The greatest giveaway in newspaper history

The greatest giveaway in newspaper history

Being put down by The Times as "a very big talker" after boasting that his credit was good for a billion seems in no way to have modified Richard Desmond’s eagerness to talk very big. Now he has launched "the greatest giveaway in newspaper history". Which maybe it is.

His Expresses boasted "£70m MegaJackpot… as seen on TV".

Hang about – that’s more than half the cash he stumped up to buy the group. Sure, he has saved a bob or two by being outmanoeuvred for the real Victoria Beckham book. But £70m? Really?

MegaJackpot’s top prize was a mere £100,000. However, the blurb added: "Everybody can win a £70 prize." And page 64 included brief details of a "£70 holiday discount". Multiplying that by a million Express purchasers would produce the headline figure.

Was that it then? And would anything like a million expectations survive the small print (as not seen on TV)? Discount on what? No £70-off holiday locations or prices were listed for readers to consider.

What they had to do to become "lucky winners" was phone a premium-rate line to answer a silly question and be issued with a code reference, and then phone a specified travel agency and hang on and on at their own expense for a human to become available to spell out a deal.

Bookings had to be made within the week and holidays taken before the end of next month. Terms printed in the Express on Saturday were revised on Sunday to add: "Only one discount per booking." So Mum, Dad and their truant kids would not get a £70 discount each. Indeed, there would be an £8 per head "booking fee" to pay. Some giveaway.

If readers disappointed Desmond’s expectations, would he turn on them as he did on poor Mrs Beckham? Would they too become past their sell-by (and seek asylum at what it tickles him to slag off as the Daily Fail or Wail)?

There was no more eminent Victorian than Desmond until Victoria, having waited eight months for him to cough up, sold to the Mail and Hello! Suddenly the Express was calling her "Desperate Spice". And the Daily Star was declaring: "Posh is pants."

His Master’s Voice was also echoing in their TV listings. Alone in Fleet Street, Desmond’s papers gave space to Desmond’s Fantasy Channel: "1.55 Fresh Flesh, 3.30 Tits and Bums."

What is that sound you hear? The Crusader weeping?

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