Matthew Norman's Media Diary

Who's turned into a blushing teen?
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The Independent Online

A SEQUENCE of events at News Corporation begins to raise doubts about Rupert Murdoch. Could it be, top industry analysts must be wondering, that on the long and winding road to second childhood, Mr Murdoch has stopped off at the service station of girlish adolescence? Is he, in fact, mutating into the type of young woman immortalised by Matt Lucas and Catherine Tate?

Asked about this, Mr Murdoch would doubtless enquire as to whether he is bovvered, inviting the inquisitor to examine his face for guidance on the point. Yet the evidence stacks up. A while ago, you will recall, he paid some £300 million for MySpace.com, the website on which 15-year-old girls swap amorous tales about boys and champion their favourite bands. Last week, very much continuing the trend, he doled out another £100 million for Jamba, the Berlin-based company that produces unbearably amusing ring tones (most notably the much loved Crazy Frog) for adolescents to download on to their mobile phones.

Meanwhile, at News International HQ in Wapping, the canteen is holding a day themed after the concept of school dinners. With the newspaper business reeling on the ropes and looking ever more punchy, the urgent need for diversification is clear, and if Mr Murdoch has identified the pubescent as his key target audience of the future, then his unparalleled record of media prescience suggests that he's probably right to do so. Even so, given how accurately his papers and such fiercely independent-minded channels as Fox News reflect his own world view, one can't help wondering whether the ravages of time are dramatically altering his personal tastes. There is no concrete proof, as of yet, that Mr Murdoch has his own MySpace page in which he debates make-up tips and the comparative merits of Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears with his many new friends. Then again, there's not a shred of evidence that he doesn't.

OVER AT THE more archaic end of the business, the rapprochement between The Sun and Gordon Brown gathers pace. Barely a week after casting him as a coup-organising Judas, the title is utterly besotted with the Chancellor. On Friday alone, it splashed with an account of his distress when speaking of his daughter's death, ran a sympathetic leader, and announced in a headline: "Brown has won back trust of voters". Next up, history teaches us, will be the glossy double-page spread featuring a beaming Gordon relaxing at home with the family, and mentioning en passant his passion for humorous ring tones, followed swiftly by an invitation to address Murdoch executives in Colorado. Somehow, one suspects, the era of the New Labour-Murdoch ruling cabal has some life in it yet. Please turn to my colleague Stephen Glover for more on this.

WICKED WHISPER: Which newspaper editor is finding it so impossible to deal with management that he or she is on the brink of consulting a specialist lawyer to discuss how best to extricate him- or herself quickly and with a decent pay-off?

THE DAILY MAIL has distressing news for fans of mirth. According to Leo McKinstry, one of the paper's phalanx of sub-Mad Mel Phillips right-wing ranters, British humour is dead. Going that extra mile for originality, Leo blames political correctness gone mad for the decline, and cites a recent survey which suggests that foreign visitors find us unfriendly. "The eagerness for laughs seems to be receding," he observes, "increasingly replaced by a mixture of priggishness and grievance." For God's sake, Leo, stop being so gloomy. As long as the Mail is around to welcome foreigners (especially migrant workers) with a broad grin, to fight the good fight against priggishness and grievance in all their many guises, and to delight us with its special brand of tongue-firmly-in-cheek hilarity, the British sense of humour will survive.

ANATOLE KALETSKY is unquestionably a columnist of consistent brilliance, and even when he indulges in special pleading he does it with elegance and grace. "To my mind, Mr Blair's truly unforgivable crime was not the invasion of Iraq (which I initially supported, believing that the US had a coherent plan to stabilise the country after... Saddam was toppled)," writes Anatole. "No, Mr Blair's crime was to continue backing Bush after it became obvious that his policies were criminally negligent, politically cynical and doomed to failure." I've a hunch that all that was pretty obvious to most of the planet long before the invasion, whether or not Anatole supported it, and anyway Mr Blair's inability to confess his mistake seems a lesser crime than making it in the first place. After all, there is something that is forgivably human, as Anatole's Times colleague David Aaronovitch must agree, about the inability to admit a cataclysmic error of judgement on a matter of foreign policy.

VERY SAD to note the demise of the television therapist Beechy Colclough, who has been struck off for interfering with a patient. He was one of the great adornments on TV-am in its upmarket mid-90s era, when Anthea Turner presented the show and a premium-rate phone competition asked viewers whether a forthcoming Hollywood ceremony was a) the Olives, b) the Oscars, or c) the Oswalds. One piece of advice sticks in the memory. During a phone-in, a man sought help in dealing with a recent diagnosis not only of cancer but also Aids. Having counselled him with the usual expertise, Beechy bade him goodbye with a merry "keep well". Sorely missed.

FINALLY, OUR headline of the week comes from last Thursday's Daily Telegraph, which carried an interview with the opera singer Bryn Terfel on page 29. "I Saw Huw Edwards," it ran, "And Burst Into Tears."

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