All entries for October 2008

October 09, 2008

Michael Grade (Or: Chris Morris said it best)

ITV head Michael Grade is annoying me. Check out this story over on TV Scoop for the full thing.

Basically he’s saying it’s impossible for ITV to compete commercially if they have to do public service broadcasting. If you don’t know, the government legally own the airwaves in this country. That’s why you can’t just set up your own TV channel and start broadcasting. There’s only room for a few such channels with 2 of them funded directly by the tax-payer (BBC) and the other three being given to companies to look after.

Now obviously it’s a pretty nifty deal. Imagine being given a chance to broadcast to the entire nation, your programs watch able by anyone with a TV. More to the point, your adverts, which you get paid for, watched by anyone with a TV. The government don’t just give that away for free. So what’s the flip side? When you get a broadcast license you agree to terms over what sort of programming you will show. That includes a certain number of weekly hours of educational and news coverage.

It’s a fair deal.

But it doesn’t work for Grade.

“ITV does not itself want any direct public money. We wish only to operate as a free-standing commercial business, with less rather than more regulation.”

To which I say, they’re welcome to. Just give up the rights to the airwaves. As I said earlier, the airwaves are owned by the government. Hence, the airwaves are owned by the public. They have an intrinsic value, because if you can’t do the job, we (ie. our government) can sell them to someone else instead. So you are asking for public money, just not directly.

“Universality: ITV1 is a popular national service. Viewer expectations and economics dictate that it must retain the widest coverage of the UK.”

Sorry, you don’t get to do that. You want wide coverage, you follow the rules of the agreement. You don’t, you fuck off. Simple.

“Certainty: After years of discussion, consultation and regulatory adjustments, and with an existing right to licence renewal, there is no value in the distraction of any protracted tender process for future licences with modest value.”

Basically: we want the license guaranteed.

“We expect to operate in a free market, and on fair market terms with our competitors, customers and suppliers. All future regulatory requirements beyond our commitment to programme investment and news must reflect this.”

In complete contradiction to the above they want a free market. This basically means they want to be able to compete with other broadcasters in any way they want. Except they always want to have one-up on every other broadcaster because they have one of only three analogue licenses.

Sorry but that’s not operating in a free market. In a free market we re-open negotiations for the license every 5-10 years and see if anyone else can do a better job cheaper. That’d be frustrating and annoying but if you want to compete on a totally free basis that’s the cost. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t do whatever the fuck you want in terms of programming, and expect to retain the license to the airwaves by going “But I’m fucking ITV, don’t you know who I am.”

ITV of course, feels it needs to do this because profits are down. It only made £288 million in 2006 so it’s clearly in trouble. Sure, Sky make around £400 million but that’s with internet, phone and other services oh and Channel 4? Who also have a license, arguably more restrictive than ITVs? £14.5m in 2006.

But making over 20 times more than their closest direct competitor isn’t enough.

Fuck off ITV. You don’t make anything good anyway. Either suck it up, take a drop in profits and cut the wages of the big-wigs, or fuck off. And by fuck off, I mean take your chances elsewhere. Get yourself on FTA digital, on Sky and on Cable. Then you’ll have your level playing field free-trade utopia with everyone else and can do what you want.
In the meantime we’ll see if Murdoch or someone else wants the airwaves and can manage to follow the rules.

And the bit of the blog title in parenthesis:


October 05, 2008

The Reckless Moment Comedy Returns Monday Oct 5th Leamington

I realise that I’ve never actually written about The Reckless Moment here before.

Put simply it’s Leamington Spa’s undisputed best Monday-night comedy club. Basic info: £2 to get in, doors open 8.30pm, show starts around 9pm. Goes on to some time between 11pm and midnight.
There’s generally somewhere between 5 and 10 acts on, generally new acts or older acts trying new material with the headliner being an established circuit comic.
It all happens downstairs in Robbins Well in Leamington, at the south end of The Parade.

It’s been going for over two years now, running during university term times in blocks of 8 or 9 weeks and is one of Leamington’s best kept secrets, except for when it’s being publicised in order to get a crowd. Like now.
It’s run by Tom Hughes and Peter Falconer, the former MCing the night, the latter running the technical side and providing bizarre interludes. It has a healthy stable of regulars that try out practically all their new stuff there, including this years Eddie’s Best Newcomer winner Sarah Millican who I must have seen perform there about ten times over these past few years. It’s also attracted some big names such as Richard Herring, Tony Law, Robin Ince, Jim Jefrries, Josie Long, Pappy’s Fun Club and far more than I can remember.

Way back when it started I was promoting a comedy night at Warwick Uni and running the Comedy Society there, and Tom had asked me what I thought about the idea of running a weekly new acts night in Leamington. Honestly I thought he was crazy. I’d seen how tough it was and the sort of promotion it needed to get people into a regular comedy night at the university, how brilliant nights like Spa-Tickles Leamington would often struggle to get more than twenty or so people in with big circuit names. Really, what hope would a night have of pulling in a crowd if it featured raw, work-in-progress acts that could often be disastrously unfunny.

