- Kelvin MacKenzie
imagesize = 150px
name = Kelvin "The Devil" MacKenzie
birthname = Kelvin Calder MacKenzie
birthdate = Birth date and age|df=yes|1946|10|22
London, United Kingdom
Kelvin Calder MacKenzie (born 22 October 1946) in South London is a British media executive and former
newspaper editor. He is best remembered for being editor of "The Sun" newspaperbetween 1981 and 1994, an era in which the paper was firmly established as Britain's best selling tabloid. His period as "Sun" editor was also highly controversial - MacKenzie is remembered as the man responsible for the paper's "Gotcha" headline after the sinking of the Argentinian light cruiser"General Belgrano" during the Falklands War, as well its highly controversial coverage of the Hillsborough disaster, which caused widespread outrage and was dismissed as "entirely inaccurate" by both the Press Counciland the official government inquiry into the tragedy.cite | author=John Pilger| title=Hidden Agendas| publisher=Vintage| date=1998| pages=445-449] Throughout much of his career, MacKenzie has been an associate of international media magnate Rupert Murdoch.
He has been described by
Piers Morganas a man possessing a "particular form of dangerous genius". [cite web| title=Piers Morgan: You Ask The Questions| publisher=" The Independent"| date=10 March 2005| url=http://news.independent.co.uk/people/profiles/article5450.ece| accessdate=2006-10-19 ]
MacKenzie was educated at
Alleyn's School. His parents were Ian and Mary Mackenzie both journalists on The South London Observer. When their paper was taken over by The South London Press Mary became Press Chief for the then Tory leader of the Greater London Council, Sir Horace Cutler but little else is known about his background or early journalistic career. His father died in April 2004at the age of 84. Kelvin MacKenzie left school with one O-level, in English literature. He joined the South East London Mercury at 17, and worked on local and then national newspapers, such as the Daily Expressfor the next ten years.
MacKenzie himself has said that he discovered early on in his career that he had little writing ability and that his talents lay in making up headlines and laying out pages.cite news| author=Andy Dangerfield| url=http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/article/111006/press_conference_kelvin_mackenzie| title=Kelvin MacKenzie: Old Mac opens up| publisher="Press Gazette" (online edition)| date=11 October 2006| accessdate=2007-05-05] By 1978, at the age of just 32, he was Managing Editor of the "
New York Post", two years after it was purchased by Rupert Murdoch, who already owned "The Sun". Murdoch appointed him "Sun" editor in 1981 and is said to have described MacKenzie as his all-time "favourite editor".
MacKenzie was married for 38 years but in 2006 was divorced by his wife Jacqueline on the grounds of
adultery. In the late 1990s, MacKenzie was in the news when he was caught by the " The Mail on Sunday" holidaying in what the paper described as a "love nest" in Barbadoswith News Internationalsecretary Joanna Duckworth. [ [http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=1&storycode=33688 "Axe Grinder 31.03.06",] "Press Gazette" (online edition), 30 March 2006. Retrieved on 4 May 2007.]
MacKenzie is a
right-wingConservative and a committed Thatcherite. He is a great admirer of Margaret Thatcherpersonally and argues that she is Britain's greatest post-war Prime Minister. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/the_daily_politics/6242715.stm#THATCHER "Your Favourite Prime Minister"] , " The Daily Politics" official BBCwebsite, 13 June 2007. Features a video of MacKenzie championing Margaret Thatcher as Britain's greatest post-war Prime Minister. Retrieved on 14 October 2007.] However, unlike many other right-wingers, he does not support the death penalty.
While it was in 1978 that "The Sun" initially overtook the "
Daily Mirror" in terms of circulation, it was during MacKenzie's spell as editor that "The Sun" firmly established itself as the biggest selling newspaper in Britain. It was also under MacKenzie that the newspaper became renowned for what is felt by many commentators to be its populist and the sensationalist approach to journalism, although others argue that this approach had already been established to a lesser extent under previous editors during the 1970s and strongly mirrored the style Rupert Murdoch had already adopted for some of his Australiannewspapers prior to his purchase of the "Sun" (then called the "Daily Herald") in the late 1960s.
It should be noted that MacKenzie was not responsible for ending the "Sun's" traditional
left-wingpolitical stance and support for the British Labour Party- the paper's switch to right-wing populism and support for Margaret Thatcher's Conservatives at the 1979 general election occurred under the previous editor Larry Lambshortly before MacKenzie took over, at the behest of Rupert Murdoch (this being despite Murdoch's earlier assurances to the "Sun's" previous owners that he would continue to support the trade unionmovement and the Labour Party if they agreed to sell him the newspaper). The paper`s political line was Murdoch's decision; MacKenzie was doing his master`s bidding. Murdoch has a reputation for bullying his editors, and Mackenzie is reported to have been on the receiving end more than most. Mackenzie was a willing puppet, for political and financial reasons. Neither was MacKenzie responsible for the introduction of the controversial page 3 girlsin the "Sun" - this had occurred shortly after Murdoch had bought the paper over ten years before MacKenzie was appointed editor. It was MacKenzie, however, who cemented the paper's image as a loudly right-wing, populist tabloid, not only greatly increasing its circulation and dramatically heightening its profile, but also making it infamous in the eyes of the British public for its scathing attacks on left-wingpolitical figures and movements, its cheeky humour (the best examples of which were often its headlines, many thought up by MacKenzie himself), and its sensationalist front-page celebrity "exposes", which frequently turned out to be misleading or outright false, with MacKenzie presiding over many of the biggest controversies in the paper's history. Critics accused the paper of exaggerating or even inventing news stories under MacKenzie (on some occasions this was proven to be the case ) and of severely dumbing downpublic discourse. The paper was frequently accused (often but not exclusively by left-wingand liberal critics) of promoting jingoism, racism, homophobia, and intolerance.
