Alex Brummer

TV reality is harsh, Grade must tune in fast

By Alex Brummer, March 26, 2009

Michael Grade almost certainly missed his vocation. Listening to him at fundraising ORT events, he appears a natural for America’s “Borscht Belt” comedians who, before the days of cheap flights to Florida, toured the summer resorts in the Catskills. The ITV executive chairman is in need of every bit of quick wit he has at present.

Having risen to the peak of the establishment as chairman of the BBC in the wake of the clear-out after the Hutton report, he wrongfooted the media world in November 2006 when he abandoned his post to move to ITV.


Israel can’t take US support for granted

By Alex Brummer, March 12, 2009

The great taboo of Washington politics is to criticise Israel or the support of successive US administrations for the Jewish state. All seemed well on this front in the Barack Obama camp with the choice of former New York senator Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and ex-IDF volunteer Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff.

But forming a new US administration is not like changing government in Britain, when only a handful of special advisers are switched. In the US, the changes go deep into every aspect of policymaking and occasionally a controversial figure creeps in.


The man who steered the Pru to safety

By Alex Brummer, March 5, 2009

There is not much time for corporate small talk when you accompany Mark Tucker to watch Chelsea. The Prudential chief executive weighs up every move with the eye of a seasoned professional. Weaknesses and strengths are assessed coolly without the usual invective of the football fan.


Netanyahu brings falling interest rates

By Alex Brummer, February 26, 2009

After the deluge of Gaza media coverage and the lengthy profiles of Avigdor Lieberman, the choice of Benjamin Netanhayu as Prime Minister was barely recorded in the UK press. Such coverage as there has been has largely been confined to the foreign pages — and comment has been sparse.


Sir Victor’s ‘safe’ Lloyds TSB is not so safe any more

By Alex Brummer, February 18, 2009

While researching my book on the credit crunch early last year, I met Lloyds TSB chairman Sir Victor Blank in a spacious office on London’s Gresham Street.

Blank, in his naturally laconic manner, was pleased that the bank he led had managed to avoid the worst of the toxic debt — based around US sub-prime mortgages — which had caused the credit markets to freeze over and led to the run on Northern Rock.


Public systematically misled on Gaza

By Alex Brummer, February 12, 2009

Israel has paid a heavy price for the media’s rush to judge events in recent years. In 2002, it was deemed responsible for a “massacre” in Jenin, which a subsequent investigation found to be false. During the 2006 Second Lebanon War, it was alleged that Israel had caused large loss of life at Qana, a report which turned out to be greatly exaggerated.


City trusts Mick Davis much less now

By Alex Brummer, February 5, 2009

On a crystal clear winter’s day in Trafalgar Square last month, Mick Davis, dressed in a leather jacket and open-necked blue shirt, was the star turn as he battled for Israel’s cause amid the demonisation which erupted around Israel’s Gaza operation. As chairman of UJIA, South African-born “Mick the Miner”, as he has been dubbed by the financial press, is a passionate supporter of Israel’s cause.


Beeb stand opens new front in media war

By Alex Brummer, January 29, 2009

So who would have thought it? The public debate over Israel’s conduct of the Gaza war, with allegations of war crimes and all the rest, has been displaced by the dispute over the BBC’s refusal to broadcast a humanitarian appeal. The Beeb’s rediscovery of its charter obligation to “impartiality” will have come as a pleasant surprise to its critics in Anglo-Jewry. But even the Corporation’s harshest critics would have to acknowledge that its coverage of Gaza was more balanced than that of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war.


Not the end of the retail world

By Alex Brummer, January 22, 2009

The new landscape of Britain’s high streets is becoming all too familiar.

Closing down sales, bill-littered doormats, boarded-up shops and other ugly manifestations of recession are in evidence as well-known chains from Woollies and MFI to other newer and less familiar names like Zavvi (an outgrowth of Virgin), children’s wear firm Adams and Officers Club have gone bust.

Even Marks & Spencer, once regarded as a rock of stability amid the organic mass on the high street, is closing 25 of its specialist Simply Food stores.


Variety of views make a welcome change

By Alex Brummer, January 15, 2009

Much of the UK press has been strangely vacillating in its comment on Gaza. Columns friendly to Israel’s approach on the opinion pages are followed by hostile, sometimes factually incomplete material in other parts of the paper — or vice-versa. In striving for balance, the press appears to be at war with itself.


Gaza war brings out Indy’s true colours

By Alex Brummer, January 8, 2009

There is something about Middle East conflagrations which causes newspapers and their experts to revert to type. So once again, despite my recent optimism on these pages that a new, more Israel-friendly Independent might emerge under the editorship of Roger Alton, there has been no trace of it: amid all the negative media coverage of Israel’s war against Hamas, the Indy wins the prize for the least balanced.


News-hungry media laps up Gaza raids

By Alex Brummer, December 30, 2008

From a media viewpoint, Israel could not have picked a better moment for its offensive against Hamas in Gaza. The period between Christmas and New Year is normally a desperate time for real news, with publications forced to fill the space between ads with endless retail stories, quizzes and easily forgotten predictions by key columnists.


Squeeze could benefit MidEast coverage

By Alex Brummer, December 23, 2008

Many of the same forces which are reshaping America’s media industry are impacting on Britain’s national newspapers.

The UK has 10 titles battling it out on the news-stands each day, as well as free-sheets and London’s Evening Standard. But industry analysts question whether this can continue in 2009 at a time of falling advertising revenues, competition from the internet and rising newsprint costs.

Indeed, given the intense competition, it is surprising that the UK industry has remained so durable.


Analysis: The Bernie Madoff lesson

By Alex Brummer, December 18, 2008

The last year has been appalling for individuals and charities seeking to hang on to their hard-earned savings and precious endowments.
Sharply lower equity prices, collapsing residential and property values, shrinking pension and trust funds and falling interest rates (UK rates could well be down to near zero by spring 2009) have made it all but impossible for investors to keep their money intact.


Citizen Zell finds life tough in the media

By Alex Brummer, December 18, 2008

It has not been the kindest of times for American Jewish entrepreneurs. Sam Zell, the Chicago-based tycoon who a year ago rescued the Tribune group, publishers of the LA Times, the Chicago Tribune and Newsday, has found that running newspapers in the era of the internet and 24/7 news channels is a very different game to buying up distressed property and selling it on for big profits in a rising market.


Hillary the hawk or Mrs C the peacenik?

By Alex Brummer, December 11, 2008

Barack Obama’s choice of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State has been seen in the media as both brave and foolhardy. Brave, because Mrs Clinton’s approach to Iran and the Middle East was so radically different to Obama’s during the Democratic primaries. And foolhardy because she brings with her a great deal of political baggage, not least what The Sunday Telegraph described as a “coterie of controlling, defensive and at times paranoid circle of admirers and supporters at the heart of foreign policy”.


Media blind to nature of Chabad horror

By Alex Brummer, December 4, 2008

The argument made in some quarters that a distinction can be drawn between anti-Zionism and antisemitism looks threadbare after the attack on the Chabad house in Mumbai. The Jewish centre may have provided a refuge to Israeli travellers passing through India’s commercial centre, but it was an outpost of traditional Judaism — not Israel.

As far as the terrorists are concerned, Jews and Zionists are one and the same. The inherent racism in what happened in Mumbai, where the targets were Westerners and Jews, was largely missed by the British media.


Rare insight into the chaos that is Gaza

By Alex Brummer, November 27, 2008

A key reason for the poor perception of Israel in Britain is the way events in Gaza are reported. Israel is generally depicted as the nasty jailer responsible for what is often described as the "world's biggest prison".

Admittedly, Israel's tough policy towards Gaza does not help. It was only in the past week that Jerusalem relaxed a 19-day blockade of the Hamas-controlled territory to admit humanitarian assistance.


Kosher ‘Rahmbo’ triggers a press storm

By Alex Brummer, November 13, 2008

The politically safest White House chiefs of staff have tended to be those who manage to stay out of the headlines. That will prove extraordinarily difficult for Rahm "Rahmbo" Emanuel, the first anointed member of the Barack Obama administration. He already has attracted press attention on both sides of the Atlantic - and not all of it favourable.


Will BBC now tighten Mid-East reporting?

By Alex Brummer, November 6, 2008

It is possible that the Ross-Brand affair may come to be seen as a tipping point for the BBC. It provided a sharp reminder that despite its "public service" remit and £3 billion-a-year subvention from the taxpayer, the corporation is a behemoth that has become extremely difficult to control.

The director-general, Mark Thompson, may glorify in the title of editor-in-chief, but he now runs a media organisation where it is almost impossible for Reithian standards to be upheld across all platforms.