What fun

Staff at Basel zoo are carrying out a paternity test after the birth of an orangutan with any one of three potential fathers.

Be a step up from Jeremy Vine’s normal guests.

This is very good though:

Sumatran orangutans are one of the most endangered animal species in the world, comprising only nine existing populations left in the wild, with just three populations numbering 1,000 or more.

Known as “gardeners of the forest”, they have a major role in rain forest seed dispersal and in maintaining the health of the forest ecosystem, a function that is vital for a range of other animals, including tigers, Asian elephants and Sumatran rhinos.

Despite the development of protected areas, more than 50 per cent of orangutans are found in forests under management by timber, palm oil and mining companies.

So, err, they’re perfectly happy in managed as opposed to unmanaged forest then?

I hope this isn’t true about John Oliver’s medical debt forgiveness

In short, here’s what happened. As part of his segment on debt collectors, Oliver formed his own debt-collection company. Through that company, he then bought just under $15 million in medical debt — the debt of about 9,000 people — for $60,000. Once that debt had been bought, Oliver forgave it. Then, in a moment of self-adulation, he showered the stage with dollar bills as a symbol of his good act.

OK, it’s an intern at National Review writing this so details, details.

But if it was a company forgiving that debt than those whose debt was forgiven owe taxes on that debt forgiveness.

If it were a charity or an individual making a charitable act then they don’t. But corporations are assumed, unless otherwise detailed, to be operating for profit. And a for profit organisation forgiving debt is income to the debtor who gains that forgiveness. And taxable income too.

I do hope that Oliver got this the right way around.

Update: Apparently he donated it to a charity that then forgave it. So, settled then.

What a startling background for an unknown TV script writer!

While Colman, fresh from her starring role in the BBC’s big hit The Night Manager, might have been a bit skittish about her role, Channel 4 has taken on more of a risk by staking its 10pm slot on the relatively unknown writer of Flowers, 29-year-old Will Sharpe, an English-Japanese actor, writer and director.

Eager to underscore its reputation for distinctive, risky programming, and miffed by the loss to Netflix of its hit Charlie Brooker series Black Mirror, Channel 4 decided Sharpe was not only a gamble worth taking but that he deserved special treatment. So each episodes will be broadcast at the same time every day over a week, beginning with a double bill on Monday.

Sharpe was born in London but until the age of eight he lived in Tokyo. He was educated at Winchester College, then went to Cambridge, where he read classics and joined the university’s dramatic club, Footlights, subsequently spending a year with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Winchester, Cambridge, Footlights, RSC.

Just come out of nowhere he has, honest.

This is fun, isn’t it?

The BBC is investigating claims about a £10,000 Great British Bake Off betting scandal involving its employees.
Ladbrokes said that workers at the corporation had opened accounts in order to place bets on the winner of the show, which was recorded several weeks ago, according to The Sun.

All those selfless public sector workers at the BBC, who do it for us, not for mere lucre.

Dozens of new gambling accounts were thought to have been created by individuals with links to BBC workers and the Love Productions, the independent production company that makes the programme, it was claimed.
“Whoever is doing this thinks they are being very clever,” a source from Ladbroke told The Sun.
“But they are not that smart as they have been using their own names to open accounts.
“A quick Google and you can see that [some of them work] in television and have close links to the BBC and Great British Bake Off’s production company.”

Hmmm.

The source continued: “Lots of the other accounts appear to be owned by friends and family of culprits.
“They must think we are a bit thick but we know how to sniff out funny business like this.
“Placing everything on one baker again and again immediately set off red flags.”

Yes, quite. The bookies risk losing money over this. so of course they’re going to be a bit active in looking for people gaming the system. Incentives do matter after all…..

