Media: The Word On The Street

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The Independent Culture
THE EXPRESS has managed to get through three advertising agencies this year - and it shows. Much negative comment has been dumped on the actress playing Rosie Boycott, who looks nothing like her, and Campaign magazine named the television ad their "Turkey of the Week", last week. What fewer people have noticed is the way Chris Blackhurst, Rosie's deputy, appears in the ad as taller than her, possessed of a full head of hair, and black. It's just a pity Donald Pleasance is dead, as he could have done the job much better.

SEAMUS MILNE, the Guardian journalist who has ruined two Paul Routledge books by exposing their "killer fact" ahead of publication - namely the Brown-Blair feud and, most recently, Mandelson's home loan - is running for the NUJ's National Executive. This gives Paul "Tankie" Routledge an unexpected opportunity to kiss and make up with Seamus "The Trot" Milne. A strong campaigning statement from Routledge on behalf of Milne would show that, as ever, the far left refuses to be diminished by factionalism.

AFTER SECURING an admission from a senior member of the Indonesian Armed Forces that his country had tortured its subjects, Mark Thomas goes a step further this week. Tomorrow night's edition of his Comedy Product on Channel 4 has the Indonesian defence attache in London confirming that UK military equipment is used in East Timor. Whoops. Thomas has succeeded where countless investigative journalists have failed by posing as a PR man at an arms fair in Athens. They made their admissions while he offered fictional media training. The Indonesians were so impressed they have invited him to pitch for a six-week training course in Jarkata this year: "I quite like breathing actually," he says. "So, no, I'm not going." Nevertheless, the organisers of the arms fair, Defendory International, were so impressed with the feedback they were getting from regimes all over the world about Thomas's advice, that they sent him a Christmas card. The message from this shopfront for death and destruction? "Peace, prosperity and happiness for the new year."

MOST NEWSPAPER executives still think a mega-byte is something nasty sustained after exchanging pleasantries with a Doberman. But not Alan Rusbridger, the thoroughly modern editor of The Guardian, who appeared live on the Internet last Friday to answer questions from anyone with the time and inclination to log on. For a taste: "Mr Rusbridger, I just wanted to remark on how good the paper was during August 1998, and more recently over the Christmas week. Is there any reason for this patch of excellence?" The author of this searching question? Well it came from a sign-on called "deputy". And the acting editor of The Guardian during August 1998 and over Christmas week? Rusbridger's deputy Georgina Henry.

BBC DIRECTOR General John Birt's New Year drinks for the press were unusually well attended by senior BBC suits this year. Not only that, but the suits were the ones forcing themselves on the hacks - not the other way around as it usually is. What could have caused this cultural change? Surely not the upcoming battle to be Birt's replacement. After the Birt years, who could think a Director General needs press support?

FOR THE last two years at his New Year drinks, Mr Birt has conspicuously had the television in his office tuned to BBC News 24. This year, his message of support for the unloved channel was blurred by Jaci Stephen, the Daily Mail television critic who switched Birt's television to ITV, to watch Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

THE NEWSPAPER Society is another organisation keen on giving drinks to journalists at this time of year. Given that this year it will be attended by Philip Graf, the Trinity chief executive who has just failed to buy Mirror Group, and Chris Oakley, who has bid for the same group, it may be the best-attended "social occasion" that the Cinderella of media industries has had for some years.