Friday, March 26, 2010

It's Not Size That's Important. It's Depth.

We start, today's blog update, with an extremely alarming claim.Blimey. Anyway, it would seem that yer Keith Telly Topping was not alone in his staggering lack of appreciation for The Delicious Miss Dahl earlier this week, dear blog reader. Oh no. An Audience Appreciation Index score of just seventy (that's 'well below average, bordering on poor' for the uninitiated) must seem like cautiously good news to Sophie when compared to food critic, supersizer (and Victoria's big brother) Giles Coren's opinion of it: 'This Sophie Dahl show - what a crock of bogus, mendacious shite. What a sickening sham. The BBC should be fucking ashamed of itself.' Well, quite. He's a professional, see - never use eighteen words where one 'shite' will do.

'Page Three stunna' Amy Diamond - not to be confused with the Swedish teenage pop singer of the same name - will be among the contestants competing for the role of Dorothy in the new BBC1 show Over The Rainbow. The model has reached the 'initial list of twenty' stage of the West End talent contest and is currently vying for a spot in the final eleven, according to the Sun. On the first episode of the show, which covers the auditions, head judge Andrew Lloyd Webber will apparently expresses doubts about Diamond's suitability for the part, which was, of course, made famous by Judy Garland ... An alcoholic pill-popper. So, no obvious staggering hypocrisy there, then. However Amy was, eventually, put through to the next stage of the competition after impressing panelists John Partridge and Charlotte Church with her considerable assets. Diamond, twenty two, previously appeared on BBC3 series Glamour Girls and has dated ex-Hollyoaks actor Chris Fountain for two years.

BBC4 is to dramatise the beginnings of Coronation Street as controller Richard Klein attempts to prevent the channel becoming 'a drier, dustier world' following the BBC Strategy Review. The sixty-minute Florizel Street will be made by ITV Studios and will tell how writer Tony Warren struggled to get his working-class characters onto the screen in the conservative Britain of 1960s. 'He wrote the template for every single British soap opera since. The show is not about the BBC versus ITV - it's about the mindset as the country was coming out of a long decade,' Klein said. 'Part of BBC4's remit is to reflect culture, and soap opera is part of that. At that moment, Coronation Street was about [the rise of ] the northern, working-class voice.' Klein ordered the drama in advance of the Putting Quality First strategy review, which proposes that BBC4 should return to its highbrow roots. He is understood to be unhappy with the scaled-back remit, and told Broadcast magazine that he would guard against BBC4 becoming a dry, niche channel. 'There is always the danger it could head towards a drier, dustier world,' he said. 'It is absolutely crucial that BBC4 remains a channel that entertains as well as informs, and that plays to hundreds of thousands instead of a few thousand like some channels. I don't want to play to the sound of one hand clapping.' Good man. This blog is behind you all the way in that endeavour. He added that he hopes to be able to continue commissioning comedy on the channel, which in the past has produced hits including The Thick Of It, Lead Balloon and Getting On. Florizel Street will be part of the Great Northern Season of programmes, which will sit alongside a shared BBC2 and BBC4 season about opera. The line-up for the latter will include a Stephen Fry documentary on Wagner, in which he will examine the composer's Nazi sympathies and look at the impact of this 'indelible stain' on Fry's own love of the music.

The government has officially confirmed the fifty pence monthly landline levy for all UK homeowners and businesses to help fund superfast broadband rollout. Chancellor Alistair Darling's final Budget before the general election included the monthly tax, which was first proposed as a surprise measure in Lord Carter's Digital Britain report and then reaffirmed in the pre-Budget report last year. The levy is intended to generate around one hundred and seventy five million pounds a year to go towards the rollout of high-speed broadband networks, with the aim of reaching ninety per cent of the UK population by 2017. In his speech to parliament, Darling said: 'The UK has the potential to be a digital world leader. It needs high-speed broadband for rural areas as well as urban, it must not be limited to the well-off.' However, the levy has faced criticism that it will punish the poor yet produce a fast Internet service which only wealthy households will be able to afford. Virgin Media's current top tier fifty mbps broadband costs over thirty three pounds per month and is only available for around half of the UK, while BT's planned forty mbps Infinity package is excepted to start at around thirty one pounds per month. The Conservatives would rather see a component of the television licence fee being used by the BBC to fund high-speed broadband. The Tories also want BT to more widely open up access to its UK-wide infrastructure to competitors. On Tuesday, Ofcom laid out plans for BT to share its physical assets, including cable ducts and telegraph poles, with rival operators to increase broadband innovation. Also in the Budget, the government included tax relief measures for the UK video games industry in a move broadly welcomed by trade body TIGA. There was, however, quite a bit of negative comment concerning the decision to put ten pence duty on a bottle of cider. But, as far as yer Keith Tellly Topping is concerned any day that's a bad day for the Wurzels and for tramps in shopping centres simply has to be a good day for everyone else. It's The Law.

