Review of the Year 2006 

14 December 2006 tbs.pm/1165

Another year gone, and another year’s worth of drama, disgust, delight and dreck in broadcasting, all as recorded by EMC’s top writers and caustically observed by Russ J Graham.

January

The first month of 2006 began with a hangover. A new broom sweeps clean, and the shiny head of Radio 4 was no exception. Mark Damazer had waited 14 long, slow months to "revolutionise" Radio 4. He finally struck in January. The issue was the (very) early morning method of easing listeners out of the World Service and into another day of fabulous 4. This had been done since 1978 by plying us with the gentle tones of Fritz Spiegl’s Radio 4 UK Theme (the implied comma, by the way, is after the "UK", reflecting branding past). This wasn’t suitable for the modern, go-ahead, get ahead, polish your head Radio 4; instead we must abruptly cut the WS and leap into R4 continuity waffling to fill the time. It took until April before it happened; but petitions, blogosphere uproar (not least here), letters and emails didn’t stop the Dome’s plans. The fight continues, redundantly, at Savetheradio4theme.co.uk, and you can still buy the music, beautifully rerecorded by Sir Gavin Sutherland and his band of the day, on iTunes.

Knight of the realm arises When the awful Anglia knight, which in part of my childhood seemed to do nothing but go bloody round and round all the bloody time, disappeared in the late 1980s, some of us [Clearly – Ed] were pleased to see the back of it. Others mourned. Who knew that more than a decade later it would be back, in gold, for about half a second, in the title sequence of Anglia Tonight? It didn’t last: the relentless march of soulless cheap ITV plc branding would soon sweep even that little relic away.

Goodbye… …to Paul O’Grady, leaving ITV in a mess of their own creation, bound for Channel 4 and a near-fatal heart attack.

Brand new ITV Same rubbish, slightly more money spent on it. Slightly.

Sky’s broadband strategy of the month This month, it was a tie-up between Sky and Microsoft to provide broadband entertainment to millions of homes. We’re still waiting.

At last! ITVi has some major marketing… …which told us about how simply wonderful the service was. Just press red and you’ll be in a world of… er… dating opportunities, shagging opportunities, meeting old shag/date to rekindle old shag/date opportunities, and games that crashed your Sky box.

February

A shocking month. Did you know that renewing the licence fee for the BBC would cost the economy £__million and some ___jobs? You’re at liberty to fill in the figures yourself with any number of your choosing. After all, that’s what the BBC’s poor, hard-done-by, where-oh-where-is-my-next-Rolls-coming-from "competition" were doing. Yes, it’s licence fee renegotiation time. The time where every simpleton gets to stick their oar in, presenting their own stupid views as those "of a concerned majority". A wisely silent one, too. But, whatever the size of this "majority", its voice can be heard in the two most conservative of papers: the Telegraph and… well, who’d ever of thought it, the Grauniad. Yes, the Social Workers’ Gazette strikes back, making Britain better for everyone by seeking the death of the BBC. Well, better for Grauniad Media Group’s TV interests, but that’s the same thing, isn’t it? How did Emily sleep at night? Well, on a big pile of money, one assumes. How very liberal.

BBC Navel Much in evidence, across the whole year, was the BBC’s need to peer deeply into its own navel and publicly examine the blue fluff it found. This month: £100m for new BBC-supported cinema films. That’ll be 1/28th of the next Harry Potter paid for then.

Public Begging System As a warning to those who strangely admire the terrible, terrible, terrible American television system, the only good part of it, PBS, got handed a budget cut of $30m by Dubya. This was a shock – after all, Sesame Street airs on PBS and where will he go for his policies if that gets curtailed?

Goodbye… …FilmFour as a pay TV package, as Channel Four announces that free-to-view is the way to go for its low budget indy films.

Stupid is as stupid does Who is the "customer" that ITV serves? The viewer? The advertiser? The shareholder? Itself? Or a weird mixture of the above? Except the bit about the viewer, obviously. Nevertheless, the holy grail of a united ITV was called into question in February. Would not everybody be served better by splitting into ITV Broadcast and ITV Production? Other than the viewer, of course. But we don’t matter. To anyone.

