Friday, November 25, 2011

It's Been A Long Time!

The BBC, according to the Gruniad Morning Star, is set to 'scale back' its proposed cuts to local radio stations across England, which have a combined weekly audience of more than seven million listeners, after what the newspaper describes as 'a storm of protest' from listeners and MPs. But, of course, as usual they provide absolutely no details of what this 'scaling back' will entail. Because, they're just guessing based on a couple of anonymous quotes from alleged 'insiders.' Still, I hope they're right. The plans, which as regular dear blog readers will know, would shrink the budget for the BBC's forty local stations in England by fifteen million smackers with the loss of two hundred and eighty jobs has, the Gruniad states, 'generated more complaints than any other aspect of the corporation's Delivering Quality First initiative,' designed to save seven hundred million quid a year. Such is the strength of feeling among MPs, more than fifty of whom attended a private members' debate about the cuts at Westminster Hall last month, that the issue will be debated in the main chamber of the House of Commons next week. The Gruniad continues: 'It is understood that the BBC Trust has received "thousands" of responses about the proposed cuts. The Trust, which is running dual public consultations about local radio and the broader cuts initiative, declined to comment.' Good. Former lack of culture secretary the vile and odious Ben Bradshaw - someone responsible for just a much crud being flung in the BBC's general direction as the vile and odious Tory rascal who replaced him after the election - said: 'I hope there is a recognition from the BBC that outside of London and the south-east, local radio has more listeners than Radio 4, which seems to have been pretty much protected from these proposals.' Yeah, thanks for your contribution, Ben. What a very great pity it is that you weren't saying stuff like that when you were in the job. Wanker. 'I hope it also recognises that local radio has the largest proportion of listeners who do not access other BBC [radio] services.' The planned cuts would result in many afternoon programmes being shared by neighbouring stations and a single evening programme – dubbed a radio equivalent of BBC1's The ONE Show – shared across all forty English local radio services. Station controllers fear that the sheer scale of job losses – about ten posts will go from a typical BBC local station employing about forty people – would also impact on the quality of their most popular shows at breakfast and drivetime. 'It is difficult to see how some local stations can absorb twenty per cent cuts and still be relevant to their local communities,' one BBC 'source' is quoted as saying. 'There seems to be acceptance from senior management that the level of the cuts as proposed to local radio won't stick.' Another BBC 'source' allegedly said: 'There has been a pretty effective response from listeners, MPs and other BBC 'sources' and the message coming from management seems to be: "We hear you." But it remains to be seen how much of the cuts will be reversed, and where the money will come from.' So, actually this is an utter nothing story from the Gruniad including lots of speculation but little in the way of hard facts. Pretty typical, really. It also remains 'unclear' whether cuts to BBC1's regional current affairs show Inside Out, which is set to lose forty per cent of its five million pound annual budget, or forty of its current staff of about one hundred, will also be softened. The BBC director general Mark Thompson, who admitted to MPs last week that 'at the sharp end the [local radio] numbers are daunting,' said: 'There have been a significant number of points made about local radio. The Trust wants to listen and so do I. But it would be wrong to suggest that any decision had been made.' In a joint letter to BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten, eight MPs from the North-East of England challenged him to explain exactly how the cuts 'meet your duty to reflect and strengthen cultural identities through original content at local, regional and national level?' Which is something this blog has been asking since the day the cuts were first announced. One of the signatories, Chi Onwurah, the Labour MP for Newcastle Central, said: 'There is real disappointment, as well as a sense that this is what happens when decisions are taken in London. It feels like the latest in a long line in reductions in the quality of regional broadcasting.' Thompson launched the Delivering Quality First initiative following last year's licence fee settlement which also resulted in the BBC taking on extra funding responsibilities including the World Service. It is expected to lead to the loss of about two thousand jobs across the corporation. The BBC Trust consultations will come to an end on 21 December, with the revised proposals expected to be confirmed in the new year. A BBC spokesman said: 'It would be inappropriate to comment while the BBC Trust consultation is under way.' If any dear blog readers haven't already done so, and you're licence fee payers, the Trust consultation details can be found here. I'm sure they'll be pleased to hear from you if you have anything you wish to say about the proposals. Well, they might not be pleased, necessarily, but since they've asked for comments why take them at their word and give them some.

Hugh Laurie - frightfully nice chap, used to be Stephen's oppo, you remember? What ever happened to him? - has hinted that he may stop acting in television once House comes to an end. Or, ta least, that's the way that a bunch of throwaway comments have been picked up on by large chunks of the media, anyway. The actor has starred in the hugely popular medical drama since 2004, and reportedly takes in between up to two hundred grand per episode. the show is currently in its eighth - and, probably, judging by various comments from the cast and the production team - last season. Huge revealed that he feels 'extremely lucky' to have landed the role, and said that he may try his hand at working behind the camera on future projects. 'I think I have been rather spoiled here [in America],' he told the Daily Record. 'I can't imagine there will be another one quite like this. I think I will probably be as interested by either writing or producing or directing, or some other aspect. I find the whole field of it fascinating.' He added: 'And I think I am extremely lucky to have had the one shot that I have had at it and I wouldn't go looking for lightning to strike twice.' Speaking about his career post-House, he said: 'I hope I'm not going to drop dead, assuming that I'm unplugged. We have done one hundred and seventy-odd shows, that's about fifty six feature films' worth. That's a huge amount of experience and that sort of experience gives you a confidence in a way. I think that I have a confidence that I might not have had. I'm slightly more confident now [than] when I started.' So, there you go, he didn't actually say - or even 'hint' - that he was going to give up acting, at all, or anything even remotely like it. Merely, that he'd like to try some writing and directing, an ambition many actors have. But, of course, that's not a tabloid headline, is it?

Now, a quick personal advertising moment for one of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's good chums, dear blog reader. My old mate, Greg Bakun has a rather superb website, From The Archive, about TV history which I thoroughly recommend to you. His latest article is a highly entertaining and thought-provoking thinkpiece on Doctor Who's missing episodes. Check it out here. If nothing else, it gives yer actual Keith Telly Topping a long-overdue excuse to reproduce this very lovely photo of Wendy Padbury. Never a chore, dear blog reader, never a chore.
And, still on the subject of very pleasant things, Grumpy Adrian Chiles and The Curiously Orange Christine Bleakley are reportedly 'close to agreeing a settlement' with ITV over their Daybreak sackings. The former ONE Show pair were reported to have been fired from the struggling breakfast flop last weekend following what several newspapers have described as 'a prolonged ratings crisis.' Or, what yer actual Keith Telly Topping prefers to call 'proof that the people of this country aren't, quite, as brain-dead as you might have been led to believe elsewhere.' Fired. Good word, that. Dismissed. Made redundant. Shown the way out. Chiles and Bleakley's management, the Sun claims, 'demanded' the full two million knicker fee which they were each promised upon moving to ITV, despite being tin-tacked just one year into their three-year Daybreak contract. 'Bosses' at the channel, they allege, 'responded by threatening to axe them from other programmes.' Which, admittedly, would have been pure-dead, wee in yer own pants funny, woud it not? 'There have been some heated behind-the-scenes discussions,' an alleged 'insider' allegedly said. 'If their agent thought he could hold the channel to ransom then he's found that ITV actually holds the trump card. It has been quite fraught.' In response, an ITV spokesperson insisted: 'Adrian and Christine are key members of the ITV family going forward. And we have an important, long-term relationship with them which we are expanding.' Chiles criticised ITV for the way in which his and Bleakley's Daybreak sacking was handled and was quoted last weekend as saying: 'We were assured we could go with our dignity intact. That's obviously not happened.' obviously. But then, do greedy disloyal people deserve dignity? You may have your own opinions on this matter, dear blog reader, I couldn't possibly comment. Chiles also muttered something about 'dark forces' being at work, a risible comment which found only scorn in much of the media - the Metro's The Green Room gossip column noting 'if MI5 really were involved in the Daybreak fiasco, it's no wonder they haven't got time to catch terrorists!' Desperately trying to put on a brave face on this whole fiasco, Peter Fincham, ITV's director of television, said: 'Adrian and Christine are both superb presenters.' Which brings up the necessary question of why you're sacking them, Peter, if they're that brilliant? Especially as just a few weeks ago you were rubbishing any suggestion that you would and insisting that you weren't going to be doing that or anything even remotely like it? what changed? 'They have worked tirelessly to help establish Daybreak on ITV,' he continued. As a disastrous flop and a virtual byword in the TV industry for 'a thoroughly wretched idea than went tits-up from day one,' perhaps. 'They leave the show at a point when ratings have recently seen their biggest year-on-year increase.' Well, that's a rather classic example of thoroughly mendacious mediaspeak bollocks for a kick-off. Daybreak only started in September 2010 so, of course, 2011 has seen more year-on-year viewers over-all. That doesn't mean it's been a success or anything even close to it. 'Adrian has had a hugely positive reception as the host of ITV's live football coverage since he joined us for the 2010 World Cup.' No, he sodding well hasn't, he's been grumpy and rubbish on that just as he's been grumpy and rubbish on Daybreak. 'I'm pleased that he will be at the helm of the UK's biggest free-to-air football offering, and will continue to present his successful That Sunday Night Show.' Obviously some new use of the word 'successful,' that no one of the planet had previously come across. I love the sound of TV executives squirming whilst they try to justify their disasters, dear blog reader. It's always so entertaining. ITV said that it is currently in the process of developing two new peak time shows for Bleakley - having, seemingly, not realised that the Curiously Orange One is viewer-toxic at the moment - a 'factual entertainment challenge' show and a 'home renovation' programme. Because there's nowhere near enough of those on TV already.