During MacKenzie's tenure as editor, the
stereotypeof the typical "Sun" reader" entered the national consciousness: supposedly a working-classconservative, frequently from the south of England, always of very low intelligence, and more interested in looking at page 3 girls and reading sensationalist and implausible reports of celebrity scandals (that he is likely to unquestioningly believe) than serious news, and in any case too unintelligent to read the more 'serious' conservative newspapers such as " The Times", the " The Daily Telegraph", or even the " Daily Mail". Frequently it was implied that the typical "Sun" reader would often, though not invariably, also hold bigoted, sexist, racist, and homophobicviews, and would probably believe and approve of any attack on a left-wing political figure or minority group printed in the paper, no matter how outrageous and factually dubious. By the mid-1980s, British comedianswould frequently bring up the subject of the stereotypical "Sun" reader, feeling it was guaranteed to get laughs from any audience. Like most stereotypes, the image of the "average "Sun" reader" may be somewhat unfair and misleading to at least some extent - polls have consistently shown that a majority of "Sun" readers claim not to take what they read in the paper seriously, and approximately the same number of "Sun" readers voted Labour in 1992 as voted Conservative - but the concept of the "Sun" reader stereotype is perhaps just as prevalent in British culture and society as it was when it first emerged under MacKenzie.
During MacKenzie's reign, the paper actually lost readers.
MacKenzie himself is quoted as saying in the early 1980s (on the subject of how he perceived his target audience and how he approached journalism):
MacKenzie has also stated, perhaps only half-seriously, that he feels that his own spell as editor of "The Sun" had a "positively downhill impact on journalism". Numerous observers, such as ex-"Sun" deputy editor
Roy Greenslade, left-wing journalist John Pilger, and playwright Dennis Potter, have commented more seriously on the alleged 'Murdoch effect' - and more specifically about the effect of the "Sun" during the MacKenzie era, supposedly by far the most significant example of this effect - on British journalism, media, political climate, and intellectual culture, as well as on British culture and society at large. These commentators argue that Murdoch's media enterprise, and in particular MacKenzie's "Sun", not only helped to keep Thatcher in power and enable the successful continuation of the "Thatcher revolution" while successfully smearing her left-wing opponents, but also had such a profound effect on all areas of the British media as to be perhaps the most significant contributor to the perceived "dumbing-down" of British news, popular entertainment, and culture across the board. Murdoch has responded to some of these arguments by saying his critics are "snobs" who want to "impose their tastes on everyone else", while MacKenzie claims the same critics are people who, if they ever had a "popular idea", would have to "go and lie down in a dark room for half an hour". Both have pointed to the huge commercial success of the "Sun" in the 1980s and its establishment as Britain's top-selling newspaper, claiming that they are "giving the public what they want". This conclusion is heavily disputed by the critics, with Pilger pointing out that a late-1970s edition of the "Daily Mirror" which replaced the usual celebrity and domestic political news items with an entire issue devoted to his own front-line reporting of the genocidein Pol Pot's Cambodianot only outsold the "Sun" on the day it was issued but became the only edition of the "Daily Mirror" to ever sell every single copy issued throughout the country, something never achieved by the "Sun".
MacKenzie was widely criticised for his perceived cruelty to both the targets of his (sometimes false) newspaper allegations, his choice of targets frequently being not only left-wing politicians and celebrities but even previously unknown ordinary members of the public, and also his alleged cruelty to his own staff and colleagues, to which MacKenzie has since responded: cquote|Look, I am not here to be helpful. I am here to help myself, right, so I have no regrets how I treated somepeople.
