Media: The Word on the Street

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The Independent Culture
LAST WEEK was not the best week for Mike Miller, the BBC's new head of sport. It was bad enough that, shortly after arriving at the BBC, he had to watch Test cricket walk out of the door to Channel 4. Slightly more embarrassing is the fact that, until recently, he was head of sport at Channel 4. When the Test and County Cricket Board came a-calling earlier this year Mr Miller told them he was not interested. After he had departed, however, Britain's increasingly mainstream "alternative" channel decided to have another look at the deal. Without a head of sport, Channel 4 put their deal together in three weeks and beat the BBC.

THE Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday are justly proud of their recent circulation successes and have taken out large, portentous adverts in the media trade press comparing themselves to the great Carthaginian general who used elephants to cross the Alps: "Hannibal swept all before him as he campaigned across the Alps and beyond. Month after month, year after year, the circulations of the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday also march irresistibly onwards." Perhaps the comparison is an unfortunate one. While Hannibal undoubtedly gave the Romans a hard time, his army was eventually worn down by their delaying tactics and defeated at Zama in 182BC. So he poisoned himself.

A CAMPAIGN seems to be brewing to make favourable mentions of the disgraced former cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken. Unfortunately no one seems to be co-ordinating it. Aitken's appearance in court this week on perjury charges was preceded by diary stories in the right-wing broadsheets. The Sunday Times' Quidnunc diary reported that Aitken, who was allegedly willing to let his daughter lie for him in court, has found God because of his travails and has written a book about it. Meanwhile, the Sunday Telegraph's Mandrake diary reports that the poor man has been forced to shelve his literary ambitions because of the danger that he might be sued for libel. Let's just hope he gets the chance for a long period of uninterrupted writing some time soon.

IN TWO weeks, Channel 4 will broadcast a programme devoted to its list of the 300 most powerful people in Britain. It has done a deal with The Observer so that the Sunday title publishes the list the day after the programme. Presumably that had nothing to do with the Sunday Times's very own list of the 200 most powerful people, which it published this weekend. The ST obviously wants to protect its franchise as publisher of the UK's silliest lists. It hired "one of Britain's leading psychologists" to come up with its list. Unbelievably, this put Conrad Black - owner of two newspapers and one magazine - at number four on the list and Rupert Murdoch - a man who owns four newspapers, countless satellite TV channels, a major publisher, Manchester United and the Prime Minister - at number 13.

"TRUTH, JUSTICE and the American way" is as much an oxymoron as when Clark Kent first said it. Last week ABC News, owners of one Walt Disney Co, decided to pull a story from its news programme 20/20 which investigated the safety hazards at theme parks - including some owned by Walt Disney Co. "The fact that the story dealt with Disney didn't have any impact on the decision," said a spokes-woman. So that's all right then.