Matthew Norman's Media Diary
Cursed three times by the open mic
Monday 05 November 2007
What a vexing week for three of our First Ladies of Broadcasting, as each fell victim to the unforeseeable fact that their microphones were switched on during a live transmission. We'll deal with the two well-publicised accidents before coming to the one that slipped by unnoticed.
First, Sky newsreader Julie Etchingham, soon to join Trevor McDonald on ITV's reborn News at Ten, is hereby exonerated for ad-libbing that David Cameron's immigrant policy is "extermination". This is partly because it was an innocent slip, but mostly because she was once our tenant in the heart of London's media-laden Hammersmith. Never once were Julie and her husband Nick late with the rent, and they left the place so pristine that there was no pretext for retaining the deposit. Anyone who henceforth criticises Julie for this faux pas will be persecuted on this page without mercy or pause.
As for Sarah Kennedy reprising an old northern club comic's gag about a black person being visible only through whiteness of teeth... sometimes you just have to accept that a person is neither malevolent nor racist, but simply doolally (as the controller of Radio 2 appears wisely to have done in this case).
And so to the one that almost got away. Seldom do I turn from the Today programme to Radio Five Live's breakfast show, but when I do (and thanks to Jim Naughtie, by the way, for returning from his lengthy exile in China) it never disappoints. Last Tuesday, there was Shelagh Fogarty, the geisha girl to Nicky Campbell's mighty shogun, reading a text message about "the English, Welsh, Irish and Scottish languages" in a state of bemusement. "I'm stunned..." she said. "Well ... I suppose English is a language." I suppose it is, unlike Gaelic, Erse and Welsh. During the last BBC strike, Shelagh joined Terry Wogan in crossing the picket lines. If and when the next one is called, and should Shelagh this time support her colleagues by staying at home, a few hours spent studying the tongues of Britain – it's not easy, I know; it's a right Tower of Babel out there – might come in handy. Ignorance on this scale must remain the preserve of phone-in callers to Radio Five, not its presenters.
* DEPRESSING NEWS for fellow fans of Jon Gaunt, whose moving memoir Undaunted (Britain's Full Thank You So Sod Off Home You Migrant Scum Press, £0.99) mystifyingly fails to break into Amazon's top 100 bestsellers. In his latest Sun column, meanwhile, Gaunty attacks Chris Moyles (at No 34 on Amazon himself, at the time of writing, with Difficult Second Book) for being fat. "Look," begins Gaunty's snippet directly below the one about Moyles, "I know I've eaten all the pies." Three inches apart, these references were (or 5.3 per cent of the author's waistline). Dear old Gaunty.
* ALSO SUFFERING from memory lapses is Gaunty's Sun colleague Kelvin MacKenzie. Not long ago, Kelvin was incandescent with outrage at bad language on Jonathan Ross's show. Now he takes space in that family newspaper to tell Gordon Brown to "fuck off" (or "**** off", to quote verbatim). You will recall my concern when a medical trial posited a link between heavy snoring, to which Kelvin has been a martyr, and Alzheimer's. Then again, considering the standard first question put to suspected dementia victims by psychiatrists, we must be relieved that he knows the Prime Minister's name.
* SPEAKING OF Gordon, how droll it was to learn that GMTV moved forward its interview with him about education policy last week, to a much less prestigious time slot, in order to make way for Lady Mills McCartney's keynote address. In effect, the PM was bumped, just like a minor comic on The Larry Sanders Show. It isn't always easy to praise GMTV, but this expression of its priorities warms the heart. Who now dares accuse New Labour's favourite conduit to the nation of banal news judgement?
* THE NATURAL-BORN scientists of Fleet Street – the ones who are able to come to a perfect understanding of incredibly complex matters through osmosis rather than through decades of tireless study – turn from global warming to consider new evidence about the carcinogenic properties of alcohol and processed meats. And oddly enough, they are not persuaded. Richard Littlejohn in the Daily Mail tartly concludes that "it's all nonsense", and the Telegraph's resident snug bar bore Jeff Randall concurs. Churchill drank like a fish, he observes, and lived to a great age.
Apart from breaking entirely new ground by citing an aunt who smoked 80 Woodbines a day until they buried her at 103 to demolish the scaremongering about a link between tobacco and lung tumours, it's hard to see how Jeff could make a more piercingly intelligent contribution to the debate. But I'm sure he'll find a way.
* FINALLY, in the light of the revelation that an "expert" on Channel 4's Bringing Up Baby (Cruella de Vil figure Clare Verity) invented not only qualifications but previous nannying jobs, executive producer Daisy Goodwin – and it's not her ultimate responsibility to check such things – is duly installed as 100-30 favourite to succeed Peter Fincham as controller of BBC1. The late Arthur Askey, although busy as a bee, is next best at 9-2, with surprise market-mover Huw Edwards backed sharply in to 6-1 after heavy support from syndicates operating out of Methodist chapels in South Wales. It's 8-1 bar the trio, with a full show of betting next week.
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