The Media in the Press 20.1.10

Apologies for the site being down these last couple of hours – a problem, it seems, with the hosting service. Anyway, we are back, and a warm wecome to second-year Journalism student, Alex McConnell, of Strathclyde University, who takes a look at the media stories making it into the pages of today’s papers…

The majority of today’s dailies cover the passing of the ‘Voice of Rugby’, Bill McLaren, the radio and television commentator who died yesterday morning at the age of 86. His passing has provoked a flood of tributes around the world with Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, leading them: “His expertise, enthusiasm and passion for rugby union inspired young and old alike. Bill was a fixture of our national sporting life” (The Scotsman, pages 4-5, 64-65, 27). The flags at Murrayfield were flown at half mast last night as a mark of respect to “one of the last of sport’s great tribe of apostles” – The Times, page 4.

The Guardian (page 8) reports on Justice Secretary, Jack Straw's proposals to cut lawyers' fees in media libel cases. Under the current scheme, lawyers can claim a “success fee” of up top 100 per cnet of their costs if their client has been awarded damages. Straw proposes cutting such a fee to 10 per cent, saying the doubling of fees is such cases is “simply not justified” after receiving a report from appeal judge, Sir Rupert Jackson, who singled out civil costs in media law being “disproportionate and excessive”. Although the proposal has been welcomed, there have been calls for wider reforms, with Gill Philips, director of editorial legal services at The Guardian, calling the move “the beginning, not the end of the process”

And finally, the saga of the Tonight Show continues as Conan O’Brien’s departure creates conflict over who gets ownership of 'Triumph the Insult Comic Dog'. The story has been called “one of the biggest upsets in US broadcasting history” – The Times, page 39 – as O’Brien leaves NBC amid rows over ratings and his predecessor, Jay Leno, wanting his old job back. It is widely believed that O’Brien will leave with an estimated payout of $40 million but the rights to the comic creations such as Triumph and the Yugoslav mountain hound are still being disputed. NBC are reluctant to let the sidekicks go to a rival network but others say that they may allow O’Brien to keep them as part of a 'non-disparagement agreement' in a bid to stop him insulting the network on air.