Press gang: Bad news day? Have a spliff

Submitted by Anon on 22 January, 2004 - 5:11

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.
Still, for your edification here is a brief summary of Phillis's far-reaching conclusions. 1. there should be a bit less spin, probably. 2. "impartial" civil servants should run Government communications not spin-doctors. 3. when elected politicians do want to spin announcements they should have their own people do it (who should continue to be paid for by the taxpayer). 4. there should be an expensive re-organisation of Whitehall departments. 5. more ministerial briefings should be televised. So, no change there, except that there'll be more politicians on telly. Great.

The Daily Telegraph could be sold to the Barclay brothers, mega-rich owners of lots of things among them the Ritz hotel and the Scotsman.

Disgraced Telegraph owner Lord Black of Crossharbour has tried to put one over on the board of parent company Hollinger by selling the Barclays his interest in the group direct. He's been forced to quit as chairman and CEO after the discovery of $32 million in unauthorised payments to himself and other executives, and is currently under investigation by US financial watchdog the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Meanwhile the Barclays have backtracked after initially seeming to suggest the Telegraph could, like the Scotsman, switch to back Labour. (More evidence - if any was needed - of New Labour's appeal to the disgustingly rich.) They now say the Telegraph's editorial line will not change, and the retired colonels of Tunbridge Wells are breathing a sigh of relief.

If you're not mourning the loss of 30 minutes of anti-Arab bigot Kilroy from your screens every day, then at least spare a thought for the 40 or so staff at his production firm who could lose their jobs now the programme's been ditched. Employed by Kilroy Ltd and not by the BBC they are likely to be the real losers in the whole miserable affair. While their boss still has a media firm and newspaper column to sustain him, they're facing the prospect of job-hunting in an industry where permanent jobs are increasingly a thing of the past.

And finally... is it really just coincidence? The reclassification of cannabis as a Class "C" drug comes into effect on 29 January: the day after the Hutton report is issued. So all those edgy ministers and BBC executives can have a large spliff to calm their nerves knowing it's no longer an arrestable offence.

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