Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hey You With The Pretty Face, Welcome To The Human Race

The BBC have now confirmed that the final episode of the current run of Doctor Who, The Angels Take Manhattan, will be broadcast on BBC1 at the slightly earlier time of 7:20pm on Saturday 29 September. As in previous weeks the episode will face competition on ITV from risible flop game show Red or Black? and The X Factor (from 7:30pm); on the other main channels, BBC2 has repeats of War Farm and Dad's Army, Channel Four continues its dreadful dating game show Baggage, and Channel Five is showing the film The Wild Geese. A new image is now available to promote the episode, which joins a number that were previously released when filming took place in New York during April.
Meanwhile, the new man in charge of the BBC has paid tribute to Doctor Who on his first day as Big White Chief of the Corporation. George Entwistle took charge of the national broadcaster on Monday as the fifteenth Director General, taking over from Mark Thompson who had been in charge since 2004 and who now leaves to become Chief Executive Officer of The New York Times Company. Entwistle - a twenty year plus veteran of the Beeb - told staff that he wanted the BBC to be one of the major international media brands with 'a vibrant presence' in many markets built around major pieces of BBC content such as Top Gear, Doctor Who and Dancing With The Stars. In an interview with Radio Times he recalled how he fell in love with corporation's long-running popular family SF drama as a child while watching Doctor Who with his family. 'Jon Pertwee was my Doctor,' he said, 'I was a bit sceptical about the Tom Baker regeneration.' Entwistle praised the way the BBC produced its Olympic coverage, which managed to bring the nation together, and he looked ahead to events that would give the BBC the chance to take the Olympics formula and make it work again, including the fiftieth Anniversary of Doctor Who next year. Well, he's making all the right noises so far, anyway!

The BBC has shelved the final episode of drama Good Cop following the deaths of two police officers. The episode, due to be screened on Thursday, features a violent attack on a female police officer. 'In light of news events, BBC1 has postponed the final episode of Good Cop, due to transmit at 9pm tonight,' the BBC said, in a statement. The drama will be rescheduled to a later date. Repeat episodes of Have I Got News For You and Outnumbered will be shown in its place. Good Cop stars Warren Brown, who has previously starred in Luther and Inside Man, as a frontline officer in Merseyside. Written by Stephen Butchard - BAFTA-nominated for Five Daughters - Good Cop focuses on the responses of officers dealing with 999 call-outs. The opening episode saw a police officer murdered in the line of duty.
Shareholders in billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch's News Corp are asking a US court for permission to sue the firm's board for failing to stop the phone-hacking scandal. The shareholders asked Delaware judge John Noble on Wednesday to proceed with their case against Murdoch, his sons Lachlan and James Murdoch the small and the rest of the company's board. News Corp is attempting to have the case dismissed on the grounds that ... they don't particularly want to pay. In all, more than seventy people have now been arrested in connection with the scandal, News Corp has closed its most profitable newspaper, the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World and it has also lost a deal to take over the BSkyB satellite broadcast business and a whole shitload of mucho lov-er-lee wonga to boot. Which is funny. The shareholders, including America's Amalgamated Bank and Central Laborers' Pension Funds, claim that the company's executives put their own interests ahead shareholders and treated the firm as a 'family candy jar.' The lawsuit was originally filed in March 2011 over News Corp's agreement to buy Shine, the - very successful - TV production company owned by Elizabeth Murdoch, the News Corp chairman's daughter, for six hundred and seventy million bucks. It was amended after the phone-hacking scandal emerged. 'All of this harm occurred because the board chose to protect those close to Murdoch rather than investigate the misconduct when it learned about it,' the shareholders said in June in their amended complaint. 'These revelations should not have taken years to uncover and stop. These revelations show a culture run amok within News Corp and a board that provides no effective review or oversight,' the shareholders claim. Which is all probably true but it's a bit late to start whinging about that now. You lot were all, seemingly, happy enough to turn a blind eye to such nefarious skulduggery whilst the money was rolling in. Charles Elson, chair in corporate governance at the University of Delaware, said 'lack of board oversight' was a difficult case to bring but that News Corp's dual class share structure could present the Murdochs with 'some challenges.' News Corp has two classes of shares, and the Murdochs' shares give them thirty nine per cent of the company votes although the family owns about fifteen per cent of the equity. 'The chances of bringing these type of cases are usually pretty slim but here you have independence and conflict of interest issues vis a vis the board so there's more of a shot,' said Elson. Elson also said the judges in Delaware, where News Corp and many other US firms are incorporated, were 'interested' in the conflicts that dual class share structures present to shareholders. 'In my view dual class share structures cast a shade over a board's independence,' he said. News Corp is currently under investigation by the US justice department in relation to the foreign corrupt and naughty practices act which can impose heavy fines on US firms found to have bribed officials anywhere in the world.

