Tuesday, February 04, 2014

C Is For Calamity

Top Gear extremely returned to BBC2 for its twenty first series with more than five million overnight punters on Sunday, the highest-rated launch show overnight since 2011. The return of Jezza Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond had 5.34 million viewers between 8pm and 9pm. This was enough to give BBC2 a rare ratings victory over ITV, which could only manage 4.15 million viewers for the risible, pointless All Star Family Fortunes between 7.45pm and 8.30pm, and 4.33 million for Twatting About On Ice: The Skate Off between 8.30pm and 9pm. It also put a massive scowl on the collective boat of various middle-class hippy Communist lice at the Gruniad and jack-booted bully boy thugs at the Daily Scum Mail. So, that was good. Top Gear, which accounted for half of the BBC's top twenty most popular shows on the BBC's iPlayer last year, was up on the 4.7 million who saw the show's return last summer and the 5.1 million who watched the series before that in January 2012. It was the most popular Top Gear opening episode since the start of series sixteen in 2011. BBC1's The Musketeers shed viewers for the second week running but still did more than enough to beat its ITV opposition, Mr Selfridge in the Sunday night drama battle. The third outing for Adrian Hodges' Musketeers - starring yer actual Peter Capaldi - attracted 5.28 million viewers between 9pm and 10pm, ahead of Mr Selfridge's 4.23 million. The Musketeers was down from an overnight of 6.2 million the previous week and 7.4 million for its opener, two weeks ago. Mr Selfridge was also down, from five million viewers week-on-week. The Musketeers, to be fair, had the benefit of a big lead-in from BBC1's ratings juggernaut Call The Midwife, which delivered another 8.94 million viewers between 8pm and 9pm, while the department store drama had to make do with following in the footsteps of soon-to-be-dead-as-a-dodo Twatting About On Ice (5.41m). Earlier on BBC1, Countryfile interested 6.83m at 7pm, whilst, later, a Roger Lloyd Pack tribute programme brought in 3.16m at 10.30pm. The penultimate episode of Channel Four's celebrity take on winter sports, The Jump, drew 1.57 million viewers between 9pm and 10.30pm. It followed Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's exploration of Scandinavian culture, Scandimania, which began a three-part run with 1.02 million between 8pm and 9pm. The Jump was up against BBC2's Dragons' Den, which took the ratings honours with 2.86m million viewers between 9pm and 10pm.

Those well-known fans of Top Gear, the middle-class hippy Communist lice at the Gruniad Morning Star rather grudgingly reported the successful return of the show on Sunday but then, seemingly, couldn't resist crowbarring in yet another - completely pointless - story about the opening episode of the new series - one which they picked up from the Metro, seemingly. Presumably to extract more angry comment from the incandescent middle-class hippy Communist end of their readership. 'Thick knits might be all the rage thanks to Scandinavian shows such as The Killing and Borgen, but Hugh Bonneville's choice of a chunky roll-neck on Sunday's Top Gear doesn't seem to have gone down so well with viewers,' they whinge. 'Metro reports that the Downton Abbey star, who was competing in the show's Star in a Reasonably Priced Car slot, faced a barrage of abuse on Twitter over his appearance.' Twitter, of course, being - in the Gruniad Morning Star's risible middle-class hippy Communist world - the sole arbiter of 'The Worth of All Things.'

Channel Five's crass and obvious Benefits Street bandwagon-jumping, with a live debate show featuring White Dee and Katie Hopkins, paid ratings dividends on Monday night, attracting nearly two million viewers. The Big Benefits Row: Live featured Benefits Street participant Dee (no, me neither), along with guests including former Apprentice contestant and professional moron Hopkins and charity founder and campaigner the Reverend Steve Chalke, who has been speaking on behalf of the residents of James Turner Street. It averaged 1.85 million viewers between 9pm and 10pm – and is Channel Five's biggest audience of the year to date apart from Celebrity Big Brother. Up nearly fifty per cent on Channel Five's three-month slot average, Big Benefits Row gave the network a rare ratings victory over Channel Four, which has been broadcasting Benefits Street in the same Monday night slot but delayed the final episode to make way for its celebrity winter sports reality fiasco, The Jump. Satisfyingly, the final of The Jump could only manage 1.56 million viewers between 9pm and 10.30pm. And a couple of broken bones. The Benefits Street debate also beat BBC2's Horizon: Swallowed By A Sink Hole, was watched by 1.9 million viewers. Which really does say something very sad about the priorities of at leas a portion of the viewing public. Benefits Street will return next Monday for its fifth and final episode, to be followed by Channel 4's own live debate, hosted by Richard Bacon. Which says it all, really. ITV's Stephen Tompkinson police drama DCI Banks returned for its third series with a healthy 5.73 million viewers. This is over two million higher than The Bletchley Circle in the same slot last week. A Great Welsh Adventure gathered 3.14m at 8pm. DCI Banks was up against the second episode of Jeremy Paxman's BBC1 documentary series Britain's Great War, which had 3.1 million viewers between 9pm and 10pm, down from 4.2 million for last week's series opener. On BBC2, University Challenge hadd 2.79m watching the very impressive Southampton team give Belfast something of a pants-down hiding at 8pm.

