BBC denies plot to 'bury' the latest Prezza-gate

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The Independent Online

When John Prescott's fling with Tracey Temple hit the front pages, the BBC was accused of "burying" the story, which was barely mentioned on its television and radio bulletins.

What, then, are we to make of the broadcaster's coverage of the latest scandal to engulf our Deputy Prime Minister?

On Saturday, it emerged that Prezza - whose department at the time was overseeing planning policy for casinos - stayed at the Colorado home of Philip Anschutz, an American billionaire hoping to turn the Millennium Dome into a super-casino.

Sir Philip Mawer, Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, was called in to investigate his failure to record the jolly - Anschutz's 32,000-acre retreat boasts a health spa and golf course - in the Register of Members Interests. However the growing "Prezza-gate" row (covered by almost every national paper) has been virtually ignored by the BBC.

At the time of going to print, it hadn't featured on a major television or radio bulletin, was absent from Newsnight's running order, and, to the annoyance of Tories, couldn't be found on the Beeb's website.

Its only mention came on BBC2's lunchtime show The Daily Politics. It wasn't until 7.30pm, almost 72 hours after the story emerged, that it featured on television news, in a brief item on BBC News 24.

Last night, the BBC denied a conspiracy to bury the story: "There's not a policy on not covering this," said a spokesman. "We make our own editorial decisions."

Moore, foie gras and a pending family feud

There will, I hazard, be a frank exchange of views when Sir Roger Moore next breaks bread with his son and heir, Geoffrey.

Last week, the animal rights group Peta feted Sir Roger at its annual awards, for backing a high- profile campaign against foie gras.

At the same time, though, I discover son Geoffrey flogging "Terrine Foie Gras" for £15.50 a pop at his Mayfair restaurant, Hush.

It's bound to send Sir Roger's trademark eyebrow skywards, especially given his stern comments at last week's Peta bash.

"Foie gras is disgusting, especially when you see what goes into making it," he said. "Geese are force fed so their livers expand, so basically what you're eating is a diseased organ.

"I have stopped eating it, and I always urge restaurants to remove it from their menu when I am eating out."

A few of Peel's home truths

From beyond the grave, John Peel is becoming one of the hottest properties in British publishing.

Following the publication of his posthumous memoir, Margrave of the Marshes - which described being raped by another pupil at Shrewsbury school - Peel, right, is to be the subject of a second tome.

It will celebrate his Radio 4 series Home Truths, which was recently (and controversially) axed by the BBC.

"We're hoping to get John's widow, Sheila, on board to endorse the book," the publisher, John Murray, says.

"The show became as much a reflection of John and Sheila's lives as it was of their listeners. The book will be called Home Truths: The Peel Years and Beyond."

Condé nasty

It's hard to believe, but Nicholas Coleridge - novelist, boulevardier and head honcho at Condé Nast - has an enemy. In an (unpublished) letter to The Daily Telegraph, a reader called Henry Brockbank proposes Coleridge for a list of "malign" Old Etonians.

His views are the result of a motoring accident that occurred at a private function recently. "On the 4th of June this year, Coleridge reversed his huge Chelsea tractor into my car, causing considerable damage," reads the letter. "The next day, he had his secretary call to apologise on his behalf. What a shit!"

In mitigation, friends of Coleridge say he agreed to pay roughly £3,000 to have Brockbank's motor fixed. "An apology's an apology," they say.

Chelsea crisis

The latest victims of London's ongoing water crisis are hapless inmates of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea. Ground staff have been unable to re-seed lawns at the military landmark (venue of last night's Conservative Summer Party) since the Chelsea Flower Show, in May. As a result, a dozen acres of the hospital's historic grounds, which lead down to the Thames, resemble a patch of dusty wasteland. "Normally, the sprinklers would have been on for six weeks," says a spokesman. "Because that hasn't happened, they can't re-seed. We've no idea when things will return to normal."

Behind the scenes, there are murmurs of discontent. "It has ruined one of London's finest views," reports an insider.