MEDIAFREAK

THE BITES THAT BITE

n Changed Times

Remember back in the mists of pre-Murdoch Times when the Thunderer proudly regarded itself as the `top people's paper'? Well, it has just been confirmed that The Times is now itself unashamedly to Mr and Mrs Middle England. We have this on the good authority of Brian McArthur, associate editor of the paper.

Asked why he did not bid for the rights to serialise Mark Hollingsworth's book The Ultimate Spin Doctor (about Baroness's Thatcher's one-time favourite Sir Tim Bell), Mr MacArthur explained in the latest issue of PR Week that The Times had exhausted its books budget.

He went on: "One also has to ask: `Does it sell newspapers?' and, while Sir Tim's an interesting man, I don't think Mr and Mrs England would wake up and say `I must buy the paper as they're serialising Tim Bell's book'."

Incidentally, the Observer (apparently the only paper still interested in the Thatcher era) got the aforementioned rights for a mere pounds 2,000.

n Scots challenge

Talking of the New Establishment, how would you like to give Andrew Neil a good gubbing on his home patch? That is the glorious challenge facing whoever succeeds George McKechnie at the helm of The Herald in Glasgow. McKechnie suddenly quit as editor of the up-market broadsheet last Thursday, sparking rumours of a bust-up with the paper's new owners Scottish Television.

Talk of `Crisis at the Glasgow empire' was gleefully fanned the next day by the paper's arch-rival The Scotsman, whose editor-in-chief is Neil. Not that this would have made much difference in Herald heartland, the heavily populated west of Scotland, where The Scotsman's average daily sale is closer to that of the International Herald Tribune.

n Give them 5

Pity poor Sarah Thane, the Independent Television Commission's director of programmes and cable - or, rather, her husband Peter. All he wanted to do was celebrate their first wedding anniversary with a weekend in some remote place. Then his wife happened to mention that 30 March - the date in question - is not only Easter Sunday, but also the day of the launch of Channel 5. So they could only go to somewhere within C5's transmission territory. It narrowed the range of options considerably, cutting out large stretches of Cornwall and North Wales. Eventually, Sarah and Peter did find a desirable place. Where, Sarah won't say. Now Peter can only pray that C5's launch-day line-up does not prove too much of a distraction for his telly-addicted spousen

n Farr and away

Sue Farr, the newly appointed marketing director of BBC Broadcast, seems to have marketed herself successfully to the trade journal Marketing. A glowing profile in its latest issue notes that the woman now in charge of the UK's biggest media brand is "tall, blonde, with looks that can turn heads", exuding "a confidence and warmth ... at odds with the traditional fusty BBC image, and it is hard not to like her." The article ends with the words of a BBC source: "Sue Farr is very good at marketing Sue Farr."

The only semi-critical subordinate clause in the tribute refers to Ms Farr claiming credit in her CV for "the successful repositioning of Radio 1". Some would contend that most of the credit for that should go to someone else - a certain carrot-haired chappie called Chris Evansn

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