munro. you mention Talksport. They actually sacked a presenter for endorsing Boris Johnson on air. That’s what happens in private co.s if you break the rules.

“This is typical right wing stuff – pretend concern for the working class while patronising the hell out of them. Art galleries? Not for the likes of you mate – stick to the football where you belong.”

It’s also not about that either, it’s about what Art contributes to society…certainly in terms of modern art, sculptures and paintings, etc.

“I fully agree with Ewen and Matt Munro. you mention Talksport. They actually sacked a presenter for endorsing Boris Johnson on air. That’s what happens in private co.s if you break the rules.”

You’re right, it is what happens…however it’s also shit when it happens outside of the BBC that you are fully endorsed and supported by your employer until some external body puts too much heat on your actions and they abandon you for nothing more than political means. Brand didn’t quit because the BBC needed him to, and Ross isn’t being suspended because the punishment fits the crime…both have found themselves in situations which ensure the BBC can hold its hands up and go “there, look, we listen to you…please don’t shut us down”, and it’s pathetic.

Quite. Whale broke actual rules that exist in real life, and that cost a radio station its license if broken; Brand and Ross didn’t. They resigned/accepted suspension because they cared more about defending the BBC than about defending their own positions, which is that’s highly creditable of them.

And we’re blaming the fucking Daily Mail because until they made this story up it involved two complaints to the BBC and a slightly grumpy Manuel; after they ran it as a front-page story it became the weirdly terrifying monster it’s become. Even if you think it was right to create the narrative, you can’t deny it was the most important force in the whole damn story…

Errr….afraid not. Try not to delude yourself that a news story is “made up” just because you don’t like it. I suspect Brand resigned because his agent advised him he was likely to be sacked and that the blanket media coverage will benefit him. From being an infantile, camp comedian favoured by the teenage viewers of Big Brother, he will achieve worldwide fame now that he is now a “polemic” (LOL!), controversial comedian and sales of his bookeywook will now increase.

“This is typical right wing stuff – pretend concern for the working class while patronising the hell out of them. Art galleries? Not for the likes of you mate – stick to the football where you belong.”

I consider myself working class. I have been to the Tate Modern once (a pile of old cobblers as expected) but have been going to football regularly for over 20 years. I think it’s actually patronising for middle class liberals to pretend that “art” in galleries (especially modern art natch) is somehow a more valid cultural expression and therefore more deserving of public support than anything populist. I don’t tow the middle class line that the working class should become more appreciative of art, or that a failure to appreciate art is a sign of low intelligence or a lack of spohistication. “Oh yes tarquin it’s definatley about the relationship between light and space”, purlease….

If you don’t like an article in The Daily Mail you have a right not to buy the paper again. If you don’t like something the BBC broadcasts you have no such right.

Sell your telly?

“If you don’t like something the BBC broadcasts you have no such right.”

Do you like *nothing* that the BBC ever broadcasts in a year?

Would you buy the Daily Mail if you liked their crossword?

What a pointless analogy. No, I wouldn’t, but then I can find a crossword anywhere. I can’t find the cultural and niche shows that I get on the BBC anywhere else.

I know you all hate the Mail but, aside form shooting the messenger, the original post does completely miss the point.

If I don’t buy my telly licence I could go to prison.

It is surely only reasonable that they at least pretend to take notice if I complain.
(Pretend generally being the operative word.)

And Ofcom’s unlimited fines? We pay those in case you hadn’t realised!

“It is surely only reasonable that they at least pretend to take notice if I complain.”

But at what point does a complaint stop being valid? If you were never going to listen to Brands show, and never would have interacted with it, then why is your complaint valid? The paying of a license fee isn’t a system to allow you to specifically structure what you do and do not see on the TV or hear on the radio, so why should anyone assume that because they are a license fee payer that their complaints should be taken in to account?

As it happens the complaints HAVE been taken in to account, so those going on about how they can’t stop paying a TV license don’t seem to have a leg to stand on in their argument. The BBC has a process, people used it, and the BBC backtracked in to submission.You’d never get that from a tabloid but then you don’t have to pay for it so the balance is arguably sustained.


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