Thursday, September 17, 2009

It's All Happening

Third blog update in less than twelve hours - bloomin' outrageous so it is.

Dazzling Dezza Brown will try to help a member of the public win a six-figure sum from a single roulette wheel spin in a new stunt, it has been announced. The illusionist is planning to visit a casino and gamble five thousand pounds of an unsuspecting fan's savings in a bid to secure a one hundred and seventy five thousand pounds return, Channel 4 has said. Viewers will watch the events unfold in an episode called How To Beat A Casino on October 2. A show spokesman told the Mirror: 'Derren will gamble five thousand pounds of someone's savings on the roulette wheel. They won't even know it's their cash until the night of the show when Derren calls them.' Earlier this month, Brown sparked a mystery by appearing to predict the National Lottery numbers as part of his new series The Events. An insider told the Daily Star: 'If you thought predicting the lottery numbers was impressive, wait until you see this. It's the last show in the series and Derren will definitely go out with a bang.' Meanwhile, tomorrow night's event will see Brown attempting to immobilise his viewers.

ITV insiders are bracing themselves for Tony Ball to rip up the rule book if he is appointed as chief executive of the commercial broadcaster according to various media sources. Ball is understood to have been unofficially offered the job, but ITV had not announced him as chief executive. The apparent delay has led to the intriguing possibility that the board is divided on the appointment and may yet change its mind. But industry figures remain confident the board will hand Ball the job within days to avoid clashing with investors, and give him the freedom to revolutionise ITV's business model. One of his first planned moves is understood to be installing Martin Stewart, EMI's former chief financial officer and Ball's right-hand man from his BSkyB days, as chief operating officer. The appointment is thought to be a key condition attached to Ball's acceptance of the post and will immediately stamp his authority at the broadcaster. Stewart, who is chairman of the London 2012 Olympics audit committee, has also worked at Spanish telecoms company Cableuropa. Ball is also expected to consider the kind of massive structural changes that Michael Grade chose to resist, shifting ITV away from its traditional free-to-air, PSB history. He is thought to be keen to sell off ITV Studios and put some of the broadcasters' digital channels or, at least, some of their content behind a pay barrier. One ITV Studios executive said: 'It's seen as almost inevitable. Most people are petrified of Ball arriving because of his reputation, but others want him to come in as soon as possible so we're not waiting to find out what's happening to us any more.' Another source added: 'Selling us off is like selling the family silver, but the pension deficit is at the point where only something that drastic would boost the share price'? A source close to ITV told Broadcast: 'Tony Ball will come in and change the game, no doubt about it. He's respected and not afraid of upsetting people. He will look to clear out the dead wood from every division.' Ball will inherit a broadcaster that enjoyed mixed fortunes this week on regulation change. The Competition Commission signalled that the Contract Rights Renewal scheme will be altered so an ITV1+1 channel and a HD channel can be included in its advertising reach figures. While ITV was hoping the scheme would be dropped completely, Enders Analysis estimates the relaxation would deliver a five per cent net increase to the total audience watching ITV, which could in turn add an annual net benefit of between twenty and thirty million pounds. An ITV spokeswoman told Broadcast that ITV still felt there was 'everything to play for' and would be submitting its suggestions for increased relaxation measures to the committee.

