MEDIAFREAK

THE BITES THAT BITE
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The Independent Online
n X-rated position

A frantic search is now on to find Britain's next pornographer-in-chief, a dishonorary post that Channel 4's cigar-chomping chief executive Michael Grade will shortly vacate when he turns his back on television to run Blackpool Tower and a host of other leisure interests.

Don't be surprised if the Daily Mail - one of whose many ranting right- wing polemicists Paul Johnson created this position - nominates Channel 5's supremo David Elstein as his successor. Last week, the Mail alerted Middle England to the fact that C5 is planning to serve up a "seedy mix of X-rated sex and horror". This could be the start of a crusade.

On second thoughts, David Elstein is a little harder to demonise than Michael Grade. Apart from his famous intellectual prowess, he personifies everything the Daily Mail holds dear. A faithful husband and terribly committed family man, he has even been known to take his teenage son rather than his secretary to conferences.

Also, Mr Elstein evidently has some regard for the paper currently pouring scorn upon his programme schedule. A few months back, he told a trade journal that C5's approach to news would be "less like The Telegraph and more like the Mail".

Canny Scot

Scottish Television chairman Gus Macdonald has warned the three big ITV companies south of the border to keep their predatory paws off Scotland's commercial stations. "I am sure the Independent Television Commission could count on political support if it blocked hostile takeovers of the two licensees in Scotland," he boldly declared at a conference on the future of broadcasting organised by the FT.

He is probably right. Nationalist passions are running fairly high north of the Tweed, and Macdonald is a shrewd mobiliser of public opinion when he wants to be.

Then again, maybe there are a few folk high up the ITC who have good memories and can remember a certain STV supremo declaring with equal boldness at the start of the great ITV takeover saga something along the lines of: "I am peering over Hadrian's Wall looking for an opportunity to invade."

That was when Gus Macdonald was nursing hopes of mounting cross-border takeovers himself. When that didn't come off, he decided to construct an impressive little cross-media empire in Scotland by acquiring the Glasgow- based Herald and Evening Times newspapers for pounds 120M - all of which he would now dearly love Scotland's politicians to ring-fence. Cute move or what?

Keep it clean Isn't it marvellous when earnest political documentary makers are able to put everything into proper perspective ... except themselves? This thought occurred a few days ago when a press release was faxed to us from the British Film Institute. Its purpose was to drum up a little advance publicity for a lecture that Michael Cockerell was giving at the NFT about TV coverage of elections through the ages.

"TV man calls for clean election," it boomed. Can you imagine the response from the rival party leaders and their spin-doctors when this news reached them. Our resident cartoonist Colin Wheeler can ...

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