Big Brother will be watching, even if no one else is

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THE crucial question in all this BBC controversy is: can John Birt, who is dedicated to news and current affairs and bureaucracy, ever produce really good light entertainment programmes that will put the BBC back in the ratings?

The answer is: yes, of course he can] Already a red-hot new unit has been set up to produce light entertainment and drama programmes along Birtian principles. And a document has been leaked into my hands with some of the front-running ideas detailed in it . . .

Elmogadishu. A new drama series set among the expatriates on the east coast of Africa, where Americans, Pakistanis and many others have fled to the sun to try to bring a bit of peace into their lives, and to set up some American-style food outlets to appeal to the natives. But boy, do things ever go wrong] There are misunderstandings, and there are shootings, and there are flare-ups betweem the expats and the man they call the Warlord . . .

The Producer's Price is Right] New game show in which a producer is given just half an hour and pounds 200 with which to put together a programme without sending for Anneka Rice. There will be plenty of wacky moments, like when the producer goes out to get a BBC van and finds that the BBC has sold them all, and he now has to hire the same vans back again] If the producer can get the programme together on a shoestring, that proves it could be done all along. If he can't, that doesn't prove it's impossible, just that he is the wrong person to do it, and he is fired.

It'll Be Repeated On The Night] A series of top-rated BBC 1 comedy and drama shows from the years when BBC 1 really had top-rated comedy and drama shows, most of them in black and white, will be repeated as part of a vintage series of classic old BBC 1 comedy and drama shows. The idea, apparently, is to add in the original viewing figures together with the viewing figures for the repeat, so that the total aggregate looks pretty respectable.

Tin-Tin - Reporter] John Birt's worship of news and current affairs has always fallen foul of the fact that no news or current affairs man has ever been made a hero. Now someone has pointed out to him that Herge's Tin-Tin was a reporter, and Birt has ordered all the Tin-Tin stories to be reshot, bringing the news content to the fore, and getting rid of all the silly Captain Haddock, Professor Calculus stuff. Nobody has dared point out to John Birt that if Tin-Tin had ever done any serious reporting in the stories, nobody would ever have read them.

Your Centre of Excellence or Mine? Zany new comedy series set actually in the BBC itself. So many loopy things have been going on in the BBC since Producer's Choice was introduced that they have finally decided to use them as subject matter. The first episode concerns the mass selling off of all the TV drama costume stored at the BBC's Manchester HQ. The auction is already under way when the BBC discovers it needs half the costumes - and starts bidding for its own property]

The Rise and Fall of Great TV Programmes. Someone in BBC management ordered a study to be made of why it is that long-running TV programmes which look set fair to last to the end of the century suddenly run out of wind and collapse. Someone else thought that this was not an order for a study document, but a programme go-ahead, so now they have actually made the series on the rise and fall of great tell sagas. Apparently it is dreadful, but they are now committed to it.

Neighbours. A hard-hitting, no-

punches-pulled drama series about the inability of the white man and the Australian aboriginal to get on together.

Call My Bluff. A revival of the old panel game, but with a difference. To this new political version of the game, politicians will be the challengers and Jeremy Paxman will be the host. They will tell Paxman a story and he will have to say if he believes it or not. (This programme was previously called Newsnight.)

Juke Box Jury. A hard-hitting investigation of the jury system to pop music. Were there many miscarriages of justice in the Sixties when some records were mistakenly excluded from the Top Twenty and others falsely included? Are there still old 45s languishing unjustly in second-hand record shops? Does it matter to anyone except John Birt?

Tully's Kingdom. New drama series in which one man's obstinacy leads to the downfall of the empire he has built up. But will it be old hand Mark or new boy John who falls?