Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ooo, Have A Banana!

A combined peak audience of more than four million viewers watched the London 2012 victory parade on BBC1 and Channel Four on Monday afternoon. The parade to celebrate the achievements of Britain's eight hundred Olympics and Paralympics athletes had a five-minute peak of two million viewers on Channel Four at 4.25pm on Monday, when more than two million viewers were also watching on BBC1. Overall, BBC1's Our Greatest Team: Athletes' Parade Live averaged 2.3 million between 1.30pm and 4.45pm. It was nearly three times the average audience for Channel Four's London 2012: Our Greatest Team Parade which was watched by eight hundred thousand viewers between 12.50pm and 5pm. BBC1's fifteen-minute peak of 2.6 million, between 1.30pm and 1.45pm, came rather earlier than Channel Four's fifteen-minute high of 1.9 million between 4.15pm and 4.30pm. BBC1's coverage had a five-minute peak of 2.7 million at 1.40pm. Elsewhere, the latest in ITV's autumn drama offerings, Leaving, written by Tony Marchant and starring Helen McCrory and Callum Turner, began its three-part run with four million viewers between 9pm and 10pm. It lost out to BBC1's ratings behemoth, New Tricks which, even in its ninth season, drew 7.1 million viewers also between 9pm and 10pm. Gordon Ramsay's new daytime Channel Four show, Gordon Ramsay's Ultimate Cookery Course, began with one million viewers between 5pm and 5.30pm. Ramsay, who is more accustomed to the limelight of peaktime on Channel Four, lost out to the second half of BBC2's Helicopter Heroes repeat and the start of Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is, which each averaged 1.1 million viewers while Ramsay was on air. Later on Channel Four documentary series 999: What's Your Emergency? began a ten-part run with 2.5 million viewers between 9pm and 10pm. It was followed by documentary 9/11: The Miracle Survivor, which was watched by 1.9 million viewers between 10pm and 11.05pm. BBC1's Adil Ray sitcom, Citizen Khan, had 2.3 million viewers.

David Walliams is reportedly 'wanted' by BBC1 for future Saturday night projects. Controller Danny Cohen has stated that early plans have been made to bring Walliams to the BBC for primetime shows. The Little Britain comedian earlier this year joined the Britain's Got Talent judging panel on ITV. 'David is someone we're very interested in for Saturday nights,' an alleged BBC 'source' allegedly told the Sun. 'He has the kind of warmth that will connect well with BBC One audiences. It's early days but we're hopeful of sorting something.' Walliams recently signed up for a BBC sitcom set in an urban secondary school. He will also narrate ITV2's thoroughly wretched-sounding Top Dog Model fronted by Stacey Solomon.

Romola Garai has hinted at 'changes' in series two of The Hour. The actress told Collider that news anchor Hector (Dominic West) 'falls apart at the seams' in the BBC historical drama's second run. 'There are some significant changes,' Garai - who plays Bel Rowley - explained. 'We have a new Head of News, played by Peter Capaldi. He's a big new character. The first season of The Hour concentrated on the Suez Crisis, which was a relic of the empire conflict. This season is much more about the Cold War.' Garai added that the 'two main threads' of the newsroom thriller's next series will be 'celebrity and the London underworld of the time' and 'the arms race between America and Russia. Those two themes combine in the story,' she revealed. 'Freddie has a new love interest. Bel has a new love interest. Hector falls apart at the seams. There's a lot of change.' Hannah Tointon and Tom Burke will also join The Hour for its second series.

