Ian Monk: 'Wossy's' comms machine rolls on

Jonathan Ross' return to BBC screens was, excluding events in Washington, the showbiz story of the month. The PR and media machines around it would have done credit to the inaugurations of presidents.

Ian Monk
Ian Monk

For a start there was the relentless plugging of the star’s return. Piggybacking the print media obsession with Ross, BBC News provided endless bulletins and pictures.

Many in the BBC felt the corporation’s coverage of the original story in the autumn allowed news hounds excessive licence to embarrass their bosses.

Last week’s coverage gave rise to the suspicion that the BBC was again inflating the story – this time to drive ratings around the return of Ross.

The trend for audience-building self-promotion seems to have grown in recent years. Prime BBC news time has been given to goings-on around BBC shows such as Strictly Come Dancing and I’d Do Anything. The elevation of Panorama investigations nearly to the top of BBC news schedules treads a fine line between independent news values and promotion of the show.

Ross’ PR team had to deal with the relentless animosity of a number of newspapers, notably the Mail group, which never eschewed the opportunity to run an unflattering picture or dig up a new slant on a real or perceived misdemeanour. The PR strategy seems to have been to let the critics blaze away in the hope that they would appear sourly obsessive.

Through it all, what remained notable in the print media coverage was the compunction constantly to highlight Ross’ £18m BBC deal.

The press coverage seemed symptomatic of its visceral urge to find scapegoats for current economic travails. The press vents frustrations that culpable bankers seem beyond retribution with their ill-gotten bonuses and knighthoods intact.

It seems there is a process of blame-transference in the media’s protracted vilification of ‘Wossy’. The bankers appear beyond retribution, but maybe the Ross scalp would satisfy the bloodlust of media that are suffering grievous damage in the recession?


Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun

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