Dimbleby 'considers quitting' ITV after hostile briefings

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The Independent Online

Now the channel fears that persistent rumours that he would be forced out are causing Dimbleby to consider resigning of his own accord.

Press reports as recently as this Wednesday insinuated that ITV's decision to axe Jonathan Dimbleby was a backdoor way of getting rid of the man himself. His aggressive stance on the Iraq war and confrontational style is rumoured to have annoyed his bosses at the channel, who are said to want to usher in a more informal approach to political discussion.

Yesterday, sources at ITV Network Centre told Pandora that panic has set in. "The negativity surrounding Jonathan's continued employment here has been extraordinary," says one. "From pieces appearing in the press, there's almost certainly been high-level briefing against him, and it's obviously upsetting for him."

At the time it was first announced that his current programme was not going to be recommissioned, Dimbleby released a statement saying "all good things come to an end". Yesterday, he preferred not to tell Pandora whether he was planning to walk out at the end of the current series.

An ITV spokesman said: "We hope and expect Jonathan will be involved in the new programme."

* When Rowan Atkinson and pals lined up to condemn the government's Religious Hatred Bill, claiming it would stifle comedy, it was generally thought that the great and good of their profession were behind them. Not so. The veteran performer Ken Dodd used his lecture on Wednesday at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon to launch a vitriolic attack on anti-establishment humour and its practitioners.

"It's not right that people should poke fun at the Christian religion," he said. "It's served us well for hundreds, thousands of years. And why are [comedians] always having a go at the Royal Family? God almighty! Why don't they let them alone to be a proper family?"

He then went on to target Billy Connolly: "He's a multimillionaire yet every few seconds he has to say 'fuck'. What is he trying to prove? Is he trying to show he's bigger and better than everyone else?"

Finally, he said of Channel 4, home of much televised comedy: "I wouldn't watch it if you paid me."

* The achingly hip Scottish rock band Franz Ferdinand are about to do the BBC a big favour. Alex Kapranos and friends won two prizes at this year's Brit Awards, and are launching their second album early next month.

Before they set off for the US on the first leg of their world tour yesterday, they contacted Radio 4 to ask whether they could use a tune called "Sailing By" in their set.

For those readers not familiar with this number, it is the music played before the Shipping Forecast.

"I don't know whether it's irony," says a BBC spokesman. "But they love us: they also mention Radio 4 in a song on their new album. The tune was originally composed by Ronald Binge, but the version we've supplied them with is not commercially available." If you want to catch it, Franz Ferdinand's tour reaches England in December.

* A very odd thing has happened in the Conservative leadership race. Iain Duncan Smith seems to be attempting to cast himself as an unlikely kingmaker. The quiet man has been - quietly - hosting a series of soirees with potential leaders of the party at his Centre for Social Justice.

First came David Cameron; on Wednesday night was Kenneth Clarke; in the near future he's getting David Davis. He's also having a night with Theresa May.

Although nobody suggests that Mr Duncan Smith is likely to have much effect on the result of the contest, he does seem to have given a boost - albeit unintentionally - to one prominent candidate.

"The only thing that came out of Ken Clarke's appearance was how much more statesmanlike he is than Iain," comments one guest.

* In the history of game shows there have been some pretty bad prizes. Anyone, for example, who wants to be Britain's Next Top Model is more than welcome to the job, as far as Pandora is concerned.

However, the comedian Al Murray, who is most famous for playing the satirical "Pub Landlord", has beaten the lot of them with the prize for his new show on ITV.

"The prize is going to be a frozen chicken," he tells me at Gordon Ramsay's scholarship awards party. "But there'll be a twist... the chicken might be in a new kitchen unit or on an exotic island."

Perhaps a turkey would be more appropriate.