Lyric censorship heralds swansong for the BBC

TELEVISION Quality seems to be the very last thing on BBC execs mind, writes Declan Lynch

THERE was a general air of stupefaction when the BBC bleeped the word “faggot” from Fairytale Of New York. But those of you who were reading this column last week were not surprised at all. No, you’ll have smiled knowingly, remembering that opening line about the the BBC being dead, killed by many things but mainly by the wrong sort of people rising to positions of power within that once-great corporation.

With exquisite timing, on the very next day, we learn that someone in a position of power at the BBC has nothing better to be doing than censoring perfectly good songs for no good reason. And within this sad vignette, we can glimpse the broader calamity which has reduced the BBC to the level of any other channel of the 800,000 currently available.

It reveals the sort of thinking which seems to take almost everything into account, apart forn the one thing which matters — and lest we forget, the one thing that matters, the only thing that should concern any BBC person in relation to any piece of work, is whether it is any good.

Is Fairytale Of New York any good ? Yes, it is very good indeed.

That should be the only issue at stake here, the rest is all form-filling.

Because it’s hard to be good.

It can take a lot out of you, being good. And if you’re spending any time at all worrying about offending people, you probably won’t manage it.

In fact, you’ll end up being offensive anyway, to those of us who like good things. Ronan Keating offended me, for example, when he changed “you cheap lousy faggot”, to “you’re cheap and you’re haggard”, but I didn’t complain about it much. Until now.

You also encounter this fearful mentality in other areas. “What’s in this for women?” they might ask a programme-maker, who should reply that if something is good, then everyone, including women, will feel the benefit. So that’s what is in it for women — its goodness.

Ah, but that’s not what is meant at all. These fearful types would be perfectly happy if the work was a complete load of cobblers, so long as there’s something in it for women. And seemingly, there’s a lot of types like that in the BBC these days, wasting everyone’s time on stuff that doesn’t matter, asking all the wrong questions.

THERE wasn’t much for women in Himself the recent profile on Setanta of the golfer Christy O’Connor (Senior). So why did they make it?

Something to do with the fact that Christy O’Connor seemed for many years to be one of the few Irish people who were any good at anything, in this case the game of golf. He was also very good at drinking and staying up late and generally having a wonderful time, after which he could still be standing on the first tee at first light, starting with a solid par and then going birdie, birdie, birdie on his way to shooting a new course record of 62.

In fact, in these days, when the ancient recreations of men are increasingly reviled, there would probably be some sort of a law against Christy O’Connor, or “Himself”, as he is known to his butties, in stereotypical fashion.

Indeed, if a female equivalent inspired a documentary called Herself, it would be seen as faintly patronising.

Yet, as we searched the film in vain for something that might be offensive to lesbians and gay men, we could only agree with contributor Niall Toibin, who ventured the view that the two greatest Irishmen of all time are the singer John McCormack and the same Christy O’Connor. Were they any good? Yes, they were very good indeed. In fact, they were great. And, while you can see a plaque to my fellow Athlone man McCormack on the front of an excellent Chinese takeaway in the town, you can remember “Himself” on DVD.

THEN again there is such a thing as prejudice, and we must guard against it. Having seen Mr Jacob Zuma, the new head of the ANC on an RTE news report for approximately 45 seconds, I formed the iron conviction that this man would be the scourge of Africa.

Just a few key words like “acquitted on rape charges”, and “massive corruption claims” led me to jump to the conclusion that this man needs to be watched carefully..

I can only hope that I’m wrong about this. For once.

The Book of Poor Ould Fellas, written by Declan Lynch and Arthur Mathews, published by Hodder Headline,€14.32 makes an ideal last-minute Christmas present

– Declan Lynch