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Skidmore's Island: Heavenly Pavilions

...In my day there were two certain ways to get information from the police. Either join the Masons or pay for it in cash or kind...

Retired journalist Ian Skidmore takes a critical look at recent events.

I stand within batting range of my century, but as I survey from my octogenarian crease the players who surround me, the temptation to declare and scurry back to the Celestial Pavilion is intense.

In the week when its economies have cost the World Service three million listeners, the BBC announces that it is spending £1billion on a refurbishment of Broadcasting House in central London, including a £1.6million “sculpture” that will function as a pavement. It has been created by the Canadian artist Mark Pimlott, and is incorporated into the piazza in the middle of the newly-finished building. The sculpture is broadly horizontal and will be used principally for walking on. Mr Pimlott’s website says that his “discrete interventions are intended to reveal the essential characteristics of place.''

The BBC seems obsessed with pavements. It has been criticised for hiring 30 dogs and their owners to foul a street in Preston for a documentary designed to show what Britain will be like when the cuts in local government spending bite. The council could turn a nice profit. Letting dogs foul streets is an offence punishable with a heavy fine.

Even more distressing is Sky Television's sacking of two sports reporters for saying rude things about a referee. I can see little point in commenting on a spectacle in a medium for which the main attraction is that the audience can see what is going on for themselves. Yet, commentators, would you believe, are paid £1 million a year for saying things which few spectators agree with. To be honest, I cannot see why anyone would want to watch twenty-two men in short trousers kicking a ball round a lawn. Having said that, I have always assumed that saying rude things about the referee is a major part of the entertainment.

The deeper you examine this episode the more curious it becomes. The exchange between Andy Gray and Richard Keys happened in a private conversation which took place off camera after the game was over. The feisty assistant referee Sian Massey, the butt of it, did not answer the phone when Keys rang to apologise. She told The Guardian: "Perhaps Richard thought I was too busy making the tea and washing up to take his call. West Ham's future in the Olympic Stadium is of far more significance to me than his future. It is most unfortunate that he has chosen to add insult to injury today by suggesting that this incident has done me a favour by getting West Ham out of the press, as, after all, I did not ask to be part of his sexist tirade. This is not about an apology to me, but about an apology to all women. Richard represents views that myself and those who work in the business of football find totally dinosaur."

In the event both loud mouths quickly moved into new jobs but their victim the refereee was barred from officiating at a match. Earlier in the week what started as a suspension escalated to the sack for Andy Gray and the forced resignation of Keys for earlier misogynisms. Keys had made inappropriate remarks about ”fancying” another player's girlfriend. As my lady barber said, any right thinking lady would take that as a compliment. Gray's sacking was the result of something much worse. He asked his fellow presenter Charlotte Jackson, again off camera, to tuck his microphone lead into his trousers. Miss Jackson, who has made no complaint, is a model who regularly posed for sexy photographs to bolster her bid to be a sexy presenter on Sky.

Curiously, these two incidents happened some time ago and one wonders which of their colleagues posted the incidents on You Tube, having presumably hoarded them for months awaiting an opportunity when they would do most harm.

For Gray, according to The Daily Mail, it was the culmination of a career of unremitting misogyny. Behaviour which might have led to the sack over a number of years. Key hinted that “dark forces” were responsible. It is true that Gray is amongst those mini-celebrities who are suing The News of the World - like Sky, owned by Rupert “Stinker” Murdoch - for tapping their mobile phones. Rupert Murdoch is at present campaigning to be allowed to buy the few remaining shares in Sky which other people owned.

Opposition to the bid has already cost a cabinet minister his career. It is pure coincidence that Murdoch recently dined with the Prime Minister. Just as it is public spirit which is leading him to grass on his editorial staff, alleged to be among the phone tappers. The investigation has been going on for five years without a hint of intervention..

This curious behaviour is not confined to Murdoch. Tabloid newspapers blame the Metropolitan Police for the delay. The Met is dragging its feet, it is claimed, because The News of the World has them in its pay. In my day there were two certain ways to get information from the police. Either join the Masons or pay for it in cash or kind.

When I was appointed Night News Editor, another executive phoned me. “I had no idea you were a Mason,” he said. “I'm not, “ I said. “Then how did you get the job?” he wanted to know.

Might there not be another reason for the delay?


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