Thursday, December 17, 2009

Voodoo Rage

Firstly today, by way of a foreword, four words of apology. I'm really, really sorry. This is for anyone listening to today's Afternoon Show specifically for my contribution (and, if you were, trust me that's very sad!) That, as it turned out, was singularly lacking in its actual appearance. 'Technical difficulties', apparently. Ah well not to worry, dear blog reader, it wasn't one of the better ones. (Albeit, it did have that line about 'if you can imagine Fairport Covention on The Good Old Days ... then you've obviously been at the Bailey's a bit early this year' which I quite liked!) But congratulations to Our Simon for filling in quite ... adequately! Of course, this would all happen on the day after the Christmas party, wouldn't it? There were some very sore heads in the office following the previous evening's meal/karaoke session. (And, I hasten to add, we did all actually pay for this ourselves.) Yer Keith Telly Topping recorded the Christmas week's batch of Top Telly Tips with Si this morning, along with a short slot for Alfie's show on Christmas morning - my version of the Queen's Speech, as it were - and, also, a mini version of the 'Best and Worst of the Year' piece from this blog which, I think, is going to be broadcast across various days on the Afternoon Show next week. More news on when I'll be cropping up once I'm certain myself.

And so to the news: BBC1 consumer programme Watchdog is to be 'revamped' and will reappear next spring as a live show. The Anne Robinson-fronted series was due to return in the new year following its previous 'relaunch' during the autumn, but has been put back by a couple of months whilst the format is 're-thought.' In September, Watchdog returned to BBC1 as an hour-long show, with a studio audience, but ratings was, by and large, on the poor side of dreadful. Robinson and Matt Allwright from Rogue Traders replaced Nicky Campbell and Julia Bradbury and the programme was moved back from 7.30pm to 8pm. Although the first show attracted four and a half million viewers, that audience fell during the run and by the time of its final episode it was getting almost a million fewer viewers. By comparison, the old half-hour Watchdog won an average of 4.6 million viewers during its last series between January and May last year. Although Watchdog's return is being delayed, the BBC appears to be showing its commitment to the programme by increasing the number of episodes from six to nine for the new series. According to sources there are also discussions to move Watchdog's studio back into BBC Television Centre. A BBC spokesman said that as far as he was aware the show would again be filmed at the BBC's Media Centre in London's Wood Lane. He added: 'The situation as it stands is that Watchdog will return in the spring as a live show, hence its return has been slightly delayed so the schedule can accommodate this.'

Minnie Driver and James Nesbitt have been cast in BBC1's forthcoming drama The Deep, it has been announced. The five-part thriller, which is written by Simon Donald, follows the crew of an oceanographic submarine as they search the final frontiers of Earth for unknown and remarkable life forms. Set thousands of feet below the Arctic ice, the drama unfolds when the crew find themselves stranded with no power, limited oxygen and no communication with the surface. Controller of BBC drama commissioning Ben Stephenson commented: 'Simon Donald's brilliantly imagined serial The Deep demonstrates my commitment to bringing the best work by the best writers to BBC1 and the international talent signed up are further testament to the quality of the scripts.' Sounds proper excellent, that one.

And, in further good news, Law & Order: UK returns to ITV on 11 January.

X Factor duo John and Edward Grimnasty have reportedly landed their own ITV2 reality show. According to the Sun, the Dublin-born brothers with the strange haircut malarkey are to star in 'a three-month fly-on-the-wall series which could begin airing as early as January.' Oh joy. Can't wait. A source told the newspaper: 'The boys have been swamped with offers. It has been a case of turning most things down, including I'm A Celebrity ... The show will be the same glossy format as Jordan and Peter's, following their crazy antics day-to-day.' One repeats, oh joy. Can't wait. It has also been claimed that the twins have rejected a proposed offer to enter the Celebrity Big Brother house next year. File that one under 'who cares'?

The Advertising Standards Authority has criticised Virgin Media Television over an advert for Dating In The Dark which implied that people with ginger hair are unattractive. Run in Metro, the press advert carried the slogan, 'How do you spot a ginger in the dark?' along with the strapline, 'Looks or personality, who wins?' The ASA subsequently received three complaints that the advert was offensive to people with ginger hair because it suggested that they are not attractive. In response, Virgin Media TV claimed that the advertisement was not meant to cause offence but rather reflect the actual 'comments and emotions' of participants on the Living TV show. So, that's basically 'it wasn't us that was slagging off the Ginners, it was people in a show we broadcast...' Not really a very good defence, is it? The firm highlighted other adverts for the programme, which carried slogans such as, 'When the lights come on I just hope I haven't been kissing Shrek' and, 'He says he works in radio. I just hope he doesn't have the face for it.' As all the remarks were made by actual participants on the show, Virgin Media TV argued that they were not reflective of its own views. The company also noted that Metro had not received any complaints directly. However, the ASA ruled that the advert did not make it clear that the ginger hair comment was from a participant on the programme. The official body therefore identified a high probability that people would view the advert as a 'suggestion that people with ginger hair were unattractive' and so it found that a clear breach of the Advertising Code had occurred. 'We considered the ad was unlikely to be interpreted to be lighthearted in tone and was instead likely to be seen as prejudicial against people with ginger hair. We concluded that the ad was likely to cause serious offence,' said the ASA. 'The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Virgin to ensure that their future marketing communications did not contain anything that was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.' As a devastatingly sexy and only mildly dangerous Ginner himself, Keith Telly Topping says fer Christ's sake lighten up, we can take a joke. Well, most of us can, anyway!

