Thursday, July 28, 2011

Say You Want A Revolution? We Better Have One Right Away

BBC Worldwide is launching its global iPlayer service this week, via an iPad app that will be made available in eleven countries in Western Europe. The US, Canada and Australia will follow later this year, as part of what is intended to be a one-year pilot scheme. The service will offer a limited amount of content for free, supported by pre-roll advertising and sponsorship, but its core business model is subscription, with users paying a monthly or annual subscription. The eleven launch countries are Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland. The global iPlayer app includes some features which are not on the UK version, including the ability to stream shows over 3G as well as Wi-Fi, and a downloading feature to store programmes on the iPad for subsequent offline viewing. 'We think we have a load of unmet demand for BBC and British content internationally,' said BBC.com managing director Luke Bradley-Jones in an interview with Apps Blog. 'This is not a catch-up service: this is a video-on-demand service. We will have content from the last month, but also the best from the catalogue stretching back fifty to sixty years.' Users will be able to search for specific shows or browse genres including comedy and drama, but BBC Worldwide has also hired a team of editors to curate the international iPlayer. Their focus will be on pulling together themed collections around specific shows or special events. An example of the former is Doctor Who, which is getting separate collections of episodes based on individual Doctors - The Tennant Years, The Eccleston Years and so on - as well as one focused purely on episodes featuring the Daleks. is it worth pointing out to the Beeb that The Eccleston Years should actually be The Eccleston Year and that The McGann Years is going to be a pretty small collection? 'There is at least fifteen hundred hours of content there from day one, and it will be growing by at least one hundred hours a month going forward,' said Mark Smith, launch director for global iPlayer at BBC Worldwide. 'Most audiences know the big shows like Top Gear or Doctor Who, but maybe not so much about other shows, so we have been working hard on how we surface that content.' At launch, the eleven countries will be seeing the same iPlayer homepage and collections, but over time, there will be scope for the global iPlayer team to flag up different content based on local demand. 'What we're trying to test in the pilot is the ability to drive exploration and discovery through a programming approach rather than an algorithm-based approach,' said Bradley-Jones. 'We're not trying to compete against a Netflix or a Hulu. This has to be tailored and hand-crafted, so we can create a tone of voice.' At launch, sixty per cent of the global iPlayer content has been produced and commissioned by the BBC, while thirty per cent has been commissioned by the BBC but produced by independents. The other ten per cent of content is entirely non-BBC produced, including ITV's Primeval, and Channel Four's The Naked Chef and Misfits all of which BBC Worldwide distributes internationally. 'We see this as a best-of-British proposition,' said Bradley-Jones. 'If we get this right, it's a very exciting opportunity to provide a window onto our world: the cultural and entertainment space in Britain. To do that well, it can't be just BBC content. We really hope it will be a much broader church.' Once shows are added, they will generally stay available for the long-term, although 'a handful of top brands' will receive different treatment to take into account DVD releases or specific terrestrial scheduling initiatives.

And, speaking of the Beeb there's a great piece on it and the crap it faces from disgraceful right wing scum by the blogger Callum Jones which I highly recommend to you, dear blog reader. Testify, my brother!

The Olympics will dominate 'every part' of the BBC for the duration of the event, director of London 2012 Roger Mosey has said. Production will extend to the nations and regions, and run across all genres including drama, comedy and factual, he revealed. Live coverage of the Cultural Olympiad will feature as part of the non-sports content connected to the games, and the BBC also hopes to broadcast the torch relay's seventy-day tour around the British Isles entirely live - a first for any country. 'No bit of the BBC will be untouched by the Olympics - much of our coverage will be replacing what was in the schedule,' he said. A second series of BBC4 comedy Twenty Twelve and the much anticipated BBC1 drama Bert and Dickie, set during the 1948 London Olympics, have already been announced, but Mosey hinted that more is in the pipeline. Discussions with potential presenters will begin this autumn, and the plan is to use people from 'around the BBC - news, sports and other departments' to replicate the style of coverage of the royal wedding. Mosey said the BBC was now entering its 'most intense period' of preparation for the Olympics, with multiplatform plans highest on its list of priorities. Having committed to broadcasting twenty four streams simultaneously, connected TV and mobile will play an important role in the corporation's output, alongside its online proposition. The Future Media team has until the end of the year to ensure this is 'absolutely nailed' before months of testing begin in the run-up to the summer games. But while he acknowledged the technical success of the 3D Wimbledon broadcast, Mosey would not commit to transmitting 3D coverage of the Olympics, saying it would depend on which events were shot in the medium. 'Our priority is live content, and as much HD as possible - our biggest pledge is to cover every venue from first thing in morning to last thing at night.'

And, so to Hackgate. Which just won't stop giving.
For instance, the editor of The Times, James Harding, has admitted that News International's handling of the phone-hacking crisis was 'catastrophic' and that it impacted on the paper's sales. Harding said that readers had cancelled subscriptions to The Times and to digital versions of the paper in the immediate aftermath of the revelations about Milly Dowler's phone allegedly being hacked by News International sister title the News of the World. Asked whether News International would recover and if he still felt the way the company had reacted had been 'catastrophic,' as described by one of his paper's leader columns, he said: 'Yes, I think that would be a pretty descriptive word for what it happened and the struggle they had in getting to grips with it.' But Harding, who has pursued a fiercely independent line on the scandal since the Dowler story broke in early July, said that he believed Rupert Murdoch was now 'back in charge' after accepting the resignation of Rebekah Brooks, dropping the bid for BSkyB and apologising to the Dowler family. 'You have to own your mistakes, otherwise your mistakes own you,' Harding told Steve Hewlett, presenter of Radio 4's The Media Show. The Times lost more than twenty thousand sales on some days following the Dowler revelation, according to industry sources. 'In the first couple of weeks after the Milly Dowler story broke we were acutely concerned about it and with good reason. There were some people who were not just disgusted by the News of the World but wanted to express that anger in any way they could,' Harding said. He was then asked if The Times saw evidence of this in losing its own readers. 'Yes we absolutely did,' Harding replied. 'We saw small numbers of people cancelling their digital subscriptions or cancelling their print subscriptions – happily those have largely come back.' He said that he knew he was in for 'a very testing time' when the Dowler story broke more than three weeks ago and that the scrutiny of press behaviour on all newspapers would be 'a watershed' moment for British journalism. But he added that it would be lamentable if the ambitions of journalists to hold the powerful and privileged to account were in any way stymied. 'I think it's an unpopular position at the moment. But we need to make sure we don't get into a circular firing squad in Fleet Street, we don't spend our time in a process of self-flagellation, we believe in a free press,' Harding told the Gruniad. 'I was very concerned for the reputation of journalism generally the moment I woke. We are now three and a half weeks, the better part of a month on,' he added. 'I think if you went round the country today and you said "Do you still think that's it's important in a free society that the press hold the powerful and the privileged to account?" I think they would say "yes." If you said "Do you think it would be a good idea for David Cameron and Ed Miliband to set the terms of the way in which newspapers work?" most people would say "no."'

The News of the World phone hacking scandal plunged to new depths of disgracefulness today after it emerged that Sara Payne, whose eight-year-old daughter Sarah was murdered in July 2000, has been informed by police that the Sunday tabloid may have hacked her phone. Payne was previously informed that her name was not among the records of Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator jailed for phone hacking on behalf of the News of the World. However, officers from Operation Weeting today told Payne that her details have now been found among the investigator's notes, according to the Gruniad. Friends of Payne told the newspaper that she is 'absolutely devastated and deeply disappointed' at the development. The case is all the more shocking as the News of the World, and its former editor Rebekah Brooks, had been such a vocal supporter of her campaign to change UK legislation in relation to the disclosure of the location of sex offenders. In a statement, Brooks said that the allegations about Payne's phone being hacked were 'abhorrent and upsetting,' adding: 'The idea of her being targeted is beyond my comprehension.' The phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler was allegedly hacked by the News of the World while Brooks was editor, while there have been claims that the phones of families of victims of the 7/7 London bombings and those of British soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan were also targeted. However, Payne believed that she had not been targeted, and even wrote a farewell column in Sunday tabloid's final edition on 10 July, praising its staff as 'my good and trusted friends.' She had such a close relationship with the News of the World that journalists from the paper attended the funerals of her mother and father, and visited her when she was sick after suffering a stroke in December 2009. The Gruniad reports that the evidence found by police in Mulcaire's notes refers to a phone given to Payne by Brooks as a gift. A close colleague of Payne said: 'We are all appalled and disgusted. Sara is in bits about it.' The Labour MP Tom Watson, who has been a committed critic of News International, said: 'This is a new low. The last edition of the News of the World made great play of the paper's relationship with the Payne family. Brooks talked about it at the committee inquiry. I have nothing but contempt for the people that did this.' Friends of Sara Payne quoted by the Gruniad said that she has not yet decided whether to sue News International, but wanted police to complete their investigation before taking any further action. Operation Weeting, the police probe into phone hacking, is now reviewing all high profile cases involving child abduction or murder since 2001 to see if there is a risk that those involved could have been targeted.

Colin Myler, the News of the World's last editor, and Tom Crone, the paper's former lawyer, are expected to appear before Parliament after they challenged claims made by James Murdoch over the phone hacking scandal. The two senior News International figures said that Murdoch was 'mistaken' when he claimed that he was not shown an e-mail containing apparent evidence of phone hacking. The 'For Neville' e-mail refers to Neville Thurbeck, the paper's chief reporter, and was sent by Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator hired by the News of the World to intercept voicemail messages. It is at the heart of the scandal as it appears to show that News International was aware that phone hacking was more widespread than a single 'rogue reporter' a full four years before they finally admitted as much in January of this year. Crone and Myler say they showed the e-mail to Murdoch before he sanctioned the decision to pay seven hundred thousand smackers to Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers Association, after Taylor claimed his phone had been hacked. Murdoch told the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee that it was 'a matter of deep regret' that he had not been shown the e-mail before making the decision. News International said that Murdoch stood by his testimony. A 'source' on the committee told the Independent: 'We will probably recall Colin Myler and Tom Crone to give evidence again.'

It has also emerged that Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, discussed the possibility of Rupert Murdoch sponsoring one of the government's flagship academies during a meeting with the media mogul. Gove, a former journalist for The Times, has met his former employer six times since taking office, more than any other Cabinet minister. Nothing appears to have come of the discussion and News Corp has not announced any plans to sponsor any such academy. The revelation came as the phone hacking scandal threatened to spread beyond News International to Trinity Mirra, which owns the Daily and Sunday Mirra titles. According to the Gruniad Piers Morgan, the former editor of the Daily Mirra (and the News of the World), 'faced allegations that his paper printed stories based on voicemails intercepted from Ulrika Jonsson's and Heather Mills's phones.' Morgan has consistently denied that he knew about phone hacking or had ever authorised it and yesterday described critics as 'lying smearers.' Morgan is also accused of being an odious oily twat. Although, technically speaking, that's not actually illegal, just very annoying.

Jonathan Djanogly, a junior minister in the Justice Department, has been reported to the Information Commissioner's Office, which said on Wednesday that it had begun preliminary inquiries. Djanogly reportedly paid detectives five thousand pounds to 'monitor his constituents covertly,' according to the Daily Torygraph. In the wake of the phone hacking scandal, they claim, 'the disclosure will put pressure on Mr Djanogly.' The Justice Department is charged with overseeing changes to legislation amid widespread concern among MPs over the use of private detectives to garner private information illicitly. David Cameron and Nick Clegg have criticised 'blagging,' which involves the use of subterfuge to obtain private information. Dozens of MPs have called for the inquiry into phone hacking to investigate the practice, and the Deputy Prime Minister has said 'blaggers' should be jailed. The Torygraph claim that Djanogly, the Conservative MP for Huntingdon, employed the firm Morris Chase International to 'investigate his constituents' after the Torygraph published an article about his expenses. The private detectives' report was sent to his office at the law firm SJ Berwin, where the MP worked until 2009. In the report, the detectives 'admit using subterfuge to gain information.' The investigation into Djanogly follows a complaint by John Mann, a Labour MP. 'The minister's position is untenable,' said Mann this week. 'He should resign immediately. He has no credibility in this area — and it shows the problems this government is in that they have not sacked him yet. The idea that he is a minister in the Justice Department is unacceptable.' A spokesman for the Information Commissioner's Office said there was an 'ongoing inquiry' into the allegations concerning Djanogly. 'We are aware of this issue and will be responding to Mr Mann in due course,' said a spokesman. Djanogly himself, the Torygraph states, 'issued a defiant statement' in which he appeared to criticise the Information Commissioner. He said: 'It is not clear what the relevance of the ICO could possibly be in this case. As I said when the issue first arose last year, I would never have condoned anything unlawful and dishonest in the investigations, and the investigators have assured me that all of their inquiries were carried out in an entirely lawful manner.'

And speaking of the good old Torygraph, here's a piece that'll no doubt amuse, dear blog reader. The BBC has been accused of 'gloating' over the difficulties being experienced by News International and Rupert Murdoch, after one of its senior news executives e-mailed his team to say that the phone hacking scandal had been 'great fun.' Quite why someone within the BBC should not be able to voice a personal opinion on this matter of public record is, frankly, beyond me - especially as James Murdoch until just a few weeks ago needed very little encouragement to use the BBC as his own personal punching bag, just like his scum mates at the Daily Scum Mail. Most notably during his 2009 MacTaggert lecture. But, let's go with the story and see where it takes us. The e-mail, the Torygraph earnestly inform us, which began with the words 'Praise be to the News gods for the hacking scandal,' also 'called into question the corporation's impartiality in reporting the story.' Which it doesn't. Not in any way shape or form or nothing even remotely like it, it merely proves that one BBC employee thought the irony of News International, a corporation which has seemingly taken great pleasure in hitting those who can't hit back, being hoist by their own petard is effing funny. Which, it is, by the way. Very. The e-mail was sent last Friday afternoon by Mark Barlex, the editor of the BBC’s 'on-demand' news service, which supplies clips and video packages to the corporation's website and through the red button service on TV. Barlex wrote that the hacking scandal had, first of all, 'saved us from having to find something creative to show on the Eurozone crisis. Secondly, it's been great fun.' Yep. I agree with all of that. His comments, the Torygraph suggest 'reinforced the view held by some of the BBC's detractors that it has an institutional left-wing bias and an anti-Murdoch agenda.' Although it only does this is you are a knob or a right wing thug bully. Or both. And, speaking of those right-wing thug bully and knob Philip Davies MP, a Tory member of the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee and somebody seldom short of an big-mouthed opinion - usually a rubbish one - said: 'It sounds to me like somebody who's gloating at the difficulties being experienced by Rupert Murdoch and News International, which in itself is one of the favourite hobby horses of people who happen to be on the left – the type of people we'd expect from the BBC to be perfectly honest.' And, once again, we return to a particular favourite topic of this blog, the thoroughly odious Philip Davies and the two hundred odd quid which he claimed in, shall we be charitable and call it, 'overly enthusiastic' expense claims two years ago and then got away with on appeal. Because, if you think the general public has forgotten - or ever will forget - that little malarkey, chum, you've got another thing coming. See me, right. I'm a tax payer - you know, one of them annoying 'little people' who pay your bloody wages. And I'd very much like - before you get yourself too carried away with telling other people what they're doing wrong in life - for you to, please, give me my money back. If it's not too much trouble, of course. Or, actually, even if it is to much trouble. 'The BBC's job is not to gloat at the difficulties being experienced by News International or any other media group, it's to report on things and be completely impartial at all times. And I think people are increasingly worried that the BBC aren't capable of that.' That was the rancid spew of Philip Davies, MP there dear blog reader. Somebody 'in government.' So he obviously knows what he's talking about. This, incidentally, would appear to be the same Philip Davies (MP for Shipley) who was called 'a troglodyte' by then Conservative MP and current Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow for his opposition to debating the Equalities Bill, the effect of the recession on women and International Women's Day. The same Philip Davies who, on 7 October 2006, after a particular act of vandalism was initially alleged to have been perpetrated by Muslims, was quoted by the Sun saying 'if there's anybody who should fuck off it's the Muslims who do this sort of thing.' It was later exposed by, among others, the Independent that the incident did not involve any Muslims at all and the Sun was forced to issue a - rather grovelling - apology four months later. Davies, however, has never apologised for his comments. And, the same Philip Davies criticised by the press and religious organisations for using Parliamentary rules to 'wreck' the Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Bill designed to stop 'Vulture funds' from buying up the debt of third-word countries in order to aggressively pursue repayments through the international courts. That Philip Davies. And he doesn't like the BBC, seemingly? If I was the BBC, I'd be bloody delighted by this revelation since I'd hate to have a friend like him. A BBC spokesman said: 'We have reported the phone hacking story in the same impartial way we would any other. A story of this magnitude is of great interest to our audiences and clearly also something that journalists across the media have found very engaging to work on as it has continued to unfold.'

Boris Johnson would have been attempting to pervert the course of justice if he knew police were actively investigating phone hacking when he described fresh allegations as 'codswallop,' it was claimed today. The London Mayor's deputy for policing, Kit Malthouse, was informed on 10 September 2010 that Scotland Yard detectives were looking into new claims made in a New York Times article. Five days later, when asked about phone hacking at Mayor's Question Time, Johnson publicly dismissed the story as 'a load of codswallop.' He said: 'I am almost in continuous conversations with my deputy mayor for policing (Mr Malthouse) about this and other matters. It would be fair to say that he and I have discussed this. The conclusion of our conversation would be obvious from what I have said. In other words, this is a load of codswallop cooked up by the Labour Party and that we do not intend to get involved with it.' The Metropolitan Police Authority, which oversees Scotland Yard's work, questioned Malthouse on whether he had discussed the investigation with Johnson before the Mayor made his statement. Green Party MPA member Jenny Jones suggested that Johnson must have known there was an active police investigation when he made his 'codswallop' comments. She told the meeting at London's City Hall: 'If he did know, he was attempting to pervert the course of justice.' Malthouse denied any conversations about the investigation had taken place. 'We have no records, and I have no recollection that between the 10th and the 15th I discussed this matter with the Mayor,' he claimed.

Writer Tom MacRae spoke to the Northampton Chronicle about his forthcoming episode for Doctor Who, the title for which has now been revealed as The Girl Who Waited. 'I went down onto the set quite a lot and it was great to see it filmed. It's a real tear-jerker of an episode and it's very much focused on Karen. Her acting in it is amazing. I know she'll break the viewers' hearts in two when they watch it, it's so emotional.' Tom who, like Matt Smith' comes from Northampton added: 'It's wonderful writing for Matt, he's such a fantastic actor and a genuinely lovely guy. He's about the same age as me, we're from the same town and we've got a lot of friends in common, so it was great to work with him. And as The Doctor, I admire him so much. I'm a huge fan of what he's done on the show, I would say he's "my Doctor."'

ITV are hoping a plan to 'recapture GMTV's warmth' will helping their struggling breakfast disaster Daybreak turn around its fortunes. Some chance. Daybreak launched on ITV last September with much fanfare as the broadcaster ditched GMTV believing the brand had been tainted by the premium phone-in scandals. Despite luring over Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley from the BBC with the carrot of massive salaries to front the breakfast programme Daybreak has struggled in the ratings ever since its launch and is way behind its rival Breakfast on BBC1. Additionally Daybreak's audience appreciation index figures have never once reached 'average' let alone good, meaning that not only is it hardly being watched by anyone but, those who do watch it, don't seem to like it very much. Since it began there have been numerous - almost weekly - reports of revamps and sackings or corners turned and right tracks being back on. And still it's rubbish and nobody watches it. Which is, of course, funny - particularly watching the least likely 'woman of the people' imaginable, Bleakley, trying to put on a brave (albeit, orange) face. It's the sort of thing they should film and show every Christmas. The latest reports claim that ITV are hoping to 'turn the show back' into GMTV to get viewers back. 'It's back-to-basics time. The feeling is it needs to go back to the GMTV format of the warm tones. It's been on air nearly a year and still can't pull in the numbers we thought it would' an 'insider' allegedly told the Sun. But, then again, this is the Sun so it's probably yet more lies. Adam Crozier, chief executive of ITV, said 'Daybreak is the brand and the name, I don't think that's the issue.' No, the issue is that many people have a very low tolerance threshold, particularly in tough financial times, to seeing Chiles and Bleakley leaving already well paid jobs at the BBC for the promise of vast wads of moolah for simply sitting on a sofa looking, respectably, grumpy and, well, orange at seven o'clock in the morning. The show is currently looking for a new editor after Ian Rumsey stepped down less than a year in the role. Last week it was revealed that Chiles would drop one Daybreak a week - cutting back his presenting duties. The most likely reason is the forthcoming new football season as Chiles fronts the broadcaster's - really very average - football coverage as part of his deal with ITV. Ironically, Chiles' stated reason for leaving The ONE Show in the first place was the BBC's decision to make him four nights a week rather than five. This prompted him to flounce out of the corporation in high dudgeon like a massive stroppy drama queen and run crying to ITV. Followed, a few months later, by his orange mate. Will we see a similar display of artistic temperament this time around?

And, what better way to illustrate this than the latest exciting installment of Daybreakwatch:
18 July 750k AI 67
19 July 744K AI 68
20 July 719k AI 68
21 July 736k no AI score recorded
22 July 714k AI 66
25 July 591k AI 65
26 July 682k
27 July 637k
Yes, on Monday of this week, dear blog reader just five hundred and ninety one thousand people watched Daybreak. I shouldn't laugh, really. Because, if I start I'm not sure I'll be able to stop.

Former England cricketer Andrew Flintoff is to front a BBC1 documentary looking at depression in professional sport. In Fulwell Seventy Three Productions' The Dark Side of Sport, Flintoff will meet both active and retired sports people who suffer from the illness, and asks what can be done to help those affected. He will also consider the demands of dealing with journalists and fans, and the financial pressure on the athletes not to fail. The BBC declined to comment on who will appear in the hour-long documentary, but said that Flintoff had 'first-hand experience of watching sporting colleagues battle privately with the illness throughout their careers.' His England cricket colleague Marcus Trescothick, had to pull out of two tours because of depression and has written a - hugely acclaimed - book on the subject. BBC1 controller Danny Cohen and commissioning editor for documentaries Charlotte Moore ordered the film. Moore said: 'Depression affects many people in the UK. It's a subject we avoid talking about, particularly in sport, where it is increasingly prevalent. Both Freddie and director Jim Loach will bring a fresh and sensitive approach to this subject.' Gabe Turner is producer and Leo Pearlman executive producer for Fulwell, while Maxine Watson is the executive producer for the BBC. The film is set for a 10:35pm midweek slot this winter. Turner said the documentary would 'allow viewers to see a more serious side' of Flintoff, who fronted Zig Zag's ITV4 show Freddie Flintoff Versus The World and is a captain on CPL's genuinely appalling A League of Their Own for Sky 1 alongside that vastly unfunny James Corden character.

Meanwhile, Cohen has also commissioned a non-transmission pilot for a Saturday night entertainment show which is said to be part of a plan to extend his 'inclusivity drive to the genre.' Whatever the hell that means. Cohen and executive editor Karl Warner have ordered Pros and Cons from RDF Television. The studio format sees 'ordinary people' (by which this usually means 'gurning extroverts desperate to get their boat-race on TV and not in the least bit ordinary') perform against 'professionals' and attempt to convince at least half of the studio audience that they are an expert. The challenges include live stunts. Viewers will be in on who is the con-artist, but the show will include a 'final mystery challenge.' Executive producers for RDF TV are Peter Usher and Jim Allen. Entertainment commissioner Mark Linsey said: 'Pros and Cons is a twist on a factual entertainment idea that we're trying out for Saturday peak on BBC1, which we hope will complement the channel's current entertainment offering.' Which is more or less exactly what somebody said about Don't Scare The Hare. The commission is part of BBC1's wider search 'for more inclusive vehicles in which people from all over the UK can take part,' he added. This aim was outlined at a recent entertainment briefing, at which Linsey and Warner spoke. One independent executive snitched to Broadcast: 'The big thing that came out of that meeting was Danny feels that the channel really needs more entertainment shows that reflect the people watching - that is why they wanted The Voice so much.' Cohen, who has previously spoken about how he wants the channel's dramas and comedies to reflect a broader sense of the UK, was unavailable for comment when asked by Broadcast. And quite right too, he's the head of BBC1 he doesn't talk to scum the likes of them!

BBC Radio 4 prompted an outcry from listeners - including Stephen Fry and Joanna Lumley - after it announced that it was going to axe the number of short stories it broadcasts from three to one a week. Now the station appears to have performed at least a partial U-turn after confirming it that would retain a second weekly slot for the short story format. Fry and Lumley were among more than five thousand people who signed a petition against the dropping of the thrice-weekly afternoon slot, a casualty of Radio 4 controller Gwyneth Williams's desire to extend The World at One. The BBC initially said the number of short stories would be 'reduced from three to one a week on Radio 4,' with extra readings on digital station, BBC Radio 4 Extra. Now the corporation has said it will broadcast two short stories a week on Radio 4, in two permanent homes on Friday afternoon and Sunday evening. It will also broadcast another twenty five stories on Radio 4 Extra. Nicola Solomon, general secretary of the Society of Authors and one of those who had urged Williams to reconsider, said: 'I think it's a U-turn. We are pleased but I don't think it's enough. There are several questions that still need to be asked. Will they all be brand new writing, or are they stories that already exist? Friday and Sunday means there will be no midweek stories, and that is still an enormous loss. Short stories are the perfect medium for Radio 4. They are loved by writers and listeners.' Solomon and other critics of the decision, including short story writer Susie Maguire and National Short Story Week director Ian Skillicorn, who organised the online petition, are due to meet Williams at Broadcasting House on Thursday afternoon. The petition has so far attracted about five thousand five hundred names. Lumley said: 'There should be as many stories read aloud on Radio 4 as there are fish in the sea. Don't cut them down or send them to a backwater; they belong in the heart of the listeners' menu.' Fry added: 'Please reconsider. I know budgets are tight, but there are very few things the BBC does better.' Miriam Margoyles described the decision as 'irresponsible and foolish.' Other high-profile supporters of the petition include Ian Rankin, AS Byatt, Sarah Waters and Kate Atkinson. A Radio 4 spokesman said that the station had announced the new schedule earlier than it had anticipated when some of the 'finer details' about programming had yet to be ironed out. 'We had to announce the schedule changes a few weeks ago as we were having to inform suppliers and production teams about the new schedule,' added the spokesman. 'At that time we weren't in a position to go into the finer details of the new schedule. In our plans for short stories we also had to look across two schedules – Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra – which made the matter more complicated.' The decision was first announced by Williams on 6 July. The World at One is being extended by fifteen minutes to 'allow it more space to explore and explain the busy domestic and international news agenda.'

A policewoman who was forced to leave her job after going on the TV show Total Wipeout while she was off sick is to sue the force. Lesley Hart, fifty one, was flown to Argentina to take part in the BBC challenge show while she was on long-term sick leave from Devon and Cornwall Police. She has now launched legal action against the force claiming that she was not 'offered the support she needed to return to work.' The PC, who worked on domestic violence cases, took medical retirement last year after the force's occupational therapists concluded she would never be well enough to resume full-time service. At the time she recorded the show she was off work suffering from stress which she attributed to the emotionally demanding nature of her work, excessive caseload, and lack of support from senior officers. The trip was not authorised by senior officers but an internal investigation cleared her of any misconduct and no disciplinary action was taken by the police. Her medical retirement occurred a few weeks later. She was flown to Argentina by programme makers Endemol in early 2010 and the programme, hosted by Richard Hammond, was shown on BBC1 on 8 May last year. She was spotted by colleagues taking part in the assault course challenges and snitched up good and proper. Hart's legal claim against the force will be heard either in an employment tribunal or in the High Court. She has not commented on the action although a 'friend' allegedly told the Metro that she never wanted to leave. The 'friend' allegedly added: 'She realises going on the show was the wrong thing to do.' Her case is being backed by the Police Federation. A spokesman said: 'We have supported Lesley throughout this set of circumstances. The case is ongoing so it would be inappropriate to comment.'

Former Doctor David Tennant is to provide his voice to new CBeebies series Tree Fu Tom. Tennant will voice a colourful character called Twigs, the faithful sidekick to central character Tom, voiced by former Doctor Who companion Sophie Aldred. Aimed at four-to six year-olds, the twenty six episode series follows the adventures of Tom, a boy with magical powers who encourages viewers to help him cast magic spells with gentle physical movements. The series aims to help children's movement development. 'The physical energy in [David's] performance works so well for animation,' said controller Kay Benbow. Tree Fu Tom is a co-production between CBeebies and FremantleMedia Enterprises, created and produced by Daniel Bays, with animation from Blue Zoo. The series will be broadcast in early 2012.

History channel Yesterday will investigate the lives of wives and girlfriends in the 1960s as part of a raft of commissions about the decade. Spirit Of The Sixties follows the success of the channel's 1940s Season and launches in September for four weeks, followed by a return in the new year. WAGs Of '66 is an hour-long documentary by Epiphany Productions, executive produced by Michele Carlisle, which features contemporary interviews with the partners of England's 1966 World Cup-winning team. Cookery show Valentine Warner Eats The Sixties is a two part format from Optomen TV exploring the impact on eating habits brought about by the end of rationing and the birth of fast food. It is produced by Gary Broadhurst. Doubleband Films' Unswung will reveal that much of the music of the decade was not as cool as many people like to think. Well, indeed. The third biggest selling single of the decade was by Ken Dodd. Stick that in yer bong and smoke it, Kenneth Wolstenholme. Meanwhile, travel is covered by What Larks! Productions' From Bognor To Benidorm, produced by Claire Whalley. The sixty-minute film features Hi-De-Hi's Ruth Madoc looking at the holidays taken at home and abroad by the British during the period. The shows were ordered by UKTV director of commissioning Jane Rogerson with interim head of factual Adrian Wills. Wills said: 'We're still influenced by the music, fashion and counter-culture of this vibrant time.' Yer actual Keith Telly Topping likes the sound of all of those.

And, speaking of the sixties, the forthcoming US drama Pan Am will be broadcast on BBC2in the UK. The channel has picked up the UK rights to the series, which focuses on the employees of the Pan Am airline in the 1960s. Pan Am, which will premiere in the US in September, features a cast including Christina Ricci, Mike Vogel and Kelli Garner. The BBC's head of programme acquisition Sue Deeks claimed that the show is 'a breath of fresh air.' She also described the series as a 'colourful and stylish drama set in a captivating era that changed the world.' Yes, indeed. The sixties were a fabulous and groovy time, baby. Whole families trying to live on eight pound a week. We'd never had it so good. Apparently. BBC2's controller Janice Hadlow added: 'With a love story at its heart and a great unfolding plot that hints at the danger and mystery to come, viewers will be in for an exciting but turbulent ride.'

Nostalgia ain't what it used to be it would seem, but there's still plenty of it about as BBC2 is to celebrate the seventy fifth anniversary of the Spitfire with a documentary fronted by John Sergeant. Archie Productions' Britain's Flying Past will tell the story of the sexy World War II fighter plane from its creation in the late 1930s to its post-war retirement, and will feature the people who got the Spitfire off the ground. Veteran broadcast journalist Sergeant is a former RAF Cadet and his passion for the aircraft will be echoed by contributions from the men and women who made the Spitfire a design classic and a crucial part of the war effort. The hour-long film is Archie's first factual prime time commission and was ordered by BBC2 controller Janice Hadlow and controller of daytime Liam Keelan. Executive producer Lindsay Bradbury was a key driving force behind the show and her remit extends into prime time. Sergeant said: 'What has been interesting is the way the Spitfire legend lives on, not just among older people. We filmed with a crowd of schoolchildren yesterday and they were really excited. I think our film has captured that feeling - the newly minted Spitfire spirit.' Jenny Cole is executive producing for Archie Productions and broadcast is tentatively slated for the autumn.

And still they come. Channel Five's history strand Revealed will return this autumn with a four episode run including a film on train robber Ronnie Biggs. New audio recordings of naughty old scallywag Biggs discussing the armed blag, who coshed the driver, his subsequent escape from nick and his life on the run as a fugitive will form the basis of The Great Train Robber's Secret Tapes, produced by Barge Pole Productions, with Paul Crompton executive producing. Anybody else who finds it thoroughly sickening that a disgraceful old thief like Biggs has been afforded a reputation by a few numskulls as some kind of modern day Robin Hood will be happy to know that there is such a thing as an off switch. No one is innocent, Ron. World War Two's Luckiest Man features ninety one-year-old veteran Alistair Urquhart's story of his capture by the Japanese. He was held on a prison boat that was torpedoed by US troops, before being taken to Nagasaki, the site of the second atomic bomb. It is produced by What Larks! Productions with Alex Sutherland as executive producer. Quickfire Media has made Mysteries Of The Vampire Skeletons, which investigates people's fear of the undead, following the discovery of two skeletons buried with stones forced into their mouths. It is produced by Mark Fielder. America's Planned War On Britain is a Brightside/Western Front documentary examining a scrapped US strategy for a potential war with the United Kingdom and its empire in the 1930s. The shows were ordered by John Hay, commissioning editor for factual at C5.

Sky Living is to launch a parenting strand called Pushy & Proud that will debut as a collection of five hour long documentaries from five independent production companies. Pushy & Proud has been conceived by Sky's factual and features commissioning editor Siobhan Mulholland and will focus on ambitious or unusual mothers and their relationships with their spoiled brats. Outline Productions' Botox-mad Mum, produced by Laura Mansfield, features a mother of five daughters who regularly has plastic surgery and gave her seven year-old a boob-job voucher for her birthday. Spun Gold's Junk Food Mums will follow parents who feed their kids a diet of fast food, while ZKK's Diet Crazy Mums investigates image conscious mothers who pass on their dieting regimes to their daughters. All of which, frankly, sound sick and degrading. But, worse is to follow dear blog reader. A former model who has opened a beauty salon for girls aged thirteen or under stars in Touch Productions' Pamper Parlour Mums. Finally, there's Landmark Film's Disco Diva Mums highlights 'the ultra-competitive, glitzy Freestyle Dance contests' which have sprung up around the UK. Mulholland said that the strand was designed 'to highlight mothers' different attitudes to child-rearing. The series will open the debate on what is considered to be "pushy" or ambitious parenting,' she said. 'The parents featured in the series feel they are giving their children the best start in life, and the show touches on the different ways we bring up our children.'

For those wondering what Caroline Quentin actually does to justify her existence, she is returning to ITV for another travelogue, this time swanning around Cornwall for a series made by Twofour. Well, that'll be unmissable. The eight part series will follow Quentin as she visits some of Cornwall's most popular resorts, speaking to locals such as fishermen, shopkeepers, landlords and lifeboat crews as they go about their daily business. It will be broadcast this winter and tell the stories of community and friendship, hard graft and fresh endeavours, traditional livelihoods and ingenious money-making schemes. The former Jonathan Creek actress has already fronted ITV's Caroline Quenton: A Passage Through India, which was made by Tiger Aspect and was, frankly, a load of old horseshit. It failed to prove any sort of a hit with viewers, drawing an average audience of a meagre 2.33 million over its three-part run, compared with the channel's three-month slot average of 2.96 million. But Twofour is confident that the company's ties to Plymouth and Quentin's connection to Devon 'will create a strong series.' Managing director Melanie Leach said: 'As a company with strong West Country roots, we couldn't be better placed to tell the stories of the amazing characters who live and work in Cornwall, one of the UK's favourite holiday destinations.' Commissioning editor for factual Diana Howie added: 'Previous ITV series that explore life in some of Britain's most picturesque locations, such as The Lakes and The Dales, have proved very popular with viewers and Cornwall will be moving the genre on, as well as being a great addition to our factual schedule.'

Actor Joe Pesci has taken legal action against the producers of a film about US mobster John Gotti, claiming they have 'reneged' on their pledges to him. And, you don't want to mess with Joe Pesci, dear blog reader. Even if he does amuse you. Pesci claims that the production company Fiore Films used his name and likeness to promote the project but does not want to honour its original offer to him. He is seeking the three million bucks he claims he was promised to play the role of a childhood friend of Gotti. Fiore Films have rejected the claims, saying that Pesci 'walked away' from the project months ago. Company CEO Marc Fiore said he had received correspondence from the actor's representatives saying Pesci was pulling out of the project until the original director, Nick Cassavetes, was replaced. Pesci's lawyer has disputed that statement, saying Pesci had been offered a lesser role for a reduced salary of one million smackers. According to the actor's legal action, Fiore Films had 'no intention' of paying Pesci three big ones to play the role of Angelo Ruggiero, a trusted Gotti advisor. Instead, it alleges, the company 'secretly planned to use [Pesci's] name and likeness to promote the film.' According to Fiore Films' website, the film - to be called Gotti: In the Shadow of My Father - still has the GoodFellas star attached to it. John Travolta, Al Pacino and Kelly Preston have also been cast in the biopic, set to begin shooting in January, with director Barry Levinson at the helm. According to Pesci's legal action, the actor gained thirty pounds to play Ruggiero, who died in prison in 2002. Travolta is set to play John Gotti Sr in the film, which will explore his relationship with the son, John Gotti Jr, who went on to follow in his father's footsteps in the criminal underworld.

ITV is to pour resources into its production operations in the US as it looks to capitalise on winning nearly thirty international commissions in the first half of 2011. Chief executive Adam Crozier said ITV Studios America had enjoyed its 'most successful' start to a year and will be given funds to expand its roster of staff and invest in co-productions. Separately, its president and chief executive Paul Buccieri has been handed an expanded international role. The US division has grown its revenue by ten per cent in the first half of 2011 on the back of winning commissions, including a remake of drama Prime Suspect for NBC and game show High Stakes for ITV. Crozier stopped short of putting a figure on how much cash will be injected into ITVS America, but it is likely to come out of the twelve million quid freed up in March to plough into new talent and piloting ideas. 'We want to grow in the US and we have been hiring out there to build on the back of some of the successes we have had,' Crozier said. 'While there is still a long way to go, we're starting to see potential in the level of new work coming through ITV Studios, with sixty eight new commissions so far this year, of which twenty nine are international.' The US ambitions are unsurprising given the country's demand for British formats and ITV's desire to replicate the Disney business model by creating long-running, returnable series that can be licensed and sold internationally. Buccieri will now play an integral role in this as managing director of ITVS International, where he will oversee six global production hubs and distribution arm ITVS Global Entertainment. Overall, ITVS revenues were up ten million pounds to two hundred and sixty four million quid in the first six months of 2011, with external income rising eleven per cent. But profits fell year-on-year as it began its investment strategy. During the interim results presentation, Crozier argued that ITV's five-year transformation was gathering momentum. Crozier also revealed that an online micropayments system will be launched in January 2012, with Coronation Street and The Only Way Is Essex being lined-up for trials. ITV confirmed plans to maintain the ITV programme budget at eight hundred million wonga for the full year, and expects advertising revenue across its channels to be slightly down in the third quarter but ahead of the market. The broadcaster is said to be 'cautious' about prospects for the year as a whole, but still expects to outperform the market.

