Media: The Word On The Street

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The Independent Culture
THE GOVERNMENT'S obsession with controlling the media knows no limits. When a ship went to survey the wreck of the Hull trawler Gaul on Saturday it carried a camera crew from the local BBC news programme. Explicitly banned from the ship was a camera crew from Channel 4, led by Norman Fenton, the investigative reporter who found the wreck in the first place. Mr Fenton has made two documentaries, for Anglia and Channel 4, raising the possibility that the Gaul was engaged in Cold War spying for British Intelligence when it sank. Surprise, surprise - Anglia's request for a crew on the survey ship was also turned down. Nor did the Hull Daily Mail get to go on the Survey ship Mansal 18. The Hull paper has not only been following the story of the Gaul, but has published allegations about John Prescott's son buying and selling council houses. The Deputy Prime Minister and local MP's massive ministry is running the survey expedition. Some think the Hull Daily Mail's exclusion might have something to do with its past stories. Certainly the paper thinks so, and has run a series of stories with the headlines "Banned" and "Censored".

THE BROADCASTING Standards Commission just gets weirder. Last week, amid the furore about Watchdog, one aspect of the complaints against it was overlooked. The BSC ruled that Dixons, as in the store, had its privacy infringed - an inanimate building had its privacy invaded by people filming in it. Given that people have had their privacy invaded by high-street and store security cameras, it must surely be the triumph of capital over labour for shops to have stronger rights to privacy than people. The BBC is taking the ruling to judicial review. If its legal challenge fails, it can be only a matter of time before the Press Complaints Commission acts against all those "I slept with Debenhams" kiss'n'tell stories that have also been invading the privacy of shops.

YOU WOULD think David Yelland, The Sun's editor, would have more loyalty. Last week's report from the Home Office that heroin was moving into small towns provoked a Sun investigation into how the tide was sweeping the east Yorkshire resort town of Bridlington. Brid, which has no bigger problem with heroin than anywhere else of the same size, has now had six pieces in the national press this year about how drugs and prostitution have invaded the town. It's all caused by a story about two brothers whose deaths were caused by heroin earlier this year. But, as a Bridlington boy, you hoped Mr Yelland would have looked elsewhere for a den of sin.

A STRONG emphasis on sex programmes is paying off for Channel 5. It achieved record audiences recently when it broadcast Britain's first documentary on Viagra, and received a 12 per cent share against the World Cup with its racy documentary Sex Life. Insiders reckon there is still a lot of potential for the genre. ITV is planning Vice: The Sex Trade for the autumn, and Sky is eating up anything September Films makes about British sex. The "sexumentary" looks likely to take over from the docusoap and pet- TV as the big fad in factual programming.