Living has commissioned a new series featuring Sally Morgan, it has been announced. The eight-part series, titled Psychic Sally: On The Road, follows Morgan as she tours the country performing to large theatre audiences. The show will see the television psychic, on stage and behind-the-scenes. It will also feature celebrity fans. 'Whether you're a believer or not, Sally delivers the most moving and jaw-dropping psychic shows in the UK today,' said Living's commissioning editor Sophie Wurzer-Williams. Hang on Sophie, I'm rather confused. 'Whether you're a believer or not...' Surely if you aren't a believer then the next, obvious, assumption to make is that Sally is making the whole thing up and that she is guilty of - at best - self-delusion bordering on mental illness and - at worst - deception of quite wilful and disgusting proportions. There's no middle ground concerning psychic ability, it either exists or it doesn't. And, if it doesn't, then television programmes like this are, in essence, condoning emotional fraud. I'll leave it entirely up to you, dear blog reader, as to where you stand on this matter.

The quality of pictures broadcast on the BBC High Definition channel has been criticised by viewers who have complained of fuzzy and grainy images. The head of the channel, Danielle Nagler, says that despite a series of tests, no technical fault can be found. Not all HD programmes have the 'bright, crisp look which for some is synonymous with HD,' she wrote on the BBC's Internet blog. In which case, why bother with buying it? Surely that's the selling point of HD, that is does look brighter, crisper and sharper than the norm. Camera and production techniques all affect the overall quality, she added. The BBC replaced the encoders which process HD pictures in August 2009. The replacement encoders work at a bitrate of 9.7 megabits per second, while their predecessors worked at 16Mbps, the standard for other broadcasters. The BBC HD website describes HD as 'exceptionally clear, crisp pictures with vivid colours and up to five times more detail than standard definition.' Apparently that should have a '(usually)' after it if Danielle's comment are to be taken at face value. Some disgruntled viewers think the new encoders have affected this viewing experience. 'We did extensive testing on the new encoders which showed that they could produce pictures at the same or even better quality than the old encoders at the higher bitrate,' a spokesperson told BBC News.

E4's youth superhero drama, Misfits, has been recommissioned for a second series just as the first run draws to a close. Six new episodes of the drama, which follows five teenagers doing community service who develop superhuman powers after being caught in a storm, will be aired during next year. This follows a generally positive critical response for the show, written by Howard Overman and made by the independent producer Clerkenwell Films, which has been seen as a conceptual successor to E4's successful teen drama Skins.

BBC1 has reversed its decision to axe Not Going Out, committing to a fourth series of the Lee Mack sitcom which will air in a new, later slot. The broadcaster is reported to be looking at a 10.35pm midweek slot for the show, which was previously part of its Friday night line-up. The Avalon-produced studio sitcom was co-created by Lee Mack and writer/broadcaster Andrew Collins. It also stars Tim Vine, Sally Bretton and Miranda Hart. Collins greeted the news yesterday with a message for fans on Twitter: 'Who says there's no good news? I love the BBC.' So do we all, Lee mate, so do we all! The BBC did not comment on its decision to cancel the show in March, although the average audience of the previous series, three and a half million, was marginally below the slot-average of just over four million for the high-profile 9.30pm Friday night slot.