As reported yesterday, broadcasting regulator Ofcom has ruled that BSkyB is 'fit and proper' to hold a broadcasting licence. However, it also used the opportunity to savage odious James Murdoch the small for his 'failure' to take action over phone-hacking at the Scum of the World. The regulator said in a statement that Murdoch the small's behaviour was 'difficult to comprehend and ill-judged' and that he 'repeatedly fell short' of his duties as chairman, raising questions about his 'competence' and his 'attitude towards wrongdoing' at the companies he was in charge of. Murdoch the small was chairman of News International until February 2011. Of course, as anyone with half-a-brain in their head who witnessed Murdoch the small deliver his notorious, odious, BBC-bashing, 'greed is good' MacTaggart Lecture in 2009 will now be chorusing, the only surprise here is that Ofcom, seemingly, are surprised. Murdoch the small held the  position at BSkyB until April of this year, when he stepped down admitting that he was 'a lightening rod' for criticism of the broadcaster. Ofcom's ruling that BSkyB is 'fit and proper' lifts a cloud that had long been hanging over the pay-TV broadcaster. The regulator has sweeping powers to revoke the licence of any broadcaster whose owners or management it does not deem to be 'fit and proper' to hold such power. It has rarely used the longstanding piece of legislation but it dusted it off in summer 2011 to throw into turmoil News Corp's eight billion smackers bid to take full control of BSkyB. News Corp eventually pulled out of the deal. In a statement Ofcom said that Sky passed the 'fit and proper' test, based on 'the evidence currently available and having taken into account all the relevant factors.' Whatever the hell that means. However, this was tempered with a stark reminder to BSkyB to keep its behaviour in check, it warned that the situation could easily change. 'Ofcom's duty to be satisfied that a licensee is fit and proper is ongoing. Should further relevant evidence become available in the future, Ofcom would need to consider that evidence in order to fulfil its duty,' the regulator said. It noted that various police investigations could still turn up new evidence which would count against BSkyB in a subsequent 'fit and proper' test. Its judgment also included a lengthy personal attack on Murdoch the small and his nasty greed-is-good ways. 'We consider James Murdoch's conduct, including his failure to initiate action on his own account on a number of occasions, to be both difficult to comprehend and ill-judged,' it said. 'James Murdoch's conduct in relation to events at NGN repeatedly fell short of the exercise of responsibility to be expected of him as CEO and chairman.' It acknowledged a letter in which James Murdoch the small said that he 'shared' responsibility for the fact that News Corp 'took too long to come to grips' with the phone-hacking and police bribery scandals, adding tersely: 'We agree. We consider that the events set out above raise questions regarding James Murdoch's competence in the handling of these matters, and his attitude towards the possibility of wrongdoing in the companies for which he was responsible,' it added. Ofcom said James Murdoch the small's conduct in relation to events at the News Corp newspapers had 'repeatedly fallen short,' adding there was no evidence to suggest he had deliberately engaged in wrongdoing. 'Ofcom is right to conclude that Sky is a fit and proper broadcaster,' BSkyB said. 'As a company, we are committed to high standards of governance and we take our regulatory obligations extremely seriously. As Ofcom acknowledges, our track record of compliance in broadcasting is good.'

