It is axiomatic in military circles, and down the British Legion Club, that there can only be one winner in a war and this week that prize goes to Sky News.
Anyone watching events unfold in Tripoli over the past few days knows that the Osterley upstart has led the way both in style and substance. The BBC rightly makes the point that it must be the people on the ground who make the final decision on whether to put themselves in the way of danger just to give us viewers the vicarious thrill of being up with the action, but being first in our business still counts.
Thus the appearance of Alex Crawford in the centre of Tripoli as the insurgents broke through was one of the most impressive moments of the conflict’s coverage.
Alex, who has won many awards for being in the right, most dangerous, place at the right, most dangerous, time proved once again why this is not just luck.
The BBC’s defence sounded a little hollow as it excused being absent during the storming of Gaddafi’s palace, seen live on Sky, because its man was getting something ready for the six o clock news!
The real culprits for this diminution of the Corporation are not Sky, of which more in a minute, but the pesky foreigners who are simply not sticking to the script.
As we embarked on the Libyan adventure we made it quite clear that this was just another extension of the Arab Spring, but the timetabling of this event seems to have been ignored by the participants who determined to turn it into the Arab Summer with almost no attention being paid to pre-booked holidays and other August-type plans.
The rot had set in earlier in the month when those not already on the continent and apparently without the wherewithal to get there decided on some late-night, if rather unorthodox, shopping. This, you may remember, required Prime Minister Dave, after a couple of days to think about it, to quit Chiantishire for the slightly less attractive delights of Croydon. Indeed, MPs were forced to return from exotic spots throughout the world for half a day to remind those of us at home we had not been forgotten.
But no sooner had Dave embarked on holiday number two than the Libyans, perhaps emboldened by events in North London,decided to continue their revolution right through August.
Dave, who hardly had time to unpack his bucket and spade for his staycation in the West Country, was forced back on the overnight bus again to appear on the steps of Number 10 to tell us Libya was in his thoughts. He then got back on the bus and returned to his holiday.
And of course this is what lies at the heart of Sky’s summer success: the holidays.
Not that it’s been much of a year for the Sky brand until now. Its bosses the Murdochs, pere et fils, have spent recent weeks caught between the attentions of Messrs Sue, Grabbit and Run and Plod of the Yard. Indeed the attentions of Plod may well be the reason for the higher and higher octaves achieved by Murdoch the Younger which may yet give him a new career as a countertenor.
How different from this very day two years ago when in all his pomp and circumstance he turned up in Edinburgh at the annual TV-fest (why Edinburgh? Cos it’s the holidays, stupid) to lecture on the media to the rest of the great and the good.
“The only reliable, durable and perpetual guarantor of independence is profit”, said the man who at the time was in charge of the News of the World, which you may remember had discovered “one rogue reporter” with his mitts on several people’s mobiles, now translated into a roomful of rogues, more mitts than the haberdashery department at Peter Jones and much of the phone book of Central London.
But all good things come to an end and the Sky News end of the Murdoch empire should enjoy its success while it can for the holidays are finally over. Spotted in all his splendour yesterday was none other than the wonderfully-titled Word Affairs Editor of the BBC, John Simpson himself.
John, remembered by many as the Liberator of Kabul – not least by the BBC correspondent who was living there – hove into view in Tripoli having spent, he told us, 48 hours getting there. Whether the 48 hours were from the borders of Libya or his holiday home were not clear.
Normal service has been resumed.
By the way, has anybody seen Gaddafi?
Peter McHugh is the former Director of Programmes at GMTV and Chief Executive Officer of Quiddity Productions.