Ian Burrell: Media lawyers have to hit the road

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The Independent Online

Expensive London media lawyers, sit down and prepare for some bad news. Lord Lester has come up with a new idea which he hopes will be incorporated into the Coalition Government's upcoming draft Libel Bill and slash the cost of actions for defamation. The veteran legal campaigner wants such cases to be heard initially in the local County Court, rather than in the High Court in London where huge bills are racked up before a word has been said. It would take some of the snobbery out of the system, and save everyone some money, he says, though he admits the legal profession wouldn't like it. "You could have specially designated County Court judges. It would mean that barristers would have to travel [as far as] Newcastle, as would their instructing solicitors." The County Court Act of 1984 allowed for this to happen, but only one libel case has opened in a local court in 26 years. First hearings in the County Court, he says, would make libel cases "cheaper and more accessible to people living north of Hendon".

* It could be the most unusual cinema screen in Britain: the black volcanic rock which constitutes the walls of Edinburgh Castle. Gavin Miller, the chief executive of the company that runs the Edinburgh International Film Festival has come up with the idea of projecting onto the castle walls during next June's event. Advertising agencies and marketeers are increasingly using distinctive buildings as giant screens (Aviva's new You Are the Big Picture campaign, with faces of "ordinary people" are projected onto the sides of globally recognisable edifices, being the latest example), so why not? It's not easy thinking up new artistic ideas in a city that has 12 festivals through the year, and this might be an appropriate stunt for the 65th anniversary of the longest continually running film fest in the world. Actress Tilda Swinton, a festival trustee and newly appointed creative adviser to Edinburgh's Centre for the Moving Image project, will help bring talent to the event, along with her fellow film advocate Mark Cousins. Further plans involve a film-related fashion show in Edinburgh's Festival Square.

* Still angry after 35 years, Helen Mirren last month told Bust magazine that Michael Parkinson had been "an extremely creepy interviewer", repeatedly asking sexist questions when she appeared as a guest on his show in 1975. Parky "acted like an ass," she said, as he asked her about "what could be best described as your equipment". Now Sir Michael has responded, by way of a couple of pages in his book, Parky's People, where he sets out the script of the original interview. Here's how it went down.

Dame Helen: "I'd like you to explain what you mean by 'my equipment' in great detail." Sir Michael: "Well, your physical attributes." Dame Helen: "You mean my fingers?" Sir Michael: "No, I meant your..." Dame Helen: "Come on, spit it out."

Sir Michael: "Your figure." Dame Helen: "My figure?" Sir Michael: "Mmm."

In the book, the chat king claims he was"in pursuit of a legitimate public interest" about the pressures on young actresses. You sound like a tabloid editor there, Parky.

* Nigel Dempster and the Death of Discretion, the new book by Tim Willis on the great Daily Mail diarist, outlines the foresight of the editor-in-chief Paul Dacre. After Dempster died suddenly in 2007, Dacre copyrighted his byline so that no other newspaper would use it as the title of a diary of its own. Who would play such a crafty trick? Why Dacre himself, who swiped the "Ephraim Hardcastle" name from the Sunday Express (his father, Peter, had worked on the column), and the "Peterborough" diary name from The Daily Telegraph. The book quotes current diarist Richard Kay describing the strange mutual respect between Dacre and Dempster: "I think they were each scared of the other. To my knowledge, Paul never went into Nigel's office ... and the first thing I was told when I took over the diary was that I would have to sit at a desk in the main newsroom."