MacKenzie was responsible for the "Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster" front-page headline, probably the most famous in "The Sun's" history. The claims made in the accompanying article, that the
comedian Freddie Starrhad placed his girlfriend's hamsteron a sandwich and proceeded to eat it, not surprisingly turned out to be entirely untrue and an invention of the publicist Max Clifford. The headline is remembered mainly for its humour value and is also often held up as the prime example of the Sun's supposedly celebrityobsessed, sensationalist and often inaccurate journalism. [cite web| author=Lars Weber| url=http://www.cafebabel.com/en/printversion.asp?T=A&Id=1781| title=Voyeurising the voyeurs: inside the celebrity business| publisher=Café Babel| date=1 May 2006| accessdate=2007-05-04]
More controversially, MacKenzie was responsible for the 4 May "Gotcha" front-page headline, which reported the controversial sinking of the Argentinian
battleship"General Belgrano" by a British submarineduring the Falklands War. MacKenzie was heavily condemned by some commentators who felt he was glorifying slaughter and the headline caused a storm of controversy and protest, although MacKenzie had actually changed the front-page of later editions to "Did 1,200 Argies drown?" after it was established that there had been a large number of Argentine casualties. MacKenzie later defended his "Gotcha" headline, saying:
MacKenzie's coverage of the Falklands War was [http://www.guardian.co.uk/falklands/story/0,,657850,00.html criticised by many commentators] such as "
The Guardian" journalist and ex-" Daily Mirror" editor Roy Greensladefor being jingoistic and a glorification of war (Greenslade was actually working with MacKenzie on "The Sun" at the time). On one occasion during the conflict, "The Sun" published a photographof a missilewhich had a large "Sun" logo printed on its side. The paper claimed they had "sponsored" the missile and that it would shortly be used to "kill Argies". The photograph also featured a topless teenage page 3 girlcaressing the missile, which was perceived to be phallicimagery and resulted in criticism that "The Sun" was attempting to use sexto promote and glorify war. While "The Sun" was heavily criticised and even mocked for its coverage of the war in "The Daily Mirror" and "The Guardian", "The Sun" responded by accusing these newspapers of treason. The satirical magazine "Private Eye" mocked and lampooned what they regarded as the paper's jingoistic coverage, most notably with the mock-"Sun" headline "KILL AN ARGIE, WIN A METRO!", to which MacKenzie is said to have jokingly responded "Why didn't I think of that?".
Despite his self-professed pride at having printed the "Gotcha" headline, Roy Greenslade claims that MacKenzie had only chosen the headline prior to it becoming clear that there had been a large number of Argentine casualties resulting from the sinking of the "Belgrano" and that even he later became concerned that the headline may be seen as insensitive and distasteful. Greenslade states that MacKenzie insisted on changing the headline to "Did 1,200 Argies Die?" for later editions because of these concerns, and that he did so against the wishes of Rupert Murdoch, who allegedly demanded that the "Gotcha" headline remain for later editions despite the large number of casualties and later said of the headline, "I rather liked it". This is reportedly the only occasion that MacKenzie ever disobeyed a specific order from Murdoch.
"The Sun's" politics
MacKenzie's "Sun" strongly supported the Conservative Party in all of the
General Elections which were held during his time as editor, and the newspaper became well known for its scathing attacks on the Labour Party and its leaders. Most memorably, on the day of the 1992 election MacKenzie used the front-page headline "If Kinnock Wins Today, Will The Last Person To Leave Britain Please Turn Out The Lights", accompanied by a picture of Kinnock's head superimposed over a lightbulb. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/static/vote2001/in_depth/election_battles/1992_camp.stm "1992: Major confounds the polls",] BBC News Election 2001. "The Sun" front page is reproduced. Retrieved on 4 May 2007.] The following day, after the Conservatives confounded the polls and won a narrow majority, "The Sun" claimed that they had won the election for the Tories by proclaiming "It Woz The Sun Wot Won It!" on their front page. Neil Kinnockhimself stated that he believed that the main reason that Labour had lost the election was the campaign waged against the party and against him personally by right-wing, Conservative supporting newspapers, in particular "The Sun", although a subsequent investigation by the Labour Party's research department questioned this conclusion, arguing that "Sun" readers were divided roughly 50-50 between voting Conservative and Labour, and that there were not enough Conservative-voting "Sun" readers in crucial seats to have swung the election. The newspaper subsequently denied any responsibility for the Conservative victory when it came in for criticism, despite its early headlines. Nonetheless, Tony Blairwould later make winning over Rupert Murdoch and "The Sun" newspaper a major priority before the 1997 General Election, by which time MacKenzie was no longer editor. However, many people have argued that the Sun knew that the Conservatives had no chance of winning the 1997 General Election, and had it still urged it's readers to vote Conservative, it would afterwards be seen as having backed a loser.
Although the coverage of the 1992 election remains the best remembered, there were many other vitriolic personal attacks on Labour leaders by MacKenzie's "Sun" during election campaigns, such as in 1983 when MacKenzie ran a front page featuring an unflattering photograph of
Michael Footalongside the headline "Do You Really Want This Old Fool To Run Britain?", [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/1209115.stm Sun still shines for Blair",] BBC News, 8 March 2001. Retrieved on 4 May 2007.] yet, a year later, the paper was staunch in its support for the re-election of Ronald Reaganas president in the USA, who was two years older than Foot, and in 1987 when MacKenzie ran an extraordinary mock-editorial entitled "Why I'm Backing Kinnock, by Joseph Stalin. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/static/vote2001/in_depth/election_battles/1987_camp.stm "1987: Three on the trot for Thatcher",] BBC News Vote 2001. Retrieved on 4 May 2007.] MacKenzie's "Sun" also made frequent scathing attacks on what the paper called the "looney left" element within the Labour Party and on institutions supposedly controlled by it, such as the left-wing Greater London Counciland Liverpool City Council.