Channel 4 is poised to fast-track its hunt for a new chief executive to resolve the uncertainties that have dogged it for the last two years over its future funding, size and scope. As recently as June, Andy Duncan said he was 'absolutely determined to finish the journey,' and this week said he intended to 'see through important further steps towards securing the best possible future for this organisation, including the update of our remit and the completion of a number of exciting commercial partnerships currently under discussion.' However, his successor could still join a company facing a one hundred and fifty million pound funding gap in 2012, with no future funding model in place and the possibility of Channel 4 having to go it alone and cut its cloth accordingly. Duncan's favoured option, a deal with BBC Worldwide, appeared to have slipped from his grasp. It was once talked up as a joint venture worth two hundred million pounds per year in profit, but the corporation has become more concerned with fi ghting its own battles with the Murdoch empire and the Conservatives. 'Andy and Luke [Johnson, outgoing C4 chairman] have done their damnedest but they've failed,' a senior industry executive said. 'They were outmanoeuvred by the BBC.' A source familiar with the talks said it was 'too simplistic' to say a deal was dead just because Duncan was standing down, but admitted it was losing momentum. 'It feels like it's being played out in a hiatus before the election. Digital Britain contained meaningful concepts but the political will was lost when Stephen Carter walked out of office. Months ago, BBCW and C4 were saying they were days away, but no one was prepared to put their balls on the line.' Well, why would they? That's a stupid thing to do. A train might be along any moment and then who'd be laughing? Prompted by Channel 4's structural problems, Johnson is beginning the process of replacing Duncan, rather than leaving it to his own successor. The C4 board faces a choice between creative champions such as Peter Fincham or Kevin Lygo and more corporate-minded candidates such as Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards and former communications minister Stephen Carter. The BBC's Jana Bennett and STV's Rob Woodward have also been mooted as possible candidates. Fincham's combination of creative flair, understanding of independents' concerns and business acumen have put him as the front runner. However, one source warned: 'Fincham going to Channel 4 would feel like Grade going to ITV - it would be an "it's all about the shows, stupid" appointment. But C4 isn't creatively broken and the chief executive's brief will still be convergence, PSB, rights issues etc - future-proofing the business.' Opinion is divided on whether Lygo wants the job. One senior industry source claimed the Channel 4 director of television and content was 'gagging for it,' while others felt that while Lygo would publicly show willing, he would be unhappy to stray too far from the creative side of the business.

The BBC is considering creating a permanent online portal to house full-length documentaries as part of its plan to revolutionise how it uses its archive. The project is being worked up by BBC director of archive content Roly Keating, who is said to be eyeing both the Storyville and Arena strands as the branding for the 'prototype' initiative. It gives the first tangible indication of what the BBC's long-awaited archive strategy might look like, and sits alongside 'groundbreaking' plans in other parts of the corporation to exploit the BBC archive. The Storyville plans are still in the very early stages of discussions, but could catapult it from being a respected but relatively niche brand of international documentaries to being the frontispiece for a wide range of the BBC's serious documentary content. The corporation would not go into detail but confirmed it is discussing a number of projects along these lines. Before the Storyville portal gets the go-ahead, however, the BBC will have to wrest the rights to the programmes from their producers 'in perpetuity,' rather than for a designated window. Corporation insiders have suggested that documentary producers are more likely to allow permanent access to their work than those in other genres, who will want to monetise programmes themselves. Films of Record founder and chief executive Roger Graef said: 'It's a wonderful idea. I want people to see these films. I don't do this to make money. If I did, I'd be in the gameshow business.' Another major archive project being planned by the BBC is an online tool that will collate the Natural History Unit's archive recordings of every major animal species. The site will host a page for every creature the BBC has ever made a show about, aggregating archive clips of the animals in their natural habitat, recordings of the noises they make, and news stories about them from different shows. The website will also link to information about the species' habitats, their adaptations and their behaviours. 'Our hope is that by contextualising information in this way, people will not only discover and enjoy this content but will also gain a greater understanding of the natural world,' said a BBC spokesman.

Laws described as 'out of date' and 'draconian' came a step closer to reform yesterday, after the government launched a consultation on the future of Internet libel. UK libel law, which allows a separate legal case for each instance of defamatory content being accessed on the internet, has been repeatedly criticised by press freedom groups for its 'chilling' effect. The law, which dates back to the 1840s, means newspapers can be sued every time an article is downloaded from the web, years after its initial publication. Yesterday's consultation, which ends in December, could introduce time limits restricting legal actions from the date of initial publication, the government said. 'Existing defamation law needs to be updated so it is fit for the modern age, and it is important we listen to views on the best way to achieve this,' said Jack Straw, the secretary of state for justice. 'Freedom to hold and express opinions is a right that is vital to democracy.' The decision to consult on changing the law on Internet libel follows an announcement in March that the government would act, after The Times brought a test challenge to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Terry Wogan is reportedly in talks with Channel 4 to replace Paul O'Grady on his daily chatshow. Wogan recently announced his retirement from Radio 2's breakfast programme but is said to be interested in the 5pm TV slot, the Daily Mail reports. O'Grady is believed to be deciding his future with Channel 4 this week after threatening to leave the broadcaster over mooted budget cuts. A source said: 'Terry may have retired from his early morning radio show but he is still full of beans. He loved doing his chatshow and has always said he'd happily do it again. Everyone expects Paul O'Grady to leave.'

