Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Broadcasting, Diversity and Funny Accents

It's that time of year when the nights are getting shorter but it's grey and wet, so our thoughts turn to holidays. If you are planning to holiday in Spain I wonder what pictures you get in your mind when you dream about your holiday. Is it brilliant sunshine, blue sea, white sand, sangria, tapas, flamenco and a background of high mountains against a deep blue horizon? Or is it a picture of brilliant sunshine, white sand, Big Ben's Pub, Ye Cockney Fish and Chip Shop, horrendous music booming from grubby bars selling best bitter and fat men in Union Jack shorts, earrings and England replica shirts stretched so tight they resemble tattoos?

The truth is you are likely to find an element of both, the degree dependent on where you choose, and that depends on your knowledge of Spain. Personally I would never venture within ten miles of Salou ever again after experiencing two foul nights there a few years back. I'm sure most of us dream of the sangria, flamenco and tapas option rather than the fat beer belly in an England shirt. Does that make us racist? I suggest not.

For the same reason I don't think the TV series Midsomer Murders is racist, to suggest it is displays a seriousness and lack of imagination bordering on the mentally ill. The people who have suspended Brian True-May, the producer from his job should be sacked and kept safely away from real people, until they lighten up.

Midsomer Murders is set in a fictional, caricature English rural setting where people in one village think those from the village two miles away are dangerous outsiders, to be avoided at all costs and kept at a distance because they only arrived two hundred years ago. Brian True-May's only sin is in stating it in plain terms in an interview, rather than couching it in mealy mouthed politically correct platitudes.

On another level it is a stylised twenty first century version of what many would dream of as being a typical Cotswold village, or a small town in North Yorkshire or any other quaint rural location. I bet when people dream of those typical English places they don't imagine a mosque at one end of the main street, a Buddhist Temple at the other, a few West Indians on one street, a few Indians on another. The local plumber is a Pole and the doctor a German with a thriving West African community outnumbering white English Anglicans at the fifteenth century parish church. No, they will have a vision of something like the villages in Midsomer Murders. That does not make it racist.

Television is entertainment. What next, an attack on the violence in Midsomer Murders as over 150 people have been murdered in a few short years in one small cluster of villages in the sleepy English countryside? Do we white English people claim that it depicts white people, especially middle class white people, as full of avarice, greed and murderous urges? It's called the suspension of disbelief, now get on with it and stop taking life so bloody seriously.

But while we're at it the use of ever more harsh local and regional accents on TV and radio has naused me off for a few years now. I don't mind strong accents when they add to the programme. If they all spoke like the Queen in Coronation Street and Eastenders it just wouldn't ring true. But continuity announcers, and those in non-drama TV and radio productions should not have accents that detract from the programme.

 Neil Nunes is a case in point. He is a continuity announcer on BBC Radio 4. He has such a rich, deep Jamaican accent that for a second you think the dial on youir radio has moved. I like his accent, but it detracts from what you actually need to hear, as do any strong accents on TV and radio. Now don't get me wrong, I have a strong regional accent and love the range of regional acccents we have in this country, but there are times when it is just not appropriate. I feel the same about overly strong Northern English accents, Irish, Scots or Welsh accents, it's not a racial thing nor is it snobbery. I'm not calling for an absurd BBC pronunciation a la Lord Reith, just a reasonable accent and pronunciation that do not detract from what's being communicated.

The problem with the BBC is that years ago it forgot it was a broadcaster, and has been desperately wasting resources and patronising us as the most heavily state subsidised social engineering outfit the world has ever seen. I hope this article indicates that they may be finally realising that we don't want to be treated like idiots being lectured by a supercilious headmaster any longer.

The one I really can't bare to listen to at the moment is Professor Brian Cox. Every time I hear his voice I think it's Mark Lawrenson. It disturbs me.

1 comment:

Peter Metcalfe said...

The attack on Midsomer Murders, and particularly the suspension of the producer, betrays the underlying racism within the media against the white population in this country.
This institutional racism is endemic not only in the media but anywhere that political correct tendons have reached and spread their poison.
Classic strategy of divide and rule