Paul McCann
Sunday 31 May 1998 23:02

Blue eyes, red faces

The competitive nature of Nineties television has reached even the Luvvie shores of Arena and The South Bank Show. Melvyn Bragg's programme was caught short by the death of Frank Sinatra (he was only 82 so you can imagine their surprise) and asked Arena, which had a completed tribute in the can, if it could borrow some footage. Arena refused and broadcast its show on the Friday, two days before the SBS obituary went out. Come Sunday night and some of the footage used by SBS looked mighty familiar to the editor of Arena. Although the BBC can't prove it was taped off air and re-used rather than bought from an archive library, a London Weekend Television source rather gave the game away by giggling when asked where its Forties footage of Frank singing at the Paramount Theatre came from.

Chinese football

In the light of the current hi-tech furore surrounding football on television: a heart-warming story from another age.

Reminiscing at the Royal Television Society last week, BBC Scotland controller John McCormick cast his mind back over the 75 years of the BBC - celebrated this year in Scotland. In the early days of the Dundee service, he recalled, the pukka-BBC female announcer had to be stopped mid-broadcast while reading out the football results. What could be the reason for this break in service? It seems the producer had to inform her that results had to be read across the page, rather than down.

Telephoto titillation

Rumours from Wapping indicate that The Sun's page three girl is being given a last make-over while executives battle it out over whether nipples remain news. Deputy editor Rebekah Wade is thought to be arguing for the pics to come to an end. Recent shots have opted for different lighting and naturalistic settings in order to bring them up to date. Either that or they have been dropped altogether. Some days the page three girl is replaced with snapped celebrity breasts like those of Liz Hurley on a hotel balcony or soap star Michelle Collins on a beach.

Both cases rather beg the question of what happened to the new Press Complaints Commission rule that beaches are private places out of bounds for long lenses.

Smacked wrist

The Broadcasting Standards Commission just gets battier and battier. Not content with objecting to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's recipe for placenta pate it also ruled this month that the brilliant Robert Carlyle vehicle Looking After Jo-Jo "unintentionally glamorised heroin abuse".

Notwithstanding the fact that Jo-Jo, and just about everybody else in the drama who touched heroin, went mad, died or ended up in prison, the BSC based its ruling on the "episodic nature" of the show - some of those who complained hadn't seen the whole series and didn't see the grisly consequences of heroin abuse.

Using the BSC's logic anyone tuning in for five minutes to some of the really sticky bits of The Human Body last week would have a case for claiming it was pornography. Hasn't the BSC heard of context?

Mac the mouth

The best media quote of last week came from that usual source, Kelvin MacKenzie. Asked by the FT about a possible Axel Springer take-over of the Mirror Group he said there was more chance of it being taken over by Jerry Springer. Post- Viagra, the willy-waving that usually accompanies media take-over battles can only get more extreme.

Low-Rent review

Given the less than flattering revelations last week about British nanny Louise Woodward - her former lawyer claiming she might not be as sweetly innocent as portrayed last year by the British press - Esquire magazine's decision to use her as a reviewer for the stageshow Rent looks less than tasteful. It was the musical she went to see obsessively in Boston - when not looking after little Matthew Eappen.

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