And now, the final and consolidated ratings figures for the Top Twenty Six programmes on British telly for week-ending Sunday 26 January:-
1 Call The Midwife - Sun BBC1 - 10.83m
2 Coronation Street - Mon ITV - 10.64m
3 The Voice - Sat BBC1 - 8.86m
4 EastEnders - Mon BBC1 - 8.61m
5 Death In Paradise - Tues BBC1 - 8.46m
6 Emmerdale - Mon ITV - 7.93m
7 Birds Of A Feather -Thurs ITV - 7.68m
8 The Musketeers - Sun BBC1 - 7.58m
9 Silent Witness - Thurs BBC1 - 7.23m
10 Countryfile - Sun BBC1 - 6.97m
11 Benidorm - Thurs ITV - 5.80m
12 Six O'Clock News - Mon BBC1 - 5.72m
13 Twatting About On Ice - Sun ITV - 5.68m*
14= Casualty - Sat BBC1 - 5.66m
14= The National Television Awards - Wed ITV - 5.66m*
16 Benefit Street - Mon Channel Four - 5.56m
17 Mrs Brown's Boys - Sat BBC1 - 5.54m
18 Mr Selfridge - Sun ITV - 5.16m*
19 Holby City - Tues BBC1 - 5.13m
20 The National Lottery: Who Dares Wins - Sat ITV - 5.11m
21 BBC News - Sun BBC1 - 4.97m
22 The ONE Show - Mon BBC1 - 4.95m
23 Ten O'Clock News - Thurs BBC1 - 4.66m
24 Pointless - Fri BBC1 - 4.31m
25 The Bletchley Circle - Mon ITV - 4.30m*
26 The Graham Norton Show - Fri BBC1 - 4.29m
ITV programmes marked '*' do not include HD figures. BBC2's top-rated show of the week was University Challenge (3.34m), followed by Winterwatch (2.93m), Dragons' Den (2.79m), Restoration Home: One Year On (2.38), Mastermind (2.27,) and Qi (2.16m). Channel Four's highest-rated show, apart from Benefit Street was Location, Location, Location with 2.79m. The finale of Celebrity Big Brother was Channel Five's best performer with 3.23m. Oh, and let us all simply stand up and applaud the British public for giving Pro-Celebrity Drowning a thoroughly laughable consolidated audience (minus HD) of but 3.5 million punters. Boy, did that fiasco ever get very old very quick. BBC4's two episodes of The Bridge were watched by 1.53m and 1.41m respectively.

It was such a boring game that an estimated two hundred million Americans didn't bother to watch it. The entire rest of the country did, however, making Super Bowl XLVIII the most-watched television broadcast in history, with 111.5m total viewers, according to FOX Sports. Las Vegas thought it would be a riveting game, with bookmakers putting the Denver Broncos ahead of the Seattle Seahawks. Instead, the Seahawks won the game at a canter, forty three points to eight. The Super Bowl routinely sets new records for attracting the largest television audience. The top five most-watched broadcasts in history are the past five Super Bowls. The previous record holder was the 2011 contest, in which the New York Giants bested the New England Patriots twenty one to seventeen. As many as one hundred and eleven million three hundred and forty six thousand punters watched the game, according to Entertainment Weekly. The top-rated programme in the US not to be a Super Bowl was the 1983 series finale of M*A*S*H.
The BBC has clarified itself over the make of boots being worn by Peter Capaldi in the next series of Doctor Who. Peter's costume was revealed last Monday, with the BBC stating that the footwear was Doctor Marten boots. However, it was subsequently realised that the corporation had erred and that they were, in fact, boots made by Loake - a Kettering-based footwear firm with a warrant of appointment to the Queen. Although, it's not known whether she had a pair like Peter's. It also transpired that Capaldi had actually bought the boots himself. In a report in the Daily Torygraph, Nicholas Roumana, the owner of the British Boot Company in Camden Town, said of the Loakes: 'Peter Capaldi came in a week or two before Christmas and said he was looking for a pair of smart dress boots. I suggested this one, because not only is it very smart, it's exclusive to us and made in England. It's a great boot. He bought it in size ten.' Same as yer actual Keith Telly Topping, as it happens. That's strangely comforting. According to reports, a second pair was bought last Tuesday to be used by Peter's stunt double.

Amanda Abbington has confirmed that she will reappear on Sherlock. However, the actress told Vulture that she is unsure 'in what capacity' her character will return. 'I am coming back,' she said. 'We don't know storylines yet. Well, we do know some things but aren't allowed to say. What we do know is amazing.' The third series of Sherlock ended with John (Martin Freeman) having forgiven his pregnant wife, Mary, for lying about her identity and various past doings. Abbington hinted that the pair would 'probably be reckless' parents. 'They're both quite psychopathic,' she said. 'But I think an assassin and an army doctor who loves trouble, that kid has got nothing to worry about. [It'll be] screwed up mentally, of course, but if there's any bullying on the playground, we're covered.' The BBC is yet to, officially, confirm Sherlock's return, though a fourth and fifth series of the hit drama are already in the planning stages.

Yer actual Stephen Fry, the very excellent Peter Mullan and horrible Jane Horrocks are to loan their voices to the characters in a new animated children's TV show. Yer actual Fry will voice an aristocratic deer called Lord Stag in Driftwood Bay. The show, which will be broadcast on Nick Jr in the UK in May, is about a young girl who creates an imaginary world from the treasures which she finds on a beach. Horrible Horrocks will play 'Wee Rabbit' while Mullan, best known for his roles in hard-hitting dramas, will be 'Salty Dog the sailor.' Broadcaster, actor, presenter and national treasure Fry is known as the host of BBC panel show Qi and for his former comedy partnership with Huge Laurie his very self. Mullan's credits include starring in TV drama Top Of The Lake and the film Tyrannosaur. Mullan said: 'I've never done any voice work on animation so I thought this was a nice chance to do something that my children can actually see me in for a change.' Horrible Horrocks was the lead of stage play and film Little Voice and recently appeared alongside Mullan in the film Sunshine On Leith. Which she managed not to ruin. Just. The voice cast also includes Father Ted's Ardal O'Hanlon, Tameka Empson, who plays Kim Fox in EastEnders and Annette Crosbie.

