Thursday, November 04, 2010

You Think It's Funny? Turning Rebellion Into Money

Filming on a recent episode of Countdown reportedly had to be stopped after a contestant discovered a bad-naughty swear word in the chosen letters. When presented with the letters D, T, C, E, I, A, S, H and F, eighteen-year-old contestant Jack Hurst declared that he had found an eight-letter word. Yer Keith Telly Topping can see a nine letter one, personally. To the amusement of the audience, Cambridge University student Hurst then revealed his word was 'shitface.' According to the Sun, Dictionary Corner adjudicator, the divine Susie Dent confirmed that the word was a legitimate dictionary term for 'a rude or obnoxious person.' Which, indeed, it is. According to the OED the first recorded use of it, in print, occurred in 1961 in Eric Honeywood Partridge's Dictionary Slang Supplement: 'Shit-face; an objectionable person.' But, the programme's producers allegedly 'stepped in' and restarted the round, deeming the word to be 'not appropriate.' A 'source', the newspaper claims, told them: 'The bizarre thing was he had a spare D - spelling a concept most students are more than familiar with.' Which would have been really funny if it had come from someone connected with the show and not a journalist. Hurst recently broke the record for the total number of points accumulated over eight matches. Jeff Stelling, meanwhile, is said to have filed the word away to be used the next time big-nosed Phil Thompson has a go at Hartlepool on Soccer Saturday. Allegedly.

David Coulson may have missed out on the Masterchef: The Professionals top prize but he has himself won a job in a top restaurant. David, from Wingate, who was head chef at the Castle Eden Inn and, before that the Wynyard Golf Club, missed out on the top spot in BBC 2's Masterchef: The Professionals to Claire Lara, but said that he was delighted with the result in the end. According to the Sunderland Echo he was offered the chance to work with judge Michel Roux Jr at his two-star restaurant La Gavroche in London. He said: 'It's a dream come true to work for Michel. I am going to make that step up and hopefully become a great chef myself. My ambition is to become a Michelin-starred chef and then come back to somewhere like Durham and set up my own place. Michel came up to all three of the finalists, before the result was announced, and said "I think you are all great. You are all welcome to come and work for me."' David said he was the only one of the three to take up the offer so far having left his previous job during the filming of the show. Looking back on his television experience, David told the Hartlepool Mail: 'It has been a great experience and I have learned a lot from it. I learned a lot about myself.' Speaking about the final itself, he said he felt his dishes were creative but he felt he had fluffed his dessert slightly.

All the BBC's main TV and radio news programmes, including Today, Breakfast and Newsnight, are expected to blacked out by tomorrow's forty eight strike by NUJ journalists over pension scheme changes. Presumably, everyone at Daybreak will be rubbing their hands together expecting a bumper ratings day. Although, persoanlly, I'd sooner watch the Test Card myself. Big name presenters including Martha Kearney, Fiona Bruce, Nicky Campbell, Shelagh Fogarty and Kirsty Wark are expected to take part in the walkout by the National Union of Journalists over changes to the corporation's final salary pension scheme. Insiders predicted to the Gruniad Morning Star that all of Radio 4's regular news programmes would be taken off-air, including Today, the World at One, and PM. NUJ sources had said yesterday that BBC staffers at bureaux around the world would join the walkout, putting one of John Humphrys' much-trailed editions of the Today programme from Beijing at risk. Other casualties of the strike are likely to be BBC1's 1pm, 6pm and 10pm news bulletins, BBC2's Newsnight and The Review Show. Radio 5Live's breakfast show will also be seriously disrupted, although it is understood the station will attempt to put together a live morning show. However, it will be without either of the show's two regular presenters - Campbell and Fogarty - who are both expected to join in the strike. The rest of the 5Live schedule will also suffer severe disruption. Other presenters expected to be involved in the industrial action include Victoria Derbyshire, who hosts the morning show, and Simon Mayo, who presents the station's afternoon film programme. The BBC's twenty four-hour news service, the BBC News Channel, will feature a drastically reduced skeleton operation with short news updates at the top of each hour. It is unclear what will fill the rest of the schedule. Other TV and radio news programmes such as Today and Breakfast are expected to be replaced by two-minute on-the-hour bulletins, with the remaining airtime filled with repeats. The last time BBC News was hit by strike action in May 2005, Radio 4's Today was replaced by a repeat of Ken Clarke's Jazz Greats and PM by a Glastonbury festival documentary. Meanwhile, little-known BBC presenters Susan Osman and Stephen Cole were thrust into the limelight for the day, fronting the BBC1 1pm and 6pm bulletins, respectively. BBC news output in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions is also expected to be hit. Radio show Good Morning Wales is understood to have been cancelled, with guests stood down. All BBC Radio Wales news shows are expected to be off-air, with only short bulletins on the hour. However the members of the other main BBC union, BECTU, voted to accept management's latest pensions offer and will therefore not join the strike and neither will some freelance staff. Not all on-screen BBC journalists are members of the NUJ, for instance and some - including, it is understood, business editor Robert Peston - will turn up for work as usual.

