Diary: News International - The Movie! and other disappointments
Tuesday 19 July 2011
I'm deeply sorry, and just a little ashamed, to report that my excitement last week at having won the film rights to the phone-hacking saga has proven to be unwarranted. My lawyers now inform me that these so-called "rights" – which I acquired for a song (well, £1,000 and a modest bank-transfer fee) from an enterprising Nigerian fellow named Benjamin, who emailed me unexpectedly with the generous proposition – would in fact fetch marginally less on eBay than a soiled copy of the News of the World's commemorative final edition.
Todd Carty, whom I'd cast in the key role of Andy Coulson, seemed especially disappointed by the news.
But in the days ahead, as vultures circle the bedraggled Murdoch dynasty on its lonely, unending trudge through the desert of public disapproval, this column promises to keep at least one eye peeled for bandidos trying to ambush the News International wagon train and line their own pockets.
* The first such opportunistic occupant of this rogue's gallery is the former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie, whose column's recent defection from The Sun to the Daily Mail was glossed by a heartfelt paean (published – and I hope I'm not confusing too many of you here – by The Guardian) to his former boss, unequivocally entitled "Thank God for Rupert Murdoch". Yet he is now in the frame to edit Associated Newspapers' proposed new Sunday red-top title, which would dent the prospective circulation of the expected Sun on Sunday. Rumours persist that even during his editorship of The Sun, Kelvin's mutinous instincts were manifest: during one angry call from the boss, he is said to have held the telephone "to his arse".
* No such disloyalty from our next subject: Robert "Monty Burns" Thomson, managing editor of The Wall Street Journal and one of the few remaining Friends Of Rupert yet to see the inside of a police interview room. Thomson has taken it upon himself to defend News Corp in a stirring editorial lament for Les Hinton, the recently resigned CEO of WSJ publisher Dow Jones. Thomson and/or his leader writers come out swinging: at the "political mob", at the BBC, at The Guardian, at Julian Assange. Readers, the piece maintains, "can see through the commercial and ideological motives of our competitor-critics. The schadenfreude is so thick you can't cut it with a chainsaw". If Thomson weren't already a favourite for Hinton's job, he certainly would be now.
* Meanwhile, an email arrives from a PR chancing his luck with the news that entertainment guru Neil Sean, sage of Metro's "Green Room" gossip column, "has more scorn to pour on the Murdoch empire", in his not-especially anticipated memoir It's Not Where You Start, published later this year. Sean, a seasoned Murdoch employee, claims "the stories we're all reading about are nothing to what I saw go on within Sky News and The Sun". Given that yesterday's enviable Green Room scoops included Cheryl Cole's shocking claim that her next album will "really reflect my mood and where I am at", neither Nick Davies nor myself can wait to see what devastating revelations Sean has up his sleeve.
* Profiting in reputation terms, if not financial ones, is Crusading™ Labour MP Tom Watson, the parliamentary canary in the phone-hacking mine. So one can hardly blame him for letting his hair down in celebration. An impeccable source spotted Watson and a female companion boogieing enthusiastically at a Soho nightclub late on Friday evening, to the strains of Phil Collins' "Easy Lover". Does Watson himself answer to this description? Thanks to his sterling work in stifling the sordid tabloid press, we shall probably never be forced to find out.
* Also in drummers of the 1970s and '80s, it seems even ex-Queen percussionist Roger Taylor has chosen to cash in on poor Rupe's misfortunes. When Murdoch was plotting to purchase Manchester United FC in 1998, Taylor funded the club's supporters as they campaigned to block the sale. His feelings about the media mogul were already clear from his 1994 solo number "Dear Mr Murdoch", which he has now (his people tell me) dusted off for re-release. Taylor claims to have added some "subtle updates" to the track before making it available on iTunes, but is satisfied that "the original lyrics speak for themselves". For those unfamiliar with this classic of the protest genre, the chorus runs as follows: "Dear Mr Murdoch you play hard to see / But with your bare-arsed cheek you should be on page three / And dear Mr Murdoch you're really the pits / Bad news is good business, you're the king of the tits."
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