Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Thunder Down Under

Here is the latest from The Ashes, dear blog reader.We won. Next ...

Monday night's events in Coronation Street netted an average of thirteen million viewers, overnight figures suggest. The evening's second episode of the soap featured an explosion and a tram crash and left the fate of many characters uncertain. Last week's episode, which was broadcast in the same time slot, attracted an average audience of 9.6m. The storyline was created to celebrate the soap's fiftieth anniversary later this week. The earlier episode, which started at 7:30 attracted an average audience of 11.6 million viewers. Critics were largely positive about the episodes, with the Gruniad Morning Star's Grace Dent calling the tram crash 'vivid and terrifying, arriving at the worst possible moment.' Metro said: 'Terribly formulaic yes, but it was a winning formula all the same. As the brutal chops between scenes became more frantic and more frequent, the tension was intolerable.' After the dramatic tram crash scenes - fx courtesy of The Mill - were broadcast, an ITV News trailer featuring newsreader Alastair Stewart was shown. He announced there had been an explosion in the Manchester suburb of Weatherfield and linked to a reporter on the scene as if the drama was being played out in real-life. Several storylines reached crisis point during the two instalments of the soap. Tyrone Dobbs (Alan Halsall) found out he was not the biological father of his son, Jack, and Leanne Battersby (Jane Danson) was faced with choosing between her fiance, Peter Barlow, and her lover, Nick Tilsley. Tuesday night's episode (superbly directed by Graeme Harper, incidentally) revealed two of the likely people for whom of the four funerals will be held. In addition, obviously, to poor unfortunate horribly murdered Charlotte.

Complaints about X Factor being 'fixed' have continued following conflicting tabloid reports. Simon Cowell has stepped into the dispute - caused by the introduction of a sing-off in last weekend's semi-final - assuring readers of the Sun newspaper that the show has 'done nothing wrong.' Cowell also insisted that he never knows 'the exact placings of the artists' in the phone votes until the end of the series. Speaking about the sing-off between Mary Byrne and Cher Lloyd, he added: 'There has always been a sing-off when there are five people left in the competition. This is a lot of nonsense about nothing.' However, in an interview with the Mirror, the eliminated Byrne described the ITV talent show as 'a fix. It's not the show the public think it is,' she is quoted as saying. 'I knew the public had voted for me to stay on, and I actually thought the result would be based just on their vote. It was only on Saturday I discovered that there would be a sing-off where the judges decided. It's obvious Simon didn't want me in the final and I get that. I'm not as marketable to him as Cher so he was never going to put me through. They fixed it for me to lose. It didn't matter what the public think.' Both ITV and Cowell have insisted that the introduction of a sing-off in the semi-final was made 'weeks ago.' Byrne herself has accused X Factor bosses of rigging the show to get rid of her. She claims show that chiefs knew before the sing-off that the public had voted for her but wanted the 'more marketable' Cher Lloyd to stay.

Lord Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, has reportedly joined a list of high profile candidates vying to become the next chairman of the BBC Trust. According to the Daily Torygraph, 'sources close to the recruitment process' claim that Lord Patten has applied to replace Sir Michael Lyons when he steps down in March next year. The former Conservative minister is thought to have been placed on a list of preferred candidates by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The next chairman of the BBC's governing body will need to have a corporate background, but also boast experience of the public sector and international operations. Patten fits the bill, as he is chancellor of Oxford University and acts as an advisor to petroleum giant BP (it's a pity, somewhat, that he didn't advise them to get that leak capped a bit sooner, don't you think?), telecoms firm Hutchison Europe and investment group BMB. He also sits on the advisory board of private equity firm Bridgepoint Capital. Other candidates believed to be in the frame to lead the Trust include BBC trustees Dame Patricia Hodgson and Anthony Fry, along with YouGov chairman Roger Parry and former Ofcom regulator Richard Hooper. Sony chief executive Sir Howard Stringer has been approached for the role, but is not thought to have taken it any further. Other corporate heavyweights to have ruled themselves out of the process include former Marks & Spencer boss Sir Stuart Rose, as well as Helen Alexander and Dame Marjorie Scardino. Interviews with shortlisted candidates will go ahead on 27 and 28 January, with an appointment due to follow in the spring. The new BBC Trust chair will be appointed on a four-year term with an annual salary of one hundred and ten thousand pounds for a three-to-four day working week.

Former Have I Got News For You host Angus Deayton will reportedly return to Radio 4 next year for a new radio comedy series. Deayton will front six-part series, It's Your Round, in which guests such as Miles Jupp, Arthur Smith and Rebecca Front invent their own rounds for the show, reports the Gruniad. The programme, which will premiere on 17 February, marks Deayton's first comedy series on Radio 4 since the award-winning Radio Active in the 1980s. After Radio Active transferred to BBC2 as KYTV, Deayton took on various television roles, including a regular part in One Foot In the Grave. He was also the long-running host of current affairs panel show Have I Got News For You, but left the programme in 2002 after tabloid allegations about his private life made his role as the show's host uncomfortable. Deayton returned to the BBC in 2003 to guest star as a spin-doctor in an episode of political comedy Absolute Power, followed by a role in sitcom Nighty Night from 2004 and regular presentation duties on the annual Before They Were Famous. Next year, Radio 4 will offer more comedy programming to its listeners, including a new podcast titled Comedy of the Week: Mondays Don't Have to be Miserable. The station will also air an improvisation show called Showstopper! The Improvised Musical, starring Pippa Evans, Ruth Bratt, Sean McCann and others.

Eliza Dushku has reportedly pulled out of her role in the TNT pilot Bird Dog. The show focuses on a young police officer who is estranged from her father, a cop in the NYPD. Last week, reports suggested that Dushku had signed on for the role of the daughter. However, Deadline claims that the former Dollhouse star pulled out of the project over the weekend.

Ofcom has criticised Channel Four over a programme showcasing athletes due to compete at the London 2012 Paralympic Games which breached sponsorship regulations. Earlier in the year, Four was awarded exclusive UK broadcast rights to the Paralympic Games. The broadcaster intends to show more than one hundred and fifty hours of television coverage of the event in 2012. Broadcast on Channel Four's main network on 29 August, Inside Incredible Athletes profiled several Paralympic hopefuls as they prepared for the big event in two years time. Ofcom noted that the programme carried sponsorship credits and idents for BT and Sainsbury's, who are both official sponsors of Channel Four's Paralympic coverage. However, the media regulator challenged Channel Four over the two sponsors' direct relationship to the programme, as broadcasting code Rule 9.7 stipulates that 'he relationship between the sponsor and the sponsored channel or programme must be transparent.' The watchdog also cited Rule 9.6, which says that 'sponsorship must be clearly identified as such by reference to the name and/or the logo of the sponsor.' In response, Channel Four attempted to argue that Inside Incredible Athletes was part of its pre-Games coverage and therefore BT and Sainsbury's were cleared as sponsors. The broadcaster refused to accept that there would be 'viewer confusion about the relationship between the sponsor and the sponsored programme, especially in the light of the unprecedented publicity about Channel Four becoming the Paralympics broadcaster and the extensive pre-Games coverage it plans.' Ofcom accepted that it was made 'sufficiently clear' that BT and Sainsbury's were the lead sponsors of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. However, the regulator ruled that Four 'made no reference to the sponsorship arrangement between BT/Sainsbury's and the programme Inside Incredible Athletes,' and so was in breach of Rules 9.6 and 9.7 in the broadcasting code.

A Deal Or No Deal contestant has denied allegations that she is a 'secret' porn star. How secret any secret porn star can possibly be given the nature of, you know, porn, is open to debate, of course. Jeanette Burton - who is currently taking part in the teatime Channel Four game show under the name Jen - reportedly sells hardcore videos of herself performing sex acts via her own subscription site, according to the Sun. A 'source' allegedly said: 'No-one could believe it when she turned up on the show dressed very demurely in a blouse and tank top, smiling with Noel [Edmonds]. She has racked up quite a following online but she doesn't seem quite so keen to share it with the TV viewers.' Burton has denied that she takes part in X-rated online movies, and later suggested that the clips consist of private footage taken from a stolen laptop. 'I know nothing about this site,' the thirty seven-year-old added. 'I have nothing to do with this.' In 2007, another Deal Or No Deal contestant Jane Kershaw admitted to starring in a topless adult movie with her daughter Kelly. Not that there's anything illegal about that, of course. Or, indeed, about what Ms Burton may, or may not, get up to in the privacy of her own home. Just to make that clear, just in case any dear blog readers are feeling like getting all moralistic and hoity-toity about such matters. Like, so, the Sun.

Channel Five has been making profit for its new owner Northern & Shell since September according to chief executive officer Richard Desmond. In his first interview since acquiring the broadcaster, with business magazine Management Today, Desmond revealed Five began to generate profits just four weeks after he bought it from RTL Group in late July following his move to strip out costs of thirty four million quid. Savings have been made via staff and programming costs, along with general overheads, as Desmond has battled to return Five to profitability. A growth in advert revenues have also helped improve the channel's finances, he added. 'The station has revenues of two hundred and seventy million pounds and was losing thirty four million. We've taken exactly the same figure, thirty four million, of costs out. We've saved ten million on staff - some of the directors were heavily paid and getting high bonuses even though it was making a loss,' said Desmond. 'We cut fourteen million off one programme alone - we said this is the price we're paying and that's it - and ten million came from cutting general overheads. Furthermore we will have increased advertising income by eighty million, so our total revenues will be three hundred and fifty million.' Desmond added one senior executive was running up large expense costs, which have subsequently been curbed. 'One of the senior executives - I'd better not say who - employed a cab driver full-time at a cost of fifty thousand pounds a year plus Sky subscription and medical insurance,' he said. Five has made money for Northern & Shell for the past three months according to Desmond who will be hoping to extend the run of profitability into 2011. 'It's lost each year for the last fifteen years. It cost RTL six hundred and fifty million pounds in losses and over one billion pounds in total because RTL bought out the minority shareholders, United (News & Media) and Pearson,' said Desmond. 'We bought it at the end of July. Through September, October and into November we're already making an operating profit.' Albeit, heating costs have gone up since they sacked the hot-air spouting Ian Wright from Live From Studio Five.

And, finally, here's yer Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Today, for anybody feeling like breakin' out of this city, let's have a little bit of Canvey Island's finest.If you've got a rod, ladies and gentlemen, then yer Keith Telly Topping advises that you make sure it's a hot rod. 'I'm sure I must be someone/Now I'm gonna find out who!'