BBC North director Peter Salmon's efforts to encourage more commissioning from the north of England has kicked off with a first children's order for the Leeds-based factual producer True North. Salmon is urging commissioning editors and channel controllers to work with producers in the north ahead of the BBC's move to MediaCityUK in Salford next year. One of the early results is Pet And Wildlife SOS! (still a working title), a twenty-part series for CBBC. Salmon told Broadcast: 'I encouraged CBBC controller Damian Kavanagh to spend time in the North and [this] commission came out of that. My job is to help fashion a strategy for the North that allows all of the cities to feel part of the radio, TV, digital and storytelling revolution, and reassure them that the BBC will support them.' What, even Sunderland? 'You can expect more commissioners to come to the North.' I repeat, what, even to Sunderland? PAWS will see children that have never previously been exposed to animals given the chance to look after sick pets and wildlife in sanctuaries and rescue centres.

Hayley Tamaddon has claimed that she would happily work on Dancing On Ice all year. Luckily, it's only on for twelve weeks so she'll have to find herself a real job for the rest of the time. The ex-Emmerdale actress, who is the bookmakers' favourite to win the series this weekend, said that she didn't want to leave the ice because she feels like she is just starting to progress as a solo skater. 'I think the most amazing thing about this show - and I think I speak on behalf of all the contestants - is that we could go on longer. We don't want it to stop,' she said.

The BBC is poised to reveal whether there really is a pay gap between men and women at the corporation and, if so, how much it is. They have already carried out a review of pay based on gender as part of a desire to be 'ahead of the game on equal pay,' and will publish the results later this year. Recent Skillset research found that women working in the TV industry earn on average six thousand eight hundred pounds less a year less than their male colleagues, while government research shows a gender pay gap of twenty per cent nationally. The BBC review has been headed up by director of people Lucy Adams. A spokeswoman said: 'As a major public service employer, the BBC wanted to be ahead of the game on equal pay, and therefore decided to conduct an equal-pay audit.' This week, the Equality Bill passed its third reading in the House of Lords and is set to become law before the election. It will require companies with more than two hundred and fifty employees to voluntarily publish gender pay audits.

Channel 4 is folding its factual entertainment commissioning team into the features department, and will hand the head of features, Sue Murphy ,control of the newly created 'super-division.' The shake-up follows the departure of the previous head of factual entertainment, Andrew Mackenzie, to Twofour Group and will see some staff and some features commissioners below Murphy asked to apply for new posts. Head of Channel 4, Julian Bellamy, ordered the restructure to address increasing competition between the factual entertainment and features departments for the 9pm slot, and to ensure there is more co-ordination between the departments. He also wants to put more firepower behind entertainment, which are becoming increasingly important to the broadcaster as it faces the end of Big Brother next year. The move will reduce the number of commissioning posts across the department from eight to seven, but two of them were already vacant so there will not be any actual redundancies.