Channel Four has cited 'concerns over security' as the reason for cancelling a planned screening at its headquarters this week of a documentary film questioning the origins of Islam. Islam: The Untold Story, which claimed there was little written contemporary evidence about the origin of the religion, sparked more than one thousand complaints to Channel Four and the media regulator after it was broadcast two weeks ago. Its presenter, the historian Tom Holland, was also the focus of substantial criticism, as well as abuse, on Twitter. The channel said in a statement on Tuesday: 'Having taken security advice we have reluctantly cancelled a planned screening of the programme, Islam: The Untold Story. We remain extremely proud of the film, which is still available to view on 4oD.' A Metropolitan police spokesperson said the service had 'no knowledge' of the event or the decision to cancel it. However, alleged 'sources' allegedly close to the channel allegedly said the screening had been cancelled after advice was taken from 'relevant security authorities.' Doctor Jenny Taylor, a writer and academic who had been invited to attend the screening, said it was 'appalling' the event was being cancelled. 'This party was cancelled for security reasons, so this means that presumably people's lives are at risk,' said Taylor, who runs the charity Lapido Media, which seeks to foster better understanding and reporting of religion in the media. Holland is one of the trustees of Lapido, which is publishing a series of books on religious affairs, the first of which is about the controversial Islamic group Tablighi Jamaat. Taylor said media coverage was a factor in whipping up 'a false storm of protest' over the programme, which she described as 'a good bit of history by one of the most eminent historians in the country. We have got to be able to discuss history. That is the western way. That is what we do here. Every other civilisation that Tim has written about has come in for the same treatment. Why should Islam be left out?'

Alan Partridge's latest outing ended up on Sky because the BBC wanted to 'interfere with it' and did not deem it worthy of a primetime spot, according to Armando Iannucci. Partridge co-creator Iannucci claimed that the BBC was interested in the show, Mid Morning Matters, but were wary of it because it had already been broadcast online and so lined it up for a late night slot after Newsnight on BBC2. He said BBC executives also wanted to broaden the scope of the show, which is set in a fictional Norfolk radio studio, to outside the confines of the broadcaster. Iannucci warned that the BBC was missing out on new scripts because talent felt they had more creative freedom at broadcasters such as Sky and HBO, but said attitudes within the corporation were beginning to change. 'Mid Morning Matters was only there as an online project but because it took off we had interest from the BBC and Sky,' Iannucci told Richard Bacon in a question and answer session after he delivered the annual BAFTA lecture on Monday. 'We didn't take it to Sky because they offered more money, we took it to Sky because they said they would leave it alone, they wouldn't interfere. [The BBC] said because it had gone out online they would put it out late night after Newsnight because it didn't feel like a new show. And if there was a new series could we open it up a bit and take it away from the radio station, which for me was essential. So already, whereas Sky were very enthusiastic, here's our plan about how we can promote it, here's how we can give it profile, it would be great if we could get Alan to do a tour of Norwich, it had that creative buzz.' Iannucci said the BBC was 'waking up to the fact' that talent was going elsewhere. 'Hang on, scripts aren't coming in any more, he's gone to Sky. Hang on, why's he doing a Channel Four show?' He added: 'I know the people at Sky, they used to work for the BBC. Honestly the money – I've got no idea what we got for it – it wasn't about the money.' Sky screened two Partridge specials before Mid Morning Matters, including Welcome to the Places of My Life, in which the DJ showed viewers around Norwich and Norfolk, and a spoof books show featuring Robert Popper. Mid Morning Matters was originally distributed online in an initiative funded by beer brand Foster's and was re-edited into a six-part series for Sky Atlantic. Sky has ordered a second series. Welcome to the Places of My Life was Sky's highest rated original comedy commission to date. Iannucci used his BAFTA lecture, entitled Fight, fight, fight to call on TV executives to give creatives more freedom. He said the separation of broadcasters from programme-makers meant commissioning executives had 'increasing power and dominance', imposing their vision on shows with the talent reduced to 'contracted creative labour. We still expend too much time trying to second-guess what executives are after,' said Iannucci. 'I don't think it's the commissioning executives' fault, it's a symptom of the dysfunctional nature of the job, the pressure to get the ratings, the awards, which pushes them to wanting the final say. The more they have their say the less there is from the creative team ... the more limitations and restrictions we impose the more it is diminished.'

Robbie Coltrane and David Haig will star in GOLD's remake of the classic British sitcom Yes, Prime Minister. Coltrane will appear in an episode about Scottish independence, it was confirmed at a UKTV launch on Tuesday. It will be Coltrane's first time playing a Scotsman since, ooo, the last time he appeared on TV. UKTV's chief executive Darren Childs said: 'The stories are topical and up-to-date. There are episodes about coalition, the euro crisis and Scottish devolution. Robbie Coltrane has agreed to play a very key part in that [Scottish] episode, which is exciting.' GOLD is bringing back the classic political comedy for six forty-minute episodes in early 2013. Original writers Jonathan Lynn and Sir Antony Jay have written the scripts. David Haig, Henry Goodman and Chris Larkin, who appeared in the stage version of the comedy, will star as Jim Hacker, Sir Humphrey Appleby and Principal Private Secretary Bernard Woolley in the TV update.

Sir David Attenborough has said that he doesn't believe he will have a successor as the face of nature documentaries on TV, claiming that the future of the genre will be controlled by amateurs online. Speaking at a UKTV launch on Tuesday, Attenborough described his TV role as 'a hangover from the past. I suspect in the future you won't need nature jockeys like me,' said the British broadcasting legend. 'I also suspect you won't need specialist cameramen who we have at the moment. Nature to film has become easier, easier and easier. There are lots of dedicated people out there, who want to do nothing more than film the mating of a dragonfly on a pond only hours from their home. And they'll go home and put it on the web.' He added: 'The view of the natural world now will start to come from the web. So paradoxically as human beings become more dominant in the world and more detached from the actuality of the natural world, you'll keep up with it through visions from dedicated amateurs on the web.' Attenborough has created and presented a new series for UKTV channel Eden, Attenborough's Natural Curiosities, which will be broadcast in January 2013.

Julian Assange threatened legal action against a film festival in an attempt to pressure them not to show a documentary on the history of WikiLeaks. Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, threatened to sue the South by Southwest festival in the United States if they broadcast the Channel Four documentary, WikiLeaks: Secrets and Lies, earlier this year. The legal threats came to light after media regulator Ofcom rejected a detailed complaint from Assange about the programme on Monday. Assange had complained that the programme, which was first broadcast on More4 in the UK on 29 November 2011, was libellous, unfair and had invaded his privacy. The Australian, who is currently fighting extradition to Sweden where he faces sexual assault allegations, attempted to get the programme banned from public screenings in the US, sending a tersely-worded e-mail, seen by the Gruniad Morning Star - which used to think Assange was, like, the best thing since sliced bread but now seems to have rather changed its editorial stance - headed 'LETTER BEFORE ACTION' to festival organisers. And, once again, this blogger trusts the irony of Julian Assange trying to use legal measures to suppress material about himself which he doesn't like is, I'm sure, lost on no one. Assange is understood to have sent a similar e-mail to US cable news broadcaster CNBC. In the e-mail, which carried Assange's signature, he told a SXSW organiser: 'Please also send me full details of SXSW's formal complaints procedure. This latter request is made without prejudice to any subsequent legal action I may take against SXSW for the screening of this libellous programme.' He claimed in the e-mail that Oxford Film & Television, the independent British production firm behind the programme, was 'under investigation by the UK statutory regulator Ofcom for multiple breaches of the Broadcasting Code.' Ofcom had undertaken an investigation into whether Assange's complaints about the programme were justified and ruled on Monday they were not. SXSW broadcast the feature film version of the programme as planned on 9 March and CNBC showed a shortened version of the documentary on 1 March. Patrick Forbes, the head of documentaries at Oxford Film & Television, welcomed the Ofcom ruling and praised SXSW and CNBC for not caving in to legal pressure from Assange. Forbes said the threat of a lawsuit meant his company had to pay for costly legal insurance, and that Assange's threats may have hampered the programme's chances of attracting a US cinema deal. 'Julian Assange attacked this film and accused us of being unfair to him. I am delighted that Ofcom has rejected his detailed complaints about our methods and entirely vindicated the programme and its making,' Forbes told the Gruniad. 'The film provides the definitive account of a turning point in history. As is the way with such moments, passions run high. But we have striven to make it as a accurate and fair a film to everyone involved as is possible. And I am very glad that Ofcom has recognised that.' Assange responded to the Ofcom ruling in a lengthy statement on the WikiLeaks website late on Monday. He said the ruling 'glosses over many substantive points of fact' and accused the programme-makers of a producing a 'biased and one-sided smear documentary.' Assange is currently taking refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden. His most recent public appearance, on the balcony of the embassy in Knightsbridge, included a lengthy attack on critics of WikiLeaks, whom he described as 'a threat to freedom of expression.' Again, there's irony in that somewhere. He wrote to the Leveson inquiry into press standards in April, claiming he had 'suffered extensive libels' comparable to Gerry and Kate McCann, who received significant damages from a number of national newspapers over coverage of the search for their missing daughter Madeleine. He had previously had a complaint rejected by the Press Complaints Commission about forty five articles, in various publications, which he claimed were 'inaccurate and unfair.'

Previously unseen government papers about the Hillsborough disaster will be released to the public on Wednesday. Ninety-six Liverpool fans died after a crush on the terraces of Sheffield Wednesday's ground on 15 April 1989. Many relatives believe more lives could have been saved and hope the papers will shed new light on events. A report has been compiled by the Hillsborough Independent Panel, which has been scrutinising four hundred thousand pages of documents for the past eighteen months. Victims' families will be among the first to view the report at Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral. A number have been campaigning for more than twenty years for the papers to be released. Cabinet papers are not usually published in the UK until thirty years after they have been written, but MPs agreed to their full, uncensored disclosure last year. Approval came after one hundred and forty thousand people signed a government e-petition, set up by Liverpool fan Brian Irvine, to trigger a House of Commons debate on the issue. Since Hillsborough happened, there have been inquiries, inquests, and investigations. There's been a private prosecution, and a judicial scrutiny. And yet, despite the lengthy legal journey, the clamour for justice has grown ever louder. The bereaved families - in their various organised groups, and individually, feel that the truth about how the disaster happened is yet to be told. Over the years there have been allegations made, and yet never officially proven, of effectively an establishment cover-up - a collusion between the media, the police and the government of the day - aimed at deflecting blame from the police and on to the Liverpool fans. Those who subscribe to this theory hope that the Independent Panel will provide the evidence required to confirm it. Ninety-five fans were crushed to death and hundreds more injured on the overcrowded terraces of the Hillsborough stadium, which was hosting an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. The ninety sixth victim, Tony Bland, was left in a coma after the disaster and died in 1993. An independent inquiry led by Lord Chief Justice Taylor found the main cause of the disaster was a failure in crowd control by South Yorkshire Police. But the victims' families hope the papers released on Wednesday will shed more light as to exactly what caused the tragedy and what happened in the aftermath. They want to know how the cabinet and then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher responded in the days and months that followed. Jenni Hicks lost both her daughters at Hillsborough - Victoria, who was fifteen and nineteen-year-old Sarah. Talking about the way the disaster was handled by police, she said: 'They lied and tried to pass on the blame to the Liverpool supporters, to whom they owe a huge apology. They should take ownership of their actions that day, there needs to be some kind of accountability for their actions.' The original inquest in 1991 returned a verdict of accidental death, ruling all the victims were dead fifteen minutes after the game had kicked off at 15:00. But Anne Williams, the mother of Hillsborough victim Kevin Williams, has called for the government to open a new inquest under section thirteen of the Coroner's Act. She claims Kevin was still alive at 16:00 on the day of the disaster and did not die from traumatic asphyxia. People in Liverpool are being asked to observe a two-minute silence as a mark of respect to the 96 who died. During the silence - held at 15:06 to mark the time the game was stopped - the bells at Liverpool Town Hall Municipal Buildings on Dale Street and Liverpool Parish Church will ring out ninety six times.

