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Media Treatment of Gordon Brown; Paris Hilton - What Next?; Russian Cartoonist Victor Bogograd

Aired July 1, 2007 - 14:30:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome. I'm Becky Anderson in London. This is CNN's INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, where, we examine how the media are covering the big stories.
Now this week, Tony Blair makes way for Gordon Brown. We look at the relationship between the new prime minister and the press.

She has served the time and given the interview, the media frenzy over Paris Hilton.

And drawing the line, we meet one of Russia's most prolific cartoonists for his take on the country's media.

Well, we begin with the start of a new political era in the U.K. as Gordon Brown takes over from Tony Blair as prime minister. The new leader is promising new priorities as he attempts to shake off an image of spin associated with the Blair years.


GORDON BROWN, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I will try my utmost, this is my promise to all of the people of Britain. And now let the work of change begin. Thank you.


ANDERSON: Well, Tony Blair recently said that the relationship between public life and the press had been damaged. He described the media as a "feral beast" which hunts in a pack.

So how will the media treat the new British government and Gordon Brown? CNN's Robin Oakley joins me in the studio. Nicholas Jones is also with us. He is former BBC correspondent, political commentator and author. His books include "Soundbites and Spin Doctors," and "The Sultans of Spin."

Gents, we thank you very much, indeed for joining us. Tony Blair, of course, rode that beast he called the "feral beast," the beast, he said, hunted in a pack. I mean, it was all about style at that stage, wasn't it, rather than substance, Robin?

ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN EUROPEAN POLITICAL EDITOR: Yes. The huge mistake, though, that the Labour government made when it came into office was that it continued to behave as an opposition. Labour had had a pretty hard time with the British media over the years.

Eighteen years in opposition, they felt that in order to get back into power, they had to learn how to control and use the media. They did that, but then once they got into government, they continued to behave like an opposition and to use the techniques of opposition. And that lost them respect with the media and with the public.

ANDERSON: Nicholas?

NICHOLAS JONES, AUTHOR: Yes, there is no doubt about it. The Blair government did manipulate the media. And Tony Blair was close -- very close to the leading media proprietors in this country. There is no doubt there were hand-in-glove.

The challenge for Gordon Brown, the new prime minister, is can he actually turn his back on spin? He says he will try. That is what he wants to do. But I would have thought that he is probably just as addictive as Tony Blair was to manipulate in the media.

And therefore it is going to be a challenge for him. Can he actually restore trust in the British civil service? Can we get to a position where we begin to believe government statements again and government figures?

ANDERSON: So you would not be surprised if you were told that Gordon Brown had already been on the phone to the editor of, for example, The Daily Mail, the second-biggest tabloid in the country, or the editor of the broadsheet The Guardian, for example, Robin?

OAKLEY: Gordon Brown is good friends, as it happens, with Paul Dacre, the editor of The Mail. But the point that Nick makes is important. It is a question also of manipulation of the civil service as well as the media.

Remember when Alastair Campbell came in as director of communications for Tony Blair, in no time at all he had sacked a whole of lot of top Whitehall press offices. And he sent out a memo to say, don't wait for ministers to decide on a policy and then try and sell it to the public, get in there at the start and help form the policy, you, the media manipulators.

Now that is the kind of thing that has got to be corrected to change the relationship between government and media.

ANDERSON: Well, whether that is corrected or not, we don't these days also only rely on the newspapers, do we? We rely on a whole plethora of multi-media facilities. That is what the Conservative Party here in the U.K., the opposition is doing. That surely is what the Gordon Brownites are going to have to learn to do as well.

OAKLEY: That is right. You are right about our opposition party, the Conservatives. Their activists are the new attack dogs. They are the bloggers of the future. They have the best Web sites. It is their bloggers who are becoming the new pundits because, of course, the Internet, the Web sites, the blogs provide that instant sounding board for political opinion.

And my belief is it is the conservatives, their attack dogs who are way out ahead here. And it is the government, of course, it is always difficult for a government. The importance of this though, historically, is that you see, Labour, when they were in opposition, what propelled Tony Blair into government?

It was his knowledge of television. They took advantage of the expansion of television. Now I think the Conservatives are taking advantage of the Internet.

JONES: There is also a very different situation this time 'round, because the cycle that plays itself out so often is that a government wins power in a general election. A prime ministers arrives in power following a general election, he has done well at that general election partly because the media have been castigating his opponents, who have been doing badly in the run-up to the election.

