Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Are You Local?

BBC local broadcasting staff have launched a campaign against the corporation's cost-cutting proposals announced last week. In the first grassroots reaction to the Delivering Quality First review, leaflets are being handed out to visitors to BBC Nottingham and BBC Newcastle, calling on them to write to politicians and the BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten to oppose planned cuts to local broadcasting services. The Gruniad reports that BBC Nottingham's 'damning leaflet' says that the proposals are 'laughably called Delivering Quality First' and instead dubs the corporation's plans Destroy Quality Forever. DQF follows last year's licence fee settlement which froze the BBC's funding – and the £145.50 fee – until 2017 and saw the corporation take on extra responsibilities including the BBC World Service. Most of which - like the funding of Welsh language network S4C the BBC hadn't asked for. Compiled and issued by BBC staff, rather than by staff unions, the pamphlets claim that local programmes and services will be 'damaged beyond repair' by the proposed cutbacks outlined in DQF. The BBC is axing around two thousand jobs nationally as it looks to save six hundred and seventy million smackers per year. BBC Newcastle's staff – who work on Look North, Inside Out, The Politics Show and Late Kickoff, as well as at yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved Radio Newcastle – urge licence fee payers to 'write to your local paper, tell family and friends as well' before the BBC's public consultation on DQF closes on 21 December. BBC Newcastle's leaflet says: 'Local radio's budget is being cut by twenty per cent. Inside Out's budget is being cut by forty per cent. Your weather presenters will be cut from three to just one. What this means on-screen and on your radio afternoon and evening radio shows will be shared across all the North East and Cumbria so won't be dedicated to your local area at all. We believe staffing cuts mean the quality of all local radio programmes will be effected.' The leaflet goes on to argue that the plans could see Inside Out merged with two neighbouring BBC regions which may mean viewers will be 'expected to watch current affairs films about, say Crewe or Sheffield, as if they are "local."' It could also mean that 6.30pm and 10.30pm local TV weather bulletins will come from Leeds, with breakfast and daytime weather on TV and local radio pre-recorded by 'a forecaster who isn't even in the region,' the leaflet adds. 'These changes represent a massive cut in the air-time given over to programmes made in-and-for our region,' the leaflet concludes. Staff at BBC Nottingham – which is the home of East Midlands Today and Radio Nottingham, along with its own regionalised version of Inside Out and The Politics Show – said that the cuts 'will hit local broadcasting disproportionately.' They claim in their pamphlet that 'a quarter of station staff could go' and warned of the consequences of 'sharing afternoon programmes on BBC Radio Nottingham, and having just one programme for the whole of England after 7pm.' The leaflet ends: 'BBC local broadcasting is already one of the most popular and cost-effective parts of the corporation. Here, BBC Radio Nottingham is the only station which is live and local from your home county seven days a week. Don't let the BBC Destroy Quality Forever.' Under the BBC's plans only the breakfast, mid-morning and drivetime shows will remain unique to every BBC local radio station. In addition BBC1's networked Politics Show on a Sunday will be relaunched as part of The Daily Politics strand. 'It is understandable that staff have strong feelings following last week's announcements but local news and radio are not immune from the need to find efficiency savings,' said a BBC spokesman. Who, presumably, has been assured his job is safe before he started saying all this. 'We are seeking to achieve these savings at times which will have the lowest impact on audiences. The DQF proposals will protect peak-time programmes when the audience is highest and the output is the most distinctive ie breakfast, mid-morning and drive-time programmes. News, weather and local information will remain specific to their stations and stations will retain the ability to stay local when major stories break.' All of which is very nice but doesn't, actually, address any of the issues this question arises.

So, let's get this into a bit of necessary perspective. This blog, as all regular dear blog readers will know by now, strongly supports the BBC in the vast majority of its doings. The BBC, as yer actual Keith Telly Topping has often said in the past - and will say again, now - is a World Class broadcaster with an international reputation for quality programme-making and an unsurpassed record of outstanding work in areas as diverse as drama, comedy, current affairs, newsgathering, scientific and technological excellence. We all love the BBC for exactly those reasons - well, most of us do ... except for a couple of corrupt, scumbag dictatorships like China and Iran who are, seemingly, so petrified by the BBC's potential to influence to their population to dare to think for themselves that they ban their citizens from having any access to it. And, ironically (and, it really is ironic when you think about whom this attitude makes those corrupt scumbag dictators bedfellows with), it's also got some critics in its own backyard where a variety of career politicians from all the major parties and a number of bullyboy thug newspapers with a thoroughly sick and venal agenda use the corporation as their own personal punchbag whenever they see fit and when think they'll get a boost with a certain section of public from it. It's a mean, nasty, cowardly trick and it happens with quite disgraceful regularity - 'let's bash the BBC today, that'll be good for a laugh.' This is wrong and should be fought - vocally - by anyone who cares about upholding  those many things the BBC stands for. However, the BBC collectively is not perfect and, on this particular occasion, the executive board, the director general and the Trust have got this proposed decision badly wrong. Their own Royal Charter is a fantastic, fascinating document which I would recommend that all dear blog readers have a gander at it. Sadly, the Trust themselves seem not to have bothered reading it recently. Too often know-nothing numskulls bang on about what types of programme the BBC should and shouldn't be making under the umbrella heading of 'public service broadcasting'; which usually boils down to, in the opinion of those making such rants, 'stuff I like watching and/or listening to.' In actual fact the Royal Charter has an entire chapter on The BBC's public nature and its objectives which covers numerous categories and sub-categories but which, essentially, can be summed up in one easy-to-remember maxim which was first coined by John Reith back in the 1920s: 'The BBC's mission [is] to inform, to educate and to entertain.' It's a quite beautiful phrase - just as thrilling and all-encompassing as the BBC's other great one-line gift to the world '... and nation shall speak peace unto nation' - and it sums up pretty much everything the BBC does. Every programme they make - on radio, on television and on the Internet - at least in theory, falls into one of those categories. Many fall into two, or even three. The 'entertain' bit, incidentally, is the part of this triage that people often forget about when trying to argue that the BBC should not be involve in any particular type of programme making. Usually something they disapprove of themselves. Light entertainment for instance. That's not something the BBC should be bothering with is the sort of crass nonsense you'll often hear. Which, of course, ignores the fact that the BBC invented television light entertainment before ITV even existed. That the BBC is the broadcaster which created The Billy Cotton Band Show, The Morecambe & Wise Show and The Generation Game among many others (including The Black & White Minstrel Show, for which we'll just have to try and forgive it). In fact, the BBC has five public purposes. These are: Sustaining citizenship and civil society; promoting education and learning; stimulating creativity and cultural excellence (and it's in this category, in one of the subsections, that 'to entertain the public' is enshrined in the Charter); representing the UK, its nations, regions and communities and, finally, bringing the UK to the world and the world to the UK. The fourth one is the one I want to focus on here in relation to local broadcasting: 'In developing (and reviewing) the purpose remit for representing the UK, its nations, regions and communities, the Trust must, amongst other things, seek to ensure that the BBC (a) reflects and strengthens cultural identities through original content at local, regional and national level, on occasion bringing audiences together for shared experiences and (b) promotes awareness of different cultures and alternative viewpoints, through content that reflects the lives of different people and different communities within the UK.' It goes on to state that: 'In doing so, the Trust must have regard amongst other things to (a) the importance of reflecting different religious and other beliefs and (b) the importance of appropriate provision in minority languages.' Now, I'm speaking as a licence fee payer, not a broadcaster or a blogger, which is a necessary difference for the purposes of this particular issue. Frankly, this is too important a subject to get lost in dogma or rhetoric. Possibly because it's the part of the Beeb which I have the most interaction with, local radio is very dear to me. I love it. Yes, it has a reputation lower than rattlesnakes piss with those licence fee payers who seldom, if ever, interact with it. Yes, many people tend to think of Alan Partridge when the words 'local radio' are mentioned. But it's so much more than that. It has between seven and eight million listeners per week nationwide - many of whom do not use any other BBC radio services. That, incidentally, is more than the regular listenership of 6Music (which, you'll remember, the Trust bent over backwards to keep last year after it had been threatened by closure) and Radio 3 and the weekly viewership of BBC4 put together. Not only that, but its purpose is, arguably, the most reflective of the BBC's original Reithian public service remit. It does exist purely to reflect the cultural identities of its listeners at a local level; it informs, it educates and it entertains at a local level; it exists to enrich its listeners lives ... at a local level. In short, it is almost unique in broadcasting anywhere in the world. At the very moment when commercial radio is abandoning much of its local (and even regional) identity in favour of homogeneous bland national nothingness, at the very moment when ITV have all but abandoned the idea of local television, now - more than ever - local radio (and local TV for that matter) has a vital role to play in the communities that it serves. So, if you - as a licence fee payer - would like to take part in this really important debate and make your voice heard with the BBC Trust, then I encourage you to do so. The BBC, after all, belongs to you and I, as licence fee payers. it's not difficult, you can visit the BBC Trust website and do it in just a few minutes, if you like. If you're a licence fee payer, I'm sure they would love to hear from you and your input could really make a difference. Remember, be polite, be positive, if you think something is wrong - either now, or in their proposals for the future - then say so. This is everyone's opportunity to use one of the last little bits of proper democracy with we still have left. Perhaps, for example, you'd like to remind the Trust that the BBC isn't just Strictly Come Dancing, Doctor Who, Top Gear, EastEndersMatch of the Day, Question Time and The ONE Show (as good as all of those fine formats are). But, that it's just as much about the traffic news on BBC Rutland, or the gardening outlook on BBC Devon or BBC Kent, or The Afternoon Show on BBC Leicester, or BBC Merseyside (or, my own beloved BBC Newcastle). That it's about a lot of dedicated employees at a local level who don't get six million quid three years deals like Jonathan Ross, or five hundred grand per annum like the DG (or even one hundred and ten grand a year for two days work a week like the Chairman of the Trust itself) but, rather, people who have mortgages to pay and kids at school. And, above all, that you - as a BBC licence fee payer - like local radio. And you like it to be local, not regional, or national. National radio's good, and if I want to listen to Radio 2 or 5Live, I can do that, they have their own place in my heart too. But, they're not BBC Newcastle. One of the questions on the local radio section of the questionnaire at the Trust website, incidentally, is about your local radio station's coverage of local bands and talent. The irony of the fact that most BBC local radio stations have an evening show which is dedicated to exactly this aspect and which, under DQF proposals, would be one of the first services to be cut and replaced by a national format which does not, in any way, represent local listeners should not be lost on anyone. I don't expect Chris Patten or the Trust to take the slightest bit of notice of me, personally (and quite rightly so - yer Keith Telly Topping is as distrustful of one-man soap-box users as the next person). But if maybe as little as five per cent of those seven million regular listeners of local radio (that would be thirty five thousand punters, incidentally) did write in and put the case for their local radio station remaining as they like it then perhaps, just perhaps, the BBC might try to look somewhere else to save a bit of cash. I don't envy them the job, I really don't. But it would be cowardly not to, at least, try. I'd even offer to be their public cheerleader for local radio and take on the bullies and cowards in the right-wing press and in parliament in its cause but, to be honest, I doubt they could spare the cash! (This blogger's talents can be hired but he's surprisingly expensive!) And, anyway, that's a job which should really be done by a professional. Local radio deserves nothing less. Here endeth the lesson.

Remember, the BBC Trust website wants your views - as a licence fee payer - on all aspects of Delivery Quality First. Take them at their word. And tell them what's on your mind.

Meanwhile, according to the Gruniad doing their usual excellent job of stirring the shite, the BBC has 'ignited' a potential row over how much the corporation pays BSkyB for carrying its channels by saying that it could save fifty million pounds from Sky. And, so reverse planned cuts to BBC local radio and BBC4. With friends like this, dear blog reader, who needs enemies? Research carried out by consultants for the BBC shows, the newspaper alleges, that the corporation pays about ten million pounds a year for the satellite broadcaster to 'retransmit' a total of forty nine radio and television channels, which could be enough to offset five years of cuts proposed at the radio stations and television channels. John Tate, the corporation's director of policy and strategy, said that while he felt that 'Sky have taken a lot of risks and they've done an excellent job in putting money into UK original content' it was also the case 'that in the context of a very tight licence fee settlement, payment from us to them of retransmission of what are to them highly valuable services is not appropriate.' With a new communications bill due next year, Tate argued that it could be seen as 'deregulatory' if the government decided to remove the onus on the BBC to pay retransmission fees to Sky, cash which is paid to ensure that BBC viewers around the country receive the correct version of BBC1 for their region. Emphasis on the world 'could' there, I reckon. But hey, good luck to ya, fellah. Tate added the BBC is 'not looking for payment' for Sky airing its channels, and instead effectively argued that the BBC should not be charged anything by Sky. Tate said that axing the fees would be 'equivalent of not having to make reductions in output on local radio plus the reduction of BBC4. It's roughly fifty million pounds over the period.' The policy director went on to say that the BBC has had talks with ITV, Channel Four and Channel Five and they 'also want' the concept of retransmission fees looked at by the government and by Sky. Well, that's not gonna happen. Commercial broadcasters are interested in charging Sky for the right to show their channels. Mathew Horsman, director of media research and advisory firm Mediatique, said: 'We have calculated that, using the FOX retransmission agreements with cable operators in the US, and adjusting for UK multi-channel penetration and PSB viewing shares, the commercial PSBs ought to be paid around one hundred and twenty million pounds a year in retransmission consent fees.' ITV would take about half that sum, while Channel Four the majority of the balance. Horsman said that 'guidance from government' in either a new communications bill or secondary legislation could clear the way for ITV, Channel Four and Five to negotiate terms with Sky to reflect the contribution these channels make to Sky's platform. Ironically, in the United States, News Corp, the thirty nine per cent owner of Sky, has successfully persuaded local pay television operators to fork out retransmission fees for its FOX free-to-air network. Historically, the four network broadcasters received no money from cable and satellite operators for their channels, but the situation has changed in recent years. A Sky spokesman said: 'The BBC chooses to buy platform services from Sky that enable it to provide a wide variety of services on the satellite platform. As with any broadcaster who uses our open platform, we ask for a fair and proportionate contribution towards its running costs. Of course if the BBC no longer wants to buy these services from us, it is free to stop doing so at any point. But these are legitimate operational costs, which are regulated by Ofcom, and all broadcasters who choose to use our platform pay them. We don't see the BBC as being the exception to this principle. No one expects the National Grid to provide the BBC with cheap electricity subsidised by its other customers, so why is Sky any different?' So, that'd be a 'no, then?

BBC1 drama Case Histories is to return next year in a new feature-length format. The two new films, based on the novels of Kate Atkinson, will be made by Ruby Films and have been commissioned by BBC1 controller Danny Cohen. Jason Isaacs will reprise his role of police inspector turned private investigator Jackson Brodie. Case Histories was first broadcast as a six-part series in June, delivering an average audience of 5.3m viewers across the run. The three two-part stories were on the first three of Atkinson's novels: Case Histories (2004), One Good Turn (2006) and When Will There Be Good News? (2008). The first of the two new films will be based on Atkinson's fourth Jackson Brodie novel, Started Early, Took My Dog, which was published last year. It will be adapted by Peter Harness. Ruby is working with Atkinson on stories for the second ninety-minute film and both will be shot in Edinburgh next spring. Life on Mars writer Ashley Pharaoh, who adapted the first two books, is unavailable for writing duties on the second tranche because of 'other commitments' according to the BBC. Harness wrote episode five and six of the first series. BBC executive producer Matthew Read said: 'It's incredibly exciting to have Jasson Issacs back as the complex and compulsive Jackson Brodie. The next series will continue to reflect modern Edinburgh on screen and turn what audiences love most about Kate Atkinson's novels into feature length crime stories that shine a light on dysfunctional families.'

The makers of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon comedy The Trip are hoping to sell the format to America, with two US comedians embarking on the road journey. Revolution Films, which co-produced the original six-part series with Coogan's company Baby Cow Productions, is looking for the right comics for the idea. A second BBC series is rumoured to be in the pipeline, which is likely to see Coogan and Brydon travel through Italy, again playing exaggerated versions of themselves. The first series was, without any shadow of a doubt, the finest comedy project either man had been involved in for some time. Andrew Eaton, co-founder and producer at Revolution, told Screen International the company was 'curious' about the idea of an American version. He added: 'We're talking to a few people about for American TV. The way to do it, if you wanted to open it up for a wider audience in America, is to do it with American comedians. It could be fun. If you got the right people, it's an interesting format. You could try it anywhere really.' Meanwhile, a US version of Channel Five comedy Suburban Shootout is also in the works. A pilot was previously made for HBO in 2008, but was not picked up. Now ABC is working on an hour-long version, with Fast Forward producer and writer Byron Balasco working on the script.

Red Dwarf star Danny John-Jules has revealed new details about the show's tenth series. Six half-hour episodes will begin filming in front of a live audience in late November, the actor confirmed to Cult Box. 'We've gone back to our original format, for obvious reasons,' said John-Jules, who plays Cat in the SF comedy. 'Everyone missed the studio audience bit.' Red Dwarf last returned to television in 2009 for three-part mini-series Back to Earth, which lacked a live audience. 'It's a different rhythm when you've got a studio audience and I like that,' said John-Jules. 'There's always that bit of fear that you're going to screw up the best gag in the show in front of the audience. It sorts the men out from the boys, let's put it that way.' The actor also insisted that he is happy to be working with Dave on the new Red Dwarf series, despite the comedy's BBC origins. 'The reason why it's on Dave is that the BBC said there's no audience for Red Dwarf anymore,' he explained. 'This is what we're up against. [But] we're quite happy - at the end of the day, the people who watch the show will decide whether it stays on telly or not. When a show gets three and a half million viewers on a cable channel, it's not rocket science!'

ITV bosses have 'reminded' The X Factor judging panel of their 'responsibilities regarding comments made live on air.' It follows Louis Walsh's comment at the weekend telling viewers they should download a song just performed by one of the contestants. Craig Colton performed Christina Perri's hit song 'Jar of Hearts' on Saturday night, receiving praise from all the judges. Louis said that Colton's version of the song could be a number one record, adding: 'If it is on iTunes download it.' This year viewers can now download contestants performances from iTunes. No official complaints have been made but Ofcom are said to be aware of the incident which may have been in breach of broadcasting codes which state that editorial content must be distinct from advertising. The show was warned by Ofcom last year when host Dermot O'Dreary encouraged audiences to download songs performed by guest artists. An ITV spokesperson said: 'This was a spontaneous and unscripted remark made by Louis as he complimented Craig's performance during the live show. All judges have been reminded of their responsibilities regarding comments made live on air.'

'Jaime Murray looks stunning in a red dress as she teams up with Kelly Adams for a return to Hustle' according to the Sun. And, for once the tacky tabloid is not talking complete arse. The actress, thirty four, left the BBC drama after series four to crack America and found roles in hits including Spartacus and Dexter. But now she's back as confidence trickster Stacie Monroe for the eighth and final series of Hustle. The show's regular favourites appear including Robert Vaughn as Albert Stroller and Kelly as Emma Kennedy. Guest stars in the coming episodes will include Sheila Hancock and Martin Kemp. Jaime told TV Biz: 'I was back for two minutes and the teasing started! It felt like I'd only been gone for a long weekend.' The series is currently being filmed and will be broadcast on BBC1 next year.

When the PR people at B&Q decided to hire TV presenter Kirstie Allsopp to open a new store in Wiltshire on Saturday, they might have thought geography would be her strong point – after all, the domestic goddess hosts a programme called Location, Location, Location. But when she arrived three-quarters of an hour late to open the store in Devizes, she admitted that she had turned up on time and walked into the existing B&Q store in Chippenham thirteen miles away by mistake. It seems a combination of the PR people and B&Q's own website were to blame – the website listed their new Devizes store as being in Chippenham and the hapless PR girls blindly followed its directions when they picked Kirstie up. If that wasn't enough, forty minutes before she waltzed into the wrong store, at about the time they picked her up and began taking her to the wrong town, the property guru, who lives in Devon, had gone on Twitter and messaged her thousands of followers: 'The cynics will think I'm paid to say this but I'm always happy on my B&Q days. The team are wonderful, best PRs on the planet.' One onlooker at the store in Devizes said: 'It was actually hysterical. There was a big crowd waiting for her and the managers of the store were resorting to getting the microphone and singing 'If You’re Happy and You Know It' to keep the crowds entertained. They were just about to start organising a mass round of the hokey-cokey when at last she appeared. She was very, very flustered and very, very embarrassed, but took the mic and explained that she'd been to the store in Chippenham. She made up for it by being extra lovely to everyone there, taking a long time to chat to the customers and the people who'd waited to see her,' she said.

Sophie Webster and Sian Powers look set to try and runaway from the Coronation Street in an upcoming storyline on the popular soap. Actresses Brooke Vincent and Sacha Parkinson were pictured this week filming on location boarding a coach to Carlile. The pair who play lesbian couple Sophie and Sian look set to escape the misery of Weatherfield, but it appears as though Sophie's sister Rosie (Helen Flanagan) and mother Sally (Sally Dynevor) try and persuade them to stay. Exact details of what will happen have not been revealed. It has been rumoured for some time that Sophie and Sian are to get married later this year. Sacha Parkinson confirmed has already confirmed that she is leaving the ITV soap at the end of the year. Speaking to The Press Association last week, Parkinson said: 'I'm very sad but I'm very excited. I'm in two minds, I don't know whether I'll regret my decision or not but as it's come closer I know it's what I need to do.'

Well-known Tory faceache (and drag) Ann Widdecombe thinks that one of the reasons similarly well-known Tory faceache (and drag) Edwina Currie was eliminated from Strictly Come Dancing last weekend, was because she was 'too smutty' on the show. Oh, my God. My eyes.

Richard E Grant and Ralph Fiennes are among the host of stars who have signed up to appear in the second series of Rev. The BBC2 comedy, which features Tom Hollander and Olivia Colman, focuses on the challenges faced by an inner-city vicar. The show was renewed by the BBC in April and the Independent reports that a number of actors have signed up for roles. Fiennes will star as Ralph, a 'senior clergyman' who advises Hollander's character Adam when he finds himself in 'a sticky situation.' Meanwhile, Grant will play a banker called Marcus and Downton Abbey's Hugh Bonneville will reprise his role as Roland Wise. Sylvia Sims has also joined the show and will play an elderly parishioner called Joan who moves into the nursing home next to the church. Elsewhere, James Purefoy will play Richard, who has an uncomfortable meeting with Adam and The Crimson Petal and the White star Amanda Hale will appear as a bright young curate called Abi Johnston. Adrian Bower, whose credits include Teachers and Mount Pleasant, will play an atheist teacher who joins the church school, while Geoffrey Palmer will star as the father of Colman's character Alex.

Emily Maitlis suffered a coughing fit last week whilst reading out a news story about a sixty foot whale that was discovered on a beach near Gerinish on South Uist. Makes a change from banging on about her cat.

A Nigerian man accused of trying to bomb a US-bound flight on Christmas Day 2009 by setting fire to his keks has changed his plea to guilty, his lawyer told his trial in Detroit. The attorney told the second day of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's trial that the twenty four-year-old would admit to terrorism and other charges. Abdulmutallab's 'nads caught fire when a bomb sewn into his explosive underwear failed to detonate fully, prosecutors say. Which, one would imagine, chaffed a bit and made his eyes water. Nearly three hundred people were on the flight to Detroit with Abdulmutallab. If convicted of the most serious charges, he would face a life sentence. The former student faces a series of charges, including attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is based in Yemen, said that it was behind the attack on the Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam on 25 December 2009.

Claims that David Cameron has forced a new 'porn filter' on UK Internet content have been disavowed by Internet service providers, which said that the vast majority of customers will see 'absolutely no difference' to their web content. Well, thank goodness for that. This blogger's life would just be pointless without a daily visit to Confusion arose after it was suggested that a new 'filtered feed' system will be applied to everyone using Internet connections provided by the biggest four ISPs – BT, TalkTalk, Virgin and Sky, which between them have 17.6 million of the 19.2 million broadband customers in the UK. It was claimed that the prime minister would unveil the measures on Tuesday as he hosted a Downing Street meeting with the Mothers' Union, which earlier this year produced a raft of proposals to 'shield' children from sexualised imagery. But ISPs moved quickly to insist that the provisions will only apply to people taking out completely new contracts, who will be offered the choice of a connection with 'parental controls,' or one without. 'Customers will have to choose one or the other, but we won't be making either one the default,' said a source at one of the ISPs. A spokesperson for TalkTalk said: 'This is called "active choice" rather than an opt-in or opt-out.' People who change to a different tier of connection within the same service will not be obliged to change the setting. BT said that new customers will be offered a package of parental control systems, provided by the security company McAfee. However, it is highly unlikely that the initiative to be announced by Cameron will make any noticeable impact on UK web browsing. Very few people take out new contracts: during a typical quarter, fewer than five per cent of any ISP's customers change provider. Data from uSwitch suggests about twelve million people have not changed their broadband contract in the past year, and five million who have never changed it. Like me, for instance. In a statement, the ISPs said: 'BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media are pleased to have developed and agreed a code of practice, including measures to ensure that customers are provided with an active choice as to whether to activate parental controls in the home. The four Internet service providers have worked closely with government and a range of stakeholders to swiftly introduce measures addressing recommendations set out in the Bailey report. The ISPs have committed to improve the way they communicate to customers, enabling parents to make simple and well-informed choices about installing and activating parental controls and other measures to protect children online. The four ISPs are working with parents' groups and children's charities on this important initiative and will continue to do so.'

Manchester United and Chelsea are among several Premier League clubs who have moved to distance themselves from Liverpool's ludicrous proposal to break from the Premier League's model of collecting television rights revenue. It is understood that Manchester United - who claim to have three hundred and thirty three million fans globally although few men trust those who brag about the size of their, ahem, 'support' - and have targeted overseas sponsorship revenue as a route to increase income, will oppose any moves to challenge the status quo under which the Premier League sells television rights overseas on behalf of all twenty elite clubs. A spokesman for Chelsea said: 'We are supportive of the Premier League on this and want to continue with the way they sell [TV rights] collectively.' United 'insiders' anonymously quoted by the Gruniad pointed out that their chief executive, David Gill, had repeatedly underlined the support of the club's owners, the Glazer family, for the collective model. Appearing before a parliamentary inquiry earlier this year, Gill said: 'The collective selling of the television rights has clearly been a success and it has made things more competitive.' It is understood that the fourth of the 'big four' identified by Liverpool's ridiculous moron of a managing director, Arsenal, as well as two clubs that weren't considered worthy of a place in the big four (but probably should have been way ahead of Liverpool) Sheikh Yer Manchester City FC and Tottenstot Hotshots will continue to back the existing arrangement that last season paid each club £17.9m. The public stance of other big clubs will probably come as a disappointment to Liverpool, who were understood to believe that others would support them in their greedy rush to throw their weight about and act like sick bullies. Ayre, said that clubs 'in other countries' - notably Real Madrid and Barcelona in Spain - have a growing financial advantage over English clubs because they secure TV deals individually. He failed to point out that both have a further significant advantage over Liverpool in so much as both of them have actually finished in the top four of their national league for the past two years and, as a result, have qualified for the Champions League. Unlike Liverpool. You can sell all the cheap and nasty replica shirt you like in Malaysia, la, but if you can't finish ahead of Spurs then, frankly, that means bog all in the real world. Although what they hell Liverpool know about 'the real world' is a bit questionable. Without the support of those who stand to benefit most the idea would be dead in the water, because none of the League's smaller clubs would vote for something that would hugely disadvantage them any more than turkeys would be likely to vote for Christmas.
Overseas revenues could outstrip the domestic deal, currently worth over two billion quid over three years, for the first time when the Premier League launches its tender process next year. Liverpool would need to persuade thirteen of their fellow Premier League clubs of the merit of the plan in order to force through the change since any significant change to the Premier League rulebook requires a two thirds majority. And, greedy scum as some of the Premier League chairmen are - mentioning no names, of course - they're unlikely to get 'em. Ayre became the first representative of a leading Premier League club since Peter Kenyon at Manchester United in 2003 to challenge the collective sale of overseas TV rights, which brought in £1.4bn over the three years to 2012-13. Ayre said: 'Is it right that the international rights are shared equally between all the clubs? Some people will say: "Well you've got to all be in it to make it happen." But isn't it really about where the revenue is coming from, which is the broadcaster, and isn't it really about who people want to watch on that channel? We know it is us. And others. At some point we feel there has to be some rebalance on that, because what we are actually doing is disadvantaging ourselves against other big European clubs.' The Greed Roadshow, ladies and gentlemen. Alive and well and living on Merseyside.
Former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie has said the Leveson inquiry was set up by the prime minister in an attempt to 'escape his own personal lack of judgment' over his hiring of former Scum of the World editor Andy Coulson. MacKenzie, now a columnist at the Daily Scum Mail - and, by the way, never in the history of journalism have a particular journalist and a particular newspaper so belonged together as that little scenario - told a seminar in London on Wednesday arranged by Lord Justice Leveson that David Cameron made a mistake when he appointed Coulson as his director of communications in an attempt to 'curry favour' with Rupert Murdoch. 'It was clearly a gesture of political friendship aimed over Andy's head to Rupert Murdoch,' he said. 'A couple of phone calls from central office people would have told him that there was a bad smell hanging around the News of the World.' Describing the inquiry as 'ludicrous,' MacKenzie said: 'This is the way in which our prime minister is hopeful he can escape his own personal lack of judgment. He knows, and Andy knows, that he should never have been hired into the heart of government. I don't blame Andy for taking the job. I do blame Cameron for offering it.' The former Sun editor and columnist - the man responsible for lies told over the dead bodies of nearly one hundred Liverpool fans, something for which he will and should never be forgiven on Merseyside - attacked 'Cameron's obsessive arse-kissing over the years of Rupert Murdoch. Tony Blair was pretty good, and Brown wasn't too bad. But Cameron was the daddy of them all.' He said Cameron was wrong to believe the Sun would help to secure him victory in last year's general election and should not have courted its leading executives in the UK so assiduously. 'There was always a queue to kiss their rings,' he said. 'It was gut-wrenching. Cameron wanted Rupert onside as he believed, quite wrongly in my view, that the Sun's endorsement would help him to victory.' MacKenzie said the Sun's sales went down by forty thousand on the day the paper declared its support for the Tories. The consequence of that, he said, was that: 'An American with a disdain for Britain, running a declining industry in terms of sales, profitability and influence, was considered more important than a meeting with any captain of industry no matter how big their workforce or balance sheet.' MacKenzie claimed the prime minister had decided to call an inquiry to distance himself from the phone-hacking scandal which erupted over the summer. 'The order went out from Cameron: stop the arse-kissing and start the arse-kicking. And the answer is this bloody inquiry chaired by Leveson.' He also attacked Leveson personally, saying: 'God help me that free speech comes down to the thought process of a judge who couldn't win when prosecuting counsel against Ken Dodd for tax evasion.' MacKenzie added: 'Yes, there was criminal cancer at the News of the World. Yes, there were editorial and management errors as the extent of the cancer began to be revealed. But why do we need an inquiry of this kind? There are plenty of laws to cover what went on. Supposing these arrests didn't come from the newspaper business,' he said. 'Supposing they were baggage handlers at Heathrow nicking from luggage. Would such an inquiry have ever been set up? Of course not.' MacKenzie also claimed it was not Murdoch's decision to drop the Sun's support for Gordon Brown two years ago. 'Whoever made that decision should hang their head in shame. I point the finger at a management mixture of Rebekah and James Murdoch.' He said Murdoch had told him on the day that edition of the paper was published that Brown had phoned the media mogul and told him: 'You are trying to destroy me and my party. I will destroy you and your company.' MacKenzie said: 'That endorsement that day was a terrible error.' And, speaking of terrible errors, justice for the ninety six, Kelvin. You disgraceful scum toerag.