Channel Four News chief correspondent Alex Thomson's doorstepping of odious louse scum Kelvin MacKenzie as reported by this blog a couple of days ago may have achieved what many thought impossible – making some people actually feel a bit sorry for the former Sun editor. Briefly. The Channel Four News man's robust line of questioning over MacKenzie's treatment of the Hillsborough disaster when he was in charge of the Sun prompted some debate and a handful of complaints to Ofcom. The media regulator is assessing the complaints but there is no word yet on whether it will launch a formal investigation or, indeed, whether these alleged complaints have come from inside News International its very self. While we all await its decision – Channel Four News is standing by its man, as you would expect – there has been no shortage of parodies on YouTube. Here's a rather inspired drum n bass remix. Word. This one, meanwhile, owes a great deal to the late Benny Hill's title sequences. Was he ever doorstepped by the Sun, we wonder?

Coronation Street actress Catherine Tyldesley was the subject of something of a mishap recently when her hair caught fire. The actress, who plays Eva Price in the ITV soap, was celebrating her twenty ninth birthday when candles from her Disney themed birthday cake ignited her hair. Co-star Antony Cotton reportedly rushed to put out the flames before they spread any further. Tyldesley added of the incident: 'Can't believe my hair caught fire on my birthday cake! God damn you hairspray!'

Billy Connolly - a well-known Scottish comedian - has been announced as the latest ambassador for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The comedian and actor has joined Olympic cycling hero Sir Chris Hoy in the role as organisers prepare to unveil the official Games mascot this week. The Commonwealth team say Connolly is a 'world-famous example' of the humour and friendliness of the Scots. And the Big Yin is proud to be representing his home city. He said: 'I know the people of Glasgow will enjoy the games immensely – the whole of Scotland will. We are a nation that welcomes all visitors with a smiling face. The goodwill of Scots will stand forever.' Connolly – who has narrated an animated film telling the story behind the 2014 mascot, which was designed by a twelve-year-old school pupil – added: 'We love taking part in everything and for something as big as the Commonwealth Games, people will be coming out in their droves to spectate and volunteer. Without question, Glasgow 2014 will be a huge success.'

UK independent TV producers have trebled international revenues to six hundred and fifty two million smackers in the past decade, but are shying away from riskier programming and documentaries to focus on factual entertainment formats, according to a study. The report on the UK TV and digital content market, published ahead of a conference on Thursday looking at thirty years of the UK independent production sector, observes that the 2003 Communications Act, which shifted ownership of programme rights to independent producers, has 'led to an emphasis on formats,' but a trebling in value of international commissions. Authored by a group of academics and funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council, the report examined conditions within the independent production sector and relations with the BBC and Channel Four, finding growing pressure to produce formats of commercial value, a shying away from risk and a refocus away from 'blue chip documentary' to factual entertainment. Increased consolidation, competition, and emphasis on formats and international sales 'can heighten pressure on production budgets, reducing creative freedoms, working conditions, and individual worker's belief in public service broadcasting,' the report found. Tighter programme budgets have helped create a harsh work environment, with a 'lack of diversity' among the workforce, producing 'a very sick sector,' according to the survey, based on one hundred interviews and a two-year examination of one hundred companies. 'Pay scales are down, working conditions are atrocious, exploitation is massive, training levels have fallen through the floor,' one of the interviewees said. Still, it could be worse, mate, you could be working in a frigging call centre. Try remembering that before you whinge about the manifest unfairness of life. A 'significant minority' of interviewees thought the constraints of serving UK public service broadcasters such as the BBC and Channel Four could make it more difficult to sell content abroad. On the other hand, a BBC commissioner said when commissioning shows from independent producers UK broadcasters were 'experiencing tensions all the time' between the commercial imperatives imposed by international co-financing deals and the public service broadcasting requirements of the corporation. 'There is not always a meeting of minds,' the interviewee added. The report's overall conclusion is that there is 'a fragile compact' between the public service broadcasters and the independent sector, and a key recommendation for the imminent review of the 2003 Act by the government is that the terms of trade should not be tipped further in favour of independents. It noted that the BBC and Channel Four spent £1.36bn on commissions from independent producers last year. The report argues that the obligation on the BBC and Channel Four to pay for their channels to be distributed by BSkyB and Virgin Media should be removed, and the savings spent on 'public service digital content.' In this case, as usual whenever anyone with an agenda is using the phrase 'public service broadcasting' that means, essentially, 'programmes I like.' It says the BBC's window of creative competition – under which independents are guaranteed twenty five per cent of qualifying TV commissions and BBC in-house fifty per cent, with the other twenty five per cent up for grabs – should extend to online, and Ofcom should be given a remit to review PSBs' multiplatform strategy. Spending on individual online projects is low and too thinly spread, with £22.7m of public service digital content divided between three hundred and eighty six companies in 2010-11. The report recommends that Channel Four should draw up a list of fifty digital suppliers for two thirds of its annual spending, refreshing the list every two or three years.