'Off-piste' might not be the most apt phrase to use when it comes to describing some contestants after the final of Channel Four's latest risible reality series The Jump. As singer, chart flop and reality TV regular Joe McElderry triumphed, Olympic rower Sir Steve Redgrave and comedian Marcus Brigstoke joined the growing ranks of the walking wounded after another couple of tumbles down the side of a mountain. The Sun reports that Sir Steve 'attempted to swerve' a difficult jump during practice and 'came a cropper', adding to his list of injuries as he'd already broken his hand earlier in the series. The five-time gold-medalist and Brigstoke are in the company of Melinda Messenger, 'socialite' Henry Conway (no, me neither) and the star of Flash Gordon, Sam Jones – who didn't even make it through the pre-competition practices. Should C4 have trouble signing up any desperate z-listers for a next series - assuming there's going to be one, which given the hospital bills they've run up so far, might be economically untenable - there's always the possibility of a spin-off, Twenty Four Hours In Celebrity A&E?
Last week, according the the Gruniad Morning Star, 'Benedict Cumberbatch was snubbed at a BBC awards ceremony. As were Bernard Cribbins, Natalie Dormer, Romola Garai, David Harewood, James McAvoy, Bill Nighy and Sophie Okonedo. And Neil Gaiman and Tom Stoppard.' This wasn't a case of these writing legends and international acting stars being narrowly pipped for prizes, the odious middle-class hippy Communist rag hastens to add. 'Bafflingly, none of them were even nominated for one of the BBC Audio Drama awards, although they wrote or were in last year's highest-profile radio dramas.' Yer man Benny was one of the cast drawn to Gaiman's Neverwhere (initially broadcast on Radio 4 Extra), whilst Nighy starred in Stoppard's Darkside on Radio 2, a comedy woven into a playing of Pink Floyd's The Dark Of The Moon to mark the LP's fortieth anniversary. Both were heavily promoted and trailed as among 2013's radio highlights. 'Yet at the event celebrating the past year's work, with Tony Hall presiding, best drama, script, acting and sound trophies were eerily awarded without either landmark production figuring (it wasn't the independent judges who rejected them, but shadowy in-house "first-round sifters")' sneered some risible louse of no importance. 'It could be this was tacit positive discrimination in favour of unsung writers, actors and producers; but the crudity of the mass snub made it look suspiciously like radio bosses punishing their drama departments for throwing resources at star-stuffed vanity projects that didn't deliver.' Not that, once again, anybody that actually matters gives a blithering stuff about anything the Gruniad Morning Star has to say. About anything.

The Gruniad goes on to note that: 'As guests arrived at Broadcasting House for the Audio Drama awards bash, Hugh Bonneville (in Dayglo yellow anorak, with foldy bike) was shooting a scene for W1A, the BBC-spoofing sequel to Twenty Twelve.' Yer actual Bonneville plays the corporation's 'head of values', and – helpfully for the sitcom's writer, John Morton – the character's closest real-life counterpart has just raised his profile. 'On Friday, David Jordan, director of editorial policy and standards, announced a comically promising course for staff (individual sinners "nominated by managers" or entire delinquent teams "who feel they might need to refresh their knowledge") in, yes, the BBC's "editorial values."' It's as if Morton's script is being written for him, sneers the Gruniad in their latest piece of crass and angular BBC-bashing which is worthy of the jackbooted bully boy thugs at the Daily Scum Mail. 'Look out for a version of the Fawlty Towers "don't mention the war" episode, where staff attend jargon-infested remedial seminars and pay a forfeit if they say "Savile" or "Entwistle"' they crow. Sneering twats.