Now, speaking about a channel that actually covers sport properly, the BBC has won back the rights to broadcast the IAAF World Athletics Championships, as part of a new deal covering the 2015 and 2017 tournaments. Channel Four secured the rights to the tournament for the first time this year, but its coverage of the events in Daegu, South Korea was generally considered to be substandard and came in for criticism from viewers, particularly the blundering performance of anchor Ortis Deley. The broadcaster still has rights to the 2013 World Athletics Championships in Moscow, but the BBC will take over for the 2015 event in Beijing and the 2017 championships in London. The BBC's deal comes as part of an agreement between the European Broadcasting Union, of which the corporation is a member, and the International Association of Athletics Federation , covering broadcast rights for the whole of Europe and Africa. The IAAF had a deal with the EBU until 2009, when it decided to market the rights directly to individual broadcasters via an agency, leading to the Channel Four deal. BBC Sport director Barbara Slater said: 'We're delighted that the World Championships will be returning to the BBC. The 2017 Championships, taking place at the [London 2012] Olympic Stadium will be a huge moment for UK athletics, helping to deliver the Olympic legacy, and we're thrilled to be bringing the event to our audiences.' IAAF president Lamine Diack added: 'The EBU has been our partner for every edition of the IAAF World Championships from their creation in 1983 right through until 2009 and we are delighted to be partners again. This agreement not only secures the financial future of the athletics' movement until the end of 2017 but is also strategic for IAAF in guaranteeing maximum coverage of our premium events in key territories.'

On a related theme, the BBC has announced the ten Formula One races that it will show live next season as part of its new joint broadcasting deal with Sky, while Jake Humphrey has confirmed he is staying with the corporation. Today, Sky confirmed that it will launch its first channel dedicated to just one sport next March, with Sky Sports F1 to broadcast live coverage of all Grands Prix, practice sessions and qualifying, along with associated programming. This follows a controversial - if, ultimately, rather smart - broadcasting deal earlier in the year, in which the BBC agreed to half the amount of race meetings it shows live from 2012 to 2018 as part of its cost-cutting drive. The agreement attracted some stampy-footed criticism from 'want, want, want, want it all, want it now, don't want to pay for it' viewers at the loss of exclusive F1 coverage on free-to-air television. But, most normal people didn't give a stuff, frankly. And this blogger says that as someone who rather enjoys watching F1. But, I'd sooner see ten Grands Prix on the BBC each year than none which it what would've have happened if the Beeb hadn't managed to strike a deal with Sky. As part of the new arrangement, the BBC will next year show ten Grands Prix, including Monaco, Silverstone, Spa, Abu Dhabi and the season finale from Brazil (in other words, most of the good ones), plus extended highlights of the other ten races aired on Sky. All twenty Grands Prix will be covered live on BBC Radio 5Live, or 5Live Sports extra. Jake Humphrey, the BBC's lead presenter for F1, has also today confirmed that he is staying with the corporation, tweeting: 'I'm staying with the BBC, the best production team I've ever worked with.' The BBC's head of F1 Ben Gallop said: 'We're really looking forward to 2012 and what promises to be another great year of Formula 1 on the BBC. With presentation from the track at every race, we'll be there every step of the way to tell the story of the season. Through a mix of live coverage and extended highlights, we'll have the best of the action from both on and off the track, plus all the news, analysis and big-name interviews.' In 2012, the BBC will broadcast live coverage of the Grands Prix in China (15 April), Spain (13 May), Monaco (27 May), Europe (24 June), Britain (8 July), Belgium (2 September), Singapore (23 September), Korea (14 October), Abu Dhabi (4 November), and Brazil (25 November). The coverage will be available on BBC1 and in high definition on BBC One HD and BBC HD. However, this means free-to-air television viewers will miss out on live coverage of various races, including the season opener in Melbourne, Australia, on 18 March, and the return of F1 to America for the race at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, on 18 November. The BBC said that for any races it does not show live, it will endeavour to 'bring the best of the action to viewers through extended highlights on BBC1 and BBC One HD.' Qualifying highlights will be seventy five minutes long for each race, while early morning Grands Prix (such as in the Far East) will be recapped in two hours of highlights at 2pm on the day. European time zone races will be shown in ninety minutes of highlights at 5.30pm. Highlights and qualifying of the Hungarian Grand Prix on 29 July will be shown on BBC2 as this falls during the London 2012 Olympics. Selected coverage will also be available on the BBC Sport website.

Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat has confirmed plans for the popular family SF drama to be broadcast in the autumn next year. Which most of us had already figured out given the fact that they don't start filming the series until into the New Year. The Moffster, writing in Doctor Who Magazine, said: 'Doctor Who in the summer? All that running down tunnels, with torches, and the sunlight streaming through your windows and bleaching out the screen? All those barbecues and children playing outside, while on the telly there are green monsters seething in their CGI-enhanced lairs? It's just not right is it? Be honest. For me, as a kid, when the afternoon got darker and there was a thrill of cold in the air, I knew that even though summer was over, the TARDIS was coming back! So yes, that's part of the plan, that's part of the reason for this little delay. But it's not the whole story.' Since its revival in 2005, most full Doctor Who series has premiered in the spring, with only the most recent run being split and ending in the autumn. There had previously been speculation over whether BBC had cut Who's 2012 output, but Moffat was swift to deny the rumours.

Here's a first look at the BBC's latest Christmas trailer. And, don't Matt and Karen look really uncomfortable in it? The Cyberman's thoughts are not on record.
Sienna Miller has described how phone-hacking and press intrusion spread suspicion among her closest friends and family over how details of her private life were leaking to the media. Earlier in the year, Miller settled for one hundred thousand smackers in damages and costs after the now-defunct, disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World hacked into several of her mobile phones. Speaking at the Lord Leveson inquiry into press standards in London, Miller said that she had been left feeling 'uptight and confused' after a string of stories were published in the newspapers, particularly about her relationship with fellow actor Jude Law. Miller, who has appeared in films such as Layer Cake, Stardust and GI Joe, described how photographers would follow her in the street, sometimes spitting at her to get an angry reaction for the photo. She said that the paparazzi would follow her late at night, often driving illegally, and questioned why having a camera made it legal for them to chase her. 'I would often find myself - I was twenty one - at midnight running down a dark street with ten big men behind me,' she said during short but powerful evidence given to the inquiry. A particular photo was discussed, published in the Daily Mirra, that had been cropped to imply that Miller was drunk, when she had actually playing with an ill child. She said that publication could have hurt her career as it may have swayed the mind of anyone considering giving her work. 'The fact that they [the newspaper] knew that they would be sued and would have to pay damages was not really a deterrent,' she said. The actress said that the media's intrusion into her life had left her in a state of 'complete anxiety and paranoia,' as she felt 'violated' and baffled by the string of lurid stories. 'Nobody could understand how this information was coming out,' Miller said. 'It was impossible to lead any kind of normal life at that time and that was very difficult for a young girl.' She said that when more personal stories about her began appearing in the media in 2005 and 2006, she began questioning those close to her about who could be leaking details to the press. At one stage, Miller said she gathered people in a room and quizzed them after a story was published based on information only her mother, her sister, and two of her closest friends knew about. She added: 'I accused someone in that room of selling a story.' However, she told the inquiry that it was 'really upsetting' after she realised that no-one had betrayed her, as the information had actually been gained through other means. 'The effect that it had on my life was really damaging to me and to my family and friends,' she said. Miller said that it was 'very daunting' to take action against News International, former publisher of the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World, but she decided to do so after seeing evidence provided by the police. She said that she is still trying to get News International to disclose the full extent of their phone-hacking against her, but subsequently Robert Jay QC said that the publisher has apparently now agreed to do so. 'I felt I was living in some sort of video game,' said Miller, and you could see what she meant. Bounced around, pushed hither and thither by a hand she could neither see nor control, the victim of a hidden player who saw her as little more than a figure on a digital screen. The actor arrived looking – we one justifiably say this without invading her privacy – stunning. She even seemed quite cheerful. Why had she come to give evidence, she was asked. 