According to an October 8 Telegraph article, prominent BBC presenter Graham Norton has labelled the decision to reveal how much he and other talent at the tax payer funded corporation are paid “pathetic”.
According to the article, published under an anonymous “Telegraph Reporters” by-line, “Norton said the disclosures were not in the public interest and had done little more than provoke ‘gossip’ about what people earn.”
The muti-award winning actor-presenter Norton is apparently unaware of or indifferent to the concern of this writer and others that he and other media stars’ influence on society can not only be excessive, but potentially poisonous, contributing to the mental health crisis that permeates British society.
This concern, raised by men, women, black and white, gay and straight, university students, academics, religious clerics, politicians, trade unionists, business people, bankers, parents and other persons of virtually every thinkable label and category stems from the relative omnipotence and omnipresence of the media, through 24-hour news cycles and social media penetration into personal spaces that traditional media had previously not reached, at least, not in ways that Google Analytics and other algorithmic measurements allow us to quantify and, significantly, monetize currently.
On June 6 this year, I raised the issue of “on-air” (including internet, newspaper and other print) media penetration and pollution at a meeting of the National Union Of Journalists Black Members body.
I told chairman Marc Wadsworth and others of my concerns that journalists and other media personalities are consciously or unconsciously contributing to a cloud of confusion that parallels the “air pollution” that the environmental activist legal firm Client Earth has sued the British government for, successfully.
I also raised the issue at the Digital Innovation In Mental Health conference convened by neuroscientist Becky Inkster, July 17th – 18th, 2018.
So as far as I and some other persons are concerned, the publication of Norton’s and other BBC staffers’ arguably excessive and possibly socio-economically corrosive salaries has not “done little more than provoke ‘gossip’ about what people earn”.
From my perspective, it has reinforced my and others’ belief that the internal bullying by some BBC prima dona personnel of their more vulnerable colleagues and other symptoms of morally muddled thinking and bankruptcy at the this tax payer funded corporation suggest that the lessons that should have been learned from the Jimmy Saville scandal are yet to be learned by Norton and others, at the expense of British democracy.
And I note Norton’s rise to fame through comic portrayals of Mother Teresa and other religious personalities.
The openly gay presenter, who has arguably built his career on sustained, unsubtle parodying of and attacks on conservative religious and secular notions of morality is apparently oblivious to the concern that I and other Judeo-Christian religious reformers and some less “sensational” gay people have that the generosity of spirit that makes us keen to defend the rights of gay people like him, Sir Elton John, Sandi Toksvig, Stephen Fry, Lord Alli and others is being taken advantage of and abused by them, consciously or unconsciously.
While some of us may empathize and be amused by Norton’s humorous description of himself on the Channel 4 website as a “shiny Irish poof”, we are nonetheless uncomfortable with the self-indulgent assertion on the BBC website that “his exceedingly camp style gives him the licence to be exceedingly rude without being offensive”.
It seems to me that this assessment smacks of the kind of flawed thinking that induced many of the sexual predator Saville’s colleagues to make excuses for and rationalize what they called his “eccentricities”.
Norton apparently thinks the insistence by the former Culture Secretary John Whitingdale and other MPs that the BBC publish the salaries of everyone earning £150,000 or more was unjustified because some information about his and other employees salaries was already in the public domain.
According to the Telegraph he said “The public transparency was already there. They’d already published what proportion of the licence fee is paid to on-screen talent. Now, that’s the bit that people should be interested in.”
But it seems to me that the extent of media psycho-social penetration into British citizens’ and residents’ affairs, aided by their political, religious, business and social media allies, at least, warrants maximum transparency on Norton’s and other “stars” part, correspondingly.
I do not just want to know how much CNN’s Becky Anderson gets paid: I want to know who she is sleeping with, especially if that is information she seems to be guarding jealously.
I do not just want to know what percentage of the mainstream media is gay: I want to know the extent to which their sexual orientation is influencing BBC programming and policy.
Has anyone developed an algorithm to measure the social impact of Norton’s “over the top” brand of gay humor on the perception of gay people generally?
Might there be a danger that he and other “cult icons” are exerting an overblown (“overthrown”, as in cricket), caricature cultivating rather than character building influence on gay people in the UK and other countries, especially Commonwealth countries like my native Barbados?
Might there be a danger that Toksvig and other prominent lesbian women are propagating fascist, fundamentalist feminist narratives and modelling misandry motivated, bigoted behaviors that are comparable to the narratives and behavior of blinkered, Bible, Koran or Torah thumping personalities?
Today, World Mental Health Day, is a good day to reflect on these and other questions that have implications for how we view all media stars’ entitlement to their often lavish salaries.
It seems to me that the technological-ethical “overthrows” and “misfields” of the supposedly secular BBC can be spiritually comparable to and just as psycho-socially divisive and damaging as the dogma driven media excesses of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and similar Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and other religious entities.
I trust that the members of Parliament sitting on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee are alert to these matters and their implications for UK citizens and residents’ mental health and the soundness, or not, of this country’s democracy.