Thursday, January 05, 2012

No One Down Here Knows How To Work The Brakes

The BBC should not be forced to close any channels or axe any programmes as part of any review of plurality and ownership in the media industry, according to a submission which the broadcaster has filed with media regulator Ofcom. Although the BBC is Britain's most watched broadcaster and most popular news source, the BBC - for once showing a smidgen of the backbone than many of its supporters would like to see it display a bit more often when faced with crass, knobcheese agenda-soaked criticism - said that its unique public service credentials meant that it should not be the 'trigger or subject' of any new regulation to safeguard plurality. The broadcaster was responding to an Ofcom consultation on whether new media ownership limits need to be set, in the wake of the abortive attempt by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation to buy the remaining shares in BSkyB. News Corp's takeover bid was controversial because it would have combined its stable of newspapers with a market-leading thirty seven per cent market share with BSkyB – Britain's largest broadcaster by turnover. As there is no agreed methodology with which to assess the impact of such a deal, the lack of culture secretary, the vile and odious rascal Hunt, asked Ofcom to examine how media plurality could be measured, and whether any limits needed to be set on ownership. In its response to the consultation, the BBC said it accepts that 'any assessment of plurality might take into account its share, voice and role in audiences' news diet,' but argues that despite its role as the largest supplier of news, it should not face curbs to protect the rest of the market, and should only have its role questioned during the period in which its royal charter is up for renewal. The BBC document cites new research conducted for the broadcasting, showing that it attracts 'seventy two per cent of all television news minutes consumed, despite only broadcasting twenty seven per cent of news minutes broadcast.' In the twenty one-page document the corporation said: 'Questions have been raised about whether the strong position of the BBC narrows media plurality, and whether it should therefore be subject to new regulation in this area. Ultimately, the BBC's popularity is a result of the daily choices of millions of UK citizens who regularly consume its services – despite the expansion in the sources of news available. These choices reflect their perception of the BBC's accuracy, quality and trustworthiness. The BBC uses its leading position not to advance its own interests and opinions but to ensure that a diversity of news and views is presented to all in a fair and balanced way.' The corporation cautions Ofcom against setting fixed limits on the share of the news market that any company should be allowed, instead urging the regulator to adopt measures to serve as 'an indicator of a possible problem with plurality.' The BBC also said that the current regime, under which mergers and acquisitions are the main trigger for reviews of plurality, should remain, but that Ofcom should also consider carrying out periodic reviews, every three to five years. In assessing the state of the market, the corporation said that Ofcom should not just take the 'partial and crude' measure of what proportion of the audience each news provider captures, but should also include a measure of share of media revenues. By that measure, Sky is comfortably the largest broadcaster, with a turnover of £6.6bn compared to the BBC's £4.8bn. Other research cited by the corporation showed that when asked to pick their most trusted news provider, fifty nine per cent of respondents chose the BBC, far ahead of second-placed ITV News, on seven per cent. The corporation's research also picked out the most and least trusted newspapers. The Gruniad Morning Star came top, with the Daily Lies the least trusted, behind even Twitter and Facebook. In a separate submission, the publisher of the Daily Scum Mail has called for a cap limiting the amount of UK news provision any one organisation can have control over providing across TV, newspapers and the Internet – but argues that the BBC should be excluded from this media plurality regulatory regime because of its 'special status.' Quite why the odious Scum Mail - no friend of the BBC or anything remotely like it - has done this is unclear, except, possibly that it figures keeping the BBC the size that it is gives the Scum Mail and its scum journalists plenty of opportunity to have their daily pop at the corporation. The Daily Mail & General Trust has recommended that a hard 'cross-media cap' be introduced governing the provision of news to 'ensure that no single "voice" becomes dominant in the UK media,' in its submission to Ofcom's consultation on media plurality. The publisher is calling for a two-pronged approach to regulating plurality in the provision of news in the UK. DMGT proposes introducing a cap on the share of news each organisation controls, which would be policed by developing a test that would evaluate news minutage as a standard measurement across all media consumption. 'This has the merit of sufficient simplicity such that it can be understood and applied readily, without the need for complex investigation or dispute,' said DMGT in its submission. 'The cap should be set at a sufficiently high level to allow reasonable organic growth that does not threaten cross-media plurality. Thirty per cent of media minutage could be an appropriate level.' The BBC would be excluded from breaching this absolute cap, which Ofcom would measure industry wide every three years, because its 'public service activities play a particular and unique role in the UK.' However, DMGT also believes that the BBC Trust is an inappropriate body to be responsible for regulating the corporation over issues such as plurality. 'The BBC clearly has power to distort the market for the gathering and dissemination of news in ways that may adversely impact news plurality and sustainability,' said DMGT. 'The BBC should therefore not be entirely beyond the reach of a general regulatory regime designed to safeguard plurality.' DMGT proposes that Ofcom be given a new power to enable it to launch a special investigation into any media organisation – including the BBC – to establish plurality levels. The new Ofcom power, called a 'sub-cap review', would see the regulator taking over responsibility from the BBC Trust in this area. DMGT said the Trust lacks the 'expert capabilities' of Ofcom and is 'not perceived to be sufficiently independent of BBC management' to have the 'final decision-making power in this respect.' The Gruniad Morning Star Media Group, takes a broadly similar view to DMGT. Strange bedfellows you might think although, as noted in their mutual loathing of Top Gear, odious scum on the left and the right and often find something to agree upon if they try really hard. GMG argues that media ownership regulation needs to be broadened so that any review would take into account the Internet so that 'very powerful digital companies and newspaper groups would be caught in accordance with the relevant binary test.' However ITN, which makes news programming for Channel Four, ITV and from next month Channel Five, argues that websites should not be included in the plurality rules. 'In the current market – despite rapid progress in the take-up of online services – we do not believe that news websites (including those of newspapers) are perceived as substitutes for TV News services by the majority of TV viewers,' said ITN in its submission. 'As such, we would not support the inclusion of news websites alongside TV services within any future measure of plurality.' GMG is also calling for Ofcom to make regular reviews of media plurality, 'not just at the point of [a] transaction,' to enable 'emerging threats to plurality to be identified and addressed.' These reviews proposed by GMG would also take into account factors such as news market share; measuring the dominance of any company in any media to encompass 'large digital players who attract larger audiences than television' and dominance in distribution, such as potentially bundling newspapers with TV subscriptions or search engines preferring one newspaper source due to a 'commercial alliance.' GMG also believes that 'too much power is vested in the secretary of state, which as events of the past year illustrate results in a lack of market, political and public confidence.' The publisher believes that 'at a minimum' there should be joint and concurrent powers for the lack of culture secretary and Ofcom. The plurality review, which has attracted about forty responses from media organisations, campaigning groups and individuals, was launched by Ofcom following widespread concern over the amount of control that Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation would have over the market for UK news if his takeover of BSkyB had ultimately been successful.
Neville Thurlbeck, the former chief reporter of the Scum of the World, has launched a scathing attack on the culture and values of tabloid newspapers, accusing them of 'vicious character assassinations' and 'gross invasions of privacy.' This is Neville Thurlbeck, speaking? The Neville Thurlbeck? The Neville Thurlbeck who, in 2004 (and with no apparent sense of outrage) broke a story which alleged that footballer David Beckham was having an affair. The Neville Thurbeck who was responsible for the exclusive over Max Mosley's private life which resulted in his newspaper being sued, paying sixty thousand smackers damages for the paper's breach of his privacy. Mosley later suggested that Thurlbeck's methods were 'akin to blackmail', with the journalist telling women that 'if you don't co-operate we will publish your pictures unpixellated.' That Neville Thurlbeck? In, therefore, what could be seen as a conversion of almost Damascene proportions, Thurlbeck claimed that tabloids are 'out of touch with readers', particularly the young, and urged 'radical reform' if they are to survive. He warned former colleagues that younger readers 'don't like the cut of your jib or mine' and 'don't buy us in numbers that matter any more.' In a new post published on Thursday on his blog, nthurlbeck.blogspot.com, Thurlbeck added that tabloids have 'stepped over the edge, inhabiting dark agendas of hate and gratuitous criticism.' Yes, mate, we know. They've been doing it for years, ruining people's lives and pissing themselves with laughter at anybody who complained. Thurlbeck, who was - unapologetically - behind some of the Scum of the World's most sensational stories, also used his blog to defend the Leveson inquiry, declaring the 'pressing need' for reform still remains. 'Without radical reform, tabloid newspapers will slowly fade from any meaningful prominence in our lives. They are dying as we speak,' he added. While critical of the some of the inquiry's barristers, he said 'the Leveson inquiry should be the spark that ignites a tabloid revolution. Our industry desperately needs to find a new voice if it wants to continue being heard,' Thurlbeck wrote. 'We need to rein in our worst excesses, re-establish a bond of trust with the reader and refine each newspaper's unique personality and attitude which has remained frozen since the 1950s and 60s. And after a raft of phone-hacking admissions and allegations, we are no longer seen as the gruff but dependable watchdog.' He said tabloids are out of touch with their readers, especially the young, who see 'our tone and style as crass, heavy-handed and old fashioned' and not very cutting edge. 'Vicious character assassinations, bogus public interest defences, gross invasions of privacy, sensational misleading headlines, cliche ridden copy. They don't like the cut of your jib or mine. And they don't buy us in numbers that matter any more.' A large part of his blog is devoted to allegations of a brutal tabloid culture in which bullying executives swear at staff and threaten them with the sack at minor slip ups, something which Leveson has expressed much interest in. Thurlbeck claimed that when he was Scum of the World news editor he was asked to attend News International seminars on how to sack staff. Thurlbeck, who was arrested and bailed on suspicion of phone-hacking in April 2011 but maintains his innocence, was himself sacked by News International later in the year. 'Many tabloid newspapers are antediluvian to their hidden cores and management styles are of another age,' he wrote. 'Antediluvian.' Not a word you'd often see Thurlbeck used in the Scum of the World, that. It's got more than two syllables for a kick-off. 'I am unable to forgive News International for making one of our most respected and valued colleagues redundant when his young wife was battling cancer. I still cringe at the memory of one poor freelance who was on a shift and a little late with some copy. In full earshot of the office, the executive walked over to her desk and told her: "Put your coat on, go home, don't come back." Another gimlet-eyed executive told a well-respected staffer being sent on a big buy-up: "Your wife's just had a baby, you have a big mortgage, don't fuck up! You need this job." Staff brutality like this takes place on a regular basis. When I was news editor, I was asked to attend several News International seminars organised by HR where the chief theme was, How to Sack Your Staff and Not Give Them a Pay-off. The irony of that, given my current position, is not lost on me!' Some readers may conclude that it's something of a pity Thurlbeck never voiced any of these, not doubt sincerely held, beliefs whilst he was busy greedily grasping Uncle Rupert's Shilling but that, as they say, would appear to have been an opportunity missed. Thurlbeck became a central figure in the phone-hacking scandal that closed the Scum of the World after the so-called 'For Neville' e-mail appeared to link him to transcripts of illegally intercepted voicemails from the phone of Gordon Taylor. At the end of last year he claimed that he had taken no part in voicemail interception while employed on the paper and launched an unfair dismissal action against his former employer.