Dave Broome missed a chance with The Briefcase

The Briefcase, premiering on CBS at 8 p.m. Wednesday, features “American families experiencing financial setbacks,” to use the network’s terminology. The family is given a briefcase with $101,000 in it, and then they’re shown another family who’s “experiencing financial setbacks.” They have to decide how much money to keep and how much to give the other people, or whether they want to keep it all for themselves; neither family knows both families have in fact received a briefcase, and that their counterparts are also deliberating over if and how to share the money. In the two episodes CBS made available for review, the decision weighs incredibly heavily on all participants. One woman is so overcome that she vomits. Everyone talks about health insurance. Several people claim this is the hardest decision they’ve ever made. Many, many tears are shed. And perhaps unsurprisingly, people demonstrate impressive generosity. That’s the point of the show, right? To show how generous people truly are? Surely these people were screened not just for emotive telegenics but also for proclivity toward magnanimity.

Well, no, not really, that’s how human beings work actually. As tha classic economic experiment, the ultimatum game shows.

And this is of course a version of that ultimatum game. A one time, going in both directions, real life version of it. I don’t, of course, know what the splits being offered are. But I would be surprised if anyone offered less that 30% of the cash to the other people.

But perhaps Dave Broome, the originator of the show missed a trick here. Because wouldn’t it be fun to have the other part of that game? Where if there’s a rejection, then no one gets anything? Here, a rejection being offering more than 10% less than the other participants are offering you?

That would be a lovely reveal, wouldn’t it? (Strokes white cat, feeds shark, puffs cigar.)

How entirely glorious

A woman with no legs who uses a wheelchair was a contestant on the Price is Right, but it doesn’t look like she’ll be using her winnings any time soon.

Danielle Perez, of Los Angeles, won a treadmill on Monday’s episode of the famed game show and she managed to handle the awkward situation with grace and hilarity.

Perez, who lost her legs in an accident in 2004, posted a photo of herself on the show to Twitter with the caption, ‘When you win a treadmill on national TV but you have no feet’.


Both the
event itself and her reaction.

Fair play Ms. Perez, fair play there.

A little South Park story

When we first moved from Russia to the US I told the Mrs. that US TV was going to be pretty boring. Not that Russian TV was all that much, but the Yanks really weren’t going to allow anyone to swear, crack rude jokes or, well, to a large extent, do anything that normal people do and TV stations the world over show them doing. And the comedy really wasn’t all that funny either.

So, we sat down our first evening of having moved, snacks and booze to hand, very domestic like, turned on the TV and caught part of the first season of South Park.

She’s not really believed me on a whole host of issues ever since.

Well, yes Sir Terry

Sir Terry Wogan has said female presenters use their looks to get the best jobs on TV and should not complain when they do not get offered work later in their careers.

The Radio 2 DJ said ‘lovelies’ like Holly Willoughby and Tess Daly are at risk of being replaced on the highest-rated programmes once their looks deteriorate.

But the 75-year-old insists they have no right to be angry because they used their beauty to land the jobs in the first place.

Seems like a statement of the bleedin’ obvious really.

If we were to see young ugly women doing the presenting jobs then te idea would have less force. But as we don’t we can feel fairly safe in concluding that looks do indeed have something to do with who gets the job. And if looks do then when looks fade…..

Finally a solution to Simon Cowell

It took time and effort but Hurrah!

China’s media regulators have ordered the country’s satellite television stations to stop producing new singing-contest programs and to cut down on melodramatic elements of those currently airing.

There really are time when censorship is justified.

So that\’s the end of children\’s TV then

Or at least, that\’s the end of any kiddies stuff that doesn\’t come from the BBC:

Advertising aimed at under-11s should be banned amid fears it is creating a generation of children obsessed with money and material possessions, a powerful lobby of more than 50 experts warns today.

Wonder if they\’ve thought that through: or even whether that\’s the point of it?

Maimed I am, emotionally scarred. I saw a Jimmy Savile puppet

The BBC has apologised after screening a repeat of a children\’s television programme featuring a character dressed as Jimmy Savile.

An episode of The Tweenies filmed in 2001 was shown on CBeebies before 9am on Sunday.

