Wednesday, January 25, 2012

You Will Always Find Him In The Kitchen At Parties

So 4.77 million punters were watching poor old Matthew on the verge of bursting into tears as his black forest gateaux went horribly wrong on Tuesday night's MasterChef, dear blog reader. Matthew told his local paper, the Norfolk Eastern Daily Press: 'It was hard to watch because I knew I was going out. It was a bit embarrassing watching myself virtually have a nervous breakdown on national television and I thought I was going to get a bit of stick but my friends and family have been very supportive and proud of me for getting so far. I messed up and didn't think I would be able to get the gateau out. It was the first time in my life that I've felt like I just did not know what to do. I got something out with a bit of help from John, but I made too many mistakes. I don't think I could have won it because all of the contestants on the show are extremely strong but I could have gone further and it is a shame that I didn't get to show what I'm capable of. But I have absolutely no regrets about going on the show. I met some fantastic people on there and the experience has improved my cooking.' I must say that yer actual Keith Telly Topping does love the fact that MasterChef got over twice as many overnight viewers as ITV's veritable watchword for crass, banal, hideous, wretched, mean-spirited, wicked lowest-common-denominator nonsense, The Biggest Loser. That, to yer actual Keith Telly Topping, suggests that the viewing public are nowhere near as dumb - or as cynical - as some TV schedulers seem to think they are. Although the fact that just over two million people (2.14m to be exact) are still watching The Biggest Loser at all is, surely, the best argument for some form of eugenics this blogger has heard in a long time? I'll leave it up to you lot to decide on that one. Elsewhere BBC1 was the highest rating channel between 19.30 and 22.00. EastEnders had a slightly below par audience of 8.13m from 19:30 and Holby City 5.23m from 8pm. It was also a good night for BBC2 with the League Cup semi-final between Cardiff City and Crystal Palace peaking at 5.3m (average of 3.94m across the entire programme, including BBC HD viewers). Even funnier than the risible audience for The Biggest Loser, ITV's other hideous game show flop, The Exit List hit a series low with just 1.99m viewers. Never have two TV series been more aptly named. Overall the BBC won primetime with an overnight audience share 21.5 per cent. Something that seldom happens is BBC2 beating ITV into second place with 13.2 per cent against ITV's 12.3 per cent.