March

Branding. Branding branding branding. A subject that anyone can pontificate upon, but only those who truly know nothing have any say in. Once upon a time (and still in all text books on the subject: it’s not rocket science, after all) it was recognised that speaking to people in their own language, dialect and accent was ”better”. They enjoyed it more, and the adverts sold better. But this is something that costs money. Better sales but higher cost. What is a marketing agency to do? Well, changing the paradigm would cover it. So, speaking to people in their own voice now doesn’t work. Instead, you speak to everyone in your own voice. Of course, the money you would have spent on the different voices is now spent on the agency advising you on how to speak in one voice. But at least your sales will fall. Thus it was that SMG, the home of bad marketing, owners of STV, the home of bad presentation, had A Big Idea. This month they announced that Grampian Television would die. From now on, it would also be STV. Are the people of the north the same as the people of the central areas? Did this idea work in England? Has there ever been any evidence of it working, other than asking around the promotions unit to find some guy with a mouth bigger than his brain? Nope. But it happened anyway. This ”is” STV, after all. They know a thing or two about stupid management.

TV3 vs ITV Who in their right mind would let ITV plc own their main commercial network. Well, the UK and Ireland. The UK had no choice, but Ireland this month was sleepwalking towards it. To the horror of UTV, it should be said.

BSL I wish insomnia upon no-one, not even Mrs Thatcher. But if you’re ever afflicted and find yourself staring at a TV screen at 3am (and the World Service would be better, both for entertainment and for soporific effect) then you will enjoy the signed repeats of BBC-1 programming on offer (for recording) at that hour. Indeed, a survey this month suggested that you’ll be almost the only audience for said programmes – there being little evidence that deaf were tuning in but plenty that others with reason to be awake at that hour were grateful. Funny then that this is exactly how East German television schedules were arranged in the 1970s.

Minister for Paper Clips We were informed this month, by no less a light than James Purnell, the Under Secretary of State to the Under Secretary of State for the Department of Under Secretaries of State, that real delights would await us when analogue was switched off. But only if we got better television as a result. And TV companies might like to consider that, although he didn’t want to be too firm on the point. He’ll go far.

Goodbye… Charles Allen… no, wait, not goodbye to Charles Allen. Almost, but he survived. Steady as she sinks!

April

Peter Cadbury died. There’s probably little that could be said about this – he’s been out of the media headlines since 1982, after all – but his passing gave us the chance to… well, lay the boot in about the old nutter. Shielded by draconian libel laws and always happy to use them, this chap has a "colourful" and "flamboyant" career… because even when they’re dead, you only have the cuttings from when they were alive to research from. This was the man who founded the north-eastern company Tyne Tees in full knowledge that he would jump ship as soon as the south-western franchise was available. Worse, the ITA were happy with this. Worse still, the ITA made it clear that the company he was in charge of would be the one that would win the contract. Still, nice to see a bit of transparency. Not something that the chap himself went in for as a rule. And perhaps one day, now that he’s beyond the lawyers, something we’ll write about in detail. Not yet, though, sadly. Although we really liked the parochial charms of Westward. But if you consider what came after (weirdness on a cosmic level, blandness on a level to make the word "bland" seem exciting, an extra bland version of that, and finally the ultimate in bland direct from London… well, you get the picture).

Hello to ITV Play, a channel that fits so well into the ITV brand, being cheap, tawdry and nakedly out to strip stupid people from their wages.

Goodbye Grandstand… possibly. Still in the EPG as of this week, but doomed in a press release from the modern, forward-thinking, brand-driven monopods who run BBCtv.

OfGums The broadcasting "regulator", so willing to regulate the BBC, so unwilling to regulate anyone else, produced a report this month that revealed that ITV’s jetisoning of regional programmes and identities was A Bad Thing for everyone, including ITV. Needless to say, the stolid regulator buried the report and nothing was every heard of it again. We’re making the world safe for capitalism!

