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If you want to make contact about any Non-fiction or Poetry item, you can contact me direct on peter at peterjukes dot com.Otherwise, when it comes to anything concerning Film, TV, stage or radio drama, the best first point of call is probably my UK agent.Howard Gooding at Judy Daish Associates (how
In light of the recently announced public inquiry into the murder of Daniel Morgan, I've copied below the MS portion of the chapter from my book The Fall of the House of Murdoch to aid the resource page set up by Jack of Kent. It could be a useful summation of events up to July 2012.
The Murder of
It's hard to believe, but at 4pm BST today it will be exactly a year since Nick Davies and Amelia Hill published online a leak from Operation Weeting, the newly recreated (third) investigation into phone hacking, and revealed that the News of the World had hacked the phone of a missing 13 year old s
The critically acclaimed US television drama could not be made here. We have writing talent in abundance, but its output is controlled by a stifling monopoly—the BBC. Plus, an interview with The Wire's creator David SimonRead Prospect’s interview with The Wire’s creator David Simon, in which
No, there is no major news about the three major investigations into multiple phone and computer hacking, bribing police officials, or perverting the course of justice by News International in the the UK. Nor is there any major development in the DOJ investigation into the parent company
Today in the High Court, News Group Newpapers, the News Corp subsidiary responsible for the defunct News of the World and The Sun, is settling dozens of hacking and surveillance claimsin an attempt to avoid a high court case on Feb 13th which could result in punitive damages.
There are over 60 hack
Plain text beneath the fold
Neither a philosopher, critic nor scholar, somehow Waiter Benjamin (born 15 July 1892) succeeded in being all three at once.His friend Bertolt Brecht called his suicide in 1940
For anyone following the #hackgate FOTHOM diaries, you'll know that that the slow motion crash of Murdoch's UK Empire is still developing. But it wasn't until Rush Limbaugh's recent implosion that I began to think this isn't just about News Corp, even though it is the world's 3rd biggest media group
Exclusive to Prospect online, the full transcript of Peter Jukes's interview with historian and author Tony Judt
Peter Jukes (right) with Judt (middle), 2007
Tony Judt died, surrounded by his family, on the evening of August 6th, 2010. The New York Times obituary can be read here. This
WHEN Peter Jukes let it be known last year that he was writing a book called The Fall of the House of Murdoch, a senior Sun editor emailed him to say: "Is this a joke?"
But with Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson both now facing charges over phone-hacking, and Rupert Murdoch slowly stepping back from
By Peter JukesJune 18th 201310:46 amCharles Saatchi built up the world’s largest advertising firm and became the face of the swinging ’80s in London—only to be ousted from his own company. Peter Jukes on the reclusive man who now has been accused of choking his
Until a few years ago, you could be climbing any chalk down in Southern England. Trails lead up from a council estate, past a recreation ground. On the slopes above, young men with tattooed arms walk their dogs. The grass is like an old rug, woven with wild flowers, cabbage whites and meadow browns.
English version of the article that first appeared in the Polish Magazine Krytyka Polityczna
Though it claims to be one of the world’s fasting growing religions, and now holds over $1 billion in liquid assets, last year wasn’t great for the Church of Scientology. The news that its most famous pub
Having seen the excellent TV series, I'm disappointed by the novelisation of Middlemarch. George Eliot's book lacks the rigour and economy of Andrew Davies' original. Long authorial interventions ruin the immediacy and the balance between the characters of Lydgate and Dorothea has been lost. A
Today in Parliament
As expected, the appearance of James Murdoch, the Chief Executive of News International (and related to some other famous people) before the DCMS Committee today failed to produce any huge bombshells. Let's remind ourselves that the Parliamentary Committee has no real power
I’ve spent much of the last year on the front line of one of the most contentious presidential nomination contests in memory—without moving from my London desk. I have been part of something historic: the first great political battle to take place in cyberspace.
