Magazine article The Spectator

The Grisly Contents of Pandora's Box

Magazine article The Spectator

The Grisly Contents of Pandora's Box

Article excerpt


by Chris Horrie

and Adam Nathan

Simon & Schuster, L16.99, pp. 515

Years ago in the Commons there was an MP who was so dreary that we called him the most boring man in the world. Then we realised that being the most boring man in the world was actually quite interesting, so he was renamed the second most boring man in the world. In the same way, L!ve TV is so awful, so unremittingly dreadful that it has its own tacky fascination.

It conveys a permanent air of desperation: Topless Darts at the Panto, Big City Tips, in which Tiffani Bannister reads a handful of financial statistics while stripping to her bra, stunts such as the News Bunny and the weather in Norwegian (with the chart often bearing no resemblance to the conditions predicted in any language). As the authors point out, these wheezes by Kelvin MacKenzie won publicity at the time, but few people would dream of watching them twice. After reading this book, I flipped on at around 11 am and caught the Cello News Network in which a comely young woman played `Auld Lang Syne' on the cello, not especially well, while reading out the 'news', which consisted entirely of celebrity gossip.

Since the programmes are all unimaginably cheap, often repeated up to eight times a day, and include American material that a mentally retarded trucker in a midWestern diner would regard as demeaning to his intelligence, L!ve is actually moving into profit. This is because the channel is paid not according to how many people watch it, or how many choose to buy it, but according to the total number of cable customers throughout the country, who get it whether they want it or not. At 25 pence per month per household, this worked out at only 4 million a year, for a long time less than a third of operating costs.

The story behind the channel is far more interesting than anything it broadcasts. It's about three magnificently, crazily over-thetop executives: Janet Street-Porter, inventor of 'yoof' television, demanding that all her staff turn up in bright orange designer trainers, Kelvin MacKenzie, the totally non-PC tyrant who created the modern Sun ('botty burglars' is his name for what even Tory front-benchers call `the homosexual community'), and David Montgomery, the tyrant who appears to have no redeeming features at all -certainly no sympathy for either journalism or broadcasting. …

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