BBC's home hurdle as tensions rise over where its Olympic stars will stay during the games
07:08 GMT, 15 June 2012
BBC presenters, who include Gabby Logan, are planning to reject budget accommodation close to Olympic sporting venues
Word reaches me of growing tensions over living arrangements for the BBC’s top presenters during the Olympics.
I’m told a number of high-profile London-based hosts, who include Gabby Logan and Gary Lineker, are planning to reject the Beeb’s offer of housing them in budget accommodation close to sporting venues during the Games.
Producers worry traffic chaos and extra security measures could risk some stars missing their broadcasting slots.
My source explains: ‘The BBC is offering its staff only rooms in cheap hotels or student accommodation as a cost-saving measure.
‘Presenters aren’t keen to move away from their families for three weeks to live in a shoddy hotel room. Some feel it’s a slap in the face given the long hours they’ll be working.
‘But there are serious concerns that at certain times it might be almost impossible to drive around London. Tight security is going to pose another challenge.’
The BBC’s vast presenting line-up also features big London-based names such as Clare Balding, Sue Barker, Matt Baker, Sian Williams and Chris Hollins.
Last night a BBC spokesman said: ‘We need staff to be at the venues from very early until very late. If a presenter isn’t there when they’re scheduled, we put our coverage at risk.
‘However, we won’t be doing a running commentary on the location of our teams for reasons of their personal safety and security.’
Rescue plan for flagging Eastenders
After months of declining ratings, the BBC finally has a plan to save flagship soap opera, EastEnders.
Last year’s controversial dead baby swap plot — which prompted Samantha Womack to quit — followed by a teenage prostitution storyline shocked viewers.
Ratings have slumped seven per cent — sometimes dropping below six million — with the soap lagging behind ITV rival Coronation Street.
Bryan Kirkwood, who was in charge of controversial storylines, left in March and interim boss Lorraine Newman is trying to turn the show around.
I’m told far-fetched stories are out and the focus will be on family drama — and even some humour.
My BBC source reveals: ‘We have to find a way to get the viewers back and appeal to a wide family audience.’
The return of Letitia Dean (Sharon Watts), who has a lucrative two-year deal, is expected to be central to the plan. Producers are also keen for June Brown, 85, who plays Dot Branning, to return from a break.
Producers are concerned top presenters will miss their slots if they try to commute to venues from their homes because of heavy traffic and extra security measures
The soap’s decline comes as BBC1 boss Danny Cohen faces criticism for 25 million flop The Voice and the channel’s Diamond Jubilee coverage.
Her personal life has been tumultuous, so it’s no surprise actress Natalie Cassidy, 29, is the latest star to get her own chat show.
Bosses at Channel 5 hope her ‘accessible personality’ could see her become the ‘British Ricki Lake’. A source tells me: ‘A pilot has already been filmed. Viewers love Natalie.’
Louis heads Stateside for sick Simon
The TV industry was stunned when Louis Walsh jetted to Los Angeles over the weekend to stand in for a sick Simon Cowell on The X Factor USA alongside Britney Spears.
Louis Walsh jetted to L.A to stand in for Simon Cowell on The X Factor USA
But Louis wasn’t. He’d been on standby to make the trip since before the show starting filming.
Initially, there’d even been talk that he could end up as a permanent judge after music executive L.A.
Reid struggled to agree on a new contract with bosses. An X Factor source explains: ‘Simon never considered an American star for the panel. Louis was his only choice.
‘A few weeks ago the private jet was ready to take Louis over to sit on the panel with Simon because L.A. hadn’t signed his deal.’
It’s a huge compliment to Louis that Fox, the U.S. broadcaster of the talent show, was happy to let him have such a big role.
Ice front thaws for axed judge Jason
He was ditched after his cutting comments to celebrity ice skaters became too hot for ITV to handle.
But I hear show bosses are considering inviting Jason Gardiner back to the Dancing On Ice judging panel after ratings fell this year.
‘The show wasn’t the same without the controversy sparked by Jason,’ my ITV insider says. ‘His replacement Louie Spence was too popular. He didn’t ruffle feathers — no one was talking about the show.’
No formal offer has yet been made and Jason’s friends say it’s not certain he would go back. ‘Jason is loving life away from Dancing On Ice,’ one pal says.
‘He felt he was treated incredibly badly and it would take a lot of talking before he felt comfortable enough to even think about a return.’
James Corden’s best actor Tony award for One Man, Two Guvnors is even more remarkable given the behind-the-scenes lobbying.
He pipped Hollywood names such as Philip Seymour Hoffman (Death Of A Salesman) despite a vote campaign by other stars. James told me: ‘Meryl Streep even hosted a panel to raise awareness of Death Of A Salesman. How could I compete’
Thankfully, talent won the day. James has turned down big-money offers to extend the play’s Broadway run to return to the UK for his wedding and to film his new BBC comedy.
‘I’ll be ready to come home,’ he added.