Back Issues 01.07.05

JULY 1995

BY JON SLATTERY

Gere angers Garth with ‘stranglehold’

Showbiz journalist Garth Pearce was taking a stand against the
growing trend of Hollywood stars making ridiculous “copy approval”
demands on journalists.

Pearce had dropped out of a lucrative
contract to write the book of the movie First Knight, starring Richard
Gere. This followed demands by Gere that he be consulted on “every
aspect” of the book and that he would give Pearce one interview,
questions for which would be supplied in advance. Pearce told Press
Gazette: “I flatly refused to sign. In the end it would have been Gere
producing the book; he would have had a stranglehold on it. This is
another example of the paralysis that grips some parts of the film
industry these days – a wish by personal assistants, publicists,
lawyers and agents to control every word.”

Redtops fall out over Divine story

The News of the World’s US team of Stuart White and David Schumaker
had scooped the rest of the press by tracking down Divine Brown – the
hooker sensationally arrested with Hugh Grant – and signing her up in
an exclusive deal. Editor Piers Morgan (whatever happened to him?) put
the scoop down to the use of “brilliant investigative journalism
techniques”. Rival editor Bridget Rowe of The People put it down to
cheque book journalism. “We know they paid $100,000 for the story,” she
said. At the time, Morgan denied to Press Gazette paying “anything
like” $100,000. But in his recent book, The Insider, he admits to
paying at least £120,000 for the story, while telling his horrified
boss, Rupert Murdoch, that it had cost only $40,000. Murdoch, whose
20th Century Fox had signed Grant to a three-picture deal, was furious.
“You’ve given 40,000 of my bucks to some cheap tart to spill a load of
sleaze on my new friend Hugh Grant,” he is reported by Morgan to have
said. Murdoch’s fury was perhaps tempered by the 250,000 estimated
sales the News of the World put on the back of the Divine Brown “Hugh
Told Me I was His Sex Fantasy” front page.

Birt takes swipe at staff BBC director general

John Birt criticised his own journalists for the way they had been
swept up in the media frenzy surrounding the Hugh Grant scandal. Like
most news outlets, the Beeb carried pictures of a shamefaced Grant and
girlfriend Liz Hurley in their garden. Birt used the aptly named
Biteback programme to chew up his journalists over the Grant-Hurley
coverage. “I was unhappy that we took pictures of them in their garden.
I was unhappy we revealed where they lived. I was unhappy that we gave
the story the amount of prominence we did.” One BBC journalist told
Press Gazette: “You don’t criticise your staff in public before you
discuss the problem with them.” They added, somewhat sniffily: “We were
following Sky and ITN, but we’re supposed to have higher standards.”

Blair’s ‘latest assault’

New
Labour leader Tony Blair had caused a stir by flying halfway across the
world to address a meeting of Rupert Murdoch’s top NewsCorp executives
on Hayman Island, off the coast of Queensland, Australia. Murdoch’s
anti-union stance had made him an enemy of many inside the Labour Party
and at one time previous Labour leader Neil Kinnock had refused to
speak to News International journalists. Chris Moncrieff, writing in
Press Gazette, noted: “Tony Blair’s bold-as-brass incursion into the
Rupert Murdoch media empire is merely his latest assault on some of the
old shibboleths which have helped keep the Labour Party out of power
for two decades.”

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