Saturday, March 02, 2013

Their Hearts Like Alabaster Crack And Crumble When They’re Kissed

BBC programming has led the way in the nominations for this year's Royal Television Society programme awards 2012, scooping forty four of the available seventy five nominations in twenty five categories. BBC2 was the most nominated channel with sixteen nods, one more than both BBC1 and Channel Four, which had fifteen each. Among the nominated BBC2 programmes are acclaimed police thriller Line of Duty, which will compete with BBC1 dramas Sherlock and Call The Midwife for the drama series prize. Line of Duty actor Lennie James will also vie for the best actor prize with Sean Bean for his role as a transsexual in BBC1 tedious thriller Accused and Oliver Lansley, who played Kenny Everett in the BBC4 biopic of the late radio star. Children's channel CBBC received three specific nominations, BBC3 received two and BBC4 had six, with generic BBC programmes which crossed channels receiving two, one for the Olympics coverage and one for London 2012 presenter Clare Balding. Channel Four also provided a strong showing with fifteen nominations, including one for Charlie Brooker for Channel Four satire Ten O'Clock Live. Brooker will compete with Ant and/or Dec and The Voice's Will.i.am for the best entertainment performance prize. ITV claimed but nine nominations in total, with seven for the main channel, one for ITV2 and one for STV. S4C had two nominations. Overall, Sky scooped four nominations for all its channels including one for Sky Atlantic Comedy Alan Partridge: Welcome to the Places of my Life, which will compete with Channel Four's completely unfunny Fresh Meat and BBC2's Olympics spoof Twenty Twelve for the scripted comedy award. This year's RTS programme awards will be hosted by Jo Brand at a ceremony on Tuesday 19 March at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London.

It is more than a decade since ITV's News at Ten was unceremoniously moved around the schedule, earning the unwelcome epithet 'News at When?' But on Thursday, the news programme, which first aired in 1967, suffered a different sort of ignominious embarrassment – beaten in the ratings by odious, risible ITV2 panel show, Celebrity Juice, hosted by Keith Lemon, the creation of former Bo' Selecta creator Leigh Francis. It was a close run thing, Celebrity Juice was watched by an average of 1.63m viewers between 10pm and 10.50pm. The ITV2 show was ten thousand viewers ahead of the ITN-produced news programme, watched by 1.62 million viewers. News at Ten nudged back into the lead when timeshifted channel ITV+1 was taken into account, growing its audience by another fifty thousand punters. Francis's show celebrated its one hundredth episode on Thursday night and the arrival of a new team captain, Kelly Brook, in place of risible scourge of the bullies Fearne Cotton, who is on maternity leave. Francis, who looks far more at home on ITV2 than he did on Saturday night peaktime ITV with his show Keith Lemon's Lemonaid, incurred the ire of Ofcom last month for a pre-watershed trailer featuring a prosthetic which, the media regulator said, looked like an erect penis.

'The flop of Food Glorious Food is not just a disaster for Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced chef off Crossroads as this kind of programming is terrestrial TV's bread and butter,' writes the Gruniad Morning Star's excellently named Stuart Heritage in an article entitled Food Glorious Food serves Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads his TV comeuppance. 'So that's it. Food Glorious Food is officially Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads' least-watched television programme. It was watched by fewer people than the last series of X Factor. It was watched by fewer people than That Dog Can Dance, his spectacularly misjudged Boxing Day canine extravaganza. It was even watched by fewer people than Red or Black?, his show where people had to say the words "red" and "black" over and over again until they either won some money or took to self-harming to remind themselves that they still had the ability to feel. Most damning of all, Food Glorious Food was beaten in the ratings by a BBC1 show where Angela Rippon goes to a hotel, tuts at it and then leaves. Make no mistake, Food Glorious Food was a disaster. And not just for Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads and ITV; it was a disaster for terrestrial television as a whole.' There's more, but, that's pretty much the gist of it.

