Wednesday, June 16, 2010

It's All Going Horribly Wrong

News Corporation has increased its offer to take full control of BSkyB, which has again been rebuffed by the broadcaster. But, the two companies have agreed to hold talks to find a mutually agreeable price and tackle regulatory issues. It emerged last night that Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation had made a bid of £6.75 per share in cash to take control of the sixty one per cent in BSkyB that the company does not already own. The offer was rejected by BSkyB's independent directors as undervaluing the company. News Corporation has raised its proposal to seven pounds per share in cash, which values the stake at £7.8bn. This prompted BSkyB's independent directors to call for talks 'with the objective of achieving an agreed proposal for the mutual benefit of all shareholders.' However, BSkyB said that the new proposal still 'significantly undervalued' the company and that regulatory and pre-financing conditions added 'considerable uncertainty to when and whether any formal offer could be made.'

Broadcasting unions have criticised the BBC's offer of up to 1.2 per cent pay rise for rank-and-file staff as 'out of step' with the public sector. BECTU, the National Union of Journalists and Unite have been pushing for two per cent since February but four months later, the BBC has proposed to pay all staff earning under thirty seven grand - around seventy per cent of the workforce - an extra four hundred and five notes a year. All staff above this threshold will face a pay freeze. The move is expected to add around eleven million pounds to the BBC’s current wage bill. Or, to put in another way, roughly one-and-a-half Jonathan Rosses. The unions recognised that the BBC was under pressure to cut spend but noted that elsewhere in the public sector, nurses are to get a two-and-a-half per cent pay rise, teachers 2.3 per cent and the police two-and-ahalf per cent. The BBC said its budgets will be under pressure until the current licence fee settlement ends in 2013. The licence fee will increase by two per cent in 2011-12. However, the unions said that they would not settle for a one-year pay deal that was less than the licence fee settlement. 'The BBC's plan to spend just one per cent of the pay bill on staff reward in 2010-11 is totally unacceptable,' said BECTU secretary general Gerry Morrissey. 'This claim is about rank and file BBC staff, not senior executives or on screen talent who can command six figure salaries. For several years now BBC staff across the country have taken on increased workloads as thousands of jobs have been lost. In spite of this, staff strive to innovate and to deliver quality output with fewer staff.'

Cast and crew on The Bill gathered to film the drama's final scenes on Monday in an emotional day on set. After twenty seven years of filming, production staff and The Bill's seventeen-strong cast called a wrap on the show for the final time at Talkback Thames' Merton Studios. The drama will conclude with a gritty and poignant two-part episode that will transmit later this summer on ITV. Executive producer Johnathan Young said: 'It's been a highly emotional day for all cast and crew as we've completed filming of The Bill's last ever episode.' Around ninety Talkback staff will lose their jobs as a result of ITV axing the drama in March and outgoing chief executive Lorraine Heggessey said she was 'devastated' by the decision. Insiders on The Bill have told Broadcast magazine that they were planning 'a big send-off' for the drama, with ambitions to 'end it on an all-time high.'

Bruce Forsyth has reportedly told Strictly Come Dancing bosses that he wants to see 'bigger-name stars' on the next series. According to the Mirror, the eighty two-year-old has indicated that he will not be part of this year's programme unless producers manage to secure an impressive lineup of celebrity contestants. It is thought that the veteran entertainer believes Strictly needs to up its game in order to better compete with ITV rival The X Factor, which proved victorious in last year's ratings war. A Strictly 'source' allegedly told to paper 'We're desperate to hold on to Bruce but at the moment he wants to know who's going on the show before he makes the final decision. He's the figurehead and we're hoping to sort things out. Bruce wants what is best for the show and is adamant the celebrities must be even better than they were before.' A spokesman for Forsyth commented: 'Discussions happen with Bruce every year. We are still in talks and a decision will be made soon.' Meanwhile, the BBC confirmed that bosses 'fully hope and expect' the star will return to host the show.

Channel 4 has lined up a Friday night home for a new topical stand-up show hosted by Patrick Kielty. Stand Up For The Week, which was developed under the name Live at Koko, will feature weekly appearances from comedians ranging from the excellent - Rich Hall - to the Christawful - Jack Whitehall, plus character-based sketches from The 11 O'Clock Show's Ricky Grover. A celebrity or topical guest will also feature each week. The six-part series is produced by live comedy specialist Open Mike and will be filmed in the week of transmission in the Camden venue Koko with politicians and celebrities among the audience. It is due to start on 25 June in a late slot. The commission follows Open Mike's production of the Channel 4 Comedy Gala earlier this year. C4's head of entertainment Justin Gorman said: 'What better way to reflect on the week, than through the razor sharp wit of some of the nation's most talented stand ups?' And Jack Whitehall. 'Stand Up For The Week will be raucous and close to the bone; and all of the elements going into it, the venue, the live audience, the talent, the celebrities, will make it a truly entertaining and alternative Friday night show.' And, it will feature Jack Whitehall.

Karen Gillan has admitted that she did not expect a negative reaction to Amy Pond's wardrobe in Doctor Who. The actress, who described her character as 'a strong female,' said that Amy's short skirts are true-to-life and should not cause offence. 'I guess there was a bit of an uproar and I really didn't see that coming,' she told the Radio Times. 'I just don't get it with the skirts. It's what any girl on the street is wearing. I mean, Amy's not a schoolgirl, she's twenty one, pretty much the same age as me, and we all wear stuff like this.' She added that Amy's relationship with the Doctor is an important lesson in equality, but that she does not see it as a central concern. 'Feminism is not the issue any more, not for me, anyway,' Gillan said. 'It's just never occurred to me that a woman wouldn't be equal, in any sphere, to a man.'

ITV has renewed Wild At Heart for a sixth series. The show, which focuses on a vet and his family who live and work in South Africa, stars Stephen Tompkinson and Dawn Steele. The new series will begin by focusing on Danny and Alice's honeymoon in the UK, where the couple will meet someone who has history with Danny. Deon Stewardson, Hayley Mills and Olivia Scott-Taylor are among the other cast members who will return for the sixth series of the show.

Continuing to prove this idiotic idea that only England games get decent audiences at the World Cup, the match between Germany and Australia scored a peak audience of more than 9m for ITV on Sunday night, easily thumping all competition. The game, which saw Germany run out ominously easy four-nil winners, was watched by a total audience of 7.48m from 7pm to 9.30pm on ITV and ITV HD, according to overnight Barb figures. Meanwhile, the company apologised 'unreservedly' for the interruption of Saturday's England v USA match on ITV HD and blamed, typically, someone else. A spokesman said: 'An error by ITV's transmission providers, Technicolor, meant that ITV HD's coverage of the England v USA match was interrupted for approximately twenty seconds. ITV's standard definition coverage was unaffected.' What they neatly avoided mentioning was that twenty seconds interruption also happened to coincide with England's only goal. The broadcaster investigated immediately and it discovered that 'human error' was to blame for the incident. It met with Technicolor yesterday morning, where 'strong words were exchanged' and measures were 'put in place to prevent a similar mistake.' Presumably meaning that the human, in question, who err'd is currently taking his P45 along to the Job Centre. If there staff are football fans, pal, don't expect much sympathy. Will Berryman, senior vice president operations - digital content delivery at Technicolor, said: 'Technicolor deeply regrets this incident and its impact on ITV and its viewers. Investigations are continuing as a matter of the utmost urgency in order to ensure that the issues are addressed with immediate effects.'

Victoria Beckham has claimed that she was 'thrilled' to provide a vocal cameo in SpongeBob Squarepants. The former Spice Girl was animated as the character Queen Amphitrite for the children's cartoon series, which will air on Nickelodeon in the US next month. Beckham admitted that she could not possibly turn the role down because the show is her son Cruz's favourite programme. 'I was so thrilled when I was asked to be a part of SpongeBob as my children love the show. When I told the boys, they were so excited,' she said. 'I had such a great time recording the voice of Queen Amphitrite. How fun to be a queen for a day! We are all looking forward to watching it together.' David, seemingly, won't be.

BBC2 has announced a three-part magazine series that will focus on the state of the nation's finances and offer financial advice to help families through the difficult times ahead. Broadcasting in July, Money Watch will be presented by Sophie Raworth and Justin Rowlatt and will examine whether people are getting richer or poorer; the financial prospects for the coming year and what people can do to help themselves get through it. The first programme, Earning It, will tackle pay, tax and jobs and ways of boosting income. Presented from Birmingham, the Money Watch team will look at what has happened to pay during the recession, while money saving expert Martin Lewis will offer practical advice. Lucy Hetherington, the executive producer of the series, said: 'We've had a severe recession, an election fought on the economy and now chilling predictions about the squeeze ahead. We want to give viewers clarity about some of the main issues affecting their personal finances, so they can take informed decisions.'

The BBC is reportedly thinking about hiring Penny Smith. According to the Daily Star, the organisation is planning to negotiate with the presenter if Christine Bleakley decides to move to ITV. The move would mean that Smith, who left GMTV earlier this month, would take Bleakley's place on The ONE Show. 'She has a proven track record of live television and is popular with viewers,' a source explained.

ITV has announced the sacking of its World Cup pundit, the former Wimbledon striker Robbie Earle, after discovering that he had passed scores of tickets to a third party in breach of FIFA rules, which were then said to be used by a Dutch beer company for an ambush marketing effort. ITV, which has already suffered a welter of negative publicity after all those HD viewers missed England's opening goal against the USA, said Earle's contract had been terminated 'with immediate effect. Following claims by Fifa that official 2010 World Cup tickets may have been used for ambush marketing, ITV has reviewed its entire ticket allocation for the tournament,' said ITV in a statement. 'Immediate investigations indicated that a block of ITV tickets would appear to have been used for unauthorised purposes during the Holland v Denmark match,' it added. 'Further enquiries have revealed that a substantial number of tickets allocated to Robbie Earle for family and friends have been passed to a third party in breach of FIFA rules.' It is understood that between thirty five and forty tickets allocated to Earle ended up in the hands of the marketing company said to have orchestrated the ambush marketing effort on behalf of the beer brand Bavaria via a third party. Thirty-six women in orange mini dresses were ejected from Soccer City during yesterday's match when FIFA officials decreed they were part of an organised ambush marketing scheme. They were questioned for several hours until after the match had finished. Bavaria denied the women had any links to its campaign. It is not believed that Earle will be replaced by a new pundit but that his absence in the mean time will be covered by the existing team. One just has to ask, though - thirty five to forty tickets for the 'family and friends' of one of ITV's team? Do they all get that number, for every match? Do the BBC get the same? What about other broadcasters from other countries? Is it any wonder the stadiums are only half-full?

Former EastEnders actress Michelle Collins is to film a multi-episode guest stint for BBC1's flagship medical drama Casualty, according to the Digital Spy website. The forty nine-year-old - who played Cindy Beale in the soap between 1988 and 1998 - takes on the role of Camille, mother to a young girl injured at the beginning of the new series. Hang on, though, wasn't it just a few months ago that Collins was, supposedly, bragging about doing auditions for Desperate Housewives? That's a bit of a comedown, isn't it?

Speaking of people who actually did appear on Desperate Housewives, Nicollette Sheridan has reportedly updated her lawsuit against show creator Marc Cherry. It was revealed in April that Sheridan is suing Cherry on seven counts including wrongful termination, assault and battery. The Hollywood Reporter says that updated documents now reveal that ABC investigated the claim of the actress concerning physical abuse but took no further action. Neither ABC or Sheridan's lawyers have commented on the updates.

Natalie Imbruglia was 'taunted' by an X Factor contestant and heckled by audience members during her stint as a guest judge in Birmingham, a report has claimed. According to the Sun, an eighteen-year-old hopeful who tried out for the show with a friend 'hit back' at the singer after she criticised their performance of Journey's 'Don't Stop Believin'. Speaking of the pair's audition, a 'source' allegedly told the newspaper: 'Simon [Cowell] stopped them and said one was better than the other, but they were both pretty awful. Natalie piped up that they weren't very good and one of them just snapped, "Sorry, who are you?" Poor Natalie couldn't believe it and Simon told them they had a bad attitude.' A sharp wit, though, I'll give them that! After being rejected by the judges, the duo in question are also said to have turned on each other by rowing over who was to blame for their failure. Witnesses said that one even started elbowing the other as they left the stage. Meanwhile, Imbruglia reportedly faced a further backlash after refusing to put through a sixteen-year-old singer because she felt he was 'too young.' It is thought that sections of the crowd showed their disapproval by booing and shouting that she was a 'one-hit wonder.' Actually, she had three hits, and two of them were really rather good, but since when did facts get in the way of the pretty prejudices of the X Factor audience? Big mistake going on there, Nat.

Amanda Holden, meanwhile, has confessed that she is missing standing in the warming glow of her Britain's Got Talent co-star Simon Cowell following the show's finale. Plus, of course, it means every TV she appears in from now until next year without Cowell, she will have an audience of hardly anybody since on her own, she's toxic in ratings terms. And that's very sad. So, new series of Big Top, Amanda?

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