May

Up comes that old chestnut again this month. Yes, we should be selling BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 2, making the world so much better by having more private broadcasting funded by adverts. The flaws in such a plan are so very obvious as to be clear even to Mrs "Duh, what’s this I’m signing, darling?" Jowell. Which, you must admit, makes them pretty bloody obvious to everybody. However, with space to fill and time to waste: the commercial broadcasters could easily create a rival to either station, and they haven’t because they don’t want to and would rather buy the originals than invest the time, money and talent required; the existing BBC talent would not be compatible with commercial radio in many cases; the existing BBC talent would not move to commercial radio in many cases; the BBC can happily carry minority audiences to balance the big hitters, commercial companies cannot (or, more accurately, will not); adverts added to existing shows will drive listeners away, not add new listeners; the commercial broadcasters don’t know how to deal with the BBC’s committed listeners, or even their own; there are no cost-savings to be made – neither station is profitable as it stands and selling an unprofitable business is a really, ”really” stupid idea (cf British Rail, although nobody would die because of it this time); if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it; Milton Friedman is dead, Mrs "saddened by the death of Pinochet" Thatcher can’t be long for this world, let’s leave them to rot in peace; this is the most stupid idea since the last one the commercial broadcasters came up with that involved removing competition in order to make more money; it only has making money as a start, middle and end point. All that typing just to state the obvious. Tsk!

Goodbye lots of job at Panorama, as the BBC seeks to rationalise the news departments in the face of the Hutton whitewash.

Goodbye for now to "Freesat", the non-terrestrial digital alternative to Freeview – now at least a year away, allowing Sky to leap in with "Freesat from Sky" which is the same thing but with more adverts for "upgrading" to the "premium" offerings of Sky Two, UKTV Drama +1 and The Crime and Investigation Channel.

Press release of the year and possibly of the decade: ”Cellcast, the interactive digital broadcaster, today announced that it was launching a new platform on Freeview, the free to air digital TV channels. The group said it was pioneering new ‘visual radio’ on digital terrestrial television, launching new entertainment services on Freeview including a “breakthrough in interactive TV technology.” It’s a phone-in-to-win station available 1am to 5am. How very.

June

A bumper month for media news, perhaps because, as one Transdiffusion writer had it, the silly season comes so early now. Television will eat itself. But the silly season is perhaps the wrong time to release a heavily spin-dependent story as the journalists will have plenty of time to investigate it. No, that’s not true. ”We” have plenty of time, but the journalists are just as busy as ever, reprinting the press releases (it takes hours, honestly). So, this month’s top press release: a new ITV region! Yes, Central South and Meridian Somewhere are forming a new region, ITV Thames Valley (ITV TV?)! Good news for viewers! Excellent regionalism! Everything the locals could want! Nobody asked them! Forty established jobs to go! Well, the last two oddly weren’t so publicised. But that’s it all boiled down to. The "increase in regionalism" (they’ll be mentioning it whenever challenged for the next decade, you just know) actually involves a massive reduction in staffing and investment. Yes, ITV plc – what they take with one hand, they also take with the other. Still, the Grauniad was pleased, just as they always are when people are sacked by big broadcasters. It rings someone’s bell.

Goodbye to Mike Neville, a north-east institution, never returned from sick leave. Taxes, what taxes? Big Brother was upon us again, and someone noticed that the House didn’t pay Council Tax. What a quandary for the local Tory MPs: Council Tax=bad, but invented by Tories so =neutral. Tax=bad. Crappy commercial television=good. Error!…does not compute… switch to default statement… all taxes are bad and shouldn’t be collected anyway. Well roared, Bottom.

Sixty years none the richer June 1946 and a woman steps in front of a camera and welcomes us back to television and (implicitly) the export drive of Attlee’s sainted government. This was marked on the BBC by… a telephone interview with your humble correspondent, printed online. What’s 60 years of history between friends? We’ll fight them on the beaches we are the masters now you’ve never had it so good the pound in your pocket who governs Britain we are a grandmother back to basics education education education. There. Done.’