The BBC is to celebrate the centenary of Benjamin Britten's birth with a year of performances and programming. The composer, who was born in 1913, wrote such operas as Peter Grimes and Billy Budd. His other works include The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra. All of his operas will be broadcast on Radio 3, while a remastered version of Owen Wingrave, his opera for television, will be shown on BBC4. Meanwhile, the Royal Mint will design a new fifty pence coin for the centenary. 'This will literally put Britten in the hands and pockets of every person in this country,' said Richard Jarman, director of the Britten-Pears Foundation. The Foundation is behind Britten One Hundred - a global celebration of the composer's cetenary - which was announced at the Royal College of Music on Tuesday. Fourteen of his major operas will be performed in the UK, by a mix of professional and amateur companies. Peter Grimes will be staged on the beach at Aldeburgh - the town on the Suffolk coast where he lived most of his life. A new production of Britten's Gloriana will be performed at the Royal Opera House, while the Birmingham Royal Ballet will collaborate with the National Ballet of Japan on The Prince of Pagodas. Meanwhile, Opera North will produce four of his operas. A year-long project will encourage seventy five thousand children to sing, culminating in a performance on 22 November 2013 - the day that would have been Britten's one hundredth birthday. Sky Arts will broadcast a documentary called Nocturne, which it said explores Britten's 'uneasy relationship with the wider world,' while the British Film Institute will present a season of films and TV programmes about the composer. The BBC's plans also include the broadcast of several rare archive interviews, new musical commissions and special Proms concerts. Radio 3 controller Roger Wright said Britten was 'a significant part of the UK's classical music history' whose work had 'inspired composers, performers and audiences alike.' BBC4 controller Richard Klein said the station was 'proud to broadcast some of his classic works alongside rare and illuminating archive interviews.'

Three men have been arrested in Delhi airport after customs found monkeys in their pants. No, it's not a euphemism for something, that's what they found. Custom officers became suspicious during a frisk search when they spotted 'a bulge' in one man's underwear. Upon closer inspection they found that two of the group were carrying lorises, hidden in pouches in their pants. Metro reports that the men were heading to Dubai and that one of the smuggled primates measured seven inches in length and weighed one hundred and fifty grams. Another loris was found in a bin outside of the airport after the group dumped it when they realised that they could not carry it. The animals, which are native to India and Sri Lanka, are now in the care of People for Animals and are said to be in an 'okay, but deteriorating' condition. Which, seems like a contradiction in terms but, never mind. The three men were arrested under India's animal protection act.

The Velvet Underground - Lou Reed, John Cale, Maureen Tucker and the family of the late Sterling Morrison - have had a copyright claim over their iconic Andy Warhol-designed LP cover dismissed by a federal judge. The group accused The Andy Warhol Foundation of copyright infringement, saying it illegally licensed the famous banana logo for use on other products. Manhattan district judge Alison Nathan rejected The Velvet Underground's copyright claim. A trademark claim by the band, however, can still go ahead. The judge said on Friday said The Warhol Foundation's agreement not to sue for copyright infringement over The Velvet Underground's use of the image meant there was no copyright dispute for her to resolve. She dismissed that claim without prejudice, which means it could be brought before the court again. Clifford James, a lawyer for The Velvet Underground, said the band disagreed with the ruling and believes it will win its trademark claim. Joshua Paul, a lawyer for The Andy Warhol Foundation, declined to comment. Warhol served as the manager (well, sort of) and 'producer' (well, sort of) for the band, which was formed by Reed and Cale in the mid-1960s. He designed their classic first LP cover, which incorporated the banana symbol and the phrase 'peel slowly and see.' On early editions, the banana skin was a sticker which could be removed to display the flesh underneath. Legal papers filed in Manhattan in January stated that the artwork, which was never officially copyrighted, 'became a symbol, truly an icon, of The Velvet Underground' for some twenty five years. 'The symbol has become so identified with The Velvet Underground that members of the public immediately recognise the banana design as the symbol of The Velvet Underground,' court papers said. Which is probably true. The band accused The Warhol Foundation of trying to 'deceive the public' into thinking they had given their 'sponsorship or approval' to a number of products - including iPad covers and accessories - which now carry the image. The acclaimed, hugely influential LP, which also featured German singer Nico as a co-vocalist on three songs, contained such classics as 'I'm Waiting for the Man', 'Venus in Furs', 'Femme Fatale' and 'Heroin'. It was added to the US National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress in 2006. Although they weren't a best selling band at the time, The Velvet Underground have come to be considered one of the most influential groups of all time. Numerous artists, including David Bowie, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Roxy Music, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Fall, Nirvana, Joy Division and REM, have been directly or indirectly inspired by them, not to mention just about every band involved in Krautrock and the British punk and indie scenes of the 1970s and 1980s.

Which brings us, somewhat inevitably, to Keith Telly Topping's 33 of the Day. Which, today, features a masterpiece.