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Party election broadcasts: How have they changed and do they still matter?

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Media captionThe UK’s first political election broadcast on TV

From sombre money box lectures to cheesy boy band spoofs, the party election broadcast has become a stalwart of our TV listings.

It was on this day – 15 October – in 1951 that former Liberal leader Lord Herbert Samuel took to our screens for the first ever televised version and changed political campaigning forever.

His appearance was a 15-minute slot, sat at a desk and staring down the camera lens, and reports at the time called it a fiasco as he read from a prepared radio script.

But despite that stilted start, within a decade, prime-time broadcasts had become an essential part of electioneering.

Technology – and the imaginations of communications directors – has, of course, moved on, and the rather formal broadcasts of old have morphed into more elaborate, faster-paced affairs.

But what is their impact? And will that continue in the future?

The history

The first party election broadcasts took place on BBC Radio during the 1924 election, with leader of the Liberal Party Herbert Asquith, Conservative leader Stanley Baldwin and Labour leader Ramsey MacDonald, each giving a 20-minute speech to the public.

It was another 23 years before they began to be regulated by the Committee on Party Political Broadcasts, deciding how long each party would get on the airwaves.

But come the launch of BBC Television, the slots made their way to screen.

And in 1955, with the emergence of commercial television, the broadcasts spread to more channels, and by 1959 they were part and parcel of an election campaign.

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Media captionHarold Wilson makes Labour’s pitch for 1964 election

Lord Peter Mandelson – a key player in Tony Blair’s Labour government – said the broadcasts went through a “transformative” process in the 1980s, when his party’s then-leader, Neil Kinnock, brought in a famous face to make one.

Chariots of Fire director Hugh Hudson made what is known as “Kinnock: The Movie” – a move Lord Mandelson said was “trailblazing”.

But the Labour Party was not alone as political outfits from across the spectrum ramped up their game.

Kevin Pringle, the director of communications for the SNP until after the 2015 general election, said his party made big changes in the same decade, creating a soap opera series for one campaign and even a quiz show format for another.

“Perhaps when you look at them now, they are not so impressive,” he admitted. “But back then, they were considered cutting edge.”

The new formats – and use of celebrities – have continued since, as parties still compete over their showing on the main channels.

It is still down to those channels – which now form the Broadcasters Liaison Group – to decide what length of airtime they want to give each.

But Ofcom sets the rules for the broadcasts, which include the fact a party must be contesting at least a sixth of the seats in the election to qualify for a slot. They must also have a running time of either two minutes 40 seconds, three minutes 40 seconds, or four minutes 40 seconds.

Do they have an impact?

The short political slots on television may have more to compete with now, and viewing figures for all strands of television have taken a hit.

But research from Neuro-Insight said these particular broadcasts still had an “considerable influence” over viewers’ perceptions of political brands.

And Mr Pringle said having those few minutes on prime time TV can make a big difference to a party’s reach.

“TV is such an important medium – and the biggest – and if you are not on it, you are not at the races,” he said.

The former communications director said the broadcasts had their challenges, as they needed to be good television viewing, as well as holding a strong political message.

But they provide a “guaranteed mass audience… which every party wants”, he added.

Alastair Campbell, the director of Mr Blair’s campaigns – who worked with him in No 10 – said the broadcasts were also good for the party machines.

“It can boost the moral of the campaign when done well,” he said. “And if they are done properly, they can get extra coverage in the media for the party.”

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Media captionDavid Cameron sells himself for 2010 election

For Sir Bernard Ingham – Margaret Thatcher’s longest serving press secretary – broadcasts are a good platform to set out policies, but you need the plans to back them up.

“It’s an opportunity that no party would turn down,” he said. “But I think [their success] depend on the content of those policies.”

Baroness Olly Grender, who was the deputy director of communications for the government during the coalition – working for Lib Dem leader and deputy PM Nick Clegg – also said the broadcasts had a “real value” for voters.

“The alternative is to have attack adverts like the do in the US, which is not a route we want to go down,” she said.

“Having been in the US during an election, [UK] broadcasts add to political knowledge, which those adverts don’t.”

What about the future?