I didn’t tell Tom this of course. I told him it was a good idea and he should try as it wasn’t my neck on the line this time around and at least we’d get a couple of fun gigs and somewhere else to take Comedy Soc socials for a few weeks until it collapsed into financial unviability.

And the first few shows really did just feature a lot of messing about. Tom was MCing for the first time in his life, no-one had heard of any of the acts (some were quite good, some not-so-much), Pete would go up on stage and eat meat accompanied by 50s Jazz and the whole thing was deeply unprofessional fun.
What was odd, was that people kept coming back. And they bought their friends. Before we knew it, the room was getting full, people were standing at the back, and, most strangely of all, people were really into the whole meat-eating thing. Perhaps the master-stroke was only charging £1 to get in, it certainly made it easier for me to convince Com Soc members to come along for socials. After all, at that price even if you only see one good act it’s worth it. Though the hit-rate for the night is far better than that. These days you’re unlikely to have more than one stinker and most nights there won’t be any.

That’s not to say everyone’s brilliant. I’ve seen some truly awful comedy there in my time. Hell, I’ve performed some truly awful comedy to near-silence there in my time. I’ve also seen some truly brilliant stuff there and against all expectations once had a truly brilliant gig there. Apparently World of Warcraft material really works well in Leamington. It remains to this day the only gig I’ve ever had the guts to go and perform at.

There have been some truly wonderful moments there, such as Paul Foot reducing a room to tears of laughter and Pappy’s Fun Club making me like sketch comedy for a bit. There have been some disasters too, notably the time an American woman came on, was unfunny for 20 minutes then took her clothes off. We don’t tend to talk about that.

For the past two years I’ve been travelling down from Wolverhampton and later Cannock to around half the shows, a ninety-minute trip necessitating on sleeping on Tom and Pete’s sofa. It was worth it, but one of the best things about moving back to Leamington will be having it a ten minute walk away instead, and no need to miss any at all.

So if you’re in Leamington, come along this monday, it’s now £2 to get in (inflation and all that) but the quality of the acts has also gone up proportionally, and there’s a proper PA now. It’s almost like a proper professional comedy gig, except the MC hands out biscuits and everyone can’t help but not take it entirely seriously.


October 04, 2008

Gutted: No Preacher on HBO

This falls into the category of “News stories I missed while in Edinburgh”.

I’ve moaned before about HBO just not being as good as they used to be, but there seemed to be a renaissance in the offering with True Blood looking good (turned out to be not as brilliant as hoped) and more importantly a full episodic 5-season version of Garth Ennis’ comic-book classic Preacher.

So I Googled it the other night to see when it was due to air and instead found this

Turns out HBO were right behind it, but then a new guy took over and decided it was too dark, violent and controversial. Well yeah that’s sort of the point. So it’s been nixed.

This is a show that truly had the potential to be the single best piece of TV ever made. I’m genuinely gutted.


October 03, 2008

VP Debate

2:06 Palin does Soccer Moms on the first answer.

2:09 Palin says McCain is a rebel and crosses party lines and Obama votes with his party all the time. True. Except for the last 4 years. If only it were true.

2:10 Palin: Hockey Mums! http://www.palinbingo.com/

2:13 I don’t get the format for this debate

2:15 And Palin isn’t going to pay attention to or answer the questions and just ‘speak to the American people’. I don’t think she understands the word ‘debate’. They probably did it in school the same day as ‘what the vice president does’.

2:16 Biden is bloody boring though

2:21 Well he got a laugh on ‘bridge to nowhere’

2:24 Palin changes the subject again

2:25 Palin seems a little too rehearsed. It’s sort of scary.

2:27 Biden throws the oil company / Alaska stuff back at her. Nice.

2:30 FFS. Palin doesn’t want to talk about this topic either. Back on energy. If she does it once more it’ll make a nice segment on The Daily Show…

2:32 Haha, and the next topic is climate change. You were saying? Hope you have some notes left…

2:39 Palin seems really uncomfortable on gay marriage. Still at least they’re both agreed it shouldn’t be allowed. Americans.

2:40 THE SURGE IS WORKING

2:42 Iraq, Palin waffles, Biden gives an actual plan.

2:48 Palin can’t pronounce ‘nuclear’ – where I have heard that before…

2:49 ‘The Castro Brothers’ – is that a band?

2:52 This ‘sitting down’ thing is weird. What’s the big deal with talking to be people. Bah.

2:54 Okay getting bored

2:55 Bed-time. Palin doesn’t look like she’s going to tank as badly as I’d hoped. “We both love Israel!” – WTF is Palin 6 years old? I give up.


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