Not doubt to the considerable irk of the Daily Scum Mail and the Daily Scum Express, the Christmas Special of Mrs Brown's Boys was seen by over eight million viewers final consolidated ratings reveal. Broadcast magazine reports that the final consolidated ratings released by BARB for Boxing Day reveal that the BBC1 comedy gained the most viewers compared to its overnight figures. The Irish comedy written by and starring Brendan O'Carroll as the foul-mouthed matriarch Agnes Brown had an overnight rating of 6.6 million viewers. But final figures, which take into account those who record and watch within seven days, places the figure at 8.4 million viewers - the comedy's biggest audience to date. The BBC will doubtless be delighted with the huge ratings for the comedy especially as it has already ordered a third series. Elsewhere on Boxing Day the final figures from BARB reveal that EastEnders was the most watched programme of the day with 11.2 million viewers - up from its 9.9 million overnight figure. David Jason's new comedy, The Royal Bodyguard, on BBC1 also saw a big rise in ratings with 8.2 million viewers given by the consolidated ratings - it had an overnight rating of seven million viewers. However, it's second episode which was broadcast earlier this week saw figures plunge to four and a half million overnight viewers so it will be interesting to see if it makes any big gains for final figures for that episode.

And, speaking of ratings, BBC1's Public Enemies began its three-episode run one day later than scheduled with 4.09m from 9pm last night, according to overnight data. Starring Anna Friel and Daniel Mays, the first episode was broadcast on Wednesday after it was replaced in the channel's Tuesday night line-up by a Panorama special. Meanwhile, Celebrity Mastermind had another five million plus audience, 5.1m from 7pm and Fake Britain was watched by 5.02m from 7.30pm. Countryfile attracted 4.14m in the 8pm hour, with a midweek Match of the Day saw 2.89m punters tuning in to watch yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though still unsellable) Magpies put uppity Scumchester United right in their place in a magnificent 3-0 victory. And, truly, it was glorious in my sight. ITV's programming was dominated by a showing of the movie Mamma Mia! from 8pm, which was watched by 4.62m and a further three hundred and fifty thousand punters on +1. Harry Hill's TV Burp preceded it with 4.43m. BBC2's line-up consisted of Hairy Bikers' Best of British (two million), Nature's Weirdest Events (3.02m), King George and Queen Mary: The Royals Who Rescued the Monarchy (3.13m) and Mock the Week (1.44m). The imaginative scheduling of the Chris Packham-fronted Nature's Weirdest Events and the two-part royal documentary have proved big hits for the channel, both pulling in three million plus audiences on consecutive nights. Over on Channel Four, How to Cook Like Heston gained 1.51m viewers from 8pm, The Fabulous Baker Brothers grabbed 1.69m from 8.30pm and returning favourite One Born Every Minute had 2.83m from 9pm (with four hundred and sixty eight thousand extra viewers on C4+1).

Sky has reportedly turned down the chance to revive the cancelled BBC quiz show Shooting Stars. The corporation confirmed in November that the Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer programme would not be renewed for a ninth series after a steady ratings decline in recent years. Sky was among the rival broadcasters tipped to continued the format, though bosses have now allegedly deemed the show as having little appeal to its audience. 'It's a great show and Vic and Bob are easily two of Britain's biggest comedy talents,' an alleged 'source' allegedly told the Sun. 'But it has never had a huge appeal to core Sky1 viewers.' Well, indeed. They use words of more than one syllable for a kick off. A spokesperson for the channel concurred: 'We have no plans to commission Shooting Stars.'

The cast of Coronation Street are reportedly 'up in arms' over plans by ITV to move the omnibus edition of the Manchester soap to ITV2 meaning a reduction in their repeat fees. The Sun reports that the broadcaster informed the cast just before Christmas that it was moving the weekend omnibus edition of the soap from ITV which effectively means pay cuts for the actors. The tabloid reports that the cast currently receives 37.5 per cent of their episode pay for the omnibus edition which is broadcast on Saturdays. The fee though would be reduced for an ITV2 repeat. An alleged 'source' is allegedly quoted by the Sun as saying 'The stars are not happy and without the stars there is no show. They don't feel they deserve a pay cut while the show is at the top of its game. If the situation isn't resolved some cast members have indicated they'd be prepared to go on strike.' Talks between ITV and the actors union Equity are said to be taking place to try and resolve the situation.

Stupid idiots with ideas above their station - number one (in an ongoing series): Kym Marsh. Never short of an opinion (mostly on stuff that's got nothing whatsoever to do with her), the gobby Coronation Street actress and former pop wannabe has said that she would 'love' to be in a costume drama. Yes. So would plenty of other people, chuck. And, most of them can act a hell of a lot better than you. 'I have the equipment,' she is reported to have added. To which there is, literally, no answer. well, at least, none that's printable.

ITV's Inspector Morse prequel Endeavour could lead to a full series, it has been announced. Executive producers Damien Timmer and Michele Bucker confirmed to the Radio Times that talks have begun regarding the project. 'Conversations between Mammoth Screen and ITV are ongoing and a decision will be made in due course,' said the pair. The 1960s-set Endeavour - which saw Shaun Evans take over the Morse role from John Thaw - was watched by six and a half million overnight viewers for ITV on 2 January. 'We're thrilled with the overwhelming response,' said Timmer and Bucker. 'The cries for a series are testament to Shaun Evans's remarkable performance as Detective Constable Morse, and the very tangible chemistry between him and Roger Allam as Detective Inspector Fred Thursday.' Morse's creator Colin Dexter also praised Evans, calling the thirty one-year-old 'a very admirable and perceptive actor. We've been extraordinary lucky over the years to have these faithful souls like John Thaw and Kevin Whately,' he said. 'And if this does go to a series, I think Shaun will join them because he's got the sensitivity and vulnerability that gives people a spark of the more mature Morse.'

It was the first blockbuster in the history of cinema. Now the 1902 silent movie A Trip to the Moon by the visionary French film-maker Georges Melies has been restored in one of the most complex and ambitious movie projects ever. The film also has been given an original new soundtrack by the French electronica band Air.
Twatting About on Ice's Chemmy Alcott has claimed that fellow contestant Chesney Hawkes is 'downbeat' about his injury. The twenty nine-year-old downhill-racer revealed that she had contacted Hawkes through e-mail to ascertain whether he is recovering from his damaged ankle, reports the Mirra. She said: 'We're still waiting to hear how bad it is. I've got a lot of tips from doctors and healing tools. So last night I fired over an e-mail to him and I spoke to him. He seems really down because he's put so much into this competition. We miss him.' However, it appears as though Chemmy's best wishes were all in vain as several national newspapers have been reporting that Hawkes's 'dream' of appearing on Twatting About On Ice have been 'shattered' by his injury. And that he is to be replaced on the series by, wait for it, Chico off The X Factor. Can this fiasco possibly get any more risible or is there a lower place for it to stumble to? As ever, dear blog reader, From The North will report what it hears.

Miranda Hart has ruled herself out of the running for a judging role on Strictly Come Dancing. The thirty nine-year-old comedienne denied rumours claiming that BBC bosses want her to replace Alesha Dixon, who has joined Britain's Got Talent. Her representative said in a statement: 'I can confirm that there is no truth in the rumour that she is being lined-up to judge Strictly Come Dancing.' The Daily Scum Mail quoted an alleged 'insider' as saying earlier: 'The producers want someone really startling. Miranda is seen as a brilliant left-field choice. She totally loves the show and is incredibly popular with the viewing public. We think she could bring something completely different to the panel because of her wit.' But, as with just about everything else the Daily Scum Mail prints, this appears to be a load of old mendacious entirely manufactured bollocks. So, no change there, then.

Several 'prominent guests' attended the wedding party of David Tennant and Georgia Moffett which took place on New Year's Eve at the New Globe Theatre in London according to the Daily Scum Mail. Whom, one hopes, weren't themselves invited. because they're just the sort of people you don't want at your wedding. They including former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his wife, actors Patrick Stewart and David Morrissey, DJ Christian O'Connell, and Qi host Stephen Fry along with Georgia's dad, Peter Davison.
Stupid idiots with ideas above their station - number two: Russell Grant (who, let's remember, before he went on Strictly Come Dancing was a camp astrologer) has claimed, according to the Metro, that he wants to 'move back into serious acting.' Eh? When you say 'back', Russell, what, exactly, does that entail?

Kick It Out's Lord Ouseley has labelled Liverpool 'hypocritical' over their handling of Luis Suarez's eight-match ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra. Liverpool players wore T-shirts in support of the Uruguayan - a move which Ouseley has called 'dreadful.' Ouseley also said that Suarez's apology was 'lamentable.' The anti-racism campaign's chairman said: 'Liverpool need to take a hard look at themselves. Suarez's attempt at a belated apology is lamentable.' Liverpool are not appealing against the Football Association suspension and forty thousand notes fine imposed on Suarez by an independent commission for his comments towards Manchester United defender Evra at Anfield on 15 October. Suarez did not mention Evra by name in his apology and has also stated that he would carry out the suspension 'with the resignation of someone who hasn't done anything wrong.' Kick It Out had previously commended Liverpool for choosing not to appeal against the ban. A statement on its website on Wednesday said: 'We commend Liverpool FC in bringing closure to this matter, reaffirming its commitment to an unequivocal, zero-tolerance approach towards discrimination in football.' However, Lord Ouseley, who was chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality from 1993 to 2000, wrote in the Gruniad Morning Star: 'Liverpool need to take a hard look at themselves and how they have responded to the complaint and the investigations into the allegations of abuse in the Patrice Evra/Luis Suarez case. Throughout the entirety of the proceedings, over the past three months, all we have heard are denials and denigration of Evra. Since the publication of the one hundred and fifteen-page report of the findings of the FA's independent commission, Liverpool's vitriol has increased. Suarez's attempt at a belated apology is nothing short of lamentable. I cannot believe that a club of Liverpool's stature, and with how it has previously led on matters of social injustice and inequality, can allow its integrity and credibility to be debased by such crass and ill-considered responses. Liverpool have been particularly hypocritical. You can't on the one hand wear a Kick It Out T-shirt in a week of campaigning against racism when this is also happening on the pitch: it's the height of hypocrisy. Liverpool players wore a T-shirt saying: We support Luis Suarez, seemingly whatever the outcome. This was a dreadful knee-jerk reaction because it stirs things up.' Piara Powar, executive director of Football Against Racism in Europe, believes the FA would be within its rights to charge Liverpool and its manager Kenny Dalglish over their handling of the situation. 'Liverpool have constantly undermined the investigation and its outcome,' he told BBC Sport. 'They have been disrespectful to the FA and questioned its integrity and neutrality. If a manager had done that in a post-match interview the FA would have brought disrepute charges.' It is understood that the FA has no plans to charge either Liverpool or Dalglish.

Côte d'Ivoire coach Francois Zahoui has rejected Sheikh Yer Man City's request to play Yaya and Kolo Toure in Sunday's Manchester derby in the FA Cup. 'Clubs know the rules,' Zahoui told BBC Africa. 'I'm expecting them [the Toures] for the FIFA deadline.' Under FIFA rules, players can be called up two weeks before the start of the Africa Cup of Nations on 21 January. City had hoped the Toure brothers would be able to play against United before joining the Ivorian training camp. 'The national team in Côte d'Ivoire is led by people who are well educated and I was surprised that people in England think that we don't know the FIFA rules about dates,' Zahoui said, rather patronisingly. Zahoui has insisted they report for a meeting in Paris on Saturday before flying out with the rest of the squad to Abu Dhabi for a two-week training camp. 'Here, when we call-up the players, they are obliged to turn up at the date indicated by FIFA. So when we call them up we know that the clubs need to let them go.' Zahoui said he had travelled to England to discuss the matter with Sheikh Yer Man City boss Roberto Mancini and The Arse manager Arsene Wenger, who will lose Gervinho to the Côte d'Ivoire. Gervinho has made twenty four appearances for the La-Di-Dah Gunners this season since signing for ten and a half million smackers from Lille. 'I said to the managers, "Be careful because there's a great expectation here and we need our cohesion and we have our ten days together and we need a team spirit at our training camp,"' said Zahoui. 'Arsene Wenger was my coach [at Nancy in France] so we have a close, respectful relationship. But even with him I said that the head of the Ivorian federation won't mess about. Don't turn this into a stand-off. So our call-up day is 7 January. I hope and pray they respect this date and that there's not a conflict between clubs and the federation.' The Toure brothers are pivotal players for Sheikh Yer Man City and started the 3-0 Premier League victory over Liverpool on Tuesday. Yaya, whose powerful drives from midfield are a feature of City's attacking play, scored the winner in both the FA Cup semi-final and final last season, and has six goals in his last thirteen games. Kolo has displaced Joleon Lescott at the heart of City's defence since returning from a six-month ban for failing a drugs test. Mancini, whose side host The Scum in a third-round clash on Sunday, said the absence of both players will leave City stretched. Gareth Barry is suspended, fellow midfielder Owen Hargreaves is not considered fit enough, while striker Mario Balotelli is troubled by an ankle injury. 'We have seventeen players,' whinged Mancini. 'I do not know how it is going to work. I always said we could have a problem in January. In midfield, we have a big problem. On Sunday, we only have James Milner and Nigel de Jong available.' Well, you've got one of the richest men on the planet for an owner, mate, get him to put his hand in his pocket. Zahoui's tough stance will also affect yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved Newcastle midfielder Cheick Tiote and Moscow Chelski FC forwards Didier Drobga and Salomon Kalou, who will all miss FA Cup third-round ties this weekend. Tiote has been central to The Magpies impressive Premier League season - they're currently in seventh place with thirty three points from twenty games - starring in the hugely satisfying 3-0 victory over The Scum on Wednesday night. The Magpies are also losing in-form Demba Ba to Senegal. Drogba and Kalou have scored nine goals between them for Moscow Chelski FC this season. The 2012 Africa Cup of Nations includes sixteen teams competing in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea between 21 January and 12 February.

The Premier League is preparing to go to market with its lucrative television contract in the second quarter of this year, but the technology company Apple is believed to have ruled itself out of the running for the rights. Premier League executives and advisers are understood to be working on the configuration of the packages that will be made available, with consideration likely to be given to the implications of the ongoing case involving the Portsmouth pub landlady Karen Murphy, and media firms have begun considering their positions. However, despite speculation it is understood that Apple has not discussed bidding for the rights and is unlikely to do so, despite rumoured plans to launch an Apple TV device. Its model relies on taking a cut of the revenue from existing content producers by retailing its content through its AppStore or iTunes service. Sky already shows its live matches on Apple devices through its SkyGo application, and the Premier League has a deal to sell packages of archive content through iTunes. Google, which owns YouTube, is considered a more likely bidder but any move for the live rights would be a major investment, even for a company of its size. Google is also expected to announce an Internet television platform over the next twelve months. Any bid could be complicated, however, by its ownership of YouTube, which is embroiled in a long running legal standoff with the Premier League and other rights owners over copyright issues. The incumbent holders of the live rights, BSkyB and ESPN, will bid again, with the Disney-owned global sports broadcaster likely to want to improve on its existing position if having one contract for twenty three live matches per season. Under the most recent deal, which runs until the end of next season, Sky paid around £1.6bn for its one hundred and fifteen live matches per season. Both are likely to face competition from al-Jazeera, which recently secured the French rights to live Champions League football from next season, with the Premier League hopeful that new entrants will continue to stimulate a market that has levelled out domestically but shows no sign of the decline that some predicted. Meanwhile, the income from overseas rights has continued to grow and some analysts believe that it could outstrip domestic revenue for the first time under the next auction. In all the current deal is worth three and a half billion wonga over three years, with £2.1bn coming from domestic broadcasters and £1.4bn from overseas. It remains to be seen what impact the Murphy case has on the way the Premier League structures its rights auction. The European court of justice ruling, which said that individuals were free to watch broadcasts from overseas using imported decoders, could result in the Premier League selling its rights on a pan-European basis. The ruling still needs to be interpreted by the high court, which is scheduled to hear Murphy's case next month. However, it could equally decide to continue with a model similar to the existing one and restrict the number of games made available to European broadcasters – which show all three hundred and eighty games live rather than the one hundred and thirty eight on British TV – in the hope of reducing the allure of buying an overseas subscription. Under an earlier deal with the European Commission, the Premier League promised to ensure that the six packages on offer were divided between more than one broadcaster. That agreement, which covered two contract periods, has now expired but it is likely that the Premier League will continue with the arrangement to avoid the risk of falling foul of regulators again.

Channel Four horseracing commentator Simon Holt wasn't hedging his bets when he tweeted this message at 5.18pm on Tuesday: 'Oh and by the way, I want your hot body tonight babe.' Minutes later, he apparently realised what he had done and tweeted: 'The previous message was sent in error! Please ignore unless you are Cameron Diaz or my wife.' Worse, reports the Daily Mirra, it turns out that Holt didn't write either of the tweets – his Twitter account is ghostwritten by local newspaper racing columnist Jason Hall, who was sending a message to his wife and accidentally tweeted it in Holt's stream. Ow.

Benedict Cumberbatch has been cast in Star Trek 2. The actor, currently starring in Sherlock, whose movies include War Horse and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, will play a villain in the JJ Abrams movie alongside Alice Eve and Peter Weller. According to Variety, Edgar Ramirez auditioned for the role last month, but ultimately lost out to Cumberbatch. Former Doctor Who actor Noel Clarke also recently signed up to appear in the Star Trek sequel. His role is said to be a 'family man with a wife and young daughter.' The script for Star Trek 2 has been written by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Damon Lindelof and is scheduled for release in May 2013.
Cumberbatch will join Simon Pegg, due to reprise his role as Scotty from the 2009 Star Trek release.

While working on the classic Ealing comedy Hue and Cry in 1947, the actor Harry Fowler, who has died this week aged eighty five, was given sage advice by one of his co-stars, Jack Warner: 'Never turn anything down. Stars come and go but as a character actor, you'll work until you're ninety.' Fowler took the suggestion and proved its near veracity. Between his 1942 debut as Ern in Those Kids from Town until his final television appearances more than sixty years later, he notched up scores of feature films and innumerable TV shows, including three years as Corporal Flogger Hoskins in The Army Game. He never, quite, attained star status but created a gallery of sparky characters, including minor villains, servicemen, reporters and tradesmen enriched by an ever-present cheeky smile and an authentic cockney accent. He was Smudge or Smiley, Nipper or Knocker, Bert or 'Orace, as part of an essential background – an everyman for every occasion. It was Fowler's authenticity that led to his break, as he explained to the film historian Brian McFarlane. Born in Lambeth, south London in 1926, as a 'near illiterate newspaper boy' earning eight shillings a week, he was invited on to radio to tell the listeners about his life in wartime London. The broadcast was heard by a film company executive who was looking for a Londoner to feature in a film about evacuees. Harry was screentested at Elstree studios and offered a monumental five quid a day to play opposite the only slightly less green George Cole. Although he was called up and served in the RAF, he was given leave to appear in eight films, including Alberto Cavalcanti's anti-fascist masterpiece Went the Day Well? (1942), then again as an evacuee in The Demi-Paradise (1943). He was also in the modest semi-documentary Painted Boats in 1945, directed by Charles Crichton, whose next project was the timeless Hue and Cry. Aged twenty one, Fowler was brilliantly cast below his years as the leader of a gang of south London kids who discover that their favourite blood-and-thunder magazine is being used by crooks to send coded messages about future robberies. The improbable story was enhanced by a memorable use of bombsites and fine performances, notably by Warner, cast against type as the villain, and a spooky Alastair Sim as the magazine's duped author – plus the ebullient Fowler leading his gang and hundreds of boys and girls in the film's rousing climax. From then on Fowler worked steadily in the booming postwar film industry in films ranging from B-movies such as Top of the Form (1953) to blockbusters like The Longest Day and Lawrence of Arabia (both 1962). He regretted that British cinema seldom offered working-class characters 'any intellectual horizons or heroic status', although he was nudged towards this in the drama I Believe in You (1952). Taking Warner at his word, he took any role offered in long-forgotten films such as The Dark Man (1951), alongside bigger productions including the Boulting Brothers' pseudo-documentary High Treason (1951). He appeared in Cavalcanti's Champagne Charlie (1944) and For Them That Trespass (1949), along with Joan Dowling, who had also featured in Hue and Cry. She and Fowler were married in 1951. She, tragically, took her own life in 1954 after her career faltered. Harry's career, meanwhile, benefited from his role as a jaunty Sam Weller in The Pickwick Papers (1952), which, although regarded critically as inferior to the earlier Great Expectations and Oliver Twist, was still a commercial hit. He also enjoyed the plum role of Hooker in I Believe in You (1952). As an under-privileged youngster, victimised by his stepfather, he was at the centre of the film, which was concerned with the probation service. He was even allowed romantic interest with Joan Collins but lost out to a brasher Laurence Harvey. During the same period Fowler could be seen in series such as Dixon of Dock Green and Z-Cars - usually playing the wide-boy villain of an episode or two - but his big television break came with three years' duty in Granada's popular sitcom The Army Game (1957-61), replacing Michael Medwin as the chirpy Cockney geezer of the ensemble and later as Harry Danvers in the heaven-sent Our Man at St Mark's (1965-66). These and later series including World's End (1981) and Dead Ernest (1982) brought lucrative employment, as did commercials. He still accepted cameo roles in films, including Doctor in Clover (1966), recalling the advice that 'each appearance was an advertisement for the next.' He turned up as a milkman delivering to a home tyrannised by Bette Davis in Seth Holt's fine chiller The Nanny (1965), drove a cab in Lucky Jim (1957), and featured in the film of George and Mildred (1980), as he had in the earlier TV series. In farce he played an amiable sidekick to Hugh Griffith in the cult Start the Revolution Without Me (1970) and was in the costume drama Prince and the Pauper (1977) and then Fanny Hill (1983), as a beggar. He was last seen in cinemas in Body Contact (1987) and Chicago Joe and the Showgirl (1990), but worked on in television, appearing in The Bill, Doctor Who (he was terrific as a cafe owner in 1988's Remembrance of the Daleks, a period piece set in the early 1960s), Casualty, In Sickness and in Health and other series, and featured on radio in reminiscences of VE Day and postwar British cinema. In 1975, Fowler took the part of Eric Lee Fung, described as 'a Chinese cockney spiv', in The Melting Pot. This was a sitcom written by Spike Milligan and Neil Shand, which was cancelled by the BBC after just one episode had been broadcast. Fowler also participated in two documentaries about Diana Dors, a friend since they worked together on the engaging Dance Hall (1950), and in films about Dick Emery and Sid James, in the Heroes of Comedy series, both 2002. He also appeared in The Impressionable Jon Culshaw in 2004, still advertising for the next role. He was appointed MBE in 1970. His second wife, Kay, survives him.

Mr Bono and Mr The Edge out of The U2 Group have been talking about the success of their record-breaking hit Spider-Man Turn off the Dark on Broadway, describing it as 'a proud day for everyone who has been a part of this show.' Yeah. Whatever.

And, so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 33 of the Day. Today we feature Bob Calvert's impassioned allegorical rant about ecology and the space programme. Take it away, ye Hawks.

1 comment:

Naomi Padowicz said...

Kym Marsh, liked Nigella, has her you know whats.