A reckless approach to creative risk-taking led the BBC into crisis last year, its incoming director general warned, as he sought to identify areas where the public broadcaster – currently afflicted by strikes, low morale and the continued fallout from the Jimmy Savile fiasco – could learn from the world of opera and ballet. Tony Hall, the outgoing chief executive of the Royal Opera House, made a thinly disguised critique of recent BBC errors including the blunders over the pulling of the Newsnight investigation into Savile and the subsequent piece by the same programme which led to the misidentification of Lord McAlpine as a paedophile by some people on the Internet. In an interview with the Gruniad Morning Star who, of course, were lapping all this up, Lord Hall said: 'You need to take risks but you don't take them willy-nilly or recklessly, you think them through. You give people the confidence to be bold and run with what they want to do. If things do go wrong then you have to have the confidence to say "okay, we got that wrong, let's learn from it and move on."' The sixty one-year-old, a former director of BBC News, starts his job on 2 April and, while he declined to spell out his plans for the broadcaster, he did outline what he had learned from his twelve years at the helm of the Royal Opera House. Aside from risk-taking, he emphasised the need to put creatives – in TV and radio terms, programme makers, directors, presenters and writers – first. Which is, frankly, the most encouraging statement this blogger has heard coming out of a BBC director general in thirty years. Let's hope he actually means what he says. 'Here it is all about what artists want to do, directors want to do, and audiences. Management is about enabling those things to happen to the very highest level. It is about setting the conditions whereby artists flourish and can do what they do best,' he noted. Offering what amounted to a five-point plan, he also chose to emphasise the importance of concentrating funding on-screen, ambition, and 'a good working environment' where 'people come into work because they want to, to do things that make them feel a part of the place.' A rift between BBC executives and journalists was identified as one of the underlying reasons for the failure to get the Newsnight investigation into Savile to air in December 2011. Hall also chose to affirm the corporation's responsibility to the arts. 'I think the BBC's role in bringing to people's attention the great things being done by arts organisations across the country and artists is phenomenally important,' he said. 'Do I think the BBC should take the arts seriously? Of course I do.' He said he believed opera was becoming 'more accepted' by a wider part of British society than ever, and that BBC TV programmes such as Opera Italia, the BBC4 series fronted by the Covent Garden music director Antonio Pappano, and Essential Ring, to be broadcast on the same channel this May, were crucial. 'I think attitudes actually have changed and I think they will change still further. The fact that you can find them in cinema, and online; the fact that Tony Pappano did a series on Italian opera and he is now doing something else on the Ring.'

Now, here's one from the Big Fight, Little People column dear blog reader. It may become known as the bust-up of the billionaires – a furious, expletive-laden boardroom exchange between Lord Sugar-Sweetie and media mogul Richard Desmond which ended with the owner of Channel Five shouting 'You're fired!' at The Apprentice host in a row witnessed by the acting director general of the BBC. The confrontation, understood to have played out with more venom, anger and swearing than is ever seen in the boardroom on Sugar-Sweetie's BBC show, took place in front of 'astonished' executives from leading broadcasters and telecoms companies on Thursday after a board meeting of the television company YouView. According to one alleged source, as the exchange became more heated Sugar-Sweetie advanced on Desmond with a clenched fist. Another alleged 'source' allegedly close to the peer allegedly said that the alleged row was allegedly prompted by Sugar-Sweetie's announcement that he was quitting. YouView confirmed on Friday that Sugar-Sweetie was stepping down from his role with the Internet TV service, which is backed by Channel Five and other broadcasters including the BBC, ITV and Channel Four. The alleged 'source' allegedly close to Sugar-Sweetie allegedly added: 'He told [Desmond] "I have finished with YouView" and the row increased and [Desmond] ran away from Sugar because he was frightened, and then to play-act he shouted: "You're fired."' The row between what the Gruniad Morning Star describes as 'two of the media industry's most colourful and abrasive figures' - for which read a man who used to make the second most popular satellite TV system ... when there were only two satellite TV systems on the market, and own Stottingtot Hotshots ... when they were rubbish and a soft-core pornographer who also owns the Daily Lies - took place in the YouView boardroom, located at Desmond's Northern & Shell Thameside skyscraper. The boardroom is surrounded by glass, which meant the bust-up was viewed by about one hundred staff. The row involved 'a lot of shouting and a lot of swear words,' alleged 'sources' allegedly said. One alleged 'source' who allegedly witnessed the alleged row allegedly said that Desmond 'went mad and shouted' when Sugar-Sweetie revealed that he was resigning. 'Desmond lost it, then Sugar definitely lost his temper and chased him around the floor.' Another alleged 'source' claimed that the pair, who have known each other for thirty years, frequently clashed at YouView meetings in exchanges littered with expletives, but described it as 'pantomime knockabout stuff.' This time it seems to have boiled over into something more serious. 'They are like two barrowboys next to each other – "What the fuck are you saying? You don't have a clue" – all that sort of thing,' one of these alleged 'sources' allegedly said. Sugar-Sweetie was parachuted into much-delayed YouView by Desmond two years ago to kick-start it, and was paid five hundred thousand smackers a year. He was credited with helping YouView get its house in order and giving it some much-needed commercial clout. It launched in September 2012. Desmond's net worth is estimated at one billion quid, Sugar's at eight hundred million by The Sunday Times rich list. And both are men who, it would appear, know the price of everything, and the value of nothing.
Jessie Wallace has accepted a high court apology and 'substantial' damages from the National Magazine Company for a story in celebrity tittle-tattle rag Reveal which falsely suggested that she had 'deliberately snubbed' her EastEnders co-star Letitia Dean. As if anybody actually gives a shit about such utter nonsense. n a statement read out at the high court in London on Friday by National Magazines solicitor Roddy Chisholm-Batten, the Reveal publisher said that it accepted that the allegations were untrue and that Wallace and Dean were, in fact, good friends. '[NatMags] also accepts that there is no rivalry between the two and that Ms Wallace was delighted at Ms Dean's return to EastEnders last year. It wishes to apologise publicly and unreservedly for any upset and embarrassment that this article has caused Ms Wallace,' Chisholm-Batten added. He also told the court that National Magazines had agreed to pay damages – understood to be a five-figure sum – and Wallace's legal costs. The article, published in Reveal in August 2012 and headlined Jessie and Letitia at war, had 'wrongly suggested that Ms Wallace had behaved in a highly unprofessional and childish manor by deliberately snubbing fellow actress, Letitia Dean, out of personal jealousy at the popular return of this EastEnders favourite, and has there by created an extremely tense and difficult working environment for the cast and crew working on the programme,' Chisholm-Batten said.

John Barrowman has, rather embarrassingly, been forced to backtrack on his comments about his alleged involvement in the Doctor Who fiftieth anniversary celebrations. The actor, who played Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who and its spin-off Torchwood, appeared on This Morning on Friday and blabbed his mouth that he had 'taken part in discussions' to help mark the milestone. However, he later seemingly tried to downplay fans' excitement, tweeting: 'Re fiftieth I didn't say in what capacity or what medium, so stay calm and carry on.' On Saturday, Barrowman appeared on Graham Norton's BBC Radio 2 show with his sister, Carole, and attempted to step back even further from his earlier remarks. When asked if he was taking part in the fiftieth anniversary show, Barrowman said: 'I have nothing really to say about it.' So, that'd be a 'no', then? Norton asked if he had gotten 'in a lot of trouble' following his previous rash statement, to which Barrowman replied that he doesn't know why the remarks were problematic. He added: 'If I get asked a question I try to be as vague but as honest as possible. What's happened is it's been taken totally out of context, it's been twisted and things have been said that I didn't say so I just have to say at the moment I have no. I don't want to not give you an answer but I have nothing to say at the moment.' Barrowman also addressed the future of Torchwood, saying that he has 'moved on.' He explained: 'It's in limbo in a sense. Something could be done in five years, something could be done in ten years, but if I'd have sat around and waited for the last two years I would have been bankrupt and unemployed, so I've moved on.'
Broadcaster Stuart Hall has appeared in court charged with one count of rape and fourteen counts of indecent assault. The eighty three-year-old from Wilmslow spoke only to confirm his name in the eight-minute preliminary hearing at Preston Crown Court. The case was adjourned until 16 April when Hall is expected to enter a plea. A provisional trial date has been set for 2 October. The charges relate to alleged offences between 1967 and 1986. Hall is best known for his distinctive style of sports reporting on BBC Radio 5Live and his work on the 1970s TV show It's A Knockout. He has been a familiar face and voice in British broadcasting for half-a-century and was appointed OBE in the 2012 New Year Honours for services to broadcasting and charity.

Greater Manchester Police arrested a twenty three-year-old man on Friday on suspicion of revealing the identity of Coronation Street actor Michael Le Vell's alleged victim on Twitter. The force said that the tweet, sent on Wednesday, also contained 'personal opinion' from the sender about the alleged victim, who like all alleged victims of sexual offences, is automatically allowed complete anonymity for life. The man remains in police custody for questioning. Detective Chief Inspector Chris Bridge, of GMP's public protection division, said: 'Maintaining the anonymity of victims of sex offences is absolutely vital and is something that really helps encourage them to come forward. Breaching this ruling is an extremely serious offence and that is why we launched an investigation as soon as we became aware. Social media is an immensely powerful tool that does an awful lot of good, but it can also be used to spread rumour, speculation and in this case break the law. As a force GMP embraces the use of social media but when it is abused in this way we will take robust action to hold those responsible to account.' Le Vell, who plays Kevin Webster on the ITV soap, has been charged with alleged offences dating between 2001 and 2010. They include six charges of rape, six of indecent assault and seven of sexual touching. The actor, whose real name is Michael Turner, has been bailed to appear at Manchester Crown Court on 20 March. He has denied any wrongdoing and his solicitor said that the charges would be 'fully contested.'

Broadcaster Andrew Marr has left hospital almost two months after suffering a stroke, the BBC has said. It added that the presenter, who was taken ill on 8 January, will continue his rehabilitation via a physiotherapy regime at home. The fifty three-year-old hopes to 'recover privately' and is expected to return to work later this year. He is best-known for presenting BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show and Radio 4's Start The Week. A BBC spokeswoman said: 'Andrew left hospital earlier on today and continues his rehabilitation at home with his family. He says thank you to all the wonderful nurses, doctors and physiotherapists at Charing Cross hospital who have looked after him so well. He is looking forward to a new regime of physio at home as he prepares for his return to work later this year.' Born in Glasgow, Marr began his career in journalism on the Scotsman newspaper in 1981, later moving to London to become its political correspondent. He was part of the team which launched the Independent in 1986, later becoming its editor, and joined the BBC as political editor in May 2000. Marr has also presented a number of history programmes along with his politics show, and has had five books published.
The former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown has admitted his party is suffering the 'excruciating' pain of being found wanting in its support for women's rights. But he has also defended Nick Clegg's handling of the crisis that has swept the party in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment against Lord Rennard. Writing in the Gruniad Morning Star, Ashdown said the party has suffered 'a perfect storm' in which the right-wing press has held all the thunderbolts, but he urged Lib Dems not to panic under fire. 'Even if we had achieved presentational perfection in the face of the most ravenous media feeding frenzy I have ever experienced as a Lib Dem in forty years of politics, it would have made no more than the merest scrap of difference to the outcome,' Ashdown writes. And, the irony of a politician whinging about the manifest unfairness of the press picking on a target and pouring molten lava on it to keep the fires burning will, surely, not be lost on anyone who watched scum politicians of all parties doing exactly that to the BBC during recent months. Rennard was director of Lib Dem campaigns under Ashdown and later the party's chief executive. Ashdown admits that the party's 'pride' has been badly hurt by the episode and many harsh lessons must be learned. 'As Liberals, we led in the cause of equality and respect for gender and sexual orientation long before it was fashionable and often against the ridicule of the very press that now attacks us. So, to have been found wanting (and perhaps worse) in the Lord Rennard case is excruciating to say the least.' Clegg has been criticised for changing his story about his knowledge of the alleged misbehaviour, for failing to react speedily and then for attacking some of the media for becoming 'self-appointed detectives.' But Ashdown argues: 'No matter what defences we had put up, no matter how we had explained ourselves, no matter how perfectly modulated our every phrase and rational our every explanation, this was a story that was going to run and run.' Ashdown also praised the 'legitimate and effective' journalism of Channel Four and the coverage provided by 'some' newspapers. Like Clegg's office, he does not attach any blame for the crisis to 'Conservative dirty tricks.' Many Lib Dems instead suspect some of the detailed stories came not just from the aggrieved women, but from elsewhere within the party. Some of the alleged victims of the harassment have claimed that their names were 'passed to the press' without their prior knowledge. Alison Smith, an Oxford University politics lecturer who led complaints of sexual harassment against Rennard, told the Gruniad that she was 'very, very annoyed' by repeated media requests to go on the record about her complaints, despite the fact she had only spoken about the allegations privately. And, if you've never seen a Liberal who is very very annoyed, dear blog reader, trust me, it's a sight to see. 'It was the breach of privacy that annoyed me. I had no idea who the people were who were putting it about. I felt quite demeaned because these were quite serious things that happened to us,' Smith said. She reportedly contacted the Metropolitan police with her complaints on Thursday, along with several other women. 'The police are very keen to deal with the matter discreetly, and I agree it is important that other people coming forward should be able to do so without fear of being caught up in the current media storm,' she said. Ashdown believes that 'some' right-wing scum newspapers 'pursued the issue' so intensely because of the Eastleigh by-election. The story, he writes, 'rolled up in a single attack three targets which they have long loved to hate: the Lib Dems, the coalition and finally (and for them most deliciously) the Leveson proposals [on press regulation]. That's why they have devoted so many column inches, so much invective and such lip-smacking relish to the task.' Ashdown has claimed that he knew nothing of the charges until Channel Four raised them and has only known Rennard as 'an outstanding and admired servant of the party.'

