Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Oh No - Chiles and Bleakley Lose Jobs!

After months of rumour fuelled by a handful of jealous detractors, this week ITV reluctantly made it official: Christine Bleakley and Adrian Chiles have been ditched as presenters of bedridden breakfast show Daybreak. They’ll leave before the end of the year.

The channel's reported that instead, Adrian will ‘prioritise’ his role as presenter of ITV’s live football coverage, which should ensure rival stations’ match-viewing figures stay perky. He’ll also host what’s described as a ‘topical discussion programme’, the brainless Sunday Night Show, inexplicably set to return next year for a third run.

Brand Bleakley’s been parcelled off to Dancing on Ice, which has featured such heavyweight contestants as Bobby Davro and Kerry Katona. It’s hard to believe such a show dovetails with Christine’s views on the scale of programme she’s entitled to present. She’ll also host ‘Westlife: For The Last Time’ and join ITV’s charity special ‘Text Santa’, though sadly both projects have limited long-term potential.

Since September last year, the Christine and Adrian dream team has worked tirelessly to ruin ITV’s breakfast ratings, already poor after years of idiotic marketing platform GMTV. Arriving from the BBC’s One Show for packages totalling £10m, much was made of the two’s on-screen chemistry which it was felt would boost ITV’s figures.

But Chiles’ scowling personality simply isn’t right for the breezy, cheerful world of early-morning commercial television. Equally, with her absurd permatan and enormous brassy engagement ring, toothsome Bleakley’s hardly the friendly girl-next-door type to start the day with.

Instead, as ITV’s blunt announcement made their failure a public humiliation, Christine tweeted her astonishment and distress to all her followers: "What a lovely headline to wake up to. I hope my sarcasm comes across in this tweet." Adrian said he was "angry, upset, and acutely embarrassed", a state of mind in which he seems to spend much of his time. How did it all go so wrong?

Since the announcement Daybreak’s viewing figures have actually improved; let’s hear it for viewer malice. If you want to win the breakfast television war, ITV, there’s a simple one-stop solution: pinch Carol Kirkwood.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Spot The Difference (7): Catherine Southon vs Margaret Thatcher

Being self-employed, I do no real work at all. Lunchtime begins around noon as the TV goes on for BBC's Bargain Hunt. Each armed with £300, two teams of amateur collectors visit an antiques fair to acquire the best buys they can, which are later auctioned; who'll make the most lolly? Presented by hilarious eccentric Tim Wannacock, it's a surefire winner before my changeover to ITV3 for the rest of the afternoon.

Today, I noticed a startling similarity between Wannacock's pretty co-presenter
and a much-loved British political figure from the past.

(1) Adored control-freak Margaret Thatcher, who presided over Britain's happiest days of the twentieth century and possibly, ever.

(2) Cool and yummy antiques babe
Catherine Southon. Sorry Margaret, curvy Cath would get my vote every time!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

News International: Please Don't Hurt Us

Through its reptilian lawyers, News International has told the High Court that celebrities, politicians and victims of crime currently suing over phone-hacking mustn't be allowed to conduct a witch-hunt. Numerous well-known figures including Jude Law and Labour MP Chris Bryant, as well as members of the public including Sheila Henry, whose son was killed in the 7/7 bombings, have brought actions against NI for breach of privacy.

A News International legal representative is reported to have said: "it is not appropriate … for claimants to begin a crusade. The proceedings must not be conducted as a witch-hunt against my client."

Cruelly-injured NI is the concern which
allegedly hacked phones belonging to the parents of murdered Soham schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman. Further targets for NI's staff have apparently included families of service personnel who died in Iraq and Afghanistan. NI also acquired the medical records of Gordon Brown's disabled son. Brown said of the episode: "They told me they had a story about Fraser's medical condition - I was in tears but there was nothing I could do."

Among the most terrible of the alleged crimes is the hacking of Milly Dowler's cellphone. The 13-year-old vanished in 2002 and was later found murdered. Before her body had been discovered NI reporters hacked into her voicemails, deleting some to ensure space for any new messages which might arrive. But the changes, detected on the missing phone by police, were interpreted as suggesting Milly could still be alive. Through its ghastly interference, what false hopes did NI raise in the Dowler family?

Two wrongs don't make a right, but in the context of a dispassionate trial for News International it's barely possible to hold that thought. Meanwhile, so desperate has its standing become that NI is considering running a series of newspaper crusades for society's greater good. Perhaps they should start with an anti-drugs campaign, since News International knows all there is to know about selling shit.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

From Our Religeous Correspondent

Bookseller W H Smith has pulled off the publishing coup of the week. Seen in its stores recently, the book to the left.

Opinion is divided as to the Bible's author, with most people who expressed an interest believing it was compiled by a holy ghost-writer. This latest edition of the Good Book contains an appendix recalling the loving achievements of Christians throughout the ages, beginning with the Reformation.

On other religeous themes, please be aware that tonight's BBC TV programme Songs of Praise contains strong language, and scenes of a sexual nature.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Duchy of Cornwall: All-Change For Charles Windsor

Prince Charles, or more correctly Charles Windsor, must be hopping mad. Information Tribunal judges have ruled that his personal cash-cow, the Duchy of Cornwall, is a "public authority". The Duchy estate, which owns large swathes of land across Cornwall and elsewhere, has been obliged by the ruling to disclose environmental data under the Freedom of Information Act.

The judgement undermines 700 years of the Duchy as the heir to the throne's feudal domain, and may lead to wide-reaching consequences for Windsor and his affairs. Making the Duchy subject to Environmental Information Regulations (EIR), which are part of the FoI regime, could also be a step toward revealing details of Windsor's newly-exposed penchant for vetoing Parliamentary bills affecting his financial interests.

Recently the FoI Act was amended to exempt the Monarch and the first two royals in line to the throne. However, that doesn't apply to environmental legislation such as EIRs, which are subject to a public interest test. Father-of-one Windsor and his advisors had maintained the Duchy isn't a public authority under EIR, and so didn't have to respond to the request for data. Sadly the judges have pronounced otherwise.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Great Little Railways of Cornwall

My new book, 'Great Little Railways of Cornwall', is complete in draft. Written for Cornish publisher Truran, it will be out next March.

Since ‘Captain Dick’ Trevithick’s black Puffing Devil clanked up Camborne Hill on Christmas Eve 1801, Cornwall’s had a close association with steam transport. During Victorian times railways flourished and a web of routes spread across the Duchy, connecting towns, villages and a shoal of tiny halts. Today, though a great deal’s changed, nostalgic reminders of Cornish steam travel are still with us. Four lines survive, the locomotives and their guardians keeping former times alive and providing enjoyable days out for everyone.

Scenic rail travel too has survived in Cornwall, despite the cuts of the 1960s. Rural areas were widely affected; Cornish closures included parts of the North Cornwall Railway and the West Cornwall Railway. Today though, across the Duchy five scenic branch lines run by operator First Great Western meander through wonderful countryside, well away from the bustle of main-line services; they offer great trips, often to places you might otherwise overlook.

As usual Truran have been darlings, which helps. They work closely with their authors and once again it’s been a joy.