In the episode, a character called Max presents a Top of the Pops-style show. Wearing one of Savile\’s trademark tracksuits topped off with a blond wig, he uses the disgraced presenter\’s accent and utters the catchphrase: \”Now then, guys and gals.\”

A BBC spokesman said: \”This morning CBeebies broadcast a repeat of an episode of The Tweenies, originally made in 2001, featuring a character dressed as a DJ impersonating Jimmy Savile. This programme will not be repeated and we are very sorry for any offence caused.\”

Viewers tweeted about the gaffe. Kenny Senior wrote: \”Are BBC trying to self destruct? Max from Tweenies dressed as Jimmy Savile just now nearly chokes on my cornflakes.\”

Please, do fuck off and get a sense of proportion.

TV does indeed love totty

Women of a \”certain age and appearance\” struggle to be seen on television, former newsreader Alice Arnold has suggested, as she criticises a culture valuing the \”shape of their legs\” over their intellect.

Arnold, the partner of sports presenter Clare Balding, said equality was a “constant struggle” in a world which “prizes looks and youth so highly”.

Saying the world of television was full of men “of a certain age and appearance”, she argued women at the same stage of life would not currently be allowed on screen.

She also criticised the lack of female presenters on BBC Radio 4\’s Today, accusing the show of failing to represent half of the British population properly.

Targeting sexism and ageism in the world of television, she argued the BBC ought to do more to put a stop to it.


It\’s absolutely
true that some birds get on TV because they are attractive totty. NMice face, decent set of norks, these do indeed aid a career in front of the camera.

I don\’t find it all that surprising in humans I have to admit. Nor does it surprise me that men are treated differently. Again, it\’s fairly common among humans to judge males on status not looks.

But perhaps this is all wrong? Perhaps we shouldn\’t be doing this?

OK: that means that a pretty face and decent norks will no longer aid young women on getting on the box. Nor will young men be denied access as they\’re not silverbacks.

At which point, sure, stop discriminating aginst the saggier women as well.

But what I really don\’t think would be fair would be to promote the use of those older women without reducing the advantage that looks give younger women, or the way in which youth works against men.

If we\’re really going to stop discriminating then let\’s really do so, eh?

Wrinkly women in the media

Yet there is a basic injustice that we have allowed to take hold in our public life and that is the removal of older women from it regardless of whether they have relevant life experience or expertise.

Sigh.

It is necessary, as the phrase goes, to look at this in the whole.

A pleasant looking young bird has more chance to get on the TV than a not pleasant looking young bird or a young man of any degree of pleasantness. Attributes such as big tits, nice bum, long legs, shiny hair, all help.

Perhaps this should not be so but it is.

It\’s therefore not a surprise that when some of those attributes which created the job opportunity in the first place fade away then so does the job opportunity.

As and when being young, pert and good looking is not an aid in getting into TV in the first place then we might indeed reasonably complain about the absence of those factors being a reason for not being on TV.

It\’s a fact that young and pretty whores get more punters than old and ugly ones. Why should anyone think it different for media tarts?

There\’s models and then there\’s models

My word!

Mick Aston quits Time Team after producers hire former model co-presenter
Mick Aston, the archeologist, has quit Time Team after producers hired a former model as the programme’s co-presenter.

So, toothsome bimbo to get her nipples out for the lads. Kown as the Dimmock Strategy. Woo Hoo! And I can see why a serious scientists like Professor Mick Aston would be upset.

An email to archaeologists last year from Wildfire Television, which makes the programme, said it was seeking a female co-presenter who “does not have to be overly experienced or knowledgeable as we have plenty of expertise within the existing team”.

I get it now, this is Sam Fox\’s comeback attempt, isn\’t it?

So, who did they hire?

Miss Ochota, 30, holds a master’s degree in archaeology and anthropology from Cambridge University and has previsouly done modelling work, including shoots for Special K.

See! See! Nothing but a smile above a nice pair.

