Matthew Norman's Media Diary

Cheshire is waiting for you, Mark
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The Independent Online

The behaviour of the BBC director general, Mark Thompson, is most bamboozling. Thommo, best known to the public for biting a colleague, last week bared his top plate at the Government, insisting that, if the licence fee rise is not to his taste, he will cancel the relocation of large chunks of the corporation to Manchester in 2110.

"From the start the BBC's governors have made it abundantly clear that they would only approve the case for Salford if it could demonstrate robust value for money," said Mr Thompson last week. "I am sure that the Trust [the new nonentity-packed overseeing body replacing the governors] is likely to take the same view." This is highly confusing. After all, the move was announced in 2004, by Thommo and chairman Michael Grade, as part of their Better Public Value campaign. If it represented a way to cut long-term expenditure two years ago - and Manchester, although bursting with energy, is far cheaper than London - how has that changed since? In fact, by increasing the pressure to economise, a disappointing settlement would surely make the move a more urgent priority than ever.

Far be it from me to speak for Mark, but I'm sure he'd want me to make it clear that last week's statement was just a crude and empty threat against a governing party with marginal seats in the north-west, and that he wants the move as much as ever. In fact he's mad for it, and the best way for him to reassure both the 1,800 staff who are so looking forward to uprooting their families and the trading community of Salford relying on him not to renege, would be to waste no time in swapping his elegant Oxford home for a handsome mock-Tudor mansion in Alderley Edge.

* Eagerly anticipating the relocation will be Shelagh Fogarty, Nicky Campbell's Scouse sidekick on Five Live's breakfast show, who will be just 40 miles from her home town. Perhaps when she gets to spend more time in the city that invented humour, she'll rediscover her own sense of mirth. Last Tuesday she read out The Sun's front page headline, "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Korea?" and sniffed: "Oh dear". Yet this was, for once, a genuinely funny front page. The irony is that, for most of their show, Shelagh and Nicky do little but giggle at each other like infatuated teenies, which is tremendous. However, given how generous Ricky Gervais is with his laughter at other people's jokes, Shelagh must try to be a little more liberal with her own.

* Elsewhere in The Sun, David Blunkett continues to delight. Last week, Blunkers touched on the "depression" that is all the rage among the PM's closer chums. "Alastair Campbell has been incredibly brave," he wrote, "in talking for the first time about his depression during the Hutton enquiry." Oh but he has, hasn't he, when the very last thing he wants is public sympathy. So much braver than Dr Kelly, whose own depression led to nowhere more troublesome than the woods in which he cut his wrists. The only person who's ever been as brave as Ali, I think, is David, for owning up to his problems at the time of being recalled to the Cabinet. Not that he was subtly praising himself in praising Ali, of course. Anyway, good to see The Sun being so sensitive to mental illness three years after it greeted news of Frank Bruno's hospitalisation with the headline "Bonkers Bruno Locked Up`".

* Writing in the title that pioneered the form, I am deeply troubled by the dearth of wall-charts in newspapers. There just haven't been anything like enough lately, so I am suggesting to the editor a new series of wall-charts, to be run over three weeks, featuring a guide to every wall-chart published this year. Seinfeld fans will recall Cosmo Kramer's coffee-table book about coffee tables, the special genius of which were detachable legs that allowed it be converted into a coffee table. If anyone can see a way to produce wall-charts about wall-charts in such a way that they might later be turned into walls, please get in touch.

* Hats thrown high to Derek McGovern, whose daily betting column in the Mirror is such an absolute joy. If I still wrote for the paper, whose likeable editor Richard Wallace sacked me soon after he got the job, I'd be tempted to call it a cracker, in droll reference to Derek's brother Jimmy, because it's not only very funny but incredibly useful. Why I ignored last Wednesay's advice to snatch a generous price about England failing to score in Croatia I've no idea, but Derek's on the tipping form of his life at the moment, and even though this item will jinx him for the next 32 years he's well worth reading for the gags alone.

* The very best of British to the new Daily Telegraph editor Will Lewis, an acquaintance thanks to several outings with a mutual friend to White Hart Lane. Here's hoping he can endure with the highly individualistic Barclay Boys management style longer than most, and without coming to be regarded as another of their enchanting representatives on Earth. At some point, he might care to address the question of staff-management relations. Someone I rang there last week said she'd have to ring straight back on her mobile, because it's now automatically assumed by journalists there that their calls are earwigged and their e-mails read.

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