The National Geographic Channel has secured an exclusive interview with former US president and cretin George W Bush as part of its 9/11 tenth anniversary coverage. George W Bush: The 9/11 Interview will be broadcast on Nat Geo in the US on 28 August, in the UK on 6 September and on other channel feeds around the same time. Viewers will see the controversial former president and numskull talking 'candidly' about his experience of the event ten years ago, including his initial thoughts when arriving at the scene of the atrocity three days after the events occurred. He will be seen saying: 'From the air it looked like a giant scar. But when I actually got to the site, it was like walking into hell.' It also contains Bush's reaction to news of the death of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, exclusive archive footage and material from the George W Bush Presidential Library. 'What you hear is the personal story of a man who also happened to be president,' said Peter Schall, the programme's executive producer and director. 'Listening to him describe how he grappled with a sense of anger and frustration coupled with his personal mandate to lead our country through this devastating attack was incredibly powerful.' The idea that George Bush could string a sentence together that is recognisably English is, i think, the main surprise from this revelation. Schall's Partisan Pictures has produced the piece, with National Geographic Channels International's Allan Butler executive producing. The show's producer is Don Campbell. In the US, the film kicks off Remembering 9/1l, a week of programming including Inside 9/11: The War Continues, CIA Confidential: 9/11 Mastermind and 9/11: Where Were You? In the UK, the show forms part of Nat Geo's 9/11 Week, from 5 to 9 September.

Mark Thompson had a right good whinge about the time and money which the BBC has to waste answering pointless freedom of information requests in his MacTaggart lecture in Edinburgh last year, which the Gruniad thought at the time to be 'a little churlish.' But now, apparently, they've learned the error of their ways following the revelation that some poor sod at the BBC had to reply to the following FoI request: 'What are your plans if zombies invade the country, will you continue to entertain them as you do with us average humans? Will your shows retain the standard English language or random moaning?' I'll bet the thorough cheb who wrote that thought he was, like, the funniest blokie in all the world, bar none. The BBC's reply apparently brushes aside the request, saying that the information requested 'is excluded from the [Freedom of Information] Act because it is held for the purposes of "journalism, art or literature."' Personally, yer actual Keith Telly Topping would have gone on to tell the questioner to sodding well grow up. But, it would seem, someone at the BBC retains a sense of humour: 'However, I believe we can fairly safely say that the BBC does not hold any recorded information about plans to entertain any future zombie population,' it concludes.

The Parents Television Council is urging a boycott of NBC's forthcoming adult drama The Playboy Club. The conservative action group of Christians in search of filth has written to every NBC affiliate asking them not to broadcast the adult drama which is set in a 1960s adult club where mob bosses and politicians mingle in Chicago. It stars Amber Head. NBC's affiliate in Salt Lake City, KSL, has already refused to show the drama. KLS is owned by the Mormon Church - so fellow NBC affiliate KMYU-TV will be broadcasting it instead. But if the PTC had its way the drama wouldn't be shown at all. The PTC has over one million members and dear blog readers may remember that it was the same organisation that kicked up an almighty fuss about MTV's remake of Channel Four's teen-drama Skins. The organisation took offence to pretty much everything in the drama - drugs, teen sex, alcohol you name it the PTC didn't like it. The organisation waged a high profile campaign against Skins even calling, at one point, for a Federal enquiry into the series because of its depiction of teen-sex. MTV cancelled Skins after one series allegedly because of low ratings. A representative for the Parents Television Council has admitted that the organisation has not actually seen The Playboy Club.

Facebook has reportedly removed the artwork for Nirvana's 1991 CD Nevermind after finding the cover photograph violated its terms of use, only to later reinstate the image. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the social network removed the cover from the site's official fan page, citing nudity concerns over the famous image of a naked baby in a swimming pool. 'Facebook does not allow photos that attack an individual or group, or that contain nudity, drug use, violence or other violations of the Terms of Use,' the notice read. '[Facebook] sent us a form message,' a 'source' allegedly told Entertainment Weekly. 'I'm guessing it's probably due to the baby penis - still making waves twenty years later.' However, Facebook has since replaced the cover to its Nirvana and Nevermind pages ahead of the twentieth anniversary of the CD on 27 September. It is unclear whether the situation occurred due to an administrative error or a fan outcry. A commemorative deluxe edition of Nevermind will be released on the day of the anniversary, featuring alternate mixes of the most popular songs, along with live recordings and a live DVD of the band's 1991 Halloween show at the Paramount Theater in Seattle. Spencer Elden, who was the baby photographed for the cover, has claimed that he is proud of his particular place in the history of rock music. Elden, now twenty, said in an interview in 2008: 'Quite a few people in the world have seen my penis. So that's kinda cool.'

Here's today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, and this one is especially for yer man Tommy Watson. Sorry mate, but unfortunately you're stuck with a rallying cry from an alcoholic wife-beating Scouse junkie. Or, if you prefer, from Wolfie Smith. I think I'd prefer it to be from Wolfie Smith, personally. Anyway, keep on fighting the good fight and doing the good work and, in doing so, making the buggers sweat, Tom.

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