Tuesday, June 15, 2010

'Talentless Wastrels?'

The BBC's Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen has accused the corporation of suffering from a collective loss of confidence and becoming introspective. I think what he actually means is shitting in their own pants and running a mile every time the Daily Scum Mail snarls at them but, we get the general gist. Bowen said the BBC needed to be less defensive and be prepared to offend more people with its news coverage as he collected the Charles Wheeler Award for his journalistic achievements. He said he always tried to 'stick to his guns,' despite constant pressure from individuals and lobby groups. Last April, the BBC Trust upheld a complaint about the accuracy and impartiality of his reporting on the legacy of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Speaking at the ceremony, he said: 'The BBC Trust accused me, wrongly in my view, of some inaccuracies in my reporting. They did that because of a rather nasty campaign group in the United States and some highly politically-motivated individuals in this country who were in fact the enemies of impartiality, but they got their thoughts through.' Bowen said he had received great support from inside and outside the BBC following the ruling, and called on the corporation to show greater resolve in the face of criticism. He continued: 'I think we need to realise that proper news coverage is as important as ever.'

Janet Street Porter has had a right go at Christine Bleakley in the Daily Scum Mail for this bloody story that simply won't go away about whether Bleakley's going to ITV or staying at the Beeb. You can read it here. 'Christine Bleakley, rewarded to smile, read out a script and look good, thinks that the nation can barely sleep at night with the stress of not knowing whether she’ll stay put at the BBC (for four hundred and fifty thousand pounds-a-year) or defect to ITV for double the money.' This blogger does not disagree with a word of the piece, or indeed, its rather sneering tone. There is, after all, nowt wrong with a decent bit of sneer if it'd done in moderation and at the right target. Although in the interests of balance it should be noted that the organ of the media in which Janet writes her piece, so eloquently, is one that's done more than most to keep this flaming story going long after its sell-by date has passed. Just an observation.

A bad language 'barometer' has revealed viewers' changing attitudes to the severity of swear words and the time that they can be used on television and radio. Words traditionally seen to be the worst offenders such as 'fuck,' 'cunt' and 'motherfucker' are, by an large, still considered to be post-watershed language by the majority of viewers, but attitudes towards words that may have caused public outcry ten years ago such as 'shit,' 'wanker' and 'bitch,' appear to have significantly softened, with some viewers happy to hear them during the day depending on the context in which they are used, Ofcom has found. Participants were asked to watch DVDs of programmes that contained potentially offensive language and profanities that was broadcast both post and pre-watershed and record their views which were then used during discussion groups. The research found that in some instances, words such as 'bastard' and 'wanker' were acceptable for pre-watershed viewing as long as the context was appropriate. Meanwhile, discriminatory words such as 'pikey,' 'retarded' and 'gyppo' were met with a mixed response, with some considering them acceptable only in comedy programming such as adult comedy shows. 'Lezza,' 'poof' and 'queer' were more widely known and therefore more acceptable for broadcast, the research found. 'Ofcom recognises that the use of language changes over time. Likewise the impact of the offence it may cause also changes over time. In the five years since Ofcom last published research on attitudes to offensive language, we have received complaints about the use of terms which may not have previously been considered potentially offensive,' the regulator said. 'In addition, some words are now considered of heightened sensitivity and are seldom broadcast, while other terms are considered less offensive than in previous years.' Participants from Glasgow, Birmingham, Belfast, London, Cardiff and Slough all took part in the research.

Actor Christopher Eccleston left Doctor Who after one series because he 'didn't enjoy the environment and the culture' of the show. Or, in other words, the long hours, the relentless press stories and the barmy fans. The lad's got a point! Eccleston, who is about to star in BBC4's biopic Lennon Naked, took on the role of the Time Lord when Russell Davies revamped Doctor Who in 2005. He told the Radio Times he was proud of the show but 'wasn't comfortable' working on it. 'I think it's more important to be your own man than be successful, so I left.' Eccleston, the ninth Doctor announced he was leaving after just one series to be replaced by David Tennant. 'I was open-minded but I decided after my experience on the first series that I didn't want to do any more,' he said. 'I didn't enjoy the environment and the culture that we, the cast and crew, had to work in. I thought if I stay in this job, I'm going to have to blind myself to certain things that I thought were wrong.' But the forty six-year-old said the fact that he played the Doctor - and not that he had quit - was 'the most important thing. I really feel that because it kind of broke the mould and it helped to reinvent it. I'm very proud of it.' In an initial statement announcing his exit in March 2005, the BBC said the actor was afraid of being typecast and had found the series gruelling. The corporation later accepted the statement was incorrect and that it had not spoken to Eccleston before releasing it. 'They handled it very badly but they issued an apology and I dropped it,' he added.