'Because you made me!' she said with a girlish giggle. It was the last cheery moment. She described the 'hell' she had gone through before she managed to get various legal injunctions to stop it: the crowds of paparazzi outside her door, the way they would always seem to know exactly where she was going even before she set out, the gangs of men pursuing her down the street, even at night, their cameras the only clue that they weren't muggers or rapists. Worst of all, she began to suspect her family and closest friends of selling information. Where else could the stories have come from? She described how the bubble of anxiety and paranoia mounted inside, making her suspect the very people on whom her sanity depended. She had thought her mother might be doing it; her mother accused others – 'people who would die rather than betray me.' It was only when she discovered her phone had been hacked on an industrial scale (she changed her number three times in three months, but it never did any good) that she realised her friends and family had been blameless all along. You could sense the great wave of relief that must have rushed over her. But the knowledge of her secrets was not all. She had been sworn at and spat on – anything to force the expression they wanted on to her face. She described how a photographer in a Porsche had knocked over a pregnant woman wheeling a pram at a zebra crossing in a desperate attempt to keep up. After the Mirra picture-cropping incident, the paper later corrected this, with a cheery 'Sorry, Sienna!', the mock friendliness sounding especially utterly hollow and worthless. She had a relationship with Jude Law. It ended. From that moment she was, she said, like a character in a video game, to be chased and manipulated and spied upon. Rather like Max Mosley, the son of Oswald who has been trying to escape his own paternity for a lifetime. (Allegedly, once at a motor race he had been delighted to hear someone say: 'He must be the son of Alf Mosley, the coach builder from Leicester.') He has two great enemies in his life: Rupert Murdoch – whom he compared to a mafia don, quite a fashionable image of press barons these days, and whose Scum of the World revealed his part in a sado-masochistic party. And there's Paul Dacre, the odious editor of the odious Daily Scum Mail, who had accused Mosley of 'unimaginable depravity' simply because, apparently, he likes being spanked. 'That reflects badly on his imagination,' Mosley said, getting perhaps only the second laugh of the entire day. 'I have no idea of Mr Dacre's sex-life. He may have some sort of strange sex life, but it is not up to me to go into his bedroom, film him and write about it. He is completely naive, obviously, about sex. That's not a criticism, it's a fact.' Mosley, who is over seventy, speaks slowly and calmly, and might easily be discussing some arcane point of law in a case of commercial confidentiality. But it was clear that he was, actually, enjoying this and it was very entertaining to watch for the viewer too. Mosley has what a lot of people have, a burning desire to bring down the tabloid scum for their various wrongdoings. Unlike most other people, however, he had the platform and, more importantly, the money to do it. Good on ya, Max. Power to the people. The last witness was the author JK Rowling, who described her attempts to keep her children out of the newspapers. After what Sienna Miller and Max Mosley had gone through it seemed - slightly - less horrible, though very distressing all the same. The hack who had arranged to smuggle a letter into her daughter's lunchbox, for example. The papers that revealed her home address. The long lenses that seemed to be everywhere. Paranoia was a constant theme of the day: the victims come to believe they are being spied upon even when they aren't. The extraordinary justifications for the hacks' behaviour, such as the 'public domain' defence. 'In effect they are saying: "You can't complain that we printed photographs and the address of your house because we have already printed photographs and the address of your house." I can't pull an invisibility cloak over my house – nor would I wish to,' Rowling said.
One final point about Leveson, from earlier in the week bit it does tie in with some of Max Mosley's comments about the odious Dacre. David Sherborne, the lawyer acting for fifty one alleged victims of press intrusion at the inquiry, on Tuesday criticised the Daily Scum Mail for describing the evidence given by Hugh Grant on Monday as 'mendacious.' Or, in other words, accusing the actor and outspoken critic of press intrusion of privacy of lying. Sherborne said that such coverage could discourage other witnesses from giving evidence to the inquiry. 'There is a critical distinction between a right of reply and a right of attack.' he noted. Jonathan Caplan QC, representing Daily Scum Mail's publisher Associated Newspapers, was soon on his feet, said that Grant's allegations were based on the 'flimsiest of evidence' and asked for 'an effective mechanism for a right of reply within this inquiry.' 'Any allegation of phone-hacking is absolutely refuted by my client and its journalists,' Caplan added. However, he said that he would need to 'discuss the issues' raised with his client and later return to the matter. 'Get their story straight,' perhaps? Who knows? Justice Leveson himself said that it seemed to him there was 'considerable force' in the arguments put by Sherborne about the Daily Scum Mail's odious, bullyboy thug coverage and earlier in the day by Neil Garnham, the QC for the Metropolitan police. Garnham said that he had 'a serious issue' with Associated Newspapers' Monday night statement refuting Grant's allegations, questioning whether anyone who 'has the temerity to criticise the press is going to have to face this the morning after. The alternative is that I must warn participants that they must anticipate this if they give evidence,' he said. Leveson said he was 'extremely concerned about ensuring that the arguments relating to this inquiry are conducting here, not elsewhere. I would be unhappy if it was felt the best form of defence was always attack,' he added.

