Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Would You Have A Wond'rous Sight? The Midday Sun ... At Midnight

TV comedy highlight of Tuesday night's telly: Without a doubt it was Michel Roux Jnr's utterly horrified face and 'what the fuck is that supposed to be?' expression on MasterChef: The Professionals at poor Harley the Hippie's calamars farcis aux riz sauvage horrorshow disaster.
You simply had to feel for the lad. Michel and his two, now squid-tarnished, Michelin stars, that is, not Harley the Hippie. You shouldn't do that to a squid. It's just flat-out wrong. And, get a haircut, young man.
In the end, the sick-squid fiasco probably lost young Harley the Hippie a place in the next round, with Big Fat Cuddly Welsh John squeezing through instead. Which, to be honest, yer actual Keith Telly Topping was quite pleased about since - in a Saint James The Tattooed Carpenter-style(e) - yer actual Keith Telly Topping had rather taken a liking to the big chap in the competition. A natural reaction, perhaps. Us fat lads have to stick together, you understand?

On the other hand, the musical highlight of Tuesday night's telly was Blind Lemon Huge Laurie - 't'sing the blues, y'gotta bleed the blues!' - and his jazz quartet's really rather decent version of Ray Charles' 'Hallelujah I Love Her So' on The ONE Show.
Anybody else notice the unusually sharp way Matt Baker interrupted the way-more-annoying-than-normal Alex Jones's supplementary question for 'Hhhhhhhewww' about the time he was in the Cambridge Eight which lost The Boat Race by a mere canvas when he were naught but a slip of a lad. 'I think he's already answered that!' said Matt, cuttingly.
Baker also told her off for wittering on long after it was relevant about Stephen Fry's butlering abilities, or lack-there-of. Which was also funny.

Meanwhile, Steve McGarrett and his team were acting out Hawaii Five-0's own, peculiar, version of Apocalypse, Now this week in an episode the plot of which stretched credulity to snapping point. And then way, way beyond that. Duplicitous bitch Jenna sets Big Hard Steve up in one of Wo Fat's excellently over-complicated traps (this one in North Korea, no less). Danno, Chin, Kono and Lori, therefore, have to recruit Joe White (Terry O'Quinn effectively recreating his Lost role of terrifying jungle-trained machete-wielding-crazed-assassin) and a bunch of kick-ass special forces grunts to mount a beneath-the-radar undercover mission to go and rescue Steve. With extreme prejudice. Or, in Kono's case, 'being the Internet lookout.' Well, she's a woman it's clearly - in the Five-0-universe - all she's good for. How do they all feel? 'Like a mean motherfucker, sir!' Yer actual Keith Telly Topping, it must be said, loves the smell of ridiculous plot devices in the morning. And so, our heroes trade in their badges for an ancient chopper and go tear-assing around South East Asia lookin' for the shit! And, the daftest thing of all is that the whole episode - Ki'ilua - is maddeningly entertaining and just about works!
But, if you're going to rip-off - sorry, 'pay homage to' - another Coppola movie, lads, next time make it one from the vague crime oeuvre. Finian's Rainbow, for instance. That's really criminal.

In case you'd forgotten (or, you're young) it was forty eight years ago this very day that yer actual Doctor Who began, dear blog reader. Happy birthday to Sydney and Verity's little ginger-bastard-love-child that, somehow, despite everything, ended up as quite probably the BBC's most important show, ever. Last week, of course, we got our first look at some of this year's Doctor Who Christmas Special, with a very exciting trailer for The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe debuting during Friday night's Children in Need telethon. And very good it looked too. As an additional bonus, here's one of the photos from the BBC press pack.
Also, we can't go any further with today's bloggerisationisms without a necessary word from our sponsor.
That'll do. Now, not only is Mrs Brown's Boys returning to BBC1 this Christmas with a second series but straight on its heels, a third series of the sitcom has already been commissioned. Originally a theatrical production, Mrs Brown's Boys is created, written by and stars Brendan O'Carroll as misbehaving matriarch Irish Agnes Brown. 'What an extraordinary Christmas present,' says Brendan, 'The BBC must be mad! To allow us to dress up and play again is an extraordinary gift and we genuinely don't take it lightly. We're overwhelmed with the support of the audience and hopefully when they see what we've done with the second series they'll see that maybe the BBC is not totally mad.'
Something of an acquired taste, Mrs Brown's Boys. And, to be honest, it's not one that this blogger has entirely acquired for himself thus far. But, it is undeniably very popular. And, more importantly, it pisses off the Daily Scum Mail by its very existence so, for that reason alone, long may it prosper. When broadcast earlier this year, in spite of (or perhaps because of) screamed tabloid headlines about a ceaseless avalanche of obscenities, the series viewing figures peaked at more than four million punter in a very post-watershed slot. That's 'good' just in case you were wondering. Danny Cohen the Controller of BBC1 added: 'Mrs Brown's Boys is a joyful, laugh-out-loud comedy that I'm delighted to have on BBC1. It's great news for us that we are extending our deal to a third series.' Tragically, the rank knobcheese who became Cohen's successor in his last job and is currently in charge of BBC3 (who, in a previous life let it be remembered was also the man who commissioned Kerry Katona's reality show on ITV2) didn't have anything like the same foresight over Ideal.

Caroline Thomson, the BBC's chief operating officer, has become the second BBC executive in two days to hint that a reversal of the corporation's planned cuts to local radio was 'not out of the question.' All of this amid growing speculation about a possible BBC U-turn. At least, according to the Gruniad Morning Star. Then again, I'd trust the Gruniad's agenda-soaked analysis of pretty much anything related to the BBC about as far as I could, comfortably, hockle a lump of green phlegm. So, you know, as ever take this with a huge vat of salt until you hear it from a more reliable source. The BBC has faced a growing backlash - not least from this blog, let it be noted - over planned budget cuts to its forty local stations in England which will lead to the loss of two hundred and eighty jobs. Including, potentially, several of my friends. Thomson told a BAFTA event about the future of the BBC in London on Tuesday: 'If we had to reinstate the money, we'd have to cut something else – but it's not out of the question.' In a separate question about the BBC's Delivering Quality First cost-cutting plans, Thomson confirmed that the corporation does have what's described as 'a contingency fund' built into its proposals to deal with potentially higher-than-expected levels of inflation. If inflation falls below the BBC's expectations then, the Gruniad claims, 'a significant amount of money' may be freed up for other purposes. How significant is 'significant' they don't say. Likely, because they're just guessing. Thomson's comments followed the appearance of BBC director general Mark Thompson (no relation) before the House of Commons public accounts committee on Monday, where he admitted that the cuts faced by local radio 'at the sharp end ... are daunting.' Thompson said that if the budget savings had an impact on the quality, range and effectiveness of local radio then he would 'do something about it' - although, as was pointed out by many commentators, by that time it might be too late - and added: 'We don't want to preside over the decline of local radio.' What was it Elvis Costello once said? '... And the radio was in the hands of such a lot of fools/Tryin' to anaesthetise the way that we feel.' Word, Declan. The proposed changes to local radio - which are moronic, by the way, just in case you hadn't sussed that from this blog's coverage of the issue over the last few months - would see budget cuts of up to twenty per cent at most of stations in England. The proposals have been criticised by MPs, trade unions and station controllers. It has provoked - very satisfyingly - the biggest public response of any of the cuts outlined by Thompson's DQF proposals last month. BBC 'insiders', the Gruniad claims, said that indications from senior management were that the proposed changes to local radio would be 'looked at again.' But it remains to be seen what proportion of the cuts would or even could be reversed. 'There have been reasonably reassuring messages,' said one alleged corporation source. 'There has been a pretty effective response from listeners and MPs and the answer from management seems to be: "We are listening." There is a sense that something has to be done but how much will be reversed and where will the money come from? Will something else have to be cut?' The BBC Trust's public consultations on local radio and DQF come to an end on 21 December. Any changes to the local radio proposals are not expected to be announced until into the New Year. And, remember, if you're a licence fee payer and you have any strong feelings on this matter or on the BBC's proposed DQF cuts in general, then the BBC Trust would like to hear from you. Or, they might not like to hear from you, per se but, since they've asked for feedback from licence fee payers, why not actually take them at their word and tell them what you think about your BBC. You can do so, here.

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping, for example, has filled in both the questionnaire on the future of local radio and on the larger DQF issue. As usual, dear blog reader, he was polite - honest! - and, hopefully, balanced. But he did point out that as a licence fee payer (you know, one of those annoying 'little people' who pay your bloddy wages, Chris Patten!), he was somewhat dismayed by the BBC's general lack of anything approaching balls in standing up for itself against cowardly and crass attacks. From politicians, the media and from its commercial rivals. For a fine example, ITV's pet-lip and throwing-their-toys-out-of-their-pram about the fifteen minute Strictly versus The X Factor 'clash' which this blog reported yesterday. Why must be BBC always curl itself into a little ball and lie in the corner whimpering 'please don't hurt us anybody' when ignorant full-of-their-own-importance bullies like Cowell and his cackling cronies at ITV, or the Daily Scum Mail and their wretched tabloid ilk, or the vile and odious rascal Hunt and similar career politicians with a sick and venal agenda try to use one of Britain's greatest ever gifts to the world as their own personal punch bag? I also noted the following: The BBC seems to have an obsession with cost-cutting under the wholly misguided assumption that 'cheaper is automatically better.' This is seldom, if ever, true. If you want something good - as in most areas of life - you're probably going to pay for it. When I was at school I can still recall something my form teacher, Dave Kinley, told me as an eleven year old. 'You get nowt for nowt in this life,' he said, before adding, 'and very little for sixpence.' Case in point: This blogger - like many BBC licence fee payers - wants to watch fourteen great episodes of Doctor Who each year on BBC1. I've specifically chosen the example of one of the BBC's highest rated and most profitable brands and something which is unlikely to be going anywhere any time soon since, through its merchandising and overseas sales, it pays for not only itself but also for lots of other BBC programmes as well. But, the same argument stands for other, less profitable, formats too. I fully realise that to get those fourteen great episodes will cost the BBC a decent amount of coin. I have, for example, no idea how much Matt Smith is on in terms of salary but I'm guessing it's more than a few bob. But, what I don't want to see - as a licence fee payer - are those same fourteen episodes made but with, for example, Barry Chuckle as The Doctor instead just because he's cheaper. As noted, dear blog reader, cheaper seldom, if ever, equals better.
Steve Coogan has told an inquiry into press ethics in London that the media is 'like a mafia', willing to go to any lengths to earn profit as 'it's just business.' The comedian and actor also claimed that reporters had dug through his rubbish bins searching for 'lurid' details concerning his private life. He further denied a story published in the Daily Scum Mail in 2007 which claimed that he took drugs with the US actor Owen Wilson. Coogan, who alongside fellow actor Hugh Grant has been an outspoken, and very effective, critic of press intrusion, appeared on Tuesday before the Lord Justice Leveson inquiry into press standards. The actor said that some celebrities had entered into a 'Faustian pact' with the media, in that they had given up some of their privacy for the fame and fortune that tabloid attention brings with it. However, he said that he personally had never sought out stardom and had always tried to keep his family private from his career. 'I have never set myself up as a paragon of virtue. I like to keep myself private,' said Coogan. He added: 'I create characters in the public, I keep myself private.' it was a necessary difference, he said. The actor, probably best known for creating the Alan Partridge character, said that photographers often camped outside his flat in the hope of a story. He claimed that he had also seen reporters going through his bins searching for damning evidence. 'I saw them from my bedroom window,' he said in response to questions from Robert Jay, QC, 'They did not look like tramps - not far off.' Considering why he thought newspapers acted in such a manner, Coogan said: 'It's like the mafia, it's just business.' In the session at the high court, Coogan made fewer specific allegations than Grant, who the day before had ruffled feathers by claiming the Scum Mail on Sunday had hacked his phone for a story on his relationship with Jemima Khan. Footballer Garry Flitcroft also suggested that the People newspaper - part of the Trinity Mirra Group - may have hacked his phone for a story, although he admitted that there was no firm evidence to support this. Coogan noted that some parts of his private life did not meet with the approval of tabloid editors, but he added: 'I do not believe that gives them the right to hack my voicemail, intrude into my privacy or the privacy of people who know me, or print damaging lies.' He referred to a 2007 article published in the Daily Scum Mail bearing the headline, Steve Coogan blamed for Owen Wilson's drug spiral, suggesting that he had taken drugs with the actor. Coogan admitted that Wilson was 'a friend', but said that he had not even been on the same continent as Wilson in the nine months before the American allegedly attempted suicide. He also denied ever taking drugs with him. Coogan noted that the old adage of 'today's stories are tomorrow's fish and chip paper' no longer applied in a digital world where stories are 'there forever.' Asked why he did not challenge the Daily Scum Mail article at the time, Coogan said that he did not want to add fuel to the story by responding, and also said that it was 'cheaper to do nothing.' Coogan repeated previous allegations which he had made that the former Scum of the World editor Andy Coulson was personally responsible for an attempt to trick him into admitting that he had slept with a dancer. He said that the move, involving a woman calling Coogan while Coulson listened in, was foiled after Coogan was tipped off by the Scum of the World's former showbusiness editor Rav Singh - whom Coogan described as 'a friend of a friend.' This, Coogan said, enabled him to 'play the call with a straight bat.' The actor made few direct allegations about phone-hacking, but did say that newspapers often would obtain information 'via illegal means' and then try to pressure the subjects into confirming the details. He gave the example of a woman he was seeing in 2005, who was contacted by journalists and urged to sell her story after they had allegedly learned of the affair by hacking Coogan's phone. 'In the case of the girl I was seeing in 2005, they tried to get her to sell her story using information that was in messages that I had left for her and she had left for me,' he said. 'At the time, I couldn't understand [how they got the information]. They knew that they could not publish that information, so they tried to get her to admit it.' He added: 'They would say, "We are going to run a story, it's going to make you look tawdry and awful, but if you talk to us, we can make you look lovely. And we will give you some money as well. We know what happened."' Coogan said that he had been the subject of 'several' kiss-and-tell stories over the years, meaning his closet was now 'empty of skeletons' due to the press coverage. 'I'm not someone who wants to get involved in waving a banner for the right to privacy, but not many other people similar to me were doing it,' he said. 'The reason other - for want of a better word - "celebrities" don't want to, is that they say they don't have the stomach for it and fear what will happen. My closet is empty of skeletons due to the press, so admittedly, I'm immune in some ways.' Coogan said that he wished the press 'could regulate themselves,' but he feels that a privacy law is required 'so genuine journalism is not besmirched by this tawdry muckraking.' He said that the law would protect privacy unless there was a specific public interest, and any transgressions would be punished 'meaningfully,' as some newspapers factor in the cost of resulting legal action and 'can afford to take the hit.'

