The Feral Beast: Blue times at the Beeb

Sunday 12 December 2010 01:00
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It wasn't just the airwaves that turned blue on Monday when Today programme presenter James Naughtie became tongue-tied and mispronounced the surname of the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt; an error quickly repeated by Andrew Marr.

Inside Broadcasting House, the BBC's director-general, Mark Thompson, was so furious he threatened to fire the next person to swear on air. The climate of terror is such that presenters are now stumbling left, right and centre: Start the Week was introduced as "Marr the Week with Andrew Start", and Mike Wooldridge, world affairs editor, took three-and-a-half goes to pronounce the name of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

Grand carousel

Lord Rothermere was living up to his patrician heritage last week. He was spotted at Gatwick, having just jetted back from Barbados. Owner of the Daily Mail he may be, but he was not too grand to refrain from fishing his family's baggage off the luggage carousel, even if he did need a hand with the trolleys.

Star turn

Talk on the floor of The Star is that owner Richard Desmond has finally had enough of the frequency with which the paper is referred to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC). So executives have been discussing the possibility of withdrawing The Star from membership of the organisation – a self-policing operation designed to curb the excesses of Fleet Street and thus stave off government regulation. The Star has been brought to the PCC's attention several times this year. It was particularly unhappy with the paper's front-page story about "Muslim-only loos" installed in a shopping centre in Rochdale at taxpayers' expense – because it wasn't true. Talk on the subject has been going on for some weeks, but there is still no announcement.

Royal pressure

The Star's stablemate, the Daily Express, is renowned for its royal scoops. So imagine royal editor Richard Palmer's chagrin when the paper's lawyers caved in to complaints from Buckingham Palace about his story on the Princess Royal (bottom) being snubbed by the government of Mauritius during recent celebrations to mark the island's 200th anniversary. The story was pulled from the Express's website. "I would ask that you give Buckingham Palace short shrift and support me in starting a libel action against Ailsa Anderson, the Queen's press secretary, for effectively calling me a liar," he pleaded in an email sent to the entire Express and Star staff.

Love thine enemies

The BBC knows who its enemies are. Which is why it reserves special treatment for them. Out of 50-odd hacks invited to the corporation's swanky media city in Salford last Thursday for a preview screening of its drama about Eric Morecambe, only three were afforded a tour of the shiny new facilities. Step forward the representatives of the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and Times. Is it any coincidence that those three papers are the BBC's fiercest critics?

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