Bono’s star-studded famine commercial has been banned from airing on U.K. TV – because broadcasting officials fear the clip breaches rules regarding political advertising.

The U2 rocker shot the minute-long advert with a slew of his celebrity pals, including George Clooney, Jessica Alba and Colin Farrell, to raise awareness about the famine crisis sweeping across Eastern Africa.

The F Word: Famine is the Real Obscenity, which was produced by Bono’s One charity, is aimed at urging government officials to do more to tackle the hunger issue, but the TV commercial has now been taken off the airwaves by bosses at governing body Clearcast amid worries its message could potentially conflict with the terms stated in the 2003 Communications Act.

A Clearcast spokesperson tells BBC News, “These rules ensure that adverts aren’t being broadcast by bodies whose objects are wholly or mainly political.”

“One (charity) appears to be caught by this rule as they state that part of their raison d’etre (reason for existence) is to pressure political leaders. It also appears that a number of the claims made in the version of the ad that we have seen are directed towards a political end, which is again against the rules.”

BBC Picks UP U2 Documentary

BBC Worldwide Canada, part of the BBC’s commercial arm, has picked up distribution rights to Davis Guggenheim’s U2 film From the Sky Down (pictured), which earlier this month became the first documentary to ever open the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

The documentary celebrates the 20th anniversary of U2’s 1991 album Achtung Baby!, the creation of which marked a major turning point for the band musically.

Earlier this year, U2 returned to Hansa Studios in Berlin, the site where they first recorded the album, with Oscar-winning director Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth, Waiting for “Superman”) in tow, to make the doc.

Following the film’s September 8 premiere at TIFF, Guggenheim and U2 band members Bono and The Edge held a press conference to discuss the making of the film and highlight their favorite rock documentaries, paying praise to filmmakers including Jonathan Demme, DA Pennebaker and Martin Scorsese.

U2 Random Tuesday

Alan Cumming has left the production of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, a Broadway musica with a score co-written by U2’s the Edge and Bono. Cumming, who was set to play Spider-Man’s nemesis, the Green Goblin, has dropped out of the play due to scheduling conflicts.

Cumming claims that with the production delays on the musical, his CBS show The Good Wife will conflict with his role in Spider-Man.

The Scottish actor said in a statement, “Obviously, having waited over a year for Spider-Manto be greenlit, I am very disappointed that I will not have the chance to collaborate with Bono and the Edge, and to work with [director] Julie Taymor on the stage.”

The Spider-Man project has been beset with problems from the beginning. Production delays, cast turnovers (Evan Rachel Wood, who was set to play Mary Jane, left the production last month), and money problems have plagued the production.

U2 welcomes Drew along

WHEN rock band U2 embarks on its five-month world tour in June, Bono and the gang will be accompanied by Melbourne security company boss Andrew Wolveridge. A regular and trusty face guarding red carpets across town, Wolveridge worked with U2 during the Australian leg of its 2006 Vertigo tour and was approached by the group’s head of security to co-ordinate the 2010 shows. Wolveridge will oversee logistics at stadiums in the US, Helsinki, Moscow, Istanbul, Paris, Rome and many more stops in between. What to pack for the northern hemisphere summer? Definitely Bono-style sunnies.

BBC Tops U2 on Money List

U2 and their manager Paul McGuinness top the Irish Sunday Times Music Millionaires Rich List.

Their combined wealth is estimated at £429m, a rise of 1% on 2009. In second place is Lord of the Dance star Michael Flatley, with his total wealth calculated at £241m. The paper said his fortunes have dipped by 2% in the past year because of a fall in the value of the Lord of the Dance brand. Dublin-based singer Enya is third in the list, with a fortune believed to be £85m. All three retain the same top three positions from the 2009 list. Northern Irish singer and songwriter Van Morrison is fourth with his wealth listed at £50m.


U2=BBC (Not So Much)

The BBC is to overhaul the regulations that dictate how much damage it can do to its commercial rivals after being criticised by its own fair trading committee.

The corporation, backed by the £3.6 billion licence fee, will use two separate reviews to consider everything from the activities of its commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, to the effect on its rivals when it signs exclusive coverage deals.

The BBC Trust, the corporation’s governing body, will carry out a full public consultation on the BBC’s fair trading policy, to begin in the summer,while BBC executives have also been ordered by an internal fair trading panel to revamp guidelines that govern the impact of editorial decisions on commercial rivals.

The reviews came to light in an internal report, leaked to The Times, that ruled that the BBC had unfairly damaged commercial channels through its tie-up with U2, the Irish band, for an album launch, which included altering the BBC logo to “U2=BBC”.

The corporation’s Executive Fair Trading Committee upheld a complaint from RadioCentre, which represents commercial radio groups, that the link-up between the BBC and U2, which included a BBC DJ claiming that it was “part of launching this new album” had “impacted negatively on commercial radio stations’ access to U2”.

The committee said: “Based on the independent economic advice received the panel concludes that the BBC’s activities in the case of the U2 coverage had the potential to cause a negative impact on the commercial radio sector.”

The BBC is bound by a “competitive impact principle” that decrees it should “endeavour to minimise its negative competitive impacts on the wider market”.

The BBC Trust review, which will be completed by the end of the year, will also consider the activities of Worldwide, which has a turnover of more than £1 billion and has frequently been criticised for using its links to the corporation to “bully” smaller players.

In November the BBC Trust ruled that Worldwide should not repeat deals such as its 2007 acquisition of Lonely Planet, the guidebook publisher, for £90 million. Rivals claim that the deal meant the BBC was entering a market that had little relation to the corporation’s core purposes.

Tony Elliott, chairman of Time Out, a competitor to Lonely Planet, said: “It is about time the BBC got to grips with the effect it has on the rest of the market. We will be making representations to this review that the BBC should be more mindful of the damage it can impose on its commercial competitors. Hopefully we will get some genuine action.”

The BBC Trust has ordered Worldwide to publish a business plan for its activities over the coming years, by the end of March. Insiders concede that the document could have to be rewritten if the Trust dramatically alters the rules governing the impact the commercial unit can have on the market.

RadioCentre will also make representations to the reviews. A spokesperson said: “The BBC’s almost effortless access to hugely popular bands and big name talent means that its on-air output can have a significant negative impact on competitors, as it secures a far greater share of the limited promotional time than its public service remit requires.

“All too often the BBC simply justifies its editorial decisions by saying that it is satisfying audience demand, forgetting that the primary purpose of the BBC is the promotion of its public purposes not simply the pursuit of popularity.”

A BBC spokesman said: “The BBC accepts the findings of the Executive Fair Trading Panel and will action the recommendations that have been made. These include a review of relevant sections of the Editorial and Fair Trading Guidelines to provide greater clarity in the future.”

U2 play surprise rooftop concert

(Remember this interview ?)

Rock band U2 have played a surprise gig on top of BBC Broadcasting House, in central London.

A crowd of around 5,000 watched the rooftop show, which capped off a day of promotion for the Irish band’s 12th studio album No Line On The Horizon.

U2 had been special guests on BBC Radio 1 and rumours of the gig appeared on internet message boards during the day.

The band performed four tracks during the 20-minute gig, including new songs Get On Your Boots and Magnificent.

They also performed Beautiful Day and Vertigo, as onlookers danced, clapped and sang along in the street below.

‘Great honour’

The BBC’s Darryl Chamberlain, who was at the scene, said: “Some people tried to crowd on to traffic islands to see them… the crowd was screaming and cheering.

“Others were spilling out of pubs and shops to see it, and looking out of windows. It was a good natured crowd and people really seemed to be enjoying it.”

Police closed Portland Place in Westminster to divert traffic away from the area.

U2 at the BBC
News of the unannounced gig spread on internet message boards

The band all wrapped up against the cold, except The Edge who wore a short-sleeved lumberjack shirt and hat.

The performance was also broadcast live on DJ Chris Evans’ BBC Radio 2 show.

U2’s impromptu gig echoed The Beatles’ 1969 rooftop performance at record label Apple’s London headquarters.

Earlier the band revealed they are preparing to tour later this year, and hope to offer tickets with cheaper, recession-busting prices.

Frontman Bono told BBC Radio 1’s Jo Whiley they had “something very special planned” for early summer.

He added that it was “a whole way of trying to do shows outdoors and make them very intimate”.

In an interview on Radio 5 Live with Simon Mayo, Bono said that he had “gone off” Get On Your Boots a few weeks ago, but was now “back on it”.

“It’s a small song, a tiny little song, a little shot of adrenalin,” he added.

Another song from the album, Breathe, had its live debut at an intimate Radio 1 concert on Friday morning.

Bono told the audience: “This is a great honour. This is the first time we’ve played these songs to people, so we hope we don’t screw it up.”

He said they were “trying” to work on some cheaper ticket prices, but added: “We’re also going to have some very expensive ticket prices because rich people have feelings too!”

Radio 1 also apologised on-air immediately after Bono used an expletive to describe Coldplay’s lead singer Chris Martin.

The BBC said it had received no complaints about it.

BBC 'inappropriate' with U2 Album !

The BBC has admitted coverage of the launch of U2 album No Line On The Horizon last February, went too far - giving “undue prominence” to the band.

Critics said the BBC had given U2 “the sort of publicity money can’t buy”.

The corporation’s editorial complaints unit (ECU) acknowledged that radio coverage of the event, including a rooftop concert, breached guidelines.

It added the use of the slogan U2 = BBC “gave an inappropriate impression of endorsement”.

RadioCentre, the trade body for commercial radio companies, made a formal complaint over the coverage. 

U2 at the BBC
The surprise concert drew crowds of onlookers in central London

Complaints over the free publicity given to the band on BBC TV, radio and online included those of Conservative MP Nigel Evans, who said it was “the sort of publicity money can’t buy”.

“Why should licence fee-payers shoulder the cost of U2’s publicity?”

The ECU admitted that a reference to the BBC being “part of launching this new album”, in an interview between Radio 1 presenter Zane Lowe and U2 singer Bono, was inappropriate.

The body also upheld a complaint that it was inappropriate for the Radio 1 website to contain links to the websites of ticket agents for the band’s concerts.

‘Potentially sensitive’

“The Radio 1 leadership team have reminded executive producers and presenters about the issues to be considered in relation to judgments about undue prominence, and the distinction between the reporting of new artistic work and commercial promotion,” it said, earlier this week.

“The management of BBC Marketing, Communication and Audiences (the Division responsible for the U2 = BBC graphic) has reminded all staff of the need to consult the editorial policy team in a timely manner for advice when potentially sensitive issues such as commercial interests are involved.”

However, complaints about an edition of Jo Whiley’s Radio 1 show, and a BBC News online report of the U2 concert on the roof of Broadcasting House, were not upheld.

A crowd of around 5,000 watched the rooftop show, which capped off a day of promotion for the Irish band’s 12th studio album, with U2 appearing as special guests on Radio 1.

The band performed four tracks during the 20-minute gig, which was broadcast live on DJ Chris Evans’s BBC Radio 2 show.