Westminster is in agreement that an election is looming – perhaps even by the end of the year – so expect more broadcasts to hit your screens in the coming months.

These traditional post-teatime news slots make up for the ban the parties face on buying other TV and radio advertising.

However, as the Electoral Commission has pointed out, “electoral law was written long before campaigning went digital”, so rather than one channel with one guaranteed audience, you are looking at internet advertising with spending on the rise across multiple platforms – especially social media.

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Media captionGreen Party use humour for 2015 election appeal

Mr Campbell said TV broadcasts were still important, “even if they are less so now”.

“If the broadcasting rules allow for parties to get a few minutes of prime time… you would be foolish not to take them, as there are potentially millions of people watching,” he said.

And when it comes to social media, he believes the broadcasts are “part of the same thing”.

“Look at Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn. They are relentlessly pumping out something on social media, but these [broadcasts] give you four or five minutes more and form part of the strategy.”

Sir Bernard believes the scope of influence for the TV broadcasts has diminished as a result.

“I am sure some people suffered if they went wrong, but there are so many voices now that people are switching off,” he said. “I don’t watch much television myself.

“They are a means, but only one, and God knows, there are so many now.”

Mr Pringle agreed there were other outlets to spread policies, but that did not take away from the party election broadcast.

“Of course there are many other things now, like social media, but many parties use those tools to spread their political election broadcast further,” he said.

“I think the political election broadcast will be here for many years to come.”



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Danny Aiello, Do The Right Thing actor, dies at 86

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Aiello, photographed in 2004, also had a singing career

Veteran film actor Danny Aiello, known for his roles in the movies Do The Right Thing The Godfather Part II, has died aged 86.

He also played Madonna’s father in the 1986 video for Papa Don’t Preach.

His family said with “profound sorrow” in a statement that he died after a short illness.

A veteran of stage and film, Aiello was best known for playing the pizza parlour owner Sal in Spike Lee’s 1989 Do the Right Thing.

The role earned him a best supporting actor Oscar nomination. He also played the hesitant fiancé of Cher’s character, Loretta, in Moonstruck in 1987.

“It is with profound sorrow to report that Danny Aiello, beloved husband, father, grandfather, actor and musician passed away last night after a brief illness,” the family said, in a statement to the BBC from his literary agent Jennifer De Chiara.

“The family asks for privacy at this time. Service arrangements will be announced at a later date.”

Film maker Kevin Smith paid tribute to Aiello for his role in Do the Right Thing.

In The Godfather Part II, Aiello had a relatively small part as small-time gangster Tony Rosato but he made the role his own by uttering the famous line, “Michael Corleone says hello!” during a raid on gang rival Frank Pentangel.

Aiello’s big acting break came in the early 1970s in the baseball drama Bang the Drum Slowly, starring Robert De Niro.

His other credits include Fort Apache the Bronx, Once Upon a Time in America, again with Robert de Niro, The Purple Rose of Cairo and Hudson Hawk.

Full Metal Jacket actor Matthew Modine paid tribute to his “love, wisdom, talents and grace”, while Mia Farrow said he was a “lovely person”.

Aiello also had a stage career on Broadway, appearing in shows including Gemini, The Floating Light Bulb, Hurlyburly, and The House of Blue Leaves and Wheelbarrown’s Close.

In July 2011, he appeared Off Broadway in the two-act drama The Shoemaker, written by Susan Charlotte and directed by Antony Marsellis.

As well as acting, Aiello had a singing career, he released several big -and style albums including Live from Atlantic City in 2008.

In 1990 he told People magazine: “You know, I’ve only been in this business 17 years.

“For actors, that’s no time at all. Everything is happening so damn fast. It’s like a beautiful dream that never seems to end.”

Baggage clerk and bouncer

Aiello, the fifth of six children, was born on West 68th Street, Manhattan

At the age of 16, he lied about his age to enlist in the US Army. After serving for three years, he returned to New York City and did various jobs in order to support himself and later his family.

With limited education and few skills, Aiello jumped at the chance offered by his wife’s uncle to become a baggage clerk for Greyhound.

Later however he worked as a bouncer in a string of tough after-hours clubs in Queens and Manhattan.

To support his wife and four children, he would take any odd job going.

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So for Aiello, the theatre was pretty much a shot in the dark gamble – one which paid off.

Directors began to respond to the Aiello’s raw intensity and when Robert De Niro turned down the role of Sal in Lee’s film, he was recommended to take his place.

The roles continued to come his way. He had bit parts in feature films and won and Emmy in 1980 for the TV show A Family of Strangers.

Later Woody Allen offered him the role in Purple Rose of Cairo, and then he was asked to be in Madonna’s video, followed by stage success as a drug-taking TV actor in Hurlyburly.

High salary

After Do the Right Thing, Aiello worked in the TV movie The Preppie Murder, then took some time out for his family.

In the early 1990s, he was still one of the highest-paid character actors in Hollywood, commanding at least $750,000 a film, he told People magazine.

He went on to do the films Once Around with Holly Hunter and Hawk with Bruce Willis, and he also made a Broadway appearance with Harvey Keitel in Those the River Keeps.

He is survived by his wife, Sandy Cohen, and their three children.


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Taylor Swift blasts ‘toxic male privilege’ during Woman Of The Decade speech

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Swift was presented with her award by actress and broadcaster Jameela Jamil

Taylor Swift was named Billboard’s woman of the decade on Thursday night – but her speech contained none of the usual award show platitudes.

Instead, the star criticised “toxic male privilege” in the music industry, championed fellow female artists and escalated her feud with Scooter Braun.

“Women in music are not allowed to coast,” she observed. “We are held at a higher, sometimes impossible-feeling, standard.”

“I’ve seen a lot,” she added.

Swift, who turned 30 on Thursday, opened her 15-minute speech by reflecting on the last decade of her career, and the struggles she had faced.

She said that in her early days, critics had speculated that “a male producer or co-writer” was the real reason for her success; or that a “savvy record label” was responsible for making her a star.

“It wasn’t,” she said pointedly. “People want to explain away a woman’s success in this industry”.

“In the last 10 years, I have watched as women in this industry are criticised and measured up to each other and picked at for their bodies, their romantic lives, their fashion,” she continued.

“Have you ever heard someone say about a male artist, ‘I really like his songs, but I don’t know what it is – there’s just something about him I don’t like?’

“No – that criticism is reserved for us.”

But Swift noted that female artists were thriving anyway, listing contemporaries like Lana Del Rey, Billie Eilish and Lizzo as examples of women who “have taken this challenge, and they have accepted it”.

“It seems like the pressure that could’ve crushed us made us into diamonds instead.”

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Taylor Swift and Scooter Braun are at loggerheads over the ownership of the star’s first six albums

Swift also continued her war of words with music mogul Scooter Braun, who snapped up the rights to her first six albums in June, through a private equity deal.

The star said Braun’s defenders, many of whom were in the room, were guilty of propping up “toxic male privilege” in the music industry as she vowed to fight for control of her music, saying: “I’m obviously not going willingly”.

Here are the highlights of her speech.

On Scooter Braun and losing the rights to her music

“Lately, there’s been a new shift that has affected me personally, and that I feel is a potentially harmful force in our industry. And as your resident loud person, I feel the need to bring it up: And that is the unregulated world of private equity coming in, and buying up our music, as if it is real estate, as if it’s an app, or a shoe line.

“This just happened to me without my approval, consultation, or consent. After I was denied the chance to purchase my music outright, my entire catalogue was sold to Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings in a deal that I’m told was funded by the Soros family, 23 Capital and the Carlyle Group.

“Yet, to this day, none of these investors have ever bothered to contact me or my team directly, to perform their due diligence on their investment, on their investment in me, to ask how I might feel about the new owner of my art – the music I wrote, the videos I created, photos of me, my handwriting, my album designs. And of course Scooter never contacted me or my team to discuss it prior to the sale, or even when it was announced.

“I’m fairly certain he knew how I would feel about it, though, and let me just say that the definition of the toxic male privilege in our industry is people saying, ‘But he’s always been nice to me!’ when I’m raising valid concerns about artists and their right to own their music.