BBC entertainment executives are said to be 'up in arms' following the corporation's surprise decision to hand the production of BBC musical talent format The Wizard Of Oz to independent producer Talkback Thames. Last week, the BBC said that its latest search-for-a-star West End show was to be made by Talkback in association with BBC entertainment. The show, to be hosted by Graham Norton early next year, will be Andrew Lloyd Webber's fourth for the BBC after How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?, I'd Do Anything and Any Dream Will Do, all of which were made in-house. Sources said the problems arose when Webber, who is under contract at the BBC until 2011, opened talks with ITV director of entertainment and comedy Elaine Bedell about moving to the channel. 'Webber refused to work with the BBC when it wouldn't release him from his contract, even after ITV's interest had cooled,' said one source. Releasing Webber from his contract would have set a dangerous precedent for other BBC talent and the corporation felt an external producer would smooth the strained relationship. 'Giving the show to Talkback was the least bad option. It's a kick in the teeth for BBC entertainment - this would never happen to an indie,' added the source. Working with Talkback Thames will also reunite Webber with Suzy Lamb, who executive produced his previous shows for the BBC, while she was in-house. A BBC spokeswoman said The Wizard Of Oz was outsourced because BBC entertainment was busy working on other shows. A Talkback Thames spokeswoman confirmed the BBC approached the company about making the show.

BBC2 has ordered a history series from Shine Television, billed as 'Time Team for dead bodies.' Each hour-long episode of History Cold Case will focus on an exhumed corpse from a different era of British history and show what they would have looked like and the sort of life they led. It will initially launch as a four part series in May 2010 but is seen as a potential returning format. All the bodies will come from Britain and will be 'ordinary people' - although the BBC is also eyeing a celebrity spin-off, which would feature the corpses of major historical figures such as Oliver Cromwell. Sort of Whose Tibia Is This? It is understood that Shine beat the BBC's in-house production team and Lion Television for access to the forensic team at the heart of the series. Shine head of specialist factual Natalie Humphreys co-created History Cold Case with Tony Jordan's Red Planet Pictures. She said: 'The stories include a bizarre mummy, found in someone's cellar. The trail will take us all over the UK, unravelling some personal stories of our forebears from Roman times through to the early 1900s.'

BBC1 has cut the budget for sitcom My Family by fifteen per cent whilst, simultaenously recommissioning it for a tenth and eleventh series. The BBC initially ordered a ten per cent pay cut for actors Robert Lindsay and Zoë Wannamaker to be ring-fenced within the reduction, but producer DLT Entertainment negotiated a less severe cut. 'The BBC proposals put the show at risk for a while,' said Don Taffner Jr, president of DLT and executive producer of My Family. To reduce costs, the two series will be made back to back and have already gone into production.

Hat Trick Productions is moving away from its comedy roots with a dating-meets-cookery show pilot for ITV. The producer has won an order for Dinner Date, in which a participant will choose three menus from five put together by members of the opposite sex. They then go on three dates with the 'chefs,' who cook them a meal in their homes. After the three dates, all the chefs prepare for a night at a swanky restaurant, but the participant can only choose one - leaving the others with a night in alone with a takeaway. Then, presuambly, comes the group sex? ITV head of daytime Alison Sharman has ordered a thirty-minute pilot and Hat Trick head of international Sarah Tong is taking the format to Mipcom next month. It will be executive produced by Claire Collinson-Jones (Best Friend Rehab, Animal Rescue Live), who recently joined the company to lead a push into factual entertainment. Hat Trick managing director Jimmy Mulville said: 'This combines all the excitement and anxiety of a first date with the nightmares that can happen.'