MacKenzie also ran a story extensively quoting a respected American psychiatrist claiming that British
left-wingpolitician Tony Bennwas "insane", with the psychiatrist discussing various aspects of Benn's supposed pathology. ["Benn on the couch", "The Sun", 1 March 1984. Benn was standing in the Chesterfield byelection which was held on the day the article appeared.] The story was discredited when the psychiatrist in question publicly denounced the article and described the false quotes attributed to him as "absurd", "The Sun" having apparently fabricated the entire piece.
MacKenzie's coverage of the British miners' strike, 1984-1985 supported the police and the Thatcher government against the striking NUM miners. The paper was accused of making misleading or even outright false claims about the miners, their unions and
Arthur Scargill. MacKenzie at one point prepared a front page with the headline "Mine Führer" and a photograph of Scargill with his arm in the air, a pose which made him look as though he was giving a Nazisalute. The print workers at "The Sun", regarding it as an attempt at a cheap smear, refused to print it. [Greg Philo, "War and Peace News" (Open University Press, 1985), p. 138.] Some "Sun" staff reportedly threatened to resign over the coverage, although none actually did so.Fact|date=February 2007
MacKenzie's "Sun" supported the introduction of the controversial and highly unpopular Poll Tax by Margaret Thatcher and consistently stuck by Thatcher and her government on the issue despite widespread opposition which culminated in huge public protests, riots and eventually mass non-payment, all of which is seen as having contributed to Thatcher's own downfall before the tax was quickly repealed by her successor
John Major. "The Sun" labelled those attending public protests opposing the tax as "thugs". [ [http://www.kirkbytimes.co.uk/news_items/2004_news/scum_history.html "A History of The Scum (S*n 'newspaper')",] "Kirby Times News", 2004. Retrieved on 4 May 2007.]
In 1987, MacKenzie published a front-page story alleging that pop singer
Elton Johnhad had sex with underage rentboys. These claims were without any foundation and entirely false. Shortly after, MacKenzie published further allegations that the singer had had the voiceboxes of his guard dogs removed because their barking kept him awake at night. Not only were these additional claims also completely untrue, but MacKenzie himself confirmed their inaccuracy shortly after publication by sending a reporter to the singer's house, who quickly discovered that all of his guard dogs were quite capable of barking (MacKenzie later admitted that in retrospect he found it difficult to understand why he had believed, never mind published, the claims about the guard dogs which he later realised were self-evidently absurd). Elton John sued "The Sun" for libel over both these claims and was later awarded £1,000,000 in damages. [Kelvin McKenzie [http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/04/26/1019441297184.html "Boss applies blowtorch over rentboys",] story from "The Guardian" as reproduced in the "Sydney Morning Herald",27 April 2002. Retrieved on 4 May 2007.] MacKenzie later said of Elton John
There were many other controversies during MacKenzie's time in charge of "The Sun". MacKenzie at one point ran a story about a previously unknown member of the public who had just undergone a heart transplant operation, the story denouncing the man as a "love rat", Sun journalists having been told that he had left his wife fifteen years earlier. Aside from criticism about the story's highly questionable news value, the newspaper was furiously condemned as the story was run when the man's recovery was still in the balance.
Indeed, many commentators accused MacKenzie and his team of simply inventing many of the stories that appeared in the newspaper, as well as interviews, and in some instances this was proven to be the case, most notably when an entirely fabricated interview with the disfigured Falklands war hero
Simon Westonwas published, which was criticised for "inviting readers to feel revulsion at his disfigurement". Some other notable controversies that occurred under MacKenzie include a headline describing Australian Aboriginesas "The Abo's: Brutal and Treacherous" (which was condemned as "inaccurate" and "unacceptably racist" by the Press Council) and MacKenzie's sending of photographers to break into a psychiatric hospital to ask actor Jeremy Brett, who was a patient in the hospital at the time and who was suffering from manic depressionand dying of cardiomyopathy, whether he was "dying of AIDS". The newspaper apparently suspected Brett of being a homosexual and that his mystery illness might be AIDS, which it wasn't. [David McKie [http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1502251,00.html "The very best of Holmes",] "The Guardian", 9 June 2005. Retrieved on 4 May 2007.]
These incidents caused "The Sun" to become a laughing stock in some quarters and to be heavily condemned in others, but the newspaper's profile increased dramatically during MacKenzie's time as editor although sales figures dipped On the subject of the sensationalist and sometimes inaccurate reporting which appeared in "The Sun" during his time as editor, MacKenzie has said:MacKenzie's denial that he ever knowingly published lies or fabrications would appear to be false bearing in mind the aforementioned Simon Weston and Tony Benn stories, which were both proven to be based on fabricated interviews invented by "The Sun" themselves, as well as the allegations by "Sun" staff that MacKenzie printed deliberate misinformation about Scargill and the miners.
Coverage of the Hillsborough disaster
In April 1989, the single biggest controversy during MacKenzie's reign occurred, later described in a "Sun" editorial in 2004 as "the most terrible mistake in our history", during the aftermath of the
Hillsborough disaster, a deadly crush which occurred during an FA Cupsemi-final at Hillsborough football stadium in Sheffieldclaiming the lives of 96 Liverpool fans.
