Arts and Entertainment

Mr Memory, who was brought on Monday’s Newsnight to memorise the title sequence and couldn’t even remember that Jeremy bloke with the beard’s name. Gosh I love telly. 

A creative account of television

I AM delighted to announce that I have secured the services of the famous freelance television consultant John Birt, who has agreed (for a consideration]) to place his experience at your disposal.

TELEVISION / To Alan and Auntie, a bouncing baby: Thomas Sutcliffe puts his stamp of approval on BBC2's Birthnight - a schedule of first class deliveries

The title of Controller has always been a slightly odd one - bringing to mind the sort of dystopian oligarchies so common in Dr Who, or (for those raised on Thomas The Tank Engine) a dull but aimiable functionary sorting out the squabbles of the marshalling yard. Commissioner-in-Chief would actually be more accurate had it not already been appropriated by a different British institution, but there are occasions when the existing title seems just right, when a network suggests that the messily collaborative business of television - subject to the vagaries of individual talents - is being directed by a clear sense of purpose.

TELEVISION / But the malady lingers on

WE HAVE been here before. At the pictures, an usherette in a sit-up-and- brag bra pushes bubble-gum round her teeth. So sunk is she in sullen sensuality, that she barely registers the flickering screen where Movietone is explaining why America needs the H-bomb. As she slinks up the aisle, her sashaying bottom says 'Come and get it', and we're not talking Cornish wafers. Back at the War Office, the general and his staff push meaningless Cold War memos around desks the size of tanks. Private Hopper can't concentrate: he wants to be on the job not in one. Suddenly a song starts up: 'Ooo Wooo Wooo, Woo Woo Woo Wooo Woo.' His colleagues are dancing, mouthing the lyrics, pinging braces, high-kicking pinstriped legs. A girl joins them; a Venus without blue jeans. Just red stilettos and Jerry Hall hair. She glides towards Hopper, a figleaf of his imagination, proferring a snake with a penis for a head. 'Hopper,' bawls the general, 'where the hell do you think you are?' Don't be daft, man, he's in a Dennis Potter play. He couldn't be anywhere else.

'Casualty' move

The BBC has bowed to audience pressure and decided to move next Saturday's episode of Casualty, its most popular drama series, from 7.50pm to 9.30pm. The decision was made by Alan Yentob, acting controller of BBC1, because of the programme's graphic depiction of riot scenes.

Operatic gesture

Alan Yentob, the controller of BBC 2, was so impressed by Jose Carreras, the Spanish tenor, in Verdi's Stiffelio at the Royal Opera House in London that he has cancelled Saturday night's schedule to screen the opera live.

TELEVISION / Never mind the quality, count the ratings: Mark Lawson on how would-be Controllers of BBC 1 might measure up to the Birtian vision

On Monday, John Birt, the BBC's new Director-General, flamboyantly reshuffled the Corporation's layers of bureaucracy. One job which he left unfilled is that of Controller of BBC 1, vacant since the departure of Jonathan Powell to ITV newcomer Carlton. Mr Birt's caution over this decision is well advised. Although offering a salary of around pounds 90,000 a year, a chauffeur-driven car - and regular programme-buying trips to other English-speaking television cultures, many of them sunny - Controller of BBC 1 is now the medium's poisoned sweetie. The difficulty of the decisions awaiting Mr Powell's replacement is underlined in an examination paper, set by Mr Birt for all applicants, which the Independent has obtained. I have tried to provide some model answers.

Birt pledges sweeping modernisation of BBC

JOHN BIRT, Director-General of the BBC, yesterday set out a sweeping range of measures to modernise the way the corporation is run, just one week after taking over the reins of power.

Top jobs at the BBC to be filled by ITV trio

MICHAEL GRADE, chief executive of Channel 4, yesterday upstaged John Birt, the new director general of the BBC, by disclosing the departure of Liz Forgan from Channel 4 three days before Mr Birt is due to announce her move to the BBC. Ms Forgan, Channel 4's director of programmes since 1988, is expected to play a similar role at the BBC, covering its two television channels and possibly radio.

Checkland 'likely to step down early from BBC post'

THE DIRECTOR General of the BBC, Sir Michael Checkland, is likely to step down two months early and retire at Christmas, sources at the Television Festival in Edinburgh said yesterday.
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