Banks' Notes 27.01.06

By David Banks

TALK about exciting! A Big Beast surfaced in
London at the weekend and the media could hardly contain itself. TV and
radio offered wallto- wall coverage, front pages were cleared,
columnists agonised and analysed every moment of the remarkable
appearance of this rare transatlantic visitor. And was it worth it? You
bet. As the diarist John Evelyn so gracefully described, the crowds who
flocked to a similar sighting in 1658, “an infinite concourse was drawn
to see it”. Of course, the great man was only recording the appearance
of a 60ft whale swimming up the Thames. Whereas the Big Beast to which
I now refer was the interview Rupert Murdoch graciously bestowed upon
Jeff Randall on Radio Five Live.

“He’s giving me 23 minutes!” the
Telegraph business supremo gushed. “That’s 13 minutes more than he
gives Tony Blair!” It was, indeed, that sort of occasion, even if it
did turn into a bit of a mummy’s-boy interview.

“I remember [when
you bet the company], Rupert – I was working for you at the time”… “So
what about the war in Iraq, Rupert?”… “What’s that? You don’t think you
have influence, Rupert?”

You get the picture? Nonetheless, it was
a revealing interview, more for what Rupert had to say than for what
Randall dared to ask.

The Great White Shark seemed more
optimistic about the future of the news product now than the last time
he opened his jaws for our benefit. He no longer views a somewhat bleak
journalistic landscape (“The Times, the Mail and The Sun”, wasn’t it?)
but believes that news will survive the demise of the paper product by
becoming available via broadband on portable screens or through iPods.

It
was excited to discover I was once more at the cutting edge: only last
week I recorded an interview with Nick Ferrari to launch the capital
station’s LBC97.3FM paid-for iPod service. I already download PMQs,
Ricky Gervais and news updates from The Guardian, and a variety of
stuff from the Telegraph and other sources. But extending the reach of
newspapers by various means is not new. Maybe Rupert remembers doing it
in New York 25 years ago?

At different times in the late 1970s
and early ’80s I was managing editor of his New York Post and of the
rival Daily News. Each morning the two went head-to-head; each evening,
between 5pm and 6pm, they did the same over the airwaves. PostTime and
NewsTime were hour-long news shows on rival radio stations. They were
presented from round-table broadcast desks littered with mics and
headphones.

City desk chiefs Steve Dunleavy and Dick Oliver
quizzed reporters on the day’s breaking news and interviewed whichever
personalities could be lured along. With the marginal costs shared
between radio station and newspaper, ‘amateur hour’ produced great
seat-of-the-pants radio. With the proliferation of commercial radio
stations across the country desperate for cheap content and
journalistic expertise, and the ability of diminishing newspapers to
provide both, who needs iPods?

davidbanks@pressgazette.co.uk

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