So the new government comes in, and then suddenly the media turns around and starts criticizing them. And they say, hang on a minute, we thought you were on our side. The media were never on their side, they were simply criticizing the mistakes of the previous administration.

Then they start criticizing them, and the governments get all huffy and then they say, oh, well, we are not going to have relations, the media, they are all against us. They are cocked completely against us.

This time 'round, of course, Gordon Brown is taking over after 10 years' experience in government. He is not a new prime minister that has just come in. We are used to him, he is used to us. So there isn't going to be that same mutual disillusionment process.

ANDERSON: This is the first time, of course, in 17 years, that there is a new prime minister without a general election in the U.K. I wonder what we have learned experience of the States when I talk about sort of the multiplatform world that we live in as far as communications is concerned, and indeed, from the last French elections?

You were there, Robin, you were covering, you saw how Sarkozy was able to not just manipulate the old media, but the new as well.

OAKLEY: The power of the blog. And Segolene Royal, who failed in her attempt, the Socialist -- to be the Socialist president, she basically formed her policies through what she got out of the bloggers.

And any politician these days has to cope with all of these new forms of media as well as the traditional.

JONES: And our bloggers, on the Tory right -- on the right, they are breaking new ground. For example, they have now got attack ads on the Internet. And of course, broadcasting by the Internet is the future with convergence.

So if you switch on one of the conservative Web sites, you will see an attack ad, attacking, for example, Ken Livingston, the Labour lord mayor of London. Now he is portrayed as somebody who goes to Cuba, who is backed by union leaders.

It is the sort of broadcasting which is not permitted in Britain under our electoral rules where we have to have non-partisan television, but which, of course, people in America are only too accustomed to.

So it is already there. It is a breakthrough. And I would have thought the future is going to be very much come the next election that we will see a repeat of what happened in France where a lot of the political movement will be on the net.

OAKLEY: Of course, politicians always complain that we in the media are focused too much on personality. If they want to avoid people doing that, they have got to allow us a certain degree of fun in the media.

And Gordon Brown looks worryingly as though he is going to cut out a lot of the fun. Look at the way he has put his cabinet together. We used to have that wonderful scene, we would all be standing there in Downing Street, and chaps would come out of the front door of Downing Street, beaming all over their faces having been just appointed to a job, or they would come out looking pretty disconsolate having just lost a job.

And all of that is gone, you know, Gordon Brown does it all behind the scenes in the House of Commons, people trouping in and out of his office there, nothing in public.

Well, I'm not sure that that is the kind of open government that he was promising us, you know? If he takes away all of the fun, then he is going to find people rounding on him a bit.

JONES: Yes. But he is not going to be the emotional rollercoaster that we had with Tony Blair. We got that already, that message, from Gordon Brown.

ANDERSON: We are going to have to leave it there. We thank you guys very much indeed for joining us.

Still to come on INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, out of jail and into a media storm. The frenzy surrounding Paris Hilton, that first interview, and what is next for the hotel heiress. Stay with us.


ANDERSON: Welcome back, now Paris Hilton, it is a name that has dominated the entertainment headlines from weeks. The hotel heiress was jailed, released, returned to prison, and now she is free once again.

Well, the Hilton case has sparked nothing short of what was a media frenzy. Photographers camped outside Hilton's home as news outlets battled it out for the first post-prison interview with the famous socialite.

The first television interview ultimately went to CNN's Larry King.


LARRY KING, HOST: What do you think it is about you, Paris, that everybody follows you around? I mean, you must have examined it in your life. Why do people -- photographers, paparazzi, why you?

PARIS HILTON: I have no idea. I'm just -- I just have been living my life and.

KING: I mean, you don't call them up and say, I'm going to down to Third Street tomorrow, be there?

HILTON: No, actually, from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep, they are outside my house following me all day long.

KING: When did that start?

HILTON: I moved to New York when I was 16. I started modeling. And ever since then.


ANDERSON: Well, Hilton has vowed to shed her party girl image and prove that she is a changed person. So with this new makeover, will the media continue to be fascinated by her? Well, for that we turn to CNN entertainment reporter Brooke Anderson. She is in our Los Angeles bureau. And here in these studios, Simon Astaire, a media adviser to Hollywood celebrities and the British royal family.

Brooke, lets start with you. You have been part of this feeding frenzy, as it were, just describe how it has been.

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Oh, it has been non-stop coverage, Becky. At times really breathless coverage. And it all seemed to really reach a fever pitch at her probation violation hearing in early May.