Doctor Who star Karen Gillan has claimed that her character is like a 'sister' to the Doctor. In an interview with the Radio Times, the actress explained that she was surprised when viewers complained about an episode in which Amy tries to seduce the Doctor. '[Being seductive is] part of who she is, but it's quite a small part,' Gillan said. 'She's a normal girl with normal impulses. I suppose I find it hard to define the relationship between Amy and the Doctor - I think we all do - because there are so many aspects to it.' Meanwhile, for the tenth time in ten episodes this season, Doctor Who's overnight audience increased by close to two million when BARB released the final consolidated ratings figures for Vincent and the Doctor yesterday. The episode was watched by 6.76 million viewers (6.29m on BBC1, four hundred and seventy one thousand on BBC HD) placing it fifth in a list of the week's most-watched shows.

Top Ten Rated Programmes 31 May 2010 to 6 June 2010:
1 Britain's Got Talent - 12.81 million
2 Coronation Street - 10.73 million
3 Emmerdale - 7.36 million
4 Eastenders - 7.01 million
5 Doctor Who - 6.76 million
6 Harry Hill's TV Burp (repeat) - 6.09 million
7 BBC News - 5.51 million
8 Soccer Aid - 5.45 million
9 Ten O'Clock News - 5.32 million
10 Have I Got News For You - 5.17 million

The Court of Appeal has upheld a decision over action against Channel 4 by a former bodyguard to Michael Jackson that could jeopardise the future of trial by jury in defamation cases. The Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, Lord Justice Maurice Kay and Lord Justice Sedley refused to overturn a ruling by Mr Justice Tugendhat last month that a libel action brought against C4 by Matthew Fiddes, a former bodyguard to Jackson, should be heard by a judge alone. The trial, which centres on a documentary - The Jacksons Are Coming, made by Studio Lambert - purporting to show Jackson's older brother Tito moving to Devon, is scheduled to start next Monday and estimated to last twenty days. Mr Justice Tugendhat said that one factor in his decision was the issue of increasing costs - which are already estimated to top three million smackers. It has been suggested that if the case is heard by a jury it could run on until the end of July, but lawyers for Mr Fiddes claim that a jury would only add an extra day or two. The judge also based his ruling on the fact that the case would involve viewing sections of television footage and detailed examination of documents. It also raised important issues about what was or was not acceptable editorial practice in a TV broadcast presented as factual which, he said, would best be dealt with in a reasoned judgement which could be made public and appealed. Lord Neuberger said that the panel had reached a 'clear conclusion' that the appeal should be dismissed and would explain its decision at a later date as the point at issue was one which merited a reasoned judgment.

James Corden was apparently forced to turn down the opportunity to introduce Sir Paul McCartney at the Isle of Wight festival this weekend. Corden revealed that the former Beatle had 'personally' asked him to perform the honour, but he would be busy preparing for his new World Cup after-show programme, so he had instead pre-record a message. He told the Sun: 'He rang me - genuinely - and asked if I would go to the festival to introduce him on stage. I'd only met him once before, briefly at Children In Need. But I can't do it because of the World Cup show.' Aw man, if only you'd said. We'd've given you the night off. In fact, you could have taken a week. Or, indeed, the whole month. Does anybody else think we should all club together and hire Gareth Roberts to write all of James Corden's dialogue for real life? It'd be expensive, sure, but by hell the world would be so much less annoying. Meanwhile, audiences for Corden's World Cup Live show fell from a sliver under six million for its first episode on Saturday night following the England v USA game to 3.8 million on Sunday. Or, in other words, a loss of two-fifths of its audience in a day. Nice one, James. In audience appreciation terms, the AI score for the opening episode was sixty eight. Meaning that World Cup Live is slightly more 'popular' (if that's the right word) than Big Top, but slightly less 'popular' (if that's the still right word) than The Ludicrous Ms Dahl. That sounds about right, actually.