The UK has seen its highest ever year-on-year increase in television viewing as consumers further embrace the switch to digital services, Ofcom has revealed. According to the regulator's International Communications Market report for 2008, the UK saw the highest average increase in TV viewing, up just over three per cent to 3.8 hours a day. The growth outpaced the Europe-wide average of three and a half hours per day, but was still slightly lower than TV usage in Poland, Spain and Italy. In the data compiled for twelve comparator countries, including America, Japan and Germany, Sweden remained the lowest TV watching nation, with an average of 2.7 hours per day. The US, however, continued its position at the very top of the TV viewing list, with Americans watching an average of 4.6 hours per day, up by over one per cent on 2007 figures. Average uptake of digital TV services across the comparator countries also increased in 2008 by seven percentage points to sixty seven per cent. The fastest conversion rate was in Spain, where eighteen per cent of households migrated to digital over the year. Out of all the countries, the UK remained the nation with the highest proportion of digital TV services on the main room set. The UK also had the second highest take-up of digital terrestrial television services at thirty eight per cent, just behind Spain. UK adoption of digital satellite services further reached thirty six per cent, only behind Ireland and Poland in the growth charts. Using data supplied by the World Advertising Research Centre, Ofcom found that the UK leads the global market for online advertising, with a twenty three per cent share of total spend. However, the report found that broadband growth was significantly slowing, with average uptake rates across comparator nations dropping. This was, also, significantly below the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), where broadband uptake grew by an average of forty per cent during the same period. After examining typical bundles of communications services - fixed-line, mobile, broadband and pay-TV - for a variety of different household types, Ofcom found that the UK offered the lowest prices across the majority of bundles compared to six other countries. Overall, service providers in the UK offered the lowest prices for mobile and single-service broadband, along with the second lowest prices for fixed-line voice after Italy. 'The report shows that UK consumers have benefited from competition in the form of lower prices,' said Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards. 'Innovation means that the UK is well placed in the take-up and availability of digital services.' Ofcom also found that the UK is the second highest texting nation in the world behind the US, with the total volume of messages sent and received in 2008 reaching just over one trillion.

Jonathan Ross has reportedly agreed to have his current BBC salary slashed by half. The chat show host's annual pay packet is now likely to be around three million pounds rather than the reported six million under a new deal which will come into effect next year, the Sun claims. A source said: 'Jonathan is happy to stay at the BBC and is fully aware he needs to take a pay cut. He has offered to take a fifty per cent pay cut and will be committed to his TV and radio shows.' Good on yer, Jonny. However, it is thought that BBC director general Mark Thompson has yet to finalise Ross's new contract, leading to speculation that his salary could be reduced even further. Ross's current eighteen million pound three-year deal is expected to expire in July 2010. Reports suggest that his new arrangement will run for two years.

Rage Against The Machine performed an uncensored rendition of 'Killing In The Name' on BBC Radio 5Live this morning. The rockers appeared on the station's breakfast show to promote the campaign to get their song to number one at Christmas. It is currently winning in a chart battle with X Factor victor Joe McElderry. However, during the crescendo of their performance, frontman Zach De La Rocha screamed the trademark 'Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me' lyrics repeatedly. Hosts Nicky Campbell and Shelagh Fogarty subsequently apologised, explaining that they had asked the band to censor the song but that their request had not been complied with. It's got to be asked what pillock believed, for a single second, that Rage Against the Machine of all people would be prepared to self-censor themselves to sell a few extra records? They're self-styled anarchists, guys, it's a bit like expecting turkeys to vote for Christmas. Earlier, the group had thanked fans who organised the festive chart campaign, arguing that it had tapped into a 'silent majority.' 'This has been a real grassroots campaign from real fans of music, which has tapped into the silent majority who are tired of being spoon-fed one schmaltzy ballad after another - they want to take back their own charts,' said guitarist Tom Morello. 'We are honoured they have chosen our song to be the rebel anthem to topple the X Factor monopoly.' He also disputed claims that their song reaching number one would benefit Simon Cowell as it is released by Sony Records. 'People are not buying 'Killing In The Name' to protest at a record being released by a big record company,' said Morello. 'We wrote the song in a small industrial slum in Los Angeles. The X Factor song was produced by a cabal of overpaid songwriters to shove that schmaltzy business down your throat.' A BBC spokesman said: 'We had spoken to the band repeatedly beforehand and they had agreed not to swear.' He added: 'When they did, we faded the band out and said sorry immediately. We apologise again to anyone who was offended.' As the song was abruptly faded out during the controversial closing bars, listeners heard presenter Shelagh Fogarty say, 'get rid of it.' She added: 'Sorry. We needed to get rid of that because that suddenly turned in to something we were not expecting. Well, we were expecting it and asked them not to do it and they did it anyway - so buy Joe's record.' Nice. Do you want to budge up a bit whilst doing the thoroughly sycophantic brown-tonguing of Simon Cowell, Shelagh? I'm not sure there's enough room for anyone else to get in there for a good lick with you taking up all the space.

John Lydon has spoken out about his dislike for Coldplay and Radiohead. That's not news, per se, it's just nice to hear that old Johnny still has some taste left in him. 'Coldplay and Radiohead bug the hell out of me because it's so soulless. It just seems pointless. It's nice, but it's tosh. They don't care about you. They care about lining their coffers,' he told the Sun.