Eurovision Dance Contest, 2008

Xenophobia – BBC’s new Mission Statement?  
       (Some names have been omitted to protect the guilty…)

In last night’s transmission of the Eurovision Dance Contest, the BBC sank to new levels of bad taste.
       Over the years the various TV channels have bludgeoned us into expecting, if not accepting, the manifestation of some bizarre belief that the general public is incapable of enjoying anything that is not formulaic, snappy, glitzy, sexy, jokey and smiley.  I might therefore have been prepared for the inanities of the two presenters.  Even so, could someone (a highly-paid BBC producer, perhaps?) not have explained to the gentleman in question (presumably astronomically paid?) that the time delay in receiving transmissions from elsewhere in Europe means that to follow his scripted opening questions with poorly timed colloquial drivel served no purpose other than to make each of the foreign presenters look congenitally stupid?

       Ah, but that was perhaps the BBCs underlying intent?  Certainly, one could assume so, from their decision to allow the voices of the unseen commentators  free rein – not, as one might have expected from so-called experts in dance, to provide informed and informative insights into the technique and style of the dancers and dance genres involved – but to vent their chauvinistic spleen on the universally good-natured European contestants simply because they were foreign, and getting more points than the UK…
Do I hear the voice of some oh-so-reasonable BBC executive condescendingly explaining that each of the presenters and commentators is a well-established media professional, with a popular following (read ‘highly budgetable’), and that they should be allowed to say whatever they like in the interests of freedom of expression?  I say no.
No, they should not.  the dance experts’ mediation of the programme content to the audience on the level of petty xenophobic insults (e.g., words to the effect of:
    –  ‘nasty greasy black hair’;
    –  ‘ridiculous-looking guy with his funny hairpiece’;
    –  ‘I’ll never go there!’;
    –  ‘Where is Azerbaijan, anyway?’;  even
    –  ‘Tippy tappy Irish dancing’)
reduced them – and the BBC who sanctioned and paid them, to the level of ignorant racists.  And their assumption that all high scores from any other nation stem solely from intra-regional loyalty was a charge of which they themselves stand irrefutably indicted in the light of their comments vis-à-vis Ireland.
       Does this matter?  Isn’t it all load of vacuous fun?  Yes, it does matter.  Any children watching will have received the message that the way to respond to the talents and courtesy of other nations (especially when they outshine our own) is to ridicule and insult them.  Older viewers, who should know better, will have had their prejudices confirmed.  Is it any wonder that interracial street violence in on the increase when the attitudes that underlie it are given such unrestrained public exposure?
       The BBC is still held by some to be an upholder of standards.  What standards?  This is dumbing down dumbed way, way down.  The only responsible course of action for the BBC is now to ensure that whatever contracts these ‘experts’ hold for future Strictly Come Dancing programmes are rescinded forthwith.  A Public Service broadcast medium whose remit is (or used to be) not only to entertain, but more crucially to inform and to educate, should never employ them again.
Eurovision Dance Contest, Unhappy with commentary, BBC One, 6th September 2008
Publication date: 11 September 2008

Complaint
      We’ve received complaints from viewers who were unhappy with aspects of the commentary during The Eurovision Dance Contest, BBC One, on 6th September 2008.

BBC’s response
      We regret that some viewers felt that the commentary was offensive during The Eurovision Dance Contest as it was never our intention to cause offence or appear in any way xenophobic.

       The Eurovision Dance Contest is purely an entertainment event, following all the traditions of the hugely popular Eurovision Song Contest. For primetime Saturday night we want to give viewers a broad entertainment show, and it is the job of the commentators to be humorous and reflect the tongue-in-cheek competitiveness associated with similar contests. Such humour will not always be to everyone’s taste and we are sorry if some viewers judged it to be inappropriate or offensive.
       Likewise, criticising the apparent block voting by certain countries when the UK didn’t do well is all part of the fun and has become a great British tradition. There is no sign that the audience lost interest because of these complaints and the show received well over five million viewers.

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