Having out free and fearless press onside can make life rather more comfortable for those in the media spotlight: whatever his fellow presenters think of his ranting, and his taste for far-right politicians, Piers Morgan fetching up at ITV breakfast show Good Morning Britain brought one plus - the hostile press coverage ceased. Full stop. End of.
This may not have been lost on radio and TV presenter Chris Evans, who has decided to leave the BBC Radio 2 breakfast show at the end of the year, and move “back” to Virgin Radio. It isn’t a move back, of course, because the station he left is not the same as the one he is joining. Virgin Radio is now owned by the Murdoch empire.
The move will bring Evans the added benefit of More And Bigger Paycheques For The Benefit Of Himself Personally Now - as well as not having to tell the world what he is earning, as happens at the Beeb. Plus what is has already brought is free and very positive publicity - with all the vicious recent smears miraculously forgotten.
And there has been a lot for the inmates of the Baby Shard bunker to forget. Remember the editorial “BBC in denial?” It thundered “IMAGINE the scale of the disaster if the BBC, having booted out Jeremy Clarkson, now had to suspend Chris Evans from Top Gear for allegedly bullying staff … With so much invested in the new show the Beeb cannot bear even to think about it. So it’s stuck its fingers in its ears and insisted he’s innocent”.
The “story”, such as it was, was crap. The reason for running it was that Murdoch pundit Jeremy Clarkson had been sacked from Top Gear for gross misconduct - racially abusing and then physically assaulting one of the show’s production staff - and Evans had been given the job in his place. Evans left the show after one series, but the abuse continued.
A snapper followed Evans, so when he stopped at the side of the M4 for an impromptu slash, the Sun had the story. There were constant suggestions that he was about to be sacked from his Radio 2 show. But now he has taken the Murdoch shilling, all is sweetness and light, as today’s Sun shows.
Starting with a fawning front page splash - “DJ Quits BBC … EVANS SENT … Chris back to Virgin, ‘my spiritual home’” - readers get “Speaking about his new appointment, he said: ‘In many ways Virgin Radio is my spiritual home … I see nothing but exciting and groundbreaking opportunities ahead”. You want cringe-making? There’s more.
“Scott Taunton, CEO of Wireless, said: ‘We are beyond thrilled that Chris has chosen to come back to Virgin Radio … He is the biggest name in radio and is synonymous with the brand. He has the most exciting Breakfast Show in the industry and has an energy that captivates audiences”. Excuse me a minute, I have to chuck up my Weetabix.
There are only two fleeting mentions of Top Gear, but no sign of Clarkson. Then, at the very end of the article, comes the admission “Virgin Radio UK is 100% owned by Wireless, which was acquired by News UK in 2016”. Front page advertorial no shock horror.
Chris Evans gets a clean bill of health from the Murdoch press. The rest of the pack will lay off him too. And all to save Rebekah Brooks’s skin. Can you smell hypocrisy?
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