Friday, May 14, 2010

Colliding Satellites

A rogue TV satellite - drifting out of control - is threatening to black out television programmes for millions of viewers in America. The communications satellite, Galaxy 15, is staying close to the orbit of another craft, AMC 11 and, whilst a collision has been ruled out, it could potentially disrupt AMC 11's transmissions. Intelsat said it lost control of Galaxy 15 on 5 April, with the satellite's systems possibly knocked out by a solar storm. Unusually, it is still transmitting and is set to interfere with AMC 11, which uses the same frequency, in about ten days' time. Intelsat is now analysing signals from Galaxy 15 to predict its trajectory and try to stop it transmitting. SES World Skies, which owns AMC 11, refused to name the cable TV channels or providers that could be affected or say how long the interference could potentially last. One option being considered is to move AMC 11 about sixty miles away to a path still within its 'orbital box' but as far away as possible from Galaxy 15. 'We are confident that service disruptions will be minimised or avoided,' said Dianne VanBeber, spokeswoman for Intelsat. 'The reality is it's not quite as sexy as it sounds,' she said.

About four hundred thousand homes were left without television reception after an 'intense fire' at the Beckley transmitter in Oxfordshire. Firefighters said part of the structure was in danger of collapse following the blaze, which started on Thursday afternoon. Cable and satellite services and Five's analogue signal were not affected. Engineers said the extent of the damage was being assessed, but said signals would be restored later on Thursday at the earliest. Eyewitnesses saw smoke drifting from the top of the mast and reported parts of the structure falling off. A cordon was put in place around the site. Matt Carlisle, of Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, told the BBC: 'It has been subject to quite an intense fire at the top, so there is a possibility that the structure may be weakened.' He said the cause of the fire, which started one hundred and fifty metres up the mast, was not yet known. Arqiva, which operates the site, said structural engineers were inspecting the mast. Spokesperson Bruce Randall said: 'We have been unable to assess the damage yet but we will do so throughout the evening. We will be working as quickly as possible to restore services if we can.' The Beckley mast transmits across Oxfordshire and parts of Wiltshire, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire. Maintenance has been taking place on the mast in preparation for digital switchover in 2011.

Horrible Jeremy Hunt has, as expected, landed the job of secretary of state for culture, Olympics, media and sport in the newly formed coalition government. The Conservative MP, who broke the spirit, if not the actual letter, of employment law last year by suggesting that the BBC should be employing journalists based on political affiliations rather than ability has been the shadow culture minister for the past three years and replaces outgoing Labour minister Ben Bradshaw. Hunt also takes on the responsibilities of Tessa Jowell, the former Olympics Minister. In an interview with Broadcast magazine earlier this year, Hunt outlined plans to publish the pay of top BBC talent while at the same time lowering the salaries of the public broadcaster's executives such as director general Mark Thompson. He stopped short of discussing any big structural reforms of the broadcast industry and attempted to distance the Conservatives from BSkyB, which openly backed the party's election campaign. Hunt said the Conservatives were against 'top slicing' the licence fee to divert funds to prop up regional news on ITV. Instead, he has called for the introduction of 'city-based television services' for the commercial broadcaster. Elsewhere, Hunt has said that the Tories have no plans to privatise Channel 4. Any hopes the broad-left have that Nick Clegg could be a useful break on the sinister parts of Hunt's agenda towards the BBC can, probably, be comfortably shelved. After all, Nick's just seen the size of his ministerial limo and expense account. See right. Way, way, to the right. There's a very good piece from the BBC's Torin Douglas here on the likely ramification for broadcasters in general and the BBC in particular. 'ITV's new management team want further cuts in regulation - particularly over the rules on selling advertising; the radio industry needs Government clarity on the switchover from analogue to digital radio,' noted Torin. 'But neither is likely to be a priority for the new coalition government. For the BBC, being on the back-burner may seem a relief. Until recently, the corporation found itself under fire from all the main parties. Freezing or top-slicing the licence fee, abolishing the BBC Trust, and auditing the BBC's accounts were all proposed by one party or another - but none of these are likely to become policy in the short-term. Indeed, during the election campaign, all the parties stressed how much they respected the BBC and its independence.'

