Media in the Press 23.11.10

STV viewers may soon be able to watch hit period drama Downton Abbey after the station’s bosses hinted that they may succumb to public pressure and screen it next year.

The Herald, page 3, picks up the story with the headline: ‘Drama as STV Says it May Show Hit Series Next Year’. Writes reporter Matthew Holehouse, the broadcaster was “caught off-guard by the success of the Edwardian bodice-ripper and will consider screening the second series, which is due to start filming in February.”

The move comes after channel controllers made the decision to air long-running detective series, Taggart, in place of Downton Abbey. The decision angered fans of the period drama who were forced to tune in – via Virgin, etc – to ITV1 London to see it.

STV's managing director for broadcasting, Bobby Hain, is quoted defending the channel’s initial decision not to carry the programme – as part of a policy of increasingly opting out of network programmes, in favour of more home-produced fare. He is quoted, saying: “Anyone can be a TV scheduler retrospectively.” Adds Hain: “As we get closer to a second series we will consider our options.”

Meanwhile, STV and BBC Scotland have announced their respective Hogmany line-ups. Reads page 15 of The Scotsman: “A special edition of the daytime show, The Hour, will form the centrepiece of the Hogmany celebrations on STV this year.” But the channel has admitted that viewers will be watching a pre-recorded version of 'The Bells'. STV’s New Year’s Eve offerings will also include a special comedian's edition of Postcode Challenge and a collection of the best sketches from a new show, Comedy.

The Scotsman meanwhile reports that BBC Scotland viewers will be treated to a Hogmany Live programme, presented by Jackie Bird and Phil Cunnigham from the Corporation's Scottish HQ in Glasgow's Pacific Quay. The rest of the line-up has yet to be announced.

Staying with The Scotsman (page15), the BBC’s festive output betters that of their rivals STV – says television critic, Paul Whitelaw. Writes Whitelaw: “BBC Scotland could have easily trumped their rivals if all they had planned was a freeze-frame of John Barrowman dressed as Santa sobbing in a stairwell.”

Elsewhere, today’s Scottish Daily Mail (page 65) reports that James Murdoch faces fresh opposition to his bid to takeover BSkyB – this time from The Church of England.

Writes reporter Simon Duke: “In an unusual intervention, the Bishop of Manchester warned that the owner of the Times, Sunday Times, Sun and News of the World would ‘dominate’ Britian’s media landscape if it secures full possession of BSkyB.”

The Right Reverend Nigel McCulloch is quoted, saying: “The fear is that even though Sky News would have to abide by requirements for due impartiality, there would always be the potential for the exercise of subtle editorial influence, not least in the process of selecting which news items are to be covered and which left out.”

Staying with the Mail (page 11), far from being killed off by the internet, television is going from strength to strength. Writes reporter Liz Thomas: “One third of the nation admits to watching 50 per cent more TV than five years ago, according to a report on modern viewing habits named the Joy of Sets.” The report attributes the rise to soaring figures for Saturday night favourites such as the X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing.

And finally, popular TV presenter, Simon Amstell, has been criticised for making a joke about opera singer, Russell Watson’s cancer fight, on the BBC Breakfast programme. Today’s Scottish Sun’s headline (page 30) reads: ‘Sick TV Joke at Russell’. Reporter, Nick Parker, writes that, as presenters Sian Williams and Bill Turnbull tried to conclude an interview with Amstell, he made a “crass jibe” at Watson’s expense. Amstell is reported to have said: “Stop talking! We’re finished! Got to get Russell on with his tumour!”

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