So, what have we learned here?

June 3, 2009



Andy Burnham, the British culture secretary, wants the Office of Communications to investigate whether the television network and the producers of “Britain’s Got Talent” had acted responsibly toward Susan Boyle in the runup to the show’s finals. The implication is that the people behind the show that vaulted Boyle from the obscurity of a Scottish village to the limelight of YouTube should have done a better job of protecting her from the effects of sudden fame.

Burnham made reference to Britain’s broadcast code when he called for a determination that “duty of care” had been exercised with respect to Susan Boyle, who was briefly hospitalized for exhaustion after coming in second in the show’s finals. The Office of Communications doesn’t think the broadcast code covers what happened to Boyle, but Burnham said: “We are living in a world where it is not just about what happens on telly on a Saturday night. There is 360 degree scrutiny, 365 days a year.  We need to look after people, not just around the camera. Broadcasters should always put people’s welfare first.”

This has prompted some bitter responses from readers of The Times of London, some sympathetic to Susan Boyle, some not. Some of the readers were outraged that the government would even think of becoming involved in a trivial, private matter. I liked the comment from Al of Manchester:

The UK is full of cruel people feasting on a diet of bile soaked Tabloid fodder and Reality TV trash. First they jeered and sneered at Susan for not looking like a singer and now they do the same because she not “tough enough to take it”. What a sad place and sad people we’ve become.

And Jessica of Eastbourne:

Can I just say that “they” did not treat Susan any differently than any of the other contestants. Susan was a victim of the throwaway celebrity culture that the UK and the US fawn over so much. If anyone “threw her away” it was the public, and the show’s producers are not as much to blame as we are.

What I loved about the reporting of this story is that after the universal handwringing and public penance over the snickering and eye-rolling when Susan Boyle first appeared on the show, the media couldn’t mention her without pointing out how “dowdy” she is, how unlikely a celebrity she is, or without calling attention again to the fact that she is a “virgin” who has “never been kissed.”


One Response to “So, what have we learned here?”

  1. bart Says:

    The UK Tabloids are really going down the sewer fast. It seems like the coming death of print journalism has created a sort of weirdo desperation where fairness, truth or even compassion have disappeared.

    Before Boyle there was another reality show celebrity who they stalked for six months while she died of cancer – and then gave her shit for talking to them and “exploiting” her disease.

    And don’t get me started on their “Maddie” coverage where they spent six months accusing the little girl’s parents of killing her, only to do a complete 360 and now blame vague “arab child smuggling rings.”

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