Monday, December 19, 2011

The Twenty Two Days Of Christmas: There Ain't No Sanity Clause

UKTV's pay-TV channel Watch has been criticised by Ofcom for broadcasting episodes of Torchwood in the daytime which included 'offensive language' and violent content. Torchwood, the spin-off from the BBC's long-running popular family SF drama drama Doctor Who, is aimed at an adult audience and is typically broadcast by the BBC after the 9pm watershed. However, Watch aired an episode of the show on 5 September at 4pm which contained one use of the word 'fuck', along with fifteen examples of milder swear words such as 'shit', 'bollocks' and 'pissed'. And, 'wee wee', 'knob', and 'pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.' Probably. And, still, the remarkable thing isn't so much that some swear words were broadcast at this time as the more worrying fact that some cheesehead glake with more time on their hands than they knew what to do with actually bothered to count them. I'll bet you've never had a girlfriend in your life, have you, mate? The episode also featured a scene in which a character's neck was bitten open, causing blood to spray from the wound. As it would do in such an eventuality, one imagines. Another episode of the show, broadcast on Watch on 21 September, featured a character being stabbed. (Though not, please note, being stabbed 'harshly up the Gary Glitter by Captain Jack.' That's in an episode they haven't got to yet.) UKTV apologised for any 'distress and upset' caused to its viewers, and accepted that the incident raised issues about its compliance practices, which were handled by a third-party operator in the case of Torchwood. The company said that it had withdrawn the show from its schedules and would not broadcast further episodes 'until the entire series had been reviewed.' After identifying 'other potentially problematic titles from the library of programmes complied by the same supplier' UKTV said that it has also 'marked them for review.' UKTV said that this review process may take 'a matter of weeks' to complete, meaning there could be the 'risk of a repeated failure' in the meantime. In its ruling, Ofcom said that the violence and swearing in the two episodes of Torchwood was inappropriately scheduled on Watch at 4pm. Ofcom acknowledged the action taken by UKTV to improve its compliance procedures in the future, but said that it was concerned over warnings of 'repeated failure' before the review was complete. The regulator further noted that UKTV was recently guilty of a similar breach on its Really digital channel, involving some of the most offensive language being aired before the watershed.

Ofcom has also ruled that Channel Five broke the broadcasting code for repeatedly broadcasting clips of Big Brother housemates using the word 'fuck' immediately after 9pm – in one case the expletive was used just eleven seconds after the watershed. Channel Five argued that the use of the swearwords was 'editorially justified' owing to a range of factors, including that the broadcaster felt that eleven seconds was not 'immediately after the watershed.' Well, it is, but that's hardly the point. I'm no lover of either Channel Five or Big Brother but I find this kind of bollocks ridiculous. There is a watershed, it occurs at nine o'clock. If something is broadcast after this then it's post-watershed, it doesn't matter if it's eleven seconds or five sodding hours. That's the point of having a dividing line in the first place, surely? In two episodes of the reality TV show – the Friday night eviction episodes of 23 and 30 September – clips rounding up events in the Big Brother house over the course of the previous week featured housemates using the word 'fuck' or 'fucking' a total of four times. The four uses of the expletive occurred within thirty one seconds of the 9pm watershed, which is designed to protect children from being exposed to more adult material such as swearing and violence. Channel Five said that the weekly round-up clip at the start of each show was 'essential' to remind viewers of the build-up to the eviction. The broadcaster added that the strong language reflected the 'heightened tensions' and 'represented the genuine feelings of the housemates.' Ofcom recently updated broadcasters on guidance for airing content around the watershed, noting that there should be a 'smooth transition to more adult content. It should not commence with the strongest material.' Which is, basically, another way of saying that the watershed isn't nine o'clock, it's 'about ten past nine, until we get some knobless chebend complaining about that, then we'll push it back another five or ten minutes.' The broadcasting code guideline in question, rule 1.6, is designed to 'avoid a sudden change to material that would only be deemed suitable for a post-watershed broadcast.' Channel Five defended the broadcasts, arguing that viewers are familiar with the type of content in Big Brother, and the fact there is an 'unambiguous' warning at the start of the episodes that there is 'strong language from the start.' The broadcaster said this 'provided a clear context and sufficiently prepared viewers for the opening sequence.' Ofcom said that four instances of swearing within thirty one seconds of 9pm meant that it 'did not accept' Channel Five's argument that the programmes 'did not include strong language immediately after the watershed.' The media regulator said that given there is an 'absolute prohibition' on the most offensive language immediately before 9pm, a broadcaster would need 'very strong reasons' to justify airing strong language straight after the watershed. 'Ofcom did not consider there was sufficient editorial justification to include repeated use of the most offensive language in these programmes so soon after the watershed,' it said in its ruling. The two uses of the word 'fuck' or 'fucking' in each programme in the period directly after the watershed did in Ofcom's view constitute 'an unduly abrupt' transition to more adult material at the watershed.

