Amidst its acres of coverage of the US embassy cables today, The Guardian devoted its page three to a showbiz story. Illustrated by a dazzling photo of Cheryl Cole and Simon Cowell, the paper told its readers that Cole is likely to join Cowell as a judge on the new US version of X Factor.
Nothing wrong with a bit of show biz talk, especially as The Guardian, like most papers, is battling against a worrying drop in circulation. Nothing wrong with Cole and Cowell flying the British flag in the USA. Nothing wrong with celebrating the success of British star exports. But something is wrong, very wrong. The station that will produce the US version of X Factor – and also produces American Idol – is part of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox network. As readers of this blog will be all too aware, its sister station, Fox News, is rabidly right wing, shamelessly promotes the Tea Party and is seriously attempting to make Sarah Palin the next leader the western world.
And yet no one, not even The Guardian, seems to be opening the sleepiest of eyelids to make the connection and ask: is this right? Should British entertainers be signing multi-million dollar contracts with a TV network that broadcasts the vile rants of Glenn Beck? Should British entertainers sign up to a network that would drag America, and the west, into a right wing ideology that makes David Cameron look like a liberal lefty?
Coincidentally, today’s Guardian carried a story about whether The Simpsons had recently overstepped the line “in poking fun at its corporate paymasters in Fox.” Nothing to worry about apparently! Al Jean, executive producer of The Simpsons, told the New York Times that feuding with Fox suited both The Simpsons and Fox. “Both ends of it benefit the ultimate News Corp agenda. We’re happy to have a little feud with Bill O’Reilly. That’s a very entertaining thing for us.”
We have no wish to be killjoys or suggest boycotts or bans. However, we do think it important that we viewers bear in mind that every time we watch a Fox programme, on whatever UK channel, we are indirectly helping the coffers of News Corporation. This sadly even applies to brilliant, satirical programmes like The Simpsons on Channel 4 and Family Guy on BBC3.
Similarly, we would like our performers to be aware of the responsibility they hold when they sign up to Fox. And we would hope that our more liberal media would remind them. The Guardian is no friend of Mr Murdoch and has fearlessly led the exposure of the News of the World phone hacking scandal. But if this newspaper sees no problem with British celebrities boosting Fox, why should Cheryl Cole be expected to give a toss?