The tabloids and brand


Another confected outrage hits the headlines of the tabloids. The Mail has put the story of Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand leaving apparently offensive comments on Andrew Sachs's answer phone on the front page for four consecutive days. The last couple have seen the paper go beyond merely reporting the story, and moving to call for the two men to be sacked.

As Septicisle points out, in January 2007, the Mail ran a front page ridiculing the fact that the whole Celebrity Big Brother racism debacle was front page news. The Big Brother thing was seen by a far wider audience, involved a group of people openly bullying an individual over a sustained period while they were all in a confined space and there was a whiff of racism in the air. 'Why don't we just switch off?' was the reaction then. This time, things have changed for some reason. Despite the fact that only a handful of people had complained about Brand's show before the paper reported it, these people must be sacked. Ban this sick filth! And so on.

As with many things that find their way into the Mail, this story isn't actually about what it pretends to be about. The paper wouldn't be that concerned with anything like this were it not for the BBC being involved. The Celebrity Big Brother thing is only one example of the paper not giving a toss when another media outlet does something similar to something it has gone spare about the BBC doing. The disproportionate coverage of how the BBC heartlessly defrauded the public by naming a cat differently from the way viewers voted compared to how it covered ITV defrauding audiences of actual money is another. Given what's emerged about Sach's granddaughter being a burlesque dancer who has actually slept with Brand, has been a topless model and is a goth, it's pretty safe to say that she would never have been portrayed in a favourable way by the paper in any other circumstances. The story here is that the BBC is evil. Evil, I tell you. Run by lefties and degenerates. Look, one's even got long hair and a beard!

The Mail's hatred of the BBC is set very deep, and exists for a number of reasons. There's the overtly political - echoing right-wing Americans who moan about the liberal media in the US. While there's a BBC around, there's an antidote to the Mail's misleading distortion. There's the idealogical - why should people pay for something they might not like? I have a little time for this one, but not very much. But there's another, which doesn't get mentioned very often - the commercial.

The BBC is a commercial rival to the Mail, and not just because the BBC produces news and so does the Mail.

The Daily Mail and General Trust owns a 20% stake in ITN - the BBC's direct competitor for terrestrial television news coverage. It owns nearly a third of GCap Media - the independent radio company that owns quite a large number of the BBC's direct competitors in the local radio market. It also owns Northcliffe Media, which owns over 100 local newspapers - and although these don't compete in the same market as the BBC, BBC local news will serve as an alternative news source to these titles. If the public lose confidence and trust in the BBC, DGMT - its direct competitor in a number of markets - stands to gain enormously. The Mail newspaper itself is a rival brand to BBC's news coverage (although it operates in a different market).

And it is very much a brand. One reason the paper does so well commercially is that it identifies its audience and relentlessly panders to it. As I've droned on about here incessantly, it isn't there to report the news to us. It's there to repeat the same overarching stories again and again and again. The reason it does this is because that's what the editor has decided is what his target audience wants to hear. The target Mail reader wants to be told that immigration is out of control, that young people are out of control, that scientists are fickle and tell us one thing one week and another thing the next, that crime is soaring and that evil degenerats who are different to them want to take over and ruin everything and make it horrible and nasty and it all must be stopped. The target Mail reader doesn't want to hear anything that might suggest the contrary is true, so the paper suppresses and distorts anything that does. That way, its readers can rely on the brand.

So anything that knocks the BBC is a win double. It feeds into stories that identify the Mail brand as being against degeneracy and horrible lefties and one legged black lesbians that want to put white people in prison for being white and give them extra punishment if they're married. It also goes some way to denting the market share of a direct commercial rival. Of course, the Sun is along for the ride - but News International owns Sky television. 'Nuff said.

Ninja Turtle syndrome has led to other tabloids picking it up, but they haven't gone for it in such a big way, although I wish they had. Here's the front page of today's Star. Where's the outrage about confected panics when you need it?