Lies’ on Fox News This isn’t news; we just commented on it this month; usually we let it pass.

News If I’d said "News 24" you’d have grasped it immediately (oh, the BBC channel!) but, really, most of us are too thick to understand the general idea of "the BBC" providing "news" for various "channels" of which one is "BBC News 24". No, we’re all kept up at night, worrying that we might be watching BBC News 24 when we meant to watch Toonami. Far simpler to have everything branded "BBC News" and work out what people mean under your own steam. The viewers never gave a f**k in the first place, as the BBC seemed to later realise.

Swearing Following the previous sentence’s gratuitous use of swears comes OfGums and their latest attempt to regulate the BBC. No swearing on BBC Radio One (who knows the consequences for an orderly society if DJs spoke to listeners in the language the listeners use?) and those unruly podcasts must be sanitised. OfGums, thanks for the input, but could you direct your attention to the naked profiteering and con-job going on at ITV Play? No? Oh.

Goodbyes Top of the Pops, death sentence signed this month, not wholly lamented; CITV programmes made in house, victims of a policy of accounting for them in a way that makes them unprofitable, then bitching about them to a receptive "regulator" (OfGums again, sadly); HD-DVD or Blu-Ray – both getting a commercial launch at this time and one, or both, evidently doomed. And whilst the cloud of doom hangs over that market, nobody will buy. Believe me. My parents not only waited for Betamax to die, they also waited for BSB to go before they bought VHS. At this rate, my mum will buy the next generation of DVD when Rupert files for bankruptcy.

July

Much celebrating this month (trebles all round!) as ITV ditched some terrible rubbish that had been a millstone around the network’s neck for a very long time. Yes, so long and thanks for nothing to It’s Now or Never presented by… um… well, nobody watched it so who can say? Yes, a big hope for ITV1’s primetime future was shown to be a bad bet. Of course, ITV would like us to get used to the US-centric idea that a poorly-performing show (if not a poor show) can be killed mid-season to the benefit of everybody. But ITV misses some fundamental things (not that we’re saying this rubbish shouldn’t have been killed off) that mark the difference between ITV and US networks. For a start, US networks are not networks as ITV thinks of them; they are a network of independent stations (largely) that are paid to carry the output of the company they are affiliated to. If a station thinks their local market would prefer a different show over the network stuff, and the advertising so gained would be more than the "compensation" from New York, goodbye network show, hello Wheel of Fortune. Also, the networks are largely responsive to viewers rather than advertisers (no, really). US advertisers most want huge audiences for their mass adverts, and have little care as to how they get them. If a show is controversial but gets a 40 share, the advertisers don’t care. If a show is controversial and thus loses viewers, then they do. In the UK, we haven’t evolved to that stage. We’re still where the US networks and the sponsors (as were) stood 20 years ago. Thus ITV cares only what the advertiser thinks. If the advertisers wanted a programme with only 3 viewers, ITV would provide (witness ITV Play: three viewers, Unilever-style deep pockets). This is not a path to success: it’s a rollercoaster to hell. You read it here first.

Hello to the idea of a "spectrum tax" from OfGums. In effect, this is just the old Thatcherite idea (welcome back, please climb into this hole so we can shovel more earth on you) of charging broadcasters "what the market will bear" for their right to broadcast. But only on Freeview – after all, Rupert is doing such a fine job above us.

Goodbye to Charles Allen of… no, wait, not quite goodbye yet to Charles Allen of ITV, despite managing to get ITV1 to dip below Channel 4 in the ratings. And we’re not talking about 4 pulling out the big guns. At all.

Hello to Neighbours on BBC3, in a story that occurred only in the head of a Grauniad journalist.

Goodbye to Ally Pally, as a press release announces the end of the TV-related bit.