It is only right, of course, that unsuspecting viewers of the delicate disposition should be protected from the gratuitous use of bad naughty swearwords. And all that malarkey. Except that Virgin Media's electronic programme guide has, seemingly, begun to see offence in words which otherwise would be happily broadcast on breakfast TV – the name of the late film director Alfred Hitchcock, for example, became 'Alfred Hitchc**k', with a similar fate befalling BBC Radio 6Music's DJ and former Pulp singer Jarvis C**ker. The author Charles Dickens became 'Charles D***ens' and the football team Arsenal became 'A***nal.' Most non-Gooners, of course, prefer to call them The Shit.
One can only imagine, with horror, what happened would have happened to Scunthorpe had they also featured on the broadcaster's EPG over the weekend. A Virgin Media spokesperson said: 'Over the weekend a temporarily over-zealous profanity checker took offence at certain programme titles. The altered titles have been swiftly analysed and we're fixing any remaining glitches.' Should 'analysed' be 'an*lysed', there? The 'temporarily over-zealous profanity checker' has now, apparently, found itself a job writing for the Daily Scum Mail.
Revenge, they say, is a dish best served cold. Although, yer actual Keith Telly Topping prefers to think of it as a dish served any sodding time you like. Jezza Clarkson waited a whole nineteen days before having his say on press coverage of his appearance on BBC1's The ONE Show. The Top Gear presenter takes particular umbrage with the Daily Scum Mail. Writing in his column in The Times, he notes: 'I really do believe that in the whole furore over press standards the wrong newspaper has been closed down.' The Scum Mail, Jezza suggests, is 'like a Terminator. It doesn't know right from wrong. You can't reason with it. It has no sense of remorse or humility. It's fuelled by hatred. It hates people who are successful. It hates people who are not. It hates people who are fat just as much as it hates people who are thin. It hates everybody. But for some reason it seems especially to hate me. It said that I was a mental, that my mother had been extremely right-wing and that my parents had little empathy with those less fortunate than themselves. Quite what my poor old mum had done to deserve this after years of unpaid public service, I'm not entirely sure. But that's the trouble with the Mail. There are many creatures on this earth that behave in an unusual way. We can't explain how pigeons find their houses from thousands of miles away or how salmon can find the very spot where they were born. But nothing in the kingdom of nature is quite so unfathomable as a Mail reporter. They look human. They have opposable thumbs and are capable of catching buses. But they don't have the capacity for reason. You can tell them what happened. You can prove it. But it will make no difference.' Next, hopefully, the Gruniad Morning Star.

