The media

Rendezvous in Northern Ireland?

Martin McGuinness shaking the Queen's hand offended socialists because of our contempt for the institution of monarchy but his motive at least was progressive, and also republican in the sense defined by the founder of modern Irish republicanism Wolfe Tone — “to replace the name Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter with the common name Irishman”.

In a hugely symbolic moment on 27 June, during a royal visit to Northern Ireland to mark her jubilee, the former commander of the IRA shook hands with the Queen.

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Europe: Blair does a deal with Murdoch

By promising a referendum on the proposed European Union constitution, Tony Blair has put himself at risk of a political defeat. Current opinion polls show 86% against the constitution.

However, a defeat for Blair in the referendum cannot be made into a victory for the left. And in any case, Blair has designed things to limit his risks.

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The writing on the wall

  • Filthy lucre
  • No (frills) workers' rights
  • RESPECT your cleaner
  • Defending secularism?



Filthy lucre

The tabloid obsession with celebrity/family values/soccer took a turn for the worse recently when the News of the World claimed David Beckham had been having an affair with a former PA. The story behind the soccer (genius?) is sordid, but not in a way the tabloids would care about. Brand Beckham now has a logo - four wavy lines and a circle. It's all worth a quite a few million, as the logo adorns goods made by Adidas, whose boots grace Beckham's expensive feet.

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Spoofs, blogs and Google-bombs: the cyber-wars hot up

Press gang, by Lucy Clement

Getting cyber-spoofed is a hazard for any online entity. That's why all the big companies buy up every domain name that looks like their own (ba.com, ba.co.uk, britishairways.com, etc). But, damn it, there's always one you miss.

When New Labour launched its "Big Conversation" (this week's attraction: online chat with arts minister Estelle Morris) at www.bigconversation.org.uk, someone failed to notice that www.thebigconversation.org not only already existed, but had been going for eighteen months.

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What will the Guardian readers with placards do now?

The Guardian turns on Galloway

By Rhodri Evans

The journalist George Monbiot, initiator with the Muslim activist Salma Yaqoob of talks that led to the recently-launched "Respect" coalition, has resigned from it.

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BBC: We should protest over jobs and pay

By a BECTU member

Hundreds of BBC staff protested in defence of the Corporation's independence on Thursday 5 February.

The demonstrations, called by unions BECTU, NUJ and Amicus, were held outside BBC buildings across the country.

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Press gang: The rehabilitation of Dyke?

By Lucy Clement

Union rallies in defence of the Corporation's independence have been called outside all BBC sites on Thursday 5 February, but it remains to be seen whether enough staff will still be feeling strongly enough to make the action a success.

In this, the collective memory of the media is barely longer than its soundbites.

One of the more bizarre consequences of the Hutton whitewash has been the transformation of Greg Dyke from Chief Dumber-Down to Chief Defender of Media Freedom.

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Press gang: Bad news day? Have a spliff

By Lucy Clement

This week in the world of the media:

In the grand Government tradition of avoiding awkward issues by having a "review", Bob Phillis, chief executive of the Guardian Media Group, has published his report into Government communications. Phillis was asked to investigate after the Jo Moore affair (she who thought September 11 was a good day to bury bad news). However, Jo Moore's shenanigans have faded into insignificance after the Kelly/Gilligan/Campbell debacle.

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Press Gang: The trials of Google

By Lucy Clement

The dubious accolade of topping Google's UK chart in 2003 went to Prince Charles. His name was the website's most searched-for term of the year. When the newspapers were banned from printing the allegation that dare not speak its name, the nation temporarily abandoned its searches for Britney and Beckham and tried to find out what the fuss was all about.

You might well ask why anyone would care what Charles did or didn't do with his valet. I suspect a lot of people bothered to try and find out because they were told they weren't allowed to know, and therefore thought there might be something worth knowing. The only detailed version of the story I saw was on an Italian gossip site, although the Popbitch email apparently had most of it, albeit in coded form.

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Press gang: A Little Less Conversation

By Lucy Clement

The writer Somerset Maugham once described in rather disparaging terms how the Americans managed to converse without thinking. It was no doubt unfair at the time, and remains unfair to most Americans, at least those outside the current administration. But Maugham's description of a conversation consisting of "pithy and hackneyed phrases" which leave the mind "free to consider the more important matters of big business and fornication" gives a rather good summary of Tony Blair's all-new scaled-up focus group initiative: The Big Conversation.

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