And over in a parallel universe it is noted that the art of modelling for Special K is the ability to look happy about the way in which your breakfast cereal has allowed to you to have a really good shit. But in a delightfully feminine manner.

A suitable skill for someone who is to work with that emetic Tony Robinson I would have thought.

Polly\’s gargantuan, massive, huge, fail

Re the BBC and Sky, here.

But here\’s a tidy sum the BBC could recoup for us all. The Murdoch press has relentlessly lobbied to cut the BBC back to a US-style small subscription service for unprofitable programmes. Now, while Murdoch is weakened, is the chance for the BBC to regain lost ground. Here\’s the big issue: when Margaret Thatcher helped Murdoch launch Sky with exemptions from EU broadcasting rules, she added another bonus. She made the BBC pay £10m a year to be transmitted on the Sky platform, although across the rest of Europe commercial broadcasters pay public broadcasters for the privilege of using their content. By rights Sky should pay many hundreds of millions. If the BBC withdrew, Sky would totter since BBC channels are by far the most watched by Sky subscribers, yet Sky charges an average £500 per customer, compared with the BBC\’s £145.50 licence fee –and yet the BBC massively outproduces Sky content. It\’s time Sky paid full value.

It\’s worth going through the comments to get the full, rampant, stupidity of this statement.

The first and most obvious point is that you must already have paid a TV licence fee in order to be able to watch Sky. Even if you don\’t in fact watch any of the BBC programmes at all. So the direction of subsidy seems wrong in the first place.

Then there\’s this:

I\’m sorry but this is just plain wrong.

Sky does not transmit BBC programmes or channels. The BBC rents transmitter (strictly transponder) space on satellites which are for the most part run by a Luxembourg based company called SES Astra. Those channels are what is called \”free to air\” which means that they can be picked up by any suitable satellite receiver. There are currently three kinds of receiver in the UK: Sky, Freesat and Generic.

Sky and Freesat both run Electronic Programme Guide systems. While these are seen by the user as a means of telling what\’s on, behind the scenes they give the receiver the information to tune in to the appropriate transmission. It is possible, but awkward, to receive channels that are not listed in the Sky EPG on a Sky receiver.

Sky\’s EPG is open in principle to all broadcasters at rates approved by Ofcom.

The BBC wants to be on Sky\’s EPG, at least for the time being, because it is afraid that if it were not then those households that take Sky would simply not watch BBC.

Or this:

I\’m sorry Polly, but you\’re wrong on several counts.
Firstly, the BBC DOES NOT pay Sky £10million to be \”transmitted on the Sky platform\”, they pay that sum for regional variations to be supplied to the correct area\’s set-top boxes. Nobody forces the BBC to request that service, it\’s the BBC\’s choice.
The BBC actually pays SES (the owner of the Astra satellites) to be broadcast to the same homes Sky broadcast to. Do you therefore think that SES, a foreign company that spends not short of a fortune providing broadcast satellites, should also be giving free access to the BBC?
Seccondly, I\’m not entirely sure you\’re pointing the finger at the right person as to whom \”made the BBC pay […] to be transmitted on the Sky platform\” (although I like your attempt to put the blame on the Guardian\’s favourite devil, Margret Thatcher). If you actually look at the facts, the BBC wasn\’t broadcast over the Astra satellite system until the launch of Sky Digital in 1998, by which time, I\’m sure you know, Thatcher was well gone from N°10.
As for your argument about the placing of the BBC\’s childrens channels; is it not reasonable and fair that a first come, first served case is applied, or do you think Sky (and Virgin and BT and anyone else providing a platform) should reserve great swathes of higher channel number just in case the BBC decides they want to go into a channel area that others have been providing for longer?
The reason the BBC\’s childrens channels are at the numbers they are is simply because the other channels in that category were there first, it\’s not an anti-BBC conspiracy.
Out of interest, do you think the BBC should get a free service when other\’s have to pay for the same? In which case, do you also think they should (for example) get free electricity, or free taxi rides?