EastEnders has been extremely cleared by the broadcasting watchdog over whinging complaints about a Muslim character berating her father for dating 'a white woman.' Ofcom decided to take no action after receiving eighty seven complaints - seemingly from people with nothing better or more important to do with their time - about the episode shown on 14 January. It marked the return of the character of Shabnam Masood from Pakistan as a more devout Muslim and with strident views. The BBC said that her father, Masood, was shown 'expressing his discontent' with her opinions in a subsequent episode. The broadcaster also received a number of complaints about alleged 'racial discrimination' after the programme aired. The BBC responded to the objections, saying: 'EastEnders has a rich history of tackling social issues. The show does not advocate racism or intolerance in any way, in fact it seeks to challenge these negative views.' Shabnam objected to her father dating Carol Jackson, leading her to make the remark in front of Carol. The ensuing friction led Masood and Carol to call an end to their relationship. The character of Shabnam was last seen in Albert Square in 2008, played by a different actress, Zahra Ahmadi, who starred as the character from her entrance to the soap in 2007. She is now played by Rakhee Thakrar. Ofcom also ruled against investigating complaints about The British Comedy Awards, which were broadcast in December. The watchdog received forty nine whinges in relation to 'offensive language' during the televised show.
Former BBC Director General, risible slapheed Mark Thompson, has said 'sorry' for the one hundred million smackers failure of the BBC's Digital Media Initiative fiasco and for all the licence fee payers money that was utterly wasted on the damn thing. Which, some might regard as being too little too late. Not that it;s Thompson's problem these days, he, dear blog readers may recall, pissed off - with a massive pay out - just before the Savile fiasco broke, for pastures new in the American media. Giving evidence to a committee of MPs, he claimed that DMI 'failed as a project, in a way that meant the loss of a lot of public money. I want to apologise to you and the public,' he said. He added that there had been 'other larger, successful' technological innovations at the BBC. The Public Affairs Committee is examining why the efforts to move the BBC away from using video tape failed, and failed so spectacularly. The gross estimate of the amount of coin spent on DMI was just shy of one hundred and twenty six million notes, although the net cost to the licence fee payer was estimated to be £98.4m. A National Audit Office report said the BBC had hoped to save ninety eight million quid in the long run through the new system - but in the event, the final estimate of the benefits it brought to the BBC was zero. Nilch. Nada. Not a sausage. Bugger all. Thompson, who was the DG between 2004 and 2012, also told committee chair Margaret Hodge that he had 'not misled' MPs over the failure of the DMI issue in earlier evidence. He told MPs: 'In my time, I thought great efforts were made by BBC Vision and BBC North to get DMI to work. I know there were tensions but I don't think in themselves they were the reason for the failure of the project.' Thompson also claimed that he 'believed' what he was being informed about DMI at the time, adding that his previous evidence on the matter, given in 2011, was 'a faithful and accurate account.' He said that he had understood DMI technology was being used on programmes including The ONE Show, which had led him to the 'belief' - utterly incorrect, as it turned out - that it was 'working well.' Anthony Fry, a former BBC Trustee, also said there was 'no question that mistakes were made by the Trust' over the issue. No shit, Sherlock? 'The total project, right the way through the BBC, was an embarrassment,' he later added. Zarin Patel, the corporation's former chief financial officer, also said sorry for the failure of DMI. Dominic Coles, the BBC's director of operations, admitted that the project was 'appalling value for money' but was 'essential' as a replacement for a system more than forty years old. He said: 'This was shocking waste of money - we are absolutely learning our lesson, we deliver huge projects really well.' He also offered an apology to the committee and said that the corporation had 'learned its lessons' and they would 'completely change' the way that any successor to DMI would be managed. 'We're chopping it into definable separate projects and looking to deliver those more cheaply and with more certainty,' said Coles. Questioned about the DMI's failure, John Linwood, who was extremely sacked from his job as its chief technician last July, claimed that there was 'a lack of engagement' in DMI. Linwood also said that the BBC missed 'a first major milestone' in the project's development, when code previously developed by Siemens could not be used. 'We had to change our plan', he added, reiterating that he 'did not develop the business case for DMI' and was merely the project's technologist. 'I believed in it at the time,' Linwood told MPs, in reference to the business model for DMI. 'They've tried to pin [its failure] on technology,' he added. When asked whether the current Director General, Lord Hall, had written off far more of the project than he should have done, Linwood answered 'yes.' At the conclusion of the hearing, committee chair Hodge said the project had been 'mired' in 'a jungle of bureaucracy' and 'the BBC deserves better.' A report from the National Audit Office last week blamed the project's failure on 'confusion', a lack of planning and 'insufficient scrutiny.' In a statement published on the Public Affairs Committee's website, Hodge, wrote: 'This report reads like a catalogue of how not to run a major programme. The BBC needs to learn from the mistakes it made and ensure that it never again spends such a huge amount of licence fee payers' money with almost nothing to show for it.' The BBC responded to the report by saying it has now adopted 'new procedures' for managing big projects. Linwood revealed in written evidence published by the Commons Public Accounts Committee on 28 January 2014 that he is taking legal action against the BBC. 'I have issued legal proceedings against the BBC and intimated contractual claims, and am still involved in an internal process with the BBC,' he wrote. Linwood - who was paid a salary of two hundred and eighty grand - was sacked weeks after being suspended over the multi-million-pound failure last May.
Earlier in proceedings, former BBC chief operating officer Caroline Thomson was questioned over her enormous pay-off, which amounted to six hundred grand with a pension pot worth two million knicker. 'I was made redundant, I didn't want to be made redundant. I wanted to stay and work,' she claimed. 'I didn't set my pay, I never once asked for a pay rise, I did a very big responsible job, I could have earned a lot more at ITV or commercial sector,' she said when asked if licence fee payers might 'question' her settlement. Thomson, who continues to work in the public sector for the English National Ballet, added: 'Thanks to the payment of the BBC, I don't have to earn as much money.' Oh, so that's all right, then.

