War of the words

ANOTHER VIEW: Terry Christian
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The Independent Online
The Channel 4 programme The Word is the most popular youth TV show of all time among its target audience. Its rather glib and middle- class forebears failedbecause they tried to make television that would appeal to their anally retentive ex-public school friends. Which brings us round nicely to the members of the Independent Television Commission. I wonder how many fully paid-up members of that esteemed government quango went to comprehensive school or are regular viewers of The Word and therefore able to pass judgement on three short items taken out of the context of the show as a whole.

What were the offending items? A Father Christmas who puked fake vomit on to a member of the public, a fake colostomy bag split over another member of the public, and a novelty act who inadvertently gave us a flash of his penis, despite being warned not to. Mere Jeremy Beadle fodder for late night TV; a bit tasteless, yes; debasing - er, you've got me there.

The press's attitude to The Word has brought this whole situation with the ITC to a head. It's been five years of attrition in the papers, and I've never read so much badly researched, unsubstantiated amusing nonsense in my life. Mark Lawson in this paper back in March constantly referred to me as being "famously inarticulate". He started his article with the "fact" that the programme was launched six years ago: Mark, luvvie, The Word was launched in August 1990, which is just four and a half years before you wrote your piece. Does this mean that Mr Lawson is infamously innumerate? He also claimed that our ratings rose when Dani Behr interviewed Ryan Giggs - well, that would have been amazing because Ms Behr has never interviewed Ryan Giggs for The Word. Other broadsheets have been just as careless.

The personal and unsubstantiated insults I've had hurled at me for presenting what is undoubtedly the most difficult show to anchor on television border on the ridiculous - "cheeky", "big gobbed", "cerebrally challenged". Forgive a humble working class lad for having opinions. "Professional northerner". Is there such a thing as a professional southerner? (Obviously in the case of Mark Lawson and colleagues, the answer is no - to professional, that is.) Perhaps the northern bit has to do with the fact that The Word has always railed against the usual Unthinking Cultural Metrocentricity of the media in general. The Word, as a youth show, set out to be irreverent, anti-establishment, entertaining and on the cutting edge, but with a mainstream, down-to-earth tone. We wanted to wind certain pompous types up. Five years down the line, whether the show returns or not, it's a case of mission accomplished. We've done our job superbly well; it's a pity others aren't as focused.

Finally, Garry Bushell in The Sun referred to me as a sniggering dimwit. Thanks, Garry, I'm so dimwitted that for the past five years I've been sniggering continuously - all the way to the bank.

The writer presents Channel 4's youth programme 'The Word'.

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