The Word on the Street

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The Independent Culture
THE DEPARTURE of BBC 2 head Mark Thompson to the regions - where he can practice for being director-general - gives the BBC an opportunity to appoint its first ever female channel controller. The two main contenders for his job are women: Jane Root, currently head of independent commissioning, and Jana Bennett, director of production and deputy chief executive of BBC production. Even those marked as dark horses are women and include Glenwyn Benson, head of BBC science and Lorraine Heggessey, head of BBC children's television who scared the nation's children with her statement about the naughty Blue Peter presenter.

REBEKAH WADE, deputy editor of The Sun, was in America a few weeks ago when David Yelland, her editor, decided to have a meal for all his reporters at the RAC club in London's Pall Mall. Present was News International chief Les Hinton and The Sun's other deputy editor Andy Coulson. At the meal Yelland made a speech in which he indicated that he would not be editor of the paper forever and then pointedly remarked that Mr Coulson was the best journalist on the paper. Given that the meal was timed to take place while Ms Wade was away, and taking into account the praise heaped on Mr Coulson, staff believe Mr Yelland was anointing a successor.

MEANWHILE the truth has emerged about why The Sun flip-flopped on gay politicians last week. The Monday front page claiming Britain is being run by a gay mafia was a last-minute filler. It was knocked together when it was discovered late on Sunday that the paper's follow-up on the gay minister Nick Brown had fallen apart. Instead of more revelations about his sex life, the paper pulled a Trevor Kavanagh editorial onto the front page and hyped it as only it knows how. Although the editorial was run past Yelland - because there were no senior executives in that day - Murdoch decided the paper's gay mafia claim looked stupid and demanded a rapid change of direction. The turnaround on outing gays was so fast Matthew Parris had to be thrown clear from the wreckage.

THERE WAS much activity at The Financial Times last week when the paper was blessed with a lunch visit from the Queen and Prince Philip. Managing editor Robin Pauley went so far as to issue a long memorandum on "procedures for the royal visit". And there were many noses put out of joint among the senior executives because they were not invited to the lunch. Instead the paper decided to show its politically correct side to the royal couple: guests at the lunch included some ethnic minorities and some women - giving a completely unrepresentative picture of the old, white males who actually run the FT. Despite being there to learn about the workings of the City, apparently HM mainly wanted to talk about how marvellous the Channel Tunnel is.

GIVEN James Boyle's promise to leave his job if his revamp of Radio 4 does not work and given the hostility he has received from the press since the last Rajar figures, you would think whoever is in charge of morale at Radio 4 would have more sensitivity. Invites for the Radio 4 Christmas party have just been circulated asking staff "To join James Boyle at The End". The End is a London night-club.

SOME TOUGH targets are being taken on by The Daily Telegraph. The paper ran an opinion piece at the end of September arguing that Mencap was wrong to give people with learning disabilities a say in the running of the organisation. Since then the charity has struggled to get its side of the argument - that people with learning disabilities should have equal rights - into the paper. A right of reply was refused and two letters - one by Lord Rix, chairman of Mencap and one by the chief executive have failed to appear. Given its readership it will be interesting to see if The Daily Telegraph takes the same attitude to equal rights for the old.

THERE WAS not much evidence of Christian trust at the Church of England's General Synod last week. Perhaps church leaders took the debate about removing the phrase "lead me not into temptation" too literally: in the press centre hacks were amazed to discover that a cheap old spoon had been tied to the sugar bowl to stop anyone making off with it. We are badly paid, but not that badly.