Adam Boulton, the Sky News political editor, who is stepping down after a quarter of a century to present a new evening show on the twenty four-hour news channel says that the Westminster gig is not what it was. Boulton also takes David Cameron and the coalition government to task for what he perceives to be its 'obsessive' news management. It's enough to have Boulton - a vocal critic of Alastair Campbell - pining for the days of New Labour. 'For me, covering this present generation of politicians is not as fun as it was in the Blair or Thatcher era, Boulton notes. 'I do feel there is more news management and less access to politicians and primary sources than there used to be. We do our best to get round that, but it is frustrating.' He contrasts Margaret Thatcher – 'who would tell you exactly what she thought' – with today's 'cautious pre-prepared approach to politics, and I have to say with this Prime Minister we don't even get monthly news conferences. He prefers to do interviews away from specialist or senior correspondents, to do them on breakfast sofas or out in the field.' Boulton blames a 'lot of mini-Alastair Campbells who think it's their job to dictate, to try to limit the exposure of their particular protege.' Things came to a head when he was about to board a train to Leeds to interview George Osborne only to be told it was for economics correspondents only. 'This resulted in a row which still simmers to this day. I just think that's pathetic,' says Boulton. 'I've interviewed Cameron a few times recently. But you always have this sense of someone standing there saying you only have three minutes or five questions. It's disputed, it should be said, by No 10, but I think it's a fact of life.' British TV's longest serving political editor, having taken up the role at the launch of Sky News in 1989 after a stint at TV-am, Boulton will try a different route to power with his weeknight news and interview show, due to launch later this year. Famous for working twenty-hour days during elections, Boulton, who turns fifty five this month, says that the time 'felt right' to move to a full-time presenting role after twenty five years, which is 'quite a big milestone, for me and Sky.' After years going head-to-head with other twenty four-hour news channels, Boulton's main competition in his new role will be Channel Four News and BBC2's Newsnight. His audience is likely to be a fraction of them both, but confidence is not in short supply. 'While I admire many of the people who work on those programmes, I would say they are somewhat pursuing their own tails at the moment and that there may be room for a straight news programme in the middle of the evening,' he says. 'One's noticed a lot of interchange in personnel on those two programmes, they seem to be having their own little debate in the corner and I'm not sure it's in the mainstream of where the news is.' He adds: 'I love Jon Snow, he has been a mentor of mine, but you do sometimes wonder how many presenters they can cram into [Channel Four News] studio. I saw Jon at a summit, he was reporting on his own. I said, "it's nice to see you without The Muppets." It's not that the individuals are Muppets, it's that idea of the big figure surrounded by a whole load of other figures all fighting over the autocue. I think it's Jon's show.' The walls of Boulton's Millbank office are covered with snapshots from his career – an Evening Standard front page after Gordon Brown walked out of a Boulton interview in 2009, a photo with Barack Obama, and a still of his furious encounter with Campbell on-air after the 2010 general election result. 'Hard things were said,' remembers Boulton. 'I still see him around. My view is, I was mistaken to lose my temper but I was right in what I was saying, which was the maths for Labour putting a coalition together were not there, and I have been proved right.' According to Campbell's diaries, Boulton was once considered in Downing Street as the former No 10 director of communications' successor. 'It wasn't about being his successor,' says Boulton, who married Tony Blair's former gatekeeper, Anji Hunter, in 2006. 'I had already engaged quite publicly and critically with the spin operation and said I would consider a fixed-term contract on a civil service basis to try and re-engineer government communications with the political lobby. But they weren't interested. That was that.' Over his entire Sky News career, Boulton says he has met billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch - of whom, no one is scared any more - 'less than six times.' He 'resents to this day' accusations that Sky News could not be trusted to report the phone-hacking story because of its links to billionaire tyrant Murdoch's News Corporation, a thirty nine per cent shareholder in Sky News parent, BSkyB. 'It was just decided automatically that we were going to report that just as hard as we would any other story. I think we did that.' Described as 'a political nutter' by Andrew Marr, Boulton has resisted job offers from both the BBC and ITV. Part of the reason he stayed at Sky, he argues, is because he has 'less pressure from above' than either his BBC or ITV counterparts. 'I'm not disparaging their work, but you only have to look at the structure of the BBC and the number of layers of people deciding political policy above Nick Robinson to work out that obviously there is much more of a commitment to a line to take.' Boulton has previously dubbed the BBC 'a monster' and accuses it of 'a public sector mentality' that makes it 'suspicious of profit, suspicious of commerce.' He believes the BBC should be regulated by Ofcom, in the same way as commercial broadcasters, and prefers subscription or funding via income tax rather than the licence fee, which he describes as 'poor people subsidising the middle classes.' As well as his new show, Boulton's new brief will see him installed as Sky's 'editor at large', overseeing key political events such as next year's party leader debates. Assuming they happen, that is. 'We have an odd situation where all three leaders say they are in favour but the Conservatives are saying we don't want to talk about the details yet,' notes Boulton, who was accused of 'heckling' Nick Clegg during the Sky News debate in 2010. He was later cleared of breaching the broadcasting code by Ofcom. 'The sooner we can get an agreement in principle, the sooner the broadcasters can sit down and say, "would you be prepared to do it a bit differently?"' But, Boulton thinks this should not extend to opening up the main leaders' debates to either UKiP leader Nigel Farage or SNP leader Alex Salmond. 'The success of the debates last time round should be the basis for trust with the politicians,' he adds. 'We are not just going to try to screw them over for the sake of it.'