"The Sun" printed the front-page headline "The Truth", with three sub-headings, "Some Fans Picked Pockets of Victims", "Some Fans Urinated on the Brave Cops" and "Some Fans Beat Up PC Giving Kiss Of Life". The accompanying article claimed that ticketless and drunken Liverpool F.C. fans were responsible for the disaster, having supposedly tried to fight their way into the stadium by rushing the turnstiles and attacking policemen outside the ground. Further specific allegations were made that during the disaster itself Liverpool fans inside the stadium had stolen wallets and other items from the dead, had urinated over policemen and the bodies of dead fans, that they had beaten policemen, ambulance men and rescue workers attempting to save the lives of other fans and had sexually abused the body of a dead girl after shouting "throw her up and we'll fuck her" to policemen moving her body.
The sources for these allegations were stated to be anonymous high-ranking police officers from Sheffield Police and
Irvine Patnick, a Conservative MP from Sheffieldwho wasn't actually present at the match. (On 11 January 2007 on BBC TV's Question Time, MacKenzie additionally claimed that one of his sources was a Liverpool news agency.) The article was accompanied by graphic photographs showing Liverpool fans, including young children, choking and suffocating as they were being crushed against the perimeter fences surrounding the terraces - this was widely condemned as inappropriate.
The coverage and the allegations caused intense uproar on
Merseyside(where "The Sun" was boycotted, with public burnings of the paper organised and many newsagents refusing to stock it at all) and widespread criticism and condemnation from many commentators. The Press Council described the allegations unequivocally as "lies". The official government enquiry into the disaster dismissed the allegation that drunken Liverpool fans had been responsible for the disaster and concluded that inadequate crowd control and errors by the police had been the primary cause of the tragedy.
Prior to the publication of "The Sun's" initial article, a number of local newspapers in
Yorkshirepublished very similar allegations (such as "The Sheffield Star" and "The Yorkshire Post"). [ [http://www.contrast.org/hillsborough/history/media.shtm Hillsborough Football Disaster - The Immediate Aftermath - The Media reaction] , Contrast website. Retrieved on 4 May 2007.] It has since emerged that many British national newspaper editors were offered the same story from the same sources the day before "The Sun" article was published (including Andrew Neilat Murdoch's " The Times") but while many national newspapers printed allegations about Liverpool fans being responsible for the disaster, only MacKenzie and his counterpart at " The Daily Star" were prepared to print the more outlandish allegations about theft and abuse of dead bodies, with many editors feeling that the claims sounded dubious. Furthermore, the other national papers which printed coverage claiming Liverpool fans to be responsible for the disaster, including "The Daily Star", withdrew their allegations and apologised the day after publication, whereas "The Sun" did not.
In their book about the history of the Sun, Peter Chippindale and Chris Horrie wrote:Murdoch for his part ordered MacKenzie to appear on
BBC Radio 4's "The World This Weekend" in the aftermath of the controversy to apologise. MacKenzie was quoted on the programme as sayingcquote|It was my decision and my decision alone to do that front page in that way and I made a rather serious error. In 1993 he told a House of Commons National Heritage Select Committee thatcquote|I regret Hillsborough. It was a fundamental mistake. The mistake was I believed what an MP said. It was a Tory MP. If he had not said it and the chief superintendent (David Duckenfield) had not agreed with it, we would not have gone with it. In 1996, MacKenzie again discussed the matter on Radio 4 but this time claimed:
Sales of "The Sun" on Merseyside have never recovered, costing
News Internationalseveral million pounds a year, despite a belated full page apology by the newspaper in 2004. Many newsagents still refuse to stock it even today.
MacKenzie re-ignited the controversy in November 2006 when he claimed that his allegations about the Hillsborough tragedy had been true after all (see below).
After leaving "The Sun"
In January 1994 MacKenzie moved to
BSkyB, another of Murdoch's News Corporationassets. MacKenzie left within a few months.
In 1995 MacKenzie joined
Mirror Group Newspapersand was appointed joint boss of their fledgling L!VE TVBritish cable televisionchannel. The station had previously been headed by Janet Street-Porter, who had set out to establish L!VE TV as an alternative, youth-orientated channel. She clashed with MacKenzie over program content and soon left, leaving him in sole charge.
He later said that he would agree to indulge in a "night of passion" with Janet Street-Porter and that she would be "willing", but only if she paid him £4.7m, a figure he had arrived at after calculating how much money he would lose from "loss of reputation, the negative impact on future earnings etc."
MacKenzie took a radically different approach and was criticised for producing severely downmarket programming. MacKenzie introduced features such as nightly editions of 'Topless Darts' (featuring topless women playing darts on a beach), 'The Weather in Norwegian' (with a young, typically blonde and
bikini-clad Scandinavian woman presenting weatherforecasts in both English and Norwegian), other weather forecasts featuring dwarfs bouncing on trampolines and stock exchange reports presented by Tiffany, a young female presenter who would strip naked as she read out the latest share prices. A large amount of airtime was given over to tarot card readersand astrologers. L!VE TV's best known character was the News Bunny, a man dressed as a giant rabbit who popped up during news broadcasts to give a thumbs up or a thumbs down to the various news stories to indicate whether or not he found them interesting or exciting.