Sky Sports Pundit and former Leeds United, Manchester United and Scotland defender Gordon McQueen is to undergo treatment after being diagnosed with cancer of the larynx. A statement released on his behalf said: 'Gordon McQueen has been diagnosed with cancer of the larynx and will undergo treatment at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.' Born in Ayrshire in 1952, Big Gordon made his name as a player with Leeds after signing for Don Revie's team from St Mirren as a teenager in 1972. Taking over as centre half from Jackie Charlton, he was part of the infamous - talented but unloved - Elland Road side of the 1970s which won the league title and reached the final of the European Cup before heading for Old Trafford for a decade. After his playing football career, Gordon coached abroad and then briefly managed Airdrieonians and coached his old club, St Mirren. When McQueen's friend and former team-mate Bryan Robson became manager of Middlesbrough, McQueen joined him as reserve team coach. He left the club when Robson did, and became a pundit for Sky Sports, for whom his daughter Hayley works as a presenter. From The North's sincere best wishes for a speedy recovery go to Big Gordon and his family.

A runner who was disqualified from a marathon after being accused of cheating admitted that he had 'made a mistake,' event organisers have said. Sunderland Harrier Rob Sloan came third during Sunday's Kielder Marathon but was stripped of the title over a claim he travelled part of the way by bus. He told the BBC that he was angry over the accusation and that he did not cheat. But, event organiser Northumbrian Water said Sloan had admitted failing to complete the course and had apologised. Sloan is accused of hopping on a bus with spectators about five miles short of the end of the race in Northumberland, then jumping off to run across the finishing line. Steven Cairns of Peebles, was later awarded the third prize after Sloan was disqualified. A statement from Northumbrian Water said: 'Rob Sloan had apparently made the decision to withdraw from the race at approximately twenty miles due to fatigue. After returning to the Leaplish Park area he decided to run the closing section of the course and crossed the finish line in third place. This was questioned by several witnesses including the rightful third place finisher Steven Cairns who has been awarded his prize.' Former Olympic athlete and event director, Steve Cram, said: 'Sloan made a mistake and has apologised to us for the confusion it has caused.' On Saturday, the day before the marathon Sloan, took part in a ten kilometre run at Kielder, which he won. After being disqualified, Sloan told the BBC: 'I'm upset and angry that someone wants to cast these aspersions. It's laughable is what it is, where they've come from I don't know.' Probably from the bus stop, I'd venture. Just a guess, you understand.

And so to the latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. And a message for the BBC Trust from at least one disgruntled local radio listener, licence fee payer and BBC supporter. In the title of the single greatest song of the 1980s. Play them chords, Johnny.

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