CRIES & WHISPERS

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The Independent Culture
4 SMUGLY, I made my way past rain-bedraggled crowds of East 17 fans and Big Breakfast reporters to attend the Brit Awards at Alex- andra Palace on Monday. A disarmingly enjoyable event - despite the fact that I was mischievously seated with two agents of Music Week, the paper which was to the Campaign for Cheaper CDs roughly what the Sunday Telegraph was to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. The dress-code, said my ticket, was smart, which of course meant anoraks (Blur, Oasis) and bleached hair (Neneh Cherry, Terence Trent D'Arby, Vic Reeves, Cyndi Lauper). Bristol's king of cool, Tricky, went a step further and painted his head silver.

The show was much better than when I last attended, in 1992, mainly because British pop music is much better than it was in those far-off days. My only reservation was the kowtowing to television. In 1992 the ceremony was shown on the BBC. This time it was Carlton. The problem was that just when momentum was building, Chris Evans would say, "Right, we're having a break for adverts now. We'll re-start in two minutes. Could we have some music on, please?" The answer was, no, we couldn't have some music on, a bit rum considering that the combined might of Britain's record industry was in attendance. And why did we need a two-minute break at all, when the show wasn't going out live but being recorded for broadcast on Tuesday?

Afterwards, the legendary Brits party took place in an annexe of the Palace. Tipsy tuxedo- wearers gambolled on dodgems and arcade games, watched some acrobats, and chatted with David Baddiel. It was just like a university ball. But you had to look long and hard before you spotted an award winner. Madonna and her octopoid wig had whisked them all to a private party at Brown's, which is what we in the trade call a nightspot. And so, much as we pretended to be the in-crowd, we too were left out in the rain.

4 IF IT'S February, there must have been another award ceremony in the week, and yes, there were the Royal Television Society awards. Disappointingly sensible, on the whole: hard to argue with Fergal Keane, the BBC's person in South Africa, or Cutting Edge on Graham Taylor, or BBC Breakfast News, Assignment and Panorama (before its recent lurch downmarket). One decision, however, sticks out like a C&A sports jacket. Whisper it, but is Desmond Lynam (Sports Presenter of the Year) all he's cracked up to be? Sure, he's a pro. But aren't most presenters? And did you see him on Sportsnight the evening Eric Cantona got his kicks? He showed a sub-tabloid blend of glee and outrage, with a bit of smarminess and schoolmarminess thrown in. On a normal night, Lynam is no worse than a teenage boy at a party: so busy trying to look cool, he has nothing else to offer. He's not the worst sports presenter, but he's far from the best. That honour belongs, as the RTS happily recognised with a special award, to Richie Benaud.

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