Thursday, June 11, 2009

What's Forty Percent Of A Made-Up Figure, Dad?

The BBC's Director-General - and slapheed - Mark Thompson has reported 'a significant rise' in network production from BBC Scotland earlier this week as the BBC announced that a Scottish Season is to run on BBC4 later in the year and that all three of the BBC Scotland-produced comedies, Life Of Riley, The Old Guys and Rab C Nesbitt, have been recommissioned for new series'. The Director-General reported network production growth in Scotland from 3.3 per cent in 2007 to 3.7 per cent in 2008 and forecast a further rise to between five and six percent by the end of the current calendar year. The projected increase indicates the target, of delivering network production equivalent to Scotland's proportion of the UK population by 2016, is 'well on track.'

Alan Cumming, Peter Capaldi, Rory Bremner, Andrew Marr, Kirsty Wark, Edward Woodward and Charles Kennedy - all of whomare Scottish, apparently - are all set to take part in a variety of productions that will be part of the month-long BBC4 Scottish Season. Due to transmit in the autumn, it will include a broad sweep of programming celebrating and dissecting 'aspects of Scottish culture, art, film-making, heritage, landscape and psyche'. And advanced lager drinking, no doubt. (Only joking, my Celtic pals ...) Other contributors during the season will include film-makers Bill Forsyth, David Hayman, Peter Mullan, Andrew MacDonald and Gillies MacKinnon and artists Peter Howson, Alison Watt, John Byrne, Calum Colvin, and Roddy Buchanan. Essayist Jonathan Meades, former politician Michael Portillo and geographer Nicholas Crane will also feature.

BBC executives are widely reported in the press this morning to have warned top presenters that they will have to face a pay cut because of the ongoing recession. Around one hundred TV and radio stars are said to have attended a meeting in West London earlier this week, including Jeremy Clarkson, Terry Wogan and Bruce Forsyth. Jonathan Ross, Chris Moyles and Graham Norton were not present. The presenters were reportedly told that staff earning over £100,000 a year will have their wages reduced by twenty five percent when contracts are renegotiated, with higher-paid stars facing a drop of up to forty percent. A BBC spokesman was qidely quoted as saying: 'No organisation is immune from the economic climate and we have to find substantial savings. Talent fees are not excluded from the economic pressures faced across the organisation and these will be reflected in our ongoing negotiations.' At the same time, an agent of one of those who attended the meeting told the Guardian: 'I find it disgusting. The BBC is taking it out on the talent, while its executives have made the mistakes. They messed up over Ross, they have bad property problems, and they have spread themselves too thinly over too many services.' You must just excuse me, I need to stick an elastoplast on this bleeding heart of mine.

Actually, however, the story itself appears to be nothing more than a gross example of the press simply 'making stuff up.' I am assured, by someone who was in attendence at the meeting in question that there was no mention of cutting pay by forty percent or any other figure for that matter. There was a presentation made on how the BBC needed to save money in the future but no specifics were mentioned at all. So the press, it would appear, have lied about the whole thing like the bunch of cheap, lying scum that many of them are.

I'm shocked.

Shocked...

Is anybody else shocked?

Nah, thought not.

Meanwhile, former noted football-hater and general unathletic type Jezza Clarkson is said to have had something of an epiphany at Stamford Bridge a few weeks back as he watched Chelsea beat Manchester City. It wasn't just the on-field action that changed the closed and steely heart of the scourge of The Vile Bill Oddie (another celebrity Moscow Chelski FC fan, interestingly). After the home team scored, Clarkson gave an unwise smile to the Manchester City fan sitting behind him - who turned out to be Independent editor-in-chief, Simon Kelner. 'Honestly, I thought he was going to kick my head off,' Clarkson wrote in his Sunday Times column. Nah, not inside the ground, Jez. Not these days, anyway. But this wasn't the only aspect of the experience which The Jezster enjoyed. 'After the game I was taken to the Chelsea dressing room so that I could admire all the players' penises. Many were very enormous indeed ... I'm a fan of Chelsea. Chelsea are the only team that can play. Chelsea players have by far the most impressive reproductive organs.' What, even Ashley Cole? Come off it ... It might not be for all the right reasons, but Jezza would now appear to be a fully paid-up lover of The People's Game. It'll be The Stig taking up residence in the Prawn Sandwich stand at Old Trafford next, mark my words... Actually, as he's from Outer Space, that'd make him a local boy compared to most of their support, wouldn't it? And since Hamster seems to be becoming the patron saint of lost causes (plus, he had a wee bit of brain damage a while back), maybe he'd like in on the Newcastle United takeover?

