Media: The Word on the Street

SKY MAY be in the throes of the biggest, glitziest advertising campaign of its history, but behind the scenes executives are busy sorting out an embarrassing mess at the company's Isleworth HQ. At Sky One, Sky's flagship channel, people are ringing into complain that programmes that appear in their TV guide are not actually making it on to the screen. The reason? Boss Les Sampson has taken it into his head to pull US programmes such as Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place off the air mid-series if he feels ratings are not up to scratch. So intense has the problem become that Channel 4's Right to Reply has taken it up, and James Baker, Sky's overall head of programmes, is to be grilled on air. Sampson, meanwhile, has gone AWOL. Three weeks ago, he caught a flight to Australia.

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CONFUSION AND much amusement were the order of the day at Sky's pounds 750,000 launch party for Sky digital last week. Media hacks found themselves graded according to the colour of their passes. Those with blue could mix freely with VIPs and celebrities, the orange contingent could approach a "VIP" only if accompanied by someone from PR firm Freud Communications, while those with a mere pink pass were not allowed to mix with their peers at all. Up in the VIP lounge, David Yelland of Murdoch's The Sun, and the Mirror Group's David Montgomery were the holders of blue passes, along with sundry folk from the BBC. Ray Snoddy, media editor of Murdoch's The Times, though, had been snubbed with a pink pass. However, as he didn't turn up, and had given his pass to a colleague, he was unaware of Murdoch's harsh decision.

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ALONG WITH the Milan fashion shows comes a wintry chill blowing Vogue's Mayfair HQ. Five of the magazine's top ten editorial staff have scuttled away from Vogue House like liberated minks during the past six months, including features supremo Louise Chunn and fashion editor Tiina Laakkonen. The official line is that the timing of the departures is mere coincidence. Darker sources point to a (successful) drive for higher circulation by Nicholas Coleridge, Conde Nast's MD (the figure is currently an impressive 202,265), leading to discontent at "mass-marketisation" among the fragrant writers.

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SHE MAGAZINE, in newsagents now, is running a heartwarming "simplify your life" competition. At first glimpse, you might think readers were being asked to vote for the woman who has best achieved a bit of fashionable "downshifting" by moving to the country or finding a better husband. But no. It turns out that She fans were asked to vote on the market brands that have most simplified their lives. The winners flooded in - Gap, Tesco, Clinique and Virgin. It may all seem rather tenuous, but it's no doubt a boon to the advertising executives trying to sell space to the winning firms.

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IS THERE no end to it? The amount of sex in all channels' Autumn schedules is enough to make viewers long for a nice cup of tea instead. Perhaps the most pitiful offering has come from ITV. On 20 October, it will show a one-hour special called The Truth about Sex Appeal, which will reveal to hapless viewers that Samantha Fox believes size matters, ask if Julia Carling prefers sex to shopping and where Toyah Wilcox wants to make love to her husband. But perhaps the most cringe-making moment is an interview with Changing Rooms presenter Carol Smillie (pictured above) about sex appeal. It's too much.

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