The invasion of Iraq in 2003 'cannot be justified,' Lord Prescott - who was then deputy prime minister - has said. He told BBC1's This Week that he had backed the Iraq War because he believed George Bush had a plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He said he could not 'just disown it' but he now thought the war had been wrong. Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary William Hague has written to cabinet members urging them not to discuss the justification for the Iraq war. The invasion of Iraq led by US troops, in coalition with the UK and other nations, began on 20 March 2003. Lord Prescott said that, ahead of the invasion, Prime Minister Tony Blair had been keen 'to get the Americans in' on the UN's approach to dealing with Iraq. He said that, after Blair had sent him to the US to talk to Vice-President Dick Cheney, he told the PM it was clear: 'They're going to go in without you; whether you come with them or not, it doesn't matter to the Americans - they're getting ready.' Prescott added: 'But I tell you something that persuaded me. You know Bush was quite prepared to have a plan for Israel and the whole problem in regard to Palestine and he promised. And, therefore, that plan was something.' But Prescott said the plan 'fell apart as it often does in American politics because the influence domestically is too great.' He said that, despite these factors, 'at the end of the day, Tony Blair obviously said to himself, "I've promised to do this and I'm going to do it" - and that's today's consequences.' Prescott added: 'And I have to be part in that - I can't just disown it. I go through my thoughts trying to justify it, but ... it cannot be justified as an intervention.' Prescott's comments go further than those made in a 2009 Gruniad newspaper interview when he talked about 'misgivings' he had about the war. They come in contrast to comments made by Blair in an interview for Newsnight's Iraq: Ten Years On special, shown on BBC2 on Tuesday. Asked about the decision to invade, Blair said: 'If we hadn't removed Saddam from power just think, for example, what would be happening if these Arab revolutions were continuing now and Saddam, who's probably twenty times as bad as Assad in Syria, was trying to suppress an uprising in Iraq? Think of the consequences of leaving that regime in power. So when you say "do you think of the loss of life since 2003?" of course I do. You would have to be inhumane not to, but think of what would have happened if he had been left there.' In 2010, at the Chilcot Inquiry, Blair - quizzed about the controversial claim in a September 2002 dossier that Iraq could deploy weapons of mass destruction at forty five minutes' notice - said it 'assumed a vastly greater significance' afterwards than it did at the time. He has insisted that, on the basis of the intelligence available at the time, it was 'beyond doubt' Iraq was continuing to develop its weapons capability. The UK lost one hundred and seventy nine servicemen and women, of which one hundred and thirty six were killed in action, before the last British troops were withdrawn in April 2009. Conservative estimates put the number of Iraqis killed in the invasion and ensuing sectarian violence at about one hundred thousand. Meanwhile, alleged 'sources' allegedly close to Foreign Secretary Hague have confirmed that he has written to cabinet ministers reminding them of government policy not to comment on the justification or otherwise for the Iraq war until after the Chilcot Inquiry reports. The Gruniad claims that the letter has angered Lib Dem ministers whose party has always considered it an illegal war. One alleged Whitehall 'source' allegedly said what Hague had done 'is write to cabinet ministers reminding them of government policy that we should not prejudice the Chilcot Inquiry.' Sir John Chilcot has said the report into his inquiry, which featured eighteen months of public hearings between 2009 and early 2011, will not be published before the middle of this year at the earliest. In his last update, in July 2012, Sir John said the inquiry had made 'extensive progress' in drafting its report - expected to be about a million words long - but that the inquiry was 'unprecedented' in scope and the issues were 'complex.'

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Here's an utterly glorious piece of third generation Merseybeat from The Wild Swans.

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