The Feral Beast

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Aunties costume bloomer sends 'Tess' schedule up in smoke

The bungled sale of the BBC's costumes department to Angels The Costumiers, reported here first, has already come back to bite Auntie on the bottom. Period costumes worth thousands of pounds on the Somerset set of a BBC production of 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles' have gone up in smoke in a suspected arson attack. Filming had been due to be completed in May, but is now on hold until replacement costumes are ready. Had the Beeb not sold off its stock of more than a million costumes, replacements could have been rustled up quickly and at little cost. But the cost of hiring these from Angels is beyond the programme's budget. So filming has now ground to a halt while a small team of Beeb costume makers frantically try to knock up new costumes from scratch. "They are up to their eyeballs," says an insider.

Mystery of Thomson twins

Rumours that 'Telegraph' political columnist Alice Thomson (below) may be off to 'The Times' after a supposed sighting in editor James Harding's office are wide of the mark. "I haven't been to 'The Times' since January to see a friend," she tells me. "Although I have been asked if I went in on Monday by everyone." The question remains, who is the blonde Alice Thomson lookalike decorating the ed's office?

Here is the Murdoch news

As if Rupert Murdoch didn't already control enough of the world's information, the 77-year-old tycoon has joined the board of Associated Press, the world's biggest news agency. "On any given day, more than half the world's population sees news from AP," according to its website. When Murdoch came out in favour of the Iraq war, media commentators observed that all 175 of his newspapers editorialised in favour, too. Now, if, as Nick Davies's book 'Flat Earth News' claims, much of newspaper copy is lifted from the wires, including AP, shouldn't we be worried?

Mayor culpa at 'Evening Standard'

The flame of support for Boris Johnson in his bid to be London Mayor burns brightest at the 'Evening Standard'. But I hear there is unease in Associated's highest circles about the vehemence of the Ken-baiting (beyond the excellence of Andrew Gilligan's reporting). Perhaps that explains last Monday's front page, which reported that Johnson's poll lead had been halved, and Wednesday's story on the cost of Boris's Routemaster (right) plans. Order was restored, though, with a probe into Livingstone's supposed anti-Semitism.

'Speccie' goes back in time

In quiet advertising weeks, newspapers tend to fill space with in-house ads. This is usually good news for 'The Spectator', which regularly gets a free quarter-page advert in 'The Daily Telegraph' on a Thursday. But how much use was last week's ad, showing the previous week's cover? Far from being "On Sale Now", anyone interested would need to contact the back issues department.

Younge's golden handcuffs

Most hacks would not complain if they were in columnist Gary Younge's lace-ups. No longer the New York correspondent for 'The Guardian', he is paid a decent wage to stay in the States and file a column a week. Younge has thought about moving on, but every time he raises the matter the paper ups his pay packet, forcing him to stay. Quel duress!

Greenslade's web puzzler

There's humbug, and then there's Roy Greenslade. His latest head-scratcher is on the 'Guardian' website, where he asks why a US paper posted a 15-minute clip of Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal being held in a police station, for drunken driving, on its website. "It is embarrassing, humiliating and overly intrusive," he fumes, "... [it] is cheap and irresponsible journalism". That must be why Greenslade adds a link to the offending clip.

Felix: 'I didn't kill anyone'

Has Felix Dennis had the last laugh? The publishing magnate has dismissed the scoop from 'The Times' that he claimed to have killed a man by explaining it was simply a case of old-fashioned headline-grabbing – a publicity stunt. "I've got lots of books to sell, you understand," he told students at Columbia University in New York. "Anyone who thinks that story is true needs a sense of humour check."

Oi, Giles mate, don't start a punch-up over fry-ups

Prize for inflammatory quote of the week goes to Giles Coren. "You never see a person with a degree eating a fry-up, do you?", he vented in a piece attacking England's national dish in 'The Times'. Presumably that includes all 2.5 million readers of 'The Sun', sister paper to 'The Times', which this week launched a competition to find Britain's best full English. And what of 'Star' readers? Have they a degree between them? The picture of a fry-up by Coren's article showed a copy of that paper neatly folded beneath a hard hat.