'I give no orders on the editorial. The editor decides what goes in the papers.'
Yet there has been a marked increase in the number of puff pieces for Channel 5 since Desmond acquired the channel just over a year ago. The blatant advertising in 'news articles'. The TV critic's recommendations for Channel 5 shows. Leo McKinstry's op-ed piece suggesting The Mentalist (shown on Channel 5) was the 'best TV detective of them all'.
But all this must be coincidental as it is solely down to the editor as to 'what goes in the papers'.
Now there's Big Brother, which Channel 5 has resurrected after it was killed off by Channel 4 because of falling ratings. It's true to say that the Star has long been obsessed with reality TV shows. Previous series of Big Brother, The X Factor and I'm A Celebrity have always had lots of coverage.
But since the start of August, the Daily Star has written 42 articles about Big Brother, including nine in the last two days. And the paper has been full of gushing praise for the show.
On 2 August we were told in an editorial that Big Brother was the perfect antidote to a gloomy summer:
So far 2011 has been a summer to forget. Rocketing prices, grim weather and tragic news have all cast a shadow. We desperately need something to shake off the gloom.
Now Big Brother is ready to explode back on our screens. And it’s set to be the most sensational series yet...Watching the exploits of all the housemates will get the nation smiling again. Sexy contestants will raise temperatures whatever the weather...A daily dose is sure to put the sparkle back into summer.
Less than two weeks later, another Star editorial claimed something similar:
While we rebuild after the riots, we must remember that life is not all doom and gloom. We need to crack a smile now more than ever. That’s why we’re DELIGHTED Big Brother is on its way back.
The Star has also been involved in feverish speculation about who the housemates for Celebrity Big Brother might be.
On 2 April, we were told by Nigel Pauley that Andy Gray, Natalie (cousin of Wayne) Rooney and Jenny Thompson were 'in line for deals'.
The following day, the Daily Star Sunday provided a much longer list of people who were wanted for the show: Charlie Sheen, Mohammed Al-Fayed, Ricky Hatton, Tinie Tempah, Joanna Lumley, Samara Weaving, Chelsy Davy, Peaches Geldof, Max George and Abbey Clancy.
A few days later, another name was mentioned on the Star's front page:
But whereas the headline clearly said Karima El Mahroug was 'in', the article by Peter Dyke said only that she was being 'lined up' for the show.
As the Guardian's Lost in Showbiz commented soon after:
LiS is certain that this is an entirely accurate reflection of the kind of celebrity that's going to rock up on a Channel 5 reality show and in no way just a random list of people currently in the news.
The names kept coming: ex-WAG Elen Rivas, model Arianny Celeste, singer Rachel Stevens and, inevitably, Imogen Thomas.
On 24 May, the paper's front page claimed that Snoop Dogg was 'going in Big Bro house' along with Radio 1's Tim Westwood. Four days later, it was Amy Winehouse who was 'going in' despite the fact her spokesman was quoted at the end of Nigel Pauley's article saying:
Amy had “no plans at the moment” to be a BB contestant.
On 5 June, the Daily Star Sunday's Ed Gleave was looking to America, mentioning Reservoir Dogs' Michael Madsen, 'Playboy girl' Bridget Marquardt and Rachel Uchitel, 'one of Tiger Woods’ mistresses'. Singer Steve Strange was mentioned by Katie Begley on 19 July and was declared 'TV gold' by a suspiciously anonymous 'pal'.
Pamela Anderson was said to be 'on the brink' of joining the show, while Peter Dyke claimed that Sid Owen had 'signed up'.
On 26 July, it appeared that the Star was suggesting Britney Spears was going to appear, running the front page headline 'Britney Big Bro dream'. It turned out, however, that she was host Brian Dowling's 'dream housemate'.
The fact that Dowling was to host Big Brother may have come as a surprise to Daily Star readers who remembered this front page from 31 March:
But then that clearly bogus story was quickly denied by Cole's spokesman who said she had 'no interest in presenting' the show.
And several of the other rumours started by the Star have resulted in firm denials.
The Star repeatedly linked Mike Tyson to the show. His response?
On 30 July, the paper claimed on the front page that Sarah Ferguson was 'set to join BB':
In the article, Katie Begley wrote:
Sarah Ferguson has given Celebrity Big Brother the royal seal of approval.
Sarah Ferguson, The Duchess of York, is the latest A-list celeb being lined up for the Channel 5 reality show...
The 51-year-old royal, who cleared her £2million debt earlier this year, has been offered a lucrative deal.
But soon after, Ferguson tweeted:
That was followed by the 'world exclusive' that Charlie Sheen was to be on the show, which was splashed on the front page on 1 August:
Katie Begley said Sheen had a £6million deal to appear. But within hours, Sheen's spokesman dismissed this as 'totally untrue'.
