Thursday, September 15, 2011

Free From The Filth And The Scum This American Satellite's Won

Now, here's a little tit-bit for all of those older dear blog readers who may recall that once upon a midnight dreary, in a different lifetime (and a different century as it happens), yer actual Keith Telly Topping used to write Doctor Who novels. A couple of them were all right, one of them was really very dreadful indeed and one actually stands out as being something I'm very proud of. Well, it appears as though Random House (who now own BBC Books) are intending to re-publishing pretty much all of the old EDA and PDA ranges as e-books. I only just heard about this a couple of days ago and this morning I got an e-mail through about three of them. (Though, interestingly, not Devil Goblins From Neptune, yet - which may mean that Random House have, actually, read that one!) I never expected to see King of Terror back in print, for instance. But I am very happy that The Hollow Men's going to see the light of day again, albeit in electronic form. Best book that I was ever involved with - novel or otherwise - by about a million miles. That's what happens when you work with a genius like Martin Day, just occasionally some of the magic rubs off on you too. So, I'm absolutely delighted that it's going to be available to the public again in one form or another. For those who've never read it, what can I say? It's a little sodding masterpiece of rural horror, dealing with themes of racism, class prejudice, revenge-violence, homelessness, peer pressure and fitting in. Even if I do say so myself!

According to the Gruniad BBC4 may be granted 'a last-minute reprieve' from the severe cuts to its budget that were planned under the corporation's Delivering Quality First initiative, but could have its management merged with BBC2's instead. Its controller, Richard Klein, may report to BBC2 controller Janice Hadlow under a proposal being discussed to promote 'greater synergy' between the channels. Public and political support for the digital channel appears to have had an impact on BBC executives, who will meet on Thursday to discuss their DQF cost-cutting proposals. According to 'sources', anonymous, of course, quoted by the Gruniad the reaction to BBC4 'being hit quite hard' has led to a re-think and it could be one of the first beneficiaries of money from so-called 'over-savings' – where greater savings are achieved elsewhere than previously anticipated. In effect it means the BBC could 'take with one hand and give with the other,' with some of the efficiencies from ongoing cost-cutting exercises already taking place at the BBC being redirected back into BBC4's programme budget. However, another suggestion being floated to save money is to bring BBC2 and BBC4 managements closer together or merge them in a 'hub.' Under the proposal, the controller of BBC4 could report to the BBC2 chief and the controller of BBC3 report to the BBC1 controller. One BBC 'insider' allegedly said: 'An idea that has been discussed is to have greater synergy between the channels and a closer relationship between each channel. The reporting lines might change, but there would still be a controller for each channel.' Another 'source' allegedly said: 'A controller appointment for BBC2 and BBC4 has been looked at but that could be difficult. If BBC4's budget is not cut so much, how do you get savings elsewhere?' There has been a groundswell of public support for BBC4. As of Wednesday, sixty seven thousand people have signed an online petition in protest, compared with the sixty two thousand or so who signed the 'save 6Music from closure' petition last year. BBC management has completed a lengthy staff consultation process and there has been intense speculation about how the corporation is going to make a sixteen per cent cut in operating costs as a result of last year's licence fee settlement with the government. During recent months there has been tension between BBC management and the BBC Trust over the idea of closing a service. It is understood that the Trust has still not given assurances that BBC4 and BBC3 should not be closed. Although top BBC executives are meeting this week to hone DQF proposals to put to the BBC Trust, they have been in constant talks with the sovereign body to ensure they are in agreement. After the Trust discusses the issue at its next meeting on 22 September, an announcement is due to be made to staff in early October. A BBC spokesman said: 'We are not going to get drawn into a running commentary – no decisions have been taken and therefore this is speculation. Any decisions coming out of the process would be subject to approval by the BBC Trust and we expect to announce more within the next month.'

John Barrowman has 'hit back' at complaints regarding sex scenes in Torchwood: Miracle Day. When the series first broadcast in August, some - homophobic and bigoted - viewers complained over 'too much gay content' in the SF drama. Barrowman told iVillage: 'When you watch Torchwood there is a warning at the very beginning that some scenes may offend or disturb people, so if you allow your children to sit and watch it with you that's your responsibility, it's not ours anymore. We kissed, we held each other, we lay on top of each other in bed and there were lots of complaints about that.' The BBC had previously edited a sex scene - marginally - from the show from UK broadcast, although the US network Starz aired the segment uncut. The actor further declared: 'Nobody complained that I was shot in the head four times, there were burning people in ovens, that I was stabbed by a mob of fifty people hundreds of times and I was hanging dripping my blood in a pit. So that's what confuses me, because you're not complaining about gay sex, you're complaining about two men kissing. And it's 2011. And people say, "Well why should we have that on television?" Because the BBC have to represent the greater public - and there are gay people out there who pay their television license too. For people to complain, that's your prerogative - but you know what, none of them turned it off! They were just embarrassed because it put them in a position where they had to explain things to their kids or their family which probably should have been explained a long time ago.'

