I’m not on thin ice at ITV, says glamorous Christine Bleakley
Content: Christine Bleakley says she is happy to be at ITV now
After a professionally challenging 18 months, Christine Bleakley starts phase two of her career at ITV this Sunday when she replaces Holly Willoughby as Phillip Schofield’s glamorous co-host on Dancing On Ice.
Top brass at the channel believe the fiance of England footballer Frank Lampard has what it takes to become a star of its primetime schedule.
Executives realised the ex-Daybreak presenter needed a high-profile role after she excelled while hosting the demanding live broadcast of the ITV Movie Awards on her own last year.
However, for some time before that, Christine’s career hung in the balance after an unprecedented and damaging briefing campaign against her by former colleagues at the BBC.
When the then host of The One Show admitted she was considering leaving the Corporation in the summer of 2010 to follow her co-presenter Adrian Chiles to ITV, BBC management decided to make an example of Christine.
Senior members of the infamous BBC spin machine, highly-paid communications executives whose job is to protect the public image of the corporation, went out of the way to portray her as a ‘wannabe WAG’ who wants to become ‘the next Posh Spice’.
I have known Christine for many years and sat in her support boat during her remarkable charity water-ski across the Channel, so I knew the claims about the down-to-earth Northern Irish 32-year-old were preposterous.
However, they seemingly did their job by turning Christine’s departure — actually a case of serious management failure at the Beeb — into a political victory.
The WAG label stuck with Christine, and some believe it was part of the reason behind her departure from Daybreak. When I saw Christine again recently, I asked if she was angry about how she was characterised by her BBC employers.
‘I have been told what was said, but I don’t know all the details,’ she admitted. ‘I think a lot of people had their own agendas and I got caught up in the flurry.’
The boss: Christine is focused on her new partnership with Philip Schofield for the new series of Dancing On Ice
As for the Posh Spice claims, she responded furiously: ‘Well, anyone who knew me knew it was complete and utter nonsense. But it sounded like a juicy little tale.’
Christine also believes the focus incorrectly placed on money in her decision to switch channels was very harmful.
‘These huge figures were being bandied around about me. I never talked about money to anyone; I think it’s bad form.’ Christine stresses that she still pays her own way, has her own flat and supports family members.
‘People want me to be bitter, but I’m not,’ she adds. ‘I still have many friends at the BBC, but I am very content where I am — ITV has been very good to me.’
For now, Christine’s attention is focused on her partnership with Mr Schofield on Dancing On Ice. ‘Obviously Phillip is the boss as far as I’m concerned. I’m happy to learn from him on the show.’
Looking good: Harry, left, and Dougie of McFly have crossover appeal
double victory by McFly stars Harry Judd and Dougie Poynter on Strictly
Come Dancing and I’m A Celebrity . . . respectively has made the band
one of the hottest properties in TV.
Major broadcasters, including the BBC and ITV, have expressed an interest in signing McFly, possibly for their own Saturday night variety show.
Executives believe the clean-cut quartet — also made up of Danny Jones and Tom Fletcher — have the appeal to become an Osmonds-style crossover act.
My source close to the band confirms: ‘There has been significant interest from the main broadcasters and a number of production companies about a show.’
McFly have decided to think about their plans over the next few weeks while Harry is on the Strictly Come Dancing tour and then decide what to do.
The defection of Alesha Dixon from Strictly Come Dancing to Britain’s Got Talent came as a huge shock to BBC bosses . . . but it shouldn’t have.
Simon Cowell’s company Syco spent months trying to woo the singer. Cowell is believed to have met her secretly when he was in the UK to launch Red Or Black.
Although Strictly fans are clamouring for Arlene Phillips to return, a BBC insider says: ‘We don’t want to risk another age discrimination scandal, but the new judge needs to be relevant to a wide audience.’
The move means Dannii Minogue has again been left out in the cold by Cowell. The pair were in talks about her taking the BGT role in November.
Then the phone stopped ringing. Dannii is said to be disappointed that she won’t be returning to primetime TV in the UK.
'Crazy decision': The popular BBC show will not return
The BBC has no plans to make a new series of Friday night family comedy Outnumbered, despite record ratings.
The comedy, which follows the antics of the Brockman family, attracted more than seven million viewers for its Christmas Eve episode.
Some bosses believe the improvisation from the child actors – the superb Tyger Drew-Honey, 15, Daniel Roche, 12, and Ramona Marquez, ten (pictured right) – were more charming when they were younger.
‘It’s a crazy decision,’ my source laments. ‘There is a huge demand for the show.’
Recently I wrote about how industry bosses believe ‘nasty’ TV is on the way out, as ‘nice’ programming gets the ratings during economic uncertainty.
A case in point was ITV’s broadcast of It’ll Be Alright On The Night — a 37-year-old format — which achieved its best ratings in six years, with more than 5.2 million tuning in.