Matthew Norman's Media Diary

Soaraway satire of Sun's editor

Ever since the early hours of 3 November 2005, when she terrorised television's hardest man Ross Kemp (Ross Wade as was, before the estrangement) into summoning the protection of the local law, there's been no gainsaying the bravery of Sun editor Rebekah Wade. Even by the standards of that hilarity, however, the raw courage she showed last week on a rare foray into the public domain demands attention. It isn't every editor who openly challenges her proprietor, let alone with the savage, satirical edge Rebekah unleashed before the House of Lords communications committee.

Without calling Rupert Murdoch a liar, she cast doubt on his own evidence to that committee last September, when he described himself as "a traditional proprietor" who lays down the line for his tabloids to take on party political and EU matters. This Rebekah countered by insisting that he never interferes in her running of the paper. While some will be impressed at how swiftly she reinforced this notion (by mentioning that he rang her at 1.30am with an inside steer on the recent New Hampshire primary), others may, depressingly enough, be reminded of the phrase "working towards the Führer", popularised by the historian Ian Kershaw, whereby officials acted on what they perceived to be Hitler's wishes without needing to be told.

Apart from being distasteful, the analogy is nonsensical because Rebekah also revealed that she wilfully ignores Mr Murdoch's "dismay" at all the celebrity guff she runs (not that he doesn't have reason to be shocked: when he went off to America, the Sun he left behind was still engaged in a vicious turf war with Granta and the London Review of Books). Despite the obvious friction between them, and regardless of having just shepherded the Sun's sales below three million – how these titles survive on such tiny circulations, I'll never understand – Rebekah reassured their lordships that she remains "quite upbeat about the future". No wonder. If and when Mr Murdoch finally tires of her rebelliousness, there will be an empty chair awaiting her at the top table of British satirists.

****

Happily things go more smoothly for Mr Murdoch on another front. The contemptuous defiance he endures from tabloid editors remains thankfully hard to detect among cabinet ministers, especially Culture Secretary James Purnell. In public, he has always seemed touchingly matey with Rupert's son James, and any friendship can only have been strengthened by his hint on Thursday that the forthcoming legislation may oblige the BBC to share its licence-fee income with commercial networks. Any weakening of the Beeb's dominance is, it needs no stating, to the enormous benefit of BSkyB. Mr Purnell's major contribution to the empire to date was a background fixer role, as Tessa Jowell's junior, in the governmental reneging on its pre-existing agreement to keep live domestic Test cricket on terrestrial TV ... a useful start, certainly, but possibly no more than the amuse-bouche for the banquet of Murdochian fealty yet to come.

****

A brief but spine-chilling silence afflicted Radio 5 Live's breakfast show on Friday morning when one-time BBC strike-breaker Shelagh Fogarty teased co-host Nicky Campbell about his singing. You may recall from Celebrity Fame Academy, when he produced what's widely regarded as the finest cover of Bridge Over Troubled Water since Linda Rondstadt, or possibly the Arthur Mullard and Hilda Baker duet, that Nicky treats his voice with the seriousness it deserves, and for a crackling split second you had to fear for Shelagh. Yet it's a sign of how much he's mellowed since the day he reduced our beloved Fi Glover to tears live on air, that the moment passed without incident. Well done, Nicky!

****

Before we come to our own leading radio shock jock, TalkSport titan Jon Gaunt, a brief word about one of America's. The endlessly engaging Rush Limbaugh is accused of using, and reusing, the word "spade" in its racist sense in reference to Barack Obama. If so, give praise that such nastiness doesn't afflict the mainstream media here. It is several years now since the columnist Taki, whose thoughtful weekly musings continue to grace The Spectator (he is currently embroiled in a row with Bernie Ecclestone, whom he called a midget), twice referred to a black man of his acquaintance as "sambo". All a long time ago, as I say, and we won't hear another word on the matter.

****

And so, finally, to favourite columnist Jon Gaunt, a doughty enemy of racism in its myriad forms who uses another otherwise excellent column in Rebekah's Sun to launch a perplexing attack. "Snobby writer Matthew Norman has spent weeks trying to slag me off in The Independent," writes Gaunty, "and now reckons he deserves free tickets to my show in Southend on February 27. Fat chance, Fathead!" Passing lightly over the inventive alliterative wordplay and Gaunty's clever avoidance of witless stereotyping ("Surely that's much too far away," he posits, of Southend, "from your comfort zone of Islington and your skinny lattes"), I'm astonished at this. A few weeks ago, I gladly recorded a message of seasonal goodwill for Gaunty and his TalkSport listeners, at his producer's request, and now this.

Evidently there's some farcical misunderstanding at work, and I look forward to resolving it as a paying visitor (I'm organising a coach trip for the fast growing Leftie Liberals For Gaunty fan club) to the Q&A roadshow, be it in Southend, Bromsgrove, his native Coventry, or even at the Shaw Theatre on the outskirts of London's skinny latte-suffused Islington on 26 April. We're coming for you, Gaunty boy. Be prepared.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Senior Web Developer - C# / ASP.NET - London - £55K

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Web Deve...

SThree: Internal Recruitment Consultant (In-House)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Are you an ambitious, money moti...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Graphic Designer - Peterborough - £18,000

£22000 - £23000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Graphic Designer...

Sphere Digital Recruitment: Sales Manager / Account Director – DSP / Ad tech / RTB

£50,000- £70,000 + commission : Sphere Digital Recruitment: This DSP is an onl...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower