Media Perspective: Feeling outraged is all part of the British way of life nowadays

Amusing sport has been had this week following blogs and phone-ins in the aftermath of Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross on Brand's Radio 2 show.

Not that Brand himself was in any way amusing, but his actions, leaving lewd messages on the answerphone service of the Fawlty Towers star Andrew Sachs, demonstrate just how concerned we are as a nation, and, within this, as a media industry, with censorship and regulation.

It's funny that when clueless members of the public hand over a licence fee they expect the right to manage the BBC's content, whereas they wouldn't dream of interfering in, say, complex taxation formulae despite coughing up a large part of their salaries to the state in income tax and national insurance. But then maybe temporary state ownership of a couple of major banks has brought with it a new mentality.

While the incident isn't good for the BBC's reputation, it was positive for the national press and for media websites. It gave The Sun a chance to knock Brand and the BBC, while printing a near-naked picture of the girl at the centre of the furore, Sachs' granddaughter and one-time Page Three wannabe Georgina Baillie, 23.

On the whole, though, the incident reminded me how swift we are in calling for greater rigours and censorship over one isolated incident. To go too far down this path would be bad not just for the BBC, but for its commercial rivals too. Bring me Brand's "dinkle" on a spike and I'll be happy.

The previous week, Transport for London and its outdoor contractor, CBS Outdoor, attracted similar venom over its decision to greenlight the "atheist bus campaign", which will fund four weeks of activity using the line "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life", across 30 buses.

Personally, I don't find the message offensive, so good luck to the atheists as they soar past the target of £11,000 required to fund the campaign (£110,000 pledged on the Just Giving site at the time of writing). Hats off to them for including the word "probably" in the copy ("it's likely to get us around the advertising regulations," the organiser Ariane Sherine says) and to CBS for agreeing to run the creative. Tim Bleakley, its managing director, makes an admirable (not to mention pragmatic) point when he says: "It's not for us to make judgments on the appropriate nature of advertising based on people's beliefs."

Let's hope others take this view. For impact at least, this could become one of the transport campaigns of the year, especially given that at last week's Campaign Big Awards, it seemed most of the winning press and outdoor work was interchangeable. How many national newspapers would take the ad, I wonder.

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