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TV & Radio

Painted butterflies and a creepy-crawly press

Modern Times (BBC2) turned to entomology this week. "The Fame Game" was about the gilded bugs who flap through the pages ofHello! magazine and the diary columns of the popular papers. Specifically, it was about Liz Brewer, the woman who oversees their unlikely metamorphosis from unknown nobodies into well-known nobodies, eye-catching but ephemeral, drawn irresistibly to the light of flash-bulbs.

Mona Bauwens is still in the pupal stage, both a friend and a client of Brewer (the terms seem largely interchangeable) and anxious to recover some of the attention that came her way after her association with the downfall of David Mellor (she begged the journalists to leave her alone and the unspeakable swine did). This time, though, she seeks fame on her own terms: "I want it on my achievements," she explained, though she didn't enlighten us as to what these were. This is where Liz Brewer comes in, a specialist in turning money into reputation, however flimsy and transparent the result.

Her principle method is simple assertion, an approach that the more shamefaced would shy away from but which seems remarkably effective. Arriving at a "private" lunch for 10 client-friends Liz was asked by the waiting press people what the meeting was for. To celebrate, answered Lizfluently before her patter ran into the sand, to celebrate "10 women who... achievers... doing something". Inside, a woman who had scaled the giddy heights of British Airways' High Life magazine explained that Liz was "a true politician of the social scene". Shameless and self-seeking, I suppose. She claimed to have secured Mona a job as a contributing editor for the Evening Standard, a title which is a cheap way of making your contacts feel good but which Brewer waved around as if it actually involved a salary.

In case assertion alone doesn't do the trick, Brewer throws in association as well, hauling out her tame celebrities in the hope that the fairy dust might rub off. Some of these have worked for their fame, such as Shirley Bassey, who obligingly turned up to go kissy-kissy at Ivana Trump's engagement party, presumably calculating that a top-up of publicity could do her own career no harm. In a delightfully spontaneous moment,luckily captured by the scrum of photographers who had forced their way into this "private" occasion, Shirley sang a song while Ivana writhed in simulated rapture. It's a media version of rubbing sticks together to make a fire and it doesn't seem to matter that the same old sticks turn up to event after event. Britt Ekland (once, debatably, an actress, but now, indubitably, a paparazzi-trap) obligingly poses with another of Brewer's clients, a Russian painter trying to drum up some foreign currency.

Daniel Reed's film was slyly sardonic: for her interview sequences Brewer was posed as if she was taking part in a Hello! photo-shoot, reclining on her bed in a leopard-skin wrap, crouched in front of gas log fire with a bottle of champagne by her side - the interior decoration of mendacity. But the film was also, for all its tone of wry disgust, more useful publicity for her. The only antiseptic for this dry-rot in our value systems is pure indifference, but some don't want a cure and the rest don't dare to try. Quality papers wear gloves when they handle this stuff, pretending that they've only turned up to provide ironic commentary, but they still get their hands sticky. Brewer herself offered an intriguing angle on the current debate over press morality. "It's sounethical!" she yelped, staring at a photograph in one of the tabloids after a photo-call to show off Ivana's ring. The paper had drawn attention to a ladder in Ivana's stocking. Journalistic ethics, for Liz Brewer and her political counterparts, consist of papersdelivering the story you want and turning a blind eye to the holes.