“Of course he’s nice to you. If you’re in this room, you have something he needs.

“The fact is that private equity is what enabled this man to think, according to his own social media post, that he could ‘buy me,’ but I’m obviously not going willingly.”

Being caught up in the ‘Swift backlash’

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“When Fearless [won] album of the year at the Grammys… with that win, came criticism and backlash in 2010 that I’d never experienced before as a young, new artist.

“All of a sudden, people had doubts about my singing voice. Was it strong enough? Was I a little bit pitchy? All of a sudden, they weren’t sure if I was the one writing the songs because sometimes in the past I had had co-writers in the room.

“At that time, I couldn’t understand why this wave of harsh criticism had hit me so hard. I believe a popular headline back then was ‘A Swift Backlash,’ which is clever – you gotta give it to them.

“And now I realise that this is just what happens to a woman in music if she achieves success or power beyond people’s comfort level. I now have come to expect that with good news comes some sort of pushback, but I didn’t know that then.”

On appeasing her critics

“[After the backlash] I decided that I would be the only songwriter on my third album, Speak Now, and that I would tour constantly, work on my vocals every day, and perfect my stamina in a live show.

“I decided I would be what they said I couldn’t be.

“I didn’t know then that, soon enough, people would decide on something else I wasn’t quite doing right, and then the circle would keep going on and on, and rolling along, and I would keep accommodating, over-correcting, in an effort to appease my critics.

“They’re saying I’m dating too much in my 20s? OK, I’ll stop. I’ll just be single… for years.

“Now they’re saying my album Red is filled with too many break-up songs? OK, I’ll make one about moving to New York, and deciding that really my life is more fun with just my friends.

“Oh, they’re saying my music is changing too much for me to stay in country music? Alright, OK, here’s an entire genre shift, and a entire pop album called 1989. Oh, you heard it? Sick!”

How Lana Del Rey is ‘the most influential artist in pop’

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“I’ve learned that the difference between those who can continue to create in that climate usually comes down to this: Who lets that scrutiny break them, and who just keeps making art.

“I’ve watched as one of my favourite artists of this decade, Lana Del Rey, was ruthlessly criticised in her early career, and then slowly but surely, she turned into, in my opinion, the most influential artist in pop. Her vocal stylings, her lyrics, her aesthetics. They’ve been echoed and repurposed in every corner of music, and this year, her incredible album is nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammys because she just kept making art.

“And that example should inspire all of us, that the only way forward is forward motion. That we shouldn’t let obstacles like criticism slow down the creative forces that drive us.”

Why female artists are thriving

“I see [a] fire in the newer faces in our music industry, whose work I absolutely love. I see it in Lizzo, Rosalía, Tayla Parx, Hayley Kiyoko, King Princess, Camila Cabello, Halsey, Megan Thee Stallion, Princess Nokia, Nina Nesbitt, Sigrid, Normani, H.E.R., Maggie Rogers, Becky G, Dua Lipa, Ella Mai, Billie Eilish, and so many other amazing women who are making music right now.

“Female artists in music have dominated this decade in growth, streaming, record and ticket sales, and critical acclaim. So why are we doing so well? Because we have to grow fast, we have to work this hard, we have to prove that we deserve this, and we have to top our last achievements.

“Women in music, onstage, or behind the scenes, are not allowed to coast. We are held at a higher, sometimes impossible-feeling standard. And it seems that my fellow female artists have taken this challenge, and they have accepted it. It seems like the pressure that could’ve crushed us made us into diamonds instead.”

On the future

“Lately I’ve been focusing less on doing what they say I can’t do and more on doing whatever the hell I want. Thank you for a magnificent, happy, free, confused, sometimes lonely, but mostly golden decade. I’m honoured to be here tonight, I feel very lucky to be with you, thank you so much.”

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Making art from rubbish – BBC News

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Andriy Pilat makes art from discarded plastic rubbish in the Ukrainian city of Chernivtsi.

Using his art to highlight how problematic plastic waste is, Andriy is also making a living off it, with successful exhibitions.

He showed the BBC how he makes his art, and the effect it’s had on his life.



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