Who said the BBC is ageist? A bunch of know-nothing nobodies, that's who. Oh, it was a rhetorical question. Never mind. Its radio and TV programme makers have answered the critics with a clutch of awards for positive coverage of older people. The BBC took four out of a possible five prizes - including overall winner - in the first ever Counsel and Care awards, which recognise portrayal of older people 'in a way that is sensitive, respectful, diverse and age neutral.' Outright winner was Radio 4's You And Yours: Care In The UK season, which also took the best website award. The season ran across other Radio 4 programmes including Woman's Hour and Moneybox, reporting the lack of provision for social care and the numbers not preparing for old age. BBC Radio Ulster won in the best radio category for their coverage of a Northern Ireland charity's safety for older people campaign. The station won the award for a variety of interviews and reports across Radio Ulster bulletins, Good Morning Ulster and Talkback. Best TV programme was BBC1's Imagine: Save The Last Dance For Me for a film about dance company Company of Elders, whose members range from sixty one to eighty five, as they prepared for a performance at London's Sadler's Wells. Creative director Alan Yentob, presenter of Imagine, acknowledged the irony of this particular clutch of awards after the recent barrage of - wholly manufactured - press criticism, following the replacement of Arlene Phillips on Strictly Come Dancing. 'At a time when some people have doubted the BBC's commitment to older people it's gratifying to see our content on radio, television and the web getting such an emphatic vote of confidence,' he said.

BSkyB chief operating officer Mike Darcey has predicted that free-to-air drama will become increasingly bland as it chases audiences, compared to edgier programming on pay TV. Darcey compared drama to arts coverage, where he said more programming was available on pay TV channels such as Sky Arts, compared to free-to-air broadcasters. The parallels, he said, were that a small but passionate audience was prepared for targeted content, compared to the broad brush appeal of less specialised free-to-air programming. He cited the recent Sky1 adaptation of The Take - of course he did, it's one of his own network's show - as the kind of edgy drama that would become more common on pay channels. Darcey said: 'Drama on commercial free-to-air TV will be bigger but blander. On subscription TV there will be a smaller audience but one that really cares about what they are watching.'

Ben Miller has said on Twitter he expects the second series of Armstrong & Miller to start on 16 October.

The BBC has confirmed that Victoria Wood is filming a Christmas special. Oh, Christ no. Well, that's sixty minutes this Christmas where Keith Telly Topping will be using his remote control with some vigour. Can't stand Victoria Wood. An hour-long special, titled Victoria Wood's Mid-Life Christmas, will arrive in late December, her first in nine years since Victoria Wood With All The Trimmings. The show is said to feature highlights from The Mid-Life Olympics 2009, the costume drama Lark Pies To Cranchesterford and the further adventures of Julie Walters' Bo Beaumont. 'The show is a whole night's telly crammed into one hour,' said Wood. 'Christmas is a stressful time, and by compressing an evening's viewing into sixty minutes, we hope families will have more time for other festive traditions such as arguing with relatives and defrosting turkeys under the hot tap.' BBC1 controller Jay Hunt added: 'It's a real treat for viewers to have Victoria Wood back on the BBC at Christmas. I am thrilled she will be returning with her unique mix of comedy and entertainment.'

BBC Worldwide has made fresh distribution headway into central and eastern Europe and strengthened its foothold in Scandinavia after concluding five significant output deals. The deals total more than twelve hundred hours of programming and include contracts with new channels in Germany and Kazakhstan. New German factual pay channel Spiegel Geschichte has signed a deal to take BBCW content for one year. Spiegel Geschichte launched in July this year and will broadcast the likes of The Ascent Of Money, Space Age and The Mystery Of The Black Death. BBCW has also struck its first output deal in Kazakhstan, with recently launched commercial broadcaster Channel 7. The two-year deal comprises programming from the BBC's in-house back catalogue, plus drama such as Life On Mars and Ashes To Ashes. Very big in Kazakhstan is Gene Hunt. Kazakhstani viewers will also get the chance to see Jamie Oliver's The Naked Chef. Run, Kazakhstanis. Run like the wind. In Scandinavia, two public service broadcasters have renewed BBCW output deals. Finland's YLE has refreshed its mixed package, taking the likes of Tess Of The D'Urbervilles and documentary Bruce Parry's Amazon to the territory. NRK, in Norway, has extended a three-year agreement - its second output deal to date with BBCW - that has previously brought drama such as Mistresses to the territory. In addition, Italy's RAI has signed a three-year factual output deal that will see it screen BBC programmes such as Atlantis and The Great Rift across the state-owned broadcaster's portfolio of channels.

