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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
people
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
people
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
news
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel you sales role is li...

Head of Marketing (Online & Offline, Media, Digital, Strategy)

£85000 - £100000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing - Slough, Berkshi...

Administration Assistant / Office Assistant

£18 - 20k + Bonus: Guru Careers: An Administration Assistant / Office Assistan...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone