Friday, September 09, 2011

Four Years Won't Mean That Much To Me, When I've Been Smothered By The Sympathy You Bleed.

Comedy line of the week: From that wonderful gag-merchant Stewart Francis on the returning Mock The Week: 'I've just heard my sister's into bestiality. Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle!' Also, how nice it is to see that Mock The Week are still using The Jam's 'News of the World' as their theme-tune even though the disgraced and disgraceful newspaper paper which inspired the song no longer exists. After all, Bruce Foxton probably needs that fifty quid a week towards his retirement fund!

The lack of culture secretary, the vile and odious rascal Hunt, has warned against an over-reaction by police against journalists after it emerged that officers had questioned a Gruniad Morning Star journalist over alleged leaks from Scotland Yard's phone-hacking inquiry.
The cabinet minister told MPs that he 'could not comment' on the specific case, but went on to add: 'There is an important difference between off-the-record briefing and the payment of money by or to the police in return for information. Journalists must operate within the law, but, as the prime minister told the liaison committee, as we go through this entire process we must be careful not to over-react in a way that would undermine the foundations of a free society.' The vile and odious rascal Hunt was responding to a question by Tom Watson (power to the people!) who said: 'There is a world of difference between a journalist who bribes a police officer for information and a journalist who gets information from a police officer, freely given. The former corrodes our democracy, while the latter protects it.' Gruniad journalist Amelia Hill, who has been part of the newspaper's team reporting on the Scum of the World phone-hacking scandal, was questioned by police under caution several days ago in a move that has been condemned by the NUJ and media watchdog the Media Standards Trust. A fifty one-year-old detective was arrested last month in connection with alleged leaks from the Scotland Yard phone-hacking investigation. At the time there were reports that the officer had passed information to the Gruniad. The newspaper said at the time it had 'no comment to make on the sources of our journalism.'

I think we can safely start using the word 'flop' to describe Red or Black? now. The fifth nightly episode of the Simon Cowell created, Ant and Dec presented game show had an overnight audience of just 3.8m - in other words by Thursday it had lost almost half of its initial audience on Saturday night. Indeed, it's audience was only a couple of hundred thousand ahead of both Torchwood on BBC1 and Celebrity Big Brother on Channel Five, a truly disastrous result for a format which had been sold to ITV as a sure-fire audience winner. There are a lot of people in the industry and in the ratings-watching community (yeah, there is such a thing, I know, I'm one of them!) having a reet good laugh at the hilarious 'spin' currently being put on the Red or Black? performance by ITV. And, particularly by the hapless James MacLeod, the Head of Press for ITV broadcasting, whose crowing tweets on Saturday about the show's initial ratings have grown less and less crowing, and less and less convincing as the week has rolled on. By Wednesday he'd been reduced to: 'Combination of Emmerdale, Red or Black? and Coronation Street helped ITV win peak time last night with average 5.4 million from 7-10.30.' I'm not sure that your two most popular soaps - both of which have a usual audience of seven million plus - will be particularly chuffed at being folded into a news story to prop-up a failing show's audience figure, matey. He followed that with: 'The share of audience for last night's Red or Black? was consistent with Sunday and Monday's shows - last night's also won slot.' Note, he's not even bothering to quote actual figures now. I doubt anyone sincerely believes what's being said publicly by MacLeod and others at ITV - the damage limitation exercise is, clearly, in full force and has been for some days. One thing which Simon Cowell has said which isn't hyperbole, is that a second series of Red or Black? can't be ruled out. Cowell remains a major player in a lot of aspects of commercial TV. However, he's only at the position he currently occupies because many of his programmes deliver the mass audience which the advertisers crave. At the end of the day, as far as ITV are concerned it's the advertisers who really matter. Red or Black? has proven to be the first real chink in Cowell's armour. By all accounts people within ITV - who knew what they were talking about - weren't listened to when the show's seven-night format was discussed, bizarre schedules were allegedly compiled against advice and the result is far, far lower ratings figures than was needed and promised. (Eight million is the figure that I've heard several times - and from two or three different sources - as to what ITV were confidently expecting the show to get, at least for the initial nights. This, remember, after weeks of hype, a massive promotional budget and a sustained marketing campaign. Cowell himself has claimed the expectation was for five million and rather crassly boasted on Wednesday that was what it was getting. Not on Thursday, it didn't. The exact quote, from the Mirra, was 'This show is getting five million viewers, which is what we thought. ITV are happy and I think there will be a second series.') So, what we're left with - and, again, this is largely second hand but from two or three different sources - is a lot of negative critical reactions from the audience, a lot of disgruntled ITV schedulers who were overruled at the eleventh hour and a lot of bad publicity from tabloids who can sense a sinking ship when they bomb it. ITV, of course, has notoriously short term memories - so once The X-Factor rolls round and dominates the week's ratings again, the crimes of the recent past be likely be forgiven. Probably. But the 3.8m audience on Thursday for Red or Black? was really disastrous. It had been confidently predicted to debut with eight million and that was the figure at which advertising slots were sold around the piece. Remember, this is one of the most expensive game shows ever made having already given out over three million pounds in prize money alone and it is estimated to be costing around two million smackers a night to make due to the celebrity guests and lavish stunts along with the prizes. Red or Black? was expected to be the cornerstone of the week's ITV schedule and its failure to be so is something of a chastening experience for ITV. This coming Saturday's final programme was confidently expected to out perform both Strictly Come Dancing and Doctor Who in the overnights (although not, necessarily, in consolidated final ratings). That's now looking like a very shaky bet. Hours before he was due to jet out to Hollywood, Simon Cowell did his best to face down a tabloid storm and expressed 'confidence' that his game show will get a second series despite being dogged by controversy. The music and television mogul said a 'human error' was to blame after a former criminal, Nathan Hageman, scooped the one million smackers jackpot on the show's opening night. Cowell claimed that TV bosses were 'delighted' with Red or Black?, despite the row casting a huge shadow over the game show's debut. With characteristic confidence, he predicted that his own gamble on the format appears to be paying off, predicting that the show would be in thirty territories – including the US – within twelve months. Cowell described ITV's director of television, Peter Fincham, as 'really really cool' with the show's reception.

This week, Christine Bleakley made a visit to her alma mater, Bloomfield Collegiate girls' grammar school in East Belfast. It was a visit to mark Back To School week. Presumably, she also offered the girls a lecture on how being greedy can earn you wads of coin but reduce your viewership considerably. She chose to attend wearing her old school uniform, something which got the Dail Scum Mail's regulation bottle-green knickers in a twist over her 'irresponsibility.' Or something. Didn't stop them from running the picture, of course.
John Barrowman has revealed - for about the fourth time - that he would like to return to Doctor Who when it celebrates its fiftieth anniversary. I've heard of dropping hints but this is getting ridiculous. The popular BBC1 family SF drama series will hit the landmark in November 2013, and Barrowman is hoping to reprise his character of Captain Jack Harkness, whom Barrowman also currently plays in the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood. 'It's the fiftieth anniversary coming up of Doctor Who and Jack is an integral part to this story and, if I'm going to be a little self-absorbed, I would hope he would be involved, it would be a shame if he wasn't,' he told BANG Showbiz. Barrowman explained that he would be happy to return as Harkness in the original series if the chance arises, but that the final decision will always lie with the BBC and Who's writers. 'I don't think it's a question of whether I would like to come back as Captain Jack, I'd be very happy to do that any time. I know the fans would really like that. But it's a decision left up to the BBC and the drama department. So like I've said to all the fans, you need to write to them if you want it to happen because I've never been asked. I know Russell thinks it might be a nice idea as did Steven Moffat but who knows?' Barrowman added that he would 'love a chance' to work with Matt Smith, and said that Smith portrays 'a very good Doctor.' Barrowman recently announced plans to release a 'greatest hits' compilation CD titled Tonight's the Night: The Very Best of John Barrowman. Which is, surely, an oxymoron but, never mind. Speaking about the CD's songs, he said: 'I chose all the tracks because I wanted them to have a personal connection to me. I say in the sleeve each of the songs carry a little piece of my heart with them. What I mean by that is the fact that each one has an emotional connection relating to something that happened in my life from my career or to someone who is a family member or the song was introduced to me by a family member. It's a very personal album.'

