Saturday, January 23, 2010

Money Doesn't Talk, It Swears

NBC are reported to have reached a forty five million dollar agreement with Conan O'Brien over his late-night US talk show, paving the way for his predecessor - Jay Leno - to return. O'Brien, forty six, will be paid in excess of thirty three million dollars to end his seven-month reign as host of The Tonight Show, with the remainder going to his staff. I wonder, are there any shows that NBC would like Keith Telly Topping not to make for them, cos I'd quite like a piece of that bad-boy action. The deal allows Leno to return to the show, which he previously hosted for seventeen years before leaving last May. O'Brien, who took over in June, will host his final programme on Friday. Actor Tom Hanks is scheduled to appear, as is comedian Will Ferrell - O'Brien's first guest as Tonight Show host when he began his stint last year. Leno will return to The Tonight Show on 1 March, NBC announced on Thursday. The deal brings to a close an ignominious battle that has seen both hosts discuss the dispute on NBC's own airwaves. It will also allow Leno to bounce back following the failure of his 22:00 prime-time show, launched in September, to pull in audiences. Under the terms of the deal, apparently O'Brien, who used to host a show in a later slot before filling Leno's shoes, will be allowed to return to TV in eight months. 'He just wants to get back on the air as quickly as possible,' his manager Gavin Polone told the Wall Street Journal.

Amanda Holden has admitted that she would jump at the chance to work on the US X Factor. Yes, of course you would, darling. Because you're nothing but an attention seeking (metaphorical) junkie who is utterly desperate to get her face of television as much as possible. Whether the public want to see it there or not. As the photo on the left would appear to demonstrate. Glad we got that one sorted out. Next, world peace...

Ofcom has said that it is 'minded to grant approval' for a BBC plan to introduce copy protection technology around the forthcoming commercial launch of Freeview HD. In its latest communication on the matter, the media regulator has expressed its willingness to amend the digital multiplex licence to support the 'justified objective' of content protection on HD digital terrestrial television. Final approval for the plan is now subject to any remaining responses in Ofcom's consultation, which runs until 2 April, but the proposal is expected to come into force before Freeview HD products launch in the spring. Last September, the BBC asked Ofcom to amend the multiplex licence to enable a compression of service information data - which receivers need to understand TV services in the data stream - on Freeview HD. In return, the corporation will offer its decompression algorithm without charge to all manufacturers who implement the technology. The BBC believes that a small amount of copy protection on Freeview HD would encourage more content owners to free up their material and therefore improve the viewing experience. It wants rights holders to have confidence in the security measures on DTT to release their HD content in a similar time frame as other digital TV platforms, such as Sky and Virgin Media. After running a consultation on the proposal - which raised a number of 'potentially significant questions regarding compliance with copyright law and competition issues' - Ofcom told the BBC to revise its proposal, specifically in terms of the 'anticipated benefits to citizens and consumers' who want to legitimately copy HD content. Ofcom acknowledged that the BBC wants to ensure the widest range of HD content on DTT, while not restricting consumer options or the development of receiver technology. The proposal would however involve Ofcom amending the multiplex licence to 'restrict the availability of programme listing information for HD TV services only to receivers that implement content management technology.' If approved, the copy protection plan would permit unrestricted recordings of HD content on approved DVRs, but would also enable broadcasters to control the copying of such content to other devices or on to the Internet. Any recorded HD content would only be transferable to other credited consumer devices which support the same copy protection technology. After the BBC supplied additional information on its plan as requested, including various alternative proposals and their effectiveness, Ofcom has given its provisional backing for an amendment of the licence. 'In view of the fuller submission provided by the BBC, Ofcom is currently minded to approve its request for a multiplex licence amendment subject to consultation responses, on the basis that in principle, content management is a justified objective which ensures that the broadest range of HD content is made available to citizens and consumers,' said the regulator. 'Ofcom has considered alternative proposals for implementation put forward by the BBC and is minded to grant approval under the amended licence on the basis that the proposals are the least intrusive means of achieving effective copy management to deliver the benefits of a wider range of content to consumers.' Ofcom is expected to give the green light to the proposal before Freeview HD products launch on to the market in the spring.

Shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has pledged that the Conservative Party will challenge the government's ITV regional news replacement scheme if it secures ultimate power. Speaking on Thursday at the Oxford Media Convention, Hunt said that his party would prefer to introduce a city-focused system of improved radio, newspaper and web services rather than the independently funded news consortia approach. Addressing all companies that have recently submitted proposals for three IFNC trial schemes in England, Wales and Scotland, Hunt said that the Tories plan to 'legally unpick' the policy should they secure victory at the election, according to the Guardian. 'Let me be clear, we do not support these provisions in the digital economy bill and we do not support the pilot schemes,' he added. 'The contracts are not due to be signed until May [and] anyone looking to sign one should understand that we'll do all we can to legally unpick them if David Cameron enters Number Ten.' Up to and including sending the tanks in? 'And if they haven't been signed, we won't be doing so.' Hunt said that using a slice of the BBC's licence fee to 'prop up' beleaguered regional news services would simply cast a 'failed regional TV model in aspic.' At the start of January, the department for culture, media and sport confirmed that eight bids have been lodged for the IFNC pilots, with three successful bidders due to start their trials in the spring. In his speech, Hunt again called for media regulator Ofcom to have its power reduced, while he also claimed that DCMS 'lacks firepower and capability' to be truly effective. 'I have nothing against Ofcom, which has some extremely bright people working for it, but everything against the way the balance of power has shifted its way because we have a government afraid to take responsibility for broadcasting policy,' he explained. 'Ofcom is empowered by statute and has been able to interpret those statutory powers to step into a vacuum created by the arrival and departure of four culture secretaries in as many years and a department that lacks firepower and capability.' Despite acknowledging the value of services such as BBC iPlayer, Hunt believes that it is 'fundamentally flawed' for the BBC and Channel 4 to be taking the lead in online innovation because it limits motivation for the commercial market. The minister claimed that public sector involvement in the online space deters private investment and means that the 'possibility of a British Google is killed stone dead. You are sending a strong signal to anyone with a good idea for a product or service online - don't bother,' he said. 'Why develop a website for motoring enthusiasts? You won't stand a chance against the Top Gear site. With the massive leverage offered by access to TV audiences you risk crowding out investment by anyone in the private sector.'

Departing EastEnders star Charlie Clements has admitted that he finds it 'scary' to consider what the future might hold for his career. The actor announced last November that he had decided to leave his role - as Bradley Branning - after nearly four years. His character will exit the BBC soap later this year in an plotline which ties in with the programme's twenty fifth anniversary. Speaking to the Mirror about his future plans, Clements explained: 'I don't know what I'm going to do, it's scary thinking about life after EastEnders, it takes up so much of your life. You have to learn lines the night before, your life isn't yours. I guess it's auditions, auditions, auditions for me. I just hope I get work.' Well, there's always stacking shelves in Morrison's, mate. If it's going to be good enough to Little Joe McElderry in a few months time, then there's no reason why it won't be good enough for you.

Channel 4 has appointed UKTV boss David Abraham as its new chief executive to replace Andy Duncan, who left the broadcaster in November. Officially announced yesterday, Abraham beat off reported competition from BBC chief operating officer Caroline Thomson, Talkback Thames chief executive Lorraine Heggessey and current Channel 4 director of television Kevin Lygo to secure the role. As Abraham's start date has not yet been confirmed, an interim management team led by acting chief executive Anne Bulford will remain in control until his arrival. 'David is a rare commodity as a broadcaster in that he has an exceptional track record as an innovative leader, both creatively and commercially,' said incoming Channel 4 chairman Lord Burns, who officially takes up his post on 27 January. 'At all stages of his career he's led creative teams and commissioned creative output of the highest quality in a commercial environment. It is that experience, we believe, that so well qualifies him for the challenge of running a commercially funded, public service broadcaster like Channel 4.' Lord Burns said that the Channel 4 board spoke to a 'number of other candidates' as part of an extensive selection process, but Abraham stood out as a 'creative manager of the highest quality. He has a track record of success as a chief executive and the right mix of skills to get all parts of Channel 4 working together to unlock our full creative and commercial potential and complete our transition into digital,' he added. Abraham said that it is a 'challenging' time to be working in the media, but also praised Channel 4 for having innovation as part of its history and philosophy.

The BBC has commissioned a wide-ranging investigation into how lesbian, gay and bisexual people are portrayed on TV, radio and online. The research will ask a variety of people across the country what they think about subjects such as jokes, dramatic story lines and stereotyping. The BBC's Tim Davie said it was 'vital' for the corporation to reflect the 'diverse communities' across the UK. He added that the findings would 'deepen our understanding' of viewers. The three-part study will include audience research, an online survey and a consultation with lesbian, gay and bisexual community groups across the UK. It is understood the BBC will also approach people who hold homophobic opinions. For balance, presumably? How odd. 'We'll ask people their views on language, tone, stereotyping, on-screen talent, humour and scheduling to name just a few areas,' said Davie, who is chairman of the BBC's working group on the portrayal of lesbian, gay and bisexual people. 'This is the most comprehensive piece of research ever carried out in this area by the BBC and we're doing it because, as a public service broadcaster, we have a responsibility to serve all of our audiences. It's vital that we reflect the differences among all of the UK's diverse communities, nations and regions.'