The 'aggressive' interview tactics of Sky News presenters Kay Burley and Adam Boulton have resulted in more than fourteen hundred complaints to regulator Ofcom. Kay Burley has received seven hundred and twenty two complaints as of yesterday following her interview on Saturday with David Babbs, leader of campaign group Thirty Eight Degrees. Her colleague Boulton has received six hundred and ninety six complaints from viewers in response to his on-air spat with Labour's former head of communications Alistair Campbell. The complainants accused Burley of 'bias' and 'aggressive behaviour' in the interview. The exchange saw Campbell accuse Sky News' political editor of treating Gordon Brown like 'dead meat' and wanting David Cameron in Downing Street on Monday afternoon. At one point, a clearly angry Boulton responded: 'Don't keep telling me what I think. I'm fed up with you telling me what I think.' The level of complaints is likely to loan support to those media commentators who have already called for both presenters to step down as a result of their techniques. Both interviews were broadcast live by Sky News during the election campaign which has defended its reporters' actions.Yer Keith Telly Topping hopes that dear blog readers have caught some of Channel 4's new trails for the forthcoming series of Location, Location, Location. The one in which Phil Spencer playfully spanks Kirstie Allsopp's sizeable ass as they walk down a country lane. Well, we've all dreamed of doing it at some stage, be fair. They're obviously after the old BDSM community vote. Naughty Channel 4.

The BBC has dumped all of the footage from the original sixty-minute version of Sherlock after making the decision to turn the drama into a three-part ninety-minute series according to Broadcast. BBC1 originally ordered the contemporary drama based on the classic detective character as a one hour single film, co-created by The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (Doctor Who) and Mark Gatiss (The League Of Gentlemen). It featured Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Holmes and Watson and the original programme is understood to have cost more than eight hundred thousand pounds to make. However, when BBC1 controller Jay Hunt and controller of drama commissioning Ben Stephenson saw the show, they decided to develop it into a bigger series - and sanctioned producer Hartswood to re-shoot the story from scratch. It is understood they wanted to change the tone of the original programme, make it more complex and introduce additional characters. 'You can't just re-use footage because of the story arcs and the complexity of the script. The stories were more intricate and detailed. The title is the same and the key cast is the same, but they also introduced some new characters,' a source said. A BBC spokeswoman said the original commission was always intended as a pilot, and was not necessarily planned for broadcast. 'As with the rest of the industry, we occasionally use pilots to experiment with the best ways of telling stories. As a result of this pilot we commissioned a three-part ninety-minute series for BBC1 that will transmit later this year,' she added. The finished series is expected to air in either July or August and casts Sherlock as a 'dynamic superhero in a modern world.' It is produced in London and Wales by Moffat's wife, Sue Vertue, with Gatiss, Moffat and Beryl Vertue as executive producers.

Crayyyyyyg Dayyyyyyvid has agreed to make his Australian television presenting debut. The R'n'B singer who is best known for songs such as 'Walking Away' and 'Fill Me In' and for having the piss taken out of him on a regular basis by Leigh Francis on Bo' Selecta!, is due to take over from The Morning Show host Larry Emdur while he goes on holiday next week. According to the Daily Telegraph, Emdur's co-host Kylie Gillies has confirmed that Dayyyyyvid will be presenting the show with her for five days.

The Eleventh Hour, Matt Smith's first episode of Doctor Who has become the most requested programme ever on the BBC iPlayer. It has been requested, so far, over 1.78 million times. The previous record for iPlayer requests was held by Episode One of the thirteenth series of Top Gear, screened last summer, which was requested 1.66 million times. The first four episodes of Doctor Who were the top four requested BBC programmes in April with over 5.2 million requests between them. EastEnders was the most requested programme in the month, with 7.69 million requests, although these were spread over twenty five episodes as opposed to Doctor Who's four.

Michael Emerson has claimed that fans will need to watch the Lost finale more than once. Speaking to the New York Post, Emerson promised that the purpose of the flash-sideways will be explained. 'But they're not going to spoon feed it to you,' he continued. 'For me, the ending of the series required some analysis. It's not given to you on a dish, neatly organised with a fancy bow put on the end of it. What it does have is a great soulfulness and the ending is human scale.' Emerson admitted that he did not understand the finale at first but explained that he has become more satisfied the more he has thought about it. 'When I first read it, the ending wasn't clear to me,' he said. 'But since then, it's grown more clear and, I have to say, grown more satisfying the more I think about it. I expect a mixture of satisfaction and consternation among the viewers when it airs. But once they rewatch it, rethink about it and possibly look at the saga again, gradually they will feel like they have just read a good novel - but you have to chew on it for a while.'

Being Human actress Leonora Crichlow is to chart the life of Nelson Mandela as part of a season of BBC3 programmes to mark the World Cup in South Africa. Produced in-house, the sixty-minute Who Is Nelson Mandela? (working title) will examine the former South African president's impact on the country, building up a 'far more complex and fascinating picture' of him than most people imagine. 'Everyone has heard of Nelson Mandela and every celebrity in the world queues up to be photographed with him, but what exactly did he do to become such an incredible icon today?' the BBC said. 'Leonora discovers a vibrant Rainbow nation, but also learns more about the horrors of apartheid and the extent of poverty and violence in the country today.' Also on the schedule is England's Worst Ever Football Team, a light-hearted ninety-minute quest to reveal the worst England team of all time, based not only on performances but also on 'dodgy haircuts' and 'misdemeanours' in nightclubs. It will be made by Plum Pictures. Meanwhile, Richard Bacon and an unnamed star striker will look back at fifty memorable World Cup highlights in the two-hour World Cup's Most Shocking Moments, produced by Zig Zag. BBC3 will also screen Special 1 TV, a spoof phone-in show hosted by puppet versions of Jose Mourinho, Wayne Rooney and Sven Eriksson. 'Each week, Jose and his rubbery cohorts will put their own twist on the week's headlines with a particular focus on the World Cup goings-on,' the BBC said. It will be produced by Caboom. The line-up also includes the five-part WAGs, Kids and World Cup Dreams will follow five pampered wives and girlfriends of top footballers as they 'roll up their sleeves' in some of South Africa's poorest and most deprived neighbourhoods, whilst the similar WAGs' Stories will 'catch up with the girls' after they return home. Can't wait for that one. In addition, BBC3 will show two live matches at the end of the group stage on 22 and 24 June.

ITV has failed in its bid to overturn the Contracts Rights Renewal scheme restricting how it can sell advertising airtime, the Competition Commission has ruled today. In its final report on the mechanism, the market regulator said ITV's 'unrivalled ability' to draw large audiences to its flagship channel means the CRR is needed to prevent it from 'exploiting' its position 'to the detriment of advertisers and other commercial broadcasters.' However, the Commission will extend the CRR to include catch up channel ITV+1 and ITV HD, and said the scheme will remain in place until a full review of the UK television advertising sales market is completed. ITV has consistently argued that the scheme is tantamount to a 'straightjacket.' The corporation will be disappointed after it had hoped that last month's appeal by Ofcom for the scheme to be abolished would have some bearing on the Commission's final decision. At ITV's Annual General Meeting last week, chairman Archie Norman described the company as one of the most heavily regulated in the UK. But the Commission argued that there had been 'virtual unanimity among advertisers, media agencies, commercial broadcasters and trade bodies' for the CRR to remain in place and that ITV 'overstates' the detrimental impact of the scheme. It added that other digital channels and the Internet cannot replicate the commercial broadcaster's ability to deliver audiences of up to eighteen million at a time. Interesting, isn't it, that ITV spent most of last year bragging about the figure which it got for the final of Britain's Got Talent. Now, all of a sudden, it's becoming a millstone around their collective neck. Diana Guy, chairman of the CRR review group said in a statement: 'ITV remains a "must have" for certain advertisers and certain types of campaign. Despite all the changes in this market, no other channel or medium can come close to matching the size of audience that ITV regularly provides. Although we rejected ITV's alternative remedy proposals as ineffective to prevent ITV from worsening the deals it offers to advertisers, we have no wish to see CRR in place forever. We continue to believe it appropriate for there to be a wider review of the whole system for selling TV advertising.'

Episode three of the next series of Qi was recorded earlier this week. It's themed around Happiness, with guests Rich Hall, Andy Hamilton and Phill Jupitus.

Kristina Rihanoff has admitted that she doesn't expect Derek Hough to join the Strictly Come Dancing team. The Russian dancer, who is currently working on the Strictly Professionals Tour, said that she expects the American will be too busy with commitments in the US to take part in the UK show. 'Derek is a good friend of mine,' she told Sky1's Angela And Friends. 'We did a tour of Dancing With The Stars together. I don't think he's going to come over. As far as I know, he's in a very strong relationship in Los Angeles with a very lovely girl. And there's so much work for him there. But we don't know. I don't know. We probably won't find out until July.'

FOX has reportedly decided to renew Lie To Me. According to Entertainment Weekly, sources have claimed that the network is close to ordering a thirteen-episode third season of Lie To Me although FOX have not yet confirmed the news officially. Lie To Me's showrunner Shawn Ryan recently announced that he had decided to leave the series. Meanwhile, FOX has picked up Human Target for a second season. Chuck co-executive producer Matthew Miller has signed up to work alongside the current showrunner Jonathan Steinberg.

A 'landmark year' for British TV soaps will be celebrated at the this year's Edinburgh Television Festival. The festival will mark fifty years of Coronation Street and twenty five years of EastEnders with writing masterclasses and other events. Doctor Who writer The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat and a special dance event are also lined-up for the annual three-day festival in August. Shameless creator Paul Abbott will give the Alternative MacTaggart lecture. BAFTA award-winning Abbott said he was 'thrilled' to be delivering the alternative speech, entitled The Truth About Long-Term Thinking. He said: 'I believe it's an exciting time to comment on the British TV industry's reaction to, and performance since, the credit crunch.' BBC director general Mark Thompson has already been confirmed to deliver the keynote MacTaggart lecture at the MediaGuardian event. Moffat and award-winning producer Andy Harries will both deliver masterclasses during the event. Other events include a session entitled Build Your Own BBC, chaired by Jeremy Vine, where the festival audience can decide which services they would cut and protect at the Corporation. And a special stage version of the Sky1 HD show Got To Dance will see six teams from channels and independent producers will perform an array of dances from hip hop to ballet. Deborah Turness, 2010 festival advisory chair and editor of ITV News, said: 'In keeping with our times this year's festival will be a coalition of agenda-setting content that will shape the direction of the industry and inspirational, creative stimulation. With the Conservative/Murdoch Alliance now in Number 10, Mark Thompson's MacTaggart could not be more timely. The big question: will David Cameron demand "savage" cuts at the BBC, and is radical change coming our way?' The festival will take place from 27 to 29 August at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

BBC2 have reportedly cancelled the comedy series Bellamy's People.

Michael Sheen has signed up to star in a production of Hamlet at London's Young Vic theatre. The Welsh actor, who has previously played Tony Blair, David Frost, Kenneth Williams and Brian Clough on the big screen, will appear in the new Shakespeare project in 2011. Ian Rickson, whose stage credits include Jerusalem, will direct the play. 'It's the most dangerous play that exists, yet our culture has made it safe. It has become a rite of passage play for actors,' said Sheen. 'But it is about the very nature of life, death and reality. What I want is to make it difficult and jagged again, unsettling and uncomfortable and disorienting for the audience.'

And finally, the former Labour minister Kim Howells has launched a scathing attack on the Liberal Democrats, telling the BBC he was 'glad' his party had not done a coalition deal with them. 'I tell you why it's been rejected by most Labour MPs – because they know that [the Liberal Democrats] are a bunch of opportunistic toerags, who'll say anything to anyone in order to get power. And they've done it this time, they've got power.' Dear me. We lost, baby. Just take it like a man. Is it any wonder the majority of the country don't like us when we talk bollocks like that. Shame on you, Kim Howells. Return to your constituancy, do you see, and prepare for back-bench anonymity. You won't be missed. Meanwhile ...I really hope those two crazy kids make a go of it, personally.

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