Matthew Norman: A BBC chief in need of media training

Diary

With concerns about BBC ageism intensifying all the time, the fear grows that director general Mark Thompson and trust chairman Michael Lyons will be retired before the fight over "top slicing" the licence fee is resolved.

Sir Michael seems quite antique enough already for some tastes, and yoked to standards of politesse barely seen since Lord Altrincham was ostracised from society in 1957 for describing the Queen's speaking voice as a pain in the neck. Responding to words from new culture, media and sport secretary Ben Bradshaw, Sir Michael asked him to refrain from "personal criticism". What Ben (entirely unbriefed by Newsnight producer-husband Neal Dalgleish, by the way; they keep an exquisite Chinese wall down the middle of the bed) said is that senior management should "show some leadership", which looks more like an attack of their professional competence.

Personal criticism might be to ask Sir Michael what, in the name of sanity, he imagines he's doing by taking a 30 per cent rise in his pay package (with taxable benefits doubled) when money for journalism is so squeezed... and just for spending extra days doing his job. That sort of pay structure is fine for agency nurses and others paid by shift, but it looks eccentric for the holder of such a privileged post. If he'd spent the extra £15,000 on media training, you might understand it. On last week's form, apparently not.

Mum's the word

Elsewhere in the Beeb, that venerable ageism debate spreads from rancorous newsreaders to Arlene Phillips's shock removal as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing. Many take a dim view, none more so than the Daily Telegraph, which so scrupulously avoids cover flashing its younger and sexier lady columnists on the front page. On Friday, its third leader censoriously agreed with Harriet Harman's analysis that Arlene's 66 years explain her firing. Bang next to that, meanwhile, Genevieve Fox took the death of "world's oldest mother" Maria Bousada as her cue to rail against the wickedness of mature women having babies. High time the British Press Awards added Wittiest Self-Parodic Juxtaposition to the Oscars of our industry.

A bitter taste

Here at The Independent, the publication of the latest list of Chequers guests causes the usual anguish, with not a soul from this group getting the nod. Among those who did join the Browns for lunch were many from News International, albeit chief executive-elect Rebekah Wade-Brooks seems to have confined her evening to overnight merriment at Sarah's Dionysian pyjama parties.

Also making the cut, along with his former chairman Victor Blank (justly rewarded for masterminding that brilliant RBS deal on behalf of Lloyds TSB), was Daily Mirror political supremo Kevin Maguire. I wish to make it clear that Kevin attended, as with that meeting of Damian McBride's little cabal of top-ranked smearers, in a purely private capacity.

Stop the press

Telly Scoop of the Week goes to the Mirror's Nicola Methven. "Filming on ITV drama Doc Martin is continuing apace down in the Cornish village of Port Isaac, where the Doc's girlfriend – played by Caroline Catz – was spotted noshing on a pasty (what else?) on set," reveals Nicola. "Question is, was it part of the plot or was she just having a crafty snack. Tune in next series to find out!" Sometimes it feels like only the nuclear clock in Zurich will do to count the moments.

Dickie court out

A feeling in my bones suggests we may return to the libel trial between Richard Desmond and Tom Bower once it's done with.

For now, a word about the Express owner's jaunt to see Lord Black in his Florida nick, a trip that proved as futile (he wasn't allowed in) as it was touching. Asked in court why he wished to spend time with Conrad, subject of the Bower biography in which the alleged libel appears, Richard replied "to see how he was". Bless him for that. Even Lord Longford never crossed the Atlantic at his own expense just to check on the wellbeing of an inmate.

As for Richard's remark that Rupert Murdoch is the media world's Darth Vader, this grotesque caricature will not stand. Look at any recent photo, and tell me he isn't Davros.

Wolff takes a bite

Rupert's latest biographer, Michael Wolff, posits an intriguing theory about the News of the World's naughtiness. Writing on newser.com, he argues that the interception of phone messages has as much to do with the boss's craving for gossip as selling newspapers.

"Gossip was one of the consistent themes in my conversations with Murdoch... If I brought him gossip, he was much happier than when I did not. It is a prurient interest...he refers to having pictures and reports and files – though this may be as much what he imagines a powerful person like himself should have, whereas all he really has is some speculation from sycophantic reporters feeding him what he wants to hear." Disrespectful rot and we'll give it no house room here.

No laughing matter

Over at The Sun, finally, the man who once played Rupert's Supreme Dalek continues to delight. Contrary to popular belief, there is much more to Kelvin MacKenzie's column than providing a template for Gaunty's effort the next day, albeit these twin towers of opinion-forming tend to cover uncannily similar ground.

"Do stop sending me these disgraceful Michael Jackson jokes," writes Kelvin. "The one I particularly objected to was: Jackson hasn't been as stiff as this since Macaulay Culkin told him he was coming over for the weekend. Just stop it," he concludes. "And no laughing either." Kelvin, my lovely, you may set your mind at ease about that.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Environment
The vaquita is being killed by fishermen trying to catch the totoaba fish, which is prized in China
environmentJust 97 of the 'world's cutest' sea mammals remain
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: Data Warehouse & Business Intelligence Co-ordinator

£35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Required skills include SQL querying, SSRS, u...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Graduate Consultant - Sales Recruitment - £35k ote

£18000 - £25000 per annum + £35k ote: h2 Recruit Ltd: Looking for your first s...

Recruitment Genius: Advertising Media Sales - Print, Online & Mobile

£19000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing house has been ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£20000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Award winning Peterborough base...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?