And then I thought it would diminish a little bit, but it didn't. It continued at the same intensity throughout her stint in jail, and then also throughout her release. And you know, I was at the jail on the night she was released, and the sheriff's department spokesman said that it is remarkable the amount of attention that this case has garnered.

He also said that they had beefed up security, increased it. They were very cognizant that they had a high profile person as an inmate. And he also said that the sheriff was recently in Turkey, Becky. And that in Turkey people were even talking about Paris Hilton and asking him about this celebrity social life.

But I will say this, maybe the curiosity is waning a little bit, because one of the most popular successful celebrity magazines, in the U.S. at least, US Weekly, has decided not to put Paris Hilton on its cover, nor mention her name whatsoever in its issue this week, citing "Paris fatigue."

So we may see a little bit of a decline going forward.

ANDERSON: It is interesting, because -- so why are we so fascinated by her? Or indeed, perhaps, why have we been persuaded to be so fascinated by her by the media?

SIMON ASTAIRE, CELEBRITY ADVISER: Well, first, I think a magazine not putting her on the cover this week is with gritted teeth rather than, you know, anything else. Why are we fascinated with her? Because she is a phenomena of the age. The age is of reality television, and there isn't a bigger star in the world.

And when you have phenomenas (ph), they fit in a certain type of era. And Paris Hilton, when you look back over the years, she is the biggest star of the era. So it fits.

ANDERSON: As what?

ASTAIRE: As a reality star. She is -- she has done nothing. But she is -- she has a very famous name which people recognize. And she is the epitome of the reality age. And that is why it creates a phenomena with media and everything else, because she is the number one.

ANDERSON: Brooke, how does she then manage her media going forward? If you are to be believed, that there is some "Paris fatigue" out there, what happens next?

BROOKE ANDERSON: Well, it is interesting, because she has professed a desire to really get involved with charitable efforts. She wants to be in philanthropies -- involved in philanthropies. And you know, during the "LARRY KING LIVE" interview, she spoke about that a little bit.

She talked about how she wants to be an advocate in the fight against breast cancer, multiple sclerosis, build a transitional home for inmates after they are released. But a lot of people I have spoken to say they weren't satisfied with the way Paris was talking about these issues, that she showed no passion, no emotion.

So I think that the real challenge for Paris going forward is to be sincere, is to be believable, and is to walk the walk after she talks the talk. I have spoken to paparazzi who have made a living following Paris Hilton around, getting those money shots. And they tell me, you know, if she doesn't go to the clubs, if she doesn't go to those shops where she normally shops, they will still photograph her, say, at a homeless shelter or doing charitable things. And they would like to do that.

So Paris still has a chance here. But like Simon says, she is famous for nothing really. So it is quite baffling.

ANDERSON: Simon, isn't that the problem there, when you have got a -- forgive me, but a fairly vacuous character, how do you go about managing her media image going forward? That is your job for many people. So tell me how you do it?

ASTAIRE: OK. I have dealt with vacuous people in my life. If you are going to make statements that I'm going to get involved in charity -- which seems like if -- advisers got together, say, hey, maybe you should mention the charity aspect in your first interview.

But if you are going to say that, there has to be follow-through. If there is no follow-through then the phenomena will at least lessen. But you know, she will be followed. She is the most famous -- virtually the most famous person on Earth at the moment, which is extraordinary and a reflection, I would suggest, on the world we are living in at the moment.

And -- but she has to have that momentum. I mean, if I was advising her, I would go for the brands, you know? I would say, now Paris Hilton, the most famous -- virtually the most famous name in the world today, so we use the brand.

We have the clothing line and we have this and we have that. And we use that name which is synonymous with an age and, you know, their success.

ANDERSON: I'm wondering just what sort of charity she would need to do and whether her and Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears need to get together, for example, to get -- you know, put together some charity they can all work on. What do you think of that?

ASTAIRE: I'm sure they will get together. But you know, I think prison orientated charities I would advise against, you know? Let's move on from that 30 days of -- or how many days?

ANDERSON: Twenty-six.

ASTAIRE: Yes, move on to something else. Maybe her -- and I'm really trying not to be cynical here. But a relation who was particularly sick with some horrific disease, maybe support that.


BROOKE ANDERSON: I agree, Becky. But I think the bottom line is that she needs to be sincere. She doesn't just need to do this for her image. The Hiltons have hired a crisis manager, so they are working hard to put a certain face forward.

But the bottom line is, she has to be sincere. She has to be authentic or people are not going to accept that. And then the brand of Paris Hilton may suffer. And she says she has worked hard to develop that brand.