Hello to change for change sake: Mark Thompson, aiming to be useless in completely different ways to Greg Dyke, had a big list of things he wanted to change because they were there. Only the superficial things will change, but for the worse. Call it the "John Birt Principle".

August

Goodbye to ITV’s Charles Allen. No, wait… no, don’t, actually: finally, it is indeed goodbye to the son of a caterer. At this point, no word as to who would follow him. So few candidates to choose from, and the main one stuck at the head of the new BBC Trust. Boy, I hope he’s related to Jeff Randall by marriage and thus the Telegraph will eventually break the news to a breathless world. Poor Charles. He piloted through a merger with his greatest rival, for the good of broadcasting, and created the FTSE100 company the City had been asking for. He helped make sure that Michael Green’s corporate suicide was committed smoothly. He did everything the City wanted of him. On that basis, it’s a terrible shame that his new "united" ITV did nothing but shed viewers; that ITV1 became a creature of advertising to the point that programming was held in poor regard compared to the network’s main purpose (selling airtime); that the programmes all became the visual equivilant of Turkey Twizzlers; that the local identity that people liked was washed away to be replaced by the instantly forgettable and ultimately unlovable. How much was his fault? Well, none really. He responded to what the shareholders wanted. What else could he do with a failing business? He really did his best. It wasn’t good enough, but then what could be? It would need a showman, a person with programming skills (no, not you Shaps, but thanks for putting your hand up), a person who can spot a target market and latch on to it and make it ITV’s own. Again. Someone who knows when to dumb down and when to smarten up. Someone free of the dead hand of the awful, awful fund management group that has ploughed ITV into the ground over the last 3 years. Someone who can make the grade in a way that poor Charles clearly couldn’t. As of August, the City and TBS were agog waiting to see who would make the grade. And I’m not taking the michael.

Hello to another OfGums survey. This month: 16-24 year olds aren’t watching television as much as they should. It doesn’t appeal to them any more. What the survey doesn’t say is that all the channels have been pitching to them for about a decade and should now stop. No, the survey says: try harder. Yeah, that’ll work.

Kick in the teeth of the month award goes, surprise!, to ITV, awarded by Jimmy McGovern, once a star writer for the network, now left at the fringes as the channel(s) move on to cheaper, more bankable, more repeatable, less interesting "content" to help grab those important 16-24 year olds they’ve already alienated.

Armed and dangerous The MacTaggart lecture in Edinburgh has long since ceased to be anything other than navel-gazing for the industry. Except when the current head of ITV is invited and, when he gets up to speak, isn’t the current head of ITV. So, this month, poor Mr Allen stood up and dissed C4. All his/ITV plc’s woes, you see, were due to C4 playing in ITV’s garden. If only they would move out and play elsewhere. Although he had a quick dig at the BBC – all his/ITV plc’s woes, you see, were due to the BBC playing in ITV’s garden. If only they would move out and play elsewhere.

September

Vexing multiple writers here in September was the malaprop stupid stunt by Richard Hammond. In case you don’t remember, this upper-middle class hero (it’s something to be) almost but not quite killed himself whilst breaking some sort of record for carbon emissions. The tabloids had a field day, promoting the vigils and prayer meetings that us ordinary folks were holding for him. Transdiffusion writers wished him well – it’s rare that any broadcasting history society wishes something else on anyone, after all – and he recovered. But generally we hoped that the death knell had sounded for Top Gear and its glorification of fast and heavy death traps that are killing our children (for once a line I could share with the Daily Mail, if only they weren’t so very clear that such vehicles – with the hundreds of unknown kids killed each year – were less important than tracking down paedos – with the almost 5 unknown kids killed each year… a perspective that they oddly don’t grasp). Mr Hammond survived and his return to television – and rampant pollution – seems guaranteed.

How not to appeal to viewers This is the manual that the current – at time of writing – staff in ITV’s plush squat in Grey’s Inn Road could have written. (1) Think about the commission before you commission it. (2) A good title is the one attached to a popular show; one has little effect on the other. (3) Have faith in a show, even with such a terrible concept as Jane Hall’s Big Bad Bus Ride as it might pay off, and if it doesn’t, you’ve lost nothing (or you can call it Public Service Broadcasting). The ITV manual, by the way, lists the opposite of the above as good options. So goodbye Ms Hall and the bus you rode in on.

