It was another big week on the Street of Shame. A grandmother suing The Sun over claims she had s-x with Wayne Rooney has had her £750k damages claim thrown out of court. A Murdoch editor, Andy Coulson at the News of the World, resigns as a matter of principle. And just to prove that there is no honour among thieves, legendary Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre launches an astonishing tirade against the left-wing BBC, Guardian, Independent and Times.
The Times left-wing or “pinkish”? Has anyone told Rupert?
At £1.3m a year, Dacre is the highest-paid editor in Fleet Street. He delivered his Hugh Cudlipp Lecture to a packed theatre (including his proprietor Jonathan Harmsworth, Lord Rothermere) in the London College of Communication. As The Independent describes it, “this was an Event. Dacre, unlike some less publicity-shy editors, does not appear, let alone speak, in public. He prefers the glass atrium of the Mail HQ in Kensington High Street. He believes editors are not celebrities but are there to edit newspapers, and that this is best done in the office or on the backbench, where he can impose his clarity of vision and deep convictions on the printed page.”
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Australian readers will be familiar with the attack on the BBC as it is ostensibly the same argument often levelled against the ABC’s staff-controlled political bias. But Dacre’s rant against the quality national dailies was delicious in its viciousness. Dacre sees a connection between lack of profit and supporting liberal views, of which he disapproves: “Subsidised papers are, by definition, unable to survive in a free market. Their journalism and values – invariably liberal, metropolitan and politically correct, and I include the pinkish Times here – don’t connect with sufficient readers to be commercially viable.”
Dacre went on: “What of the so-called ‘quality papers’ – a misleading term when you consider that the Mail titles have more quality readers than most of the ‘quality’ papers put together? Well I’m sorry to p-ss on their parade, but with the honourable exception of the Telegraph, which, of course is the only right-wing quality – The Guardian, The Independent and The Times are all losing money. Such papers are effectively being subsidised.”
“Like The Guardian, the BBC’s journalists, insulated from real competition, believe that only their world view constitutes moderate, sensible and decent opinion. Any dissenting views – particularly those held by popular papers – are therefore considered, by definition, to be extreme and morally beyond the pale.”
Having unleashed the dogs of war, the response was immediate. Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, had this response to Dacre: “I think Paul Dacre has got it wrong, witnessed by the fact that we ran 1,500 words of his speech – a ‘dissenting view’ if there ever was one – in The Guardian. The same pages he graced regularly host Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins – not typical Guardianistas in anyone’s book. We have pro- and anti-Europe columnists, pro and anti-war, believers, secularists, pro and anti-Blair, you name it.”
Mary Ann Sieghart, assistant editor, The Times, said: “Paul Dacre doesn’t seem to understand the workings of the free market. Rupert Murdoch didn’t buy The Times as a favour to the British liberal intelligentsia. He bought it, and continues to own it, because its brand adds value to the rest of his company…”
Simon Kelner, Editor-in-Chief of The Independent, said: “I am not quite sure what Paul’s point is, other than the simple observation that we’re not making money and he is. Is it that there is no constituency for left-of-centre views? In which case, how come New Labour have won three successive elections? Or does he contend that all newspapers which don’t turn a profit are somehow less ‘honourable’ than those, like his own or the Telegraph, which make money?”
Isn’t the free press a wonderful thing?