Phone-hacking was more widespread than just the Scum of the World, the lawyer Mark Lewis has claimed. The hacking victims' lawyer, who represents the family of murdered Milly Dowler, spoke at the Leveson Inquiry on Wednesday. He said that preserving the media's current system of self-regulation was 'the preservation of no regulation at all.' Sheryl Gascoigne - the former wife of footballer Paul Gascoigne - told the inquiry that she felt the onus was on victims of media intrusion to prove their innocence rather than the other way around. Lewis took out injunctions on behalf of another former footballer, Garry Flitcroft, who gave evidence to the inquiry on Tuesday, and later Jo Armstrong, a legal adviser at the Professional Footballers Association. He said that he took out an injunction over a photo taken of Ms Armstrong and the PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor by the Scum of the World. Lewis said it was only after he managed to block the publication of the photo that he had what he described as 'a eureka moment,' realising that the only way the paper could have got the accompanying story - which was, as it happens, untrue - was via hacking the phones of either Taylor, or Armstrong or both. It was, however, something that Mark Lewis didn't say which was potentially even more interesting than what he did. It appears to concern a statement he's made very recently and a confidential exhibit. The evidence was described as 'very important and very fresh', it appears to relate to News International and it concerns surveillance - something which we know that the company subjected the hacking victims' lawyer to. Lord Justice Leveson apologised to the court for 'being comparatively cryptic.' The sensitivities on display highlight the challenges of conducting an inquiry while a criminal investigation is still going on. As the senior judge put it at one stage, 'I am very conscious of the very careful line we are trying to walk, if not a tightrope, from which we might fall.' Lewis said Ms Armstrong had left a message on Taylor's phone thanking him for speaking at her father's funeral. 'The tabloid journalist who listened, knew of that message, added two and two and made eighty four. If it hadn't been so sad it would have been funny,' he said. Lewis represented Taylor in a subsequent civil case against News Group News - a subsidiary of News International, which owned the Scum of the World. He said News Group News eventually paid Taylor's legal costs plus four hundred and twenty five thousand smackers in damages. Lewis said that the Scum of the World had been the focus of the phone-hacking row because private investigator Glenn Mulcaire had written things down but, he claimed, evidence from his clients 'inferred' that other news organisations also illegally accessed phones. 'It was a much more widespread practice than just one newspaper,' Lewis alleged. He said that voicemail interception had been easy to do and that journalists would use it to 'pry on things. I don't think they necessarily thought of it as any worse - certainly at the beginning - than driving at thirty five mph in a thirty mph zone.' Lewis told the inquiry that he had been warned that Daily Scum Mail editor-in-chief Paul Dacre would sue him if he suggested that the paper was involved in phone-hacking. Sheryl Gascoigne said that she had been 'very much in love' with her husband but that the media had portrayed her as a gold-digger. She said the 'inaccurate and untrue' allegations had been hurtful to her and her children but that her ex-husband's advisers had told her not to take action against the press. Ms Gascoigne confirmed that she had sold photos of her 1996 wedding to Hello magazine and that this 'could have' invited media attention but said 'our life was already in the public eye.' She added that when she was pregnant the press followed her 'constantly.' She described later crawling around on her 'hands and knees' at her Gleneagles home to avoid press taking photographs of her through her windows. She said the media scrutiny was particularly tough on her children at school. 'Unfortunately for them, how our life was being portrayed was obviously very different from how it was.' Gascoigne said that she published a book, Stronger, in 2009 partly in response to three books written by her ex-husband. 'The children and I thought enough was enough and it was time to - I want to say put "our side" - but it was the truth.' Gascoigne famously won libel damages from the Scum of the World in 2010 over claims that she lied about violence her ex-husband had inflicted on her during their marriage. She also sued the Sunday Mirra. She told the inquiry that when taking legal action against media it appeared as though 'the onus is on you, as the victim, to prove your innocence.' Ms Gascoigne said that she was 'scared' about pursuing libel proceedings because it meant appearing before jurors after being 'labelled this money-grabbing awful person' by the media. She said that victims of media intrusion were deterred from taking action against the press by factors such as cost and that there needed to be a deterrent to stop the publishing of inaccurate stories. 'I don't understand why when you sue a paper and it's blatantly obvious they don't have anything and and they've completely fabricated a story, that you are still out of pocket.' Even after winning a libel battle, she said, she would be lucky if the resulting payout covered seventy per cent of the cost of bringing the case. The journalist Tom Rowland told the inquiry he had worked for the Daily Torygraph and later worked as a freelancer. He said he had been shown redacted versions of News International's phone logs in August which showed calls made to his voicemail between mid-2005 and 2006. Rowland said on Tuesday that he had been provided with unredacted versions. Rowland added that it appeared all of the approximately one hundred calls to his voicemail had come from the same mobile number. But, he told the inquiry that he had been doing some work for the News International-owned Times newspaper at the time and believed some of the calls could have been legitimate. 'It is my strong suspicion that this evidence has been tampered with. I do not think the log is at all credible,' he said. 'It is my contention that quite a lot of those hundred calls actually were perfectly innocent calls.' Rowland said he believed his phone could have been hacked into because his work 'involved talking to a lot of prominent and famous people. So it's possible that people were fishing and looking for leads relating to that.'

Meanwhile, embattled spawn of Satan James Murdoch has resigned as a director of the companies that publish the Sun, The Sunday Times and The Times. The Evening Standard reports that Companies House records show that Murdoch is no longer on the board of News Group Newspapers, which publishes the Sun, and Times Newspapers Limited, which publishes The Times and The Sunday Times. The move means that no member of Rupert Murdoch's family now sits on the board of News International's major British newspapers, following stinging criticism in the phone-hacking scandal. News Group Newspapers also previously operated the Scum of the World, which was shut down in July in disgrace and scandal after a string of allegations of hacking and criminality. Tom Mockridge, the former chief of executive of Sky Italia who replaced Rebekah Brooks as boss of News International in July, has taken over from Murdoch at NGN and TNL. Murdoch remains as executive chairman of News International, despite widespread criticism of his handling of the phone-hacking scandal. A News International spokesman said: 'James Murdoch doesn't step back from NI. He remains chairman.' Murdoch also remains as director of holding company NI Group Limited and retains his seat on Times Newspapers Holdings, the independent editorial board set up in 1981 after his father Rupert bought The Times and The Sunday Times. However, the Evening Standard claims that 'sources' allegedly 'close to Murdoch' have indicated that he now has a more hands-off role at both organisations. Claire Enders, founder of media research service Enders Analysis, told the newspaper that James Murdoch is 'right' to step back from these responsibilities, but that the move 'won't stop questions' over his leadership. 'Because it is inescapable that there will be some kind of censure from the Culture, Media and Sport select committee, it is inevitable that people will say maybe you've got too much on your plate, it makes sense to step back from some of the roles,' said Enders. 'He can step down from all these positions but he won't stop any of the other issues surrounding his stewardship.' Next week, Murdoch is expected to face a stern challenge to his future as chairman of Sky at the pay-TV giant's annual meeting, as shareholders prepare to show their disquiet at his connection to the hacking scandal.

Coldplay have, reportedly, agreed to duet with a contestant during this year's X Factor final. Just one more reason not to watch it, then.

With all the excitement mounting for this year's Doctor Who Christmas Special the ghost of Doctor Who Christmases past still remains, with special effects team The Mill winning the Digital Effects category in this year's Royal Television Society Craft and Design Awards. The company was nominated for the special effects used in last year's Christmas Day story A Christmas Carol, with the win cited for: 'A vast array of visual effects, displaying a Hollywood-style ambition, was hugely impressive, despite a modest budget.' Other nominees included effects producers for Inside The Human Body and Misfits.
One of British TV production's most famous brand names, Talkback Thames, is to be scrapped. RTL's UK production subsidiary, which makes shows including The Apprentice, Qi, Never Mind the Buzzcocks and Channel Four's Grand Designs is going back to its roots, with the names Thames and Talkback being separated out. The two brand names came together to create Talkback Thames in 2003 when the formerly separate companies were merged by FremantleMedia, RTL's global production, distribution and rights business.However, the name is being unpicked as part of a restructure by Sara Geater, Fremantle Media's UK chief executive officer. In future Thames will be responsible for entertainment shows, under experienced entertainment producer Richard Holloway. Comedy entertainment will come under the Talkback brand, which is to be led by producer Dan Baldwin. Alongside them will be two new divisions. Factual shows such as Grand Designs will end with the credit Boundless, while scripted comedy will be under the auspices of Retort. There will not be a dedicated drama department, no surprise to many in the television industry as Talkback Thames has so far failed to find a successor to its former drama juggernaut The Bill since it was cancelled by ITV last year. The names Thames and Talkback have a rich television history. Former ITV franchise holder Thames' logo of Tower Bridge and the London skyline and the accompanying fanfare is still recognisable to a generation of viewers who grew up on shows such as The Sweeney, Minder and children's series Rainbow. Thames' programmes also included Morecambe and Wise and Death on the Rock – the controversial 1988 documentary about the shooting of three IRA members in Gibraltar. Co-founded by comedians Griff Rhys Jones and Mel Smith, Talkback became one of the UK's leading independent producers of comedy and entertainment in the 1990s, responsible for shows such as Alas Smith and Jones, I'm Alan Partridge, Da Ali G Show, Smack the Pony and They Think It's All Over.

BBC programme Newsround is to be honoured at this year's British Academy of Film and Television Arts Children's Awards, it has been announced. The Special Award is being presented to the CBBC news show in recognition of its 'significant contribution' to programming, organisers said. Newsround's first and most long-standing presenter John Craven will collect the award on 27 November. 'Newsround was and always will be my little baby,' Craven said. Hopefully metaphorically because, if he meant it literally then it's clearly time for a strait jacket to be called for. The programme began in 1972 with a team of just three people, which included Craven as the presenter. 'Newsround was the first show of its kind in the world and I'm deeply thankful to BAFTA for recognising it as such,' he said in statement. 'Newsround was and always will be my little baby and I couldn't be more proud of it now it's all grown up.' The BBC's political editor Nick Robinson will present the prize to Craven, who will be joined by creator Edward Barnes and current presenter Ore Oduba. 'I am deeply honoured and profoundly grateful to BAFTA for this recognition of Newsround - the world's first regular news bulletin for children,' Barnes said. 'I hope that the importance of a news bulletin which reports the children's world and also provides children with an insight and understanding of world events, will always be recognised and given a prominent place in children's television.' The programme was originally broadcast twice-a-week, but now is on everyday. The team now produce fifty bulletins a week across CBBC, BBC1 and BBC2 to an audience of over eight hundred thousand. Newsround also produces special fifteen minute documentaries, which are aired on both CBBC and BBC1. Last year, the Living with Alcohol programme won the BAFTA for best children's factual programme. Newsround was the first British television programme to break the news of the loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger on 28 January 1986 when the shuttle exploded just fifteen minutes before the show aired. CBBC drama Just William has picked up three nominations at this year's Children's BAFTAs.

Ofcom has reportedly received more than forty five thousand submissions in its review of media plurality and ownership rules, launched following Rupert Murdoch's failed bid to take full control of BSkyB. As of last week's deadline, the media regulator had received around fifty responses from organisations and individuals, along with fifteen thousand submissions via campaigning group Avaaz and a further thirty thousand from Thirty Eight Degrees, the community group. According to Media Week, the fifty submissions from individuals and organisations covered broad issues around the future of media ownership and dominance in the UK. However, it is understood that the majority of submissions from Avaaz and Thirty Eight Degrees contained specific opposition to the power held by Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation. An Ofcom spokesman said: 'Ofcom has received a significant number of comments and responses to its work on measuring media plurality. We expect to report back on the questions that we have been asked by Jeremy Hunt, the secretary of state, next year.' Late last year, Ofcom was involved in a public interest test of the bid by Murdoch's News Corp to acquire the sixty one per cent of BSkyB that it does not already own. This was in response to concerns over how the deal would impact the plurality of media sources in the UK. News Corp ultimately withdrew the bid this summer following cross-party political pressure in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal at the Scum of the World. And, genuine questions being asked about just how, exactly, 'fit and proper' Murdoch and his grubby spawn actually were to run a piss up in a brewery let alone a multi-billion pound media empire. In its report to the vile and odious rascal Hunt on the BSkyB bid last December, Ofcom said that the current framework around media plurality should be subject to reform. Current legislation only allows plurality reviews to be instigated when merger situations arise, meaning there is no way to tackle companies which have become dominant through organic growth. Ofcom is considering how practical it would be to set limits on media ownership to protect quality, as well as introduce a framework for measuring plurality across different media. Avaaz was one of the most high-profile groups to campaign against News Corp's bid for Sky, and the group has highlighted Ofcom's review as a chance to 'end the Murdoch mafia.' The group asked people to send a pre-prepared letter to Ofcom calling on the regulator to 'ensure that no person or corporation is allowed to own twenty per cent or more of any branch of our media.'

Viewers missing [spooks] after its recent demise will not have long to wait for a new spy drama. The BBC has commissioned a new 'international espionage' series — from the makers of the late, lamented MI5 drama. Independent producer Kudos - who also, of course, made Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes, Hustle, Burn Up, Holby Blue and, just so we don't get too carried away in thinking everything they touch turns to gold, Outcasts - is producing the new eight-part drama, called Nemesis, which will be broadcast towards the end of next year on BBC1. Nemesis centres around Sam, a member of 'an elite private intelligence firm' who survives an assassination attempt that may have been ordered by her colleagues. Sam is played by Grey's Anatomy and Alias actor Melissa George. Mistresses actor Adam Rayner features as Sam's colleague and love interest. Nemesis has been created and written by The X-Files and Strike Back writer and producer Frank Spotnitz. He said: 'I'm incredibly excited about the ambition of this series. It's got action on a cinematic scale, huge story twists and turns, and intriguing characters who are both emotionally and morally complex.' The BBC drama commissioning controller, Ben Stephenson, said: 'Melissa George is a fantastic choice to play BBC1's new leading lady known as Sam, a complex and mysterious Bourne-style female spy unlike anyone we've seen on TV before.' Filming has, as mentioned a couple of weeks ago on this blog, already started and will take place on location in Scotland, London and Morocco. Kudos is making the show, in association with Big Light Productions, for BBC1 and HBO's Cinemax channel.

Well-known horrorshow (and drag) Vernon Kay has signed up to host Channel Four's festive entertainment show Home For The Holidays. The programme - which will be broadcast live every day for a week - will focus on a couple who are about to get married. They bring their extended families together in a country manor for Christmas to see how well they can get along. The participants will face games, twists, surprises and celebrity guests in an attempt to win up to five hundred thousand smackers. Sounds wretched and the additional involvement of Big Vern is, surely, the turd cherry on the diarrhoea cake. 'This is going to be the perfect show to help build up the excitement of the festive season,' lied Kay. 'It's a whole lot of fun as we try and give away half a million pounds.' Meanwhile, Channel Four's entertainment commissioner Syeda Irtizaali said: 'We're excited to broadcast a festive entertainment series that captures the true essence of Christmas for families up and down the country. We're also delighted to bring back Vernon to Channel Four. He is the perfect host to bring this together with warmth, sparkle and good humour.' Other Christmas programming on Channel Four includes special episodes of Coach Trip and Made In Chelsea. Home For The Holidays will begin on 18 December - if you're specifically looking out to avoid it - and will be broadcast live each night until Christmas Eve.

Charlie Brooker is to host a satirical review of 2011 for BBC4. The channel has commissioned a one-off special, Charlie Brooker's 2011 Wipe, to look at news, television, games and film over the past twelve months. Contributors to the show, to be made by Brooker's company Zeppotron, will include comics Doug Stanhope and Limmy. Meanwhile Brooker's 'darkly comic' series Black Mirror – likened to a British Twilight Zone - is coming soon to Channel Four.

Natasha Kaplinsky appears to have ruled out tabloid suggestions that she could join ITV's breakfast disaster Daybreak. Kaplinsky was named - by some tabloids if not by anybody that actually mattered - as 'a frontrunner' for a job on the flop show after it emerged that current hosts Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley will be - very satisfyingly - sacked from the programme in the New Year. However, the Gruniad reports that Kaplinsky's spokesperson has 'scotched' these rumours. 'Natasha has already done her fair share of early starts on BBC Breakfast, so I can't imagine she'd want to go back to those anti-social hours,' the representative said. 'She is currently really enjoying her time in the ITV newsroom, where the team have made her very welcome.' Kaplinsky's fellow alleged 'frontrunner', odious lard bucket Eamonn Holmes, however, has 'admitted' that he would like to be considered for the Daybreak sofas. Possibly so that he can eat them. Demented egomaniac and full-of-his-own-importance pie gobbler Holmes told the Manchester Evening News that he believes he should be in the running for a job on the under performing morning show. 'I'm the longest-serving breakfast presenter in the country, so I'd like to think I'd be in the frame,' he said. Presumably between mouthfuls of Chicken and Stuffing Bake outside a nearby Greggs. Mind you, that utterly horrible man would probably turn up to the opening of an envelope if he thought there was a chance he'd get his smug boat-race on TV so it's hardly surprising to see that he's busy putting himself up for a job before the current occupier - incompetent and grumpy as he may be - has even left. Measure of a man that, Holmesy. A very small man.

A tabloid newspaper claims that Twatting About on Ice judge Jason Gardiner 'could be' replaced for the next series of the ITV competition which starts in January. The Sun - hedging their bets, as usual, with the 'could be' rather that 'will be' line - claim that 'bosses' are 'considering' replacing Gardiner - and Emma Bunton - as judges for the next series. The tabloid reports that neither judge has yet been offered a contract for the show which is due to begin shortly. The tabloid also claims that Louie Spence is 'under consideration' as a possible replacement.

