Posh and Monica proved it: confessional TV is made for women. It's not that we sin less, we just repent better

The BBC's new digital TV channel, BBC4 - "everybody needs a place to think" - has so far not proved to be the place you go to watch. After its launch at the beginning of this month, some programmes held as few as 3,000 viewers. Critics have been quick to point out (albeit from the commercial wing of the industry), that it would have been cheaper to send them all a video.

To be fair, 30,000 tuned in on Sunday night for Goya and a million for the simulcast with BBC2 on launch night. But that was still not enough to beat Channel 5.

I would caution against early judgement. Unlike its commercial rivals, the BBC has time and (our) money, almost £35m a year of it, to allow the station to develop, and there is little doubt within the corporation that Greg Dyke is committed to the project. But could there be something more strategic going on inside the nation's great auntie?

One would hope so.

The licence fee is not sustainable in the long term. Either a Conservative government - yes, one day that will happen - or the general public will eventually put an end to it. With the proliferation of cable and satellite stations, viewers will baulk at having both "pay TV" and "must-pay TV".

The licence fee amounts to a hefty taxpayer subsidy to protect "our" culture, whatever that is. This argument is about as appealing to the great and increasingly discerning British public as a hypothecated tax for Bovril, or the royal family.

The BBC must have a Plan B. Dyke is nothing if not commercial. He has done well putting bums on sofas for BBC1 and improving listener figures for the radio arm of the corporation. Maybe his long-term strategy is to build up a popular BBC1, ring-fence culture into BBC2 and BBC4, eventually sell off the first channel and make the last a gift to the nation? Could BBC4 in fact be nothing more than a Trojan horse to conceal Plan B - the eventual privatisation of the corporation?


If ever we doubted the power of the media, it was on full and diverse display recently. Rachel Whitear's parents, as they toured the television studios from dawn to dusk, say they are staggered by the amount of attention that the pictures of their heroin addict daughter have received. They believe the coverage given to their daughter's death will save the life of someone else's daughter or son.

No sooner had the ink hit the front page of the Sunday Telegraph than ministerial phones were ringing to reverse the decision by an NHS hospital to deny five-year-old Catherine Sharpe a life-saving operation in Birmingham. The picture of this lovely child stared out next to the headline: "Girl's life-saving surgery cancelled to save money". The media's interest arguably saved a life.

And then there are some who just want to save their reputations. Enter Victoria Beckham on ITV and Monica Lewinsky on Channel 4. Both women were brilliant in their own very different ways at playing the wronged woman - Victoria defending herself against people who think she is a fashion-obsessed, money-crazed manipulator; and Monica defending herself from those who think she is an oral-obsessed, fame-crazed manipulator. After more than an hour with each of them, I had changed my mind.

Women are good at getting the sympathy vote. For some reason, it is difficult to empathise with men when they seek forgiveness or understanding on the box. Prince Charles, Michael Barrymore, Peter Mandelson were all television disasters when they pleaded their case before the massed millions.

Confessional TV is a woman's world - it's not that we sin less, we just repent better.


The explanation from Downing Street as to Tony Blair's new sartorial elegance paraded down under was that he is buying and wearing British to promote our fashion industry - and the underlying message was that he was dressing down for the convicts. Would someone please remind the Prime Minister that he already has a job? Promoting fashion is a task best performed by people without jobs, most memorably Diana, Princess of Wales.

As for pleasing the peasants, with Tony dressed in that grey pinstriped Paul Smith suit with matching fluorescent pink shirt and tie, most Aussies thought that the PM had got lost on his way to the Sydney gay Mardi Gras.


Once again, Fergie proves she is more royal than the royal family - she has taken sponging to an art form, lives with her ex-husband, Prince Andrew, in a mansion paid for by Mummy (which ultimately means subsidised by us) and lives off her royal connections. Never shy of a disingenuous headline, her latest attempt to earn an honest buck is in the selling of the most recent instalment of her diet saga - "How I lost 22lb and dropped to a model size 10". Sound familiar?

And what's more, it's so easy - all you have to do is be happy. Yes, that's it, folks, be happy and you'll be a size 10 - and then you'll be happy because you're a size 10, etc, etc, ad nauseam. (Which is not to be confused with nausea. There's no vomiting involved this time.)

Oh, and don't forget to get up every day at 5am and exercise for 45 minutes, the three yoga and one Pilates sessions a week, the personal trainer, the - "you hardly notice it's a diet" - diet of no bread, pasta, wheat, dairy products, sugar, red meat . . .