For many in Britain, blogging
THE DARK WAVE
“Looking out to sea, I noticed a dark black object travelling toward the shore. At first sight it seemed like a low range of hills rising out of the water…. A second glance – and a very hurried one at that – convinced me that it was a lofty ridge of water many feet high.”
As my colonial cousins recover from an overdose of turkey and tryptophan, let me prod you into consciousness with the Frank Miller problem - which also allows me to post some awesome pics.
No, the Frank Miller problem isn't as simple as you think. From his slapdash rant about the OWS movement on hi
It was a long time coming, but inevitable six months ago. James Murdoch has stepped down as chair of News International, signalling the Fall of the House of Murdoch as the dynastic succession to Rupert's News Corp empire is finished. The official statement - which is probably worth no more than a ho
Displaying items by tag: Dennis Potter
Having seen the excellent TV series, I'm disappointed by the novelisation of Middlemarch. George Eliot's book lacks the rigour and economy of Andrew Davies' original. Long authorial interventions ruin the immediacy and the balance between the characters of Lydgate and Dorothea has been lost. A brave attempt, but the adaptation begs the question posed by To Play the King: why reduce a good television series to a lesser book?
If this inversion of the usual literary bias doesn't seem entirely absurd, it's a tribute to the quality of British television drama. We often overestimate the international appeal of our output (it doesn't sell so well abroad) but there is little doubt of the medium's importance to our national culture. In Luton and Latin, from Breakfast Time to the Late Show, television is a central part of the dialogue we have with ourselves. And if one dramatist had to be thanked for high esteem of the medium, it must be Dennis Potter.
The works Potter is hurrying to finish before his death, Karaoke and Cold Lazarus, will be his farewell to the form he shaped so much and to which he devoted his life. They could also be a long goodbye to the writer's eminence in the industry. Potter is recognised in the street, vilified in the tabloids. His plangent voice, mesmerizing in his last interview with Melvyn Bragg, has amused and accused on the broadest platforms. Potter has put television writers up there with the best of them and will be considered, without doubt, along with Pinter, Betjeman, or Amis as a key figure in postwar British writing. Less certain of survival, however, is the peculiarly British tradition of the TV author he helped invent.
Script writers abound on television, but an author, one who originates form and content is a rare breed. Even the most successful writers today such as Andrew Davies or Lynda La Plante tend towards the adaptation of books or work within fixed genres such as the police or detective serial. For all their merits, To Play the King or Prime Suspect have not shaken the boundaries of what television drama can be. Anyone watching last week's BAFTA ceremonies would have heard writers constantly praised. They would have been hard-pressed, however, to spot one between the anonymous executives and famous actors gathered in Drury Lane. Appropriately, the awards for Best Drama Series and Best Single Drama, won by Between the Lines and Safe, were collected by the programme producers.
Here I must declare an interest: a lurking desire to fluff a BAFTA acceptance speech. Having written for stage, radio and print, I know that TV writing is one of the least respected forms. I also believe that, in technical terms, it is one of the most demanding. The closeness of the camera shows up any falsity of dialogue or character. Meaning has to be conveyed in action and, though it remains unseen, a good script should read like a good novel, the visual storytelling and mise-en-scène setting the rhythm for everything the actors and directors do. Despite this, in financial terms, the writer is near the bottom of the heap. TV drama costs about half a million pounds an hour and the script is usually a small fraction of the budget. Writers can be jettisoned at relatively little expense, while an aberrant director or star can lose millions.
This leads to a strange twilight existence for TV writers: long bouts of waiting-around interspersed with moments of panic. Over the last five years I've 'developed' six original screenplays or pilots. These I've had months to polish. They represent my best work, calling cards for new commissions. All remain, largely due to external reasons, unproduced. In contrast, last minute production decisions create the opposite problem when writing for existing serials. In just over a year I've completed seven scripts - most in less than a month.
