Tag Archives: Media

Remembering Harry Carpenter (1925-2010)

I was sad to hear of the death today of the BBC’s ‘voice of boxing’ Harry Carpenter. A true master of his craft, Carpenter was perhaps best known for commentating on Frank Bruno’s fights and interviewing the boxer afterwards when Bruno would inevitably utter his memorable catchphrase “Know what I mean Arry”

Harry Carpenter was the BBC's voice of boxing for half a century.

He also interviewed Muhammad Ali, describing him as “not only the most remarkable sports personality I have ever met, he is the most remarkable man I have ever met”. Carpenter was one of the BBC’s top sports commentators, a true wordsmith alongside such masters of the microphone as David Coleman, Alan Weeks, Ron Pickering, Ted Lowe and Jim Laker.

Many of the tributes to him describe Carpenter as being humble and totally unflash. It’s something I can vouch for, having met the great man in 1990 on a standard class train carriage en route from Newcastle to London. It was the day of Margaret Thatcher’s resignation and on hearing the news from a passenger who had just got on the train, Carpenter looked up briefly from reading his paper and said simply: “Quite remarkable”.

He was himself a quite remarkable broadcaster. He’ll be greatly missed.

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Gooses and golden eggs at the News of the World

So, Max Clifford has accepted £1m from the News of the World in return for him dropping his legal action against the paper over them intercepting his voicemail messages. That’s illegal phone tapping to you and me – an offence that would see us prosecuted and probably sent to prison quicker than you could say: “press three to delete”.

A profitable relationship: Max Clifford and the News of the World

Clifford and the News of the World’s cosy cover-up (sorry settlement) means that the downmarket tabloid may now avoid having to disclose court-ordered evidence that was likely to reveal the involvement of its ‘journalists’ in illegal information gathering (phone tapping of celebrities and others) by shadowy private investigators.

So far so grubby. It’s par for the course for a so-called newspaper that apparently believes it can buy the silence of people who had their phones hacked. Apart from wondering whether the paper will now hand back the various awards it has won over the years for ‘investigative journalism’, I can’t help wondering about Max Clifford’s motivation in helping the News of the World avoid further embarrassing disclosures.

Over to you Max. “I’m now looking forward to continuing the successful relationship that I experienced with the News of the World for 20 years before my recent problems with them,” said Clifford after the settlement was announced. I’ll bet he is.

Gooses and golden eggs anyone?

In defence of the BBC

I’ll declare an interest from the off. I’ve always been a BBC man. One of my earliest memories was sat on the stairs at home, aged four, ignoring Zebedee’s “Time for bed” instruction from The Magic Roundabout so I could sneak a listen to Kenneth Kendall or Richard Baker reading the early evening news. Listening to the news aged four? No wonder I ended up working in PR!

We were a BBC family in our house, you see. Blue Peter not Magpie for us. David Coleman not Brian Moore. Frank Bough not Dickie Davies. Robin Day not Bryan Waldon. Look North not Calendar. TV choices were much easier back in the day. Our old Rediffusion wall clicker switch hardly ever moved from position Beeb. No multi channel, multiple choice then. It was all so simple.

Would you trust this man with the BBC?

I like the BBC. At it’s best it provides quality entertainment, sport, documentary and news output that is rightly the envy of the world. Yes, it has its faults. What massive organisation that has existed for years and years wouldn’t? And of course it can be improved. But the latest statements coming from the BBC’s current director general Mark Thompson represent something much more than a corrective trimming of the Beeb in the face of difficult economic times.

Thompson’s plans, cheered on by a voracious pack of vested interests in the commercial, terrestrial and satellite media, represent an assault on public service broadcasting as we know it and should be resisted. Do we really want to see the increasing Murdoch-ification of our media? I don’t and I hope there are enough ex-followers of Peter Purves, Valerie Singleton and John Noakes who keep the faith to stop this madness.

If you feel the same, register your opposition here and join the fightback!

Can supporters really run football clubs successfully? Germany says “yes we can”

Following the ‘green and gold’ protest by Manchester United fans at the League Cup Final at the weekend and Portsmouth being the first Premier League club to go into administration, the issue of fan power is firmly back on the agenda.

On Saturday, I attended a “Beyond the Debt” rally at Bury’s Gigg Lane organised by FC United of Manchester, the fans’-run and owned club formed in 2005 in the wake of the Glazer take-over of Manchester United. Over 300 supporters of various teams packed into the Bury supporters social club to hear a range of speakers arguing the case for fans’-run clubs.

No debt here: Fans at FC United of Manchester own and run their club.