As noted in a previous blog, the BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten has ordered the corporation to 're-examine' its plans to make significant cuts to local radio. The BBC Trust confirmed on Wednesday that it has asked management to 'row back' just over half of the eighteen million smackers a year of proposed savings affecting English local radio, regional current affairs such as BBC1's Inside Out, and current affairs on Radio 5Live. Forty English radio stations were facing cuts of fifteen million quid and two hundred and eighty jobs as part of plans to slash twenty per cent from the BBC's budget over five years. But Lord Patten said that the cuts would have a 'disproportionate impact' on the BBC's output and reputation. Thousands of listeners, MPs and local authorities - not to mention, ahem, this blogger! - complained about the plans, saying that the stations had a vital role to play in in local communities and provide something which no other service (BBC or otherwise) fills. The BBC Trust - the corporation's governing body - made its decision after hearing 'real concerns' during the public consultation exercise which ran from October to December. Speaking to the Oxford Media Convention, Patten said: 'Our consultation and our research have raised real concerns that some aspects of the plans as they stand would have a disproportion impact on its local and regional output and the contribution such output makes to the most important priority for the BBC – its journalism.' He added: 'Local and regional services in England provide something unique for audiences that can otherwise be neglected by the mainstream media. The BBC cannot afford to get these changes wrong.' The Trust found that particularly in areas outside the South East of England, BBC local services are 'seen to provide balance against perceptions of a metropolitan and centrist BBC, and above all, listeners value most the localness of their particular station.' The Trust said that there was a 'sound logic' behind the BBC's DQF proposals. 'Content sharing already exists in some areas at some times without much of an apparent effect on the quality of output, and it is clear that listeners are generally less concerned about the need for a local service to remain local in off peak-times such as overnight,' said the Trust. 'The emerging findings from our audience research, and that conducted by the executive following sharing trials last year, suggest that it is possible that some sharing of content, in some areas and at some points of the day, may be an effective way to increase the quality of output. However, the findings from our consultation, audience research and other analysis have shown us that local speech radio is an area of almost total market failure; that it brings something unique and intimate to its audience, many of whom tend not to use many other BBC services beyond mainstream TV. To some, particularly away from the South East, local radio is seen to provide balance against perceptions of a metropolitan and centrist BBC, and above all, listeners value most the localness of their particular station.' The Trust said that it will now work with Mark Thompson to 'consider the shape' of the local radio proposals against an 'overall strategy' for the sector. This will include proposals to ensure stations 'stay local for most of the time to continue to have an impact and to stay distinctive.' It added: 'Local radio is not the same everywhere. It means different things to different communities in terms of news, sport, culture, identity and music. The changes should reflect this, and look to give station managers some discretion to be flexible and run stations with regard to the particular needs of their audiences.' Yer actual Keith Telly Topping seldom gets too carried away by the ideal of white knights arriving on shining steeds at the last moment to, apparently, save the day (particularly when they're former Tory party chairmen like his very Chris-ship) but, this is, nevertheless, very welcome news. The proposals were announced last October by director general Mark Thompson, following a lower-than-expected license fee settlement was imposed on the BBC by the government. Several stations faced losing between a quarter and a third of their staff, with neighbouring stations expected to share programming in the afternoon. Staff warned Thompson at the Radio Festival in Salford last November that cuts would damage programme quality, something which staff should not have needed to tell him as anyone with half-a-frigging brain should've been able to work that out for themselves. If you pay peanuts, you'll get monkeys, it's a universal truism. Radio Merseyside presenter Roger Phillips said the station would lose fifteen of its forty six staff, meaning 'we can't provide quality at all.' A group of writers and cultural figures from Liverpool - including Willy Russell, Alan Bleasdale and Roger McGough - wrote an open letter to The Times complaining about the proposals, saying the station gave 'voice to the beating heart' of the community. Similar - perhaps less high-profile - campaigns have been run by listeners at local stations up and down the land, including yer actual Keith Telly Topping's own, beloved, BBC Newcastle, the 2011 winners of the Gilliard Award for the best BBC local station of the year. Lord Patten said that the Trust had asked the BBC to review three key areas of the proposals: To scale back plans for local radio to share programmes in the afternoon, 'although we accept that in some cases that might still be the best option'; To ensure that local stations have 'an adequately staffed newsroom'; To protect specialist content outside peak times - for example local sports (shows which often give local stations their highest audience figures) or specialist music shows - something which the DQF consultation process made clear hadn't even been considered within the proposals. Many stations - yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved, award-winning BBC Newcastle, for one - have a dedicated evening music show which is non-playlist and, at least in theory, exists in part to help promote local bands. And that, of course, was the very slot that the DQF proposals suggested should be done away with completely and replaced by a single generic national show. The Trust also asked the BBC to re-consider plans to merge regional current affairs programming - specifically Inside Out - meaning fewer shows covering larger geographical areas. And, it suggested that the weekly current affairs show on BBC 5Live should also be saved from cancellation. However - and it's a big however - with the BBC committed to making the cuts it announced in October, any money re-routed to local radio would need to be saved from elsewhere in the organisation. Lord Patten said he hoped the changes would cost the BBC 'no more than ten million pounds', which should come from 'non-content budgets.' Either that or, you know, just get Worldwide sell a few more Top Gear and Doctor Who DVDs, that's where the majority of the BBC's non-licence fee income seems to come from. Mark Thompson said the process 'will be challenging' but that he was glad that the Trust had 'endorsed the great majority of our proposals' to save money. Indeed, there's a very interesting conspiracy theory doing the rounds that Thompson chose specifically to make the threatened cuts to local radio knowing full well that they would be the subject of vocal (and, it seems, intelligent) criticism to provide a focus for dissent whereas the proposed cuts to other services (often very significant ones like daytime BBC2) would rather get ignored. It seems that, in climbing down over local radio at the cost of ten million quid, proposals such as BBC2 daytime becoming a repeats channel, the cut in live performances on Radio 3 and the changes to the budgets of BBC3 and BBC4 have been rubber-stamped by the Trust (and, effectively, by the public) without much comment. If there's any truth in this then Thompson's gamble appears to have paid off. So ... don't hang out the 'victory' flags just yet (and, the victory in this case if indeed, that's what it is, will come at the expense of something else within the Beeb so it's going to be a hollow victory for some). But, this blogger, who has campaigned vocally for a BBC change of heart over this issue from day one is glad that it at least appears the Trust have listened to the voices of licence fee payers and discovered that whilst common sense seems to be in somewhat short supply everywhere these days, it's not completely missing in action. You can read the BBC Trust's 'Interim Findings' on the DQF exercise here. And very fascinating reading they make. For instance, the Trust says: 'Our analysis of the proposals has convinced us... that some of the proposed changes - to local radio and some current affairs output - are likely to have too much of a detrimental impact on the BBC's journalistic aspirations and reputation.' Talking about local radio, it added: 'We think the scale and impact of the cuts, although lower in financial terms than for many other parts of the BBC, is disproportionate to the value of these services to their audience and have asked the [BBC] executive to consider again the shape of their proposals, set against a clearer overall strategy for local radio as a whole.'