ITV is said to be rubbing its hands together at the delicious prospect of picking up eight England matches at a knockdown price if Setanta Sports collapses. Under the terms of ITV's current deal with the Football Association, it is obliged to pick up eight England home friendlies between now and 2012 if Setanta goes under. Which, as noted yesterday, it appears to be on the verge of doing. ITV will acquire the games at around £2m per match, thought to be roughly half of what Setanta paid. Although it would mean cash-strapped ITV forking out an additional sixteen million quid or more, it is understood the broadcaster is more than happy at the possibility of taking on the rights to the England games - especially given that last night's match with Andorra got them an audience of eight million viewers.

The BBC has suggested bringing BBC3's start-time forward to 3pm – but the BBC Trust has reservations about the plan. The news emerged in a BBC Trust report on the corporation's services for young people aged above thirteen, including BBC3, Switch, Radio1 and 1Xtra. It said the BBC management has 'suggested' starting BBC3 in the mid-afternoon – predicting the extension of hours would boost the channel's reach by around twenty percent and offer better value for money. The report concluded that the BBC is serving its younger audiences well, but could improve in some areas. The broadcaster's services are believed to be used by nine out of ten young people, but the BBC Trust said they were one of the hardest demographic groups to reach. It recommended making speech output on Radio1 'more ambitious' and BBC News more accessible.

ITV will spend half-a-million pounds less on entertaining the Queen this year after it chopped the budget for The Royal Variety Performance almost in two. Broadcast magazine is reporting that ITV previously spent approximately £1.2m on the gala, which alternates between ITV1 and BBC1 each year. But with commissioners needing to trim at least £65m from this year's programming budgets, the ITV Studios team has been told it can only spend a maximum of £700,000 on the show, which will feature Britain's Got Talent winners Diversity. While talent will often waive their performance fees to appear at the event, Broadcast suggests the show has other considerable overheads including covering travel, production fees, music clearance charges, choreographers and costumes.

The Inbetweeners producers, Bwark, have had the greenlight from BBC2 for a full series of its pilot comedy, The Scum Also Rises. The six episode series - which will have a different title to the pilot - is set in an advertising agency and will be shot in front of a live studio audience, beginning this week. Adam and Joe's 'funny as a dose of the clap' Adam Buxton and 11 O'Clock Show presenter and general smug arsehole Iain Lee will star in the series. Christ almighty - Annoying Adam Buxton and The Least Funny Man In The World Iain Lee? Where do this blogger sign up for that one?

And now, the news story that everuybody knew was coming: ITV's Britain's Got Talent ratings honeymoon came to an abrupt train-crash of an end last week as the channel equalled its worst ever weekly performance. Across all hours over the seven days from 1 June, the network attracted a shockingly dreadful 15.9% share, equalling its worst performance (in the week commencing 11 August 2008) since current records began in 1994. Under ITV's definition of peaktime - 7pm to 10.30pm - the channel also fell to its lowest ever share with 19.5%. It failed to impress in the key 9pm slot across the week with Ladette to Lady on 2 June getting just 2.6 million/12.4%. 'I've fixed the plumbing at ITV,' declared Michael Grade in an interview in The Sunday Times last week. Riding on the crest of a tidal wave of viewers for Britain's Got Talent, the executive chairman proclaimed that the figures are 'the most visible apotheosis of two-and-a-half years of incredible hard work to bring this network round.' Seems he was being a tad premature. Just one week later and ITV is suffering its worst ratings in more than a decade at least. Grade's confidence may have stemmed from an expectation of a 'halo effect' - that viewers tempted to ITV on the back of BGT would stick with it and see what else it had to offer. Clearly, that hasn't happened and ITV's ratings have gone from the sublime to the flatly ridiculous in a matter of days.

