Media: Kelvin: from top yob to top job: S J Taylor, who once felt the Sun editor's boot, knows why he had to quit

Even before Kelvin MacKenzie resigned as editor of the Sun, it was the end of an era. Kelvin's departure simply brought the fact home in one succinct gesture.

Once or twice in the past few months, I've actually picked up the Sun and thumbed through it before tossing it aside. My reaction? 'Been there, done that.'

And in fact I have. I ate, drank and wrote tabloid for two years of my life; there is very little about the tabs I don't know. I could turn over a few doorsteppers myself, if I were that kind of girl. But I'm not, and they must have sensed that, or they would never have given me the insider information they did for my book, Shock] Horror] The Tabloids in Action (Corgi Black Swan, 1992).

I am also one of a handful of outsiders who have been invited to meet MacKenzie in person in his office - for the singular experience of being kicked out of it. So I know Kelvin. And despite the ritual humiliation I was subjected to, I have a lot of time for him.

Kelvin MacKenzie pushed language to the outer limit of its vulgarity quotient. Under the influence of his terrible genius, the Sun, like great literature, worked on all levels. Intellectuals and boors alike gorged on its pages; for a while there, if you didn't know what outrage Kelvin had perpetrated recently, you didn't know much.

All that came crashing down in 1991, with the demise of the Press Council and the creation of the Press Complaints Commission. It was then that the national newspapers began fully to understand that if they didn't 'put their own house in order', Parliament would do it for them.

Exactly how serious matters had become was evident last November when the Daily Mirror received public censure for publishing photographs of the Princess of Wales, taken without her knowledge in a London gym. It was a caper that a decade ago would have seemed like great fun. Now even the tabloids were registering bitter complaints about the unethical conduct of the Mirror.

The event demonstrated that, even in a worst-case scenario, the national press could indeed put its own house in order. But for free spirits such as MacKenzie, it signalled the end of the Street.

But there is always BSkyB, an unregulated medium bounced off a satellite somewhere outside the powers of Parliament. Somebody somewhere is going to have to figure out how to regulate the skies, but that's going to take time. Meanwhile, where has Kelvin gone? To BSkyB, of course.

He is the latest and the best-known editor seconded from the tabloid press to tabloid television by Rupert Murdoch. First there was Steve Dunleavy, metro editor at the New York Post when Murdoch owned it, who became producer and star of a popular show at Fox Television. Another skilled journalist from the Post was Peter Fearon, thought to be the model for Peter Fallow in Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities. He too was enlisted in the cause of tabloid TV - a genre that has changed the face of television in the US and is no doubt destined to become a dominant force here as well. And Wendy Henry, former editor of the News of the World under Murdoch, recently left her post as editor of a supermarket tabloid in Florida for the greener pastures of Fox Television.

A master of the emerging technology, Murdoch is moulding satellite to his own specifications. It is a repeat on a grand scale of what he managed to accomplish with the British press.

'Bloody television,' MacKenzie once said. 'They'll get you on and then say, 'Why are you such a scumbag?' '

It is one of those strange ironies that he has been chosen to become managing director of BSkyB. Questions as to whether he has the moxie to make the transition from top yob to executive status are moot. But more than any other tabloid type, MacKenzie possesses the common touch.

Any mogul planning to rule the skies need look no further than Kelvin MacKenzie. And Murdoch hasn't.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • 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: Marketing Manager

£40 - 48k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Manager to join...

Guru Careers: PR Account Manager / AM

£20-30K(DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a PR Account M...

Guru Careers: Account Manager / Account Executive

Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: One of the UK’s largest and most s...

Guru Careers: Marketing and Communications Manager

£Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing and Co...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence