Tuesday, October 04, 2011

We Press A Suit So Collar Me

The BBC has been accused of allowing its leading presenters to effectively advertise outdoor clothing brand Berghaus on its television programmes. Newsreader George Aligiah, Coast presenter Neil Oliver, royal correspondent Peter Hunt and Wonders of the Solar System presenter Professor Brian Cox have all recently been shown on TV wearing clothing with the logos for Berghaus clearly visible. The regular appearance of the clothing brand on BBC TV has led some viewers - seemingly with nothing better to do with their time - to express their 'concerns' over 'advertising by the back door' via online message boards. One viewer posted: 'Why do I keep seeing TV presenters wearing Berghaus coats? Just seen one with the Berghaus logo on one side and BBC on the other. What's the shameless advertising on the Beeb?' Another wrote: 'The advertising of products or the deliberate, prominent display of commercial brand logos while on screen by BBC personnel is forbidden by the Corporation.' I dunno about anybody else but as a licence fee payer, my main concern is that BBC employees who, therefore, work for me don't catch pneumonia when they're on outside broadcasts and, as a consequence, spend a long time on the sick. Thus, quality outdoor wear is, I would argue, essential to the job. Plus, I've got slightly more important things to spend my time worrying about than utter mind-numbing crap like this. The BBC's editorial guidelines state that employees should adhere to strict rules banning them from the on-screen promotion of products or brands. The Scum Mail on Sunday - who else? - found through a Freedom of Information Act request that the BBC has purchased one hundred and sixty nine Berghaus jackets at a forty five per cent corporate discount in the past year, giving them free to staff who are working on location. BBC employees are also entitled to a forty five per cent discount on Berghaus products for their personal use. Berghaus issued a statement earlier in the year denying any secret sponsorship deal with the BBC. The firm said: 'No sponsorship deal exists between the BBC and Berghaus as this would break the BBC's editorial guidelines. Over the years, BBC reporters have chosen to buy Berghaus products for use while working outdoors. Of course, we are pleased that correspondents, camera operators and others working in the media choose our kit, but to be clear, there is no sponsorship agreement.' However, a few mouthy MPs have accused the BBC of advertising Berghaus 'by the back door.' Liberal Democrat lack of culture spokesman Don Foster said: 'The BBC should be squeaky clean about any commercial arrangements it enters into, particularly if the products might be seen on screen.' This, ladies and gentleman, from an MP. Been involved in any expenses scandals lately, mate? Was that 'squeaky clean' bit supposed to be dramatic irony, or what? Because according to the linked-to list - published by the BBC, interesting enough - you overclaimed four thousand two hundred and seventy five pounds and seventy four pee in expenses. So, as a tax payer - you know, one of those annoying little people who pay your sodding wages - can I ask a simple question before your next round of 'finding fault at the BBC.' Can I have my money back, please? The BBC Trust said that it had not received any complaints on this issue, and a BBC spokesperson added: 'The BBC never agrees to clothing discounts in exchange for on-air promotion. Berghaus is one of a number of manufacturers of clothing used by the BBC. However, in accordance with our editorial guidelines, no one brand is given undue prominence.' So, Berghaus has denied it and the BBC have denied it. A complete non-story, therefore. Pretty much standard for the Daily Scum Mail and for a member of parliament with, shall we be charitable and say 'enthusiastic' ideas of what can be claimed in expenses and what can't. There's a surprise.

Channel Four's Mo Mowlam biopic has earned a pair of International EMMY nomination - for best TV movie/mini-series and best actress, for Julie Walters. Walters' portrayal of the late former Northern Ireland Secretary in Mo earned her a best actress BAFTA two years ago. Other British nominees include Christopher Eccleston, up for best actor for Jimmy McGovern's Accused, and Sherlock, for best drama. Winners will be announced in a New York ceremony on 21 November. Mo details the politician's battle with cancer as she fought for peace in Northern Ireland. She died in 2005, aged fifty five. Walters has said she nearly pulled out of making the film because she was afraid Mowlam 'doesn't look anything like me. She was a big woman, she's got a big open face, so I was very scared. But arrogantly, when I read the script, I just said, "yes"' Walters added. In Accused, embittered old Red McGovern's series of dreary standalone dramas exploring the stories of miserable characters who end up in court, Eccleston played a plumber who found twenty thousand pounds in the back of a cab. The BBC's BAFTA-winning Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the eccentric detective and Martin Freeman as flatmate, John Watson, also earned four nominations at this year's Primetime EMMYs. Channel Four's Facejacker, starring Kayvan Novak as a series of characters who dupe members of the public, is up for best comedy. Documentary The World's Strictest Parents, broadcast on BBC3, is nominated in the non-scripted entertainment category while BBC2 opera show Gareth Malone Goes to Glyndebourne is recognised for best arts programme. The International EMMYs celebrate TV production outside the US.

Stephen Fry's cameo appearance on the Irish language soap Ros na Rún featured in his new BBC2 series Fry's Planet Word on Sunday. The series explores the role of language in defining who we are and Fry travelled to Spiddal in Galway to find out more about the Irish language in contemporary Irish society. While there, he filmed a cameo role in Ros na Rún where he played a confused English tourist who was lost in Connemara. Fry's character wandered into Ros na Rún's local pub Tigh Thaidhg looking for directions and came face to face with soapworld's crankiest publican, Tadhg Ó Diréain (played by Macdara Ó Fatharta) and resident barfly Séamus Ó Catháin (Diarmuid Mac An Adhaistair). What ensued was a highly entertaining storyline where Stephen shares a cúpla focal with two of Ros na Rún's best loved characters. Hugh Farley, the producer of Ros na Rún whom Stephen interviewed for Planet Word said: 'We were delighted to welcome BBC2 to the set of Ros na Rún recently, as part of their upcoming series, Planet Word. Our writers developed a highly entertaining storyline for series presenter, Stephen Fry, to feature in and his grasp of the Irish language was commendable. The humour of the scene, as well as the chemistry between Fry, Macdara Ó Fatharta and Diarmuid Mac An Adhaistair, was extremely well received by critics and fans alike.' The episode also featured Stephen visiting a call-centre in Newcastle, Kenya, a restaurant in the Basque country, Provençal-Occitan speaking southern France, Marseilles ... and Barnsley.

It arrived on a billowing cloud of whipped cream and swiftly established itself as BBC2's surprise ratings hit. Now, after weeks of crisp, buttery pastry and delicate, scented mouthfuls, The Great British Bake Off reaches its finale. Around four million viewers per week have been following the fortunes of perhaps the most unlikely reality show stars ever – charming, polite and extremely talented. While the celebrity version of the BBC's former culinary powerhouse MasterChef has found itself - stupidly - relegated to the daytime schedules, the gentler Bake Off has become BBC2's most watched programme. On Tuesday night viewers will step inside the baking marquee, with its heritage colours, bunting and nostalgic decorations, for the last time. Set among green manicured gardens, it may seem homely – but the baking inside is anything but. The competitors have been whittled down to three women: Holly Bell, Jo Wheatley and Mary-Anne Boermans, each apparently more interested in the gentle bounce of a perfect sponge than in television fame. Bell, who works in advertising, began baking in earnest while on maternity leave, while Wheatley was encouraged to enter the competition by her three sons; Boermans says she has more than seven hundred cookery books. Each will have to bake for a street party of friends and family tonight, creating such gorgeous morsels as mini rhubarb and strawberry cheesecakes and millefeuilles. The Bake Off format is not complicated. Every week the competitors have baked around a theme – cakes, bread, pastry, astonishingly butter-laden patisserie – survived a tough technical round, and produced two jaw-droppingly delicious bakes of their own design. Some of them have been astonishing. Boermans' apple and rose tarts looked dainty and delicious, Wheatley's rum and raisin cheesecake a fluffy quilt of sweetness. And not content with building an enormous great croque-en-bouche far beyond most mortals' capabilities, Bell then lifted hers up to reveal a gingerbread house sitting inside it. And she didn't even win that round! Judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood come from the tough-but-fair school of television experts. There is little emotional discussion of the contestants' journey to get this far in the competition, it is entirely about the bake. Hollywood needs to just tap a loaf to determine what exactly is wrong with it, while Berry can spot an incorrectly rolled roulade at ten paces. Both provide masses of hints and tips for getting it right. And it appears that viewers are taking them to heart. Rather than merely revelling in towers of sponge and raspberry mousse as constructed by somebody else, the Bake Off has also apparently prompted viewers to return to the kitchen. John Lewis reports that since the show began in mid-August, sales of cake tins and muffin trays have risen by fifteen per cent, and cookie cutters and cake stands by ten per cent. The winner of last year's show, Edd Kimber, has recently published a cookbook, The Boy Who Bakes, and teaches monthly macaroon classes in London, explaining how to create the perfect tiny, meringue mouthfuls that had BBC2 viewers transfixed.

