Monday, 5 October 2009


‘It’s The Sun Wot Won It’. So said Britain’s biggest-selling daily newspaper on 11 April 1992 when the Tories unexpectedly won the General Election. For 1997, they changed their traditional right-wing allegiance to support Tony Blair, at a time when the Conservative Party was in disarray. But in a game-changing moment last week following Gordon Brown’s speech at the Labour Party Conference, The Sun backed the Conservatives once again. The headline ‘Labour’s Lost It’ may well sum up the next election when it’s referred to in history books of the future.

The importance of a newspaper, with a reading circulation that compromises of one in every six people in the UK, backing a political party cannot be underestimated, and David Cameron must be absolutely delighted. Foreign secretary David Milliband reminded his party last week: “The earth does revolve around the sun - just not the one that’s printed in Wapping”, but it’s a hammer-blow to Gordon Brown’s chances of remaining as Prime Minister.

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It’s been an exceptionally interesting time for London’s newspaper market recently. The London Evening Standard last week announced it was reducing its 50p price - in fact, that it was dropping its price altogether - and will be circulated for free around the capital. The paper has seen off 14 rivals in its long history - the latest being thelondonpaper which closed 17 days ago - and the London Lite is also likely to close in the near future. It’s another incredible marker of how badly newspapers have been hit by the recession, but the circulation has fallen from almost 450,000 in 2000 to under 130,000 three months ago, so it’s hardly surprising that drastic action was needed.

The proprietor, Alexander Lebedev - who bought a majority stake in the paper in February from Associated Newspapers - has probably had a switch to free in his mind for some time. Emily Bell of The Guardian suggests this is a “last throw of the dice” for the paper, and it’s true that this will only work really well or end in catastrophe. The fact is that when I’ve bought the Standard to read on the way home from work in London, it’s always represented value for money. It used to take me ten minutes on the Tube to read the London Lite and thelondonpaper cover-to-cover, which I was hardly surprised at seeing as I paid nothing for either. My hope is that the quality of journalism produced by the Standard will not be reduced - and that staffing levels will be maintained - but I’m worried for both. I just hope that Russian knows what he’s doing with a piece of London heritage...

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I almost stopped in shock this morning at the newsagent when I saw the banner headline on The Independent, saying: “Was Monty Python actually funny?” I then read John Walsh’s article and was even more infuriated! He suggests: “Goodness, how tired it looks - the pacing is all wrong” and also points out that he was confused when the ‘Funniest Joke in the World’ sketch was never translated from German. Well, Mr Walsh, if you remember, the joke is supposed to kill anyone who hears it which is why it is never translated into English for the viewer! What he criticises as being “comedy of the schoolroom” and “playing foolish japes of figures of authority” is what much comedy programming is all about.

Monty Python celebrates its 40th anniversary today, and although I might not have been around when it first launched, I absolutely love the films and television series. My brother and I are often quoting the best bits word-for-word to each other! You may have seen the BBC documentary ‘Monty Python - Almost the Truth’ on Saturday (if not, check it out on the iPlayer). It was a fantastic hour-long programme that looked at how the Python idea came out and how it was received by the public. However, they neglected to mention the most famous programme proposal that was never aired - a 30-minute show on which the volume would slowly decrease throughout, forcing viewers to turn up the TV sets, and then a big loud noise at the end causing shock around the country. The BBC didn’t like it and it never happened, but this was just another great comedy idea by a bunch of great comedy geniuses. Long live Monty Python.

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I will be very interested to see how many people pay £4.99 in advance to watch Ukraine v England this Saturday (rising to £11.99 on the day). It’s going to be the first-ever England international game to be screened online-only, and provides a very interesting experiment for online viewing. We know that Channel 4 can attract large online audiences of young people for series such as Skins and The Inbetweeners, and we are known as the ‘YouTube’ generation, but this is a live football match we’re talking about here.

Who wants to sit in their room in-front of a PC for 90 minutes watching a webcast which could crash at any time - when you could be down the pub with your mates and a pint of Carling, watching it on a big screen? I certainly won’t be paying to watch it myself. I know that there was no other option after every terrestrial TV channel backed out at the asking price, but I hope this is a one-off. Fortunately it’s a ‘nothing’ game as England are already qualified for World Cup 2010, so I won’t be missing much. All the same, Come On England!