Many blame the decline in the writer's profile on the demise of the single play. ITV has almost entirely dispensed with one-off dramas, and the BBC has transmuted them into high cost, director-led, producer-controlled 'screenplays'. When Potter started out, a dramatist could hone his or her skills in Armchair Theatre or Play for Today at relatively little cost. Today's aspirants either have to survive years of high casualty 'development' or cut their teeth in genre formats. Whatever the merits of The Bill, or Brookside or Casualty they are not the ideal grounds for experiment and, increasingly, storylines are provided by script editors, storyliners, producers or executive producers. In such an environment it is easy to become just a writer of dialogue and fail to take responsibility for the entire shape of a piece.
It would be wrong, however, to suspect a managerial conspiracy. The single play has been largely abandoned because the audience abandoned it. If the demand was there, ITV would fill its schedules with single plays (just as, if it made films the public wanted to see, the British film industry would not be in such a poor state). Besides, even in its heyday the studio drama was a strange hybrid between stage and film. Series such as Z-Carsnurtured as much writing talent and the most original television writing has been in serial form. In Potter's case, his two greatest achievements to date are both serials, Pennies from Heaven and - still unsurpassed for narrative brilliance - The Singing Detective.
Television's great dramatic innovation has been the series or the serial (who cares which - most the audience don't). The recurrent slot, the sense of development and repetition, is unique to the form. Trevor Preston has called the series the 'television novel' and to this extent Andrew Davies is the best contemporary representative of George Eliot. The popularity of the Victorian novel, with queues forming for the latest weekly instalment of Dickens in Household Words, is much closer to Shepherd's Bush than Bloomsbury.
But the novel is a solitary form and drama, by definition, is collaborative. For every new Alan Bennett, Bleasdale, or Debbie Horsfield, are ten dramas whose authorship is unknown or dispersed among many. This needn't necessarily dilute the quality. Both Morse and Cracker owe their origin to a number of hands and in America, where authorship is even more nebulous, team writing is the norm. The result is not always writing by committee. On the contrary, in recent years, imports such as LAPD, Twin Peaks, thirtysomething, or Hill Street Blues have shown more narrative innovation than home-baked material. One has to go back to Boys from the Blackstuff or Edge of Darkness to find a British series at the cutting edge, changing the way we tell our stories as well as the stories we tell.
When people complain about the decline in television authorship, therefore, they actually bemoaning a general lack of originality and invention. Budget and production values may have increased, but so too have the number of formulaic lego-built dramas. This sense of sameness and caution is not a mystery. It has a simple explanation: the massive concentration of commissioning power in a few hands.
Despite the flourishing of independent companies in the 1980s, the apparent diversity conceals a sharp and disturbing centralisation. You may now devise a project with any number of small companies, but it can only be given the go-ahead by an decreasing circle of people. The base has widened, but so have the decision-making layers, each layer trying to second guess what the one above will say. At the top, the pyramid has become almost perfect. The decision what millions will watch every week is effectively taken by only four men.
In any other industry this structure would come in for some kind of investigation. No matter how brilliant these four men are, how broad their minds, diverse their tastes, such a funnelling of the cultural power must be inhibiting. Ironically, it was the Office of Fair Trading that imposed the central commissioning and scheduling Network Centre on ITV. The BBC has no such excuse. Ever since El Dorado drama has been make or break for BBC controllers so both Yentob and Jackson patrol the commissioning process ferociously. Like cold war enemies locked in combat, BBC and ITV have begun to resemble each other with the same mad monolithic structures.
In this climate, authorship, like authority, is the prerequisite of a few. How can writers feel responsible for their work when producers, their executive producers, even their heads of department can't feel responsible? Like so many other apparent 'reforms' in health and education, deregulation in Television has disguised an increase in control from the centre. Perhaps it's a perverse tribute to the cultural importance a writer like Dennis Potter gave to the medium that the government has done so much to stifle it. But it's a tribute we can do without.