Some very sad news, now. Former Doctor Who actress Janet Fielding is reported to be fighting cancer. No further details about her condition are known but Peter Davison, the Doctor whom she appeared opposite as Tegan for three years in the 1980s, has won the support of other ex-Doctor actors to launch a charity fund-raising convention - Project Motor Mouth - which aims to 'not only raise money for a good cause but also keep Janet's spirits up.' Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann and David Tennant are the first guests announced for the event, which will take place on Saturday 19 January 2013 at the Copthorne Hotel Slough-Windsor. All guests will be appearing subject to work commitments. The profits from the convention will go to Project Motor House, which is seeking to convert a derelict building in Thanet into a mixed-use venue promoting sustainable technology and a place where youngsters can get help with starting their own businesses. Fielding is the project co-ordinator for the organisation as well as its community champion. Janet - a particular favourite of yer actual Keith Telly Topping - first appeared in Doctor Who in 1981 in Tom Baker's final story, Logopolis, and left the series in the 1984 story Resurrection of the Daleks. She has also worked as a theatrical agent - a job that saw her representing McGann when he won the role of the Eighth Doctor in 1996.

Michael Hurll, who produced The Two Ronnies and established The British Comedy Awards, has died aged seventy five. The TV executive was also responsible for Top Of The Pops from 1980 to 1987, and worked on The Eurovision Song Contest and The Royal Variety Show. He died peacefully on Tuesday morning, his son said in a statement. Born in 1936 and educated at St Paul's School in Barnes, Hurll joined the BBC in 1956. He had already directed fellow pupil Jonathan Miller in a school revue but started work as a lowly 'call boy' (now known as a runner), alongside fellow newcomer Michael Winner, bringing on guests for The Billy Cotton Band Show. He quickly progressed through the ranks, and ended up producing and directing a host of light entertainment shows, including Seaside Special, The Little and Large Show, It's Cliff Richard and the last Peter Cook and Dudley Moore show. On Top Of The Pops, he was credited with introducing a 'party atmosphere' to proceedings, boosting the programme's ratings during the 1980s. Although Hurll held fond memories for the chart show, he was pragmatic about its fate in the first years of the Twenty First Century. 'Once something's running out of steam, nothing you do on God's earth is going to make that get any more viewers,' he told the BBC in 2003. Despite his numerous successes, Hurll was modest about his role, telling the Independent in 2007: 'We're not producers. We're psychologists. The great trick is when you want to tell the talent something they don't want to hear, you always say "We don't think it would be a good idea." It never fails.' Behind the scenes, he wasn't always complimentary about his colleagues. Bob Hope was 'the nastiest man I've ever worked with,' he told comedy website Chortle. Jerry Lewis, too, was 'a nasty piece of work,' while Rod Hull was 'the most miserable, nastiest man you ever met.' He also deemed comedy duo Cannon and Ball 'as funny as a cow's crotch.' But he held Ronnie Barker in the highest esteem, praising the rhythm of his scripts, and the 'fountain of knowledge' he passed on to his colleagues. 'You [always] knew you would laugh,' he told the BBC when Barker died in 2005. 'It was good honest comedy in the old music hall tradition.' Hurll left full-time employment at the BBC in the 1980s, although he continued to produce shows on a freelance basis - including Noel Edmonds' ill-fated Late, Late Breakfast Show, in which a member of the public was killed during rehearsals for a bungee jump stunt. He created The British Comedy Awards in 1990, and the show continues to this day. Towards the end of his life, Hurll suffered from Parkinson's disease, but continued to work. In a statement announcing his death, the producer was described as: 'Dearly loved husband of Sandra, father of Jeremy (deceased) and Simon, father-in-law of Louise and Isobel, and grandfather of Sophie and Alexander.'