Keeley Hawes says that she has never watched a full episode of Downton Abbey. And, in reporting this, the Digital Spy website seems to be suggesting that she's lying since they note that she 'claims' this. Sounds perfectly reasonable to this blooger - I don't think I've seen an episode of Downton all the way through in one go and watching TV is my job! The former [spooks] actress, of course, stars as Lady Agnes Holland in the BBC1 reworking of Upstairs, Downstairs - below you can see a rather tasty publicity shot for the forthcoming second series featuring the divine Alex Kingston. Asked if comparisons between the two costume dramas work against her show, Hawes told Stylist: 'I've never seen an episode of it which I think is a very good thing, because whatever I say is going to be taken and twisted.' Yeah, I think you'll find that's already happen, Keeley. 'But I understand it's very good. I think because we each had two grande dames of British acting - we had Eileen [Atkins] and they have Maggie [Smith], it didn't help with how much we were compared.' Asked why the British public seem to have fallen back in love with this particular type of costume dramas, she said: 'I don't know. They've always been in my life. And obviously I'm married to Matthew [Macfadyen]. One or the other of us is always doing something in a bonnet. Well, not Matthew! That's behind closed doors.' Oh, too much info, love!
Prior to the first series of Upstairs Downstairs, Hawes said that she was 'thrilled' quality drama like Downton Abbey existed. 'If there's room for thirty reality shows, surely there's room for two amazing costume dramas,' she added. 'From the tiny amount of Downton I saw it was gorgeous, but as far as I can make out it has a very different feeling to Upstairs.' No so as you'd notice, actually.
A senior Sun editorial executive has grovellingly - and belatedly - apologised at the Leveson inquiry for the paper's sickening libellous coverage of Bristol landlord Christopher Jefferies. Stephen Waring, the Sun's publishing director, also said at the inquiry on Tuesday that the News International tabloid has 'changed its attitude' to court reporting, after also being massively fined for contempt of court for its reporting in December 2010 and January 2011 of Jefferies' arrest as a suspect in the Joanna Yeates murder investigation. Jefferies was later released without charge. Because he hadn't done anything, basically. Waring said the coverage in the Sun and other newspapers partly reflected the 'more liberal interpretation' of laws governing crime reporting at the time. Or, in other words, newspapers felt they had the right to decide who was guilty or innocent purely on aesthetic things like how they looked rather than bother going to the time and expense of waiting for a person to be actually charge, tried and convicted. Why bother with all them when you can use a front page to besmirch a man's reputation and then let a poll on Twitter or Sky News decide innocence or guilt? The odious Waring added that the attorney general, Dominic Grieve, had forced the Sun to change its attitude towards reporting crime suspects. And no before effing time, frankly. Grieve launched a contempt action which resulted in the Daily Mirra being fined fifty grand and the Sun eighteen thousand smackers for their coverage of Jefferies. The Sun and the Mirra were also among eight newspapers that apologised and paid swingeingly substantial libel damages to Jefferies last year for libellous allegations made against him. 'Since the new attorney general took his post, he's made it clear he wants a strict application of contempt. He's brought more contempt of court cases than were brought in the previous ten years,' Waring told the inquiry, adding: 'He has certainly changed our attitude as to how we report arrests and we have changed the culture of the paper on the back of the Jefferies case.' Waring was duty editor in early January 2011 when the Sun published articles that were later found to be 'seriously defamatory' of Jefferies. Waring told Leveson that three factors had led to the Sun writing its defamatory articles, which the inquiry was told included claimed that Jefferies was an 'unmarried oddball' and 'obsessed with death.' One factor, Waring said, was critical comment from former pupils and teachers 'that set a particular tone that coloured my judgment, wrongly.' So, in other words, they listened to ill-informed gossip and then just printed it. Because they could. Another key aspect, according to Waring, was 'the general context' in which the stories were cleared for publication by the paper's lawyers. 'I can't speak for the lawyer's own mind, but we are talking about an era where there was a far more liberal interpretation about what we could get away with in print,' said Waring. The contempt laws are designed to ensure reporting from the moment an arrest is made will not prejudice a person's chances of a fair trial. Waring said that since the Jefferies case, the newspaper had changed some of its policies. He told the inquiry the Sun did not publish 'interesting background' material about a murder in the autumn or details of a second arrest at Stepping Hill Hospital. 'It's something which has affected us and changed our attitude,' he said. 'That change of attitude would have come in if there had been no Leveson inquiry, no Bribery Act, no investigation into media standards. It came about because the attorney general decided he was going to change the way he interpreted contempt.' The Leveson inquiry also heard from two reporters who had been sent to Bristol to cover the story for the Sun and the Daily Mirra, both of whom also apologised for the distress they had caused Jefferies. Although quite how either felt able to show their faces in public is another question for another day. Jefferies - prejudicially - was described by the Daily Mirra as 'a peeping tom', 'nutty' and was said by the paper to have 'a bizarre past', the inquiry was told. Ryan Parry, a Daily Mirra reporter who worked on the Yeates murder story, said the paper was 'very regretful of the coverage' and wanted to apologise for 'vilifying him in such a way.' The Sun's reporter Gary O'Shea said he now knows the paper should have been 'more neutral and dispassionate' and also apologised to Jefferies.

