The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold: Willy and I fight for better broadcasting

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The Independent Online
WHEN MY old friend and quaffing partner Willy Rees-Mogg asked me many moons ago to join him on the Broadcasting Standards Council, I frankly had little idea of the sweat, strain and output it would involve. It may surprise you to know that we don our gloves and waterproofs and march into High Standards House at least twice a week, there to adjudicate upon what our fellow citizens should or should not have watched o'er the preceding days.

We hit the headlines once again this Friday, when we condemned a scene of group sex in the BBC 2 drama The Buddha of Suburbia which lasted a disgraceful six minutes, or 12 minutes if you played it twice. 'Lord Rees-Mogg condemned the scene as 'overlong and in poor taste',' reported the Daily Telegraph on Friday, 'while his number two, Wallace Arnold, added that 'if you replayed it in slow motion and looked very hard you could see what looked to me from my memory of medical textbooks very much like a man's private parts dangling in the corner of the screen, and this, to my mind, was grossly offensive'.' The Council upheld the complaint.

As you may judge from the above, the remit of the Broadcasting Standards Council - Rees-Mogg, myself, HRH Princess Michael of Kent, the self-styled Bishop of Medway, Lady Archer, David Mellor, John Noakes and Monsignor Blobby (brother of the popular broadcaster) - is wide, and personally I would like to see it expand. At present, it is concerned solely with the adjudication of received complaints, but it is high time we came up with some of our own. At last Friday's meeting I raised a number of topics I had jotted down on a remaindered copy of a book by my old chum Dominic Lawson on the chess championship, Short Games. These were, in no particular order:

1) Swearing on children's tele vision. Is it really necessary to have so much swearing on Blue Peter? Last week I heard the word 'buff' envelope used no fewer than three times in a single charity appeal.

2) Sandwiches. Why are there so many sandwiches on television? On the night of Monday 14 February, I spotted a sandwich or sandwiches in Coronation Street (ITV), People of the Valley (BBC 2), Homicide: Life on the Street (Channel 4) and Under the Hammer (ITV), and I harbour strong suspicions that Jon Snow had one secreted under his desk in the Channel 4 News. Snack foods are all very well, but parents with young children would surely prefer to see more substantial meals - a nice suet pudding, for instance, or a well-roasted joint of pork with a decent portion of crackling, not to mention all the trimmings.

3) Bosoms. Top of the Pops, screened at the early hour of 7pm, regularly shows numerous young females disporting themselves on stage with the tell-tale shape of women's bosoms easily discernible through their frocks or pullovers.

4) Gloomy news. Must there always be this emphasis on gloomy news on the BBC and ITV news? Must Marilyn Lewis remain the lone voice arguing for a more positive approach to news coverage? We are told whenever even the most obscure foreign city experiences a major earthquake, for instance, but is it not high time we were reminded that No British city has experienced a major earthquake in umpteen years? 'Oh no]' Marilyn Lewis's opponents would cry, 'We couldn't report that, for that would be good news]' My point entirely. Touche]

5) Anti-Conservative bias. If only Lord Tebbit were still around, armed with notepad, stopwatch and klaxon, for anti-Conservative bias is as rife as ever. Not a day goes by without both the BBC and ITV showing film of poor John Major at home or abroad - and if they can't get him, they'll show film of Patten, Howard, Bottomley, Archer, Fowler or Gummer all 'attending official functions' or 'delivering major speeches'. The hidden agenda of such deliberate exposure is clearly to de-stabilise the public's faith in the Government, and to soften up the populace for the snares of socialism. Sometimes, they don't show just a snippet of a major speech, but let the politician ramble on and make an idiot of himself.

Pernicious stuff, indeed, and I shall be raising it all with William at our next meeting, immediately after the emergency re-screening of The Buddha of Suburbia.