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“I’m not going to talk about it…”

Posted 24th September 2010

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Photo of Chris Moyles

Oh dear. Moyles and pay, yet again. What’s the little scamp got up to this time?

As ever with Moyles, there’s generally a horrendous amount of baggage attached to the story. So much so, that I always dread writing about it. Anything written about Moyles is coloured if you think he’s paid far too much for being shit; if you think that, you’re obviously not going to be crying a fucking river for him over his pay dispute rant. (Though for the record: for anyone saying they don’t feel sympathy for the guy over this… I’m not entirely sure he wants you to.)

On the other hand, I fully admit my own baggage: The Chris Moyles Show to me is worth the license fee alone, if I dare to bring out possibly the most hackneyed phrase in existence. And whilst I certainly understand that lots of people just don’t take to Moyles’ style of broadcasting, I still think he doesn’t get the credit he deserves – and gets vitriol that he definitely doesn’t. So bring up the subject of Moyles with me, and my voice is likely to become slightly higher than is comfortable for the human ear.

Still, I won’t pretend it isn’t easy to understand. Any celebrity appearing in the papers complaining about their pay, when they’re paid far more than the average punter, is generally not going to go down well with some people, let alone someone with the hatedom Moyles seems to engender. But the problem – as ever with Moyles – is one of context. Take the rant and plant it into the papers, and no, to a lot of people it just doesn’t look good. Taken into context with the show, however, and it’s a slightly different story. The problem is that people just don’t seem to want to.

Indeed, this lack of context is symbolised by this BBC News story. “By 0700BST, the DJ had yet to play a record” is technically true – but as pointed out on Thursday morning’s show, this is entirely usual for the show – these days, it always starts out with half an hour of chat/nonsense/bollocks (delete as appropriate). The implication that the rant disrupted the usual flow of the show is entirely false; something that anyone who listened to the show properly would know. And this is the BBC’s own coverage!

Still, the whole issue goes a bit deeper than that. There are many, many reasons why I love Chris Moyles (and a few things which even I find irritating), most of which are irrelevant to this discussion – but it’s worth just a moment to concentrate on the two relevant to this story. After all, why should I care about his pay situation? I hope we can all agree he’s right to be miffed, at least – after all, regardless of how much you earn, you’d be pissed off if you weren’t paid for two months. It’s whether he was right to rant about it on-air which is the question.

The important thing to note, though, is that this isn’t an isolated incident. This isn’t a moment of madness where Chris breaks the format of the show and rants for half an hour. The show is full of deconstruction; peeling back the layers and showing the inner workings. Sometimes it’s things he’s joyously revelling in; sometimes it’s him having a bitch about things going wrong. What some would call gross acts of self-importance, or at the very least indulgence, simply immensely appeals to the geeky side of my nature. I just absolutely love hearing how the show is put together.

My favourite example of this recently – because I’m a jingle freak – was when they spent five minutes entirely deconstructing how one of their competition jingles was rewritten and resung with different lyrics to make the damn thing rhyme properly. That sets off the same synapses in my brain as, say, watching the deleted scenes from Red Dwarf. Or finding out how Strike It Lucky‘s computer system worked. Or looking at beta versions of Sonic 2 and seeing the differences with the final game. It’s that geek’s itch in wanting to know how things are put together; how things work. And pretty much every aspect of the show has been deconstructed in this way at one point or another. I’ve learnt a hell of a lot about radio from listening to this show.

Now, obviously this concentration on behind-the-scenes on the show will not be to everyone’s taste. What it is, however, is an aspect to the show that’s far from the seemingly widely-held perception – and yet it comes screaming out every time you listen to it. (To say nothing of Moyles’ geeky nature himself, barely hidden behind the ostensible laddishness, but that can wait for another time.) Dragging us back to the actual point, however, it’s also vital to the context of his rant: it’s just yet another glimpse behind-the-scenes. And not nearly as unusual, special, or out-of-place as it might appear to non-listeners of the show.

(Again, off the point slightly, but an interesting effect of these glimpses behind-the-scenes is that it gives the show a great sense of, for want of a better word, veracity. At times they literally have on-air meetings about the running of the show. I’m not stupid enough to think that everything is brought out into the open – you only have to see the tiptoeing around the issue of Chris’s recent breakup to see that – but nonetheless, there is a palpable sense of no-bollocks around the show that I find extremely refreshing.)