Noel Fielding has accused Simon Amstell of 'ruining' Never Mind The Buzzcocks by being too cruel to guests. Which, coming from the man who actually has ruined Buzzcocks, is somewhat ironic. Fielding, who currently features as a team captain on the BBC2 panel show, said that guests were now reluctant to appear on the programme because of former host Amstell's vicious presenting style. According to the Sun, Fielding said that ex-Spice Girl Mel B had to be heavily persuaded to appear on the quiz, adding: 'She was terrified, like we were going to really rib her.' He went on to say: 'The problem is, I think Amstell ruined it for everyone. Everyone thinks they'll get ripped to shreds.' Ordinary Boys singer Preston, infamously, got a reet stroppy lip-on and walked out during an episode of Buzzcocks after Amstell began reading extracts from Preston's then-wife Chantelle Houghton's autobiography. Vanessa Feltz has also previously revealed that she found Amstell's jokes towards her 'deeply offensive and incredibly upsetting' when she appeared on the programme. Fielding admitted that he thinks the show has become 'cosier' since Amstell's departure last year, and picked out Terry Wogan as his favourite guest stand-in so far. '[Terry] was the best host we've had,' he said. 'He was professional, funny, quicker than anyone else on the show. He shook everyone's hand, he knew everyone's name. It was pretty mind-blowing actually.'

The Business Secretary, Vince Cable (Lib Dem. Allegedly), has ordered Ofcom to investigate News Corporation's plan to take full control of broadcaster BSkyB. News Corporation has said it wants to buy the sixty one per cent of BSkyB it does not own. The inquiry will look into 'media plurality' - the degree to which news outlets are concentrated under one organisation's ownership. Rupert Murdoch's News Corp owns News International, which owns the Sun, News of the World, The Times and The Sunday Times. These account for a third of the UK's national newspaper circulation, while BSkyB has almost ten million customers. A News Corporation statement said it believed its plan would be cleared. 'News Corporation is confident that the proposed investment will not adversely affect media plurality in the United Kingdom and looks forward to discussing any substantive issues with the relevant authorities.' Separately, the European Commission is also investigating the impact of the purchase on competition, owing to the size of the proposed acquisition, and will announce its decision by 8 December. Cable's move follows pressure from various rival media groups who wrote to him last month urging him to block Murdoch's move, which they said could reduce diversity in the industry. The signatories included the heads of the BBC and Channel 4, as well as chief executives of newspaper groups, including the Torygraph, the Scum Mail, the Gruniad Morning Star and the Mirror. Ofcom has to report back to the Business Secretary by 31 December. Cable must then decide whether to make a referral to the Competition Commission. Or, more likely, he'll have to ask his bosses what they want him to do. News Corp told the board of BSkyB in June that it was prepared to pay seven hundred pence a share to take full control of the leading satellite broadcaster, an offer that has not been made formal but which the directors of BSkyB said was too low anyway. As well as its UK interests, News Corp owns other major assets including the FOX film and TV empire, as well as major publishing companies, including Harper Collins. The BBC's business editor, Robert Peston, notes that 'I am told that if fears about the separateness and impartiality of Sky News proved to be the stumbling block to the takeover, News Corp would be prepared to sell Sky News.'

The line-ups of the next series of the BBC1 stand-up show Live At The Apollo have been announced. The sixth batch of episodes will start during November, with a show compared by Sean Lock and including John Bishop. Another episode will feature Dara O'Briain introducing Stewart Francis and Greg Davies.

Marg Helgenberger has revealed that she is still planning to leave CSI. The actress, who plays Catherine Willows, explained that she doesn't expect to work on the show for much longer. 'I'm only actually negotiated for this season,' she told Entertainment Weekly. 'That's all I'm really thinking about right now, is just finishing up this season. Not much longer.' However, Helgenberger explained that she is happy with her storylines at the moment. 'I'm getting the opportunity to play different colours this season because I have a boyfriend on the show, played by Alex Carter,' she said. 'He's been great. I've enjoyed it because it hasn't been like all cerebral stuff. It's been passionate. It's been vulnerable. It's been emotional. It's been taking me to places that I don't get to do on the show. That's kept it fresh. And I enjoy working with him.'

