Media: The Word On The Street

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The Independent Culture
PETER STOTHARD, editor of The Times, has had to live with weeks of rumours that he is about to be replaced by John Witherow, his opposite number at The Sunday Times. He can stop worrying, at least for now. Rupert Murdoch, in town last week, let it be known that the stories of his editor's demise are, in his phrase, "bollocks". Mr Stothard is wanted on board, at the very least until the next general election, so he can keep up the hard, anti-euro stance of the paper. Mr Witherow, mean- while, is understood not to covet The Times editorship anyway. When the moment does come to step down from The Sunday Times, he is said to want to leave the drudgery of editing behind him and move on to higher things. The word at Wapping is that Witherow would like the executive chairmanship of News International, the post held by Les Hinton.

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AT LEAST the Murdoch endorsement of The Times's editor may put a stop to the paranoid delusions that seem to be affecting the Stothard household. Within an entertaining and occasionally devastating attack on the media commentator Stephen Glover for casting doubts on her husband's longevity as editor of The Times, Mr Stothard's wife, the novelist Sally Emerson, claimed last week that The Independent in its early days wanted to buy up The Times and close it down. This would have been quite a tall order, between getting a decent circulation, selling some advertising and ensuring that the coffee machine was working. Not that this should put off Ms Emerson from having a Gloveresque character in her next novel, as she threatens to do. The revenge of the editor's spouse is a new concept in journalism, but one with enormous scope.

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THERE HAS been a suspicion for some time that the pounds 42m the BBC has spent on its online services in the last two years has seen a lot of licence fee-payers' money going to support services enjoyed by people overseas - who clearly do not pay the licence fee. That suspicion was confirmed by a poll conducted by BBC Online last week to find the greatest star of stage and screen of the millennium. Laurence Olivier, Humphrey Bogart and Charlie Chaplin were all beaten by one Amitabh Bachchan, star of 100- plus Bollywood films. The BBC is clearly unembarrassed by this, and has even issued a statement saying "South Asia is one of the biggest users of the BBC's Internet news service." Which is nice for them.

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DAVID LIDDIMENT, whose provocative defence of his ITV scheduling appears on this page, made an unfortunate but memorable slip of the tongue when addressing the Royal Television Society last week. He intended to say: "The programmes we make, like Coronation Street, will still be the lingua franca that brings disparate groups of people together." But he said that Coronation Street and the like bring "desperate groups of people together". Perhaps a case can be argued for both statements.

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