The day before the programme began, the Star finally mentioned one of its favourite celebs and claimed that Jordan was going to 'bust' into the house:
Peter Dyke wrote:
Jordan is set to go in...glamour girl and mum Kate Price, 33, has given a clear hint she wants to be in on the act.
For this claim, Dyke relied on the word of another anonymous pal. Had he bothered to ask the not-usually-shy-of-the-media Price, he might have found out what she thought:
Perhaps most ridiculously of all, today's front page says:
It should be clear to anyone that these are look-a-likes, but it's still shameless (and pointless?). But it takes the Star ages to admit it's all fake. Here's Peter Dyke:
Celebrity Big Brother has welcomed its biggest ever stars to the famous TV house – Prince William and Princess Kate.
As our amazing pictures show, the new-look Channel 5 Celebrity Big Brother has royal connections. The couple enjoyed a stay in the most famous house in Britain, after Buckingham Palace of course.
And we were there to capture the historic moment. The lovebirds, who married in April, frolicked on one of the luxury double beds in the bedroom. But Wills made sure the plush covers hid his crown jewels from those pesky spy cameras. Then they went for a dip in the BB pool in the garden.
Cheeky Wills even braved a bath in the BB tub, with Kate giving him a scrubdown. Without any servants on hand, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, both 29, headed to the state- of-the-art kitchen to whip up some lunch.
Afterwards they checked out the comfy sofas and chairs and took a peek at the BB welcome book and giggled at all the rules the new housemates will have to live by.
Last night a source said: “Wills and Kate are the most famous stars we have ever had in that house. It’s an amazing coup for us.
“There have been a few princesses such as Nikki Grahame and camp queens like Marco the clapping seal over the years. But they pale in comparison to these royals.”
However, if readers take a closer look they will see that “William and Kate” are in fact lookalikes.
That anonymous source quote sounds very unlikely - how can anyone claim it's an 'amazing coup' if it isn't really them?
Well, tonight the show has launched - and not one of the celebrities mentioned above has made an appearance. This doesn't necessarily mean they won't - people have gone into the house mid-way through the series before. But having got so much wrong, it doesn't look good for a paper that is billing itself as the 'Official Big Brother paper'.
At around 10pm, Friday's Daily Star front page was being distributed:
It's not quite clear how 'boobs' can win a reality TV show - and there's no quote in the article by Nadine Linge and Emma Wall that backs up the headline anyway. But look at the top of the page - before the programme had even finished, the Star had decided it had won a 'record audience'. Now, that may turn out to be true, but you suspect they had decided that line well in advance.
Similarly, the Daily Star Sunday's Ed Gleave tweeted that it was 'OFFICIALLY the best CBB launch ever!' Who'd have thought?
So what else should viewers expect? It's very clear the Star is going to try, desperately, to sell the show on its sex appeal.
Here's Peter Dyke on 13 August:
Celebrity Big Brother bosses have built a house of fun… and fear.
The good news for the stars is that it’s full of naughty treats. The gang, including The Only Way Is Essex babe Amy Childs, 21, and American Pie star Tara Reid, 35, can get frisky on a “sex-ercise machine” in the gym.
It is a vibrating power plate that bosses claim will give everyone a saucy thrill. The cameramen will also be able to catch footage of the lasses’ bouncing boobs.
How proud Dyke must be of that story.
The Star has promised a 'battle of the boobs' and that there will be 'hunks to sex up Big Brother'. There's going to be so much 'very sexy footage' it's going to nicknamed 'Peep Brother'. On 16 August, the Star said there was a 'big sexy shock':
But it's not much of a 'shock' or an 'exclusive' when the paper has been continually boasting about how much sex there is going to be. The blurb at the bottom claims:
Celebrity Big Brother will be full of naked romps
Of course, the Star's definition of the word 'romp' is an odd one. It has claimed a trip to an estate agent was a 'sexy girlie romp'. It has claimed people taking a shower are having a 'naked romp'.
But 'romp' is likely to be one of the words that will appear quite frequently on the Star's front page in the next few weeks as it desperately tries to drum up interest in Celebrity Big Brother (and the series of Big Brother that follows). Look out also for 'sex plot' and 'girl-on-girl lust' and at some point they may well claim that something has happened that is too naughty to be shown.
That 16 August front page also shows cross-promotion at its, err, finest. The Desmond-owned Star heavily promoting a programme on the Desmond-owned Channel 5, using a picture of Amy Childs taken from a photoshoot she did with the Desmond-owned new! magazine.
Expect much more of the shameless plugging and many more dubious front page headlines over the next few weeks...