Eliza Dushku has dropped some hints about her forthcoming guest role on The Big Bang Theory. Yer Keith Telly Topping does apologise, dear blog reader, for using the words 'Eliza Dushku' and 'Big Bang' in the same sentence but, in this particular case, it was unavailable. The divine Eliza will appear in the show as FBI agent Angela Page, who arrives to interview Wolowitz's friends in an attempt to find out if he should be given security clearance for a job in the Defence Department. 'Raj [Kunal Nayyar] is uncomfortable from the moment I walk in,' she told TV Guide. 'He's my first interviewee and he sets the tone for the blunders and insanity. He was great. Kunal plays that part so well.' However, Dushku revealed that Sheldon (Jim Parsons) is the one who puts Wolowitz's job in danger. 'It's typical Sheldon!' she said. 'He can't help himself. He tells me more than I should and more than I want to know.' Dushku also admitted that she would love to return to The Big Bang Theory in the future, saying: 'After the unbelievable time I had, I hope there's a high chance of that happening! It's so ironic because I didn't have a scene with Wolowitz (Simon Helberg)... or Kaley [Cuoco], who was back from her leg injury. They had her in the final scene, behind the bar, and they were hiding the broken leg. She's super cute! I wish we had scenes together. Maybe next time? I would love to come back.'

BBC commissioning editor for documentaries Charlotte Moore has greenlit a three-part series for BBC2 on the medical treatment of disfigured children, as part of a raft of new commissions for next year. The Face Saving Doctors (working title) is being made by Landmark Films and follows doctors at the Craniofacial Surgery Unit at Oxford Children's Hospital. More than six hundred children with severely disfigured heads and faces receive treatment each year at the unit, which has never before granted access to a film crew, according to the BBC. The executive producers are Maxine Watson for the BBC and Monica Garnsey for Landmark. Moore, who was speaking at Sheffield Doc/Fest on 4 November, has also commissioned two three-part series - Kids Behind Bars and Sandhurst - for BBC3 and BBC4 respectively. The former, from Brighton-based Lambent Productions, follows the lives of inmates at an as-yet-undisclosed secure unit for child offenders. Icon Films' Sandhurst tracks a class of cadets over the course of a year at the Surrey military academy and is executive produced by Laura and Harry Marshall for Icon and Sam Anthony for the BBC. Moore said she was seeking thought-provoking films that try to make sense of modern Britain. 'Our mission is to find interesting ways to tell stories about ordinary and extraordinary people using unique access to often contentious and challenging subjects that resonate with Britain today.' She added that the BBC3 audience was 'hungry for documentaries' and pointed to figures that showed the average audience for documentary programming on the channel had increased by eighty per cent since 2008. A fresh slate of five sixty-minute films has also been ordered for next year under BBC2's Wonderland strand, including a full length animation about relationship counselling. For Suburbia In Therapy (working title), Zac Beattie secured exclusive access to counselling service Relate. The programme is being animated by Jonathan Hodgson, whose credits include Charlie And Lola. The other films include My Big Hasidic Wedding (also a working title), which is being made by freelance film maker Paddy Wivell, and Vanessa Stockley's Help, My Child Loves Burning, which - as the title suggests - explores the subject of child arsonists. Finally, there are Troubled (working title) by Alison Millar, which focuses on the lives of people in the staunchly loyalist Shankhill Road community in Belfast, and Wivell's On The Road (working title), which uses a multicamera set-up to film four families driving across Britain. Moore has also ordered a second four-episode series of Neighbourhood Watched, the BBC1 series which follows the work of housing officers in the North-West of England.

Monday night's episode on BBC4's excellent high brow quiz show Only Connect pulled in an audience of over six hundred thousand, the highest that the series has managed so far. News of this brought an interesting discussion on one of the forums that yer Keith Telly Topping has been known to frequent (yes, that one!) concerning what was the channel's highest ever audience. After some guessing we appear to have finally come up with the right answer. The Curse of Steptoe's overnight audience of 1.41m in March 2008 would seem to be the programme which holds that particular record. It's final, consolidated, ratings - announced a week later, were 1.62m. In April 2010 Gracie! matched Curse of Steptoe's overnight audience but this figure didn't, significantly, rise after timeshfits were taken into account. Other BBC4 shows to have achieved an audience of over one million in the past two years include Ian Hislop Goes Off The Rails in 2008 (1.3m) and The Road To Coronation Street earlier this year (1.07m) after a reported eight hundred and fifty thousand audience overnight. Canoe Man, broadcast in March of this year, narrowly missed out on joining the list with a final audience figure of 0.94m.