Another odious stain Piers Morgan is to give evidence to the Leveson inquiry it has emerged. During Thursday's session at the high court in London, Lord Justice Leveson suggested that Morgan, the former editor of the Scum of the World and the Daily Mirra - before he was sacked in disgrace - would be asked to appear at the inquiry as he had 'questions to answer.' Morgan's appearance has not yet been officially confirmed by the inquiry and there has been no word from Morgan himself, who is currently a presenter on US network CNN, yet on Twitter about the matter. Which is odd, frankly, as he's normally got plenty to say for himself about all manner of stuff. But Gill Penlington, the executive editor of CNN's Connect the World, tweeted on Thursday afternoon: 'Piers Morgan confirms to CNN that he will be giving evidence to Levenson Inquiry at a later date.' Speaking at the inquiry on Wednesday, media lawyer Mark Thompson claimed that the process of illegal interception of voicemails 'went beyond the News of the World,' the newspaper which was shut down in July at the height of the hacking scandal. Morgan's knowledge of phone-hacking during his newspaper career has been the subject of serious questions over the recent months, despite the allegations against the Scum of the World coming from a time after he left the publication.

John Cleese has hit out at the media as more information emerges about the phone hacking scandal. The comedian told Absolute Radio breakfast show host Christian O'Connell that he is 'amazed' the press thinks people will believe anything it says after having been caught out over the last few months in so many lies. 'There they are at News International still saying, "Well, it was just one rotten apple,"' Cleese said. '"Well, there were three ... twenty eight rotten ..." and they think we're going to believe them, you know?' He added: 'All the other papers are saying, "Isn't this extraordinary what's going on at the News of the World?" They're all in it up to their necks! But what I love, and I think it's hilarious and it makes me laugh out loud, is that there they are telling these lies and they actually think we're going to believe them.' Talking more generally about the press failing to scrutinise itself, Cleese said of Daily Scum Mail editor Paul Dacre: 'Have you ever read a story about him? He's probably one of the six most powerful people in England, but he says, "I'm not a celebrity." Why aren't you a celebrity? "Well my paper, my picture doesn't appear in the paper." That's because you make sure it doesn't appear in the paper. I mean, it's all such bullshit.'