David Starkey has been cleared by Ofcom over comments he made on Newsnight in August. The BBC received nearly seven hundred complaints after the sixty six-year-old claimed that the 'whites have become black.' Of the complaints, one hundred and three claimed that his remarks breached rules about race discrimination or racial offence. However, the broadcasting watchdog has now said in a statement that it would not take matters any further. An Ofcom spokesman confirmed: 'The presenter moderated the discussion and Mr Starkey's comments were countered by other guests on the programme.' The historian previously defended his comments and blasted the 'hysterical' reaction from the media. During his appearance on Newsnight in August, Starkey spoke of 'a profound cultural change' and said he had been re-reading Enoch Powell's Rivers of Blood speech. 'His prophesy was absolutely right in one sense. The Tiber did not foam with blood but flames lambent, they wrapped around Tottenham and wrapped around Clapham,' he said. Starkey was taking part in a discussion with two other guests, Owen Jones, author of Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, and the writer Dreda Say Mitchell. Jones, who subsequently accused Starkey of tapping into racial prejudice at a time of national crisis, said Ofcom's decision meant that it had 'proved itself to be a toothless body by failing to tackle the out-and-out racism of a discredited historian.' The BBC said in August that while it acknowledged that some people will have found Starkey's comments offensive, 'he was robustly challenged by presenter Emily Maitlis and the other contributors who took issue with his comments.'

The Daily Scum Mail inexplicably jumped the gun and wrongly announced that Amanda Knox had been found guilty in her appeal against the murder of Meredith Kercher in Italy. The article, which appeared online at 8.50pm UK time and was still available nearly hour later before being removed, stated that Amanda Knox’s appeal against her conviction had been rejected by the Italian court of six jurors and two judges.
The story also included 'reactions' - specifically quotes - from prosecutors who were said to be 'delighted' with the news that Knox would be returning to jail. It's about standard for the Scum Mail frankly - if they told me black was darker than white I'd want a second opinion.

And, speaking of the Daily Scum Mail, it seems they're doing their regular 'collapsing ratings' story again - this time with regard to Downton Abbey which according to them is 'in crisis' because it was four hundred thousand viewers down this week - at 8.6m - compared to when the series started two weeks ago. The Scum Mail claims that this fall in overnight ratings is entirely down to 'the endless adverts.' Tragically, they failed to notice that most TV ratings - Strictly, X Factor, et al - were down this weekend due to it being, you know, hot as opposed to two weeks ago when it, basically, wasn't. Mind you, I did enjoy Danny Baker's Twitter comment of the subject of Downton over the weekend: 'It's a curse but before every Downton scene I can just hear "Okay everyone, we are turning over, nice and quiet please. And..."'