Goodbye to the dancers that Ms Heggerty introduced and hello to various circular things, as announced this month. Better, but not best was our verdict.

Goodbye to Stroud FM, as OfGums calls UKRD’s bluff and announces plans to let the licence lapse after the owner demand the right to expand area or contract regionalism until more money was made.

October

This month, the first public hint hit our ears that the BBC’s move, from London to somewhere with more rain, wasn’t going to happen. Well, perhaps not the first hint – "sources close to the Director General" had been dropping similar hints from about 20 minutes after he announced the original plan. On the face of it, the original plan is great: now almost everything of value has been moved to London by ITV, the capital is somewhat suffering from an overdose of having bloody everything. For democracy, and the 85% of us UK residents who don’t live in London, it’s better if someone moved out of the teeming metropolis and tapped the rich seam of non-world-weary posers that almost everywhere not within commuting distance of Big Ben has to offer. But to do this requires undoing 20 years of terrible, terrible government broadcasting policy (and some 50 years of other terrible, terrible government, too). So, that isn’t going to happen. But politicians would like it to happen – especially the government Spokesalien for People Who Don’t Blink Enough, Ms 1114-Alpha Bleerz, who is also MP for where the new "media centre" and its New Labour-voting luvvies would be located – but don’t want to pay for it, or for existing commercial broadcasters to dip into their precious profits. Mr Thompson thus, coincidentally whilst wanting a quick licence fee settlement, takes the opportunity to stand up and declare that his staff are falling over themselves to uproot from a housing market that they can never get back into in order to go a city whose chief attraction is that it is next door to Manchester (I believe Salford actually put that on road signs: "Now entering Salford – you have missed your turning"). The staff are not falling over themselves to head to Manchesterford. They are falling over themselves to update their CVs and leave the BBC. This is Not Good, as the DG was starting to grasp.

Regionalism Why do "content providers" even bother? This month, we noted that an attempt to hide online episodes of Eureka (aka A Town Called Eureka for some completely obscure reason) by US channel Sci-Fi. Our writer got around that in under four seconds, but it still irked. After all, why bother? Time for "content providers" to start thinking out of the box. Or just thinking.

Blu day One of the two incompatible formats of hi-def DVD launched this month. Yeah, that business model worked well before, didn’t it?

Thick and thicker Welcome to Torchwood, making its debut on BBC3 this month, complete with a MASSIVE "THIS IS BRAND NEW" THING in the corner as BBC3 underestimated its audience yet again. Please: we know its on BBC3, we turned over specially. We know it’s new, despite the hundreds of other chances to see it that the Beeb would give us to rewatch each episode. Telling us so in such LOUD terms repelled more viewers than it gained. All to BBC2’s benefit, mind.

Goodbye to the old director of programmes at Channel 5, er… you know.

Hello to the new director of programmes at Channel 5, er… you know. But perhaps RTL’s growing disquiet can be held in check by the birth of the two Channel 5 spin offs, er… you know.