The station had a budget of only £2000 an hour and attracted very little in the way of an audience, never being watched by more than an average of 200,000 viewers but the channel was well known because of the controversy and criticism surrounding its programming, which led to the station being labelled "Tabloid TV" and even "Sun TV" (in reference to the newspaper, some critics accusing MacKenzie of doing nothing more than creating a television version of his old newspaper). MacKenzie has been accused of taking a "shamelessly tacky approach". He eventually left the station in 1997. He has later said of L!VE TV: cquote|Bouncing weather dwarfs were a major milestone in British TV. Their weather forecasts will be five years old now. We used to shoot them in batches ... and it was just luck if the forecast actually coincided with the weather. We were really ahead of our time. If Channel 5 put on Topless Darts at 10pm they would double their ratings". [cite web| author=Claire Cozens| url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,3858,4670161-103676,00.html| title=News bunny's back, say Live TV lads| publisher="
The Guardian"| date=16 May 2003| accessdate=2007-05-04] The station failed and had to close down.
In November 1998 MacKenzie headed a consortium (TalkCo Holdings) which purchased Talk Radio from CLT for £24.7 million. One of the financial backers was
News International, News Corporation's main UK subsidiary. [cite news | title = MacKenzie's battle of the airwaves | publisher = BBC News | date = 1998-11-09 | url =http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/210952.stm | accessdate = 2006-09-26 ] In 1999 TalkCo was renamed The Wireless Groupand in January 2000 Talk Radio was rebranded as TalkSport. The Wireless Group acquired The Radio Partnership in 1999, gaining control of its nine local commercial stations. In May 2005, it was announced that the Northern Ireland media company, UTV plc, had made an agreed offer to buy the company, subject to shareholder and regulatory approval. In June 2005 the takeover proceeded, with MacKenzie being replaced by UTV executive Scott Taunton. The station lost listeners during Mackenzie's tenure.
In September 2005 MacKenzie took over
Highbury House Communications, a magazine publishing company based in Bournemouthand Orpington. HHC held a number of titles mainly in the Leisure and Computing (Games) market with a ' ladette' title sitting uncomfortably in their portfolio. HHC was already suffering from massive debts when MacKenzie took the reins and despite efforts on his part to broker a life-line to save the ailing company, he had inherited a poisoned legacy. This venture also failed Highbury didn't survive, and closed its doors in December 2005.
MacKenzie then spent a year as chairman of one of the UK's largest marketing and communications groups, Media Square plc.Things did not work out and he left in March 2007. [Chris Tryhorn [http://business.guardian.co.uk/story/0,,2045291,00.html "MacKenzie quits marketing group",] "The Guardian", 29 March 2007. Retrieved on 4 May 2007.]
MacKenzie has appeared on the
BBC's " Grumpy Old Men" TV series, discussing his pet hates. Ironically, considering the programme is made by the BBC, on one edition he accused the BBC of having a left-wing bias and of producing out-dated and poor quality programmes and news. MacKenzie said that the reason for this was that that BBC Television Centreis populated almost exclusively by "left-wing turds".
Despite the aforementioned criticism of the corporation, in March 2006 MacKenzie joined
BBC Radio Five Liveas a presenter. He made his debut on the station over the summer, presenting a series of programmes telling the story of various scandals which have occurred at FIFA World Cuptournaments over the years. He then presented a retrospective look at the year gone by on Christmas Day. [ [http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2006/03_march/30/mackenzie.shtml "Kelvin MacKenzie makes his debut on Five Live"] , BBC press release, 30 March 2006. Retrieved on 4 May 2007.]
In May 2006 MacKenzie "The Sun" to replace columnist Richard Littlejohn, where he has again courted controversy, being accused using one of his columns to launch an attack on the people of Scotland (see below). cite web| url=http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=1&storycode=34843| title=Sun ed and MacKenzie clash in "tartan tosspots"| publisher=Press Gazette| date=10 July 2006| accessdate=2007-09-12] MacKenzie has stated that he has never regarded himself as a good writer and that it takes him a day and a half to finish each column. On the subject of the columns themselves, he has said "I want to get the
Lonsdale Beltfor vile and be personally rude to as many people as possible."
