Matthew Norman's Media Diary

Noel, Noel ... a saviour is (re)born

Is there any societal ill beyond the range of Noel Edmonds? There is so much more to the man than doling out Christmas presents to sick children without a passing thought for the personal publicity, and in the last few days alone the Isaiah Berlin of the Gotcha has shone the halogen lamp of his intellect at two contentious issues. Especially inspiring is his clarion call to the public to help him correct serious social problems, among which he identifies not merely teenage knife crime but speed cameras and the London congestion charge. "Whether we call it broken Britain or toxic Britain," writes Nolly, "we have to accept that something in our society has happened and someone needs to do something about it."

Can anyone guess who the saviour might be? No? Well, it's Nolly, with a show in which the one-time owner of a Jacobean mansion in Devon set in the country's largest private grounds without a public right of way will humiliate "the greedy and ungenerous" and celebrate altruism wheresoever he might find it. Sparing a moment from his duties as social reformer, meanwhile, he also addresses the loss of public confidence in television which Noel's HQ is expected to reverse. Broadcasters must "take the initiative" to restore trust in British TV says the presenter of Deal or No Deal (fined £500,000 by Ofcom's for continuing with a phone in competition for seven weeks after the producers became aware of its dodginess).

Until now, Nolly's own contribution to restoring public trust in telly (and if that memory doesn't highlight the full wickedness of misnaming a Blue Peter cat, what will?) was believed to peak with Michael Lush's death while rehearsing a bungee jump for the eerily titled Late, Late Breakfast Show in 1986. But apparently not.

A PERPLEXING advert appears in the media section of German paper Der Taz. Under the headline "Publisher Wanted", the text refers to a "highly motivated newspaper staff, still not made redundant ... seeking a serious buyer ..." What's wrong with the people at Berliner Zeitung, where a quarter of the editorial staff is about to be laid off? In placing this ad, don't they understand that they have a perfectly good proprietor already in the lovable shape of David Montgomery?

FROM A former Mirror Group boss to the incumbent, although how long Sly Bailey (Sylvia Grice as was) will remain so is uncertain. Sylvia may be little more interested than Monty himself in those fiddly bits of the industry that don't revolve around the cutting of costs, but not everyone can be an all-rounder. The important point is that she's done such a bang-up job with the share price, which has seen the group's capitalisation realigned from a disappointing £1.3bn a year ago to a cheerier £280m today. And still questions are raised about her future. What a brutal industry this is.

AND SO to the increasingly fractious relationship between Sunday Telegraph theatre critic Tim Walker (after the interest-declaring fashion of my colleague Stephen Glover, I must remind you that he replaced my wife in the post) and his fellow wielders of the illuminated pen. For no better reason than Tim's penchant for confusing such minor Shakespearean characters as Iago and Othello, these bullies have taken to teasing him. "I see Tim Walker fell into the Jonathan Miller trap of denouncing the casting of Dr Who as Hamlet," runs a contribution from Michael Coveney. "You'd expect a professional critic to know about David Tennant's brilliant stage career before he was Dr Who, surely". Why Michael blithely ignores the perils of over-research is his business, but happily Tim has launched a counter strike. "I have no doubt that saying all of this will once again put me 'out of step' with most of my fellow critics," observed the Ken Tynan du jour at the end of a recent unfavourable review, "but happily I have a day job, I am beholden to no man and so I don't really care if I am out of step. I will continue to tell it as I see it. It's a pity that Lefties in theatreland can't do the same". More than that, Tim, it is an indelible stain on their mortal souls. Still, best not give up that day job.

THE BASIC English comprehension problems that afflict the work of favourite columnist Jon Gaunt have infected The Sun's back bench. "The BBC will be cut to one channel and a radio station in 10 years, a report claims today," ran a page-two story on Friday, referring to Sir Antony Jay's argument that "there is a strong case for dismantling the BBC". I am convinced there is a strong case for Spurs winning the Champions League in 2010, but that doesn't make it likelier to happen. Wishful thinking is a marvellous thing, but we mustn't let it lure us into blatant misreporting.

HATS OFF to Peter Oborne. Peter's research on Islamophobia, for tonight's Dispatches on Channel 4 (see page 10 of this supplement), is laudable enough, but getting a double-page spread headlined Is Britain Anti-Muslim? into the Daily Mail, home of Mad Mel Phillips and her thoughtful reflections on the clash of civilisations, is something else. Superb work.

STILL WITH that paper, finally, the award for Imbecile Headline Question of the Week goes, as ever, to the Mail for "Was this Aliens Trying to Say Hello?" above a photo of that Siberian forest devastated by fire a century ago. If it was, it's a funny old calling card.

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