Saturday, 24 December 2011

The censorship of Tim Minchin

Last night this song by Tim Minchin was axed by ITV from Jonathan Ross's Christmas show. If you're of a religious disposition and easily offended* you may of course not want to watch it - but that doesn't mean I shouldn't be allowed to if I wish. It's certainly a relief from the commercial pap we get from John-bloody-Rutter every December.

Now up until yesterday my knowledge of Tim Minchin's work has been close to zero, and I wouldn't stay up past my bedtime to watch Jonathan Ross, but I'm absolutely incensed by ITV's total spinelessness in censoring what is in fact a very clever and very funny song.

The official line from ITV is that
"It's not unusual for there to be changes to the show in the edit, as we shoot more than goes out, and we felt the tone wasn't quite right for the Christmas show."
This of course is complete and utter horsefeathers. The presence of a Tim Minchin song in the show was trailed in the TV schedules at least a week in advance, which would make it the last candidate to be cut in the final edit.

The gutlessness of ITV in censoring this song (and therefore denying Tim the chance to promote his DVD which was mentioned at the end of the song) is clearly down to the Achilles heel of all commercial television, fear of loss of advertising revenue. Someone with an eye on the financial bottom line obviously got an attack of the jitters at the thought of the likes of the Daily Mail and the Daily Express whipping up their readership into another moral frenzy and frightening off the advertisers. The association of Jonathan Ross with the story would have been an absolute dream to the red-tops, as they'd be able once again to drag up the whole sorry Jonathan Ross - Russell Brand - Andrew Sachs saga (in which, by the way, Ross behaved like a total prat) over a slow news week and get the juices of the right-wing 'moral majority' nicely basting along with the Christmas turkey.

This scenario is exactly why we need to retain public service broadcasting in Britain. The right-wing vision of an end to the BBC and the total domination of the airwaves by for-profit entertainment businesses would mean that artists like Tim Minchin would be at constant risk of censorship by profit-making broadcasting companies ruled by fear of the impact of populist right-wing newspapers on the advertisers who keep them in business.

I don't see why what I am allowed to watch on my television should be dictated by an accountant at ITV with one eye on the editor of the Daily Mail. Censorship is the enemy of a free society, and so is the tabloid press and the management of the commercial broadcasting businesses who pander to it.

*Not all religious people are narrow-minded and censorious, I know; and I firmly believe every child should be given a strong foundation in school in the basics of all the world's key religions and belief systems. In fact, I suspect the fuss in this instance is being made by people with little personal interest in religion at all. It's all about money, at the end of the day.

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