Friday, March 11, 2011

It's Coming And There's Nowhere To Hide - It Seems, To Me, To Be So Contradictory

Given the horrific events which have taken place in Japan over the past twenty four hours there is a natural sense that virtually anything featured in a blog at a time like this is, by comparison, a trivial inconsequence. It is, there's no denying that. Yer Keith Telly Topping acknowledges fully the fact, dear blog reader. People are dead and here we are talking about telly. Sometimes, just when you think your life as crappy as it's possible to be, something come along to remind you that, no matter how bad it is, there's always somebody worse off than yourself.

A few days ago on one of the web forums yer actual Keith Telly Topping frequents (yes, that one!) during a discussion about the potential future of the BBC, one of the other contributors - yer Keith Telly Topping's mate Duncan - made an observation. He said that if he was, you know, 'in charge of things,' he'd do away with BBC local radio. Interesting plan. Wrong, of course, but I admired the pluck of his spunk in actually saying this when I was within reasonable punching distance! This led to what I believe politicians call 'a full and frank exchange of views', including some - quite comic - threats of manic ultraviolence and the chap being, from henceforth, known in these parts as 'Doctor Duncan Beeching With His Reaping Axe'! All good larks and japery, dear blog reader, we're actually terrific chums. Yer Keith Telly Topping, needless to say, freelances in local radio - so, he's got a vested interest in the subject, he freely admits as much. He, therefore, observed that: 'It's arguable BBC local radio is the - possibly only - proper surviving example of the original Reithian idea of true, genuine "public service broadcasting." It exists purely to service local licence fee payers with something that directly affects, educates, informs and entertains them. Whatever you might've heard about BBC local radio, it's not Alan Partridge, dear blog reader. It's much more important than that.' However, it would appear that some glake on the sixth floor might've been reading Gallifrey Base that particular day and thought 'Hey! What a whizzing idea!' That's if reports which suggest the BBC are seriously considering proposals to cut much of its local radio output are true. Trade union leaders have, obviously, condemned the proposals, claiming that such a move could lead to the loss of more than seven hundred jobs. If a tweet from BBC Radio Nottingham's editor Mike Bettison is to be taken at face value, the BBC is said to be considering some kind of merger between their local radio network and 5Live. The BBC, which is seeking savings of more than four hundred million smackers following last year's licence fee freeze, is claimed to be considering cutting all of its local radio programmes, apart from the breakfast and drivetime shows, and replacing them with content from the national news and sport station, 5Live. The NUJ said that the proposals would 'spell the death of local radio' - which they undoubtedly would - and called on the corporation to 'step back from the brink.' Which, if they really are considering these quite nonsensical proposals, or anything even remotely like them, as anything other than 'havin' a larf' they very much should. There's stupidity, dear blog reader, there's rank crass stupidity and then there's stuff like this. Jeremy Dear, the NUJ's general secretary, said: 'Local radio plays a crucial role in keeping local communities informed. These proposals would rip the heart out of local programming and effectively sound the death knell for local radio. The BBC's plans would be a blow to quality journalism at the BBC and fly in the face of public commitments to localism and transparency. Local radio programmes are produced by local people for local audiences yet these decisions are being taken far away from communities and behind closed doors. The BBC must step back from the brink and protect local radio services. If they do not we will actively resist plans which threaten to inflict such devastating damage to local radio services.' The corporation has around forty local radio stations with an average weekly audience of around seven-and-a-half million listeners. Numbers have declined marginally in recent years and in a report last year the BBC management called on local stations to improve 'the quality and originality' of their journalism. The corporation began syndicating content between some neighbouring local radio stations last year. The NUJ said the plans – still believed to be at a very early stage and put forward as part of BBC director general Mark Thompson's Delivering Quality First consultation exercise – would lead to the loss of at least seven hundred jobs and the possible closure of some stations. Not that either of these facts, given the BBC's current obsession with cutting costs anywhere they can, would particularly be a problem for BBC management. Better to pay off a few hundred local radio staff than be unable to afford Bruce Forysth's fee for this year's Strictly Come Dancing, I suppose, being the basic argument. A BBC spokesman, quickly, said: 'No decisions have been made so it would be wrong to speculate. It is of course only right that BBC staff have an opportunity to input ideas about shaping the BBC's future. The [Delivering Quality First] sessions are designed to provoke discussion among staff about the way the BBC works and any decisions coming out of the process would be subject to approval by the BBC Trust.' But, one former 5Live executive described the proposals as 'a big, bad idea.' Bill Rogers, the launch editor of the 5Live breakfast programme and now a radio consultant, said: 'If this is a float to demonstrate they're prepared to consider radical stuff, then somebody warn them off. If it's a serious float, it needs sinking fast. Both services lose. The local radio audience is old, tending downmarket, 5Live is fighting to stay younger than Radio 4.' The NUJ said that they understood BBC staff would be briefed about the changes on Friday. But, the BBC spokesperson said: 'It is not true that any decisions have been made so there are no plans to inform staff of any changes tomorrow.' In the event, staff were told about the proposals (see below) on Friday, so technically, everyone's right. Alex Cunningham, the Labour MP for Stockton South, said he was 'worried' about the plans. Gary Dunion, a BBC local radio listener, was also moved to comment to the Daily Torygraph: 'A world without Lancashire Gardeners' Question Time isn't a world I want to live in. Save BBC local radio!' Good on ya, Gary, you're damned right. Meanwhile, oily toerag and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg also got in on the act, sensing perhaps a way to make himself a few friends. Which probably seems like a good idea right now since he, currently, about as popular as The Black Death. He defended the future of BBC local radio, saying it is 'unbelievably important.' Which it is. As noted, dear blog reader, even a broken clock is right twice a day. Speaking on BBC Radio Sheffield, Clegg said: 'There's something authentic and real about local radio and that's something we should do everything to try and protect.' Well, maybe you should be reflecting on the fact that it's your bloody coalition government which foisted onto the BBC a financial settlement which is causing these problems, Nick, me old son. You know, making them find two hundred million to fund the World Service, and stuff like that. Something which, curiously enough, I don't remember being in the Lib Dem manifesto at the time of the last election. Unlike, say, your pledge not to introduce student fees. How's that coming along? The chief executive of Media Trust, Caroline Diehl, urged the corporation to invest in, not cut, local radio, saying: 'From our work in communities across the UK we know that charities and communities are hugely reliant on BBC local radio to raise visibility of their services, causes and campaigns. Local and national charities rely on BBC local radio to give a voice to their users, to raise funds, recruit volunteers and highlight areas and issues where change is needed. BBC local journalists are often the first "whistle-blowers" for local issues of national concern, able to be our nation's "eyes and ears on the ground," and a resource to national media. With UK government policy driving an increasing structural dependency on local charities and community groups to underpin our communities, it is vital that BBC local radio, one of the main resources for these groups, is kept in place, and indeed, strengthened.' The news seems to have caught pretty much everyone off guard with the BBC Trust's new chairman elect Chris Patten quoted in The Times as saying 'Cost-cutting at the BBC will provoke fierce protests when the public see programmes cancelled and channels closed.' The paper noted that 'In a dire assessment of the financial challenges facing the corporation, Lord Patten of Barnes said it was inevitable that both he and Mark Thompson, the BBC's Director-General, would become hugely unpopular. "There are going to be huge fusses," he said. "There'll be all hell let loose. I don't think it's going to be a particularly popular job in the next few years. But these decisions have to be made."' Such a radical change to the BBC's local radio output would - as previously noted - require the approval of the BBC Trust, which oversees the corporation and last year rejected management's plans to close the digital music station 6 Music. And, if one remembers that a digital radio station with a then-weekly listenership of around six hundred thousand being threatened with closure caused what can be described, charitably, as 'a shot-storm of a kerfuffle' then just let's speculate for once second on what the listeners are likely to say when local radio - with an average weekly audience around fifteen times that level, and a far more vocal one at that - gets itself mobilised. The proposals come as many of the big commercial radio groups are moving away from local content in favour of nationwide branding. So, overall, let's be honest about this, it's a perfectly dreadful idea no matter how much money it might save. And, here's just a few of the many reasons why: The main one, of course, is the potential removal of local sports coverage. Currently BBC local radio covers a lot of local sport. In fact it's probably fair to say that in certain parts of the country, a decent sized majority of local radio listenership are there - directly or indirectly - because of its coverage of local football teams. Sometimes it competes with commercial services, and that may not be necessary in those particular areas (Manchester and Liverpool are two obvious examples). But in London, for instance, no commercial radio service pays for any football rights of any of the London clubs. Coverage of smaller clubs across the country - particularly non-Premier League clubs - would certainly be diminished if not abandoned altogether should these proposals come about. On a Saturday afternoon, the big question would be, will the new service broadcast the big Premier League game that 5Live had the rights to, or a local game relevant to a local audience? There aren't too many people who, for instance, listen to BBC Newcastle to hear Mick Lowes covering The Magpies or Nick Barnes commentating on The Black Cats who would be particularly happy, instead, to have to listen to Alan Green wittering on about Moscow Chelski FC vs The Scum. A secondary point, if analogue AM broadcasts are eventually switched off, which they're likely to be, then some parts of the country would, effectively, lose any kind of local radio coverage. BBC local radio is carried on commercially-owned local multiplexes whilst the BBC's own multiplex is national. Unless there were two services running simultaneously, the new service would either have to leave the local multiplex or join the national one. It seems odd to the point of being perverse that, at a time when 5Live has a record audience and speech radio is, generally, doing rather well the BBC would even consider diluting a popular speech service. It's even odder that at a time when the BBC is actively attempted to outsource much of its production base away from London it would consider something so, patently, anti-regions. The BBC's local music services would be all but completely gone as well. This is already a thorny issue with local country music and folk services disappearing as regional groupings of BBC local stations use the evening hours. That's precisely the kind of specialist music which is not served by commercial radio, or indeed any of the BBC's national services, due in large part to its niche appeal. Additionally, local radio is just about the only place for new radio talent to emerge these days. There are other local radio groups who run newsrooms (the INR Radio Awards took place earlier this week recognising that fact), but the BBC remains a vitally important resource. At a time when ITV has tried to minimise local news coverage, and local papers continue to close down at frightening place, it's a scary thought that, effectively, the last - moderately successful - bastion of local journalism could be considered for the chop. During times of a major incidents happening outside of the M25 ring - think of, for instance, two of the big news stories of last year, the Cumbrian shootings or the Roaul Moat manhunt - local people will tend to turn to local radio stations in their droves. At the very same moment that Sky News and CNN were parking themselves in Rothbury town centre and Kay Burley was swanning around town like she owned the gaff, BBC Newcastle's more specialised - and better - rolling news coverage was receiving record listening figures. Also, we're seeing local commercial radio, in large part, trying to get out of as many local commitments as it can for cost saving purposes - with quasi-national networks like Heart, Capital and Kiss being formed - and services being co-located. Thus, many major towns and cities only have significant local coverage from the BBC. Think of places like Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham, Edinburgh. We're not talking piss-ant market towns here. By contrast, all of this is occurring just as a local TV plan appears to be close to coming to fruition, with seemingly many interested parties. It would seem plain bizarre that the much cheaper radio is forced out of localness at the same time. Finally, and possibly most importantly, audiences for 5Live and BBC local radio are very different, making for a potential merger which, in no way, appears to be a natural fit. 5Live has an audience of around five to six million listeners per week, while BBC local radio, cumulatively, has an audience closer to eight million. Yet only about two million - just over twenty per cent of BBC local's audience - listen to both services. 5Live is much more male-orientated than local radio (seventy two per cent as opposed to fifty four per cent), and much more ABC1 dominated in terms of listenership (sixty seven per cent against fifty three per cent on BBC local). Most importantly, BBC local radio seriously serves BBC radio's older audiences. Over half of BBC local's audience is over fifty five years of age compared with just thirty five per cent of 5Live's. At a time when the BBC has, at least been paying lip service to the idea that the elderly are a vastly underserved section of their audience (both in terms of TV and radio) the proposals are, it would seem, a further demonstration that the over-fifty demographic is one that nobody in the media seems particularly interested in. Which, for an ageing population like Britain's, is a truly depressing thought. With discussions suggesting that BBC2 TV could shut down during the daytime, this disenfranchisement of an elderly non-upmarket listener is a very worrying trend. All of this bluster and hot air may ultimately prove to be just some madcap scheme thrown about after an especially heavy three-whisky-lunch in the BBC canteen which never gets any further than that. But, it's clear that with some significant cuts having to made across the BBC due to the current financial situation and the licence fee freeze, lots of ideas are being thrown around simply to meet these new lower budgets without any real thought being given as to how they will be implemented. Much less what impact they could have long-term.

To follow on from that, the executive in charge of the BBC's English regional output has warned staff they need to be 'realistic' about how the corporation will cope with swingeing budget cuts after plans were revealed to cut much of its local radio output. The BBC English Regions controller, David Holdsworth, said the corporation had to work out how it would operate with 'significantly less money' in the future. In a message to all BBC local radio staff, Holdsworth said no decisions had been taken but warned that 'challenging' times lay ahead with a 'fundamental reassessment' of the BBC's future operations. 'We are nowhere near the stage of talking about staffing implications because there is still no clear proposal,' said Holdsworth. 'But we all need to be realistic. The BBC is going through a fundamental assessment of what it needs to do to maintain quality, audience trust and fulfil our purposes but with significantly less money. This process is very challenging but it is not about damaging audience trust, audience reach or in the case of local radio, that special relationship that listeners have with what they regard as their own BBC local station. We should be proud of our audience of seven million which is growing – and proud of the fact we reach audiences who consume no other BBC radio service.' Holdsworth appeared to issue a rallying cry to local staff to defend their corner as the cost-saving consultation continues. 'I am really sorry if you have found these reports unsettling, both in terms of your own personal future but also because I know how passionate you all are about serving local communities,' Holdsworth told staff. 'The current stage of Delivering Quality First is about testing all sorts of radical ideas to shape the BBC for the new licence fee settlement, and it will still be some time before firm proposals are considered.' He added: 'The important thing now is not to be destabilised by these ideas. We need to continue to deliver the best service possible on a daily basis for our audiences. I would also urge you to get fully engaged in the DQF process and make your views known. This is your chance to have your say in the future shape of the BBC.'

All that was rather depressing, dear blog reader, so let's have the Doctor Who mini-section now to try and cheer ourselves up: Matt Smith has reportedly been told not to strip off for his new role. The actor will appear in the BBC's one-off drama Christopher And His Kind, which focuses on the life of the novelist Christopher Isherwood. According to the Sun, Matt was asked not to film any explicit nude scenes because of fears it could 'affect his role in Doctor Who.' I don't believe that for a single second and I'm not sure anybody else with half-a-head would either. A 'source' allegedly told the tabloid: 'Because Doctor Who is a firm favourite, we thought it would be better if we didn't show Matt's behind in his new drama.'

In the latest issue of the Doctor Who Magazine Toby Whithouse - creator of Being Human and author of the forthcoming Doctor Who episode The God Complex - talks exclusively about his previous work on Doctor Who and Torchwood and gives a scrap of info about what's in store for the TARDIS team in his latest script: 'Steven Moffat said "The Doctor and Amy are trapped in a hotel and the geography keeps shifting." I said, "Oh yeah?" He said, "No, that's literally as far as we've got!" So that was the starting point. That one line. A lot of the ideas just fell into place.' The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat, meanwhile, is spot-on in his comments about his bête noir, 'angry Internetters' in this month's DWM. Both barrels and a reload, there. Tasty. I love a good example of spotty socially immature glakes being slapped down by a professional! 'Just what happens to serial killers who don't have the social skills to meet real victims.' Such views will, of course, make certain people with access to a computer and broadband very cross indeed and thump their keyboards in rank disagreement. And they will then tell anyone that's even vaguely interested - and, indeed, anyone that isn't - just exactly how angry and discombobulated they feel about this gross insult. Which is good. This - frequently - angry Internetter is with ya all the way, Mr Moffat, sir!

The first pictures have been released from the two Doctor Who mini-episodes which have been filmed for this year's Comic Relief event. The story, which has been specially written for Comic Relief by Steven Moffat, will see Matt Smith joining in the fun alongside Karen Gillan as Amy and Arthur Darvill as her husband, Rory. 'It is a real privilege and I was really pleased to do it,' Matt told What's On TV. 'I've become friends with Comic Relief founder Richard Curtis since he wrote an episode of Doctor Who and it's nice to be involved in something that makes a difference in the world. Hopefully we can raise lots of money. Comic Relief has such a special vibe; it really is about people getting together for the greater good, which is a rare thing. The way the world is at the moment you look at all these tragedies occurring and a bit of goodwill goes a long way.' Smudger has also admitted that he would like to take part in one of the Comic Relief challenges annually undertaken by celebrities. The actor told TV & Satellite Week that being able to do something on the scale of this year's desert trek, however, would depend on his busy filming schedule. 'Yes, time permitting,' he said when asked if he would join one of the future challenges. 'We are always filming, so it is really difficult. It's wonderful that Dermot O'Leary and everyone have been having an adventure out trekking in Africa. I'd really like to go out there and do a special report one day as well.' Smith revealed his favourite memory of the charity telethon. 'It is something I always watched as a kid, but I think seeing Rowan Atkinson play the Doctor back in 1999 is one of my favourite moments,' he said. 'The sketch had Hugh Grant in it as well and I thought he and Rowan were brilliant. There is something exciting about getting people together like that as a team.'

Finally for today's Doctor Who bits, Glamour Magazine UK has nominated Karen Gillan for their 2010 Women Of the Year Award. And, here's a picture which illustrates nicely exactly why she should win it!Oh, yes. And, moving on quickly, James May reckons that Top Gear could go on forever. Or at least until cars are phased out of existence and replaced by Back To The Future style hoverboards. The presenter has hosted the award-winning BBC motoring show alongside Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond since its relaunched second series in 2003. 'I don't see why it shouldn't keep going as long as there are cars to talk about,' he said. But James is less certain about the trio's stint on the programme. 'How long the three of us keep going, who knows? Eventually we will have to hand it over to someone else, who will probably reinvent it again,' he added. The forty eight-year-old admitted he enjoys his blokey banter with yer man Clarkson. 'We wouldn't be able to do it if we didn't fundamentally get on. But Jeremy and I enjoy disliking each other. It's a creative force,' he said. 'I only lose my temper once every decade, and I've only been working with the oaf for eight years! I'm not an actor, so it's me on the telly. On Top Gear our characteristics are distorted for comedic effect, because it's partly a sitcom, but if you met us in a pub you'd know who we were.' Asked who he would call in a crisis, James joked: 'For a restaurant recommendation, Jeremy, if I was hanging from a cliff, Richard.'

Channel Four has made a last-minute change to its TV schedules to cover the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Friday evening's 7pm news bulletin will be an Earthquake Special and has been extended from thirty minutes to a full hour. The previously-scheduled documentary First Cut: The Only Gay On The Estate will now be broadcast at a later date. The BBC also had a last minute change with a Sophie Raworth News Special on the devastation replacing a repeat on Qi at 8:30.

Chris Patten has revealed that he will push the BBC to change its inhibiting 'compliance culture' should he be confirmed as chairman of the BBC Trust. At a DCMS select committee hearing to assess Patten's suitability for the role, compliance was the first issue he raised when asked if the corporation had any 'imperfections.' The former Hong Kong governor told the committee: 'I think in the last few years – and this perhaps an issue which the Trust and the executive need to address – is that in the attempt to ensure the BBC reaches the highest standards, it has led to the creation of something of a "compliance culture" in the BBC, which I think a lot of the best programme-makers and journalists have found to be an inhibition.' Although Patten accepted it was necessary to ensure 'people don't cross lines,' he warned that as a result, there was the 'danger that it moves into a period in which it becomes bound up in rather labyrinthine bureaucracy.' His comments follow a think tank report, leaked in Thursday's Broadcast magazine, showing how many independent producers feel 'a climate of fear' has developed in the wake of scandals over the last few years across the British broadcasting industry. Patten went on to outline a number of other challenges facing the corporation including talent and executive pay, which he described as 'unfortunate,' despite acknowledging it was now being addressed. It should not be the 'ambition of BBC employees to be paid almost the same as the staff at Barclays.' said a man who is about to get a four day a week job with a salary of one hundred and ten grand a year. Can't say fairer than that, can you? Referring to a comment made by Jonathon Ross in 2007, he added: 'When one highly-paid alleged talent said it was more important to pay him at the expense of sacking journalists, that was an indication that things had gone wrong with talent and celebrity [pay].' Don't you just love the loaded use of the word 'alleged' there, dear blog reader. Almost worthy of yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self. Allegedly. Patten said there was a 'real question mark' over whether the BBC should attempt to match commercial pay rates, given the extent to which it 'leads' the TV sector. Patten also said he was not opposed to allowing the National Audit Office access to all areas of the BBC, with the proviso that the report be delivered to the Trust prior to the government.

On the subject of that leaked report mentioned previously, 'compliance and editorial policy are stifling British TV's ability to make hard-hitting documentaries,' according to the report 'obtained' by Broadcast. Or, in other words, given to them by somebody who wanted its finding out in the public arena. Commissioned by the media charity the International Broadcasting Trust, it is due to be presented to a cross-media panel organised by the Department for International Development in April. The IBT's mission is to promote quality broadcast coverage of the developing world and its issues. The document reveals that a panel of sixteen prominent film-makers feel 'a climate of fear' has developed as a result of multiple high-profile compliance scandals, with particular concern directed at risk-averse commissioners. The BBC came under the most fire, with respondents laying the blame largely at the feet of the Editorial Policy Unit, which was seen as a hurdle to overcome, being both structurally complex and encroaching on areas beyond its remit. Respondents complained that the department's advice 'now has to be followed with the same non-negotiable obedience as if it were governed by law,' but claimed its lack of legal expertise meant it erred on the side of caution and was inconsistent in its advice. The EPU was also criticised as some film-makers claimed their pitches had been turned down as a result of 'risk aversion,' while others said they no longer bothered approaching the BBC with particular types of films. Although some respondents said they had not experienced any difficulties, the vast majority were critical to some degree. Opportunities to produce serious documentaries for ITV and Sky were limited, with the former criticised for its compliance 'changing dramatically in the past twelve to eighteen months.' The consensus was that ITV is now tougher than Sky when it comes to regulation and fines for breaches. Only Channel Four was seen as a 'can-do' outlet, where compliance was seen as 'a lot more pro-filmmaker' than at the BBC. But a BBC spokesman said producers had no obligation to accept the Editorial Policy Unit's advice, which was 'simply guidance to help avoid potential problems that may arise once a show has been aired.' He added that the final decision rested with the BBC's executive producers. The unit and the compliance process were regularly discussed with programme-makers, but the meetings 'did not consistently highlight significant issues with the system,' said the spokesman. He also urged independents to contact the corporation with feedback 'as we can only address issues if they are brought to our attention.' Mark Galloway, director of IBT, said: 'The report raises serious concerns, and it's clear there are instances where producers have not been able to make certain programmes, and even feel discouraged from pitching ideas to broadcasters.' He added: 'Our aim is to make a constructive contribution to tackling this problem - we are not attacking broadcasters, but the findings of the report confirm there are a number of problems that need to be addressed.'

Hugh Bonneville has revealed that he has been getting more opportunities since starring in Downton Abbey. The actor, whose new comedy Twenty Twelve starts next week, told TV Choice that he has been given a number of projects to consider. 'There are certain doors that are opening,' he said. 'I'm being invited to attach myself to projects that I might not have been six months ago, and that's delightful. But for now I'm focusing on doing more Downton and hopefully more Twenty Twelve. That's what I would love to do for the rest of this year, but we'll see.' Bonneville also admitted that he never expected Downton Abbey to be so popular, saying: 'Who could [predict that] really? We all knew it was going to get a good first audience because ITV had spent so much money making it and it was on after The X Factor. I'd expected it then to drop by at least twenty or twenty five per cent, but it grew and grew. The sense of ownership by the public was so gorgeous to perceive. People were passionate about it.'

Salman Rushdie has reportedly started writing a television series. According to Deadline, the Booker Prize-winning author is penning a screenplay for Showtime. The drama, which is called Next People, is said to examine different aspects of American life. Rushdie reportedly went straight to Showtime with the project after being impressed with the network's entertainment president David Nevins. Rushdie is also expected to executive produce the series.

Bones's David Boreanaz has claimed that a potential seventh season could be more light-hearted. The actor told Assignment X that the FOX series will move out of darker territory once it resolves some current story arcs. 'We'll always have those tongue-in-cheek moments,' he said. 'We'll get back to those episodes where it's just [Booth and Brennan] solving crimes. I think [that will happen] once we're over this relationship arc and the sniper arc. I think next season will be an "up" arc.' However, Boreanaz added that he is not aware of any particular storylines coming up in the show's future. 'I don't look that far ahead,' he laughed. 'I just work on what we're doing now. I always have. That's my motto.' The former Angel star also revealed that he still enjoys playing Seeley Booth after six seasons. 'I get to work with a character who's got so much going on in his life,' he explained. 'He's got a great relationship [with Brennan]. It's a great on-screen chemistry, I think it will go down as one of the best in television, and we're very proud of that.'

Britain's Got Talent regular James Boyd has reportedly auditioned for The X Factor. Boyd first appeared on Got Talent in 2009 when he attempted to break the record for eating Ferrero Rocher in a minute. Last year he returned with a new record attempt with After Eight mints. The thirty four-year-old Scottish reality TV regular has switched shows this year and has posted a video of himself singing 'Fly Me to the Moon' on YouTube. According to UnrealityTV, this song is Boyd's audition song for The X Factor.

Yer Keith Telly Topping very much enjoyed the Torygraph's Michael Deacon's review of the opening episode of Monroe: 'Before I get stuck in, I should probably admit that I'm not feeling well disposed towards ITV. This is because of an unhappy meeting I had last week with its head of programmes. I'd gone along to pitch an idea I'd had for a series. It would be a sci-fi drama for all the family, I told him eagerly, about an immortal alien in human form who has the ability to travel through time, using a space ship got up to look like a postbox (it's much bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside). His mission is to save Earth from an army of killer robots called the Roleks ("E-rad-i-cate! E-rad-i-cate!"). Geeky and enigmatic, our hero would be known simply as The Professor. "Professor what?" said the head of programmes. "That's exactly the title of the show," I beamed. Professor What. At this point, the head of programmes flung me from his office. Friends have gently suggested that my ideas weren't wholly original. Why this would matter to ITV, I don't know. It did, after all, commission Monroe. Monroe, nakedly, is House. Named, like House, after its lead character, it is, like House, a hospital drama about a maverick medical genius, who, like House, is arrogant but insecure. Like House, Monroe has a wretched home life but, like House, he buries himself in work and, like House, disguises his pain by making blackly flippant wisecracks. Unlike House, Monroe is played by James Nesbitt. Whether ITV tried to cast Hugh Laurie is unknown. I shouldn't bang on. All broadcasters imitate other broadcasters' ideas, and if you're going to copy any show, you might as well copy House. House is great. Monroe, however, has a problem. It isn't Monroe himself; Nesbitt plays him well, and some of his wisecracks aren't too bad ('Oh, I only did what anyone would have done with a medical degree and a borderline personality disorder'). The problem is Monroe's colleagues. They don't seem to be human beings.' Nevertheless Monroe launched with nearly six million viewers. The drama is one of the broadcasters highly touted replacements for The Bill which ITV axed last year because of poor ratings. At the time the broadcaster said that the money saved from the police drama would be reinvested into new shows with Monroe being highlighted as just one of the new drama commissions by ITV. According to overnight ratings the opening episode of Monroe was seen by 5.7 million viewers. Whether or not Monroe will prove as popular with viewers as the recent supernatural drama Marchlands, which occupied the 9pm slot for the past five weeks, remains to be seen. But, that's a decent start.

The BBC's chief political correspondent, Laura Kuenssberg, had landed her own talk radio show on BBC 5Live. Kuenssberg - and no, yer Keith Telly Topping still has no idea of her age, thanks for asking - will host Double Take with Sam Walker which will digest the key stories of the week. The show will be broadcast on Sunday mornings from 10 July.

The BBC has defended moving Outcasts from its Monday night slot following its very poor ratings. The SF drama, which stars Hermione Norris and Eric Mabius, was shifted to Sunday night to complete its eight episode run after ratings fell to just two-and-a-half million. Responding to 'unhappy viewers,' the corporation said that the viewing figures simply did not 'justify' leaving the programme where it was. 'BBC1 commissions a large number of new drama series each year and inevitably there will be some that do not engage as wide an audience as we would like them to,' a statement said, not unreasonably. 'We are proud to have brought this original and high quality drama to the audience but unfortunately it did not engage enough of them to justify playing the full series out in a 9pm slot. We realise that many viewers enjoyed the series and apologise to them for any disappointment or inconvenience caused by the change of slot to 10:25pm on Sunday.'

