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Channel 5

Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad, track-fighting man <em>Picture: Chell Hill</em>

Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad, track-fighting man Picture: Chell Hill

By Stewart Weir

Saturday
Usain Bolt aside, athletics has been up against it in recent times, drugs putting a question mark against everyone. So those in charge of the sport have tried all kinds of marketing ploys to lift the popularity, from Golden to Diamond leagues, strange-coloured vests, and world record attempts at every opportunity.

But it appears they might have cracked it with a completely new event – the middleweight street-fighter 3,000m steeplechase. I know there have been wee neds and polis throughout Scotland participating in this event for years, but never on a world stage.

Watch this and tell me who wouldn’t want this in the 2012 London Olympics or Glasgow 2014?

Channel 5 has live boxing, the British and Commonwealth heavyweight title fight between holder Dereck Chisora and Tyson Fury.

Fury took the win on points after 12 rounds, which I had scored 117–112 in his favour. There were some inquisitive looks at me when the MC read out the judges’ scorecards, the first two giving Fury the fight by the same margin. There are those amongst my family and friends who forget what I used to do for a living.

All in all, it was more thud and blunder than blood and thunder, but a good enough scrap nevertheless. I’d score the contest 7/10, above average, because over the years I’ve paid more to watch worse…

Sunday
The German Grand Prix lost out to a BBQ. I admit, I missed a great race (although I watched the highlights later).

Star performance of the day comes from Mark Cavendish, who won the final stage of the Tour de France in Paris, becoming Britain’s first winner of the green jersey for the race’s best sprinter.

Cavendish deserves the plaudits for his achievement, although what he won was a series of races within one big race. Overall, he finished 130th, ninety-nine places behind the top Brit, Geraint Thomas.

Still, Cavendish rewrote the history books in capturing that green jersey, and had plenty more written about him as a result.

But imagine if he had taken such a title and finished at the head of the field. What media frenzy would have followed that?

Well, back in 1984, that’s what Scotland’s Robert Millar did, winning the King of the Mountains red polka-dot jersey outright and finishing an amazing fourth overall.

But Millar’s incredible performance merited probably a tenth of the exposure in this country that Cavendish’s did.

That’s how much sport has grown in the last quarter of a century. Or do I mean the hype around it?

Monday
While he might never have enjoyed the hero-worship of Jimmy White or Ronnie O’Sullivan, Stephen Hendry was always a popular guy.

People presented him with awards aplenty, adoring fans even commissioning special trophies to mark his achievements, with my good friend Neil White’s Waterford Crystal piece commemorating Hendry’s 100 Crucible centuries a particularly striking gift.

Whenever the seven-times world champion was signing autographs, there would be a lengthy queue, with all sorts wanting him to pen their books, photographs, programmes, tickets and the likes – and, in the case of a few daring young ladies, certain parts of their anatomy.

Stephen joked a few months that he was now the property of the granny brigade. But just when he thought it couldn’t get any worse when it came to admirers…

I have to say, all credit to Stephen for posing as an Apache warrior…

Tuesday
While Rangers entertain Malmö (although they struggled to do the same with the home support) in their Champions League qualifier at Ibrox, holders Barcelona are participating in the Audi Cup at the Allianz Arena along with Bayern Munich (who they would eventually defeat in the final), AC Milan and Internacional from Brazil.

Audi spend a shed-load of dosh year-on-year backing their own record-breaking team in endurance car races, especially at Le Mans.

But while there are those out there trying to tell butchers, bakers and candlestick-makers just how wonderful motorsport sponsorship is for brand awareness, here is one of the biggest car manufacturers in the world sinking even more cash (they are official car suppliers to Manchester United) in football.

What does that tell you about the power of the glorious game?

Back to Ibrox, and in the inner bowels of the great stadium ahead of the game, I’m interviewing the legend that is the “Greatest Ever Ranger”, John Greig. “Greigy” is helping me with a few chapters for a book idea I’m working on and complains bitterly that I’ve asked him to recall some details from nearly 50 years ago.

He then rhymes off team-mates, goalscorers, who passed to who and other recollections as if it were yesterday.

What does that tell you about the power of the glorious game?

Wednesday
One year to go to London 2012. 365 days now, or is it 366? It’s a year, anyway. Unfortunately my preparations have been curtailed somewhat by injury (a long-term Achilles problem has flared up again), and the fact that I am still trying to decide what event I want to compete in. This decision-making process will be all the easier once I work out what sport I am going to be good at.

I’m still thinking football, as the token Scot – or judo, as you would get to keep a nice jacket if nothing else.

It might be my imagination, but champion diver Tom Daley has started appearing even more regularly on my TV, fronting the Nestlé “Get Set, Go Free” campaign.

Now as a diver, young Tom is agile, inventive and expressive – all of the things he is not in this advert.

I noted that while he tried out golf and hockey, the kept him well away from horses. Copyright there probably belongs to Zara Phillips.

Of course, there has only ever been one athlete capable of world-class diving and being able to act with it. Watch and learn, Tom, from a master at work.

