Evans stymied in bid for Crinkley Bottom

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The Independent Online
Chris Evans demonstrated the size of his ambitions yesterday when he made an offer to produce the BBC's flagship entertainment show and then announced a pounds 3m sponsorship and programme development deal with satellite channel BSkyB.

Evans used his Virgin Radio breakfast show to make a pitch to Noel Edmonds to be allowed to produce the bearded entertainer's Saturday evening television show Noel's House Party, which is set in the fictional Crinkley Bottom.

Evans' offer came in the middle of frantic negotiations between the BBC and Edmonds, who owns the rights to the show, about the programme's future.

Noel's House Party, which is a central plank of the BBC's mass entertainment offering, was pulled at the last moment last week after a dispute between the BBC and Edmonds about the quality of the show.

That looked to be resolved - and Evans' growing media empire stymied - when the BBC last night announced that the seven-year-old show will be back next week.

Paul Jackson, head of entertainment at the BBC, said last night: "It was important for us all at this moment to step back and look at our plans for the remaining shows to ensure that we can offer viewers programmes that will surprise and entertain them in the future." Mr Jackson is believed to have taken the decision last week to pull the show.

Despite this setback Chris Evans then bounced back with the announcement that Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB is to sponsor his morning breakfast show for pounds 3m. In return Evans will plug the satellite channel's shows, such as Friends, ER and The Simpsons, and his Ginger Media Group will develop programme ideas for BSkyB.

Elisabeth Murdoch, daughter of Rupert and BSkyB's director of programming, has been wooing Evans as part of her strategy to start creating original programmes for BSkyB.

BSkyB has deep pockets and television industry experts believe Ms Murdoch may be preparing the same kind of massive outlay on programme talent that the channel has already spent on sports rights.