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A sideways thought

Saturday 1 November 2008

A decade or so ago (tell me when it was if you know!), the term ‘cock-up’ was used in Parliament. It triggered a flurry of shock, comment, discussion, and gags from stand-ups. News readers staidly disguised their glee at pronouncing ‘cock-up’ day after day in reports seemingly crafted to include it as often as possible.

This week on Newsnight the Radio Two offensive broadcast (Jonathon Ross and Russell Brand on the phone to Andrew Sachs about his granddaughter Georgina Baillie*) was among the topics debated. One participant said**, ‘Many people at the BBC cocked up’ and another used the word ‘shagging’. Without the emphasis I’ve given the words. Which is the point. This programme is one of the BBC’s serious opinion magazines. They had to talk about this topic because everyone was. No one dreamed of ‘shagging’ and ‘cocked up’ being inappropriate on Newsnight.

I have just googled to see if I could mention when that fuss happened, and the search on ‘cock-up’ plus ‘Parliament’ brings up so many hits, it would take more dedication to research than I’m prepared to put in for a small reference in a minor blog entry. Seems we’ve got used to the expression.

In another x (fifteen?) years the target listenership (that can’t be the word) of Russell Brand’s show will be the policy-making generation. Less consciously, the taboo-making generation and working with taboo-breakers who are now about four. I wonder what the worthy judges of 2023 will think when someone reminds them of the strong feelings flying around this week.

The trend at the moment, surely influenced by the new ease of self-publishing that blogging and YouTube etc have brought about, is to deem allowable in public broadcast anything that would be allowable in private. I’m not sure yet (I did warn you) where I think the boundary falls between what’s ok when you’re kidding with your mates and what’s ok when you have an audience of individuals you don’t know personally.

* More of her on YouTube. Quite a lot more.
** As far as I remember; I can’t get the website to play it back to me.

Click through – I haven’t finished yet…


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