Monday, March 05, 2007

Miscellany: 5 March 2007

- Yesterday's X-Axis.

- The premium rate phone-in mess continues. ITV, who insist that they're absolutely confident that their phone lines are just fine, have nonetheless pulled all premium rate phone-ins until they've had a little check. Since this involves shutting down an entire channel, ITV Play, it's a pretty drastic step. They go off air at midnight, apparently.

Viewers desperate for the opportunity to throw away money on unwatchably boring television - and ITV Play brought in £26m in the first half of last year, so there must be some of them - can try a range of other equally tedious quiz channels or, for the truly hardcore, venture over to Sky 841, where Gala TV offers a man with a large beard reading out bingo numbers for hours on end.

Recently added to the "possibly dodgy TV phone-ins" list: Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway, which has allegedly been inviting people to phone in even after the contestants were selected. That's a genuinely stupid thing to do, since there's no earthly advantage in selecting the callers so early.

- It's Edinburgh Parking Zone Extension Day, on which I get the privilege of paying the Council so that I can park outside my own house. Lucky me. This is basically a policy that the Council seems to be rushing through in the hope that they can get it firmly entrenched before they lose power in the local elections. (With the change in the voting system, the general backlash against Labour, and the massive unpopularity of the Council's transport policy, their chances of getting re-elected, at least without a coalition partner, look slender.)

The official line is that residents are getting "a week's grace period to get used to the charges." The reality is that they can't start enforcing the new system yet because they didn't manage to get the permits out on time. I applied for mine almost a month ago, and it still hasn't arrived. Naturally, the Council thought that since they were inviting a huge chunk of Edinburgh to apply for parking permits simultaneously, this would be an ideal time for the department in question to move office. That didn't exactly help.

Why they can't just admit that they're delaying the start by a week because of an administrative screw-up - which is essentially what their staff told me when I phoned them last week - is a mystery to me, but I suppose most politicians start off from the assumption that failings should only be admitted if absolutely unavoidable.

- The latest rumour doing the rounds in wrestling circles is that the WWE has finally twigged that it's doing very good business outside North America, and it wants to set up permanent spin-off promotions outside the USA. I can't even begin to imagine what WWE Europe would be like, or what channel they think might be interested in it (Sky already runs five hours of original WWE wrestling a week), but apparently this is the plan. They're also thinking of repositioning Smackdown to aim it at the Hispanic audience, Mexico and South America (the Spanish language audience is very strong for wrestling), and opening their own Japanese/Pacific promotion (um, isn't Japanese wrestling in freefall?).

This is in the very early stages, but apparently they're serious about it. I'm not sure it'll work, though - the WWE works in foreign territories precisely because it's the dumbest sort of Americana, and I don't think the WWE has the ability to make it work as a homegrown product. UK wrestling has been functionally dead for twenty years, and any operation they could set up here would be modest - NFL Europe in tights, basically. And god only knows what a multi-lingual trans-European promotion would be like. (Picture a ring surrounded by fifteen commentary desks, one of them for Irish Gaelic...)

Mind you, Italy was supposed to be doing good business for a couple of years, so you never know. But it's a huge venture.