Media: The Word On The Street

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The Independent Culture
VISITORS TO Art `99, the London Contemporary Art Fair, are a genteel lot and so were shocked on Saturday afternoon by the sight and sound of a puce-faced man yelling loudly into his mobile phone in the middle of the exhibition hall. Words like "executive" and "the board" were all that could be made out through the man's thick Ulster accent. A closer inspection by one art-buyer identified the ranting man as David Montgomery, chief executive - at the time of writing - of Mirror Group Newspapers. Perhaps this was the moment he learned that his battle to stay at the top of the Mirror had come to an end.

STILL, IF as expected, he ends up with spare time on his hands, Monty will finally have a chance to finish that web site he's been creating between swigs of mineral water at high-powered board meetings. At present, visitors to http://users.gl.hardnet.com.au/dmonte/ are met with the disappointing but strangely intriguing notice that "David Montgomery's Home Page" is still "under construction".

THERE ARE certain offensive words that everyone understands should not be uttered on television before the 9pm watershed - the "s" word and the "f" word. The word "bastard" has always been a tricky one for taste police across the land however. But at last comes an official ruling from the Independent Television Commission tucked away in its latest complaints bulletin. Viewers of Coronation Street will recall that Jim McDonald let the word slip during a recent spat with ex-wife Liz over her affair with his occupational therapist. "Its use was not gratuitous taking into account the shock that Jim McDonald had suffered," the commission concludes. So that's alright then.

LONG-STANDING chief censor James Ferman became a hate figure of the right- wing press because of his liberal views, but at work he wasn't quite as woolly as has been made out.

Ferman displayed an almost pathological aversion to opening the BBFC to the public - probably fearing they're all Daily Mail readers. And a Channel 4 documentary to be screened next month called The Last Days of the Board was very nearly killed because of Ferman's opposition. BBFC president Andreas Whittam Smith is keen to see the BBFC improve its accessibility and so gave Diverse Productions permission to film. When Ferman found out he rang to protest: "The president," Ferman declared, "is not in a position to give permission." Ferman was wrong but Diverse were still kept out of the really interesting meetings where examiners' deliberated in detail on films - perhaps feeling that prim civil servants discussing who does what to whom with a chicken and a bucket of custard is still too risque for the public.

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