Opinion: Perspective - BBC must be wary of bigger picture in Brand row

It was always inevitable - once the story had been fanned by the combined might of the national media - that Sachsgate should osmose into an attack on the BBC's public service status.

So, Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand have used the BBC's licence fee-funded airwaves to broadcast "offensive" material. No doubt you will have heard the juicy bits on the news by now.

By midweek, thousands upon thousands of people had been moved to voice their disapproval of Ross and Brand (read Ian Darby on page 14 for an exposition of us Brits' peculiar form of outrage). By Wednesday, the row had grown to embrace the debate on the future of public service broadcasting.

Never mind that the original programme was broadcast a good week before any significant number of complaints were lodged. Never mind that the snowballing calls of outrage to the BBC this week were surely made by people who had not listened to the original programme. And never mind that Sachs' granddaughter, a burlesque dancer with the Satanic Sluts and would-be Page 3 pin-up, has actually got sexy with Brand.

None of this makes the original incident any less thoughtlessly juvenile or the BBC's decision to broadcast it any less ill-judged. Still, all sense of perspective has been lost over the past few days and the idea that Sachsgate is being used to call the whole premise of PSB into question is deeply worrying.

Spying a bandwagon at full throttle, the politicians have waded in. Gordon Brown took a break from chewing his nails over the state of the economy to lob his own views into the debate, describing the Radio 2 broadcast as "offensive and inappropriate".

The Conservative culture spokesman, Jeremy Hunt, also spotting a convenient platform, made a speech at the London School of Economics, saying the show should not have been broadcast because it encourages antisocial behaviour. Hunt laid into several broadcasters for screening a handful of "worthy" programmes as a "figleaf" for a whole raft of socially irresponsible material.

It will all be a serious test of mettle for the BBC's former marketing director Tim Davie, now the head of BBC radio despite having no previous editorial management experience. Davie will now lead an urgent review of the incident and the approval process the pre-recorded show went through before it made it to air. The thought that he may be carrying responsibility for defending the BBC's PSB credentials will make the inquiry even more piquant.

It's imperative that Davie and the BBC Trust move the debate on from the BBC's funding status and admit quickly to a one-off case of error of judgment. As rival commercial broadcasters feel the recessionary squeeze, there are plenty of knives already sharpened to attack the Corporation's licence fee. But for the long-term future of British broadcasting, it's vital that the BBC's funding is protected.

The best thing for the Corporation to do now would be to cast off Brand and Ross, both of whom would find welcome arms in the commercial sector. After all, Sachsgate will have done their bankability no harm at all.

Why is anyone surprised that the ad industry is so resolutely white and middle class (feature, page 26)? Executives tend to hire in their own image and the industry is serving a client community that is also far from diverse.

There's no doubt that the issue of adland's lack of diversity is a serious one and something the business should try harder to tackle itself before someone else does it for it.

But the sad fact is that some of the country's brightest graduates from outside the white middle classes don't feel a job in advertising has the status and rewards their talent deserves. That's a problem adland might find harder to solve.