Meanwhile, Boulton's dismissal of Channel Four News presenters as 'Muppets fighting over the autocue' has prompted a fierce response from Ben De Pear, the Channel Four News editor. Albeit, not a very well spelled one. De Pear - no, honestly, that's the bloke's name - tweeted the Sky News political editor: 'If Jon's co-hosts r [sic] Muppets, (they're not) u [sic] lot r [sic] Fraggle Rock. Don't remember them? Exactly.' Oooo. Get her. Sky News anchor Dermot Murnaghan, who had been staying out of the fracas, was included in another barbed tweet from De Pear to Boulton: 'U [sic] have the advantage, being on Sky, of no one recognising you. Hassle free.' Channel Four News anchor Krishnan Guru-Murthy - presumably, one of the alleged 'Muppets' that Boulton, allegedly, so dislikes - intervened to play peacemaker at this point. 'Ben wasn't referring to Dermot who is obviously huge star and ex-Channel Four News,' he tweeted. Guru-Murthy later challenged Boulton to donate five hundred quid to Duchenne Dash, a twenty four hour bike ride from London to Paris attempted by various media figures to raise funds to combat Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, as penance for his 'unprovoked rudeness.'
Next month billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch will be inducted into the US television academy hall of fame. He is one of six people selected by the academy for the latest inductions on the basis that their 'careers have made a significant impact on the medium.' The other five, who will be given the honour along with billionaire tyrant Murdoch at an event in a Los Angeles hotel on 11 March, are talk-show host Jay Leno, actor Julia Louis-Dreyfus, writer-producer David E Kelley, ABC executive Brandon Stoddard and the late sound pioneer Ray Dolby (who will, of course, be inducted posthumously). These six, according to academy chairman Bruce Rosemblum, 'have all made a profound impact on the landscape of television, leaving their own mark within our industry and with audiences around the world. Their ground-breaking contributions will last for generations, making them true icons who could not be more deserving of the television academy's highest honour.' Billionaire tyrant Murdoch - whom no one is scared of any more - created FOX TV, a nationwide network which dared to challenge the big three: CBS, NBC and ABC. And FOX gave us The Simpsons. That alone would surely be worthy of a major award from someone. But, Murdoch also created, in 1996, FOX News, the controversial scummy right-wing cable and satellite news channel with the wholly inaccurate slogan: 'Fair and balanced.' Charles Laurence, writing for The Week, clearly thinks FOX News should disqualify billionaire tyrant Murdoch from being honoured. By anyone.

Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads reportedly had 'a lucky escape' at Britain's Got Toilets auditions in Birmingham this weekend when a knife-throwing act almost struck the judge. Tragically, it didn't. The fifty four-year-old was 'so impressed' with the eleven-year-old boy's Western-inspired performance that he asked to take the place of his 'glamorous assistant', but soon ducked off the stage when a botched throw saw a blade come a little too close for comfort. As Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads scuttled back to his seat, fellow judge horrible Amanda Holden excitedly told the boy: 'You nearly killed Simon.' Nearly. But not quite.