Thursday
El-Hadji Diouf has always had the ability to play at the very highest level. He has also had the ability throughout his career to start a fight in an empty hoose.

This week Diouf fell out of love with the Senegal Football Federation (FSF) which banned him for five years after comments he had made on Radio France Internationale, in which he claimed that “the whole system of African football is corrupt”. I couldn’t possibly comment.

But Diouf is naturally upset by the outcome and promised he would “go to war” with the FSF. Well, he wouldn’t be himself if he wasn’t warring with someone. Ask Scott Brown, the players of QPR, and at least one Celtic fan. The list is endless.

This latest spat, coupled with Diouf’s non-appearance for Blackburn’s return for pre-season training, has put his future at Ewood Park in doubt, with Rovers boss Steve Kean indicating that perhaps the time was right for the player to leave the club.

And here was me thinking that Kean had allowed Diouf to play at the tail-end of last season with Rangers, just so he could welcome him back with open arms.

However, there might have been some method in El-Hadji’s madness, missing the making of this.

Maybe Tom Daley isn’t that bad after all…

Friday
Northern Ireland’s second-best golfer Rory McIlroy doesn’t like criticism levelled at him by American broadcaster Jay Townsend on Twitter.

After seeing the US Open champion double-bogey the last hole at Killarney, Townsend tweeted: “It was some of the worst course management I’ve ever seen beyond under-10 boys’ golf competition.”

McIlroy countered: “Jay Townsend shut up… you’re a commentator and a failed golfer, your opinion means nothing.”

Townsend responded with: “I stand by my comments.”

The Ulsterman retaliated with “Well, I stand by my caddie,” and then revealed: “I have now blocked him on Twitter so I won’t be reading anything more.”

Different sport, different people, different times and different technology.

But you could never see someone like Graeme Souness in his pomp, or Sir Alex Ferguson, resolving their differences with someone by telling them they’d blocked them on Twitter…

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments, @sweirz

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<em>Picture: April Sikorski</em>

Picture: April Sikorski

Time for a moratorium on the phrases “So bad, it’s good” and “Guilty pleasures” from discussion on films, music and art.

For so long the get-out-of-jail-free cards for the wearily ironic, these phrases reflect cop-outs for the kinds of people who were too cowardly to declare their love for, say, Frank Capra’s films and the music of the Bee Gees at the time, before fashion caught up with taste.

Having said that…

Sometimes, there is a warped joy to be found in the work you know will never lapse into fashion, is destined to remain resolutely award-free and is so beyond help that it represents a strange comfort blanket.

Connoiseurs of the bad TV movie biopic may already be familiar with Hysteria: The Def Leppard Story with Anthony Michael Hall as Mutt Lange, or The Unauthorized Story of Mork and Mindy.

The sequel to The Tiger Woods Story could have a different certificate from the original. To these classics, add your own favourites, including a new contender: William & Kate: Let Love Rule, recently screened by Channel 5.

This was not in the same class as the same network’s Diana: Last Days of a Princess, where Patrick Baladi – the man who inspired David Brent to wear a brown leather jacket – gave us his unique interpretation of the late Dodi Fayed.

But it was close. Prince Harry had a northern accent, Kate Middleton’s mum was posher than her dad, Wills had a full head of hair, students at St Andrews don’t read British newspapers but an organ called the National Inquisitor, while Ventura Boulevard doubled for High Street Kensington.

The dialogue was a bit less than Stoppardian:

Kate: “I remember when Eton came to play against Marlborough. I was cheering against you.”
Wills: “I forgive you.”

Kate: “We’re supposed to be studying.”
Wills: “I’m studying you.” (Kisses her.)

Wills: “All my white T-shirts have gone pink.”

The cast was just as memorable.

Ben Cross, who was recently in Star Trek: The Movie as Spock’s dad, following previous roles in Chariots of Fire and It’s a Royal Knockoutwith Les Dawson and Chris de Burgh, played the Prince of Wales.

The former Mrs Steve Martin, Victoria Tennant, surfaced as the Mr Miyagi mentor figure to Kate. The best mate / Guy Pelly composite figure used to be Angus in Neighbours.

It had all the drama you’d expect of a posh bloke becoming engaged to his long-term girlfriend.

And it wasn’t all bad. They could have turned the Harry and Wills relationship into a Cheech and Chong bromance.

Producers could have cast Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart as the protagonists.

Eric Stoltz could have been asked to play Nicholas Witchell.

Or, on second thoughts, all those might have made it better.

Want to discuss other issues? Join the debate on our new Scottish Voices forum

Mark Thompson. <em>Picture: Erikso</em>

Mark Thompson. Picture: Erikso

Delivering the MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival, the BBC’s director general, Mark Thompson, said that all the best speeches had anger, “rage if you can mange it” but more importantly a “proper black-hearted villain”.

Most of the audience would have been forgiven for thinking the villain of Thompson’s speech would be James Murdoch, whose lecture at last year’s festival savaged the BBC. Yet aside from a few swipes, Thompson avoided a shouting match with Sky focusing instead on the funding deficit facing British telly, and the BBC’s response to it.

