Matthew Norman's Media Diary

BBC spells out a winning format

This is tremendous news, but there is a catch. If it goes to a tie-breaker, they may be faced with words absent from the crib sheet. It strikes me as unethical to ask out-of-work soap actors, former curling internationals and Gyles Brandreth (no confirmed names yet, so it's an informed guess) to spell words they haven't had a fortnight to memorise, but media scholars insist that will be the first time celebrities are assisted to look cleverer than they are. Suggestions that occupants of Countdown's Dictionary Corner have Scrabble champs whispering in their earpieces are absurd - why shouldn't Esther Rantzen come up with a nine-letter radioactive isotype in six seconds without help?

Even more offensive (and please complain directly to the Editor) is a rumour that the Beeb plans a Starspell Christmas special featuring Susan Hampshire, Michael Heseltine and other leading dyslexics, in the hope of recouping some of production costs by selling the show to Poland.

IF AND when Gerald Kaufman becomes inaugural Starspell champion, pipping Dennis Wise in a tie-break with correct renditions of "egregious", "old" and "ass", it's pretty much guaranteed that he'll celebrate with an appearance on Andrew Marr's Sunday sofa. Andrew has just departed his previous post, you will know, for David Frost's old berth, and takes space in his Daily Telegraph column to consider the move. So far beneath him were the demands of being BBC political editor ("parts of my brain have been in cold storage") that he admits to nerves. Still, it's an encouraging sign of the military precision with which he has been preparing that he was last week sighted on a train reading Cilla Black's autobiography. Production staff say he plans to end the show with a bespoke version of another Cilla classic, rewritten by Burt Bacharach to go "What's it all about, Andy?", but I find this very hard to believe.

I AM driven demented with rage by venal attacks against another top Telegraph columnist, Mark Steyn, the kill-'em-all neo-con who shares with Gerald a passion for musical theatre. Diarists seek to ridicule Mark for no better reason than that, in the week he berated "media twerps" and others for taking a "business as usual" approach to the London bombings, he fired off one of his e-mails to executives regarding his new picture byline. Apparently his face had been pasted on to someone else's body, and Mark was vastly distressed.

It's most out of character for him to throw a queeny fit over something like this. Traditionally, Mark threatens to resign only over matters of sovereign principle, such as the time the column of another US-based writer, Zoë Heller, was garlanded with the Stars And Stripes. Then he went missing for weeks, and was thought to be hiding out with a survivalist sect in the Nebraskan hills. This time - and I think it's a mark of his development as a human being - the only thing to vanish was the photo.

UPSETTING NEWS of Alastair Campbell, meanwhile, on his return from a sensational triumph with the British Lions in New Zealand. Ali is reportedly depressed at the prospect of cabinet secretary Sir Andrew Turnbull censoring his forthcoming memoirs, which would greatly diminish their value. Myself, I think it would be pernickety to take umbrage over any trivial breaches of the Official Secrets Act. It's not as if, during Ali's time in power, anyone connected with him would have threatened a Civil Servant, such as the late David Kelly, over pension rights following a breach. Sir Andrew wants to chill out, and stop being such a pedantic killjoy.

THERE IS little to report of thick-skinned Welsh newscaster Huw Edwards. Huw passed a quiet but productive week reciting bulletins, every word of which he had written himself, and for now no more need be said.

CONGRATULATIONS, FINALLY, to two of the finest politico-media operators ever to emerge from Peter Mandelson's all-star stables. Ben Wegg-Prosser, still holder of the world rapid-rebuttal record (0.37 seconds to dismiss the persistent rumour that Mandy was planning to grow a beard after the style of ZZ Top), is leaving a job with The Guardian for a top strategic post in Downing Street, where insiders say he will be Tony Blair's very own CJ Cregg. We anticipate a stream of top-level, off-the-record briefings from Ben. As for his predecessor as Mandy's points man, Dolly "Derek" Draper is engaged to be married to Kate Garraway from GMTV. Since his brief crack at being a lobbyist, Dolly's career has seen him emerge from the Priory clinic to sell New Age crystals in California, so it's perhaps inevitable that he is now training to be a psychologist. We wish them both the very best.

John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing

Other places that have held independence referendums
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)

Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's most starring part

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
We are phenomenally good at recognising faces; the study showed that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognisable

Human faces unique 'because we don't recognise each other by smell'

Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise

Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Digital Project Manager

£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: A Digital Project Manager is needed to join an exciti...

Paid Search Analyst / PPC Analyst

£24 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Paid Search Analyst / PPC...

Head of Marketing - London

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Interim Head of Marketing / Marketing Manager / Dig...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week