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Dispatches investigation into Covid testing firm Randox sparked major health and safety probe

Channel 4 wins rights to FIFA Club World Cup UAE

A Channel 4 Dispatches documentary which the company said contained “underhand, deceptive, dishonest and defamatory” claims identified serious failings at one of the country’s largest Covid-testing laboratories and sparked a major investigation by health and safety regulators that led to medical firm Randox being directed to take immediate action to address significant safety concerns and to address underlying management failures.

The revelation emerged in today’s [24/3/22] publication of the National Audit Office [NAO]report into the awarding of £500m worth of government contracts to Randox for testing services. The report criticised key elements of how the contracts were awarded – including lack of transparency – but said it had not seen any evidence they were improperly awarded.

The NAO also disclosed concerns over Randox’s performance and cited the Channel 4 programme Lockdown Chaos: How the Government Lost Control which aired in November 2020 and that sent an undercover reporter to work at the firm’s Northern Ireland facility as part of its examination of the Government’s NHS Test and Trace system.

The undercover footage provided evidence of Covid tests being accidentally discarded, tests leaking out of vials, and the potential of cross-contamination of tests that could potentially lead to individuals getting the wrong test results.

At the time Randox strongly disputed the findings of our programme saying they were “underhand, deceptive, dishonest and defamatory” but today the NAO reveals that following our programme the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) conducted a visit to the Randox site. On 9 December 2020 it directed the site management to take immediate action to address “significant safety concerns”, both COVID-19-related and general, observed at the site.

The site was revisited by HSENI two days later and identified continued “serious issues “that led to an urgent meeting with senior management of the site. A meeting was held on 12 December 2020 between Randox, HSENI and other relevant government bodies to identify actions necessary to address the observed issues and “underlying management failures”. The NAO reported that by 16 December, Randox was Covid-19 compliant.

Reporter Antony Barnett who presented the programme, Lockdown Chaos: How the Government Lost Control, said: “ During this key period, the government’s test and trace system was playing a critical part of trying to get control of the virus. Our decision to send an undercover reporter into Randox’s testing facility was made in the public interest and revealed serious concerns over what was going on. Yet rather than accept our evidence of serious failings, Randox said this was “hatchet job journalism of the worst kind”. On the contrary we are pleased to learn that today, health and safety regulators who inspected the Randox facility backed up our public interest investigation and took immediate action. ”

Louisa Compton, Head of News and Current Affairs, Specialist Factual and Sport, said: “This is another fantastic example of fearless journalism working in the public interest to expose serious failings at a moment of critical importance during the pandemic. Dispatches aims to shift the news agenda and make an impact; this investigation did just that.”

Lockdown Chaos: How the Government Lost Control is available to watch now on All 4

Extract from National Audit Office Report :

3.9 In November 2020, Channel 4 broadcast a programme highlighting concerns about practices in Randox’s laboratory. The Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) conducted a visit to the site on 9 December 2020 and directed the site management to take immediate action to address significant safety concerns, both COVID-19-related and general, observed at the site. The situation was escalated to HSENI’s senior management due to the concerns observed and the fact that an enforcement notice had previously been served on the company on 21 August 2020 relating to similar matters.

3.10 The site was revisited by HSENI on 11 December 2020 and, as a result of the identification of continued serious issues, an urgent meeting with senior management of the site was undertaken. Further improvements required to address the observed issues were outlined and the company was informed that additional enforcement was being considered. Subsequently a meeting was held on 12 December 2020 between Randox, HSENI and other relevant government bodies to identify actions necessary to address the observed issues and underlying management failures.

3.11 To address HSENI’s concerns, Randox established an improvement plan and HSENI made a further visit on 14 December 2020 to assess compliance with minimum legal requirements. Randox stated in a letter to UKHSA on 16 December 2020 that HSENI had confirmed it was satisfied Randox was now COVID-19-compliant.

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Record quarter for drama as ITV makes full series available to stream

Record quarter for drama as ITV makes full series available

Three out of the top four highest rating new dramas in the UK, across any channel and streamer, are from ITV so far in 2022

With many of the most popular dramas across any channel or streaming service so far in 2022, ITV has had a very strong start to the year in scripted.

New, recently released 28 day consolidated data for The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe shows that the total audience for the first episode rose by a massive 5.4 million viewers in the 28 days after the initial broadcast, with the four-part series as a whole averaging a total audience of over 9 million viewers, up by 5.1 million/123% on the broadcast transmission.

Written by acclaimed screenwriter Chris Lang, and starring Monica Dolan and Eddie Marsan, The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe told the story of the Hartlepool based couple and their infamous insurance scam and gained critical acclaim from reviewers. In total ITV has shown three out of the top four dramas across any channel or streamer in 2022, and six out of the top ten new dramas, and all have more than doubled their audience in the 28 days after their initial broadcast.

These include Including Trigger Point, ITV’s biggest drama so far in 2022, which averaged a total audience of 9.5 million viewers, Our House which averaged a total audience of 7.4 million viewers and No Return, which averaged a total audience of 6.5 million viewers, as well as DI Ray (currently averaging 5.7m viewers) and The Ipcress File, which averaged a total audience of 5.3 million viewers.

The majority of ITV drama full series are now available for streaming following the first episode initial broadcast, as ITV continues its digital-first strategy for key genres, in the run-up to launching ITVX in Q4. This has helped drive the best ever start to the year for drama viewing online with 125 million streams for the four months to the end of April, up 8% year on year.