Acknowledging that next year’s licence fee negotations would be a “moment of realism” for the Beeb, he took the opportunity to rehearse his defence of the corporation. The public, he said, love the BBC despite what he considered ruthless attacks from the print press. Thompson suggested that the British public have rarely been so in favour of the licence fee and the BBC. He said that nationally 71% backed the corporation but, and he could barely keep the glee out of his voice here, the figures for Daily Mail readers and Sunday Times readers were respectively 75% and a massive 85%.

Thompson pointed to the very real need to respond to a funding gap available to commission content that could see British television lose out on “a historic opportunity to expand globally”.

The response to the drop in advertising revenue called for new approaches. Thompson wanted a vibrant ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 investing in content and growing creative talent and reputations internationally.

And it was here that Sky briefly took centre stage as the pantomime villain. Citing Sky’s £5.6 billion revenue he suggested that Sky was already a “dominant force in broadcast media” – a dominance that worried Thompson, especially when such a force failed to invest in original UK content. Last year, he said, Sky spent over £100 million on their marketing budget, more than ITV 1 spent on their content. Sky could, and should be doing more.

Thompson didn’t place all of the blame on Sky’s lack of investment. He acknowledged that the reform of the BBC “still has a vast amount to do”.

The rate of change, he promised, would be “faster and deeper” now, cutting jobs and services to ensure that quality content came first. The BBC would have to become “leaner”; he envisaged that senior positions would be cut by a quarter, executive pay would be looked at and the taxing pension problem would not be side-stepped. The scope and breadth of BBC services would need to be scrutinised to ensure that they met their public service remit. Thompson also said the BBC’s web footprint would be cut by a quarter in this “daunting programme of change”.

He ended his speech by reiterating his call for the broadcast sector to work together, to share technologies and grow talent. He left the audience in no doubt that he was there for the long haul. “The stakes have never been higher,” he said, “but the prize has never seemed more precious.”

Glasgow 2014 logoThe finals of the swimming events at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014 are expected to be held early in the morning to suit the demands of Australian broadcasters, The Caledonian Mercury has learned.

The Australian broadcaster Network 10 has already bought the Australian rights to televise the Glasgow games for a substantial sum, understood to be several million pounds. But, in return, the Australian broadcasters expect to be able to have a considerable influence over scheduling for the games, particularly for their key sport of swimming.

Gordon Arthur, spokesman for Glasgow 2014, said the broadcasters would expect to influence scheduling in return for their investment and no-one outside the UK is expected to pay as much as the Australians have for the broadcast rights.

Mr Arthur said: “The broadcasters who pay the most will expect to influence the scheduling.”

There are a couple of other, slightly less lucrative markets, including Canada and South Africa, to be tapped by the 2014 team but broadcasters in many of the other Commonwealth countries have little to budget with, particularly as the Commonwealth Games always takes place in the same year as the football world cup.

Mr Arthur said: “If you are a relatively small broadcaster in a relatively small country in the Caribbean or Oceania or Africa and you have a limited budget, football is going to be top of your list. We need to make the Commonwealth Games number two on your list.”

Swimming is a very high-profile sport in Australia, particularly since the emergence of Ian Thorpe (nicknamed the Thorpedo) the 28-year-old swimming superstar.

Ideally, the BBC (who are expected to secure the British rights to the 2014 games) would probably like the swimming finals to be in the evenings in the UK, because that is the peak time for viewing figures.

But, in this case, money talks and, having bid such a substantial sum for the Australian rights, Network 10 will expect considerable influence in the swimming scheduling.

A source close to the negotiations said the Glasgow team was “reasonably optimistic” of securing a deal with the BBC in the very near future.

The BBC did appear, a first, to be reluctant to table a substantial deal for the UK domestic rights to the 2014 Games but it is understood that pressure from the Scottish Government, together with the 2014 team’s willingness to approach other terrestrial broadcasters, most notably Channel 4 and Five, for the UK domestic rights helped bring the BBC to the table.

The BBC has always broadcast the Commonwealth Games in the UK and the prospect of losing the games for the first time persuaded senior figures in the corporation of the need to secure a deal as soon as possible.

The BBC recently lost the rights to broadcast the paralympic games in 2012 to Channel 4, a loss that has angered many in the sports department of the BBC.

The proposed deal with the 2014 team will involve both the domestic rights for the UK and the role of host broadcaster. It is understood that both sides want the BBC to fulfil both roles, although some of the host broadcasting work may have to be outsourced to off-shoot private companies.

One of the problems which the 2014 team have had to wrestle with is the increasing cost of broadcasting an event as complex and multi-faceted as the Commonwealth Games.

The advent of high definition television and the ‘red button’ options means that the costs to the host broadcaster are much more now than they were in Manchester in 2002.

Despite these issues, however, the 2014 team still intends to raise £100 million in revenue from the Glasgow games which cost more than £500 million to put on. This revenue will come from sponsorship, merchandising, ticketing and broadcast rights.

Sponsorship is the biggest single source of revenue and could generate up to half of the income for the 2014 team, with merchandising, ticketing and broadcast rights making up the rest.