November

Another busy month and a fitting end to this catelogue of the past year. Because our retrospective ends with the loss of a great broadcaster. Yes, this month we say goodbye to Michael Grade, sadly departed and never to be seen again. Yes: he went to ITV to take charge of the sinking ship and the rats still remaining. To those rats he sent an email. To the previous hulk he sent one with more detail. And you can’t have anything but sympathy for his plight at the BBC – running the place just as he’d always wanted to turned out to just open a gaping whole in his life. Still, BBC staff liked him (you could reply to his email, even if nobody dealt with it; I’m told that replies to the ITV one bounced) and the BBC did need someone who knew something – anything – about broadcasting to be at the ultimate helm after the botched attempt to include the BBC in the government’s discredited "news machine". Gavin and Greg were more popular than Mike and Mike, but the latter were better at keeping an even keel. As we now all know, the pathetic whitewash of the Hutton Report and the subsequent attempt to silence anyone who rightly called this government to account for allegedly being a bunch of lying, manipulative warmongering bastards did have some success – the BBC has been contemplating its own navel in various degrees of panic ever since and organisations from the BNP to UKIP to double-glazing firms have been quick to pipe up to silence the Corporation should it dare raise questions about any loathesome activities by the richer line of scum that this country likes to produce. I’m not sure that "New" Labour hoped to hand a BBC-bashing-stick to the BNP, but then I can’t remember the last time they considered a single consequence of any policy they ever came up with. Even the good ones (many of which they now talk of rolling back. No, really) have had stupid results that anyone except the Dear Leader could have forseen.

Torchwood not enjoyed by all Too gratuitously violent for some of Transdiffusion’s writers who were busy calling each other to tell colleagues not to watch. Strange folks.

Click off The BBC is now busy advertising N24’s Click (formerly World’s worthy but dull Click Online) as aunty’s "flagship technology programme". Yeah. Right. Anyone who remembers Tomorrow’s World – the ultimate in flagship technology programmes where you might learn something new rather than just recycled from last month’s .net and be told about it with interest rather than lashings and lashing of post-modern irony – would probably have something to say to the Beeb about this assertion. But then all broadcasters, the BBC included, would really prefer that viewers and listeners had shorter memories.

Dumb and dumber Oh, but I hate having a go at the BBC, given that the notional "competition" is so generally terrible that I only notice the BBC’s failings when the BBC really falls down. But it managed it twice in one night this month, for this was the night that I saw the BBC’s Idiot Students Looking at Old Implausible Cases Whilst Knowing Nothing and The BBC News at Ten o’Clock for People Who Find the ”Daily Star” a Challenge. These programmes might just have been The Innocence Project and the usual Ten but never in my life has the BBC talked down to me in terms that suggest I’m a refugee from ITV1 who has accidentally pressed a button on the remote and am now furrowing my brow and attempting to comprehend the situation. The drama was not only implausible but also took pains to explain completely obvious things to the audience (the "Cabbagehead Syndrome", where an otherwise brilliant character accidently puts a cabbage on their neck instead of a head for a single scene. cf Deanna Troi in many episodes of TNG). The Ten was, if possible, many leagues worse if you’d listened to PM earlier, where the issues over the strange death of that Russian spy had been covered very well. The Ten took the "We’re all going to die! Brutal murder with deadly radiation! House prices to crash! Asteroid hits Mercury! We’re all going to die!" line beloved of the Daily Mail. If I wanted to read the Blackshirt Gazette, I would. But I don’t I want my news from the BBC – sometimes boring but always informative. Not that night. I rang the BBC to complain at the time and haven’t watched since… making the problem worse, if I stop and think about it.

Goodbye something on ITV1. It had notional "celebrities" who were notionally on "an island" and would notionally fall in "love" and perhaps have rampant sex with no end of penii and wizard’s sleeves displayed before ITV1 could manage to cut the feed for the moral health of us all. Instead, the audience cottoned on that the people they haven’t heard of weren’t interesting and weren’t going to ladle out their various reproductive organs for the benefits of the cameras. No audience, no show. The show was pulled (no pun intended).

Hello to Al Jazeera in English. A great idea and a fine counterbalance that will lose money by the wheelbarrowful. Still, nice try.

How to win friends and influence people Buy a dominating lump of their company – not enough to control, but too much to be ignored. Everyone was up in arms, including the "businessman" Richard Branson. Yeah, ‘spect, but, well, even Mussolini was rumoured to make the trains run on time. Or at all. At least this shakes things up a bit. Owning a spoiling stake in another company: 153p a share. Buying ITV plc: £4.7bn. Mike and Rupe in a planning session: priceless. Ultimate worth of the ITV brand: fourpence. For everything else there’s government. For broadcasting, there’s MasterMurdoch.