The soon-to-be-former culture secretary Ben Bradshaw has confirmed the winning bidders for the pilot schemes in England, Wales and Scotland for the government's ITV regional news replacement service. Newspaper publishers Johnston Press, Herald and Times Group and DC Thomson have succeeded in their joint bid for the Scottish trial with independent TV production firm Tinopolis. In the process, they beat a proposal from ITV licence holder in Scotland STV in collaboration with ITN and Bauer Radio, which will act as the reserve choice. The English trial at Tyne Tees and Border will be handled by Trinity Mirror, the Press Association and independent TV production company Ten Alps. The consortium beat strong competition in the shape of a joint proposal from ITN, Johnston Press, Newsquest, Bauer Media and the University of Sunderland. In Wales, ITV Northern Ireland licence holder UTV will take the pilot in collaboration with newspaper publisher NWN Media. The three chosen consortia will share a forty seven million pound pot of public money over the next two years under the independently funded news consortia scheme. Winning bidders will be required to provide ITV local news in their region, along with radio, mobile and online media services. Richard Hooper, who led an independent selection panel for the trials, said that he was 'most impressed' by the quality of submitted applications. 'We asked for innovation and were not disappointed. We asked bidders also to think about longer term sustainability without public funds,' said Hooper. 'Given the political uncertainties surrounding IFNCs, my colleagues and I were particularly impressed by the sustained enthusiasm and resource commitment of the bidders and the momentum that has built up to deliver innovative multi-platform multi-layered news in Wales, Scotland and the Borders/Tyne Tees region of England, competing with the BBC.' Bradshaw said that the regional news trials will be 'an important step towards our goal of ensuring choice for people who value high quality, independent local news.' He added: 'The funding available to these consortia represents a massive commitment from this government to help encourage the long term sustainability of news in the nations, locally and in the regions. I hope this focused work will now continue with everyone working together to ensure these pilots are up and running by the end of the year.' The Trinity Mirror consortium was selected for Tyne Tees and Border after promising a new multi-platform news production studio at the Newcastle Chronicle offices. Under legal requirements, there will now be a ten day 'stand still' period before contract discussions with the winning bidders can recommence. The trials could get underway in April or May, but the Conservative Party has already pledged to fight the scheme from ever going into operation if they win the election. Which they're going to so the whole thing would appear to have been a colossal waste of time and energy. In January, the oily shadow culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, with the thought of all that potential power being his giving him the biggest stiffy you can imagine, said that the Tories would 'unpick' any agreed trial contracts with bidders.

Emmerdale actor Dominic Brunt has revealed that he ended up with 'a fat lip' when he filmed a fight scene with co-star Danny Miller. In two emotional episodes which aired last night, Miller's troubled character - Aaron Livesy - was seen attacking Brunt's alter-ego Paddy Kirk. The shock moment occurred after Paddy asked Aaron if he is gay. Brunt and Miller performed a number of different takes while filming the fight, with some being more extreme than others. Speaking to the Daily Record, Brunt explained: 'We did a really violent take. It took an hour in make-up to get all the blood on my face but it was too much and not suitable for that time of night, so we did a toned-down version, which is the one they are going to use.' He continued: 'It was intense. I got a fat lip as he caught me one - but he did it by mistake. Danny also hit the table by accident and cut his knuckle.'

Some very bad news, I'm afraid. The great Dennis Hopper is said to be 'terminally ill' and is unable to undergo chemotherapy to treat his prostate cancer, his lawyer has said in court papers. Joseph Mannis said his client was therefore unable to be questioned by lawyers of his wife of fourteen years as part of divorce proceedings which are currently taking place. In previous court documents, Hopper had said he hoped chemotherapy would be successful and that he could recover. The film star, seventy three, filed for divorce from Victoria Hopper in January.

Friends and former colleagues celebrated the life and work of Equalizer actor Edward Woodward at a memorial in London yesterday. The actor's widow, Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em actress Michele Dotrice, had organised the commemoration at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Celebrities including actors June Whitfield, Sheila Hancock and Simon Pegg attended. The veteran actor, who clocked up more than two thousand television appearances in a career spanning over five decades, died in November at the age of seventy nine. His family also attended, including his father-in-law, the actor Roy Dotrice as well as Edward's four children - Tim, Peter, Sarah and Emily - all of whom have followed in the family tradition of acting. Woodward's breakthrough came in the 1960s and early 1970s in the spy series Callan, which was seen as TV's gritty and downbeat answer to the fantasy world of James Bond. One of his most celebrated roles was in the 1973 cult film The Wicker Man. More recently, he appeared in the action comedy Hot Fuzz and had a short stint in BBC soap EastEnders. Robin Hardy, who directed The Wicker Man, said previously of Woodward: 'He was one of the greatest actors of his generation, without any question, with a broad career on American television as well as British film.'

ITN has appointed former Sky1 commissioner Emma Read as its first creative director of factual, features and factual entertainment. Read, who has also worked at Discovery, has been hired to grow ITN's business in the genres across TV and online in her newly created multiplatform role. At Sky, Read commissioned the likes of Brainiac: Science Abuse, Big Ron Manager, Fat Families, UK Border Force and Bill Bailey's Bird Watching Bonanza. That's pretty much a microcosm of Sky's output in general; some good, some bad and some downright ruddy awful. She took voluntary redundancy late last year as a result of a restructure of Sky's commissioning team. She will report to ITN Productions head of factual, factual entertainment and corporate, Philip Armstrong-Dampier, who has worked with her in the past. Read commissioned several films from him and ITN during her time at Discovery and Animal Planet.