Survivors of the Hillsborough disaster have claimed that they were 'intimidated' and 'threatened' by police from the independent force asked to investigate the football disaster. Newsnight has heard that witness criticisms of police who had been at the scene were not properly recorded. This is the first time that fans have come forward to question how West Midlands police took their statements. The force declined to comment 'pending ongoing inquiries' and the forthcoming inquests into the deaths of ninety six fans. The Liverpool fans died when a crush developed on an overcrowded terrace at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough ground, during an FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest in April 1989. The Hillsborough Independent Panel reported eighteen months ago that one hundred and sixty four accounts from South Yorkshire police - the local force - had been changed, apparently in an effort to shift the blame for the disaster from the police onto the fans themselves. Nick Braley, who was a teenage student at the time, said that when he told West Midlands officers three weeks later that South Yorkshire police failings had caused the disaster, he was told he 'could face prosecution.' He says that he was 'scared and intimidated' by a West Midlands officer. 'I'm a nineteen-year-old boy, three weeks out of Hillsborough, traumatised, and he's threatening me that he's going to put together a case for wasting police time because he didn't like my evidence,' he says. Newsnight has found that his experience is typical of those cited by a number of Hillsborough survivors. Some of the West Midlands officers seemed to regard them not as vulnerable and invaluable witnesses keen to make truthful statements, but more like suspects. 'John' - not his real name - was seventeen when he went to the match. He struggled to survive in pen three, behind the goal on the Leppings Lane terrace. At one point he lost consciousness and came-to among the dead and dying. 'I remember standing next to a guy with dark, greasy hair, obviously from the sweat. We were totally pushed against each other in such a way that it's impossible to describe,' he says. 'It was just me and him fighting for our lives. And I don't know if he was one of the ninety six [who died], but I know that I had to stand on him to get out.' Once on the pitch, John helped carry bodies to the gymnasium before collapsing. 'I was broken,' he says. He then tells how when two West Midlands officers arrived to take his statement at his home in Huyton, they sent his parents out of the room. John told them of police mismanagement at Hillsborough and how he planned to join the police to help prevent anything like it from recurring. According to John, the officers refused to let him read his own statement, saying, 'I've written what you told me. All you need to do is sign this now.' He says that he felt physically intimidated and powerless as the pair stood around him. He signed the document. Nick Braley went to the semi-final as a neutral, excited to have been given a ticket by a friend. He says that the officer taking his statement was not impressed. 'I'd been wearing a Free Mandela T-shirt,' he says. This prompted aggressive questions. 'Was I a student agitator? Was I a member of the Socialist Workers Party? I'm just a fan at a game of football. He then turned on me and said I was a criminal with a grudge against the police.' At one point, he claims, the police suggested he had not even been at the game. When he produced his ticket, he was told that he could have 'found it.' Professor Phil Scraton, of Queens University, Belfast, who was the main author of the Hillsborough Independent Panel's report, which led to the scrapping of the 1990 inquest verdicts and the setting up of two fresh investigations, believes many witnesses were subjected to what were effectively interrogations. He sees 'a clear parallel' between the way South Yorkshire police questioned the bereaved on the night of the disaster - asking whether they or those they had lost had been drinking and checking for criminal records - and the subsequent statement-taking of the West Midlands force. He says that both forces shared 'the same mindset' and this has deepened the trauma for survivors. For John, what he calls 'survivor guilt' reached a peak fifteen years after Hillsborough. By that time he was a detective in the Metropolitan Police's murder squad, frequently blotting out his feelings about Hillsborough with drink. By 2004, overwhelmed, he attempted suicide by driving his car into a tree. He resigned from the force after a disciplinary hearing. Following the independent panel report, he finally got to see the statement that he was refused sight of twenty five years ago. He says there were no surprises: 'It's as I thought. It's not my account.' He says it even places him in the wrong part of the ground. Nick Braley also feels that his statement does not reflect the truth. He has also now got access to internal West Midlands police memos and notes referring to his case. And there, handwritten, are the lines 'came across as totally anti-police. At first doubted had been at the match.' And then there's his Nelson Mandela T-shirt. 'Was wearing "a left wing"-type T-shirt, actual motif not known.'
One of yer actual Chuckle Brothers says that claims Dave Lee Travis indecently assaulted a woman at the pantomime they appeared in were 'a complete surprise.' Paul and Barry Elliott starred with the DJ - and self-confessed hairy cornflake - in Aladdin in the 1990s, Southwark Crown Court heard. Bet that was a riot of unmissable comedy hijinx and that. Paul Elliott told the court that he had 'no knowledge' of the alleged incident involving a female stage-hand or any other allegations about Travis. Asked if he could recall any incidents, Elliott replied: 'No, sorry, I don't. As I say it was a complete surprise.' Elliott, who starred with his brother in the BBC children's television series Chucklevision, said that Travis had been 'very professional' during the pantomime. He said that he had been 'unaware' of any arrangements to chaperone female staff members in the presence of Travis, who played the evil uncle Abanazar in the show. 'I think I would remember,' he said, adding that he and his brother would have been 'made aware' of 'any such policy' as they had been 'top of the bill.' Elliott said he 'did not recall' any particular incident when a female stage-hand had left Travis's dressing room. The woman, who was twenty one at the time of the alleged incident, has previously told the court her ordeal ended when one of the Chuckle Brothers walked past in a corridor. Barry Elliott, who appeared with his brother as 'Chinese policemen' in the pantomime, described Travis as 'a jolly great chap to work with. He was fine. I mean, everybody seemed to get on.' Elliott said that he, too, had 'no knowledge' of any policy about chaperoning women around Travis. Nor did he have any memory of the DJ ever 'struggling' with a young woman in his dressing room. 'I don't remember that,' he said. 'If it was something serious we probably would, but I don't remember anything like that at all.' Earlier, the court heard evidence from a female DJ who said that claims Travis groped a carnival princess at a hospital radio station's launch in the 1970s were 'fantasy.' The woman, who worked at the station in Hertfordshire, said she watched Travis 'closely' at the time of the alleged incident. She told Southwark Crown Court that Travis had been accompanied by his wife and the claims were 'utter nonsense.' Stephen Vullo, defending Travis, asked the witness about a claim that the former carnival princess and the DJ had 'become separated' from a group meeting patients on hospital wards. The witness replied: 'He was with his wife the whole time. I was watching what he was doing the whole time because he was an idol to me. It is utter nonsense or fantasy that anything like that happened.' The alleged incident is not part of the charges against Travis. Graham Rosen, who worked as a roadie for Travis from 1977 to 1981, also defended Travis, saying he had 'never seen' any wrongdoing. 'During live shows I spent most times with Dave and I never saw anything inappropriate,' he said. He described Travis as 'a practical joker.' Former BBC radio producer David Tate rejected suggestions that Travis was 'a sexual predator.' 'Absolutely not,' he said under questioning by Vullo. 'I don't recognise this description at all.' Tate, who worked with Travis on his Radio 1 afternoon show in the early 1980s, claimed that he had heard 'no complaints' about the defendant 'or anyone else' at the BBC during his thirty years with the organisation. The one-time senior producer at Radio 1 and executive producer on the World Service described Travis as 'a warm, open, friendly' individual. He said that the veteran DJ, whom he first met in the late 1960s, would hug him when he visited the World Service. 'That may be inappropriate nowadays but I took that to mean he respected me,' Tate said. He said that he 'strongly believed' any complaints of sexual assault at the BBC in the 1970s and 1980s would have been taken seriously. The trial continues.

Benefits Street, the controversial Channel Four programme filmed in Birmingham, has been attacked by former MP Clare Short as an excuse for 'viewers to judge and sneer.' Which is a bit rich coming from a politician, frankly, since they never seem to do anything else but judge and sneer. Seemingly, they don't want the general public infringing on their copyright.

