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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksNow available in paperback
Life and Style
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
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

Guru Careers: Finance Account Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Finance Account Manager with...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Sphere Digital Recruitment: Display Account Manager

£25,000 to £35,000: Sphere Digital Recruitment: The Company Our client are th...

Sphere Digital Recruitment: Sales Director

£80 – 120K : Sphere Digital Recruitment: Sales Director – Ad tech - £80 – 120K...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas