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Reggie shows his top of the flops

BAD MOVE: Reggie Yates’ comments have cost him his spot on this year’s Top of the Pops Christmas special

Christmas won’t be Christmas this year? Who is going to tell them that Reggie Yates won’t be hosting the yuletide Top of the Pops? Everybody knows that Christmas isn’t Christmas if Reggie and Fearne Cotton are not going through the pick of the pops of the year together, as they have done for many years, as we gather around an open fireplace roasting chestnuts.

We know what Christmas is – and it wouldn’t be Christmas without Reggie. My daughters, like many young people, have grown up believing that Reggie is the best thing since sliced bread and a philosopher, on the level of Marx, Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Heidegger and Levi Strauss all rolled into one. They believe he is a better presenter than David Dimbleby, John Humphrys and their dad all together.

Reggie may well be the best presenter on the entire planet. But he is not the smartest. At least not when it comes to navigating his way through the mine eld of the Arab-Israeli War of 1967 and its role in contemporary rap music.

Nor when it comes to walking the tightrope of discretion and valour through the whirlwind of pitfalls through being a BBC presenter. These are hazards that I have myself had to overcome throughout a career that spans a generation and more.

And I have somewhat successfully managed to triumph despite the warped and twisted haters who, even as we speak, scan every word I utter in the hope that they can find some permutation of a word or a sentence, if not the cadence of my speech that can somehow, somewhat, bring about my downfall.

As Reggie Yates’s off-the-cuff but ill-advised comments on grime music has brought about his demise – somewhat – at least for Christmas. So what did Reggie do? Well, he dropped his guard. In public. A BBC presenter can never do that. Because of the unique way it is funded (by the public), BBC presenters have got to be on it 24/7. Even in our sleep.

And, of course, that is impossible. Sometimes we slip and we slide. But when we do, we’ve gotta be sharp enough to say, “Jokes, pure jokes, man – for real”. Because there are enough clowns to the left of us and jokers to the right out there who ain’t too happy about having to pay their licence fees towards some random black guy’s salary. Truss.

Yeah, but what did Reggie do wrong? Well, he let his ego do the talking for him. True say he is a big shot, and my daughters love him and he is/was the golden black boy of the BBC. He forgot to second-guess every single word that he said. Yes, man. How do you think I’ve survived so long at the BBC?

I have to constantly second- guess how what I say is going to be misconstrued by someone somewhere and used in evidence against me at my industrial tribunal. That doesn’t mean I don’t say what needs to be said. It doesn’t even mean I water it down. It simply means that I look all the way down that road to see where the potential hazards are to avoid a collision somewhere down the line (or should that be lane).

These are the lessons that I have learned from being a frontline presenter at the Corporation all these years. Lessons of survival. I remember the ex-BBC radio presenter Alex Pascall, a Grenadian by birth, asking me with more than a hint of suspicion in his voice, “Dotun, how come YOU have managed to survive all these years at the BBC?”, almost as if to suggest that I
must be MI5 or FBI or KGB or whatever to have juggled my way through. Pascall survived only a handful of years at the helm of the BBC programme that was once upon a time Black Londoners.

I promise you I am no intelligence of cer. I have not been recruited by some nefarious spying organisation. I am siply a little ghetto boy from Tottenham, north London, via Lagos, Nigeria, who understands the way the system works. But back to Reggie...

HYPE

When a top-ranking black presenter starts talking like a white presenter who can get away with certain things that a black presenter can’t, you know he believes the hype. That’s the way it is. Black people can talk of other black people, without getting sacked, in a way that white people can’t. And Jewish people can talk about Jewish people in a way that gentiles can’t.

And, if he was Jewish, Reggie’s comments may have had another context. In the event, his comments that grime artists today are independent rather than being managed by “some random fat Jewish guy from north-west London” was determined by whatever department at the BBC that determines these things as so offensive that Reggie had to go.

From what I have determined from speaking to countless grime artists in the last few days, they all believe that Reggie was referring to one particular individual from north-west London who they all know. But that is besides the point. Reggie did not qualify his comments sufficiently as a BBC presenter, and had to pay the price.

Now, anyone who knows the media like I do (and you have to study the media – or any other industry – if you want to survive in it) will know that there is one thing that the media loves even more than a fall from grace – a snivelling confession.

For Reggie, the ultimate humiliation was having to tweet that grovelling plea for forgiveness on Twitter. He wrote: “On a recent podcast, during a discussion about grime artists, I made some ill- considered remarks which have hurt many people ...

“This has been, and continues to be a huge learning experience for me, and on reflection I have taken the decision to step down from hosting Top of the Pops this year.”

What a humiliation. How can you take an apology seriously when the author clearly did not write it himself. This was not so much an apology as a plea for mercy to save his career. And I get that. He should try to save his career. He’s good at presenting.

But, “I have taken the decision to step down”... You took the decision, Reggie? Pur-leeeeze! Having said that, Clara Amfo is going to rock Top of the Pops in Reggie’s place this Christmas. And I suspect my daughters will be subsequently asking: “Reggie who?”

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