Matthew Norman's Media Diary

Osama: the musical? You first, Ben
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The Independent Online

No less than nature does the media abhor a vacuum, and in the absence of Cold War Kreminology it is the activities of the family Murdoch on which we lavish Byzantine analysis in the search for the underlying message.

Take the Barack Obama fundraiser to be held on 22 April at the Notting Hill home of Elisabeth and her husband Matthew Freud, an event that The New York Times believes "offers possible clues to Hillary's Murdoch status".

Yes, but what can it all really mean? Does it imply that Rupert, who hosted Hillary fundraisers himself last year, has turned completely against her? Could it simply be, as Matthew posited last week, that Lis admires the Senator from Illinois? Does she closely identify with Obama because her children, by a previous husband, have an African father and white American mother? Is she, in fact, rebelling against her own father, whose Fox News (see below) is so much to Hillary's taste, by supporting the candidate who refuses to appear on Fox at all? Or is she, at the risk of straying on to ground colonised by Matthew's great granddad, subconsciously punishing Rupert for giving away her girlhood pony in a readers' competition, by backing the man who last week strongly attacked the Chinese government?

The one thing we can rule out is that Elisabeth, who recently bought a major US production company and is growing in to quite the transatlantic media powerhouse herself, is leaping aboard a speeding bandwagon in the quest for future access and influence. That's not the Murdoch way at all. So let us merely observe that sometimes a fundraiser, to adapt Sigmund, is just a fundraiser. Should any reader happen to be going, by the way, a full report would be appreciated.



* RETURNING TO Fox – which, as the spiritual and literal home of the ultra-right-wing, neo-con maniac, seems the truest reflection of Rupert's own world view – a certain Ed Rendell delivers a moving tribute. "During this entire primary coverage," declares Ed, governor of Pennsylvania and a fervent Hillary supporter, "Fox has ... remained the most objective of all the cable networks."

He'll be thinking of Bill O'Reilly's remark about Mrs Obama's stated lack of pride in her country. "I don't want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there's evidence, hard facts," said Bill, "that say this is how the woman really feels."

Such restraint. Only when the evidence is in will it be time to don the white hood and raise the flaming cross. The fabled Fox objectivity: a lesson to us all.

* GOOD TO find Ben Elton rebuking the BBC for its nerviness regarding Islam, in pointing out with refreshing originality that it will permit vicar gags "but not jokes about imams".

He's right, and not just about the BBC. There isn't a mainstream media outlet that doesn't live in mortal fear of provoking radical Islamists as did that Danish cartoonist. If Elton wants to lead from the front on the matter, of course, he might consider another collaboration with Lord Lloyd Webber. "Osama: the Musical", an irreverent satire on cave-dwelling folk, has the feel of a West End smash. And since the Beeb wouldn't do its usual promotional work with a Saturday-evening audition show, Ben could play the spindly chap with the shepherd's crook himself.



* ON RADIO 5 Live, Victoria Derbyshire unveils the finest phone-in trailer since she asked whether anyone (the nuclear plant technician, perhaps, who causes a meltdown) should ever be fired for what they do in the workplace. "Does what you do in your private life ever affect how you do your job?" she wondered last week, with Max Mosley in mind, "and how others see you?"

Another fiendishly tough conundrum. If you're an alcoholic in your private life, would it affect your job as a surgeon, pilot or leader of the Liberal Democrats? And if you were filmed by the News of the World indulging a Nazi fetish with Swastika-wearing dominatrices (whether or not your parents were Oswald Mosley and Diana Mitford), could that affect how others see you? Again, there's nothing for it but to ask for a raincheck and hope that a week's solid contemplation offers guidance.



* A DISTRESSING scent of revolution is in the air at the Garrick Club, where the mandatory wearing of ties is to be suspended for a trial period. This, if anything, is one for Simon Heffer. The last time I was there, Simon was directly in my eyeline throughout lunch (I sense the genesis of a new diet book in that experience), and very well he did himself, too. But the thought of him without a tie, top two shirt-buttons undone to reveal a bush of carrot-hued chest hair, can hardly appeal even to Simon himself, and I expect a thunderous polemic on this latest manifestation of PC gone mad in the Telegraph within a fortnight.

* HATS OFF, lastly, to mannerly Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre, who appears to have changed the cannabis law single-handedly, by forcing his friend Gordon Brown to return the drug to Class B, in contradiction of advice from the relevant experts. You cannot say, hand on heart, that the Mail's reporting of the issue has always reached the standards of objectivity we expect of Fox News. Nor can you forget that the paper was fairly gung-ho for the downgrading before it happened. Even so, with this industry's self-confidence about its influence and relevance dwindling by the day, can you honestly deny that there is something a little bracing about the vision of an editor battering a PM into compliance?

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