Diary: Murdoch's sci-fi encounter

An exciting moment for young James Murdoch yesterday, as he took the stage at the second annual Abu Dhabi Media Summit – which went ahead despite the unrest in the region – to interview fiery filmmaker James Cameron. The pair discussed, among other things, 3D – which, conveniently for the Sky boss, Cameron claimed was the future of telly. Given that Murdoch is both a sci-fi fanboy (he used to have a six-foot statue of Darth Vader outside his office at Wapping, and a miniature Imperial Stormtrooper on his desk) and a committed environmentalist (his office chairs are made from cardboard), I imagine an audience with the director of Avatar must have been a wet dream-worthy experience. How inconsiderate of Cameron, then, to bring up the response of Murdoch père's Fox film studio when they were first presented with Cameron's blockbusting vision for Avatar. "Is there any way," the Hollywood execs allegedly inquired, "to reduce this tree-hugging hippy crap?"

* The Government relaxed its rules on product placement in television programmes last month, and Channel 4 has now announced its first official product placement deal, with the high street clothing chain New Look. The shop's garments will feature prominently in a new fashion-based reality television competition for T4. David Charlesworth, head of sponsorship at C4, said product placement was "integral to squaring the circle of measurable value within the content funded arena," which I presume means it lowers production costs. And, speaking of lowering production costs, I do hope this goes more smoothly than the last time New Look products were featured prominently on the channel: in November, documentary strand Dispatches revealed the chain was among a handful of high-street brands whose sub-contracted suppliers were using illegal sweatshops in Leicester to make their clothes. Whoops.

* In yesterday's column I triumphantly disclosed that Marco Pierre White had passed up programme-making for promotional work, signing a deal to advertise Knorr stock cubes worldwide. It has since been pointed out to me that White has leapt aboard yet another "gravy train", as it were: this weekend saw the first broadcast of his new television advertisement on behalf of Bernard Matthews, the poultry firm responsible for the Turkey Twizzler. Any suggestion that White simply took the gig as a BM brand ambassador to help recoup the cash he spent on his aborted divorce (he and his wife Mati reconciled after a three-year, £3m legal battle) is more than dispelled by the ad itself, in which the chef enthuses about the seasonal bird over lunch with, er... Spandau Ballet's Martin Kemp. "Turkey is one of those meats you can eat every day of the year," White assures a sceptical Kemp. "Turkey, without doubt, is the king of birds," he continues, as Kemp tries to change the subject. "I'm a very big fan of turkey, and I always have been," he insists. Well, I'm convinced.

* Communities Secretary Eric "Extra" Pickles has been very keen to criticise overpaid and superfluous backroom roles in bloated local government since he came to power. So what does he make, I wonder, of the £85k salary being offered for a new spin doctor at Tory-led Essex County Council, which covers Extra Pickles' own constituency of Brentwood and Ongar. That, points out the Political Scrapbook blog, is 30 per cent more than an MP's salary. "It will be your task," the job description reveals, "to enhance our image, build our profile and cement our reputation. Simply, we want to be known as the council that delivers a better deal for the people it serves." The new series of The Only Way is Essex starts this week. Job done, surely?

* British National Party chairman Nick Griffin seemed eager to demonstrate his compassion for his fellow man (of whatever race, colour or nationality) when he took to Twitter over the weekend. "While there's nothing a bankrupt shambles like [the] UK can do to help Japan," he observed, "I do think we could and should send sniffer dog teams to help just a few of those poor people give their loved ones decent burials. Photo follows of our own latest brush w [sic] force of nature. Back fence wrecked." He then helpfully posted a photo of a fallen tree in his garden. Looks like nature missed, for once.


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