I have always loved, though occasionally been exasperated by the 49 year old presenter. For me, he is the embodiment of good, high profile broadcasting of the kind that only a few people in this country, namely Terry Wogan, Chris Evans and Chris Moyles, can pull off. He’s the superior of all of those as far as I’m concerned, because, as a man who came of age in the punk era of the late 70s, he has always retained an element of danger, of risk, to his presentation ; I think it would be fair to say he has been an anti-establishment figure who has found himself at the heart of the establishment, and it is for this reason, among others, that his head had to roll sooner or later.
Some might say £6 million a year to present exclusively for the BBC is an obscenely large amount of money, and yes, this now infamous and oft quoted (never confirmed) figure was agreed in 2006, before today’s current recession the payment of someone who is essentially an entertainer from the public purse does seem out of place. For my (licence) money, he’s worth every penny, and all such claims are born of the great British disease of jealousy, something at which we excel in this country. Rather than aggresively defend its decision to fight to keep its’ talent, the BBC unfortunately has to tread extremely delicately in the current political and media environment, where it is clear that forces of private media ownership have organised a hate campaign against them. Ross indiscretions, Sachsgate, his enourmous salary, talk of “fucking” Gwyneth Paltrow on his Friday night show (hell, who wouldn’t) just became made him a stick with with the Daily Mail could beat the BBC Trust. It’s a true shame that they capitulated, as the right wing press have claimed it as a victory and been emboldened by it.
I always warmed to Ross because, particularly in these post 9/11 times, as a British Asian, I’ve felt conflicted about being British, and the sense of tolerance in his broadcasting made me feel accepted. There is an inclusiveness about his show and a warmth about his personality that makes you feel ok, it’s clear in his love of black culture, and his enthusiasm and warmth towards guests who are of colour, whereas one suspects readers of the Torygraph and Daily Hate would rather be watching Jim Davidson calling black people picanninies on a Friday night. He can be like an excitable child at times, which is by turns annoying and endearing, while his mocking persona clearly belies a fierce intelligence – he clearly knows the history of music and movies, and is authentically passionate about advocating the best of the present popular culture, whereas somelike Michael Parkinson’s idea of cutting edge is Jamie Cullum and Robbie Williams.
When he wasn’t getting over excited on his Friday night show, I was always impressed by his journalistic instincts. He would bluff his way into the affections of his guests with his daft persona, before asking them the most personal, pressing and intimate questions, the questions that few interviewers had the courage to ask. When Rhianna came on his show, you knew he’d ask her about the domestic abuse she’d suffered at the hands of her boyfriend Chris Brown, and he even had the nerve to ask Hugh Grant why he wasn’t married with kids at his age, something few journalists would do in this age of the sycophantic celebrity interview.
Yes, he could say things that occasionally offended people, but that made me all the more proud that we live in a country where the national broadcaster allows presenters to take risks, and occasionally offend people, albeit without malice, rather than a country like America, where free speech exists in theory until you actually practice it.