There was an unfortunate cock-up at the Radio Times, which unintentionally published a photo of a Royal Marine with his, ahem, 'weapon' on display. The apparently innocuous photo of the Royal Marines' 42 Commando Unit turned out, on closer inspection, to be rather less innocent than it at first seemed. The good news for the listings magazine – though possibly less so for the squaddie involved – is that you need a big magnifying glass to see these particular, if you will, privates on parade. (It's on page sixty seven in the 28 January to 3 February issue, if you absolutely must see the offending pistol for yourself.)
'We apologise for any upset caused to readers by the rogue member of 42 Commando,' said Radio Times editor Ben Preston in an apology published on the magazine's website. The picture accompanied a preview of Channel Five fly-on-the-wall documentary Royal Marines: Afghanistan Mission. Channel Five owner the soft-core pornographer Richard Desmond is, it hardly needs saying, no stranger to X-rated content. And that's just the editorials in the Daily Scum Express.

Kiefer Sutherland has revealed that he is keen to appear opposite his father Donald in new FOX drama Touch. The series - from Heroes creator Tim Kring - stars the younger Sutherland as Martin Bohm, a father who discovers that his mute son Jake (David Mazouz) can predict future events. 'We're working on episodes five and six right now, but I certainly have conveyed to Tim Kring that my father is someone who I would very, very much like to work with,' Kiefer told reporters in a recent conference call.

The Dowager Countess would not be amused. It seems that PBS, the network which broadcasts Downton Abbey in the US, has been taking some right and proper liberties by cashing in on the hit series. The Daily Scum Mail sniffily reports that those dastardly American types have launched a range of jewellery – described as 'a must-have for all ladies of quality' – based on the characters Lady Mary Crawley and her sister, Lady Sybil. With products ranging from a 'Lady Mary knotted pearl necklace and earring set', at one hundred and two smackers, and a tea-set 'elegant enough for any countess or lady', PBS is looking to milk the US love affair with all things British and early Twentieth Century. However, PBS's plan has not gone down well with the show's makers, Carnival Films, who, seemingly, have not authorised the use of the characters' names and have told PBS to remove them.