The BBC has headed off strike action which could have threatened the Strictly Come Dancing final and Christmas programming after reaching an agreement with broadcasting unions over the handling of talks to implement planned cuts. A coalition of staff unions – including BECTU, the NUJ and UNITE – claimed victory on Friday after the BBC agreed to scrap a deadline for the withdrawal of unpredictable working allowances and changes to redundancy terms. The date for the proposed implementation of changes to new starter terms and conditions has been put back from 1 April to 31 December 2012. The unions have refused to engage in wider talks over plans to axe two thousand jobs until what Gerry Morrissey, the general secretary of BECTU, said was the 'gun to the head' of the pre-imposed conditions set by BBC management had been removed. Broadcasting unions have been balloting for strike action over the issue, which could have disrupted the final of hit BBC1 entertainment series Strictly Come Dancing and the Sports Personality of the Year awards show.
'The gun which was pointed at our heads has now been removed and we will enter the talks on staff conditions without any preconditions as to what the outcome will be,' said Morrissey. Michelle Stanistreet, the general secretary of the NUJ, said that the unions 'can now embark on genuine negotiations on terms and conditions next year.' The new agreement with the BBC means that all proposed changes to staff terms and conditions – which will include discussions about pay for unsocial hours and unpredictable working – will now be hammered out as part of a single review over the course of 2012. 'The only way that can succeed is if everyone feels part of that process and not just recipients of imposed punitive change from on high,' said Michael Eatwell, industrial officer at UNITE. 'UNITE reps have welcomed this development as it enables unions and management to address crucial issues in an atmosphere of greater co-operation.' A BBC spokesperson said: 'The BBC and joint unions have reached an agreement in principle to resolve the current dispute about implementation dates for proposed changes to terms and conditions of employment. This has been on the basis that the BBC extends the proposed implementation dates for changes to new starter terms and conditions from 1 April to 31 December 2012. This is in recognition of the fact that reform of UPA/flexibility allowances is a complex issue and will require more time to resolve. All parties recognise these allowances need reform but want to ensure they have sufficient time to consider all the options.' The cuts were outlined earlier in October by director general Mark Thompson under his Delivering Quality First initiative and have been greeted with anger by many staff in regional TV and radio programming and BBC News. Despite the victory, the unions acknowledge that very delicate and difficult negotiations lie ahead. 'The NUJ, together with our sister unions, will continue to fight for our BBC by campaigning to stop the job cuts and defend public service broadcasting,' said Stanistreet. The joint unions are organising a lobby of parliament on 6 December to try to rally the support of MPs against the BBC cuts.

Dermot O'Dreary has defended The X Factor against negative press comments. or, you know, tried to, anyway. Speaking on ITV's This Morning, the presenter 'hit back' at newspaper reports which have criticised the competition, now in its eighth series. 'We had a headline a couple of weeks ago, saying what a shambles after we had a power cut for fifteen minutes. And then we rated fifteen million,' O'Dreary claimed. Actually, that episode didn't rate fifteen million or anything even remotely like it, it rated 11.23 million viewers - and that was after timeshifts had been taken into account. The overnight was around ten million. Still, why let a little annoying inconvenience like the actual number of people who watched your programmes get in the way when you can just make a number up at random? 'Someone tweeted after, "If that's a crisis, then I'd love that." But it was just a power cut. The hilarious thing was everyone was going, "Ooh what's going on right now?" and if it cut to us, it was everyone sat there [arms folded] waiting for fifteen minutes until the BT Tower started working again.'
Describing the current series as his 'most enjoyable' yet, O'Dreary praised the 'terrific' new judging line-up, adding that not having an obvious favourite to win the competition had made it more 'fun.'

Alan Carr will host a two-and-a-half-hour Channel Four special to be broadcast on New Year's Eve. The Chatty Man presenter will welcome guests for sketches, games and musical performances in Alan Carr's New Year Specstacular. Jonathan Ross, Micky Flanagan, Melanie Sykes, Gok Wan, Kirstie Allsopp, Alesha Dixon, Bruno Tonioli and Heston Blumenthal will be among those joining in, while JLS and The Ting Tings will provide live music. My God, that's a cast from Hell if ever there was one. Among the sketches confirmed are a spoof of The King's Speech, a Made In Chelsea parody featuring the show's cast, along with a number of pieces featuring David Walliams - including one which sees Carr as Prince William and Walliams as Kate Middleton. 'I can think of no better person to leave Channel Four's New Year celebrations in the hands of than our very own Alan,' Syeda Irtizaali, commissioning editor for entertainment at Channel Four, said. 'Expect a raucous and funny party night packed full of celebrity guests, plenty of sketches and surprises and a wonderfully mischievous look back at the best of 2011.'