The fact is, as an excellent Think Piece in this week's Broadcast has noted, ITV has a number of spectacular ratings winners in the talent show/reality genre - BGT, The X Factor, Dancing on Ice, I’m a Celebrity ... et al. But, while these highs are all well and good, the network cannot afford to plummet to such notable lows in-between. Whilst the blow from a lack of 'event TV' can be softened by strong new dramas - such as Whitechapel and Above Suspicion which attracted audiences of around eight million - the problem going forward is the budget cuts affecting this most expensive of genres.

IMG Media is planning to make a fresh round of redundancies at Tiger Aspect Productions and its Natural History subsidiary, Tigress Productions. Tiger managing director Andrew Zein said: 'Like every sensible production company, we are looking at our cost base. We have let people go over the past twelve months and there are consultations taking place with staff at Tigress and within Tiger's drama department.' Tiger's returning series include BBC1's Robin Hood, currently coming towrds the end of its third series, and ITV2's Secret Diary of a Call Girl. The cuts are expected to affect both back office and production staff.

BBC controller of comedy commissioning Lucy Lumsden has asked independent producers to tender "nimble" sitcom series ideas that could be shifted to pre-watershed slots if they are successful. She told Broadcast that she was looking for family shows that could start life in a late slot but be tweaked 'by sleight of hand' for an earlier showing if required. The big message is "think differently about pre-watershed." What is the next family comedy - I don't mean a comedy with a family in it - but the comedy that is going to keep the family laughing? What would Gavin and Stacey look like pre-watershed? I don't think we would [move it] - but we could do,' she added.

Lumsden's search follows criticism that the BBC is not introducing enough new mainstream comedies and that it is over reliant on long-running hits such as My Family. However, she said the series would have a place on BBC schedules for some time to come, even if a suitable successor was found. BBC1 controller Jay Hunt echoed her comments last week at a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch. She said: 'I get really annoyed when people say they don't like My Family. It's part of an attitude which says, "millions of people like it, therefore by default it must be bad..." I'm proud to have it in the schedule.'

Five has been allocated the fourth and final HD Freeview slot by Ofcom. The terrestrial has been chosen to offer the free-to-air service ahead of a joint proposal from Film 4 and S4C. It joins the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 with reserved capacity for a high definition channel on Freeview. Five's proposal is that it will simulcast its main public service channel programmes at peak time on HD. This means that popular programmes such as The Gadget Show, UEFA Europa League, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and blockbuster movie premieres could become available in HD from late 2010. In the future, Five expects to share its HD channel with another broadcaster during daytime hours and supply other services, such as video on demand in HD overnight.

Lastly, and most amusingly, Gordon Ramsay has apologised for calling Australian current affairs show host Tracy Grimshaw a pig after receiving a right good telephone bollocking from his mum. Ramsay, who is currently touring Australia, has been slated by the press and even the Aussie Prime Minister Kevin Rudd after launching a tirade at the popular presenter at Melbourne’s Good Food and Wine Show - criticising her looks, sexuality and depicting her as a pig. According to the Daily Mirra, after ranting at a studio cleaning lady, Ramsey reportedly said of weather girl Lavinia Nixon: 'She doesn’t know her fucking arse from her elbow.' He is then said to have told a female make-up assistant: 'Turn round the other way. I don’t want to see your fat arse.'

Ramsay revealed that he had received a blistering phone call from his mother, Helen, in the wake of publicity following his outburst. Let this be a lesson to everyone. Never piss off yer mum, there's no hiding place from her. Not even when you're on the other side of the world.

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