Channel Four has said it will continue to work with presenter Ortis Deley after hundreds of complaints about his role in the coverage of the recent World Athletics Championships in South Korea. Stuart Cosgrove, Channel Four's 'director of creative diversity,' whatever the hell that job entails, admitted that its coverage of the event had 'a false start,' but argued that it 'responded to criticism' and improved. He told Broadcast magazine it was a commercial and ratings success. 'There is no question that we will be working with [Ortis] again,' he said. The host faced criticism for not knowing the names of some athletes - and, indeed, the commentators - and struggling to handle links between the coverage. His involvement was 'scaled back' and he was replaced by Rick Edwards as the lead presenter. 'Sport is one of the most conservative areas of broadcasting and part of Channel Four's identity is in risk taking,' Cosgrove said, adding that Channel Four was 'committed to new presenting talent.' The broadcaster will be showing the London 2012 Paralympic Games and has committed half a million smackers to finding new disabled talent to front the coverage. Six presenters have been identified and have undertaken work placements with producers and broadcasters to prepare them for live presenting. London 2012 chairman Lord Coe said he had not seen the World Athletics Championships coverage but that he 'couldn't want for a better broadcast partner than Channel Four.'

Paddy Doherty won Celebrity Big Brother. Next ...

HBO has announced that it plans to take Aaron Sorkin's pilot More As This Story Develops to series. The drama from The West Wing creator is expected to receive an order of approximately ten episodes, though that number has yet to be finalised, Deadline reports. In addition, the website revealed that the series will be retitled in the near future. The show, which stars Jeff Daniels, Dev Patel, Emily Mortimer, Olivia Munn and Alison Pill, focuses on the team working in a broadcast newsroom. In February, The Social Network writer explained that the drama will have a similar style to his previous programmes - Sports Night, The West Wing and Studio Sixty On The Sunset Strip, saying that the series will be 'aspirational' and wish fulfilment. 'They're going to lose as much as they're going to win. In other words, it's not going to be a fantasy,' Sorkin explained. 'They're going to be trying to do well in a context where it's very difficult to do well when there are commercial concerns and political concerns and corporate concerns.' Marisa Tomei was rumoured to be joining the series in April, but was ultimately replaced by Mortimer when negotiations with the actress fell through.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan has admitted it mistakenly killed BBC reporter Ahmed Omed Khpulwak in July. ISAF said a US soldier mistook the Pashto service journalist for 'an insurgent' when troops responded to a militant attack in the town of Tarin Kowt in southern Uruzgan province. Khpulwak was one of nineteen people killed. NATO launched an inquiry after initial reports that Khpulwak had been killed by insurgents were questioned. The BBC said it recognised that ISAF had provided clarification, ending a period of uncertainty, but it would study the details of the findings on receiving the full report. The director of BBC Global News Peter Horrocks said: 'Ahmed Omed's death further highlights the great dangers facing journalists who put their lives on the line to provide vital news from around the world. It is essential that journalists are given the best possible protection whilst reporting in dangerous situations so that the world can hear their stories. Our thoughts are with Ahmed Omed's family and we will continue to do all we can to support them.' ISAF's findings concluded that Khpulwak, twenty five, was shot dead by an American soldier who 'mistook him for a suicide bomber.' The report said that ISAF troops were responding to an insurgent attack on the offices of Radio Television Afghanistan. The soldiers were attempting to clear the building after two suicide bombers had detonated devices when they noticed a man 'with something clinched in one of his fists and reaching for something on his person with his other hand.' The report said: 'Based on the events of the preceding minutes the soldier assessed the actions as those of a suicide bomber who was taking steps to detonate an IED that posed a lethal threat to numerous soldiers in the immediate area. He shot the individual with his M-4, killing him.' The BBC's David Loyn says Khpulwak had taken refuge in a bathroom and what he was holding up may have been his press card. ISAF said Khpulwak's death was 'tragic' and has 'expressed condolences' to his family. But it said it was 'confident' that its soldiers had 'complied with the laws of armed conflict and rules of engagement' and 'acted reasonably under the circumstances.' Heavy fighting had broken out in Tarin Kowt's market following three suicide bombings. Heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles were used by both sides, witnesses said. Afghan government forces received air support from NATO. The Taliban admitted carrying out the attacks but denied killing the reporter, accusing government forces of shooting him as they fought to regain control of the area. Khpulwak reportedly sent his brother two text messages at the time. The first read: 'I am hiding. Death has come.' In the second, he wrote: 'Pray for me if I die.' Khpulwak, who also worked for the Pajwak Afghan news agency, joined the BBC in 2008. In September 2009, NATO soldiers rescued kidnapped UK journalist Stephen Farrell from the Taliban but his Afghan colleague, Sultan Munadi, a UK soldier and two Afghan civilians died in the operation. And in October 2010, kidnapped UK aid worker Linda Norgrove was killed by a grenade thrown by a US special forces team as it tried to rescue her in Kunar province. ISAF is the one hundred and forty thousand-strong, NATO-led force that is tackling the Taliban insurgency. Although casualties are down slightly this year from 2010, there were sixty six US combat deaths in August 2011, according to an unofficial tally by the Associated Press, making it the deadliest month for US troops in nearly ten years of war. Foreign troops are expected to end combat operations in Afghanistan by 2014.