Daybreakwatch: And, it's some good news but, mostly, bad for Adrian and Christine. The breakfast show's average audience on Monday - eight hundred and seventeen thousand viewers - was their highest since mid-September. Albeit, the audience share - 17.8 per cent - was actually lower than some of the ones the previous week when Daybreak was only getting six hundred thousand or below. This was due to BBC's Breakfast securing an average of 1.7m (34.8 per cent) at the same time. However, Daybreak's Audience Appreciation Index score for Monday - fifty eight - was back down in the fifties for the first time since 24 September. Tuesday's ratings for the show were seven hundred and ninety eight thousand (18.4 per cent).

The look and tone of Daybreak have also come under fire from viewers as part of research carried out by ITV. Audiences have complained that the show is 'too male orientated' - well, this male can't stand it if that's any consolation, ladies - and that the set is too dark. Hosts Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley also split viewers' opinions, according to Daybreak 'insiders' - nameless, of course - according to Broadcast magazine which obtained the findings of the survey. It is understood that the research also revealed a number of viewers still 'mourn the loss' of previous morning brand GMTV, which was replaced by Daybreak in September. The dissatisfaction has been reflected in audience figures, which sunk to a low of five hundred and forty three viewers during school half-term last week. Overall, Daybreak has averaged just over seven hundred and forty thousand viewers including HD figures since its launch on 6 September, while its predecessor managed to pull in an average audience of nine hundred and eighty two thousand over the same period in 2009. An ITV spokeswoman said: 'Ongoing research is a core part of evolving and developing our breakfast brand to ensure we meet the demands of the audience.' Insiders, the magazine claims, have also raised concerns about 'glitches' appearing in some of Daybreak's pre-recorded content, linked to changes in production structures and late changes to video packages. However, others allegedly pointed to the likes of editor Ian Rumsey and deputy editor Paul Connolly offering more hands-on guidance and internal feedback. A - different - ITV spokeswoman (unless the bloke speaking before has had a really quick sex-change) said: 'Production values on Daybreak are of the highest standard. ITV's ambition is to build a strong breakfast brand for the long term.'

But, there has been some brighter news for Chiles this week as he has reportedly landed his own ITV chat show. The forty three-year-old, who joined the network earlier this year after flouncing out of the BBC in the middle of a girly strop, will host That Sunday Night Show as bosses hope to turn him into 'the next Clive James,' the Sun reports. Blimey, that's an ambition worth having, isn't it? The show, which is to be piloted next month, will see the Daybreak host take a look at the week's current events and feature guests. 'It will be built around Adrian's personality,' a source told the paper, before adding, quietly, 'such as it is.' Ho hum. 'So it will have humour and be thought-provoking. We see him as a successor to Clive James, they share the same wry approach to life.'

More than three hundred jobs are at risk at the BBC World Service and some foreign-language broadcasts face the axe as a result of the funding cuts imposed in the latest licence fee settlement with the government, MPs were warned. The director of BBC Global News, Peter Horrocks, described the financial situation as 'challenging' and said there were 'hundreds of jobs that would need to go.' Horrocks added that the World Service would be proposing that some foreign-language broadcasts should be closed as part of the cuts. The World Service, which will be funded by the BBC under the new licence fee agreement, currently has an annual Foreign Office grant of two hundred and seventy two million. But that has already been reduced to two hundred and sixty one million following earlier government cuts. Horrocks said the World Service faced cuts of 'more than sixteen per cent' but it is thought they could go as high as twenty five per cent. 'We are a very staff-heavy organisation, most of our costs are in people,' Horrocks told MPs on the Commons foreign affairs committee. 'So the reduction in staff numbers will be broadly in line with the level of savings that we need to make, i.e. more than sixteen per cent. Our staffing is two thousand so you can work it out relatively straightforwardly. It will be hundreds of jobs that need to go.' Horrocks said that some services would suffer – but added that some of them were ripe for the axe for commercial or other reasons. 'I think we will want to propose, to both the BBC Trust and to the foreign secretary, that some services should close – not just simply because of the spending settlement but it is something we need to assess because of competitors and because of impact with our audiences,' he added. Horrocks said underused short-wave broadcasts also likely to be switched to FM and extra commercial operations were possible but there were 'no plans' at this stage to introduce adverts to foreign-language websites. Moves to bring together all BBC news operations into one place would also contribute to the savings, he added. But he warned that deep reductions in the capital budget could hamper modernisation efforts. Horrocks said he approved of the transfer of funding responsibility to the BBC, which he told the MPs was 'in the best interests of the World Service' and would not dilute its separate ethos. 'To make sure that the benefits of the World Service's ethos can be spread and brought to bear as widely as possible for all the BBC's audiences – the largest news audiences in the world – to be able to bring that together and strengthen its ethos is something personally I believe in,' he added. As well as a six-year licence fee freeze, the BBC has also been told it must take responsibility for a number of other financial commitments, including the World Service and part-funding S4C.