In May 2008, MacKenzie stood for election as a local councillor in
Elmbridge. [cite news|url=http://www.spectator.co.uk/the-magazine/features/628846/part_3/why-im-standing-to-be-a-local-councillor.thtml|title=Why I’m standing to be a local councillor|last=MacKenzie|first=Kelvin|date=2008-04-23|publisher="The Spectator"|accessdate=2008-06-13] He lost the election, gaining 227 votes whereas the Conservative seat holder Glenn Dearlove won 679. [cite news|url=http://www.yourlocalguardian.co.uk/news/topstories/display.var.2242241.0.tories_win_majority_in_elmbridge.php?act=login|title=Tories win majority in Elmbridge|last=Grove|first=Kerry|date=2008-05-02|publisher="Your Local Guardian"|accessdate=2008-06-13]
Member of ParliamentDavid Davis announced that he would resign his seat in the House of Commons in order to fight a by-election as a protest against the Government's plans for 42-day detention without charge for terrorist suspects, MacKenzie announced that he was likely to contest the election on a pro-42-day detention platform, stating: "I have been associated with "The Sun" for 30 years. "The Sun" is very, very hostile to David Davis because of his 28 day stance and "The Sun" has always been very up for 42 days and perhaps even 420 days". [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7452264.stm|title=Ex-Sun editor to challenge Davis |date=2008-06-13|publisher=BBC News|accessdate=2008-06-13]
Off camera, before a BBC interview, MacKenzie referred to Hull, which the Haltemprice and Howden constituency borders, as "an absolute shocker." Asked to clarify those comments, he said it was "a joke" and that he has "never actually been to Hull". [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7452264.stm|title=Ex-Sun editor to challenge Davis|date=2008-06-13|publisher=BBC News|accessdate=2008-06-13]
MacKenzie subsequently decided not to run for the Haltemprice and Howden seat, stating: "The clincher for me was the money. Clearly the "Sun" couldn't put up the cash – so I was going to have to rustle up a maximum of £100,000 to conduct my campaign". [cite news|url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2008/jun/19/daviddavis.byelections?gusrc=rss&feed=media|title=MacKenzie explains decision not to stand in David Davis byelection|last=Percival|first=Jenny|date=2008-06-19|publisher="The Guardian"|accessdate=2008-06-19]
Hillsborough controversy reignited
During an after-dinner speech to Mincoffs Solicitors LLP (a Newcastle-based law firm) on 30 November 2006, MacKenzie is reported to have said of his coverage of the Hillsborough disaster:
The remarks were met with widespread incredulity and condemnation, particularly on Merseyside, where Liverpool F.C., the local "
Liverpool Echo" and numerous local MPs condemned MacKenzie, with WaltonMP Peter Kilfoylearguing that the quotes confirmed that MacKenzie was "never fit to edit a national newspaper". The "Liverpool Echo" called for "The Sun" to sack MacKenzie as a columnist. "The Sun" issued a statement saying that they had "already apologised for what happened and we stand by that apology." However despite reports of consternation at "The Sun" over MacKenzie's statements, the newspaper chose to retain him as a columnist. MacKenzie himself refused to comment publicly on the controversy and pulled out of a scheduled appearance on BBC TV's " Question Time" later that week. [cite web | url=http://icliverpool.icnetwork.co.uk/0100news/0100regionalnews/tm_headline=ex-sun-editor--i-was-right-on-hillsborough&method=full&objectid=18190784&siteid=50061-name_page.html | title=Ex-Sun editor: I was right on Hillsborough| author=Sam Lister| publisher=" Liverpool Daily Post"| date=1 December 2006| accessdate=2006-12-01] [cite web| author=Tara Conlan| url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1961898,00.html| title=MacKenzie 'reignites Hillsborough row'| publisher=" The Guardian"| date=1 December 2006| accessdate=2007-05-04]
Earlier that autumn MacKenzie had already provoked controversy in Liverpool by stating in a "Press Gazette" interview that he had never knowingly printed any lies in "The Sun" and that even stories which later turned out to be untrue were still "good stories". In relation to the publishing of false or misleading reports in "The Sun", MacKenzie asked "What am I supposed to feel ashamed about?" MacKenzie was not specifically referring to the coverage of the Hillsborough disaster and made no mention of the tragedy during the interview, but the Liverpool Echo published a piece reporting MacKenzie's statements and criticising the apparent lack of shame or regret over the Hillsborough coverage implied by them (and the fact that MacKenzie may still regard the misleading coverage as a "good story").
Although there was actually little reaction to the quotes on Merseyside at the time, they did draw comment from Phil Hammond, chairman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, who said: "I can't believe that even after all these years, there is no remorse or regret for the hurt he caused". [Roy Greenslade [http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/greenslade/2006/10/mackenzie_no_lies_claim_angers.html "MacKenzie 'no lies' claim angers Merseyside",] blog on "The Guardian" website, [no date] . Retrieved on 4 May 2007.] It was still thought at this point however that, although MacKenzie appeared not to regret the coverage, he no longer regarded it as having any factual basis after his apparent admissions in the past that the allegations made were lies fed to him by police officers and a Tory MP. On 6 January 2007 a protest took place at
AnfieldStadium, the home of Liverpool F.C., during the FA CupThird Round match against Arsenal F.C.. The protest was organised by fan group Reclaim The Kop, with the support of Liverpool F.C., and was directed towards MacKenzie personally and his continuing allegations about Hillsborough, and also towards the BBC (who were present at the stadium, broadcasting the game live on TV) for employing MacKenzie as a radio presenter and paying him with TV licencepayers' (and therefore public) money. Almost 12,000 people in the Kop stand held up a mosaic which spelled out the words 'The Truth' whilst Liverpool supporters chanted "Justice for the 96" for six minutes, signifying the length of time that the Hillsborough game played on for before being abandoned. MacKenzie did not respond to the protest publicly.
On 11 January 2007 MacKenzie appeared on BBC TV's "
Question Time" programme, held in his home countyof Kent. Towards the end of the program, MacKenzie was asked by presenter David Dimblebyabout "The Sun"'s claims about the Hillsborough disaster. MacKenzie stated that he stands by his allegation that ticketless fans were the cause of the disaster but that he does not know whether the other allegations about theft from the dead and fans urinating over victims and policemen were true. MacKenzie also claimed that an unnamed Liverpool news agency was one of the sources for the "Sun" story, something that he has never claimed before. Clare ShortMP suggested MacKenzie should apologise to the bereaved families and survivors who say that his claims cause them distress and hurt but he refused, claiming that it would make no difference anyway due to the bad blood between himself and Liverpool F.C.MacKenzie suggested that those who feel angry at him should instead direct their anger towards "someone who caused the disaster". MacKenzie was heckled by some members of the audience while Short was applauded when she repeated her suggestion that he should retract his claims and apologise, but MacKenzie remained adamant that he has nothing to apologise for.
In February 2007, "Independent" journalist Matthew Norman claimed that MacKenzie is considering issuing a public apology for his coverage of the Hillsborough disaster, although he is "still unsure" as to whether to do so. [ [http://news.independent.co.uk/media/article2303477.ece "Matthew Norman's Media Diary",] "The Independent", 26 February 2007. Retrieved on 4 May 2007.] His former colleague at "The Sun"
Roy Greensladehas suggested that the real reason why MacKenzie may be so hesitant to apologise and admit the inaccuracy of the coverage may be his "anti-Scouse" bias, which Greenslade suspects makes it difficult for MacKenzie to "bring himself to say sorry to the city's people". [Roy Greenslade [http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/greenslade/2007/02/vote_vote_vote_for_kelvin_mack.html "Vote, vote, vote for Kelvin MacKenzie",] blog on "The Guardian" website, c28 February 2007. Retrieved on 4 May 2007.] In the 80's, MacKenzie's "Sun" (along with other Murdoch-owned newspapers) published a number of attacks on the city of Liverpool, criticising the city's TrotskyistMilitant-led council and its strong opposition to the Thatcher government, and the supposed radical left-wingtendencies of the city's inhabitants, as well as promoting many negative stereotypes of Liverpudlians. "The Sun" at one point under MacKenzie would regularly refer to the city as the ' Socialist Republicof Liverpool'.
Attacks on Scotland
MacKenzie has courted further controversy recently by making a series of attacks on the people of
Scotlanddespite the fact that he himself has some Scottish ancestry - his grandfather was from Stirling.cite web| author=Hamish MacDonell| url=http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/politics.cfm?id=1636442007 | title=The strange case of the ex-editor with Scottish blood who just can't resist attacking Scotland| date=13 October 2007| publisher=" The Scotsman"| accessdate=2007-12-17] In addition, his three names, are all traditionally Scottish. Kelvin for example, is the name of one of the rivers that runs through Glasgow, and his brother is called Bruce, which is the name of one of the Scottish royal families.
In July 2006, MacKenzie wrote a column for the "Sun" newspaper referring to Scots as '
TartanTosspots' and apparently rejoicing in the fact that Scotland has a lower life expectancy than the rest of the United Kingdom. MacKenzie's column provoked a storm of protest, and was heavily condemned by numerous commentators including Scottish MPs and MSPs.
On 11 October 2007, MacKenzie appeared on the BBC's "Question Time" TV programme and launched another attack on Scotland. During a debate about
tax, MacKenzie claimed that: cquote|Scotland believes not in entrepreneurialism like Londonand the south east... Scots enjoy spending [money] but they don't enjoy creating it, which is the opposite to down south. [cite web| publisher=BBC News| url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/glasgow_and_west/7041128.stm| title=MacKenzie attack draws Scots fire| date=12 October 2007| accessdate=2007-12-17] The comments came as part of an attack on Prime Minister Gordon Brownwhom MacKenzie said could not be trusted to manage the British economy because he was "a Scot" and a "socialist", and insisting that this was relevant to the debate. Fellow panellist Chuka Umunnafrom the think tank Compass called his comments "absolutely disgraceful", and booing and jeering were heard from the Cheltenhamstudio audience. The BBC received 350 complaints and MacKenzie's comments drew widespread criticism - notably from the high-profile Scottish entrepreneur Duncan Bannatynewho responded on BBC Radio 5 Live: cquote|It is plainly wrong for MacKenzie to assert that Scottish people do not understand business and enterprise. There are some phenomenal Scottish entrepreneurs, I could name so many. I think Kelvin MacKenzie is a raving lunatic, I think he's a complete idiot and a racist idiot at that.
In a number of further interviews, MacKenzie went on to say that without England's financial support Scotland would most probably be a
* [http://www.sportrelief.com/on-air/whats-on-tv/the-apprentice Sport Relief Does The Apprentice - Official Website]
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