INSIDE THE BOX: Balding's got Channel 4 jumping for joy as she gets on her marks to front Paralympic broadcast
23:12 GMT, 16 August 2012
Clare Balding, the Beebs breakout star of the Olympics, is presenting Channel 4's coverage of the Paralympics
While the BBC won overwhelming praise for its high-quality coverage of the Olympics, there is growing disenchantment at the corporation over the future of sport because of its decision not to broadcast the Paralympics.
Staff within BBC Sport are furious their bosses did not have the vision to realise the event would become hugely significant following a successful London Games.
They are also disillusioned that Clare Balding, the Beeb’s breakout star of the Olympics, was allowed to walk away from an exclusive contract with the corporation.
A big-money deal will see her front the Paralympics on Channel 4 before taking over their horse-racing coverage next year.
My BBC Sport source says: ‘It was an incredibly short-sighted decision to allow Channel 4 [who are believed to have bid 9 million] to get the Paralympics, especially because it gives them a perfect way to launch Clare as their new face of sport.
‘We did such a fantastic job with the Olympics — our studios, presenters and commentators were already in place.
‘It made sense to keep them all there and roll straight into the Paralympics.
‘Given what we pay for other events and entertainment shows, the cost was insignificant.’
Critics of the decision point out the BBC bid only around 5 million for the rights to the Paralympics. That is just one-fifth of what it paid to broadcast the flop talent show The Voice.
But the BBC tells me it is disappointed not to have been awarded the rights to broadcast the Paralympics. ‘We are proud of our record of covering disability sport,’ says a spokesman.
n Meanwhile, I’m told there is also a growing concern within Channel 4 that they will be unable to match the BBC’s Olympic coverage, potentially disappointing viewers. A worried staffer at C4 points out: ‘We have only a fraction of the money to spend on the Paralymics compared with what the BBC spent on the Olympics.
‘Most of our presenters are inexperienced, too.
‘The standard has been set incredibly high and there is a worry that we can’t possibly hope to match the epic scale of what the BBC was able to achieve with its huge resources.
‘Other than Clare, who will host in prime time, most of our presenters are unknown.’
It has been a battle against time for Downton Abbey creator and producer Julian Fellowes to finish the third series of the ITV1 drama, given filming had begun before he had written the final scripts.
However, the long and stressful working days have been exacerbated by an unbearably painful injury that has made it difficult for the 62-year-old to move freely. The Conservative peer tore a cartilage in his knee in the middle of filming.
My show insider says: ‘It’s been an incredibly difficult time for Julian. He is the workhorse behind Downton Abbey and because he is so hands-on in all aspects of production his workload is huge.
‘When filming started on the third series, he was still writing the last few episodes. He makes tweaks constantly. It’s an incredibly pressured environment.
‘Having to deal with chronic pain in his knee and at times struggling to move around properly has made things even more trying. But he’s so passionate about Downton that he has soldiered on the best he could.’
Fellowes is also balancing two film projects — a new film version of Romeo and Juliet and an adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel Crooked House.
While Victoria Beckham is insisting The Spice Girls’ triumphant performance at the Olympics closing ceremony will be the last time the pop icons perform together live, her bandmates have other ideas.
The four other Spices — Geri Halliwell, Melanie Brown, Melanie Chisholm and Emma Bunton — bonded on a wild night out at George Michael’s mansion following their performance to 300 million worldwide TV viewers.
The Spice Girls bandmates may yet perform together again despite Victoria saying the group has given its final performance
In fact, my Spice sources say the girls got on better than any time since their heyday in the late Nineties. Both Ginger and Scary are particularly keen to reunite on a more regular basis. But, once again, it will be Posh who will hold back plans.
My source adds: ‘The priority is keeping Victoria on board for the launch of their musical Viva Forever in December. But after that it’s unlikely the other girls will bow out gracefully. They’ve tasted that girl-power phenomenon again and don’t want to walk away.’
The BBC hopes popular actor Sid Owen might agree to return to its ailing flagship soap EastEnders after signing to appear on the next series of Strictly Come Dancing.
The 40-year-old, who played Ricky Butcher, ‘retired’ from Albert Square earlier this year, disappointing producers who are desperate to retain old favourites in a bid to increase ratings. But they hope his return to showbiz on Strictly will change his mind.
A BBC insider says: ‘Sid is a definite for Strictly this year because he was such a success on EastEnders. We’d like him to return to the soap and hope Strictly will help this.
Westlife's Kian Egan has made a good start to his attempt to carve a TV career
Westlife star Kian Egan’s attempts to break into TV pre-senting have got off to a promising start.
He impressed ITV executives at a trial hosting some This Morning segments and further opportunities are being discussed.
‘He’s working hard on his presenting skills and I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up hosting a major prime-time show within a year,’ my source predicts.
Meanwhile, Piers Morgan has lined up Ronan Keating to appear on his new series of ITV1 chat show Life Stories. The singer is expected to speak frankly about the end of his marriage to model Yvonne.'
Changes being introduced to the U.S. version of The Voice are likely to be used by the BBC here to try to salvage the second series of the show.
After the swivel-chair audition rounds, the four judges will be able to ‘steal’ contestants from their rivals.
‘We try to create a very kind experience where people who deserve to stay have a chance to stay,’ creator Mark Burnett said. In my opinion, it doesn’t sound like enough to turn around the poor-performing show.’