Jessie J has been confirmed as the first coach on The Voice UK. The announcement was made on Chris Moyles's BBC Radio 1 breakfast show on Tuesday morning. Moyles made his team play a guessing game, with the musician joining in answering 'yes' and 'no' questions in a variety of comedy voices. Explaining the 'blind auditions' format to listeners, Jessie J confirmed that the UK format will have four coaches - who are both judges and mentors - and each will choose ten hopefuls after facing away from the acts while they perform. The singer also praised the 'blind auditions', adding: 'I do think sometimes that a lot of people don't audition for these shows because they don't feel they look like a pop star. I can't wait, I'm so excited about it.' Danny Cohen, the controller of BBC1, said: 'Jessie J is going to be an amazing coach on The Voice UK. She's a massive young star with a strong personality, and her recent MOBO nominations are testament to her musical and creative ability.' Jessie J added in a statement: 'I'm excited to be a coach, inspiration and mentor and I jumped at the opportunity as it's all about "the voice."' Further coaches will be confirmed in due course. Musicians including Lenny Kravitz, Charlotte Church and Cheryl Cole have been linked to the programme. The US version of the show - which is based on The Voice of Holland, an original Dutch format created by John de Mol - has performed well in the ratings. It will return for a second season on NBC immediately after the Super Bowl on 5 February 2012. Coaches Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton, Cee Lo Green and Adam Levine will all return for the US show's second season.

Premier League lawyers and club chairmen are nervously awaiting the ruling on Tuesday of Europe's highest court in a case that threatens to fundamentally rewrite the TV rights model that has led to a twenty-year revenue boom. The latest twist will be delivered on Tuesday in a long-running and high-profile case that has seen a Portsmouth landlady take all the way to the European court of justice her defence of her right to show Premier League matches at 3pm on a Saturday, having bought a subscription from a Greek broadcaster. As soon as one of the eight advocate generals of the ECJ in February advised that the Premier League selling its rights on a territory-by-territory basis represented a 'serious impairment of freedom to provide services,' the chief executive, Richard Scudamore, convened a team to examine every possible scenario. In the short term, the decision could allow pubs to show matches on a Saturday at 3pm, which the football authorities have long argued would result in lower league attendances. It could also allow consumers to buy cheaper subscriptions from continental providers, assuming they had the correct kit, in preference to Sky. In the longer term that would probably force the Premier League to sell its rights on a pan-European basis to a single media group – a scenario which could impact on its revenues and throw up its own European competition issues. The Portsmouth landlady, Karen Murphy, and the defendants in a parallel civil case involving an importer of cards from overseas, have argued that being prevented from buying in cheaper football from overseas is incompatible with EU law. Premier League insiders believe that if the eventual consequence, after the ECJ verdict is passed back down to the high court for interpretation under UK law, is a requirement to sell rights on a pan-European basis there will be 'a significant but not catastrophic impact' on its overseas revenues. The prospect of potentially shattering the 3pm window rule could be dealt with, they believe, by simply not selling Saturday matches to broadcasters overseas. Under its current rights deal, the Premier League realised a total of around three and a half billion smackers. Of that, £1.4bn came from overseas and an estimated three hundred and fifty to four hundred million quid from the European territories that will be affected by the ruling. One option would be to auction its rights on a pan-European basis in the hope of creating competition between the biggest media companies, including BSkyB, and hoping that continued global growth could help mitigate any downside in Europe. But the huge uncertainty created by the case is far from ideal at a time when the Premier League would usually be planning its next rights auction process. After Tuesday's ruling the case could take many months more to make its way through the legal process and the Premier League may be forced to plough ahead with its tender despite the huge uncertainty. The current round of contracts expires at the end of next season. However the Premier League, which has argued that the opinion of advocate general Juliane Kokott is flawed and unfair, would also point out that it has repeatedly faced regulatory challenges to its business model that have not stemmed its upward revenue trajectory.

And, finally, in today's occasional These People Don't Vote Do They, Toby? section, the following gem. Based in Kankakee, Illinois, the Daily Journal is a local newspaper which has a great service whereby readers can ring up a recorded line called Speakout and simply let rip on whatever subject is they see fit. The newspaper then edits the comments - appropriately - and prints them for all the world to see. Or, at least, for all of Kankakee to see. This reader, it would seem, had a great deal on their mind (if, indeed, that's the right word to use), their rant ranging across several topics from the local school board to Chicago murders, from traffic accidents to Senator John McCain and, as you can see to the left, a short angry burst of venom about hunters. And, once again, we ask the question these people don't vote do they, Toby?

And so to today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day - which just seems horribly appropriate in light of the opening story of today's blog. Pick a card. Any card. Wrong.

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