Doctor Who guest actress Holly Earl has said that she loved working with the show's star Matt Smith. Although, to be fair, even if she hadn't she's hardly likely to have said 'that was the worst job I ever had,' given that she probably wants to work in the industry again. Earl joins an acclaimed cast including Arabella Weir, Bill Bailey, Alexander Armstrong and Claire Skinner as The Doctor helps a family of World War II refugees have the most magical Christmas of their lives in the festive special. In an interview about The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe with the Cultbox website, the nineteen-year-old actress praised Smith for creating a friendly atmosphere on the set. 'Matt Smith is so much fun, I'm so lucky,' Holly told the website. 'He's just got so much energy; he always brings out the best in you every take.' She went on to say: 'His energy makes him such a good Doctor. Even in between takes he was so much fun, he was a dream to work with. He was really welcoming.' Earl was also quizzed on if she'd be willing to return to her role of Lily Arwell on Doctor Who in the future. 'Definitely, I wouldn't say no,' she replied. Expect some tabloid louse to put two and two together and come up with nineteen and a story in one of the red tops that Holly is now 'favourite' take take over from Karen Gillan when she leaves. Because, there's nothing tabloid lice enjoy more than a good made-up story.

The Digital Switchover on Monday passed the key milestone of the rollout of the one thousandth relay cabin across the UK, as the seven hundred million knicker programme heads towards its conclusion next year. Digital UK's mascot Digital Al and Peter Heslop, digital switchover director at transmission firm Arqiva, joined the engineering team on site at Portslade, near Brighton, to see the arrival of the one thousandth station. Relay cabins are a critical part of the DSO programme as they facilitate the delivery of digital TV signals to mainly rural and remote areas, complementing the coverage from the main TV transmitting stations serving town and cities. So far, eleven out of the UK's fifteen television regions have already switched from analogue to digital television, including most of Scotland, Wales, East Anglia and the huge Granada TV area covering the North West. Since the first relay cabin was installed in the Scottish Borders in 2007, eighty per cent of transmitter sites have been switched to digital, equating to sixty five per cent of the UK population. The era of analogue television services in Britain will officially come to an end next October as Northern Ireland becomes the final place to go digital. In a statement today, Heslop said: 'Digital Al is here today to help celebrate the latest milestone in the delivery of digital switchover of terrestrial television. We've come a long way since we installed the first relay cabin in the Borders in 2007; eighty per cent of transmitter sites are now switched, equating to sixty five per cent of the UK population. We are now closing in on the finishing line of this five-year, seven hundred million pound project as we race towards the completion of switchover in October next year. I'm delighted to report that we continue to deliver the project on time and on budget.'
Phone-hacking was 'routine' at both the Sun and the Scum of the World, the late Sean Hoare, who worked at both News International titles, told his brother before his death, the Leveson inquiry has heard. Stuart Hoare said on Monday that his younger brother, whose body was discovered in his Watford home in July, had claimed in e-mails the practice was 'routine at the Sun' and 'probably more daily at the News of the World.' Hoare also said Sean had told him these were both practices he had witnessed. In a written witness statement to the inquiry, Stuart Hoare also claimed: 'Sean had worked with certain individuals at both the Sun and News International where phone hacking was a daily routine. I know this to be the case because Sean and I regularly discussed this and there are e-mails in existence which support Sean's description of a practice referred to during such meetings as "the dark side." The reality was that phone-hacking was endemic within the News International group (specifically Sean identified that this process was initiated at the Sun and later transferred to the News of the World) and he went on record both verbally and in writing to make this claim.' Sean Hoare started shifting at the Sun in 1990, where he first met Andy Coulson, and eventually became deputy editor of the Bizarre showbiz column, according to his brother's witness statement. He also worked for the Sunday Mirra and People 'before finally settling at the News of the World.' He left the paper in 2005. Speaking about his brother's own involvement in phone-hacking, Hoare told the inquiry: 'Sean didn't realise at the time that he was probably doing wrong. He got carried away like a lot of journalists and was certainly under a lot of pressure from seniors to deliver. I think he thought he was producing, he was getting the stories, he was getting his name on the front page.' In his witness statement, Hoare wrote that during his brother's journalism career, 'alcohol was always an accepted part of the job, many a relationship/meeting made over a drink, no matter what time of day.' Stuart Hoare was asked by Lord Justice Leveson why his brother thought drink and drugs were part of the job. 'I think Sean in his way thought that within the entertainment world, to allow Sean to do some of the jobs, to gain the friendship of certain individuals, Sean felt that he had to be like them. I hate it, I don't understand it, but that's what he did,' Hoare replied. 'He came close to a lot of celebrities and got a lot of information that benefited him and his employer.' However, Hoare said that his brother had probably been away from drink and drugs for 'about seven or eight months' when he talked to the New York Times about phone hacking. The New York Times published a story featuring Hoare's allegations in September 2010. 'Sean's decision to go public certainly wasn't motivated by money as he did not get a single penny for any of the articles written in the New York Times. His sole motivation was based on trying to put wrongs right,' Hoare wrote in his witness statement. 'Sean, in early 2010, was in an ideal position to blow the whistle on phone hacking as he had been completely sober for the last twelve months and was now self-employed.' However, Hoare wrote that in December 2010 his brother began drinking again 'as he became caught up in the phone-hacking scandal.' Concluding his evidence to the inquiry on Monday, Hoare said: 'I've found it very, very difficult today not to name names. But the seniors that were involved in the practices that went on know they were involved and know they were in the wrong. Sitting here today I've tried to put some of the wrongs right on [Sean's] behalf and [on behalf of] his ex-colleagues who have suffered pain and imprisonment.' The inquest into Sean Hoare's death in November found that he had died of natural causes. The Hertfordshire coroner, Edward Thomas, said Hoare suffered from alcoholic liver disease.

The veteran actor Dan Frazer, best known for his role as Captain Frank McNeil on 1970s TV crime series Kojak, has died aged ninety. His daughter, Susanna, said that the actor died of cardiac arrest at his Manhattan home on Friday. Frazer began his career in the 1950s playing character roles in various TV series including The Phil Silvers Show. He played Captain McNeil during all five seasons of the Telly Savalas cop show, which ran from 1973 to 1978. He also had roles in The Andy Griffith Show, The Untouchables, McHale's Navy and My Favourite Martian. The actor made his big-screen debut in 1963 Sidney Poitier film Lilies of the Field and appeared in two of Woody Allen earlier - funnier - comedies, Take the Money and Run and Bananas. After the initial run of Kojak, Frazer reprised his role as Captain McNeil in the 1983 TV film Kojak: The Belarus File. In recent years he had guest roles on all three programmes in the Law and Order franchise. He also appeared in independent film The Pack with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss, which screened at a number of film festivals earlier this year. Susanna Frazer described her father as a 'very truthful, naturalistic actor.'

An apparent hangover cure is due to arrive in the US and the UK. The 'Blowfish' pack, concocted by former finance worker Brenna Haysom, contains one thousand milligrams of aspirin, one hundred and twenty milligrams of caffeine and an antacid. The recipe, which is apparently able to combat the after-effects of drinking in just fifteen minutes, has been recognised by America's Food and Drug Administration and will be available in the US in January. It could be launched in the UK as early as next year. Recalling the development of 'Blowfish', Harvard graduate Hayson explained: 'One particularly brutal morning, which was the result of a particularly great night before, I started thinking there had to be a way to have both great nights and great days. I worked my way through every hangover remedy I could find and found that the hangover products out there were herbal remedies that had to be taken the night before and didn't do much to solve the problem. I started on a quest to find something that really worked and could be taken the morning after drinking.' Hayson added that she had been inspired to take the product to market after her friends repeatedly requested it for their hangovers. 'After some research, I found a combination that did the trick, fast,' she said. 'I started sharing it with my friends, and they kept asking for more.'

For yer actual Keith Telly Topping's latest Twenty Two Days of Christmas this time around verily, dear blog reader, behold! The four wise men cometh upon the multitude. And lo, there was a great wailing and gnashing to teeth. That'll be Rat, you've always got to watch him.