Matthew Norman's Media Diary

A nauseating conspiracy of silence
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The Independent Online

TO THE pin-up girl of Compassionate Conservatism, we raise our hats today in tribute for a splendid polemic. That Polly Toynbee's appeal for a politician brave enough to address the omnipotence of Rupert Murdoch, in Friday's Guardian, will fall on the deafest of ears is irrelevant. The point is that she draws attention to the print media's staggeringly feckless coverage of former News of the World royal correspondent Clive Goodman's conviction for bugging telephone and text messages.

Perhaps, recalling how all other papers indulged Rebekah Wade when her husband Ross Wade (Kemp as was) landed her in a police cell, it will appear faux-naïf to seem surprised. Even so, the failure of national titles to raise a couple of blisteringly obvious questions is pretty shameful. Why, as Polly wonders, haven't the police questioned NoW editor Andy Coulson, and even Mr Murdoch himself, under caution à la Lord Levy, about what they knew about this offence and countless others like it?

We already know that Glenn Mulcaire, a former footballer turned private eye, who became Goodman's partner in crime, had been intercepting voicemail messages left by the likes of Sol Campbell's agent, Sky Andrew, and the publicist Max Clifford.

But I don't suppose any of our fearless newsdesks will dig too hard to find out more. The failure of politicians to deal with Mr Murdoch is gruesome enough, but the print media's informal conspiracy of silence seems an even more nauseating dereliction of duty.

NOT EVERYONE takes the same line as Polly and myself on News Corporation, of course, and it's always good to hear the opposing view eloquently stated by an impartial observer... in this case, by one James Murdoch of Sky TV. James lashes out at the "authoritarian" regulation of the British media. On reflection, maybe he does have a point. This is the last country in which someone like himself could coax a cabinet minister such as Tessa Jowell into reneging on a previous agreement to keep live domestic Test cricket on terrestrial television just by lobbying her directly at a private meeting later deemed "too commercially sensitive" for any of its minutes to be released. Those Stalinist broadcasting regulators simply wouldn't stand for it.

THIS ONE could well turn out to be absolute cobblers, but I hear of a new reality TV show, still in the planning stage, in which slebs will be trained to perform operations. That's as much detail as I have, apart from the fact that Maureen Lipman is among those approached, so if anyone knows anything more, please get in touch.

IF INDEED All Star Surgeons is a runner, it may soon feature as a key plank of the upmarket lurch at ITV under Michael Grade. Meanwhile, here's the latest betting on his successor as BBC chairman. David Dimbleby, David Puttnam and the Argentine Davis Cup tennis star David Nalbandian are joint favourites at 9-2, with Melvyn Bragg next best at 6-1. Ex-Treasury buffer Lord Burns is on 7s with Chris Patten, and then it's veteran BBC broadcaster Soo from Sooty and Sweep on her own at 17-2. As 10-1 is Jonathan Ross, whose modest £18m BBC salary I am perturbed to learn is the subject of an MP's inquiry. The steadily supported Alastair Campbell is on 12s, while money from a syndicate of musical theatre impresarios in Singapore has slashed Sir Gerald Kaufman from 80-1 to 25s. They go 33-1 about David Liddiment, John Willis and Kelvin MacKenzie, while bunched on 50-1 are Tim Gardam, Dame Patricia Hobson, the late Harry Worth, Greg Dyke and Jason Orange of the resurgent Take That. It's 66-1 bar those, which brings in Lord Birt, the former DG, relatively easy to back on 12,500-1.

IT SEEMS that Jon Gaunt of The Sun has failed to heed last week's warning about gratuitous police-bashing. Gaunty again attacks the Association of Chief Police Officers, this time for the sensible suggestion that the easiest way drastically to cut crime is to prescribe heroin to addicts. Gaunty is a fan of the "three strikes" rule popular in America, he tells us, and so in this context am I. The next time he undermines public confidence in the police, and for all that he's my favourite columnist, the gloves come off. As for the reader who asks how, given the bewildering frequency with which contact with the modern world makes him sick, Gaunty retains his magnificent girth, we hope to find an answer soon.

FOLLOWING JAN Leeming's I'm a Celebrity... triumph, the word at the BBC is that a much-loved reader-out-aloud of today - a "newscaster", in the current slang - is desperate to have a crack next year. Negotiations are still at the embryonic stage, and there are doubts within the industry as to the feasibility of allowing one person to design the Bushtucker Trials, edit the show, write the scripts and be a co-presenter while also living in camp as a contestant. If these are resolved, I think Ant'n'Dec'n'Huw, or more properly perhaps Huw'n'Ant'n'Dec, would have a certain ring.

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