Kate Winslet has said that she hopes to always be excited about the characters she plays. The actress explained that while she is proud of her past accomplishments, she prefers to keep challenging herself as she finds her job pointless if she is not continually learning something new. 'I hope I am shitting myself over the characters I play for the rest of my life. Because the day I go "Oh yeah, that's going to be a piece of pie," why fucking bother? If you do that, you do not learn,' Winslet told V Magazine. And, if you'd like to see a picture of Kate shitting herself over the characters she plays, dear blog reader, sorry I don't have one to hand. However, I am assured that specialist websites are available. 'I hope I'm always learning something. So I won an Oscar. It's amazing. I've got that for the rest of my life for a performance I am proud of. It nearly killed me. I am really proud of the film. That's it, moving on.' Winslet has revealed that she is not fond of filming nude scenes but likes to go in and 'get on with it' when the part calls for her to appear bare-naked. She recently described a projectile vomiting scene in Carnage as 'hysterical,' saying that the cast and crew could not stop laughing during production.

A computer software developer from Newcastle has received thousands of messages of congratulations on Twitter after being mistaken for singer PJ Harvey. Philip John Harvey's @pjharvey account on the microblogging site was flooded with tweets after Polly Harvey won the Mercury Music Prize on Tuesday evening. Speaking to BBC News, Phil Harvey said that he was cooking dinner when his phone started alerting him of constant messages of support from other Twitter users. 'I was just in my kitchen cooking my dinner when my phone started going off. I have it so it notifies me whenever someone mentions me, which happens quite rarely because I'm just an average guy on Twitter,' he said. He quickly realised what was going on and tweeted that he was not the singer PJ Harvey, but many Twitterers - or whatever they're called - did not believe him. 'I wasn't trying to be funny but Twitter thought it was funny and everyone started retweeting that message and then it just exploded,' he said. 'I had all sorts of nonsense coming through, people accusing me of pretending to be PJ Harvey and I got some quite nasty messages. As well as lots of positive messages.' Phil Harvey, who was among the first UK users to sign up to Twitter, had received over two thousand messages by the time he went to bed in the early hours of the morning. After the mix-up became clear to people, one user tweeted: 'I shall follow you anyway but I expect an album by this time next year!'