Huntwatch, now: The new secretary for Culture, the Olympics and Rhyming Slang, Jeremy Hunt, has described the BBC as 'a national crown jewel' in an interview with the Gruniad Morning Star. In his first interview since taking up the post, the Conservative minister said there were some things the BBC could do 'differently and better.' Hunt said he would not make a decision on the licence fee until 2011 but he added the way it was collected might change as more people turned to online content and similar external medias. Mark Thompson was meant to meeting Hunt last Thursday, but the minister was forced to delay the face-to-face to travel to Plymouth as a guest of the BBC's Question Time. As the Gruniad notes, 'Thommo's first chance to chat with the man who could dictate so much of the next five years of his life is thwarted by one of his own employees – and a Dimbleby at that.' Hunt also said he had no plans to get rid of media regulation body Ofcom - something he had threatened to do 'on day one' as an opposition spokesman - but suggested that there will be changes, while acknowledging the body had a 'really important role to play.' He would not be drawn on speculation there would be cuts of at least twenty per cent at Ofcom. Hunt has complained in the past about the number of managers at the BBC who earn over one hundred thousand pounds a year, calling for 'full transparency.' But he told the Guardian he could not dictate how much the BBC paid certain people. He also spoke to the newspaper about deregulation, saying the UK's current media policy was designed for a 'pre-Internet era.'

TV production in the North East has received a boost after Northumberland County Council became part of a new partnership encouraging filming in the area. ITV's drama pilot Vera and the Kevin Whateley and Robson Green drama Joe Maddison's War are two of the high-profile shows which recently shot in the region. The council's chief executive Steve Stewart and councillor Jim Smith were two of the signees of Northern Film and Media's Filming Friendly Partnership, aimed at growing the North East's seven million pound production industry. It is now the first region in the UK in which all local authorities are committed to embracing production. 'The Filming Friendly Partnership will give us an edge over other parts of the UK in bringing production to the region,' said Tom Harvey, chief executive of Northern Film and Media. 'Establishing the North East as a world class production destination will develop our creative industries infrastructure and give our tourism a significant boost.' The signing ceremony was seen as the launch of Phase two of the initiative. The opening phase saw an increase in co-operation between production companies and local authorities, enabling the crew of Bollywood film Hum Tum Aur Ghost to flip a car during the day on Grey Street in Newcastle.

Big Brother contestant Rachael - no, me neither - is said to be 'worried' that a sex tape she made with an ex-boyfriend will be leaked now that she is 'famous.' Or, now that she's been on Big Brother, anyway. And, for 'worried' read 'really hoping it does cos there's no such thing as bad publicity.' According to the News of the World, the hairdresser, who broke up with clothes salesman Jamie Butler two months before entering the house, is concerned that the 'X-rated video' may be seen by the public. 'She's quite unashamed about it all, frankly,' and anonymous 'show insider' told the newspaper. Or not. 'She doesn't seem to care who she tells. She said her biggest fear is the sex tape she made with a previous boyfriend getting out. She thinks he deleted it - but is seriously worried that it is floating around somewhere.'

According the BBC press office, the broadcaster received two hundred and twenty four complaints about some aspect of their World Cup coverage during the first three days.
- They've received approximately one hundred and fifty comments (of which one hundred and forty two were complaints) about the commentary at matches being drowned out by the vuvuzelas. You just have to wonder what the other eight or so contacts were? Praise?!
- They've also had over thirty complaints from people who think that Emmanuel Adebayor is a poor choice for a football pundit.
- And, they've had ten complaints from viewers who felt that too much attention was given to the England national team to the detriment of other nations taking part in the tournament. Traitors! Mind you, they've also received nine complaints from people who believe the 'head-butting-mind-meld' sequence in Doctor Who on Saturday could encourage violence among children. So, you know, as ever one should be advised to take the vast majority of these with a healthy vat of salt.

Lucy Lawless has admitted that she felt so much pressure to get in shape while filming Spartacus: Blood, Snots and Sandals that went to the trouble of hiring a personal trainer to help her get toned. Surely the woman who played Xena doesn't need one of those? Isn't she's sort of naturally buff and amazonian? The actress, who moved back to her native New Zealand for the role, said that her usual fitness routine was simply not enough to make her feel confident about appearing in the show's many barenaked scenes. 'Are you kidding? I spend time naked on screen so I had to get a trainer,' she told What's On TV. 'But it's Ancient Rome. It's not like they were popping off to the gym every two seconds; my character didn't have to be ripped.'

Piers Morgan has reportedly criticised celebrity culture, claiming that many celebrities lack talent. Oh, the dramatic irony. Morgan, who had done more than his fair share - through his role as a sacked newspaper editor, appallingly twee and dreadful chat-show host and judge on a talent contest - to make crass, banal celebrity culture exactly what it is today, made the comments while speaking at a charity event. According to the Sunday Express, Morgan told guests: 'The culture of celebrity has become a problem. You don't mind someone being famous if it' based on real talent - that's why I like talent shows that encourage people to chase their dream. But what I don't like is talentless wastrels who appear on telly just for the sake of it.' What, like you, you mean fellah? 'I find Big Brother incredibly vacuous and it chips away at the mystique and magic of celebrities.' Never mind. America is waiting for you, Piers, with open arms and legs.

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