Wavey Davey Cameron has called for 'a rethink' on pub opening hours during the World Cup after the Home Office appeared to rule out extending them for England matches. Publicans had asked for serving times to be extended on two weekends during the tournament in Brazil this summer. The Home Office rejected the bid, saying the World Cup was 'not a "one-off" event' like the Queen's Jubilee. But alleged Downing Street 'sources' have allegedly said that pubs would be allowed to stay open during England's late-night game against Italy. Which is a bit of a slap in the mush for the Home Office, if it's true. After initially refusing to consider extending pub hours for this game and the final, the Home Office has 'launched a consultation' on the issue. And, the consultation appears to be the Prime Minister thinking "hang on, there might be some votes in this" and, as a consequence, telling the Home Office to do exactly what he tells them to. And they, as a compromise, have decided to do exactly what he says. A Downing Street spokesman said that the Prime Minister had 'intervened' because the World Cup was 'a major sporting event' in which there was 'significant national interest.' And, because Wavey-Davey just loves wrapping himself in the Union Jack like a little Englander and trying to convince everyone that he's, you know, down wid the blokes in the pub in his love of football and Britpop and telly and that. Instead of, you know, acting like a bloody Prime Minister. 'It is right that we consult,' the alleged spokesman allegedly said. 'Subject to consultation our opinion would be that pubs would be able to be open on relevant games.' The pub industry had put in an application on behalf of all pubs to allow them to stay open from 23:00 to 01:00 on the opening weekend of the tournament. It also asked for an extra two hours on the closing weekend - 11 and 12 July - when the final will be played, saying the move could benefit the economy by up to twenty million quid. The British Beer and Pubs Association welcomed what it said was 'a change of heart' from the government. 'This would make for the most fantastic news for thousands of publicans and millions of football fans,' said the organisation's chief executive Brigid Simmonds. 'This common sense decision would remove a great deal of bureaucracy for pubs and local councils.' The Home Office said it would 'consider' the responses to the consultation 'thoroughly and carefully before deciding how to proceed.' And then doing what the Prime Minister tells them to. It added: 'Given the time difference between the UK and Brazil and the fact some matches kick off at 11pm, the consultation will cover late-night matches occurring on the opening weekend, the closing weekend of the World Cup 2014 and for England's 11pm matches.'

And now, some properly fantastic news. Risible, ludicrous waste-of-space Joe Kinnear has resigned as yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Newcastle's director of eff-all after less than eight months in the role. The sixty seven-year-old, who was placed above manager Alan Pardew in the club's management structure, claimed to be overseeing player recruitment. However, in two full transfer windows the Magpies failed to sign anyone on a permanent deal during his second spell on Tyneside. Having bigged himself up like a good'un during an interview with TalkSport radio on the eve of the announcement of his return to the club - 'I can open the door to any football manager in the world, anyone. That's the difference. I spend my whole life, picking up the phone, talking to Alex Ferguson, week in, week out, what would you do, what would you do? Pick the phone up at any time of day and speak to Arsène Wenger. I can pick the phone up and speak to any manager in the league, any manager in all divisions' - the sum total of the club's signings during Kinnear's time in post was two loan signings. It would appear that his claims of being to 'open doors' were about as accurate as many of the other things he claimed to have done in the notorious radio interview but, actually, hadn't. After genuinely upsetting Saturday's loss to The Mackem Filth, Pardew had made it clear that he was unhappy at the club's lack of transfer activity both during the summer and in the recent January window. 'If I was in charge, solely, of transfers, things might be different but I'm not,' he said. 'I think I've made my opinions very clear this week and all the rest of it is confidential.' After selling midfielder Yohan Cabaye to Paris St-Germain for nineteen million quid on 29 January, Newcastle did not recruit a replacement in the remaining two days of the transfer window. The arrival of strikers Luuk de Jong and Loic Remy, on loan from Borussia Monchengladbach and Queens Park Strangers respectively, were the only additions to the first-team squad while Kinnear was director of eff-all. Kinnear's departure, after signing a three-year deal in June 2013, brings to an end his second stint with the Magpies. He previously managed the club between September 2008 and February 2009 before being taken ill with heart problems. The former Republic of Ireland international's return was met with opposition from a large section of Newcastle fans, with managing director Derek Llambias resigning a day after. Kinnear, who reported to billionaire owner Mike Ashley on 'all footballing matters', reacted by claiming he 'could open the door to any manager in the world' and asking to be judged on his signings. Which, seemingly, he has been. But he was undermined by the radio interview in which he claimed to have replaced someone called 'Derek Lambesi' (sic) as the club's director of football, signed Dean Holdsworth at Wimbledon for fifty thousand quid (actually six hundred and fifty thousand), sold Robbie Earle (who, actually, retired a year after Kinnear had left), signed goalkeeper Tim Krul when he was previously manager of Newcastle (actually signed by Graeme Souness three years prior to Kinnear's appointment) and has been awarded the LMA Manager of the Year award three times despite only winning the award once. He also claimed that he'd never been sacked in his life (when he had, by Luton). Kinnear claimed to have signed John Hartson on a free when he, in fact, he paid seven and a half million smackers for the striker. He also mispronounced the names of Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa, Shola Ameobi and others. If you missed it, dear blog reader, trust this blogger, it was a car crash. Yer actual Alan Shearer, who scored a record two hundred and six goals for Newcastle before managing them for eight games in 2009, said that he was 'never convinced' by Kinnear's role. 'It was a strange appointment in the first place,' he told BBC's Match of the Day 2. 'When you sell your best player three days before the transfer deadline you have to have a plan. Maybe him resigning is a way of saying he didn't do his job, but I'm not sure what his job was anyway.' You were not alone, Al.
The odious Sydney Daily Torygraph been forced to change its online coverage of the sad death of the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman following protests on Twitter. After readers condemned the headline, Kids grieve for junkie actor dad, as sickly disrespectful, the paper changed it to Revealed: Seymour Hoffman's last hours.
For today's Keith Telly Topping's A to Z of Groovy Tunes, we reach C. C is for Chemical Brothers.

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