Matthew Norman's: Media Diary

Kelvin would never stoop so low
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The Independent Online

In one of those perpetual outbreaks of synthetic moral outrage that remind us why the newspaper industry must never be permitted to atrophy entirely, the fury over Jonathan Ross's idiosyncratic chat with David Cameron has been a joy to behold.

I cannot decide whether Mr Ross's inquiry as to whether the pubescent Cameron used a mental image of Mrs Thatcher as a masturbatory aid constituted a high point in the BBC's drive to help reenergise an apathetic electorate. But the knowledge that a broadcaster on some £4m per annum and his production team had a long debate before concluding that it should go out on air is a relief. Someone has to fight a rearguard for Reithian values.

Others take a different line, and it's a special delight to find the Daily Mail, whose mannerly editor Paul Dacre is fabled for the delicacy of his language, getting in such a bate about the word "wank". Even crosser, meanwhile, was my old friend Kelvin MacKenzie. As befits one of our more influential Islamic scholars (you will recall last week's teachings on Sharia law), he was apoplectic in his Sun column, describing the question as "disgusting".

What most upset him was that it was asked of a powerless figure who, unlike the PM, couldn't ring Tessa Jowell the minute he left the studio to order her to cancel the BBC licence fee forthwith.

Perhaps he has a point about media figures picking on people their own size ... people such as Heather Mills McCartney, about whose shortage in the leg department Kelvin is so regularly hilarious. Only last week he made a gag about Sir Paul going down on one knee to Heather, the hilarity here being that he did so not to propose marriage; but, what with her having only the one knee herself, to engage in sexual activity. Now that's the kind of wholesome family merriment we look for from our media titans, and I hope Mr Ross has learnt something from this heartfelt rebuke.

LEST MR ROSS failed to produce enough onanistic mirth to sate the BBC, Frank Skinner chipped in his 10cc-worth on Radio 5 Live on Friday morning, with a banjo-accompanied ditty about the World Cup game-staging town of Gelsenkirchen. Exhausting every conceivable rhyme in the En-glish tongue for that Ruhr town, Mr Skinner's pièce de résistance was to imagine himself being forcibly penetrated by a gherkin ... an erotic fantasy that put him to thinking, so he sang, about jerkin'.

Next week on Songs of Praise, Michael Aspel investigates the the practise of felching with the Archbishop of York.

KIRSTY YOUNG'S appointment as Desert Island Discs presenter consititutes the biggest betting upset, according to industry insiders, since Norton's Coin won the 1990 Cheltenham Gold Cup at 100-1. In fact Ms Young's victory was the more startling (she never figured in the betting at all), begging the obvious question of how she came from nowhere to get her nose in front on the line. Talented broadcaster though she is, the best I can come up with is that Radio 4 controller Mark Damazer was so nervy of offending the myriad BBC staff who fancied the job that he decided the safest escape route was to look beyond the corporation entirely, and so keep the internecine bitching to a minimum.

THE 'DAILY TELEGRAPH' seems worryingly befuddled about cannabis. In a leader in September 2003, it was all for legalisation, citing both practical and moral grounds in support. Last week, it demanded its immediate reclassification as a Class B drug, urging the government to create as many extra prison places as that would necessitate. Flexibility is a valuable thing in a leader column, of course, but this level of confusion must be very draining for a paper as eager as the others to savage politicians for U-turns.

Perhaps the appointment of a new editor to release caretaker John Bryant for loftier managerial projects would resolve this crisis of confidence. The sooner the readers know where they stand, the better for everyone.

HATS OFF to Huw Edwards, one of the BBC's top ranked performers in the discipline of reading out loud, on branching out. Huw cropped up in Doctor Who, cast wilfully against type as a newscaster. I won't dwell on his performance when required to sound astonished at the sudden disappearance of the entire crowd at the 2012 Olympics, let alone suggest that he doesn't give up the night job.

But I trust it's clear to all Huw fans that apart from reading the script, he also wrote it, produced and directed the entire episode, designed the set, coached David Tennant and Billie Piper, and took K-9 for a long walk on Clapham Common. That's the thing about Huw, as he is always too bashful to point out. There's so much more to the man than reading an autocue.

FINALLY, OFF comes the titfer again, this time to the Torquemada of Today, Jim Naughtie. Commenting to Jack Straw that "You rightly say that transparency was introduced when you came to power," was his most ferociously independent remark since referring to the government as "we" before the last general election.

He's right. New Labour's commitment to open government has been one of its crowning jewels, as its desperation to hold a public inquiry into last July's bombings makes plain. Contemplating Jim's ministerial interview technique, I was about to use a crudely alliterative two-word phrase, the first of which is mutual. But we've had enough masturbation for the one week.