I won’t, if you don’t mind, spend too much time pontificating on the BBC’s coverage of last weekend’s Jubilee fandango, chiefly because I didn’t watch it, apart from a brief YouTube clip of a hula-hooping Grace Jones, who was utterly superb, and a rather briefer moment of Cheryl Cole sounding as if all the toilet attendants in that world had chosen that moment to punch her in the vocal cords; or maybe she’d caught Prince Philip’s bladder infection. Apparently the rest of it wasn’t very good.
But the subsequent commotion over the inadequacy of the Corporation’s work is about far more than mediocre pop stars and posh people looking at boats. As I understand it, the problem is that the BBC’s programming over the weekend was geared too much to celebrities who didn’t know what they were talking about. My instinct is that this is indeed a bad thing: the shift in all news media over the past 30 or so years from an emphasis on empirical facts and informed debate to vapid, glossy, concocted quasi-realities where fame (however transient) trumps ability is something to be deplored.
What sticks in my craw, however, is that the media outlets leading the charge against the BBC are the worst offenders when it comes to replacing hard news with vacuous, airbrushed twattery. Look at the homepage of the Daily Mail. Look at the stripe of shrill banality down the right-hand side, the gibbering sub-Kardashians falling out of limos and bikinis, the gittish prattle about shoes and hair and cellulite, the cheerful dishonesty that this cynical collusion with media PR machines might in some way be described as journalism.
Ah, says the Mail, but that’s just celeb fluff. The Jubilee was a royal occasion, and worthy of more respect. Well pardon me, but which were the media organisations that hitched themselves to Diana three decades ago and turned a stuffy, self-effacing entity into just another manifestion of Celebrity Inc? Who was it who started prattling about the Queen’s grandson’s wife’s sister’s arse? Was it the BBC? Was it? The Mail and the Telegraph and the Sun are not annoyed that the BBC’s coverage of the jubilee was superficial, banal and ill-informed. They’re furious because superficial banality is what they do and they don’t like anyone else encroaching on their turf.
Now, I believe in a free press. If the Daily Mail wants to make a few quid from morons looking at pictures of other morons, it should be allowed to do so. But isn’t there a certain level of hypocrisy, cognitive dissonance even, in burrowing so deeply into the steaming shitpit of vapid, pointless celebrity, then shrieking like Cheryl Cole’s singing coach when the BBC skims a little off the top?