Kay Burley: Deserved all she got
"Sack Kay Burley! Watch the BBC!" chanted the protester, as the Sky News presenter fixed her expensively maintained teeth into a sickly grin. "Sack Kay Burley! Watch the BBC!" he cried again as she tried to carry on with her outside broadcast, at a post-election demonstration in favour of PR in Westminster. It was no good. He who controls the microphone controls the medium, as every politician who has refused to let an interviewer stop him knows. The voice of the lone protestor boomed over the airwaves.
"Down with Murdocracy!" he cried.
"Rupert Murdoch is poison!"
"Down with the Murdoch empire! Watch the BBC!"
"They don't like the Sun, they don't like us and they don't like Rupert," sighed Burley just before her panicking producer pulled the plug.
As the confusion deepened, Alastair Campbell played the old spin-doctor's trick of deflecting attention from unwelcome news by attacking a journalist's impartiality. Adam Boulton, Sky's political editor, had made the reasonable point that Labour had lost close to 100 seats and had no moral right to stay in power. "You're obviously upset that David Cameron is not Prime Minister," said Campbell. Buffeted by the incessant accusations that Murdoch's TV station was biased, Boulton made the fatal mistake of losing his temper on live television. "You keep casting aspersions...Don't keep telling me what I think...I'M FED UP WITH YOU TELLING ME WHAT I THINK."
Like a boxer who has tricked his opponent into throwing a wild punch, Campbell squared his shoulders as he prepared to deliver the knockout.
"Oh my God, unbelievable," he said with a voice filled with mock concern. "Adam, calm down."
For Campbell, the demonstrator and many others, the "Murdocracy" tried to rig the election by turning on Labour and denigrating Nick Clegg. All disinterested outsiders could do was listen politely to their case and burst out laughing. Rupert Murdoch himself is no longer interested in Britain. His son James and Rebekah Brooks (née Wade), the former editor of the Sun, run his British interests and they do not impose a party line. James Harding, the editor of The Times, is his own man. If anyone tried to turn him into a grubby propagandist, he would walk out and walk into another job within days. The paper backed the Tories in its editorial columns, but columnists expressed opposing views during the campaign and Times reporters remained robust and sceptical. Similarly, the Sunday Times's deputy editor, Martin Ivens dominated its political coverage; as with Harding, he is a thoughtful conservative, not a corporate lackey.
As for Sky News, Kay Burley deserved all she got. Just before the protester wrecked her broadcast, she had conducted a thuggish interview with a mild-mannered supporter of PR, in which she all but screamed at him to go home and forget about the right of the British to demonstrate (a right that had given her the vote, although she didn't seem to know it). But there are badgering broadcasters who are as stupid as Burley elsewhere, and overall Sky News is as balanced and informative as the BBC. If you want partisan broadcasting, turn to Jon Snow. If you must hear the line of the political and cultural establishment parroted repeatedly, listen to Andrew Marr. Boulton is straight by comparison.