The BBC has asked BBC Worldwide to buy distribution rights to Scarlet Television's back catalogue in a deal that could see up to fifty thousand pounds returned to the independent producer's freelance creditors. Freelancers who worked on BBC2's Delia Through The Decades are owed a total of one hundred and fifty thousand pounds as a result of Scarlet going into administration in February. Delia Smith herself is said to be owed a further fifty thousand pounds and Scarlet's parent company, Motive Television, is owed over three hundred thousand. Before the collapse, Scarlet had signed an 'in-principle' agreement to sell distribution rights for its back catalogue to Digital Rights Group, but BBCW is now preparing a bid to buy the rights itself. The administrator - Janes Insolvency - expects the deal to be worth between one and two hundred thousand pounds, and plans to buy DRG out of its earlier agreement. If the deal is completed, Scarlet's creditors can expect to see between twenty five and thirty three pence-in-the-pound of the money they are owed - considerably more than creditors often receive from a company which has gone int administration. Nevertheless, some freelancers are owed up to fifteen thousand pounds individually and will still be considerably out of pocket. BBC Vision head of operations and business Anne Sullivan has been given the task of representing the corporation's interests in the administration. Negotiations are expected to be completed within a week and Janes will issue a new creditors' report on 27 March.

A rare signed first edition of George Orwell's first full-length work has sold for eighty six thousand pounds at auction. The immaculate copy of Down And Out In Paris And London - complete with dust jacket - had a pre-sale guide price of two and a half thousand pounds. The book was purchased by a private client at Gorringes Auction House in Lewes, East Sussex. Aaron Dean, book specialist at the auction house, said: 'I would be shocked if it isn't a record.' No mate, a record is a seven inch piece of black plastic with a hole in the middle, this is a book. Entirely different thing. Inside the book, Orwell - whose real name was Eric Blair - wrote to his agent Leonard Moore: 'With the author's kind regards, to Mr LP Moore without whose kind assistance this book would never have been published. Eric Blair.' It is dated 24 December 1932. Including the buyers premium, the book sold for a total of one hundred and one thousand and fifty pounds. Dean added: 'The two things that were rare about this were that it was personally inscribed by the author with a nice little ditty. Secondly, it had its dust jacket. No first editions of this book with dust jackets have been seen for twenty seven years. To put the significance of that in perspective, last year a copy which was not in great condition and didn't have a dust jacket sold for thirteen thousand two hundred pounds. This one was an absolutely brilliant copy. The dust jacket had a little bit of wear and tear but, when you took it off, the book was in mint condition.' Dean said there was strong bidding, with ten people on the telephone, and it was bought by a man in the room. He said: 'I opened the bidding at five thousand pounds and someone immediately jumped in to take it to fifteen thousand and from there it bounced up to eight six thousand pounds. I knew it would do well, I had a lot people who were hugely interested in it and the consensus was that it would reach somewhere between thirty and forty thousand. But I wasn't expecting that price. I was absolutely stunned, the room was absolutely stunned and the vendors, who were in the room, were thoroughly happy.' Down And Out In Paris And London is an autobiographical work by Orwell, split into two parts, on the theme of poverty in the two capital cities.

British actress Carey Mulligan is set to play Eliza Doolittle in a remake of My Fair Lady, according to the movie's scriptwriter Emma Thompson. Speaking to BBC 5live at the premiere of her latest movie Nanny McPhee, Emma said that the male lead of Henry Higgins has yet to be cast. It has been reported that Hugh Grant is being linked to the role. Thompson said that she would 'love him to do it,' but added nothing had been confirmed yet. When asked whether it was true that Mulligan had been cast in the musical movie, Thompson said: 'I think Carey is set to play it, yes. But we still don't know about [Henry] Higgins. I love Hugh so I'd love him to do it, he might want to, he might not want to, so we don't know yet. But hopefully we'll make it later this year.' The musical was originally staged on Broadway in 1956, starring Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison, which became a smash hit. It won nine Tony awards before transferring to London's West End. In 1964 Harrison recreated the role in the film version opposite Audrey Hepburn, which scooped eight Oscars, including best director for George Cukor.

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