I am not claiming to be an angel in this regard. I have been placed into “premod” status before on the BBC boards, and I accept the first time this happened, around 2002, it was entirely my own fault – I was pushing the limits to see how far I could take controversial comment, and I agree it went too far on that occasion.
Premod status, by the way, happens when your comments do not go directly onto the board but are vetted beforehand by a moderator to ensure they do not break any accepted rules within a code of conduct. This first period of premod only applied to BBC radio and television boards, and did not affect my posting on what remains my first interest on the BBC webpages, the “h2g2” (Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) pages, a legacy site the BBC took over following the death of its originator, author and BBC scriptwriter Douglas Adams. This was fair, as the offence did not take place on these boards and I have retained a good relationship with h2g2 at all times since (up till now) – one or two disagreements, but nothing that could not be soothed over by intelligent editing. After a couple of months, it was amicably resolved and I was allowed to resume free posting.
A second period of premoderation occurred in rather more sinister circumstances in 2007. I had posted to several threads on the Radio Two boards expressing concern at the behaviour of the then golden boy of the station, louche “comedian” Russsell Brand, who at the time was presenting a late-night Saturday shoe on Radio Two. In common with other posters, I had questioned this person’s suitability for the station, citing his extreme language, behaviour and on-air persona as reasons for the BBC to keep him under a tighter rein. I even suggested that allowing him the freedom to do as he pleased was going to end up in trouble of the sort that would bring the BBC into needless disrepute. (this was in February and March of that year).
Later on, after listening to one of his shows and feeling both troubled and disgusted by it, I made a formal complaint about his on-air behaviour. This was following a show where he requested listeners to send in tapes of themselves having sex, the best of which would be played on the show, and he promised to being on an extreme cabaret performer whose speciality was blowing ping-pong balls out of her vagina. I’m not easily offended – disgusted, yes – but this was going too far, so I made a formal complaint. This was not only fobbed off by the BBC with a bland reply, but it must evidently have been shown to Brand’s production team for their comments, as it was referred to on air and both Brand and his sycophantic co-presenter made it (and me) the subject of jokes and bad humour.
(After subsequent events, I believe the only mistake I made was not getting an additional seven thousand complainants to pick it up – we could have gotten rid of him so much earlier! One complaint is something the BBC can easily fob off. Seven thousand, on the other hand…)
After posting the details of another faux pas Brand made on his show, where a woman guest (singer Chrissie Hynde) appeared offended to the point where she walked out, I sudeenly gound myself in premod again on the boards.
At this point, I was advised by a BBC insider that this was no accident and I had offended the wrong people – either Brand or his influential supporters (Lesley Douglas, a woman who appeared to be besotted with him?) had insisted that negative publicity on the talkboards was silenced.
This was painful, as this time the pre-modding was extended to h2g2 as well, despite my not having any issues on this board. I protested that this was unjust and unfair, but got no reply.
And then Sachsgate happened, Brand became a thing of the past, and my posting rights were just as mysteriously, and with no word of explanation, restored.
Most recently – the weekend of the 5th September 2010 - the BBC finally put out a press statement to attempt to clear up why Sarah Kennedy had mysteriously vanished from her early morning show. As her last appearance had been on the 13th August, the fact it took them three weeks to make an announcement of any kind was viewed as suspicious by some posters.
In common with many others that Saturday, I posted on the Radio Two boards to ask why it had taken so long, and to inquire into what very carefully wasn’t being said. There was also a lot of speculation, backed up with reference to the end of Johnny Walker as a BBC DJ, that Chris Evans had had a hand in it – that this man was getting more power than was good for him.
Foolishly in retrospect, I joined this speculation and by Sunday morning I was in premod again – as were several other regular and long-standing posters. This was galling and smacked of inconsistency and double standards, as one pro-Evans and anti-Kennedy poster (Scott Clout/Nelson) was allowed free rein to say whatever he liked, despite the fact his postings reeked of nasty triumphalism and were full of personal comment about Sarah K and those who were supporting her. Anyone trying to post to point this out had their postings deleted, or even went onto premod, as if Scott C-N was being protected by the BBC and given free rein to say what he thought.
During this period, I made about twenty postings, and seventeen of these were initially accepted and allowed to stand – being in premod means a mod has to read and approve of them, remember. Therefore if a BBC moderator actively read my postings and allowed them to stand, then by definition they were fit for publication and broke no house rules.
I had complained to the BBC and asked for my premod status to be reviewed. I had also pointed out that as the dispute was between me and the Radio Two boards, why should I be excluded from h2g2, a BBC forum where my postings were held to be of such worth that many of them had passed the selection process and been accepted as official Guide entries?
I still await formal response from the BBC.
But a strange thing happened after I complained.
All seventeen of the posts approved by a BBC moderator since I entered premod were taken down – all at once. Then they looked at postings to h2g2 and deleted four of my postings – despite the fact that a moderator had approved those for publication so they could NOT have offended against the house rules. It looked suspiciously as if somebody at the BBC was deliberately creating an evidence trail for what happened next – my account was now restricted, as I discovered on the Tuesday morning. This means that to all intents and purposes, I have been barred from the BBC as an undesirable, a troublemaker, all of whose postings are designed to “troll” and cause trouble.
Yet all seventeen of the postings they now emailed me to tell me had broken house rules had originally been directly read and approved as fit by a moderator – so how could they now turn round and tell me they broke exactly the same set of House Rules?
I contend that I am deliberately being targeted and scapegoated all b ecause I said, half in jest, that Chris Evans had a hand in getting Sarah Kennedy retired (possibly because he wants his own dumbed-down noisefest to start even earlier?)
And it isn’t just me – others have been excluded too.
It has been suggested that this is being deliberately done to exclude possible troublemakers while the Radio Two boards are closed down – this is to happen today, Friday 17th September, at noon.
Who knows – I might get my posting privileges back at one minute past noon, with no word of apology or explanation?
Things with the BBC go from bad to worse, I'm afraid to say. I did a stupid and ill-advised thing. I was so desperate to get in and post that I set up a new email address and was able to log in for about an hour under the name of "Philip Holtack" (the hero of a novel I’m writing, but that’s a different story – literally…) but they somehow worked out it was me and barred this one too. Must have been the ISP address being the same, or something. What they have done now, which really takes the biscuit, is to delete the name "AgProv" everywhere it appears and replace it with an anonymous number. Nothing so brutal as deleting all my postings for the past twelve years, oh no: they're mostly being left intact, but there's nothing there now to connect them with me. I'm really quite upset by this. It hurts most that in trying to set up a new ID and nickname, I was gifting them a really good excuse to take still further action, but what would you do?
If I resent anything, it's losing my access to "h2g2", the Douglas Adams Guide to the Planet Earth, where I wrote quite a few long serious essays which the Editors formally accepted as Guide Entries. So on this BBC site I created things of worth that people still read and leave appreciative comment on. The rest of the BBC I can take or leave - but not h2g2. Being barred from this site really hurts!
So – can you help? I’d really like to get this out to where people can read it, Can it go on R2OK!, please, even if I cannot yet post it under my own name?
I affirm the contents of this mailing are as truthful as my memory can make them.
Paul Catlow (AgProv)