And the number of people who both claim that Sky is a monopoly and then refer to the BBC, Freeview, Virgin etc. *Bangs head on table*. If there\’s competition it\’s not a monopoly is it?

Finally.

It\’s true that Sky pays many people for content that it then broadcasts. It\’s even possible that it could pay the BBC for content that it then broadcasts. But, you see, the quid pro quo in such arrangements is that, in common with cable systems, satellite systems, free to air systems, the world over, the broadcaster gets to stick ads around the content that it has just expensively acquired.

I\’ve no idea what the Murdochs or anyone else would think of this but I\’m absolutely fine with Sky being encouraged to reach an entirely normal, commercial, contract with the BBC. Just fine with their reaching a deal whereby they cough up anything from thruppence to hundreds of millions to broadcast the content. As long as they\’re allowed to sell that ad space at what they can to go with it.

I\’m even happy for the other variation of such contracts to be used. The BBC sells the adspace and then splits the cash with Sky.

Only that if you\’re going to force them into a commercial rather than privileged contract then you\’ve got to go to a fully commercial contract, don\’t you?

Update, this gets even better:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/speeches/stories/dyke_londonbusinessschool.shtml

Greg Dyke\’s speech about the BBC and Sky:

Speech given to the London Business School – Media Alumni Dinner
12 March 2003

From June this year, we will broadcast BBC channels free from encryption. This brings us into line with the way most other public service channels are broadcast in Europe – and we will consequently be paying very little to Sky.
By no longer using the Sky conditional access system we will be able to use some of the money saved to offer all of our different services for the nations and English regions to satellite viewers anywhere in the UK.
That means wherever you are from and wherever you live now, you will be able to choose the local news and other programming you want from anywhere in the UK. If you are a Welshman living in Yorkshire you can still watch BBC Wales. If you are a Londoner living in Orkney you will be able to watch BBC London.
Just think what a benefit that is for the huge numbers of people who have moved away from the place they were brought up but want to stay in touch with their home area. It\’s a great example of using technology to extend the choice we offer our viewers.
To sum up I\’d like to make clear what our decisions on Freeview and digital satellite have in common. For me, they go to the heart of what the BBC is here for.
This move has great advantages for the BBC and for audiences in general.
this is a great chance for us to deliver significant long-term benefits to UK audiences and to help drive digital so that more homes will be able to receive all our services. It allows digital satellite to break free from the straight-jacket of subscription. It will increase its appeal to a wider cross section of people, many of whom are put off satellite by the need for a contract.
Third it offers a subscription-free alternative for the four million people outside the transmission range of Freeview.
Fourth it makes the likelihood of analogue switch off by the end of this decade more likely, and that\’s a policy supported by all the main political parties. When this happens it will mean everyone will be able to receive all our digital television services and true universality will once again exist for the BBC.

Finally the move also means we can make major improvements to the BBC regional services we offer via satellite to our audiences all over the UK.

…our decision today to offer our services free to air on satellite are borne of our continuing commitment to those aims.
We are making all of our services available to more people. We are improving the quality and range of what we offer and we are providing better value for money from the licence fee.
Our decision to get involved in Freeview helped rewrite the rules of digital television and has demonstrated the benefits of providing people with an alternative to subscription television.
Our decision to broadcast our services over satellite, bypassing Sky, is no less significant.
It too will help us follow Reith\’s principle of bringing the best of everything to the greatest number of homes.
Thank you.

How times have changed

Leone, whose real name is Karen Malhotra, has been appearing in Bigg Boss, the Indian version of Big Brother, where a group of minor celebrities spend months in a house cut off from the world, vying for publicity and a cash prize.

It\’s now necessary to explain what Big Brother is.

O Tempora, O Mores etc.

Ah no Mr. Cohen, no

I should make a declaration of interest here: I have taken Press TV\’s shilling. Did a few pieces with them when I was working in London.

