Matthew Norman's Media Diary

Why not do a Wonka at Wapping?
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The Independent Online

"You can't tell how long Rupert's going to live," says Dame Elisabeth darkly, adding that someone outside the family could yet scoop the pot when that day dawns.

With the speculation undermining shareholder confidence, I have devised a solution based on the plot of a newly remade movie. You will recall how Willie Wonka - a man with too few potential heirs rather than too many - eventually discovered Charlie Bucket via golden tickets secreted in his Wonka bars. If Rupert authorised the placement of vouchers in The Sun, so that six lucky readers won a magical tour of Wapping, this might provide not only a much needed short-term circulation boost, but also the next supreme commander of News Corp. Sun readers are the very salt of the earth, taking their place in a loyal army of millions and marching with pride and gusto, and I see no reason why one of them shouldn't be groomed to take the reins.

One refinement would be to let it be known that all six golden tickets are to be found in editions sold on Merseyside, continuing the drive to repair the damage caused by Hillsborough. But this is tinkering at the margins. The central point is that endless gossip, much of it sadly mischievous, will damage the News Corp brand, and the matter cannot be resolved soon enough.

FEW SOCIAL commentators have more gravitas than Anne Atkins, the vicar's wife whose trenchant advice on child-rearing gained yet greater authority when it emerged that her teenage daughter had run away from home and spent the night in a local graveyard.

It was good to hear Anne's recent Thought For The Day praising Robin Cook for sacrificing his Cabinet career and much of his income on a point of principle. A fearsome foe and an opponent of sexual promiscuity and pornography, Anne has earnt much of her income in recent years by writing for Richard Desmond's Express. So when she stresses the necessity of cleaving to our principles regardless of personal cost, it behoves us all to listen and listen well.

I AM DISPLEASED with a Press Gazette article regarding the best-dressed print journalists in Britain (a title eventually awarded to our own Guy Adams). While it's always nice to see The Times's George Brock praised for his extensive range of groovy tank tops, there is no mention of Simon Heffer, the Milanese catwalk model who moonlights as a satirical columnist in the Daily Mail.

As for the bit about his editor Paul Dacre's new penchant for changing into a skintight leather posing pouch each evening, this is plain daft. Paul has long favoured a pair of lilac silk organza culottes for edition time, and I see no reason why he'd ditch them at his time of life. The fact that the article is sharp and funny is a minor quibble (it never used to be the Press Gazette way to resist the lure of lumpen mediocrity), but sloppy reporting reflects poorly on the industry as a whole.

WITH THE football season up and running, this is an appeal to anyone with the self-discipline to endure the commentaries of Jonathan Pearce and Alan Green on Radio Five Live. Each month, a bottle of cooking sherry will be awarded for the most gratuitously offensive description of their work, special attention to be paid to Mr Green's references to how bored a game has made him, and to Mr Pearce's Big Ronian grasp of imbecile cliché.

Incidentally, if any of the tutors who oversaw the English literature degree the latter took at Birmingham University cares to get in touch and explain themselves, I guarantee the fairest of hearings.

FOR THE second week running, I must rebuke my cousin by marriage Kevin Lygo (whom I have never met), the programmes chief at Channel 4. A colleague up in Edinburgh went to a talk by Jon Snow in which he mentioned that bosses on Channel 4 News cut a question from an interview that he did with Tony Blair because they thought it "too bonkers".

Referring to the PM making a brief detour en route to lobbying for the Olympics in Singapore, Snowy asked him: "Why, of all places, would you stop off in Saudi Arabia? Was it to ensure that they were disassociating themselves from extremist terrorism? Or to sign a new defence deal?"

Mr Blair sidestepped the question with typical deftness, but Snowy has since been told by a senior MoD official that a massive new defence deal was being negotiated. I don't suppose selling weaponry to one of the planet's more repressive and corrupt regimes rates as wildly newsworthy, but if only to underline the station's commitment to minority tastes, it might accept that some of us bonkers folk out here take a passing interest.

RUMOURS REACH us that Michael Buerk made his demented remarks about the global dominance of women at the request of fellow newsreader Huw Edwards, who is desperate to divert the spotlight from his own gift for reading out loud. I know it sounds far-fetched, but given Michael's reputation as the most feminist-minded of BBC men - his newsroom nickname for many years was Dworkin - it's certainly more credible than him intending a word of it to be taken seriously.