Media: The Word on the Street

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THE PRICE of being a television reporter can sometimes be high. One of ITN's west country reporters was instructed by his editor-in-chief, Nigel Dacre, to get contact lenses when he started appearing on screen in glasses. He duly complied, but then was soon told that Dacre wanted him to get glasses - "to give him gravitas". Next, the poor chap received a package from Dolland and Aitchison containing 12 pairs of glasses. The poor hack is to be screen-tested wearing each of the pairs and the tapes will be viewed by Mr Dacre before passing his gravitas test. Can company-subsidised reconstructive surgery be far off for anyone else whose appearance distresses Mr Dacre?

TODAY SEES the first publication of Barb viewing figures which take in the viewing of digital channels.

BSkyB has been pushing for such figures to be released as soon as possible so they can sell advertising, but it is probably worth noting that the system for counting digital viewers is far from perfect. So far a sample of only 140 homes are being quizzed about their digital habits. More worrying for Sky's rival ONdigital is that the system cannot yet count its viewers. As ITV only broadcasts in ONdigital homes, the nation's most popular channel may come out looking totally unpopular in digital homes.

PETER MCKAY wondered in yesterday's Daily Mail whether "any other nation spends as much time as we do brooding about the careers of women who read news on TV".

Peter is right to worry. His own newspaper is completely obsessed with them. For example, the Mail has managed to find space for 95 articles mentioning "blonde, attractive ..." Kirsty Young. Most notably in a major feature headlined "Battle of the Newsgirls". And if there's not room for another piece on the Channel 5 newsreader, it's because the Mail has cleared more space to follow the career of ITN's Katie Derham.

Ms Derham, whose "elfin" features send The Mail into raptures, has clearly captured the interest of its editor, Paul Dacre. After all, they've written about her 15 times in the past 12 months or so.

THE STORY of Kirsty Young moving from Channel 5 to ITN does at least allow us to compare and contrast these quotes: "Channel 5 News is an irrelevance. It has had no impact on ITV news, if it had we would have ditched Trevor McDonald." This was Steve Anderson, ITV's controller of news and current affairs in August, at the Edinburgh Television Festival.

"Kirsty Young is one of television's brightest young talents. She is the face for the future." That was, er, Steve Anderson, announcing Ms Young's hiring on Friday.

GUS O'DONNELL, John Major's former press secretary who is now a senior mandarin in the Treasury, has been having a laugh at the expense of lobby correspondents. He has managed to convince a group of them that when playing roulette and betting on red it is possible to guarantee yourself a huge payout simply by always doubling up your stake. His logic maintained that because there are just two colours the law of averages must mean that red will eventually come up and every time you lose, if you double your stake, you'll make up your losses when it does.

He advises the Chancellor, they are innumerate hacks, so they believed him. We presume he was just having a joke at the expense of his former foes in the lobby - otherwise, the nation's finances are in trouble.

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