Home and Away star Lincoln Lewis has announced that he's quitting the soap after two years. The twenty one-year-old actor will film his final scenes with the series on Friday, before starting work on his next project, the film adaptation of best-selling teen novel Tomorrow: When The War Began alongside former Neighbours star Caitlin Stasey. 'I've been working in the training for the film with my commitments on Home and Away, so it's been pretty busy,' Lewis said. 'It's sad to be leaving the cast and crew on Home and Away. It was a hard decision to make, but I also think it's the right time to go.'

Dannii Minogue and Cheryl Cole ask X Factor hopeful Simone to strip on this weekend's show, apparently. The judges request that the Italian singer takes his top off, claiming that it may persuade them to put him through to boot camp. He goes along with the girls' demands and performs Ricky Martin's 'She Bangs' with his chest on show for the audience. Simone is a hairdresser who once worked as a stylist for Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, reports the Sun.

Michelle Mone has admitted that she feels mortified after 'screwing up' her debut as a TV host. The Ultimo bra tycoon, who regularly appears as a panellist on The Apprentice: You're Fired, has agreed to front Scottish topical show The Hour on STV all week. On her first day, Mone reportedly arrived half an hour late after being stuck in traffic. She was then unable to read the autocue because she had forgotten her contact lenses and could not hear the show's gallery producers because she lost her earpiece. 'Everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong,' Mone told the Daily Record. 'First of all I couldn't see because I forgot my contacts. Then I couldn't hear because my earpiece kept popping out. I was given a line about a cowboy place in Aberdeen and I was to say "in the bar" and I said "in the bra" so I did muck up that one. Everybody said it was fine but I just felt I really screwed up.'

Ali Bastian has admitted that her body is 'black and blue' following a tough Strictly Come Dancing training session. The twenty six-year-old actress revealed that she was left bruised following an accident in rehearsals with her professional partner Brian Fortuna. 'There isn't a part of my body that isn't aching,' Bastian is quoted by Now magazine as saying. 'We attempted a lift the other day and Brian Fortuna, my dance partner, dropped me so I'm black and blue.' She added: 'I look like I've been Thai boxing, not ballroom dancing.' Are you sure thery didn't just pair you up with Joe Calzaghe for the day by mistake, Ali?

George Sampson has reportedly been dropped by Simon Cowell's Syco label. The 2008 Britain's Got Talent winner has been released by the company amid reports of a falling out between Sampson and Cowell, the Daily Mail reports. A source said: 'George just didn't prove as marketable as Simon had hoped. When acts like George win the show, it's much harder for them to forge a successful and moneyspinning career compared with a singer, like Susan Boyle.' Sampson recently suggested that he and Cowell were not getting on and claimed that he owed money to Syco despite the success of his dancing DVD.

Coleen Nolan has hit out at Katie Price's rape allegations, calling for the glamour model to tell the whole story or to keep quiet. The Loose Women star claimed that Price's accusations reinforce damaging myths about the issue of rape and could result in problems for ordinary victims. Writing in the Mirror, Nolan commented: 'Immediately after saying her rapist was a "top celebrity" Jordan/Katie or whatever her name is these days said she didn't want to talk about it anymore. Well too late, love. You should have thought about what you were and weren't prepared to talk about before opening your big mouth.' She continued: 'If she has no intention of ever naming her attacker or going to the police there was absolutely no point in revealing he is a celebrity. I mean, is it somehow "better" to have been raped by a celebrity?'