Matthew Norman's Media Diary
Africa - your saviours are at hand
Monday 30 October 2006
IN THIS, the persistent vegetative stage of his leadership, it seems that one cherished aspect of the PM's legacy is to be snatched away at the last. Many times has Mr Tony Blair stated his ambition to salvage Africa from the hideous problems that afflict it (you will recall with special jingoistic pride the Saviour of the World Tour 2002), so how cruel that now, with the clock running down, a TV production company is poised to fulfil the pledge he couldn't quite keep.
Broadcast magazine reports that Silver River productions is recruiting "eight self-made millionaires" to travel to a remote Ugandan village "and relieve African poverty for a new factual entertainment series" on Channel 4. The Mission, as it's working-titled, will "challenge the aspiring philanthropists to decide how best they can spend a pool of their money working within UN guidelines."
That would be the UN Reality TV Charter, as endorsed by incoming Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. So far two people have signed up, the record industry "mogul" Rob Dickins (why are record industry bosses always moguls? It's as baffling a cliché to me as the "PC brigade"), and the "Sunday Times Rich List member Julie Hester, who made a fortune from an internet property search company". This is so moving, I'm finding it hard to go on. But go on we must. "All the contestants (all two of them) have proven they are leaders in their field," explains the Silver River chief executive Daisy Goodwin, the sensitive TV poetess, "but the show will see if they can use their entrepreneurial flair to solve one of the world's biggest conundrums."
Aren't you besotted with the modesty of that "if"? "When", Daisy, "when". Show a bit of faith. We'll be keeping the closest of eyes on this one, and wish everyone involved all the best.
Should The Mission fail to end African poverty (I know it's unimaginable, but we must be prepared for all outcomes) all may not be lost thanks to the return to BBC1 of Jim'll Fix It. A slightly deranged old boy strolling through a remote Ugandan village festooned in chunky gold jewellery handing out 12-inch Havanas to hungry children... it's such a classy idea I can't think why Daisy didn't think of it first. Should Jimmy now be recruited as the third of her self-made millionaires, no finder's fee will be required.
* MEANWHILE, THE ever-ailing ITV network is courting my cousin by marriage, Kevin Lygo (whom I have never met), to be its new director of programmes. Given Kevin's brilliant critical and commercial record running Channel 4, the only terrestrial channel to increase its market share last year, this is no surprise.
Kevin is reported to be willing to move for the right money (never having met him, I can offer no inside steer), and if anyone can rescue ITV it is probably him. Even so, I think he should wait until The Mission has rescued Africa, probably by early next summer, so that he leave on the mighty wave of a triumph.
* I WAS AMUSED to hear John Simpson discussing Iraq on Victoria Derbyshire's Radio 5 Live phone-in. When Victoria read a listener's text message positing that Iraq is a godforsaken hell-hole that should be left to stew in its juices, John was so startled that he asked Victoria why she bothers to broadcast such moronic opinions. What with being away so much, John is spared the temptation to listen regularly that sadomasochists like myself cannot resist. So let me explain. If radio phone-ins didn't broadcast moronic opinions without pause, there would be no such thing as radio phone-ins, just an awful lot of dead air.
* THE ACCOUNT by the journalist Heather Mills of having her identity appropriated by the other Heather Mills, Lady McCartney, who cited articles in The Observer in a vain attempt to land a telly presenting job, suggests a regular feature called Journalistic Namesakes. I kick it off by reporting, after the briefest of Googles, that the only Matthew Norman of any note anywhere is an Australian, the youngest of the so called Bali Nine (he was only 18 at the time, bless him; I can't help taking pride in his precocity) whose death sentence there last year for smuggling heroin was commuted to life imprisonment. I'm not sure whether he puts Lady M in the shade or not, but all nominations gratefully received. Special prizes will be promised, but never given, to anyone who can unearth a serial-killer Simon Heffer, a pole-dancing Melanie Phillips and any member of a charting boy-band by the name of William Deedes.
* SPEAKING OF whom, there is no word yet on whether WF will be joining the strike at the Telegraph. If not - and his silence about the newspapers' peerless treatment of journalists remains as ear-shattering as that of his fellow ex-editor, Charles Moore - it is assumed that he that he will be chauffered past the braziers and into the new Victoria offices in a customised Chieftain tank.
* AM I THE only member of this dying old trade who sensed in last week's reports on the extreme lavishness of MPs' expenses a wistful nostalgia for the days when hacks had their own mini-printing-sets to produce receipts for entertaining top contacts at non-existent restaurants, and the recently deceased Brian Vine took his horse to the United States in a first-class cabin on the QE II? If we'd known that it would come to this, we might have been a bit less snotty about going into politics.
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