Lavish new BBC series Planet Dinosaur launched with 3.8m on Wednesday night, but lost out to live Champions League football on ITV, the latest overnight audience data has revealed. Planet Dinosaur, a new programme using the latest technology to bring recent dinosaur discoveries to life, captivated 3.84m on BBC1 from 8.30pm. Afterwards, Alan Carr's excellent episode of Who Do You Think You Are? had an audience 4.81m. However, both shows were hit by the tough competition of coverage of Manchester United's draw against Benfica, which had 5.15m on ITV between 7.30pm and 10pm.

In his Royal Television Society speech, the lack of culture secretary the vile and odious rascal Hunt called for a cross-media approach to industry regulation, as broadcasters, newspapers and Internet companies develop new products for smartphones, tablet computers, and web TV. In the wake of the recent BSkyB bid, the vile and odious rascal Hunt has asked Ofcom to examine whether the BBC should be included in any new framework to prevent media dominance. The regulator is also to look at whether absolute limits on market share could or should be introduced to protect plurality of news provision in the UK. Outlining the 'direction of travel' for the forthcoming new Communications Act, the vile and odious rascal Hunt told the Cambridge audience he wanted to ensure that media power was never over-concentrated in a few hands. While regulation had sometimes been too onerous, it had not always been tough enough 'in an age when influence across platforms is more important than strength on any individual platform,' he argued. What was needed was a new regulatory framework that was platform-neutral, with the influence of media operators measured through 'a sensible aggregation of consumer contact through the different types of media.' The vile and odious rascal Hunt said that Ofcom should recommend the best approach: 'In particular I have asked them to look at whether or not it is practical or advisable to set absolute limits on news market share; whether they believe a framework for measuring levels of plurality could or should include websites and if so which ones; and whether or how it should include the BBC,' he said. In addition the vile and odious rascal Hunt challenged the press to come up with ideas to help future-proof regulation of newspapers that are already producing web content and moving towards IPTV. Traditional broadcasting regulation will remain, but instead of newsprint being regulated through the PCC, on-demand websites through Atvod and IPTV through Ofcom, he wanted a 'one-stop regulatory framework' to cover all the platforms on which newspapers do and will operate. Responding to the speech, a BBC Trust spokesperson said: 'The BBC should be open to any debate around issues of plurality. Of course the questions about the BBC are somewhat different, given its public ownership and its independence from any immediate commercial pressures or motives. But we look forward to talking to Ofcom about their work in this area.'

Christina Hendricks has described Mad Men as a 'very stylish show.' The actress told Parade she is proud that the success of her character Joan Holloway has led to further opportunities for the show's costume designer. 'Mad Men is a very stylish show. I think people miss a time where people were put together and much more presentable. It's nice that people are responding to it,' Hendricks explained. 'And it's so exciting for our costume designer, Janie Bryant, to do a line for Banana Republic. It's sort of surreal to walk by the windows and see your show represented there.' Hendricks added that she is pleased to have boosted the public's perception of curvy women, saying: 'I think that's an amazing compliment. It's a testament to the meticulousness of our costume designer and what she's done with a pencil skirt! God bless her!' The thirty six-year-old previously said that fans helped to make Joan sexy as the character was not originally written to have sex appeal. Hendricks recently insisted that she is too busy to have children and that her hectic career would not allow her enough time to devote to being a parent.
Almost fifty alleged victims of media malpractice have been granted the right to be 'core participants' in the judicial inquiry into phone hacking by the Scum of the World. They include author JK Rowling, actors Hugh Grant and Sienna Miller, and the family of murder victim Milly Dowler. Core participant status means a person will be represented by a barrister and can seek to cross-examine witnesses and make opening and closing statements. The inquiry's first stage will examine relations between the press and public. The forty six who have now become 'specially interested parties' also include the parents of Madeleine McCann, Max Mosley and Paul Gascoigne. Core participants may also apply for public funding for legal representation. Inquiry chairman Lord Justice Leveson said the hearing would examine the relationship between the press and the public, the press and the police and the press and politicians. He said he would initially look into the 'culture, practice and ethics' of the press before moving on to the extent of any improper conduct. The judge said the inquiry would last several months and he would aim to produce a report within a year.

