Watching brief - Amanda Platell notes an empty seat at GMTV

David Blunkett has installed an ISDN line so he can broadcast more clearly on the <em>Today</em> pro

In the week when Gordon Brown finally put some serious money behind his party's promise to deliver the three Es (education, education, education), perhaps it's time to do something about the other education kids get, from television.

The Broadcasting Standards Commission has accused broadcasters of "breaching a contract" with parents by showing, before the 9pm watershed, programmes that were unsuitable for unsupervised children. Violence, sex, swearing and - most offensive of all, on the grounds of its affront to music - George Michael's flop, sorry, pop video "Freeek!" were all creeping in at a time when millions of kids are still up.

Too many of them spend their evenings stuffing their faces with junk food and learning how to be a loser by watching shows such as EastEnders, where the only rule of casting seems to be that, if you're not a slag when you enter the Square, you end up as one. Forget the education they get at school. We are breeding a nation of fat, foul-mouthed, lazy kids, and no amount of billions of pounds will reverse that trend.


Spot the difference. "Sales . . . have rocketed, with thousands of new readers . . . at a time when sales of our pathetic comic rival . . . have plunged . . . "

"Sales . . . continued to grow rapidly . . . while those of [rival] . . . plunged sharply . . . "

The first was the Newspaper of the Year, the second the one that shines.

In the Daily Mirror v Sun battle, the Sun is winning the red-top price war, although it's selling at 20p throughout the country, while the Mirror is 20p in around half the country. Both papers are determined that their strategies are right and are in it for the long haul.

The only other papers to show sales increases were, again, the Star (no surprises there, at 10p) and the variously reduced Daily and Sunday Express. The only other thing these papers share is a decision not to splash the Chancellor's billion-pound bonanza. The Star didn't mention it anywhere on the front, and then not until page 8, while the Sun and Express both splashed on the death of ten-year-old Jade Slack from an accidental Ecstasy overdose.


No further proof is required of the impartiality of the BBC's political editor, Andrew Marr. Summing up the Chancellor's comprehensive spending review immediately after it was delivered on BBC2, Marr predicted the next day's headlines - "Gordon's big gamble" - and got two newspapers right, the Daily Mail and the Guardian. What could be fairer than that?


The Home Secretary, David Blunkett, has had an ISDN line installed in his home to enhance his regular appearances on the Today programme, yet the man who makes Gordon Brown seem to give good soundbites is steadfastly refusing to occupy new Labour's favourite sofa on GMTV. He won't even do the show down the line - that is, voice only. His excuse is that, because he is blind, he takes longer to get ready in the morning. Eh?

Anyway, GMTV should count its blessings. These days, Blunkett is more leaden than Led Zeppelin.

Give me the new sofa presenter Ben Shephard any day. This beautiful young man is a most welcome addition to the nation's morning viewing.


Jane Goldman - former wild child - has been collecting a few column inches in the Daily Mail as it ponders what exactly she may have done to make her husband, Jonathan Ross, cry, as he did all over page three a few days ago. I have met her only once, quite recently at a friend's wedding. While I wouldn't rush to borrow her frocks, I was struck by her warmth and genuine sweetness. The heat between her and her husband of 14 years was almost palpable. They behaved as though they'd met 14 days ago.

Ross gave a speech that contained a tribute to his wife and the true greatness of finding the one person in the world you're meant to spend your life with. I suspect that rumours of the impending demise of the Ross marriage are badly misinformed.


The Journalism Training Forum has just published an independent survey entitled Journalists at Work, which is stuffed full of useful information about the trade. The good news is that, on top of the 70,000-odd journalists already working in this country, it is predicted that another 20,000 will be needed over the next eight years. Who said all those media courses were a waste of time?

The bad news is that women are still paid less than men, by about £5,000. A national newspaper hack's average salary is £40,000, a television journalist's is £35,000, and a regional newspaper hack is on £17,500. Nearly one in five journalists has suffered discrimination at work: these are mostly women, and 59 per cent were cases of sexual discrimination.

No change there, then.