Elliott Tittensor has claimed that he is used to taking his top off on Shameless. In an interview with Digital Spy website, the twenty-year-old actor - Carl in the Channel 4 series - insisted that he is unconcerned when it comes to shooting his sex scenes. 'Last year, [Carl] just slept with [Maxine] here and there - which I didn't really like doing - but this year, it's been cool because we're together properly on screen,' he said. 'It starts off quite playful and they're just experimenting in the bedroom!' Asked if it bothers him to strip off in front of the camera, he replied: 'Nah, does it heck! I'm used to it.'

Christine Bleakley reportedly received hundreds of unwanted calls and messages after Patrick Kielty revealed her phone number live on The ONE Show on Wednesday. Kielty was appearing as a guest on the BBC1 magazine programme when the presenter wrote down the number for him. The comedian, who told viewers that he had worked with Bleakley when she was a TV runner and assistant, then shared the news with viewers and held the piece of paper up in view of a camera. A source told the Mirror: "Within ten minutes of the show ending [Christine's] phone had over three hundred voicemails and messages. Most of them were very nice, supportive and even flirty, but it's a disaster for someone high-profile like Christine to give out her number.' Several were also reported to be from John and Edward - still apparently trying to find out who she was and what she actually does to justify her existence. It is thought that Bleakley has now put a block on the number and will get it changed. A BBC spokeswoman said: 'It was an unfortunate incident, but Christine understands the nature of live TV.'

Ant and Dec have revealed that they 'can't wait' for their new ITV series Push The Button to start. Well, you're going to have to, boys. Life's like that. Full of unpleasant hold-ups. Take in a few games at The Cathedral of Dreams. Dec can introduce Georgie to the wonders of Seahouses on a wet Thursday night in February. Rerecord a version of 'get Ready To Rumble' with a thrash metal band for charity. The possibilities are, literally, endless. The Saturday Night Takeaway duo's upcoming programme was unveiled last year. The format is said to be 'fun' and centres on families making fools out of themselves. Writing on their official blog, the former Byker Grove stars said: 'Our new show Push The Button is getting closer and closer! Now this is something we're really excited about. We've recorded the promo - which you'll be able to see soon - and we're in the final stages of prepping the show, recruiting families, fine-tuning the games and generally getting ready for what we think is going to be a great series.' They added: 'It's fantastic family fun that we can't wait to share with all of you.'

John Nettles has insisted that there will be 'no fuss' when he bows out from Midsomer Murders later this year. The sixty six-year-old actor announced last February that he had decided to leave the role of Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby in the ITV series. He is scheduled to shoot his final scene on 19 August. Speaking to the Daily Mail about his plans for the occasion, Nettles commented: 'There won't be a lot of fuss. I'll say my last line and when the director shouts "Cut!," I'll shake the hand of my sidekick, Jason Hughes, and give any corpses laying around a farewell kiss.' The star added that he will then go home and 'open a rather nice bottle of Beaujolais' to reflect on his fourteen-year stint in the programme. Revealing the reasons behind his decision to quit, Nettles continued: 'My final episode will be the eighty second. That's enough for anyone. I've come to a natural end and the last thing I want to do is to bore people. I want to try other things before the Grim Reaper comes knocking. I will still work, but at a slightly less frenetic pace. Midsomer Murders has taken ten months out of every year and it's played havoc with my family life. Now it's time to restore some order.'

Martine McCutcheon has revealed that she is putting her acting career on hold because there are so few drama projects being commissioned at the moment. This will, no doubt, come as a considerable surprise to those many viewers who were still waiting for her acting career to actually start.

Meanwhile, in related news: Abi Titmuss has revealed that she is keen to call time on her glamour modelling career. In an interview with Live From Studio Five, the thirty three-year-old claimed that her most recent underwear pictures are likely to be her last because she wants to concentrate on her acting career. This will, no doubt, come as a considerable surprise to those viewers who were still waiting for her acting career to start. Oh, hang on, we've already done that one. Next ...