A leading group of US banks and investment funds has issued a fresh legal challenge against Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, alleging corporate misconduct beyond the phone hacking scandal at the Scum of the World. New York-based Amalgamated Bank, which holds around one million shares in News Corp, is leading the legal action, lodged in the Delaware courts. The lawsuit is directed against the News Corp board members, including Rupert Murdoch and his sons James and Lachlan, along with the firm's chief operating officer Chase Carey. The shareholders have accused the board of allowing Murdoch to use News Corp as his 'own personal fiefdom.' Alongside the phone hacking scandal at the Scum of the World, the complaint also focuses on the business practices of various News Corp subsidiaries in America, including News America Marketing and satellite smart card firm NDS Group. In the legal filing, the shareholders alleged that the two companies were accused by multiple parties of 'stealing computer technology, hacking into business plans and computers and violating the law through a wide range of anti-competitive behaviour.' The legal document refers to a number of legal cases, including a supermarket coupon lawsuit settled against News Corp's News America Marketing. Floorgraphics claimed that employees at News America Marketing had hacked into the company's website in 2003 and 2004. The case was eventually settled in 2009 when News Corp bought Floorgraphics' assets for twenty nine million dollars. Before the deal was agreed, News America's chief executive Paul Carlucci was quoted as having told Floorgraphics: 'If you ever get into any of our businesses, I will destroy you. I work for a man who wants it all, and doesn't understand anybody telling him he can't have it all.' In another case, Vivendi and EchoStar accused NDS - the company acquired by News Corp in 1992 - of illegally extracting the code from its smart cards used to unscramble satellite TV signals. Amalgamated Bank claims that NDS then posted the Vivendi code on the web, enabling hackers to access the broadcasts for free and inflict more than one billion dollars in damages on the rival operator. Jay Eisenhofer, a lawyer representing Amalgamated Bank and the other leading complainants, said that the cases suggest a wider culture of impropriety at News Corp, particularly as several members of News America and NDS were also on the board of News Corp. 'These cases establish a pattern of misconduct that extends far beyond the UK subsidiary. It demonstrates a corporate culture that allows this sort of misconduct to take place over a very long period of time,' he said in an interview. Amalgamated Bank also led a legal action in July accusing News Corp of 'rampant nepotism' following Murdoch's six hundred and seventy five million dollars deal to acquire his daughter Elisabeth's Shine TV production company. Last month, the US investigation into News Corp was widened beyond claims that victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks were targeted by the Scum of the World. It is now looking at business practices across the firm's entire US operation.

Ken Kercheval is to reprise his Dallas role in TNT's forthcoming relaunch. The seventy six-year-old actor played Cliff Barnes, nemesis of JR Ewing, in the original series from 1978 to 1991. He will appear in the updated Dallas for a multi-episode arc, according to TV Guide. Ten episodes of the new show have currently been ordered, with Kercheval currently signed up to appear in the third, fourth and tenth instalments. Other original Dallas actors confirmed to appear include Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy, Linda Gray, Charlene Tilton and Steve Kanaly.

BBC Worldwide Productions has confirmed that an American version of cooking show The Hairy Bikers is to be produced for the History channel in the US. The commission is part of a partnership struck with the Hairy Bikers to licence their brand and programme formats around the world. The bikers - Dave Myers and Simon King – are managed by the James Grant Group both domestically and internationally. US cable channel History has commissioned Los Angeles-based BBC Worldwide Productions to produce twelve episodes for broadcast later this year. The show will feature former White House Chef Paul Patranella and his motorcycle mechanic and friend of twenty years, Bill Allen, as the US bikers. This marks Worldwide's first deal for the Hairy Bikers brand since striking the partnership, which includes DVD, merchandise and live events rights globally. In February, Myers and King also signed an exclusive two-year deal with the corporation to keep their various cookery shows to BBC2. Matt Paice, the executive vice president of international production at BBC Worldwide, said: 'The Hairy Bikers have really captured viewers' attention in the UK and the introduction of their Stateside doppelgangers is a really exciting development. We look forward to striking innovative new deals for Dave and Si and we will be looking for talent to replicate this success for broadcasters around the world.' Holly Pye - no, really - head of television at JGG, said: 'The History deal represents the first of its kind for the Bikers. We look forward to working in partnership (for our clients) with BBC Worldwide in the coming months and years. History has the ideal platform and audience from which to showcase the Bikers unique concept.' In a joint statement, the Hairy Bikers commented: 'We are delighted to be working with BBC Worldwide. The company has a fantastic track record of building successful international brands and we are looking forward to seeing what tasty treats our American cousins will be cooking up across the pond!' Worldwide has already brokered deals for a US version of Top Gear, which recently finished its second series. The organisation reported record underlying profits of £160.2 million in the year to March, buoyed by continuing popularity of brands such as Top Gear and Doctor Who.