Freeview is fighting for its future after it emerged that top-level discussions have taken place about closing the organisation after digital switchover in 2012. Broadcast magazine alleges that talks have been going on for months, with various ideas on the table. A document created by BBC chief operating officer Caroline Thomson's office in the spring suggested the Freeview management company could be closed and replaced by a new organisation controlled by DMOL, the company run by owners of the digital multiplex licensees, which include the BBC, ITV, Channel Four and Arqiva. Notably, the new company would not include BSkyB, a key Freeview shareholder. The document says the current structure governing digital terrestrial TV will 'likely reduce the ability of the platform to compete effectively in the marketplace, and we expect will lead to a slow, inexorable decline in the popularity of DTT.' Thinking has now moved on, the magazine suggests, with one 'well-placed' - if anonymous - source suggesting that Freeview might continue to exist but 'become a shadow of its former self.' Another possibility is said to be that YouView is handed some of Freeview's responsibilities. The BBC said in a statement that the document was written to be 'deliberately challenging and to provoke discussion,' and that it is not the 'views or strategy of DMOL or its members.' It said the BBC was 'a proud and active shareholder' in Freeview, and that it was 'critical to the BBC, and the British media industry in the round, that we maintain progressive partnerships that support the continued success of free-to-air TV.' Freeview's board is now fighting back and preparing an argument that it hopes will safeguard its role as the organisation behind the 'most-trusted brand' for free TV. Managing director Ilse Howling admitted that 'big changes are coming' with digital switchover, more spectrum potentially being made available to DTT, and with the launch of YouView. She said that she was confident there would still be a role for Freeview beyond switchover. 'None of us knows what the right answer is yet. Viewing on Freeview will continue to be strong even alongside connected TVs.'

Myleene Klass has admitted that she 'gets excited' when she hears the I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! theme music. Personally, yer Keith Telly Topping gets near homicidal whenever he hears the latest vacuous, bland and pointless outpouring from the gob of Myleene Klass. Swings and roundabouts, I suppose.

Ashes highlights are likely to be screened on terrestrial television after all, after ITV made a late and audacious bid to land the rights from Cricket Australia suggests the Torygraph. The BBC has consistently declined to place a bid, arguing that the one million pound price tag was too high. There was also a scheduling issue: the contract for live coverage on Sky TV stipulated that the highlights show could only be screened after 10pm, shortly before the next day's play was due to begin. But the Telegraph claims that Cricket Australia has dropped its asking price, and that ITV, which had unexpected success with the Indian Premier League, attracting more than half a million viewers to ITV4, has declared a sudden interest. Although the deal has not been finalised, industry insiders expect it to go ahead in the next few days, with production facilities supplied by IMG. If confirmed, the news will reassure cricket-lovers without access to Sky Sports, who would otherwise have had to seek out online footage on the England and Wales Cricket Board's website. ITV's burgeoning interest in cricket appears to be an opportunist move. The company latched on to the IPL after the collapse of Setanta left Lalit Modi's brainchild without a UK broadcaster, and landed the rights for what the paper calls 'a negligible sum.' The large audiences, which brought presenter Matt Smith fame among the British Asian community, came as a pleasant surprise.

Jo Frost has revealed that she plans to quit Supernanny so that she can start her own family. The thirty nine-year-old told the New York Post that her the current series on American television would be her last. 'I have decided to hang up my cape,' she told the newspaper. 'It was a very conscious decision, through much reflection. But I need to create more balance in my life.' Frost began the programme, which has now been sold to forty seven countries, in 2004. She admitted that having children 'is not an option when you are travelling and working forty six weeks out of the year. Proper balance will allow me to date and have a relationship and look at my own future of having a family,' she continued. 'I am definitely excited about dating and being in a committed relationship. That is all exciting stuff for me around the corner.' However, she revealed that there was 'much interest' in bringing her recent UK show Extreme Parental Guidance to American TV. 'I am passionate about my work,' she said. 'And that won't change, even with the end of Supernanny. I will certainly not be giving up what my public service is to America and the world. I don't think you will be seeing less of me. I just think it will be a different way that you see me.' Won't somebody think of the children?

Fired Apprentice candidate Paloma Vivanco has admitted that her big mouth cost her on the BBC reality show. The twenty nine-year-old, who was sacked by Lord Sugar-Sweetie last night, claimed that it was frustrating knowing that if she had controlled herself more in the boardroom, and not kept on saying 'just one more thing' like she was Columbo, then she may have survived. 'Looking back at the footage I am absolutely gutted. I think obviously there was a bit of a slip of the tongue there at the final hour so I am a bit disappointed,' she told Dara O'Briain on You're Fired. 'At that point you become very desperate and you do anything you can to keep the job. I think that is a clear indicator that I needed to keep my mouth shut. I wish he would have handed me some masking tape at that point because I could have saved myself!' Explaining her final outburst, she said: 'It's gutting to watch. I really felt I was in danger. You're in a situation where you're fighting for your life and you think, "Let's just do it." Everyone always asks when you come out of this experience, "What did you get out of it?" And it's when you watch that back that you realise what your mistakes are and the insights that you get off this are amazing. It is something I'll take with me for life. Just to be quiet!'

Jay Kay is, reportedly, 'miffed' that Dannii Minogue returned the flowers he sent her after appearing on The X Factor last weekend. 'I was just being professional,' said the strangely-hatted one. That may be so but, as Metro's gossip columnist notes 'perhaps she's still upset after he called her "useless."' Kay, reportedly asked, concerning Minogue - the least famous of the Minogue sisters - and fellow judge Cheryl Cole: 'What are they going to tell me about fucking music? When have you ever done anything? The pair of you. I mean you look great and I'd like to fucking shag you but that's all.' he's a charmer old Jay Kay isn't he?

The BBC has apologised for claiming that money donated to Band Aid was siphoned off by rebel forces in Africa. According to the Sun, the BBC admitted that there was no evidence for the allegations. A documentary on the World Service, which aired in March, suggested that the donations had been 'siphoned off by rebel groups to buy weapons.' The claims were repeated on the BBC's news bulletins and online. However, the Band Aid Trust and Saint Bob Geldof insisted that there was no truth in the story and following an investigation, the BBC has now agreed that it was unfair to Geldof. The corporation will issue apologies on television, radio and online today. Geldof said: 'The misleading coverage had the potential to be extremely damaging to public faith.' Meanwhile, the BBC said in a terse statement: 'We are looking at lessons that can be learnt.' Err ... it's lessons 'learned' not 'learnt.' Didn't you people ever go to school? The reports provoked a storm of protest from Band Aid, with Saint Bob saying that the claims were 'palpable nonsense' and that there was 'not a single shred of evidence that Band Aid or Live Aid money was diverted.' The Band Aid Trust wrote formally to the BBC in early April, but received a nineteen-page reply from director-general Mark Thompson on 27 May saying that the report - by World Service's Martin Plaut - was 'robust and excellent journalism.' However, by late September, the BBC started to negotiate apologies. The BBC drew a distinction between allegations that aid money had been diverted, and the impression that that money had been from Band Aid. 'Assignment did not make the allegation that relief aid provided by Band Aid was diverted. However the BBC acknowledges that this impression could have been taken from the programme. We also acknowledge that some of our related reporting of the story reinforced this perception,' said a BBC spokesman. 'We note that the ruling validates the main thrust of the programme's journalism; that there was evidence from a number of sources that the TPLF had diverted money intended for famine relief and that some of this was spent on weapons.' However one - anonymous - industry source, quoted by the Torygraph, criticised the BBC's handling of the case. 'It's bad enough that the BBC made such a terrible mistake – worse still that this flawed journalism was first broadcast on the World Service, of all places,' said the source. 'But they compounded their mistake by robustly defending the programme before a proper investigation. They then took seven months to deal with the complaint.' Saint Bob himself said: 'This was an unusual lapse in standards by the broadcaster and, most critically, the World Service. It was Michael Buerk's frontline reports for the BBC from Ethiopia which prompted me to act and establish Band Aid in the first place and I recognise the important journalistic and humanitarian role the BBC has played in our story.' He welcomed the apology and said he hoped it would 'begin to repair some of the appalling damage done.'

Patsy Kensit has revealed that her son was upset with her after she kissed Len Goodman on last week's Strictly Come Dancing. The former Holby City actress said that eleven-year-old Lennon - whom Kensit had with one of her several ex-husbands, Liam Gallagher - did not approve of her flirtatious display. 'I've got a crush on Len,' she told the Sun. Well, he's a bit older than your normal choice of partner, Pats. Although, in Jim Kerr's case, not by all that much. 'I just think there's something about him. That's why I squeezed in the kiss, I just couldn't help myself. [Lennon] got upset when I kissed Len. I went home and he said, "Why are you kissing men on TV?"'

The BBC will call on Jay Hunt and Mark Damazer to give evidence as it defends itself at an employment tribunal brought by former Countryfile presenter Miriam O'Reilly this week. The sex and age discrimination case, which is due to start on 4 November, is scheduled to last twelve days, with the former BBC1 controller and ex-Radio 4 controller expected to appear among nine BBC witnesses next week. Other witnesses will likely include R4 commissioner of specialist factual programmes Mohit Bakaya, File on 4 editor David Ross and executive editor of factual and learning Andrew Thorman. O'Reilly's claim dates back to November 2008 when she and three other women - Michaela Strachan, Charlotte Smith and Juliet Morris, all in their forties and fifties - were dropped from the BBC1 programme Countryfile when it was moved from Sunday mornings to a prime time slot in the evening. O'Reilly also claims she was victimised by the corporation, saying she was blamed for a series of leaked stories at the time and subsequently blacklisted. She is the first person to pursue a claim of this type against the BBC as far as the courts. O'Reilly said it was 'a principled action,' and that she was hoping to receive an apology from the corporation. She told Broadcast: 'My motivation has been justice - the BBC needs to understand it has to treat older women better and represent them properly on TV. If it had not been based on that, it would not have got this far.' One industry source - again, anonymous - told the magazine that the case would be watched with interest 'not so much about whether or not the BBC has a case to answer, but about maintaining a broadcaster's right to change the line-up of a show at any given time.' He added: 'If you can't change the line-up, because the consequence of that is to be seen as sexist or ageist, you run the risk of limiting the options broadcasters have about refreshing their shows.'

After a hiatus of more than three decades, an iconic British horror brand is being resurrected on the big screen. Audiences for vampire movie Let Me In - out on Friday - will notice the word Hammer in huge letters during the opening titles. It has been a while since that happened: Hammer's last horror movie was 1976's To The Devil A Daughter, starring Christopher Lee and Nastassja Kinski. Let Me In is a remake of the Swedish arthouse hit, Låt Den Rätte Komma In - yer Keith Telly Topping's favourite movie of that year - and signals a rebooted Hammer for the Twenty First Century. As Hammer chief executive Simon Oakes points out, the days of heaving cleavages in the Home Counties have been, if you will, staked through the heart. 'Early on when we bought the company, I was asked questions by journalists: "Are you going to remake the old Hammer films?" I said, "I'm not going to do that!" I'm not going to make velvet-caped heaving-bosomed kitsch Hammer films, because that was then, and this is now.' Hammer was founded in the 1930s but it was not until the 1950s that its name became synonymous with the horror genre. The company also produced comedies, thrillers and science fiction. Its run of monster movies included Dracula and The Curse Of Frankenstein, which made stars of British actors Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. After lying dormant since the 1980s, the company and its back catalogue were bought in 2007 by a consortium, with Simon Oakes as CEO. One clear sign of Hammer's new direction is the choice of director for Let Me In. Matt Reeves made his name on Cloverfield, the 2008 monster movie that grossed more than one hundred and seventy five million dollars worldwide. Reeves remembers seeing Hammer films as a child. 'It's exciting to be part of that tradition,' he told the BBC. 'It's the kind of movie that scared me when I was a kid, I would close my eyes and watch them late at night on TV. The original Hammer films were very lurid and gothic and wonderful, but this is a bit more naturalistic, so maybe it's a new page in Hammer horror.' Let Me In is based on John Ajvide Lindqvist's bestselling Swedish novel as well as the Swedish film adaptation. Hammer fought off fierce competition to acquire the rights. Chloe Moretz (Hit Girl in Kick-Ass) stars as Abby, a mysterious twelve-year-old who moves next door to bullied loner Owen, played by The Road's Kodi Smit-McPhee. Owen forms a bond with his new neighbour, but soon comes to realise that her strange behaviour masks an dark secret. One noticeable difference to the Swedish film is that Reeves has upped the gore and the use of CGI. 'Lindqvist's novel is like a great Stephen King book,' observes Reeves. 'It's about coming of age, but specifically about how coming of age can feel like a horror story, and so in ramping up the horror aspects I was really trying to get deeper and deeper into Owen's story.' Simon Oakes adds: 'There is a massive amount of goodwill, not only in the film community globally, but in Britain particularly, around the brand. It's important that we recalibrate or reboot Hammer in a way that's relevant to a contemporary movie audience.' He says of Let Me In: 'It has all sorts of levels in it, that I think rises above the normal vampire fare.' An important name from Hammer's past - Christopher Lee - returns in the release next year of thriller The Resident, with Hilary Swank in the lead role. The studio is currently filming a new adaptation of supernatural novel The Woman in Black, starring Daniel Radcliffe. And Hammer recently announced that it will be moving into the literary arena with new horror novels and adaptations of classic films. The first commission is a novella from Jeanette Winterson. Oakes acknowledges he has a big responsibility looking after the Hammer brand. 'The most important thing is that Hammer has somehow managed to stay alive, with a very low heartbeat for many years, and so it's our job to actually make sure that it lasts another fifty years. Yes, it's a responsibility. I had a sense of its potential when we acquired it, but I never thought there was quite the amount of goodwill and energy that this whole venture seems to have been given us. It's amazing.'