Brooke Vincent has criticised Coronation Street viewers who have, themselves, criticised the soap's lesbian storyline. Vincent plays Sophie Webster in the Granada soap and is currently involved in a lesbian romance with Sian Powers (Sacha Parkinson). However, while the storyline has proved popular with younger fans some shall we be charitable and say some of the more homophobic and bigoted viewers of Coronation Street have complained. Loudly. Most notably over the New Year's period when a lesbian kiss between the two characters prompted some complaints from 'disgruntled fans.' However, Vincent has defended the storyline and criticised those who have complained. 'I think it's selfish because things are moving with the times. Nowadays there's nothing wrong with being gay so why not have it on screen? Our viewers go from seventy-year-olds to ten-year-olds so it's hard to do a storyline that fits everybody's views. We're just trying our best, so if it's offending you then don't watch!' she told the Press Association. Oh great. A bright young thing encouraging people not to watch her TV show. She's got a lot to learn! Vincent's co-star Sacha Parkinson revealed that they had both received a lot of positive feedback from gay viewers and felt it ignorant of some Coronation Street viewers to claim that the soap should not cover the storyline. 'Most of our positive feedback has been from gay people. I think they appreciate it a lot more, it's all been positive. I don't think we've had any negative feedback from gay people. It's been older people saying Coronation Street shouldn't have this storyline but I just think that's ignorant if I'm honest.' So, that's a decent sized proportion of Corrie's audience pissed off even further by one sentence. That takes a hell of a lot of talent to pull off. The two actresses have previously described the storyline as 'an honour' and producer Phil Collinson highlighted the storyline for producing positive role models for younger people.

The 'drunk yob' who 'decked' Ant McPartlin 'snarled last night: "He deserved it,"' according to the Sun. Ross Hamilton, twenty, attacked McPartlin as he watched football with 'pals' in a pub. Hamilton said he was 'having a joke.' One with a quite literal punchline, it would seem.

ITV News editor-in-chief David Mannion is to step down from the news and current affairs broadcaster this summer, moving to a new strategic role at ITV News producer ITN. In July, Mannion will leave from ITV News after almost nine years of success at the broadcaster. Mannion is due to take on a newly-created role acting as special advisor to ITN chief executive John Hardie, influencing 'strategy and policy at a corporate level.' In the new position, he will also advise on 'future planning, new business opportunities and revenue growth outside of ITN's core contracts.' His replacement as ITV News editor-in-chief has not yet been announced. 'This has been a huge decision for me but, after a decade in my current role, it feels the appropriate time for me to do other things,' said Mannion. 'I am privileged to have worked at ITN with some of the greatest TV news professionals of our time and I am genuinely delighted to be taking on my new role working closely with my chief executive John Hardie.' Hardie added: 'David is a force of nature whose impact is evident in every part of ITV News - from delivering world exclusives to building an incredibly talented team around him. He leaves ITV News on a real high, with News at Ten named 'Programme of the Year' by both the RTS and BAFTA - just the latest in a hatful of industry accolades and achievements. I look forward to working even more closely with David and utilising his experience in developing the commercial future for ITN. What we lose from the ITV newsroom, ITN gains corporately and strategically by harnessing David's knowledge and expertise.' Mannion joined ITN in 1979 and holds the unique position of editing various ITV News programmes, GMTV and two of ITV's flagship current affairs strands, Tonight with Trevor McDonald and The Cook Report. He was also previously deputy editor of Channel Four News.

An MP - who may, or may not, exist - has said that the former boss of the Royal Bank of Scotland - which also may or may not exist - Sir Fred Goodwin - or not, as the case may be - has obtained a super-injunction which bans the media from even calling him 'a banker.' Or not. Which then led to the Metro, a newspaper which could be a figment of everyone's imagination, or otherwise, to open their coverage of the story, or not, with the words 'Disgraced banker Sir Fred Goodwin ...' Not that this blog is calling Mr Goodwin 'a banker,' of course. Or, calling him anything else for that matter. Indeed Mr Goodwin, whom you may recall dear blog reader, was widely criticised by a variety of newspapers for his role in the near collapse of RBS, may not even exist under the term of this injunction. This blog - which may, or may not, exist - couldn't possibly comment on that. Or, indeed, anything else as we may, or may not, exist. As the case may be, as it were. Lib Dem MP John Hemming, or not, raised the matter - or otherwise - of the ban on information, or not, about Goodwin in the Commons on Thursday, using parliamentary privilege. Or not. Leader of the House, Sir George Young, who almost certainly doesn't exist, said that a debate in Westminster Hall soon would cover freedom of speech. Or, perhaps not. The terms of the super-injunction impose tight restrictions on what the media, which may or may not exist, can publish - even though the existence of the injunction itself cannot, usually, be reported and newspapers are banned from revealing even the nature of the information being kept secret. Because it doesn't exist. Unless somebody talks about it in parliament in which case, you can report that. And, therefore it does exist. Although, only inside the House. Outside, it's all a matter of interpretation. Or otherwise. The banker, or not, is not alone in using the draconian super-injunctions: recently well-known figures from the worlds of sport and music have benefited - or, indeed, haven't - from the gagging orders. Which may, or may not exist. Clear?

One of Scotland Yard's most senior officers was accused of misleading parliament in evidence he gave to a select committee about the phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World. Labour MP Chris Bryant told the House of Commons that assistant commissioner John Yates wrongly claimed it was difficult to secure phone-hacking convictions because the Crown Prosecution Service adopted a narrow definition of the legislation outlawing the practice. Speaking during a Commons debate on phone hacking, Bryant said the CPS told the Met five months ago that Yates's evidence was misleading and warned it against relying on that interpretation of the law. Bryant said he could name eight MPs who have been told by Scotland Yard they were targeted by Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator employed by the News of the World, but didn't identify them. Yates told the home affairs select committee in September 2009 that the CPS relied on a 'narrow interpretation' of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, which meant a crime was only committed if a voicemail is intercepted by a third party before it has been listened to. 'It was on that basis and only on that basis that Yates was asserting there were only really eight to twelve victims,' Bryant said. 'Yates maintained time and time again there were "very few victims." We now know that to be completely and utterly untrue.' The CPS has since made it clear that a criminal offence may have been committed whenever a voicemail is intercepted, even if it has already been listened to by its intended recipient. Bryant said Yates' claim about the CPS advice 'was the very reason, and the only reason, why the Metropolitan police refused point blank to reopen the case until January this year. Yates misled the committee, whether deliberately or inadvertently. He knew the number of potential victims is and was substantial.' The shadow Europe minister added that Yates wrongly told MPs in September last year there was no evidence the former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott had his phone hacked. Prescott was told by the Met in January that his phone messages may have been intercepted by Mulcaire, following its decision to reopen its investigation into phone-hacking. Prescott claimed that further evidence would shortly emerge proving that a journalist at the Sunday Times, another Rupert Murdoch-owned paper, was hacking into mobile phone messages. Bryant alleged that the practice of hacking was rife when Rebekah Brooks, now chief executive of the titles' parent company, News International, was editor of the News of the World. News International denies this.

Channel Four is to commission a raft of online comedy pilots with a view to giving new talent 'a break.' The new scheme, Comedy Blaps, will be the first step on the ladder for up-and-coming stars wanting to work with the broadcaster. It already runs the Comedy Lab and more prestigious Comedy Showcase pilot schemes on TV. The broadcaster is looking to commission around eight Independent production companies to collectively produce around twenty four short videos. The content produced will be available on Channel4.com and via podcasts. Channel Four comedy editor Fiona McDermott said: 'The long term goal for Comedy Blaps is that they provide the all important stepping stone for fantastic new talent to get their break through on screen. Ultimately the successes that emerge from this online series will be the talent we nurture in next years Comedy Labs, so it’s an exciting commission that we hope will yield some funny and inspiring pitches.' The commissions should be awarded by next month.

An independent political candidate in Australia was taken away by security guards after he stripped off his robe to reveal a black G-string. Stuart Baanstra, also wearing a bowtie, was carrying a sign stating Nude is not Rude during the ballot for the list of independent candidates at the Sydney Electoral Commission building, AAP reports. He reportedly said that he 'believes in the rights of people to live without clothes.' Candidate Pauline Hanson said: 'I suppose they say freedom of speech - well it's freedom of expression isn't it? Who am I to criticise anything? He had a point to put forward, he attempted and failed.'

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, you were promised gloomy white boys with guitars yesterday dear blog reader and you're effing well getting it! Magnificently gloomy at that, mind. The Chameleons, dear blog reader, one of the most under-rated bands imaginable and one of the great songs of sheer, abject desperation ever written. How the hell U2 sold fifty gazillion records and these guys didn't is utterly beyond this blogger.And, here's Mark Burgess and the boys performing it, stunningly, live on French telly. 'It seems/To me/You become part of the machinery.' Remember, dear blog reader, as yer Keith Telly Topping noted earlier, no matter how bad your life might seem to be at times, there are always darker places that one go.

1 comment:

Martin said...

The BBC should take any review it makes of Radio services and turn it upside down. Keep local radio, 6Music and changing BBC7 to 4 extra ,or whatever it is, is a rebranding exercise on a par with new coke. Really, in these money saving times, the marketing people are the first the BBC should be putting on the "B Ark". Drop 1extra and maybe even Radio1 has had it's day?

If your going to rethink local radio then start with music policy. Used to listen to a lot of BBC Newcastle and the big blue bus. Switched on to listen to the "local" match and yes, it's the Sisser Sisters with that track again!