So, that said:

If the clerical state bought British newspapers or set up websites, I would not call for regulators to compel them to be accurate and impartial, and ban them if they refused. I would argue against the clerics\’ doctrines and conspiracy theories, but accept that they had a right to put their views. They deny that same free speech to the subject population of Iran, but no matter: liberty means allowing freedom to people who have done nothing to deserve it.

Enforced impartiality in broadcasting, however, is still a cause that is worth defending from the attacks by corporations and governments which are aching for the right to propagandise and the betrayals of Ofcom officials who subvert fairness in the name of \”diversity\”. Society is entitled to say that there should be a corner in the marketplace of ideas where journalists and their managers and owners must respect notions of fairness and balance, particularly when radio and television stations continue to be controlled by the state or by wealthy individuals and corporations.

No, I\’m afraid not.

You could, just about, make a case for insisting upon impartiality and balance (something which sadly all too often becomes just spouting the coventional wisdom, see BBC over euro for example) when the number of TV stations was limited.

As it indeed it was at one point. Not just through government licencing but through the basics of the technology. The limits to spectrum. It was only possible to have four stations, perhaps five the last with slightly spotty coverage. Now we have cable and or satellite. We simply do not have that technical limit to the number of nutters and ranters who can broadcast their views at us.

The technical limitations are now almost the same as the number of blogs there can be: pretty much none.

In fat, I think it would be true to say that it is now cheaper to set up a TV station looking for national distribution than it would be to try and set up a newspaper with such.

Yes, the newspaper might still be cheaper to produce but the TV station distribution would be cheaper I hazard.

At which point no, the argument that we must preserve a scarce and precious resource from being overwhelmed by nutters fails I\’m afraid. Press TV, the BNP, the CPGB, GBCP, SWP, Judean Peoples\’ and Peoples\’ Judean, all should be allowed on the airwaves.

Quite apart from anything else we want to know what the nutters are saying so that we can reject them.

Fascinating business tidbit

Traditionally, kids entertainment groups have made just 10% of their income from broadcast commissions, with the balance generated by DVD and merchandise sales. Many companies have been squeezed by the global decline in DVD sales, while increasingly broadcasters expect to pay nothing for children\’s television shows commissioned from outside rights holders.

While Entertainment One has turned in a sparkling performance in recent years, it too has had to make concessions to broadcasters. In order to secure Peppa Pig its slot on the Nick Jr channel in the US, it is thought to have paid all production costs and agreed to share income from merchandising.

\”If you can\’t broadcast these things on television then you can\’t sell any merchandise, so you do have to get the product aired,\” says analyst Ian Berry at Cenkos, broker to Entertainment One. \”But the potential royalty income from merchandise is almost 100% margin.\”

OK, so we all know that the TV shows lead to pester power for the Peppa Pig lunch box, the Peppa Pig waterproof nappy (no child would be seen dead at the beach without it) and the Peppa Pig doll, poster, DVD.

But it\’s a fascinating little detail of capitalism the way the money moves around, isn\’t it? The TV stations aren\’t paying the people who make the programs any more. In fact, the people who own the rights to sell the lunch boxes are in fact paying the TV stations (that\’s the \”sharing of merchandising revenues\”) to show the programs.

The scarce resource here isn\’t in fact the character or the TV program. The scarce resource is the audience and thus the money flows to whoever it is who has access to that audience, that is, the TV station.

Al Gore and Sky Italia

Al says his Current TV is being forced off Sky Italia because he\’s hiring Keith Olbermann in the US.

Sly says that Current TV wanted more money for the fewer viewers it was delivering.

A News Corp spokesman said: \”The non-renewal of Current TV\’s carriage agreement with Sky Italia is purely commercial. Current TV asked Sky Italia for double the carriage fee when prime-time viewing had fallen by 40% in the past year. Sky Italia\’s offer was in line with the market and reflected the performance of the channel. It had nothing to do with politics.\”

No, I dunno either, make up your own mind.