She is an actress. She is a singer. No one would say anything is Oscar-caliber or Grammy-worthy. But she says she does work hard. And that is very important to her that she just doesn't take family money.

But she really has to be believable going forward. And she has to want to do it herself, really help others.

ANDERSON: There are many Hollywood icons and those who have been associated with Hollywood -- (INAUDIBLE) perhaps we can them icons, who got into the same sort of trouble, been banged up, come out, said things are going to be better, they are going to clean up and move on.

Is there anybody that comes to mind that you think really sort of exemplifies or personifies Paris Hilton and what she needs to do next?

BROOKE ANDERSON: Well, a lot of celebrities have gone through rehab or have gone through jail and cleaned themselves up. Angelina Jolie has never had those types of legal problems, although she did go through a wild phase earlier in her life, in her career. And now she has really used her celebrity and used her money for positive things.

So maybe Paris could walk in the footsteps maybe of an Angelina Jolie or a Bono, who is using their time in the spotlight to bring attention to more serious issues that people need to focus on.

ASTAIRE: I mean, I agree with the -- her time in the spotlight, but let's be clear here, Angelina Jolie is an actress who can act and has been lauded for her acting on certain movies anyway. And Bono is, you know, the lead singer of one of the most successful bands of the last 50 years.

So they do have that element of their career that they can fall back on and say, you know, if things are going really badly, you know, at least I can do a movie and maybe I can do it with Scorsese and maybe I can be respected for that.

This poor girl, maybe the wrong adjective, but she hasn't got that. So it is very -- it is -- in a way, it is a lonely existence.

ANDERSON: Thank you, guys, Simon Astaire, Brooke Anderson in L.A.

Still to come on INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, putting pen to paper. We meet a Russian cartoonist for his take in pictures on the state of the country's media. That is next. Stay with us.


ANDERSON: Welcome back. Now Russia, it is a nation that it is often singled out by press freedom groups when it comes to allowing journalists to report. As part of CNN's "Eye on Russia" week, Jim Clancy hooked up with the one of the country's most prolific cartoonist for his perspective on the state of Russia's media and indeed on what the future holds.


JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From a small apartment in St. Petersburg, political cartoonist Victor Bogorad projects his view of Russian life. And in his view, real politics in Russia has disappeared.

"I'm telling you, it just doesn't exist," he chuckles. "There are parties, but no politics."

As Victor takes pen to paper, he is in a world of black on white. Bogorad said he is free to draw what he likes, but editors of major of newspapers simply don't publish anything that might be considered controversial or offensive to pro-Kremlin politicians.

He depicted the situation in a drawing he made for us, asserting the press voluntarily position themselves as captives behind the security services and bureaucrats who run Russia today.

"I have no idea whether Putin has a thin or a thick skin," he says. "Under the system that he created, local administrators are trying to please him, trying to prevent any criticism. I think this is what you might call, 'local initiative'?"

"The result," he says, "is that Russia's media censors itself to remain in favor. It is not just the journalists who are held captive." In another quickly-penned impression, Victor Bogorad depicts Russia's situation like this.

The journalists, who are supposed to be doing the reporting, are in one cage. And their viewers, readers, or listeners are, as a result, in nothing less than a cage themselves.

"The majority of our population lived under the Soviet Union when everything was decided for them. They are used to this situation. From my point of view, we are going back to the Soviet Union. A lot of people are happy when things are decided for them, when they have a job and a stable salary."

For Bogorad, things were preferable in what he calls "the time of chaos," the Yeltsin years. His thousands of cartoons are a catalogue of the personalities and controversies that shape the new Russia.

If past is prologue, Bogorad says he doesn't need glasses to see what lies ahead. Timid newspaper editors will continue to watch their readership decline. The big television media will keep Kremlin critics off the air.

But as he depicts here, the younger generation is already turning to the Internet for news. It doesn't matter whether parents in the home or Putin up on the big screen want them to do otherwise. It is a fact they are powerless to change.

"I'm moderately optimistic," he chuckles, "why? Well, as they say, a pessimist is a well-informed optimist. In my case, I probably don't know a lot yet." Fortunately for Russia, what he knows he shares each time he puts pen to paper.

Jim Clancy, CNN, St. Petersburg.


ANDERSON: Well, that is it for this edition of INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS. Do tune in again next time for another look at how the media are handling the big issues.

I'm Becky Anderson in London. Thank you for joining us.