Monday, January 23, 2012

It's Not Irony, We're Just Talkin' To The Kids

It provoked the considerable wax-exploding-in-the-ears ire of listeners, MPs, senior church leaders and - not for nothing - this blog. Now the BBC's controversial proposed cuts to local radio stations across England have met opposition from the corporation's governing body, the BBC Trust. Well, according to the Gruniad Morning Star, anyway. So, if it turns out that they're wrong, you have my permission to find a Gruniad journalist of your choice and give him an example of your displeasure. Actually, to be honest, you have that permission anyway for crimes against Top Gear. Anyway, Trust chairman Lord Patten is 'expected', claim the Gruniad, to ask management to go back to the drawing board with its plans to cut fifteen million smackers from the budget of the BBC's forty local radio stations, which if implemented would lead to the loss of two hundred and eighty jobs. This proposal prompted thousands of complaints, more than for any other part of BBC director general Mark Thompson's Delivering Quality First initiative to save seven hundred million wonga a year. The BBC Trust, which met to discuss the cost-saving proposals last Thursday, is said to be 'keen to reduce the level of the cuts' and to be 'particularly concerned by the proposal for neighbouring BBC local stations to share afternoon programmes.' Trustees are also understood to want to 'roll back' proposed cuts to BBC1's excellent regional current affairs strand, Inside Out, which faces losing forty per cent of its five million quid annual budget, or forty of its one hundred-strong staff, in the DQF proposals. MPs, many of them speaking in support of their local BBC station, described it as 'a travesty for listeners' and said it would deal a 'crippling blow' to the corporation's regional output. BBC staff also spoke out openly against the scale of the cuts. Station controllers said that it would do 'irreparable damage' to their output and claimed that local radio had ended up at the bottom of the pecking order, as usual, when it came to the BBC allocating resources. Lord Patten is due to speak at the Oxford Media Convention on Wednesday, where he is, the Gruniad claim, 'expected to address the issue of local radio cuts.' The Trust has previously indicated that it would 'aim to provide an early indication of trust thinking in January' ahead of its final conclusions on the entire DQF cost-cutting package, to be published in the spring. Thompson hinted in November at a possible U-turn over the cuts, telling MPs: 'We don't want to preside over the decline of local radio.' The director general claimed that the cuts facing local radio were 'not as harsh as elsewhere in the BBC,' a clear and manifest lie, but then admitted: 'At the sharp end the numbers are daunting.' I should ruddy cocoa, matey-boy. Patten has described local radio as 'the glue that holds local communities together' and that it remains a more trusted way of getting information to the public than anything else. Local radio controllers fear the job losses – about ten posts will go from a typical BBC local station employing forty people if the proposals are carried out – will also impact on the quality of their most popular shows at breakfast and drivetime. Thompson launched the DQF initiative following October 2010's flat licence fee settlement that also resulted in the BBC taking on extra funding responsibilities including the World Service. It is expected to lead to the loss of two thousand jobs across the corporation, including eight hundred posts from BBC News. Other cost-saving initiatives include more repeats on BBC2 and less money spent on sport and entertainment programmes. A spokeswoman for the BBC Trust said it would be 'inappropriate' to comment on speculation. The Trust held a dual public consultation over DQF and the future of local radio which came to an end in December. The BBC's local radio stations in England had an average weekly audience of 7.25 million listeners, according to the latest official Rajar figures for the third quarter of 2011.

Kathy Burke has written her first ever TV series, which has been picked up by Sky Atlantic. The four-part Walking And Talking is based on her teenage years, dreaming of being an actress while skiving from school in a working-class area of London. It follows the success of her Little Cracker film Better Than Christmas, which aired on Sky 1 in late 2010 and told of how a chance meeting with The Clash changed Kathy's life. God it was good. Ami Metcalf and Luther's Aimee-Ffion Edwards – who played the young Kathy and her best friend Mary in the Little Cracker – will reprise their roles, while Jerry Sadowitz does a rare acting turn as Jimmy the Jew. Burke said: 'I wanted to write a semi-autobiographical piece that was uplifting and heart-warming. Walking And Talking is my love letter to books, 70's television, music and friendship.' Sky's head of comedy said: 'We loved Kathy's Little Cracker so much we demanded more. We are immensely proud to have this exquisite series.' The series – which will go out this summer – will be made by Tiger Aspect and directed by Tim Kirkby, whose credits include Stewart Lee's Self Important And Not Very Funny Comedy Vehicle and Look Around You.

Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton has completed a five hundred-mile trek to the South Pole - on skis, kite skis and an ice bike. The TV star battled for eighteen days through severe snow storms, temperatures as low as minus forty eight degrees (C, not F) and a bad bout of dehydration. She said her body hurt 'in countless places', but finishing the challenge for Sport Relief felt 'incredible.' The twenty eight-year-old also set a new world record for the fastest one hundred km by kite ski - in seven hours twenty four minutes. 'The environment is so harsh and on a day when you can get sunburn, you can also get frostbite,' she said. Sounds just like Whitley Bay in July, frankly. 'I could fell my ears burning through my helmet because of the wind. This has been a massive adventure and at times it felt like it was never going to end. My body hurts in so many different places, mentally I'm exhausted and I've only washed once in the last thirty days, so to be finally standing at the Pole feels incredible.' Skelton became the first person to use a bike - with specially adapted wide tyres - as part of an expedition to the Pole. She covered three hundred and twenty nine miles by kite ski, one hundred and three miles by bike, and sixty eight miles by cross-country ski. She pulled a sledge containing her supplies that weighed a total of eighty two kg. The adventurer suffered numerous blisters, a hacking cough, and ongoing stomach troubles during the trek with Norwegian explorer Niklas Norman, a small BBC team and a logistics crew. British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes said: 'I take my hat off to Helen Skelton. I have to admit when she first told me that she was going to cycle part of the way to the South Pole, I laughed. But through pure grit and determination she has got there and shown that, yes, you can use a bike to reach the Pole. Her incredible efforts are a great example of willpower.' Helen's latest adventure follows her successful high-wire walk between the chimneys of Battersea Power Station, in London, and a solo kayak voyage down the length of the Amazon in previous years.

A newspaper columnist has called for pickets at Chris Addison's shows – and for the audience to heckle him 'without mercy' – for his role in the Direct Line adverts. Blimey. I know they're a bit crap but that's taking things too far, surely? Writing in the Independent - now why doesn't that surprise me? - 'financial journalist' (ie. somebody who doesn't have a real job) Simon English takes issue with 'the annoying insurance salesman who likes to dabble with jokes in his spare time.' This, after Direct Line (part of taxpayer-owned Royal Bank of Scotland) was fined £2.2million for forging documents. English argued: 'There's a case for being told what [Addison] is paid by the bank and possibly demanding it back. At the very least, his gigs must be heckled without mercy. He's playing Milton Keynes next week. We should picket it. See if he's really got a sense of humour.’ Well, you clearly haven't, mate. Okay Simon, you go first and we'll all follow behind. You big-gobbed tosser. 'Financial journalist', I ask you ...

Former Bad Girls actress Victoria Alcock will join the cast of EastEnders. The actress will arrive in Albert Square next month as Lorraine Salter; the estranged mother of troublesome Mandy (Nicola Stapleton). Lorraine will return to Walford after Lucy (Hetti Bywater) sends her a message after getting suspicious about Mandy. Lucy believes that Mandy is having an affair and sending money to someone so intervenes but soon realises her mistake. The character of Lorraine Salter originally appeared in EastEnders in the 1990s during Nicola Stapleton's original stint in the BBC soap. However, the character was then played by Linda Henry who is now better known to EastEnders fans as Shirley Carter. Linda Henry and Victoria Alcock both starred alongside each other in Bad Girls in which Nicola Stapleton also appeared. Alcock's other notable roles include the 2009 Doctor Who special Planet of the Dead, the 1990s drama The House of Eliott as well as appearances in The Bill, Casualty, Holby City, Coronation Street and Lovejoy. The actress also had a previous small role in EastEnders in 1992.

David Shukman was appointed the BBC's science editor last week, reportedly defeating a shortlist which included Susan Watts, Michael Mosley and Fergus Walsh. 'Understanding diversity in its widest sense. Demonstrating a commitment to improving diversity in the BBC,' are among the requirements spelled out in the job advertisement (together, rather pointlessly one would've thought, with 'the person will demonstrate a wide interest in science') but does picking the well-spoken utility reporter show the BBC is displaying such a commitment? Old Etonian Shukman's promotion boosts the number of public school-educated la-di-dah Gunner Grahams (see, for example, Stephanie Flanders, Mark Mardell, Slaphead Nick Robinson, John Simpson) among the specialist editors. Let's not even get into the fact that there's only one woman and all the editors are white. Although, one is sure that the Gruniad Morning Star will.

ITV has ordered a new high-profile Saturday night series from the character of Keith Lemon. In the six-part series Lemonade, Leigh Francis's creation will offer 'a twist' (ho-ho) on the Jim'll Fix It format by 'solving audience problems' and 'helping dreams come true' – as if John Barrowman doing that isn't bad enough already! Leigh will be 'aided by a different celebrity each week.' Dan Baldwin, managing director of programme makers Talkback said: 'Keith Lemon's Lemonaid will be a great opportunity for the British public to interact with Keith on a whole new level. We want to reflect the great "wish fulfillment" shows from yesteryear but add a very special twist of Lemon to ITV'st'living rooms of the lovely ITV viewers with me new telly show Lemonaid. Solving people's problems and making dreams come true making me look nice like Cheryl Cole like when she went out to t'troops. She's lovely innit? She not as fit as Kelly Brook though!' Well, it hard to argue with that, frankly. The forty five-minute episodes will begin in 'early spring' and follow the success of Celebrity Juice, which has run for six series on ITV2. It also builds on Lemon's 'agony aunt' role on ITV's daytime show This Morning.

The curiously orange sour faced drag Christine Bleakley has taken her bleeding heart story about how hurtful it is to be criticised to the Sun. May one wonder how much the greedy odious woman was paid for this 'exclusive' News International? This blogger did rather enjoy the comments of one reader, Petra, who noted: 'Can I just point out that the two "insults" you mention - "bland" and "rigid" - are not, in fact, insults but are OPINIONS provided by TV viewers. You know, those annoying "Little People" who pay Ms Bleakley's wages. May I also suggest that if she doesn't like having her performances commented upon then she might want to consider a change of career to something less high profile. Maybe working in a shop.' By Hell, that's articulate for a Sun reader.

Bleakley, meanwhile, continues to appear as relative box office poison for pretty much everything she touches these days. On Sunday night, Twatting About on Ice sipped to an overnight audience of 7.1m and 5.9m for the results - its lowest of the current series and more than a million viewers down on the comparative episode from last year. Clearly viewers don't seem to like Ms Bleakley. I wonder why that is? Oh yes, by and large people have a rather low tolerance threshold for greed. Meanwhile over on the BBC, Call The Midwife was pulling in a truly astounding audience of 8.6m (with a peak of 9.2m), almost seven hundred thousand up on its first episode last week. Possibly this is down to word-of-mouth, maybe to the first appearance of Miranda Hart, but whatever the reason they've got another massive drama hit on their hands. Terrific. I must admit, from the half of the first episode and fifteen minutes of the second that this blogger caught, it's not really a programme that I'd go out of my way to watch. Then again, it's probably not been made with me in mind, per se (I don't have a functioning uterus, for a kick-off). But, I wholly celebrate its popularity as I always do when a drama proves more popular than crass, banal, pro-celebrity talent show nonsense like ITV seem to insist on filling up their schedules with. Even better news was that the opening episode of Birdsong had an audience of six million across the ninety minutes between 9pm and 10:30. Earlier, Wild at Heart drew 6.37m - over eight hundred thousand down on the series debut two weeks ago.

And, speaking of ratings, here's an interesting list:-
The official Top Forty Programmes of 2011 (excluding multiple entries, includes simulcasts)
01 13.95m - The Royal Wedding (29/04) - BBC1/HD/BBC NEWS
02 13.46m - The X Factor (11/12) - ITV/HD
03 13.39m - Strictly Come Dancing (17/12) - BBC1/HD/3D
04 12.63m - Britain's Got Talent (04/06) - ITV/HD
05 12.56m - Coronation Street (14/02) - ITV/HD
06 12.47m - I'm A Celebrity - Get Me Out Of Here! (13/11) - ITV/HD
07 12.15m - Downton Abbey (06/11) - ITV/HD
08 11.42m - EastEnders (03/01) - BBC1/HD
09 10.77m - Doctor Who (25/12) - BBC1/HD
10 10.76m - BBC News (29/04) - BBC1/HD
11 10.67m - New Year Live (31/12) - BBC1/HD
12 10.31m - Doc Martin (19/09) - ITV/HD
13 10.26m - Comic Relief (18/03) - BBC1/HD
14 10.26m - Children In Need (18/11) - BBC1/HD
15 10.24m - The Apprentice (17/07) - BBC1/HD
16 10.23m - Dancing On Ice (09/01) - ITV/HD
17 9.87m - New Tricks (15/08) - BBC1/HD
18 9.73m - Frozen Planet (02/11) - BBC1/HD
19 9.68m - The Eurovision Song Contest (14/05) - BBC1
20 9.52m - Emmerdale (13/01) - ITV/HD
21 9.11m - Scott & Bailey (29/05) - ITV/HD
22 9.07m - Absolutely Fabulous (25/12) - BBC1/HD
23 8.80m - Big Fat Gypsy Weddings (08/02) - C4/HD
24 8.80m - Come Fly With Me (01/01) - BBC1/HD
25 8.69m - Wild At Heart (09/01) - ITV/HD
26 8.50m - Silent Witness (17/01) - BBC1/HD
27 8.47m - Outnumbered (24/12) - BBC1/HD
28 8.39m - Merlin (17/12) - BBC1/HD
29 8.35m - The Royal Bodyguard (26/12) - BBC1/HD
30 8.31m - UEFA Champions League (28/05) - ITV/HD
31 8.25m - Countryfile (30/10) - BBC1/HD
32 8.24m - Mrs Brown's Boys (26/12) - BBC1/HD
33 8.22m - Benidorm (25/02) - ITV/HD
34 8.10m - Midsommer Murders (02/02) - ITV/HD
35 8.09m - Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow (25/12) - BBC1/HD
36 7.98m - Lets Dance For Comic Relief (19/02) - BBC1/HD
37 7.91m - Film: Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (01/01) - BBC1/HD
38 7.70m - South Riding (20/02) - BBC1/HD
39 7.68m - Lark Rise To Candleford (09/01) - BBC1/HD
40 7.65m - The Jury (7/11) - ITV/HD

Simon Cowell - just a few days after confessing to being 'humbled' after his own 'arrogance' led to his formats taking a plunge in the ratings - has blamed bad contestants for ratings dips in his reality shows, claiming that record-breaking viewing numbers will return in 'a heartbeat' if they can find the right talent. Cowell will be back as a full-time judge for the 2012 series of Britain's Got Talent. Speaking to the Digital Spy website Cowell insisted that the British public hadn't fallen out of love with his talent series. 'You know what, I think if you get great contestants everyone comes back. It's all about talent. I mean that great year we had with Susan Boyle and Diversity, I think if you had that same line-up, you'd get that twenty million back in a heartbeat.'

Other TV professionals have been disappointingly slow to respond to the gauntlet thrown down by Sky's odious Kay Burley and her raunchy novel First Ladies last year. But, according to the Gruniad, at last a challenger has emerged in the unlikely form of Newsnight's Paul Mason. Mason's just-published debut novel Rare Earth ('a washed up TV reporter stumbles on a corruption scandal in China') has moments that leave the Sky News anchor looking somewhat prim and school ma'amish, including a scene distinctively fusing economics and erotica. In it, a character called Khunbish explains a business deal while he and his lover, Chun-li, try out 'tantric position one hundred and three' – she mounts a stuffed horse while he clings head-down to its side. Blimey. 'He began thrusting wildly in the general direction of her chrysanthemum but missing, his paunchy frame shuddering with the effort of remaining rigid and upside down. "The cartel, sells, to the global market," he panted. "The price is inflated because production has been capped!" She began to pant in unison with him. "Cartel evades export controls. Market capitalisation of western miners stays low. Massive, one-way, bet..." He switched to some ancient steppe language as he ejaculated, blubbering and incoherent. Chun-li faked an orgasm, keeping her mind focused on an Eighth-Century lyric of sadness.' As the Gruniad notes: 'Let's hope Jeremy Paxman is in too good a mood to tease him.'

A round on BBC1's daytime quiz Pointless last week revolved around famous comedy double acts. One contestant apparently thought that David Mitchell's double act partner was 'Howard Webb.' Then, the next said that Stephen Fry's was 'Hugh Lloyd.' Nearly, guys, nearly.

The BBC is to broadcast a three-part documentary looking back at the life and achievements of our own dear Queen. In The Diamond Queen, Andrew Marr looks back over Her Maj's sixty year reign and hears from other members of the Royal family about one of the longest serving monarchs in history. Do the BBC still go in for licking royalty's collective ring? I know it's tradition but, now we've reach the twenty first century I thought they might have left that sort of thing to various lice at the Daily Scum Express instead. The Diamond Jubilee celebrations take place in June with many crushed victims of society up and down the country expected to take part in street parties or other events. Yes, punters, we know you've barely got enough money to eat but, hey, a very rich old lady had been doing her job for sixty years so let's have a party. With bunting and everything. Britain, at times you sicken me. BBC1 controller Danny Cohen confirmed last week that the jubilee events will be taking centre stage on the channel, along with the London Olympics. The film looks closely at the influence of The Queen's grandfather, father and mother, the impact of the abdication, and the unique relationship between the Head of State and her Government. The Queen has seen twelve Prime Ministers in her reign and Marr looks at the special relationships she has had with them, hearing from David Cameron, Tony Blair and John Major. The Duke of Cambridge, Prince Harry and The Princess Royal are expected to feature in the documentary which is due to be broadcast in February.

It was left to Channel Four controller of film and drama Tessa Ross to put David Cameron's comments about the future of the British film industry into context at the policy review panel launch. The prime minister, you may remember, declared the previous week that the sector should 'chase new markets both here and overseas' and 'make commercially successful pictures that rival the best international productions.' Ross, a member of the film review's eight-strong panel, warned against the consequences of working slavishly to the market. Film4's eight Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire, she said, was a 'wonderful example of something that happened because we weren't working to the market. The market would have said don't make that film.'

'Who is Kim Kardashian and why is she famous?' asks odious lard-bucket and numskull Richard Littlejohn in the Daily Scum Mail, top of his list of questions 'for which there is no sensible explanation.' Clearly he is not a reader of the Scum Mail Online, which at the last count has written about America 'personalty' Kardashian over one thousand four hundred times.

Two Dutch journalists are to stand trial in Germany on a charge of breaching the country's privacy laws. They secretly filmed an interview with a former Dutch Nazi and member of the SS, Heinrich Boere, while he was staying at a nursing home in the German town of Eschweiler. Jan Ponsen and Jelle Visser, who were working for the Dutch TV current affairs programme Een Vandaag, carried out the interview in 2009. Boere's lawyer had previously cancelled an interview appointment with the men once it became known that Boere was to stand trial in Germany for crimes committed during the second world war. A member of an SS commando unit tasked with killing suspected resistance members or supporters, he later confessed to three murders. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in March 2010. Boere first filed a complaint in 2010 with the Netherlands press council. It ruled in favour of the reporters, saying they had not behaved dishonourably. If convicted at their trial, due to start on 9 February, the two reporters face a possible three-year jail sentence.

And speaking of people facing possible jail sentences, Stottingtot Hotshots' manager Harry Redknapp is in court to face - obviously, as yet wholly unproven - accusations of tax evasion relating to his time in charge of Portsmouth. Redknapp and former Portsmouth chairman Milan Mandaric are charged with cheating the public revenue. The case centres on payments totalling one hundred and eighty thousand quid allegedly made by Mandaric, now chairman of Sheffield Wednesday, to Redknapp. The Southwark Crown Court trial is expected to last two weeks. Redknapp took his place in the dock, a host of relatives, including his son Jamie, a former footballer turned pundit, looked on from the public gallery as proceedings began. Redknapp and Mandaric both deny the charges.
One sincerely hopes that the next time Redknapp chooses to make trouble and get some publicity for himself by discussing what he claims to be the exit clauses in a contract of another club's player - as he recently did, brazenly, with regard to Newcastle's Demba Ba - that he's still managing Tottenham and not, say, Wormwood Scrubs First XI. Because that would, of course, be awful.

A new scientific study has discovered that the female G-spot may not actually exist. Researchers found 'no conclusive evidence' for its existence after reviewing one hundred studies from the past sixty years, the Torygraph reports, rather disappointedly. They claimed that the concept of the G-spot, said to be a small area of the female body with a large number of nerve endings, is popular due to pornography and sex therapists. 'Objective measures have failed to provide strong and consistent evidence for the existence of an anatomical site that could be related to the famed G-spot,' lead researcher Dr Amichai Kilchevsky from the Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut said. 'Lots of women feel almost as though it is their fault they can't find it. The reality is that it is probably not something, historically or evolutionarily, that should even exist.' The findings, which were published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine (a publication this blogger feels he ought to have on subscription, frankly) support a survey of eighteen hundred women by King's College London which concluded there was no evidence that the G-spot existed. Unless they were all faking it, of course. The G-spot was named after Ernst Grafenberg, a German gynaecologist who claimed to have discovered it back in 1950.

For the latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day here's a crackin' Twenty First Century corker from Art Brut.

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