ITV is to broadcast a documentary featuring - as yet unsubstantiated - claims that yer actual Jimmy Savile OBE was a naughty old scallywag who sexually assaulted teenage girls in the 1970s. Several women have, reportedly, alleged that the TV presenter, who died last year, abused them as underage teenagers, according to a piece in the Radio Times. The women's interviews will feature in the programme, which is due to be broadcast on 3 October as part of ITV's Exposure documentary strand. An ITV spokesman explained that the show was still being edited and refused to comment on reports that the alleged incidents - said to range from indecency to unlawful sex - involved girls as young as thirteen. Former police detective and child protection expert Mark Williams-Thomas, who hosts On the Run, conducted the investigation. Savile's friends and family have previously insisted that he wasn't a sexual predator. The BBC had been investigating claims for Newsnight relating to the CPS/police investigation into Savile which it said it was 'unable to substantiate.' The corporation told the Digital Spy website that it did not go ahead with the Newsnight broadcast 'for editorial reasons.'

Olympic gold medallist Peter Charles' London 2012 horse Murka's Vindicat W has been sold to the daughter of rock star Bruce Springsteen. American international showjumper Jessica Springsteen will now ride the ten-year-old gelding that secured team gold at Greenwich Park on 6 August. Britain beat the Netherlands in a jump-off and it was Hampshire-based Charles' clear round which clinched top spot. It was Britain's first Olympic team showjumping gold medal since 1952. Charles, who won the equestrian event along with Scott Brash, Nick Skelton and Ben Maher, wrote on his Facebook page: 'Vinnie is one of the best horses I have ever ridden, so the decision to move him on has not come lightly. He produced an outstanding performance to secure team gold for Britain for the first time in sixty years, and I will never forget how that felt and how unbelievably proud he made me and my team feel. In order to invest in a new string of young horses in preparation for Rio 2016, we have had to make the decision to allow him to move to another rider. He will now be ridden by his new owner Jessica Springsteen for the USA. I wish Jessica the best of luck with him and I am sure he will make her proud, too.'

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved Newcastle United boss Alan Pardew has admitted that last season's top scorer Demba Ba could leave the club for seven million quid in January. The twenty seven-year-old Senegal striker is believed to be frustrated at his current role at the club and talks over a new contract have reportedly reached an impasse. It was thought Ba's seven million smackers buy-out clause expired on 31 July, but Pardew revealed it is still active in the new year. 'There is that clause in his contract and it makes us vulnerable,' he said. 'It's still open in the next window.' The former West Ham striker's absence from the squad that travelled to Portugal for Thursday's Europa League tie with Maritimo is not linked directly to the ongoing situation. Newcastle are, however, said to be particularly exasperated by comments made by Ba's agent Alex Gontran on Tuesday which suggested that his client might seek a move away if he continues to play second fiddle to Senegal team-mate Papiss Cisse in the Magpies' attack. Pardew revealed he held talks with Ba before the squad left for Portugal and stressed that such statements would not be tolerated and that he wanted Ba to remain at the club. 'I have spoken to Demba [about his agent] and told him I was disappointed with some of the comments around him,' Pardew added. 'Sometimes it's out of his control and out of my control. But we know each other well enough, and I've got no problems with him, because he is a team player who wants to do his best for the team. He has always been like that. I just think the agent stuff was people saying things they shouldn't say, really. It doesn't really affect myself and Demba, because we've got a very good relationship.' Ba's frustration is believed to stem from the the second half of last season when he was regularly deployed on the left to accommodate fellow Senegal international Cisse, who was signed from Freiberg in January. Despite starting the new season in his favoured position playing through the middle, Ba expressed his displeasure at only being a substitute for Monday's 2-2 draw at Everton, where he came off the bench to score both goals.
And so to today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. What was most memorable about the 1970s, dear blog reader? yer actual Keith Telly Topping will tell you. Big hair! Let yer actual Jeff Lynne and his Electric Light Orchestra their very selves demonstrate.