Chiwetel Ejiofor and Matthew Goode are to star in a new BBC drama, written and directed by award-winning filmmaker Stephen Poliakoff. Ejiofor was last seen in the acclaimed police drama The Shadow Line earlier in the year and won an Olivier award for his portrayal of Othello at the Donmar Warehouse in 2008. Goode's credits include Watchmen, A Single Man and Cemetery Junction. The 1930s set Dancing On The Edge will follow a black jazz band in London. It will be broadcast on BBC2 next year. Anthony Head and Caroline Quentin will also appear in the five-part drama. Filming has begun in London and Birmingham, with co-stars including Jacqueline Bisset and Tom Hughes. Playwright and dramatist Poliakoff has written numerous dramas for the BBC, including Capturing Mary and Joe's Palace. His most recent feature, Glorious 39, starring David Tennant and Romola Garai, premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and was shown on the BBC in 2009. This will be the writer's first series. Poliakoff began his career aged twenty four as a writer at the National Theatre, before moving into television. Some of his noted earlier works included Stronger Than the Sun, Bloody Kids and Caught on a Train. In 1983, he branched into film with Runners, which starred James Fox and Jane Asher.

Noel Gallagher has denied reports which claimed that he will be writing the theme song for the next James Bond movie, Skyfall. The former Oasis guitarist and songwriter took to his official website to shoot down rumours that he would soon be meeting producer Michael Wilson to discuss writing a song for Daniel Craig's third 007 outing. 'I don't know whether you've seen a story that's doing the rounds about me being offered the job of penning the tune for the new James Bond film?' Noel wrote. 'Apparently I'm being "courted" by "007 bosses." A meeting will be "taking place in the next few days" with some guy called "Michael G Wilson" (whoever he is).' He's, actually, Cubby Broccoli's stepson and a very important movie producer, Noel. Could be a useful contact so, if he does get in touch, curb the Mancunian lip and be polite. 'A "source" says, "Nothing has been signed or made official." Of course it fuckin' hasn't! Who is this "source"? Has he been on the "sauce"? Bizarre indeed.' The Sun - of course - recently claimed that Gallagher's song 'Freaky Teeth' had 'caught the attention of Skyfall producers.' So, either Noel is lying or the Sun's 'source' is. That's if the Sun's source even exists. I think we can take it as read that Noel Gallagher actually does exist. His Liam probably wishes, sometimes, that he doesn't, but there you go.

Ex-Pakistan cricket captain Salman Butt and bowler Mohammad Amir have lost their appeals against their sentences for a spot-fixing scam. And, thus, will have to do their stir in shame and continue slopping out each morning for a while yet. The pair were not present at the Court of Appeal in London for the proceedings before the Lord Chief Justice and two other judges. Butt, twenty seven, was jailed for thirty months and Amir, nineteen, received a six-month term. They were sentenced over a criminal plot to bowl deliberate no-balls in a Test match against England. Bowler Mohammad Asif, twenty eight, and cricket agent Mazhar Majeed were also jailed but did not seek leave to appeal. The judges rejected a plea that Butt's sentence was 'manifestly excessive' and the argument that Amir, because of his age and the fact that he admitted his guilt, should have been given a suspended sentence. Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge said that if corruption continued then the enjoyment of those who watch cricket would 'eventually be destroyed.' Quite right. Butt was jailed for his role as the 'orchestrator' of the plot to bowl deliberate no-balls in the Test at Lord's last summer. Amir was detained for six months in a young offenders institution after admitting to bowling two intentional no-balls at Lord's. The bowling of no-balls along with other specific but, in theory unpredictable elements of a match - can be extremely valuable in the spot-fixing betting market, which involves punters betting on the finer details of sporting contests.

A remote Scottish island has reported its first crime in recent memory. Police officers reportedly took two days to arrive after a call of vandalism was reported on the island of Coll, which has only two hundred and twenty residents. So, that narrows down the list of suspects, dare one suggest. The Hebridean island saw an attack on a pub toilet in Arinagour, which caused two hundred quid's worth of damage, according to the Mirra. Coll is only thirteen miles long and four miles wide - so there's not many places to hide if you're on the lam from the bobbies - and contains no police station. The crime was passed over to PC Stephen Tanner from nearby Tiree. The ferry service from Tiree to Coll is so irregular, it meant Tanner had to wait forty eight hours before he could arrive. Of course, he could've gone over by flying boat like Sgt Howie did in The Wicker Man but, that last time that happened, all manner of discombobulation and, you know, human sacrifice occurred. Resident Seonaid Maclean Bristol (look, that's the chap's name, I'm not making this up) said: 'Crime is not a feature of life here. People have been shocked. Coll is a safe and friendly place.' Another citizen added: 'There was an incident about five years ago of a punch being thrown in an argument at the pub - but that never came to anything officially.' There was also some malarkey about 'Avast ye heathens, and howl,' but, at that point Christopher Lee appeared and started whittering on about what happened to his apples scene and everybody backed away quietly.
For today's Keith Telly Topping's 33 of the Day, we'll stick with the naughty side of Summerisle theme for a bit, I think. Shake that thing Britt (or, you know, Britt's body-double, anyway).
Of course, this is what happens when you let The Sneaker Pimps get hold of the same source material. Techno-nightmare madness ensues.

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