Friday, January 26, 2007

Some stuff from the last Eye

Number 1176. This week I have mostly been writing about people writing bollocks about Jade Goody. It was much, much more entertaining than watching Big Brother.

“Britain is heading towards a gambling epidemic, with women and teenagers at greatest risk of addiction,” warned the Independent on Sunday last weekend. “A major report from the British Medical Association… will warn that children are at increased risk of becoming gambling addicts with the liberalisation of gaming.”

Over on the Independent’s own website the young at heart (though strictly over-18, of course) can enjoy such delights as Monopoly with Pass Go Bonus (“The world’s best-loved board game is now on-line’s most exciting and rewarding video slot game.”), King Arthur’s Hi-Lo (“brave the dragon by continuing on to play for even larger prizes!”), Baywatch Heatwave (“a 5 reel, 9 line slot game based on the worldwide-popular Baywatch brand) and DangerMouse (“This slots version of the classic cartoon has a £500,000 jackpot prize to play for”) – with a maximum deposit of a mere £10,000 a day. The service – complete with Independent masthead – is run by Cashcade, a company with a $100million-annual turnover which is 20% owned by the newspaper’s publisher.

The Telegraph, meanwhile was more sceptical about the BMA’s report. “Gambling is a low priority for the health service, and long may it remain so,” observed the paper’s leader. “There are at least three interrelated reasons to oppose the introduction of state-funded anti-gambling advertisements and addiction clinics.” Surprisingly, those three interrelated reasons may not be called David, Frederick and Aidan Barclay: alarmed by what they described as “the current confusion and inconsistency in online gambling legislation worldwide”, the Telegraph’s owners bailed out in September and sold their Ritz Club Online website to Ukbetting PLC, retaining only the casino at the Ritz itself, which last year made a loss of nearly £1million. Ukbetting promptly renamed itself 365Media Group and was last week snapped up for £96million by none other than Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB. And what did his papers, the Times and Sun have to say about the British Medical Association’s shocking findings? Nothing at all.

“Will’s birthday plea over Kate: Leave her alone,” shrieked the Daily Mail over the news that Prince William had accused press photographers of “harassment” and wanted “more than anything” for his girlfriend Kate Middleton to be left alone.

Naturally, the Mail itself was not to blame. “The PCC has very strict guidelines in respect of privacy, harassment and photographing individuals,” the paper pointed out. “As always the Daily Mail will respect both the letter and the spirit of those rules. It would do nothing likely to cause distress or upset to Miss Kate Middleton and will always act responsibly in respect of any photographs taken of her.”

That is a rather different promise to the more straightforward “the proprietor of the Daily Mail announced last night that his papers will not in future purchase pictures taken by paparazzi”, as the paper trumpeted on 8 September, 1997, after the death of William’s mother Princess Diana. But at least the Mail made an effort on the day of Ms Middleton’s birthday, printing shots prominently attributed to “the Press Association, AP and the respected Getty Images”.

The Mail was rather more coy about the provenance of two shots of her “leaving a London nightclub in the early hours” on 6 January, two of her being escorted to work by police on 5 January, two of her receiving a ticket from a traffic warden on 4 January and one of her “going out on the town” on 3 January – all of which it printed without any attribution. To prove it is not shy of revealing information, however, the paper informed readers that she drives a “blue VW golf” (pictured from two different angles), lives in Chelsea (complete with a shot of the street), and works for clothes firm Jigsaw “at their headquarters in Kew”. To ensure stalkers were not disappointed, the Mail also helpfully pointed that “she only works four days a week, Monday to Thursday”, but on those days she “often pops out to pick up lunch from Marks and Spencers nearby”.

News International, publishers of the Sun and News of the World, went one further, with executive chairman Les Hinton announcing that no more paparazzo shots of Ms Middleton would appear in any of his titles – a promise which lasted almost seven hours, until NI freesheet The London Paper splashed with just such a picture.

The following morning’s Sun, however, remained resolutely Middleton-free – save for a lengthy piece by Sun photographer Arthur Edwards, giving his thoughts on why “Kate will be Queen… but not quite yet.” Edwards is, as the paper pointed out, the “Royals’ favourite photographer” – so much so that Clarence House banned him from events involving Princes William and Harry in 2004 about his after the paper published his pictures of the heir to the throne’s new girlfriend, one Kate Middleton, an “intrusion” into their “private skiing holiday” about which William was said to be “very unhappy”.

Naturally, the paper’s ethical stance only applies to pictures taken by paparazzi, as opposed to ones stolen by friends and sold to the Sun, like those of Prince Harry groping Natalie Pinkham’s breast which the paper published on its front page (and was forced to apologise for) in August last year.

PS: News International’s ban naturally only applies to Middleton herself – her boyfriend remains fair game. On 11 January the paper illustrated its story of how Prince William had had to undergo gruelling army training despite “a late date with his sweetheart” with a snap of the Prince taken by freelance photographer Doug Seeburg.

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