Media: The Word on the Street

AS THE first anniversary of the BBC's News 24 approaches, it emerges that the pounds 30m-a-year channel has barely registered with anyone other than a handful of insomniacs and cable viewers. At any one time, say advertising analysts Zenith Media, fewer than 1,000 people are watching Gavin Esler and his colleagues strut their stuff in the shiny new high-tech news studios at Television Centre. A waste of licence payers' money perhaps? For the moment, at least, it might be cheaper to stop broadcasting and instead bus the audience to White City to watch the news presentation as a live performance.

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ONE REVEALING fact about News 24's high-cost, low-audience approach to broadcasting: this week, while Sky, CNN and a host of American channels were putting the Clinton-Lewinsky video, uncut, straight on to air, the BBC's top brass were sitting around in meetings discussing how to edit the material, especially the explicit bits.

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LATEST ON the saga of the endlessly-delayed launch of Sporting Life. Having parted company with intended launch editor John Mulholland, then delayed the planned start date, many expected Mirror Group to blow the whistle on its plans for Britain's daily sports newspaper. Instead, it is looking for a partner to share the pounds 20m launch costs, and is understood to be in talks with a European media group.

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THE WEEK'S revamped New Statesman, run by the affable Peter Wilby, carries the awkward combination of a full-page ad for The Express and a wounding critique of its new editor, Rosie Boycott by veteran newspaperman, Alexander Chancellor. Ms Boycott is surely above plotting revenge. But how else can we explain The Express's article about politicians being sexy, which is identical to the Statesman's cover story, and written by the same author - Sara Maitland?

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IT'S HARD to get a grip on the relationship between BSkyB and the BBC. On the one hand, Rupert Murdoch is said to hate the licence fee. On the other, his daughter Elisabeth is injecting sweet words about the Beeb into her speeches. The change of heart, say cynics, may be a temporary thing motivated by the BBC's generosity in giving hours of free advertising to Sky. Not overtly of course. But every time the corporation runs one of its fancy promotions for digital TV, who benefits? Why, none other than the only digital service that is on the brink of its launch - BSkyB's.

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