Monday, November 28, 2005


Here's a surprising change of heart: Jonathan Ross, who anchored the BBC coverage of Live8 has admitted that he thought the bill for the event had been ill-considered.

Ross had Damon Albarn as a guest on his chat show last Friday, and surprised Albarn by agreeing with his attack on the line-up:

Speaking to the singer, Damon Albarn, on his chat show, Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, he admitted he was filled with "regret" at not having spoken out against the lack of African performers at the event on 6 July and singling out bands such as Velvet Revolver and Pink Floyd's reunion as part of his criticism.

"It was, at times, very patronising. I could have swapped Velvet Revolver for just about anyone. I can understand why they did it. They wanted maximum exposure in the Western media and to do that they need stories. Pink Floyd reforming gets you an awful lot of attention.

"Other acts were chosen to attract different parts of a Western audience, certainly to get the media attention, which they achieved and which they wouldn't with African musicians," he said.

[Albarn] questioned "what kind of feeling is being sent out to the world when a concert is organised, presumably to raise awareness and the world doesn't see anyone from Africa there?"

To this, Ross replied: "I agree with you and regret not saying anything about it on the day. The [concert] bookers probably now feel the same way but at the time it probably didn't occur to them."

Somehow, though, we doubt that Geldof and Harvey Goldsmith are regretting the decisions they made - they were pretty vocal about how (effectively) nobody wanted to see any African acts before the event took place, and now the focus has been shifted to selling the DVD in aid of EMI's bottom line, we'd be very surprised if Bob was thinking it might have been better to have, say, an Ethiopian presence that went beyond a spot of stage-dressing for Madonna's act.

There was, of course, a sudden scrabbling to add a token presence to the event, and it seems there might have been a bit of high-profile strongarming to get even that - according to Firoze Manji's comment on a blog over on the Red Pepper website, the lack of African talent nearly led to a direct snub to the Geldof festival:

I was informed by a senior Officer at Oxfam in Kenya that Mandela had originally refused Geldof's invitation to appear at Live8 criticising Geldof for the lack of Africans involved - but I can't verify this

Meanwhile, the spin from Geldof continues to try and portray the outcome of Live8 in the best possible light. Last week an email circulated, partly intended to encourage people to email Peter Mandelson calling for a fair result in the world trade talks - recipients are encouraged to click on a link to send an email calling for trade justice. It's a good idea, although the fact the first half of the email from Bob is a 'didn't we do well' affair applauding the "success" of Live8 does create a confusing mixed message.

In that self-applauding segment, Geldof trumpets: Oxfam reckons that if the G8 keep their promises, by 2010, these commitments will save 4.5million lives per year. You personally helped to make that happen. That's a hell of a result.

Hmm. Well, it is a hell of a result, in the sense that it's a hell of a lot poorer than should have been achieved with so much popular support for a change in how we interact with the developing world. What Geldof doesn't mention is that even Oxfam - the NGO most likely to see the positives in what Western governments grudgingly hand over - described those promises as having "fallen short of the hopes of the millions around the world campaigning for a momentous breakthrough.” Other organisations were more outspoken - the Jubilee Debt fund described the debt deal's shortcomings: It argued that the “G8 debt deal is not 100 per cent debt cancellation” as demanded by campaigners, “immediately benefits only 18 countries” and “reinforces the harmful economic policy conditions enforced through the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative”; Action Aid said "what Africa needed from the G8 was a giant leap forward, all it got was tiny steps. The deal that has been announced falls way short of our demands. We have some aid, but not enough, some debt relief but not enough and virtually nothing on trade. Once again Africa's people have been short-changed" and Christian Aid's response sounds like a direct attack on the Bob and Bono show:

This will not make poverty history,” the NGO said, adding it was “a vastly disappointing result. Millions of campaigners from all over the world have been led to the top of the mountain, shown the view and now we are being frogmarched down again.”

The email also makes us return again to the question we asked the other week - if Geldof considers it's worth sending a round robin to try and force pressure on Mandelson at the trade summit, why the hell wasn't some of the acres of poster space bought to flog the Live8 DVD not used to make the call? Even a ten per cent strip at the bottom with a slogan on could have made a difference.

After all, Geldof found space in his email to plug the DVD:

P.S. If you'd like to relive LIVE 8, the official DVD is just out - all 16 hours of it - almost certainly the greatest live music recording ever released. To find out more click here.

Okay, he might not have made poverty history. But he certainly has done all he can to ensure that gift-buying problems for fortysomething blokes have become a thing of the past.

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