Matthew Norman's Media Diary

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With the general election apparently fixed for 5 May, a test of character approaches for the BBC's new director general.

With the general election apparently fixed for 5 May, a test of character approaches for the BBC's new director general. Mark Thompson would doubtless insist that the call isn't his, but ultimately he will decide which of his two heavyweights fronts the TV coverage. It is at this point that television law experts will cite the wearyingly familiar section 3 (ii) of the Dimbleby (Heirs of Richard) Act, 1979, which states: "In any national plebiscite broadcast live, the role of lead presenter shall fall, notwithstanding their ability to read an autocue and affect a faux- gravitas becoming their paternity, to the male issue of Richard Dimbleby." What Jonathan gets up to is of no interest, since no one in their right mind would watch a political event on ITV, but as for David... well, his long career has certainly had its moments (his coverage of the Marquess of Salisbury's election win stands out as a paradigm), but there is a feeling, inside and outside the Beeb that it's time to move on. Which brings us to Jeremy Paxman, whose less mannerly approach would inject some much-needed energy into what otherwise promises to be a comatose all-nighter. For Mr Thompson, then, what a chance to prove that he isn't scared of a government which overtly loathes Paxo, and to ridicule those at the Beeb who see him as a petty sort of chap who will hugely resent Paxo for the grilling he gave him recently (why should BBC staff trust their new boss, Paxo enquired, when last year he insisted he wasn't interested in the job?). With broadcasters claiming to be as concerned as politicians about voter apathy, especially among the young, the decision speaks for itself. Whether Mr Thompson has the balls to make it is quite another matter.

Very good, meanwhile, to note GMTV unleashing the full might of its journalistic excellence on the Auschwitz anniversary. Pedants may quibble as to whether John Stapleton was the right choice to stand outside the gates when Lorraine Kelly was available, but I thought he made a bang-up job of expressing the searingly original thoughts that a) all in all, it's a bit difficult to find the words; and b) let's make sure it never happens again. Ed Morrow would have been proud.

High excitement throughout London's Theatreland at news that Ginny Dougary is turning the Blunkett-Quinn affair into a musical. Much of the action will centre around the offices of The Spectator, and rumours are already seeping out of the Doughty Street casting couch, which only returned on Friday from its bi-weekly trip to Sketchley's. I gather that Philip Seymour Hoffman has been offered the part of Boris Johnson, while Richard Griffiths has agreed in principal to play Bruce Anderson. Another Speccie columnist, Mark Steyn, himself a world expert on musical theatre, has been lined up to play Blunkers opposite Ruthie Henshall's Kimberly, while the late Dennis Quilley is seen as a natural for Paul Johnson. Arguably the most surprising whisper concerns Gerald Kaufman, the showtune-besotted supremo of the Commons' media select committee. Sir Gerald has hurriedly negotiated an opt-out clause in his current contract (he is starring as Alfred Doolittle in the Altrincham & Cheadle Hume Players' revival of My Fair Lady), and is said to be "aggressively lobbying" for the pivotal role of Petronella Wyatt. More on this, I suspect, as the winter draws on.

Fears for Germaine Greer's beloved Australian rainforest thankfully abate. When profound distress at the "fascist" nature of the BB regime drove Germaine over the wall, it seemed she might forfeit her appearance money. But last week the old girl was overheard in a Cambridge pub telling friends that the programme-makers were so thrilled with the publicity that they've stumped up after all. She added that her fee, at £120,000, was roughly triple that of Bez, Caprice and the rest. Lucky old rainforest.

Celebrity readers concerned about any forthcoming interviews should study the novel technique of Dustin Hoffman, who featured in an amusing recent profile by Graham Wray in Time Out. When the interview, which was scheduled for 45 minutes but ran for two hours, touched on Billy Connolly, whom both eccentrically agreed to be hilarious, Dustin rang Billy to tell him so, before steering Graham to his settee, and psychoanalysing him at length. So delighted was Dustin with the results that he's taken out a subscription (mind you, if there's one publication you can't survive in Beverly Hills without, it's a London listings mag), and has promised to make a state visit to the Time Out office when next he's in town. As yet, he hasn't gone as far as he did when interviewed by Mark Lawson, whom he tried to take on to his personal staff, offering to relocate Mark and his family to Hollywood. But it's early days.

I am increasingly fretful about Nicky Campbell, who contrived to jettison 400,000 listeners from his Radio 5 Live breakfast show in the last quarter of 2004. A more bombastic media figure might shrug off even so alarming a dip, but a man as riven by self-doubt as Nicky will need some serious cosseting by his bosses. Worries about Nicky's state of mind have been mounting in the industry since it was noted, back in November, that he has failed to link himself with any important job since the last time the Pope seemed on the point of death. Perhaps a paragraph planted somewhere - and where better than here? - hinting at a crucial TV anchor role on election night would be as good a way as any to cheer him up.

m.norman@independent.co.uk

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