A Russian TV newsreader has been fired after apparently raising her middle finger to Barack Obama live on-air. REN TV, a privately owned Russian channel, dismissed Tatyana Limanova after a video clip of her gesture went viral. Limanova was reading a report on the Asian-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit held in Hawaii earlier this month when she noted that Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's president, had taken up its rotating presidency. 'Before, this post was held by Barack Obama,' she read, before looking up at the camera, lowering her eyes again and raising her middle finger. Debate raged inside Russia over whether Limanova's gesture was aimed at Obama or someone inside the studio, but REN TV took no chances. 'On 14 November, on the News 24 programme, anchor Limanova, on live TV, allowed the use of an inappropriate gesture (a synonym for an obscene expression),' the channel said in a statement on Thursday. 'This gesture was addressed to members of the production team, had no subtext, and was not linked to the information Limanova was reporting at the time.' The channel decided to fire her anyway, stating: 'Since this does not detract from her guilt and is not an excuse, the leadership of the REN TV channel considers this act a gross violation of discipline and a manifestation of unprofessionalism.' REN TV is one of the few privately owned federal TV channels inside Russia and broadcasts to one hundred and twenty million million people. The row came a day after US-Russia relations faced their latest test. On Wednesday, Medvedev issued a harsh statement warning the US over its missile defence plans – a move said to have 'spoiled Thanksgiving' for the Americans.

The UK advertising watchdog has said that it will not investigate a Littlewoods Christmas TV advertising campaign, despite receiving more than four hundred and fifty complaints that it is upsetting children by suggesting Father Christmas is 'not real.' Christ, the utter bollocks that some numskulls chose to care about. The advert, currently showing on TV, features a school Christmas play with children singing about who has bought them presents, revealing that their mothers do all the shopping. The Advertising Standards Authority has reportedly received four hundred and fifty six complaints - from glakes - that the advert 'ruins' the idea that Santa Clause is behind all the presents that arrive for children on Christmas Day. Only Phones4U's horror-themed advertising campaign has received more complaints this year, at just over five hundred in total. An ASA spokesman confirmed that viewers had complained that the advert 'caused their children distress' because of 'the implication that it is mothers who provide presents rather than Father Christmas.' However, the regulator said that after 'careful consideration' it has decided not to launch an investigation into the complaints as the advert did not specifically claim that Father Christmas does not exist. Because, basically, they've got better frigging things to do with their time. An ASA spokesman explained: 'The ASA Council has decided that, as the ad did not make reference to Father Christmas or suggest Father Christmas did not exist, it was unlikely to cause distress to children and therefore we won't be launching an investigation.'

Last night yer actual Keith Telly Topping attended the last in the first season of Scunny Steve Drayton's magnificent Record Player events at the Tyneside Cinema's digital lounge, dear blog reader. The idea is cunningly simple; you get a bunch of people in a darkened room, accompanied only by a slide-show and, err, 'play a record.' A proper - vinyl - record, that is, not a CD. Previous weeks have seen works by Pink Floyd, The Stone Roses, David Bowie, Bon Iver, The Beatles, Queen, The Who, The Beach Boys, Elbow and Kate Bush listened to in respectful silence (usually followed by a huge burst of applause at the end). Last night it was Led Zeppelin IV and it was worthwhile sitting through all nine minutes of Blind Lemon Page's 'When The Levee Explodes' for a photo that yer man Steve dug out of the files and included in the slide-show. Apparently it's from 1972 and was taken at a party in which the band picked up their Gold Discs for the LP's sales in Sweden. Them crazy Swedes, eh?!
The thing which yer actual Keith telly Topping loves most about this photo, I think, is Planty's apparent complete indifference to what's taking place. It's like 'So, Bonzo, after all this shit's finished d'ya fancy a quick pint and we check out how Wolves got on?'

And finally, dear blog reader, here's a picture of a hamster sitting on a cat. Everybody say 'Aaaah!'
For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, dear blog reader, after that photograph, Blind Lemon Page, Planty, Bonzo and ... the other one deserve a bit of recognition despite their crimes against The Blues elsewhere. After all, dear blog reader, it's only rock and roll. But, as I happen, I rather like it.

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