So, that’s the first bit of context. And yet the whole issue also touches on something even simpler than that: what the show is, to me, is nothing less than an extended family. “You’ve got a friend”, the old Radio 1 jingles sang… and I do. In fact, I have several, who I wake up with each morning. Radio used to pride itself on being your friend. These days, some people seem to think that’s a bit sad. But I’m happy to stand up loud and proud and say that that’s exactly how I view the show. To say nothing of how things like the tales of the Moyles team nicking milk from the various Radio 1 departments – Newsbeat, Management, Specialist – make the station itself feel like one big family. Which is something I love in a radio station, and doesn’t quite happen enough these days. (6 Music is the only other example which instantly springs to mind.)

The Chris Moyles Team

The reason I’m interested in Moyles’ rant because I’m interested in what’s on his mind this morning. It’s one of the things I tune in for. I’m also interested in what stupid thing Dominic has already done today, what ill-thought-through idea for a feature Dave’s had, and how Tina’s new boyfriend is doing. And I also want to sit there tutting about the fact that Aled’s eaten an entire box of Cadbury’s Chocolate Fingers.

Now, do I expect people who don’t listen to his show to care? Absolutely not. Of course they don’t care. Why should they? But this is the problem when an issue that entirely fits with the show’s agenda is suddenly pelted out across major news outlets. What is effectively a workmate bitching to you about his pay – something that goes on across offices every single day – suddenly comes across as something altogether different.

The key thing here, however, is the following: putting this story on the agenda is the news outlets choice, not Christopher Moyles’. Just because what he’s saying isn’t necessarily appropriate in a news bulletin – or, at the very least, easy to misinterpret – it doesn’t mean he shouldn’t say it on his own show, where it has that all-important context. It wasn’t his choice to spray it across the news. Maybe you could call him naive for not expecting it to happen – and it really seems that he didn’t – but even if he had predicted the story would be picked up, it still doesn’t mean he wasn’t right to bring it up on his own show. It isn’t, if we’re going to veer towards playground vernacular, his fault, Miss.

Now, it’s worth pointing out he got plenty of texts during the show complaining about his rant. I’m certainly not pretending everyone who listens to his show agrees with him on this; merely that the news agenda strips the discussion of context. And I entirely get that Moyles’ rant might not be what some people want to hear when they tune in first thing in the morning. There’s an argument that he shouldn’t have done it. But that’s hardly a foregone conclusion with every single listener – because I, for one, was pleased to hear him say it.

Why? Because I’ve had pay issues at work before. Everyone has. Not being paid correctly, problems with overtime, etc. And it actually comforts me to hear that this kind of thing is a problem whatever kind of job you have. Now, I’m admittedly not exactly on the breadline, but my pay is a tiny, tiny fraction of what Moyles gets – and I liked to hear it. I didn’t feel jealous, or annoyed, I felt… solidarity. I’m not alone, goddamn it!

(Also, the entire event cumulated in a discussion about Ryan Seacrest of KIIS-FM in LA using a gold microphone engraved with his name. Whilst Radio 1 staff can’t even get milk in the morning. Which is amusing.)

None of this I really expect to change people’s mind about Moyles’ broadcasting style. It very definitely isn’t for everyone. Nor am I saying the guy’s perfect; there are things said on the show I disagree with, despite my immense love for the rest of the programme. All I would plead is that people judge his comments here in the context in which they were made. A context in which the goings on behind-the-scenes on the show are exploited for material on a regular basis, a context which involves his listeners being interested in what he has to say each morning, and a context where there is a legitimate argument for some people being soothed by his comments, even if you personally didn’t like them. Not the zero context that the news coverage provides, pumping it out to the wrong group of people who just don’t care.

This was not an extraordinary rant from Moyles. This was daily business. And I love it.

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1 Comment

Andrew on 24 September 2010 @ 10am

That this is business as usual for the show is an important point that has been totally missed. The way in which it, like everything, turned intentionally from a ‘rant’ into a ‘riff’ – the way the show has always used the team’s personal lives to fuel material – isn’t captured well by the coverage at all.

The angry response from some, it seems to me, comes from the simple reason that he’s invaded their life-space. The man’s in the papers so they feel compelled to re-state their dislike. Which I get – you don’t like the show, you don’t listen, so this is the first you’ve heard from him in a while. Unbidden he came into your life, and you want to clearly re-state your dislike. I did the same when the Pope showed up.

But Moyles didn’t have his agent put out a press release. The papers picked up on a fairly typical opening-half-hour of the show. This just forces people to be aware of it.

So: good piece. A point very much worth making.

(You could write pages on the same show’s later content, in which the *cough* ‘homophobic’ DJ gets angry about the continued existence of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in the US military and asks why they can’t just treat gay men and women in service as normal. Nobody has. But then it *did*, as ever, shift over to comic riff…and I’m pretty sure it will have offended some at that point!)