I was particularly struck by a Schalke 04 representative who spoke about the membership and governance structure at his club. All German Bundesliga clubs are membership organisations; sporting clubs where the fans feel a part of what happens because they are members and involved in the decision-making process. As a result, ticket prices are generally much lower in Germany and a wider social mix is able to afford to attend matches. The cost of a standing ticket at Schalke is just 13 Euro.

Funny how we don’t hear about the success of fans’ involvement in Germany in the media over here. To listen to our TV and press, you’d be forgiven if you thought that the ownership and governance choice for football clubs was between rival sets of businessmen, usually from overseas. Well, it isn’t. There is a better model.

As the German example shows, football supporters can run their clubs – and very successfully too.

Media has a real case to answer over bullying helpline coverage

The news that The Charity Commission has launched an investigation into the National Bullying Helpline (NBH) after more than 160 complaints about its activities, once again raises the vexed question for some journalists of why they didn’t subject the group to much greater scrutiny when it first hit the headlines last Sunday morning.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no particular axe to grind against the journalistic profession. I quite like a lot of journalists, greatly respect what they do and think they often get a raw deal from the public and sometimes the PR profession. However the conduct of some members of the press and media on this story has been frankly shoddy at best and, to take a less charitable view, deliberately circumspect.

The Charity Commission website.

Having taken soundings from people with various political views who witnessed the story breaking last weekend, it’s clear that there was something not quite on the level about the NBH. Alarm bells should have rung for journalists. Even the most basic Googling and background research should have made them tread more carefully before reporting, almost uncritically, the organisation’s allegations.

Early this morning, the BBC’s Today programme dragged its political correspondent Carole Walker into the studio to breathlessly report the latest news that The Charity Commission had taken the decision to prevent the NBH from transmitting or disclosing information, including details about the nature and source of the confidential calls it has received, without the commission’s permission. Did she have anything to say about how and why her colleagues and associates failed to do a better job in investigating the NBH’s activities? Not a word.

Should the latest developments in this story come as such a surprise? I don’t think so. Journalists have a case to answer on this. I look forward to seeing the media run a news story very soon on why it displayed such a lack of scrutiny over the National Bullying Helpline.

My top ten sporting interview clichés

Sky News reporter Enda Brady has tweeted to say that he’d just heard Jonny Wilkinson use the phrase “going forward” in a radio interview. “Only in rugby!” Enda said.

Jonny, looking like a man ready to go forward.

This got me thinking about my top ten sporting interview clichés. Like Jonny Wilkinson’s above, some of the phrases below you might also have heard in a business or political context. Wherever you’ve heard them, they are all hackneyed clichés that should be avoided, dare I say it, like the plague . . .

1. At the end of the day.
2. As sure as night follows day.
3. We’ll be taking the positives out of the situation.
4. They’ll be disappointed with that.
5. We’ll just take each game as it comes.
6. It’s always been a dream of mine to play/work for [insert team/company].
7. To be fair . . .
8. We haven’t really talked about the competition.
9. He’s a legend.
10. Going forward, I’m confident about my future here.

I’d like to hear your sporting clichés too, so feel free to comment.

Tiger talks and the world listens

It’s not often that the worlds of golf and PR collide but that’s what certainly happened today with Tiger Woods’ very public apology for adultery and letting his family and friends down. Seasoned Tiger watchers will have been surprised at his candour – not something he’s been noted for in the past – and also at the emotion he showed in delivering his mea culpa address.

Tiger Woods steps up to the mic at his stage managed 'press conference' in Florida.

At a time of personal distress for all concerned chez Woods (interesting that his wife wasn’t in the specially selected audience when he spoke) it seems somewhat unseemly to ask how Woods’ statement will play in PR terms. Make no mistake however that every word and syllable will be dissected in the minutest detail by the world’s media and PR experts.

Straight after his statement, PR personality Max Clifford gave Woods’ performance the thumbs up, dubbing it sincere and well put and predicting that it would play well in the US – the golfer’s key audience. Woods’ invocation of his previously hidden Buddhism surprised many and will be viewed by some as a cynical attempt to give his redemption a theoretical and religious base. It will certainly be used by his advisers as further proof of his contrition and his renewed determination to atone and to become a better person.

PR watchers in the US and on this side of the pond will be looking at the reaction of the public and the media that will ultimately dictate whether ‘Brand Woods’ will be able to recover from recent events. The widely held view is that there is too much at stake for too many people to allow Woods not to re-establish himself as the world’s number one golfer and sports advertising cash machine. That may well be the case but it is not a certainty in my view.

As Tiger heads back for more therapy, I would not be surprised if it was a little while yet before he returns to the fairways. When, and if he does, I think he’ll find it difficult to get back to his former position at the top of the game. I wonder if his head will ever again be right enough to fully concentrate on a game where the smallest distraction can knock you off course. And even if he does return, he will face opponents who are no longer overawed by the image of an all powerful and invincible Tiger.