A post-watershed Primeval spin-off will begin production later in the year, it has been announced. The SF family drama began on ITV in 2007 and was recommissioned for a fourth and fifth series as part of a co-production deal between ITV, UKTV and other international partners. While the fifth series was shown on Watch earlier this year, no details of its ITV broadcast have been confirmed. Broadcast reports that an independent production company, Impossible Pictures, has secured an order for the 'older, darker and scarier' Primeval: New Order from Canadian SF broadcaster Space, which previously acquired the UK series. The thirteen, one-hour episodes - said to have a budget of two and a half million dollars per episode - will follow a group of North American scientists and animal experts who investigate the arrival of prehistoric and futuristic creatures in the modern day world. The show will feature a 'younger, sexier' cast, while storylines will also explore characters' relationships. Younger and sexier than Hannah Spearritt? Eh?! Production will begin in Vancouver in the winter, with the show expected to be broadcast in a 9pm slot during autumn next year. 'This will be a bigger, better, badder re-imagining of the show, rather than a continuation,' said Impossible managing director Jonathan Drake. 'We are really looking forward to working with [production company] Omni to help make a series that can exceed even the huge success of the original Primeval in international markets and with viewers across the world.' UKTV is said to be involved in talks to arrange a co-production deal for Primeval: New Order.

Henry Winkler has been awarded an honorary OBE. The actor, best known for playing Fonzie in sitcom Happy Days, received the honour at the British embassy in Washington DC for his work to help children in the UK with dyslexia. Winkler said: 'Receiving this honour is a very humbling experience. My goal when I started working with children was never to bring accolades on myself but to change how people think about those around them for whom learning is a struggle. I am flattered to have had my work recognised in this manner, and hope to continue showing kids that their learning difficulty isn't a disability.' Nigel Sheinwald, the British ambassador to the US who presented Winkler with the award, added: 'Improving the lives of children is one of the highest acts of good one can pursue, and Mr Winkler has certainly done that. Through him, thousands of young people have seen a role model and an inspiration for overcoming their learning challenges. Henry Winkler is living proof that difficulties can be overcome and that for those suffering disability and self-doubt, happy days can nevertheless lie ahead.' Winkler was diagnosed with dyslexia as an adult and has spent the last two years touring UK schools to talk to children, teachers and policy makers about his experience. He also has written seventeen books featuring a boy with dyslexia named Hank Zipzer, based on his own childhood struggles. Earlier this year, Winkler admitted to feeling 'angry' when he was diagnosed with dyslexia so late in life but he added that he had learned to 'embrace the dyslexia rather than be embarrassed by it or defeated by it.'

Food sell-by dates are to be removed in a bid to cut waste and save shoppers money, ministers have announced. The UK throws away twelve billion smackers of edible food each year and critics say confusing packaging is partly to blame. DEFRA is advising manufacturers to only include use-by and best-before dates and remove sell-by and display-until labels, which relate to stock rotation. But the British Retail Consortium said a better approach would be to educate people on what the dates mean. DEFRA says five million tonnes of edible food is discarded by UK households annually - the equivalent to six hundred and eighty pounds for a household with children. Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said: 'We want to end the food labelling confusion and make it clear once and for all when food is good and safe to eat. This simpler and safer date labelling guide will help households cut down on the twelve billion pounds worth of good food that ends up in the bin.' Under the guidance, foods likely to require a use-by date - meaning they could become dangerous to eat - include soft cheese, ready-prepared meals and smoked fish. Foods likely to require only a best-before date - meaning they may lose quality but are still safe to consume - include biscuits, jams, pickles, crisps and tinned foods. But stock rotation information - such as sell-by dates - should be removed from packaging altogether, says the government, as it is this which confuses some shoppers. The Food Standards Agency is also backing the new advice. 'A number of different dates can be found on our food, so we need to make sure that everyone knows the difference between them,' said the FSA's Liz Redmond. 'We always emphasise that use-by dates are the most important, as these relate to food safety.' The guidance was produced in consultation with food manufacturers, supermarkets, trade associations, consumer groups and the Waste and Resources Action Programme. However, the British Retail Consortium said the government was tackling the problem of food waste in the wrong way. Food Director Andrew Opie said a better approach would be to educate consumers so they are clear on the difference between best-before and use-by dates. 'Helping consumers understand that food past its best-before date can still be eaten or cooked could contribute to reducing food waste and saving people money,' he said. 'The government should be spreading that message, not focusing on retail practices.'

For the latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day,this evening yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self will be attending Scunny Steve Drayton's latest imaginative Record Player event. So, what better way to celebrate that than with one of the best singles from the very LP in question? And there were several of them. Introduce the men, Tony.
Remember, dear blog reader, it's not where you from, it's where you're at.