That Cameron and Brown are falling over each other to condemn the two shows how much the print media drives politics. Whatever happens in the next election, as if that isn't already a foregone conclusion, the winner will still be Dacre and Murdoch's bitch.


Anton Vowl said...

After the 'BBC puts Muslims before YOU' front page the other day, I think it might mark the handing-over of the overtly racist stories from the Express to the Star. Horrible stuff.

Five Chinese Crackers said...

Good point - and that fits with what I was banging on about in the post. The Express tried to win readers from the Mail by emulating the Mail's brand - but failed because it got it wrong.

The Mail's brand is about not being overtly racist, usually hiding things behind a carefully chosen picture and a nudge and a wink. Overt racism would make the targeted Mail reader uncomfortable, hence the gradual disappearance of daily questions on the Express website about whether immigration should be stopped, and the shunting across to the Star of articles like this one.

I hope the editor of the Star realises that the target readers of the Sun and Loaded are also made uncomfortable by overt racism.

Swineshead said...

Great article - I couldn't agree more.

Anonymous said...

The point for me is not that the "humour" of Ross and Brand is little more than a chain of coarse schoolboy knob jokes - if you listen to your show, you expect that level of humour.

It's not even that Ross and Brand were rude about Sachs's granddaughter, offensive though it was.

It's that my taxes (which is what the TV licence fee is) have been used to leave abusive and insulting phone messages for an elderly gentleman, and then that insult and abuse broadcast for the tittilation of the listeners. I consider that completely unacceptable, and the fact that I pay for it gives me standing to complain, even though I didn't listen to the broadcast.

It's not coarse language and sexual innuendo which is the problem - the complains are about the offence to Andrew Sachs, not any offence to the listning public.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it's coarse.

It's also not especially foul, nor is it alone, nor is it anything that is so abhorrent any question of 'free speech?!!' should be brought in, but IS because people have overreacted so badly.

It's not a tax if you can exempt yourself from it entirely legally. I don't like the funding system on an ideological level, but I also dislike this carte blanche dismissal of everything the BBC does (which goes far beyond one radio show) that is valuable and useful. I don't like Eastenders, but I still pay the fee. It's a storm in a tea cup, and if you go down this road, why not just ban anything offensive. Oh wait, that's the great spectre of political correctness gone mad.

Andrew Sachs accepted the apology and said he wanted to be done with it.

Charlotte said...

Anonymous said: "It's not a tax if you can exempt yourself from it entirely legally."

Precisely. I listen to BBC radio and use the websites but don't pay the license fee because I don't have a TV. If you're paying Brand and Ross's salaries it's because you choose to, and has nothing to do with whether you listen to them or not. I can't understand why Ofcom are evening accepting complaints from people who haven't heard the broadcast.

On the bright side, at least hysteria about this does less damage nationally than hysteria over the financial situation.

Helen Highwater said...

It's amusing how quick the papers were to show lots of photos of Georgina Manuel (erm... whatever her name is) in her pants. The Sun even had a video on the front page of their website featuring a photoshoot of "the sexiest girl group that everyone's talking about - Satan's Sluts!" (or whatever they're called).

If she's really so upset about how shocked her grandad is, maybe she should stop adding more shock by waving her fanjita about, making full use of the publicity she could gain from this sorry fiasco.

Although what beggars belief even more is, if Sachs is so offended by Ross & Brand's caper, why did he agree to be interviewed on the show in the first place? Didn't he know what they'd be like? Surely you need to be prepared for having the piss taken out of you if you have any interaction at all with them. Could his agent have warned him?

As for people whining on about how they pay their tv tax - well, I'm a vegetarian, can I please complain about the cookery programmes featuring meat? It's a tenner a month, it's bugger all - stop complaining!!!

Anyway, The Mail have no doubt been waiting for ages to knock down Brand for daring to go on air and say tabloids are twisted liars. They got their chance, and look what happened. The dire hypocrisy of the Daily Mail claiming to be the arbiters of decency is stunning.

Before all this, I really didn't have any time for Brand, but now I have a great deal of respect for him.