James McAvoy and Hugh Laurie have joined the voice cast for Arthur Christmas - the latest film from Aardman Animations. A host of other British actors have also signed up to the project including Jim Broadbent, Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton. The film tells of Santa's ultra-high-tech present delivery operation hidden beneath the North Pole. It is expected to be released in November next year. McAvoy will voice Arthur, the clumsy younger son of Santa and the only one in his family still captivated by the magic of the holiday. Laurie will play Arthur's older brother Steve, the heir to the operation who has given the North Pole high-tech efficiency and military-style precision. Broadbent is set to voice Santa with Nighy as his cranky one hundred and thirty-year-old father, Grandsanta. Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino is writing the score, while League of Gentlemen producer Sarah Smith, who has also written the screenplay, will direct. 'We are thrilled to have assembled such a phenomenal group of actors for Arthur Christmas,' Smith said. 'Not only are they all terrifically funny, charming and characterful but they have also brought an emotional subtlety and depth that gives the film great heart.' Bristol-based Aardman's last cinematic release was 2006's Flushed Away, starring Hugh Jackman and Kate Winslet.

Paul Gascoigne was reportedly reprimanded by magistrates for making jokes when he appeared in court yesterday. The ex-footballer was appearing after he was charged with drink driving. During the five-hour hearing, the Mirror reports that Gascoigne was told by chairman of the bench, Nigel Tapey, that it 'is a very serious matter.' When magistrates left the court several times to discuss the case, he allegedly joked: 'I bet that they've got loads of sandwiches and that behind there!' and said, 'It's like doing squats' in reference to having to stand up and sit down each time they exited and entered the court. During one adjournment Gazza - who has been arrested twice over other incidents in the past fortnight - joked when asked by the court clerk for a new contact address: 'Try 999.' As they took another break, the forty three-year-old is claimed to have said: 'It's like half-time - will we get oranges?' At one point Gascoigne was representing himself, as his lawyer, who took on the case last Thursday, withdrew when his application for an adjournment was refused. The lawyer said that he had a criminal practice which takes up most of his time. The beak, spotting a Round The Horne gag when he heard one, told him to 'stop messin' about.' When the lawyer further stated that his client had 'erred,' the magistrate replied 'we've all 'eard, ducky.' For all the hot news on who will be next to pick up Gazza's briefs, tune in tomorrow, dear blog reader.

Now, yer Keith Telly Topping doesn't normally do this sort of thing, dear blog reader. Being, as he is, a firm believer in the universal laws of karma and that what goes around comes around. But, I'm afraid that - on this one occasion - I may have to be indulgent for a moment and share this nugget with you. On Wednesday morning the following small ad appeared in the Journal, the North East's most widely read morning newspaper. It's worth bearing in mind, when reading the advertisment, ostensibly for the sale a second hand Sunderland football club tracksuit, what the score was in Sunday's match between yer Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though still unsellable) Magpies and them lot from doon the road. I'll leave it at that. That's really naughty. I mean, funny, admittedly. But, also, bad and wrong!

And so we come, by an inevitable process of elimination, to yer Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. And, happily (and I mean that), it's the second time in this series so far for The Other Fab Four - Joe, Mick, Paul and Topper. This one's for all those Midnight-To-Six Men (and Ladies) out there who have ever felt the vibes suddenly start going wrong on a night out. 'We were a big-fat-riff-group,' Joe Strummer noted in 1999 concerning his favourite self-written song. 'We weren't supposed to do something like that.' The song in question was, of course, a delicious three minute slice of perfectly-formed white-reggae before the term, or even its creative limits, had been properly defined. So, basically, Joe Strummer and Mick Jones are responsible for Sting's entire career. Bastards! As a final footnote, The Palais itself occupied its site for eighty two years until its closure later that same year, 1999. To mark its demise, the management - as a mark of genuine respect - presented the sign from the venue's entrance to Strummer in recognition for all the publicity he'd given them over the years. 'I guess I'll have to send a man with a van round to pick it up!' he told the Independent.