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Kate Phillips appointed Director of Unscripted in new commissioning structure

Kate Phillips appointed Director of Unscripted in new commissioning structure

BBC Chief Content Officer Charlotte Moore has announced that Kate Phillips will take on the newly created Director of Unscripted role following an internal restructure of BBC Television’s senior leadership team to accelerate the BBC’s strategic priorities.

Unscripted programming plays a vital role across broadcast and on-demand; it is crucial to growing BBC iPlayer and keeping our channels strong. This new structure will bring together all of our commissioning teams across Entertainment, Factual, Arts & Classical Music and Daytime, Early-Peak & Events into a single commissioning unit under the leadership of Kate Phillips, to keep pace with changing audience behaviour and unlock new creative opportunities.

As the Director of Unscripted, Kate will be responsible for the overall commissioning strategy for the full range of unscripted content, harnessing her brilliant relationships with talent and suppliers to ensure the most distinctive and impactful programmes for audiences across the UK. Leading our team of world-class commissioners, Kate will ensure the ongoing strength of our unique specialisms, whilst driving more value from new collaborations between genres and with Nations commissioning teams.

Kate will report to Chief Content Officer Charlotte Moore. These changes will see the closure of the existing Director of Entertainment and Director of Factual, Arts & Classical Music roles and a new Head of Entertainment commissioning role created.

The Heads of Commissioning who will report directly to Kate are:

Arts & Classical Music – Suzy Klein.Daytime, Early Peak & Events – Lindsay Bradbury (acting).Documentaries, History & Religion – Clare Sillery.Entertainment – to be advertised.Natural History & Science – Jack Bootle.Popular Factual & Factual Entertainment – Catherine Catton.

In this new structure, Kate will be accountable for the overall performance and editorial strategy, empowering the respective Heads whilst ensuring the portfolio of commissions align to the agreed audience and supply objectives.

Fiona Campbell will return to her role as BBC Three Controller. The Directors of Comedy, Drama and Film roles remain unchanged.

Charlotte Moore, BBC’s Chief Content Officer says; “Kate’s extensive experience working as Controller of BBC One, running Entertainment for the last 5 years and previously as Channel Executive for BBC One and BBC Three, Creative Director of Formats for BBC Worldwide and her years in production, makes her uniquely placed to lead across this new role as Director of Unscripted. She is an outstanding leader and manager with an exemplary track record in commissioning, working with suppliers and talent and she understands the critical and complex role Unscripted plays on both iPlayer and the channels. By bringing the genres together as a single team, she will streamline development to empower our world class team of commissioners to achieve even greater creative excellence.”

Kate Phillips says : “I’m really looking forward to working closely with our extremely talented Heads and their teams to ensure we continue to commission innovative, impactful and distinctive content for BBC audiences across the UK. This new role will allow our unscripted teams to not only do their best work creatively, but also collaborate more with each other, leading to exciting opportunities for all our on and off screen talent.”

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Miriam Margolyes & Alan Cumming return to Channel 4 to get Lost in Scotland and Beyond

Miriam Margolyes & Alan Cumming return to Channel 4 to

Following a successful first outing for ‘TV’s new golden odd couple,’ Hollywood actors Miriam Margolyes and Alan Cumming are back behind the campervan wheel as their rip-roaring road trip antics continue across Scotland… and beyond.

Miriam & Alan: Lost in Scotland and Beyond (4×60’), produced by Blink Films, will follow the pair as they take in some of Scotland’s most spectacular and far-flung locations before they journey across the pond to their other mutual home, the American West Coast – a place that has shaped both of their lives.

Our dynamic duo will kick off their journey in Scotland, once again meeting a range of quirky and unexpected characters and there’ll certainly be a few surprises in store for both Miriam and Alan.

The next part of their adventure finds the pair swap their campervan for a supersized RV – much to Miriam’s delight – as they take in the sights of the stunning California coastline and reconnect with people and places from this amazing chapter in their lives.

Miriam wastes no time in whisking Alan right off to the apartment where she lived for 16 transformative years, on the palm-lined Ocean Avenue, seeking out her old synagogue and reliving her first encounters in Hollywood. Alan delights in introducing her to some of his favourite haunts and closest friends, as they take in the glorious coastline from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

Throughout their journey, the duo will deliver their unique brand of banter, storytelling and antics as they travel to places packed with memories and personal connections, that mix the funny and outrageous with the poignant.

Alan Cumming: “I can’t wait to get the show on the road again! Driving round my homeland with a potty mouthed octogenarian was one of the most joyous months I’ve ever had, and I’m so glad that joy translated on to the screen. So to do it again and to explore California as well seems almost too much of a carry on!”

Miriam Margolyes: “I thought I’d experienced almost everything, but being driven around Scotland with Mr. Cumming, was such a delightful new pleasure I can’t wait to repeat it. He is funny, kind and wise – and together we laughed and marvelled and remembered. It will be a joy to get going again; I hope I’ve got some surprises left to tickle his fancy.”

Deborah Dunnett, Commissioning Editor for Features and Daytime at Channel 4: “What a pair! I can’t wait for them to unleash more skeletons from deep within their closets.”

Laura Jones, Creative Director at Blink Films and Executive Producer: “What a blast to be back on the road again with this delightful pair! Series 2 promising more surprises, joy and jockstrap obsession as they get lost in far-flung Scotland and the Californian coast.”

Miriam & Alan: Lost in Scotland and Beyond was commissioned for Channel 4 by Deborah Dunnett, Commissioning Editor for Features & Daytime. The 4×60’ series is made by Blink Films; a Tin Roof Media company and the Executive Producer is Laura Jones.

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