CSI star Marg Helgenberger has revealed that William Petersen almost returned to the show. The actress told TV Guide that Peterson intended to reprise his role as Gil Grissom as part of a storyline which saw her character Catherine Willows exit the series. 'Initially, Billy wanted to come back for a couple of episodes,' she confirmed. 'Carol [Mendelsohn] and Don McGill and I had lunch with him to hash it out. But he and his wife had twins who were born prematurely, and that was way too overwhelming for him to deal with.' Helgenberger added that Mendelsohn eventually described Petersen's absence as 'a blessing. She didn't want [my final] episodes to be more about Grissom's return, which it would have been,' she said. 'Now it's really just about Catherine.' George Eads, who plays Nick Stokes, first hinted that Petersen could reappear on the CBS drama in August. Showrunner Mendelsohn has also admitted that she is frequently in talks with Petersen regarding a possible return. 'Every year we go to Billy,' she said. 'I mean, [Gil and Sara] are married, and we'd like the audience to be able to see [them together] sometime.'

Britons are less honest than they were a decade ago, research by academics at the University of Essex suggests. The survey of more than two thousand adults found that people were apparently more tolerant of lying and extramarital affairs than they were in 2000. But it also found less tolerance of those that commit benefit fraud. The online 'integrity' study, which repeated questions asked in 2000, suggests young people are more likely to be dishonest than older people. In 2011, those under the age of twenty five scored an average of forty seven points on an 'integrity scale' while those over sixty five scored an average of fifty four points. The average score for all age groups was fifty. The survey also suggests women have slightly more integrity than men, but social class and occupation does not have a significant effect on levels of honesty. Those who took part in the survey were asked to what extent a series of ten activities were justified. These included avoiding paying for public transport, keeping money found in the street, throwing litter away and lying. Their answers were then converted into an 'integrity score' and compared to answers given by people who took the same test in 2000. A decade ago, seventy per cent of people said having an affair was never justified but this dropped to just fifty per cent in 2011. The proportion who said picking up money found in the street was never justified dropped from almost forty per cent a decade ago to less than twenty per cent - while just one in three were prepared to condemn lying in their own interests. The survey found that while seventy eight per cent of people condemned benefit fraud in 2000, this had risen to eighty five per cent in 2011. Professor Paul Whiteley, the study's author and director of the Essex Centre for the Study of Integrity, said levels of integrity were important because they were linked to a person's sense of civic duty. 'If social capital is low and people are suspicious and don't work together, those communities have worse health, worse educational performance, they are less happy and they are less economically developed and entrepreneurial. It really does have a profound effect,' he said. 'If integrity continues to decline in the future, then it will be very difficult to mobilise volunteers to support the Big Society initiative,' he added. Professor Whiteley also said he thought part of the reason young people were found to be more likely to be dishonest than older people was because 'the role models are not very good. If you think about it, you know, footballers that cheat on their wives; some journalists that hack into phones; behaviour in the City, where people are selling financial instruments they think are no good but do not say so. These kind of things,' he said. To sum up, then, we're a nation of hypocrites and the young'uns are all bad'uns? Sounds about right.

The advertising watchdog has banned posters for a Spinal Tap-style band after complaints that the adverts were demeaning to women. Described by record label Universal Island as 'a pastiche of an 1980s heavy metal band' taking inspiration from the likes of Whitesnake and Bon Jovi, The Steel Panthers were shown on the poster with big hair reminiscent of director Rob Reiner's band from 1980s, if you will, rockumentary This Is Spinal Tap. The posters promoted the band's new album, titled Balls Out. Above the rockers, the adverts showed a scantily-clad woman holding a string with two silver balls near her crotch. The Advertising Standards Authority received four complaints about the campaign. Yes, that's four. Not four hundred, but four. Universal Island said that the adverts were meant to 'poke fun at the ridiculousness of the attitude to women, outfits and music in that [1980s] era.' The record label added that the posters were meant to be 'ludicrously over the top and not meant to undermine women.' It added that it believed the poster was suitable for running on billboards and poster sites. However, the ASA said that the campaign was 'overtly sexual when taken as a whole. Given its placement in a range of public locations, we concluded that it was likely to cause serious and widespread offence, was unsuitable to be seen by children and therefore was not appropriate for outdoor advertising,' said the ASA. Ridiculous. Albeit, one imagines that the publicity generated by the banning with have given the band more publicity than they'd have likely got from the poster itself anyway. So, if me and three of my mates complain to the po-faced knobs at the ASA that the Go Compare bloke is really bastard well annoying and we want him off our TV screens what do we reckon is the likelihood of that occurring?

Inevitably, perhaps, today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day has a kitchen feel. Tell 'em how y'feel, Jona.
Still prefer the original.

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