OF ALL the insights that Friedrich August von Hayek bequeathed to us, one in particular shines out today. It is that running through the ideological and political divisions of human history are two distinct and different ways of looking at the world. One Hayek called constructivist rationalism; the other evolutionary rationalism.
LORD Butler had anticipated that he would be asked if Tony Blair should resign during the press conference launching his report into the road to war with Iraq last week. We’re told he might well have been more equivocal in his answer than his report’s specific support for John Scarlett’s promotion to head MI6, even though Scarlett was criticised for allowing the Joint Intelligence Committee to get too close to the Downing Street propaganda machine.
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DESPITE my best efforts to calm the fevered brows of media correspondents and commentators desperately speculating about who will do what when the Barclay brothers take over the Telegraph group, the frenzy continues. So it falls to me to explain again why nothing much will happen very quickly.
ANDY Duncan moves into the chief executive’s job at Channel 4 with the plaudits of no less than Greg Dyke ringing in his ears. But the mood inside the channel’s Westminster glass-and-metal headquarters is more apprehensive about the elevation of the BBC’s marketing director precisely because he is a marketing man rather than a broadcaster.
THE Barclay brothers’ purchase of the Telegraph has provoked a frenzy of speculation about what might happen next - much of it spectacularly ill-informed from the "bricks-without-straw" school of journalism, and nearly all of it implying an inside knowledge that the media correspondents and commentators who write the stuff simply don’t possess.
I HESITATE to disagree with my old chum John Lloyd, one of Britain’s most distinguished commentators, but I cannot accept the British media is "damaging to democratic practice".
THE involuntary departure of distinguished foreign correspondent Christopher Walker from the Times late last week is only the highest-profile redundancy in what I understand is now quite a far-reaching cull at the newspaper. There is talk of at least 12 journalists and production staff being "let go". I’m told it will probably be closer to 20 - and there is a fear in Wapping it could be as high as 30.
IT IS almost four weeks since Piers Morgan was unceremoniously fired as editor of the Daily Mirror for publishing fake pictures of British soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners - and still no puff of white smoke from Trinity Mirror’s Canary Wharf HQ naming his successor. Nor is there likely to be any this week: chief executive Sly Bailey, who is in charge of the convoluted selection process, is on holiday.
WITH a supermodel, a porn star, two astronauts and several Polish Big Brother contestants among the candidates vying for seats in the European Parliament, it is little wonder that few will take this week’s European election seriously.
AXEL Springer’s decision to bow out of the bidding for the Telegraph places a large question mark over whether the German publishing giant will ever make the grade as an international media player - or even as a major newspaper publisher in this country. This is, after all, its second substantial setback in Britain in less than a decade.
THE Independent is now wholly tabloid, its sales are a healthy 15 per cent up year-on-year in a declining quality market and the latest surveys show plenty more young and affluent readers are taking it - just the kind advertisers lust after.
THERE has been anguish on the Left (Guardian) and the Right (Daily Mail) because Trinity Mirror shareholders supposedly pressed company bosses to do something about editor Piers Morgan, as it became increasingly clear that pictures he had published of British Army brutality in Iraq had been faked.
The more paranoid parts of the press are saying that Tony Blair’s spectacular U-turn over a referendum on the EU constitution is all the sinister work of the notoriously Euro-sceptic Rupert Murdoch. That is a gross exaggeration. But there is no doubt that the need to keep Murdoch’s papers onside in the run-up to the General Election played its part in 10 Downing Street’s deliberations.
The sensational - if probably predictable story that David Beckham had been playing away with a woman not his wife (allegedly, as the lawyers always insist at this stage) unsurprisingly broke in last Sunday’s News of the World, where such stories tend to break.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is probably right when he says that the greed, superficiality, treachery and adultery depicted in ITV’s Footballers’ Wives is a depressingly accurate parable of modern Britain. But it is only part of a far wider malaise afflicting British broadcasting - and far from the most serious offender.
The Independent walked away with the coveted Newspaper of the Year title at this week’s annual British Press Awards and deservedly so. Not just because a 13 per cent year-on-year increase in circulation at a time when sales of other qualities are falling has vindicated the considerable risk editor Simon Kelner and publisher Ivan Fallon took in going tabloid, though that would be reason enough.
The Financial Times is Britain’s most serious quality broadsheet. It eschews celebrity and frippery, its news analysis is authoritative, its scope is comprehensive on the things that matter and it is more international in its coverage than any other British newspaper. But its reporting is also, for some strange reason, increasingly unreliable.
To launch a new quality newspaper in today’s crowded and declining market is either brave or foolhardy. To finance such a project requires even more courage and is probably downright foolish.
Crisis might be too strong a word to describe the current condition of the Guardian, but it is caught in an editorial rigor mortis which threatens long-term decline and from which there is no easy escape.
The Independent’s tabloid strategy has maintained its momentum into the New Year: trade estimates reach me suggesting that it will be able to claim an ABC for January of almost 250,000 - a healthy 12 per cent up on the same month last year.