Watching brief - Amanda Platell prefers state occasions on Sky
Watching Hell's Kitchen made me wonder whether those brave D-Day veterans must sometimes ask themsel
For the soldiers 60 years ago, it was the longest day. For the broadcasters covering the D-Day celebrations this year, it was the longest weekend. I tuned in to the BBC on Saturday at lunchtime - you always turn first to the BBC on great state occasions such as these - but when there was interference on the screen, I switched to Sky and didn't switch back.
I don't want to take anything away from the magnificent job the BBC did on many levels with its D-Day coverage. At times like these you don't mind paying your licence fee. From Radio 4's replaying of the first Sunday service in the fields of Normandy after the D-Day landings to the brilliant Sunday-night docudrama D-Day, the weekend was perfectly planned and, for the most part, delivered.
All except the live outdoor broadcasts. The secret of Sky's success was partly due to its excellent presenters (there was the stalwart Jeremy Thompson and the marathon two-day performance by Alastair Bruce, a regular commentator on state and royal events) and partly due to the fact that they knew when to shut up.
For large parts of some of the most moving scenes, there was complete, blissful silence. It was so much more powerful than attempts by even the best BBC presenters to keep filling the air with chatter. It added to the poignancy of many occasions over the weekend. At times, it seemed as though BBC TV were treating the broadcast as though it were radio, or a telecast for the blind, describing everything in minute detail but somehow missing the big picture.
On this particular D-Day, Sky was the victor, as Sunday's viewer estimates for multi-channel homes bear out. The Sky "daily reach" was 1.389 million while BBC News 24 reached only 1.1 million.
And at the end of the day, I turned over to the reality show Hell's Kitchen. Thankfully, Edwina Currie had already been thrown off, so we were spared any more tales of how a lack of sex had shrunk her vagina.
A not very bright lad from a boy band had been sobbing over seeing his mother for the first time in a week; and some old soak from a soap physically attacked Gordon Ramsay, the verbally challenged cook who, when things are getting tense in his kitchen, asks his staff if they "have a sweaty crack yet".
I couldn't help but wonder whether those old veterans must sometimes ask themselves whether this was a world worth saving after all.
The newspapers never seemed to tire of celebrating D-Day, their differences never more marked than the Monday after. "A flag for every hero," splashed the Mail, with a picture of Sword Beach and the 1,520 flags to mark the death of each British soldier. The Telegraph chose a picture of the Queen, Bush and other heads of state watching a flypast, then had a tremendously good supplement inside, as did the Mail. The Guardian's piece de resistance was Jonathan Freedland's typically searching account from Arromanches.
Of the broadsheets, only the Times did not run a front-page picture of D-Day, choosing instead a picture of Sally Clark to accompany its searing serialisation of her book. And the tabloid Independent, with its postcard picture of the veterans marching past, seemed somehow small and lacking in impact beside its bigger brothers.
With what is being described as a knock-out cash bid in the region of £700m, the Daily Mail group is now firm favourite to buy Hollinger International's newspaper holdings. A Mail victory, if it happens, was always going to be the best outcome for the Telegraph papers, as it is the only bidder with a real track record of investing in journalists and journalism.
As we near the end of the race, it is time to pay tribute to the Daily Telegraph editor, Martin Newland. It's hard enough being an editor at the best of times, but these have been the worst - the sacking of Conrad Black, no investment, and a fierce war raging in the broadsheet market. The Telegraph could do nothing but watch and wait. Newland has done well to hold on to most of his staff and continue producing an excellent newspaper.
I felt some dismay on hearing that consideration is being given to turning the Observer into either a tabloid or a magazine. Part of the Sunday psyche is that it affords you the luxury and space to really enjoy your broadsheets, to lay them out on the bed or on the floor. It's a big-paper day and the Observer is a lovely big paper. I hope it stays that way.
News that the Mirror chief executive, Sly Bailey, has called in the headhunters to find a replacement for Piers Morgan should fill any journalist with dread. Newspapers are not like Marks & Spencer; you can't ram one boss in after another from anywhere in the business. There are only a handful of people who could do that job and any chief executive worth their salt should have made it their business to know every one of them.
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