Monday, January 10, 2005

Jerry Springer - The Opera: What the BBC is for

It is always high culture that rouses the forces of reaction to fury. The last time there was a row comparable to that over Jerry Springer - The Opera was in 1987 when Channel 4 broadcast a film of Tony Harrison's poem V.

This encyclopaedia entry reminds us what happened then

His best-known poem is the fairly long V.(1985), written during the UK miners' strike of 1984-5, and describing a trip to see his parents' grave in a Leeds cemetery "now littered with beer cans and vandalised by obscene graffiti". The title has several possible interpretations: victory, versus, verse etc.

Proposals to screen a filmed version of V. by Channel 4 in October 1987 drew howls of outrage from the tabloid press, some broadsheet journalists, and MPs, apparently concerned about the effects its "torrents of obscene language" and "streams of four-letter filth" would have on the nation's youth.

Indeed, an Early day Motion entitled "Television Obscenity" was proposed on 27 October 1987 by a group of Conservative MPs, who condemned Channel 4 and the Independent Broadcasting Authority. The motion was opposed by a single MP, Mr Norman Buchan, who suggested that MPs had either failed to read or failed to understand V.

The broadcast went ahead, and the brouhaha settled quickly after enough column inches had been written about the broadcast and reaction to the broadcast.

Jerry Springer - The Opera is the sort of programme that justifies the existence of public service broadcasting. The BBC took a production that had been seen largely by the metropolitan elite and made it available to a much wider audience.

It is the acres of lifestyle programming and reality shows that make me begrudge paying the licence fee. Broadcasts like this one reconcile me to it.

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