FIFA have terminated a multimillion-pound 2014 World Cup TV deal after discovering the rights had been sub-licensed to a company owned by the thoroughly odious though clearly not in any way totally corrupt Jack Warner. The agreement with the Caribbean Football Union has been brought to an end after FIFA told the organisation they had 'not approved' the sub-licensing deal with JD International, owned by the controversial former FIFA vice-president. Warner, who was at that time also the CFU's president, sold the rights to the Jamaica-based cable TV station SportsMax in 2007 for a fee reported to be between eighteen and twenty million dollars, though that also included the 2010 World Cup. FIFA were also reportedly owed several payments dating back to 2009 for the rights, which covered twenty nine Caribbean countries. Warner resigned from all football related activities in June, a month after being charged with bribery and corruption by FIFA, who subsequently dropped their investigation saying that they 'no longer had jurisdiction' over the Trinidadian. FIFA have sent a letter to the CFU saying they have 'only recently become aware' of the sub-licensing agreement, as well as detailing the missed payments, and terminating the contract. Warner has claimed that FIFA's action is 'designed to go after me' and that he was shocked that the CFU had been targeted. FIFA said in a statement to the Press Association: 'The CFU was a media rights licensee for FIFA events in selected territories in the Caribbean. However, the CFU is no longer a media rights licensee of FIFA. FIFA has secured good coverage in the region directly, but has still not finalised any announcement.' The Conservative MP Damian Collins, who is campaigning for FIFA reforms, said that Warner's involvement pointed to 'a clear conflict of interest.' The initial contract with the CFU was agreed in 2005 giving the organisation the rights for the 2010 and 2014 World Cups for countries in the Caribbean. The CFU, headed by Warner, sub-licensed the rights to his own company JDI. In 2007, JDI sold on those rights on to SportsMax. FIFA have said they had 'not approved' the sub-licensing and had 'only become aware' of it recently, but there was 'no secrecy' about Warner's involvement. Indeed, he held a photo opportunity with SportsMax executives to announce the deal. SportsMax's website said Warner 'negotiated the deal on behalf of JDI' and 'in his capacity as president of the CFU.' Collins, who sits on the culture, media and sport committee, said that the reforms to be announced by the FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, needed to address such conflicts of interest. He said: 'There should be a very strict code where members of FIFA's executive committee have to declare all their financial interests. If it look like senior officials are making money on the side as a result of their role in football, that is plainly wrong. For someone who has responsibility for the game of football to be making money out of the exploitation of that game cannot be right.' Warner's close connections to the television rights in the Caribbean were also revealed by the former FA chairman Lord Triesman in his claims about improper approaches during England's 2018 World Cup bid – Triesman alleged Warner asked for five hundred thousand dollars to be channelled through him to buy the television rights to show the 2010 World Cup on big screens in earthquake-hit Haiti. Warner claimed FIFA's action against the CFU was 'a publicity stunt.' He told the Press Association: 'Such ignoble pursuit has nothing to do with the cleansing of corruption within the FIFA but rather to offer the perception of an aura of cleansing within the FIFA. The matter is designed to go after me and is now with the CFU's Swiss lawyers.'

On Thursday evening, instead of watching TorchWood - which he recorded, of course - yer actual Keith Telly Topping spent a splendid evening at the Tyneside Cinema on the opening night of Scunthorpe Stevie Drayton's imaginative latest multi-media project The Record Player. Further info on what's behind the whole malarkey is available at Stevie own blogsite including how you can obtain copies of his imaginatively titled fanzine The Record Player. Free badge and all for two quid. Bargain. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping is pictured on the blog at work on Thursday afternoon as he got presented with his freebie copy of the fanzine simply for contributing a hundred words on why 'This Charming Man' is the greatest record ever made. Next time, I think I'm going to have to work a bit harder. The night itself was excellent and a really very singular experience. First time I think that I've sat in a room with thirty other people and listened to an LP, on vinyl, and all the way through both sides, since about 1984 or something! Brilliant stuff. And Dark Side of the Moon itself has never sounded more ... organic. Anyway, next week is The Stone Roses eponymous debut, so I'm looking forward to that as well. Me being the resurrection and the light and all that. Thereafter, this blogger returned home to find that Mama Telly Topping had got back safely from her travails in Espanya. In case you didn't know there's a really big 30s revival going on round our way. Everybody's going off to Spain to fight the fascists, except, we call in the European Championship these days. Anyway, the auld dear made it safely back through customs. Not that she had anything about her person that might've cause any kerfufflement, of course. Oh no, very hot water. Sorry, where were we? Ah yes, Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day. So, anyway, I'm going for two little masterpieces from the frighteningly mighty pen of yer actual Roddy Frame and Aztec Camera today. And, just to sicken you a bit more, dear blog reader, he was sixteen when he wrote these two! It's not fair, is it? Firstly here's a beautiful live version of 'Mattress of Wire'.
And secondly, where else could we end the latest From The North bloggerisationisms but with one of the most genuinely moving songs ever written. By anyone. Here's 'We Could Send Letters'.
Right, that's me off to listen to High Land Hard Rain for the rest of the day.