Matthew Norman's Media Diary

Burnham by name, if not by nature

A warm welcome to our new guv'nor Andy Burnham. Andy's appointment as Secretary of State for Media (and sport and culture, of course, but we know the priorities) observes a modern tradition: that of handing the media job to one of those malleable loyalists ("I was a Blairite," said Andy last June, when asked where his heart lay, "and now I am a Brownite") who, on returning from No 10, should always be asked "Did you find any polyps up there while you were with the PM?"

If anyone can reach depths of obeisance unplumbed even by Tessa Jowell and James Purnell, he's your man. So faux-naifs, anticipating a more robust approach to the Murdoch empire's expansionist ambitions, are advised to avoid breath-holding. We can all guess Andy's imminent decision on whether News International must sell its significant stake in ITV, while he will doubtless ape Mr Purnell, to whose Ant he has long played Dec, in seeking to weaken the BBC by sharing its income out among other broadcasters.

As for his instincts on the press, we recall that when David Blunkett was resigned for the first time, Andy ascribed this to nothing so soppy as those widely published allegations of repeated abuses of power and financial irregularities, but "trial by media".

Perhaps he feels the same about the investigations (and hats aloft to Guido Fawkes for getting that ball rolling) that removed Peter Hain. We wish Andy well in his "dream job", and trust he will waste little time before confirming that, whatever the post's official tripartite name, his correct job title is Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Retaining the Electoral Support of the Murdochs, Père et Fils."

In a bid to boost the disturbingly low tally of column inches devoted to Jeremy Paxman's pants, I offer this warning about the long-term perils of publicity generated by the nether regions. Some years ago, news dribbled out of a London theatre that William Gaunt, starring in A Humble Boy, fought a frantic battle for a new prosthetic penis (the character peed on stage), being loathe to inherit the one worn previously worn by Dennis Quilley. Sadly, Mr Gaunt's victory seemed Pyrrhic when he was later overheard remonstrating with a member of the production team. Thirty years and more he'd trodden the boards, he thundered, and now his obituaries would be nothing more than "Penis Actor Dies". So think on, Paxo. "TV's Pantsman Dead" is the last Daily Mirror headline your admirers would care to read in 2043.

Mention of that title brings us to tonight's Cudlipp lecture at the London College of Communication, where Alastair Campbell's talk will be catchily entitled The Media: a Case of Growth in Scale, Alas Not in Stature. The audience will reportedly be an amalgam of old No 10 chums and students hand picked for their docility. Anti-Iraq war militants will not be admitted.

As for those who may wonder whether Alastair is a voice worth hearing on journalistic ethics, we've heard quite enough from the cynics and sneerers already. Besides, it's good that he is finding activities that get him out of the house. All that staring at the long-disconnected hotline to No 10 in the kitchen can't be good for so fragile a soul.

one man confident enough to require no claque of admirers is Jon Gaunt (our cover story this week). Our plans for an outing to his Q&A road show are almost finalised, but anyone still wavering may be assisted by his Sun item about the man who threw his small son to death from a balcony in Greece. Having shown typical insight by observing that John Hogan "has psychiatric problems", Gaunty calls him a "monster" (nothing wrong with mixed messages when they provide balance). "If he was so stressed, so suicidal," he adds, "why didn't he just top himself ..." Sparkling, as ever. Off stage, the good news for Gaunty is that his TalkSport show attracted more complaints than any other radio presenter. The bad news is that all 48 (for offensive language, bias, over-intellectualising childishly simple issues like immigration, and so on) were rejected by the relevant watchdog. What any Rush Limbaugh wannabe needs most is a high-profile rebuke, or better still, a suspension, so better luck next year.

Worrying signs that Gaunty's Sun colleague Kelvin MacKenzie's confusion over Hillsborough persists. One minute he begs forgiveness for his catastrophic Sun fictions about Liverpool fans, the next he insists he was right all along. On Thursday he was in unapologetic mode, wondering how his offer to buy fiscally troubled Liverpool FC might be received on Merseyside. He is scheduled to grovel again later this week, before taunting relatives of the deceased anew on 5 February. Poor love, he doesn't know whether he's Arthur or Martha.

A friend rings with the unlikely claim that the fifth sports broadcaster inducted into the Radio Academy's Hall of Fame, in succession to Eamonn Andrews, John Arlott, Brian Johnston and Peter Jones, is 5 Live football ranter Alan Green. It might be a satirical, crypto-anarchic gesture of contempt for the academy itself, I suppose, but it still seems most unlikely. We'll investigate and return to the matter shortly.

"Chris Tarrant jokes that he has been reduced to living like Alan Partridge on Boost bars and Lucozade since his marriage split," observes Richard Littlejohn, lastly, in the Mail.

"Let's hope he doesn't end up working for Radio Norwich and living in a Travel Tavern. Ah-ha!" A million quid a year, they pay him for that. And more.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£30 - 35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Guru Careers: Software Engineer / Software Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software Engineer / Softw...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before