Thursday, March 31, 2011

Are You Trying To Tempt Me? Because I Come From The Land Of Plenty

Around thirty per cent of BBC Breakfast staff have chosen to relocate to the corporation's new northern headquarters in Salford according to early newspaper tittle-tattle disguised as 'early indications.' Yes you, Gruniad with your 'we know what we're talking about' malarkey. Because, you just don't, you're guessing like everyone else! They claim that according to 'sources', presenter Sian Williams - who pretty much the entire press had said intended to leave the production just two days ago - 'could stay' with the popular morning show for its relaunch from its new home in MediaCityUK. Which probably gives you, dear blog reader, an idea of how much credence to put into pretty much anything which appears in a newspaper. The one hundred or so staff working on Breakfast had until the end of Wednesday to decide if they would move to Salford as part of the corporation's drive to make itself less London-centric. BBC Children's, BBC Sport, BBC Learning, parts of Radio 5Live and Future Media and Technology are moving to the new North-West base by 2012. Although just a few executives at BBC North have access to the electronic system that staff use to verify their decision, the Gruniad claims that an 'exit poll' by 'some staff' within BBC Breakfast puts the number relocating at around thirty per cent. In addition, the newspaper claims, 'there are concerns about how many senior experienced Breakfast producers will move to Salford.' According, again, to - nameless - 'sources', two of the top four people currently working on Breakfast are staying in London and 'have found work in other parts of BBC News.' One 'insider' allegedly added: 'On the presenter front, Bill Turnbull is going, and it looks as though Sian Williams will go for the launch in Salford for a bit and then return to a job in London and Susannah [sic] Reid will be lined up to replace her.' Although this 'insider' has such a good grasp of the situation that he, or she, seemingly, doesn't know how to spell 'Susanna.' A low 'yes' vote, the Gruniad claims, will 'be a blow for BBC North management as the average across the other departments who had to decide if they would relocate stands at forty six per cent.' However, Breakfast staff who have said 'no' could still be persuaded to change their minds and many are likely to discuss their options at a so-called 'Salford or fuck it' drinks party they have organised in London on Friday night.

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping was, he is forced to confess, rather surprised to find in his e-mail in box this morning, a communiqué from Susan Mubarak the former first lady of Egypt and wife of the deposed generalissimo Hosni Mubarak. Of course, the wives of ex-international heads of state often e-mail me. Usually to find out if I can give them any spoilers on what's happening on the next series of CSI. But, anyway, this was different. Susan was on the beg. 'I am Mrs. Susan Hosni Mubarak, the wife of the Former President of Egypt Hosni Mubarak. I got your information from the list of world philanthropist willing to assist the oppressed for any kind of help and I felt that you could handy to my family on this vital issue. As you may be aware that my husband is presently facing trial on maladministration charges in Egypt and we his family mem [sic] A CRY FOR URGENT ASSISTANCE.' And, that's where it ended. At least Imelda Marcos had the wherewithal to send a stamped addressed envelope when she sent me a begging letter in the 1980s. Personally, yer actual Keith Telly Topping currently finds himself somewhat in a financial straitjacket - so, no change there, then. But if any of you, dear blog readers, would like to know more about Mrs Mubarak and her family's, no doubt terrible, plight then you can drop me an e-mail and I'd be delighted to pass it on to her at the @arabmail.org address she gave me.

Lee Mack confirmed on Steve Wright's radio show this week that series five of Not Going Out had been given the green light by the BBC.

Sofie Gråbøl has revealed that she loves the fact that Sarah Lund in The Killing is not a 'stereotype.' Speaking to the Gruniad, Gråbøl explained that she never wanted the fact that Lund is a woman to be a big issue. 'We agreed that we didn't want to go there,' she said. 'It's not to diss the issue of a woman in a man's world, but we felt that's been done many times before. The classical story is of the working mother with a love life, a woman who wants to be something to everyone. There would be scenes of her having sex with her boyfriend, cooking, and all those usual clichés. We didn't want to do any of those things. Lund's not like that. She can't separate herself from the case.' She continued: 'Some people see her as a superwoman, but she's not. She's brave and strong, but she has so many weak points she's almost crippled.' Gråbøl also suggested that Lund is a different kind of character from those normally seen on television. 'The strength of the character is that you can't put her in a box,' she said. 'I like it when there's something held back so a character isn't defined for you. I like that as an actor and I like it as an audience member. Lund isn't a stereotype - she's a character who came to life as we made the series.' The BBC has already confirmed that it will broadcast the second series of The Killing later this year, while an American remake will begin in the US on Sunday on AMC.

Lark Rise To Candleford and Clocking Off writer Bill Gallagher is scripting a drama series for BBC1 in which a local politician attempts to atone for his sins. Red Production Company's five-part Fuse features a young idealist and family man who loses his way. After a night of drink and drugs, he wakes to hear about a local man who is in a coma after an attack, and slowly comes to realise he was involved. A twist of fate results in the central character becoming a local hero and subsequently running for mayor. The series charts his race against time to use his political power to make amends, before his crime is discovered. The series was commissioned by BBC controller, drama commissioning, Ben Stephenson and BBC1 controller Danny Cohen, and is scheduled for broadcast in the winter of 2012. Cohen said: 'The timeline running in the background is genuinely exciting, as the character tries to make amends before his past catches up with him.' Gallagher added: 'It's a morality tale, a political drama with a thriller element about a man trying to come to terms with his own shadows. Politicians are usually depicted descending into corruption, but this is about his driving need to make wrongs right, and there is genuine conflict with what politicians describe as the "realities of office." I'm interested in exploring the best of humanity, and the journey he goes on is redemptive.' Gallagher said that the character's attempts to deal with 'his own darkness' has echoes of his BBC3 drama hit Conviction, which was shown in 2004. It attracted critical acclaim for its complexity, dark humour and the innovative visual style created by director Marc Munden, who has also directed the upcoming Crimson Petal And The White for BBC2. Fuse will be executive produced by Piers Wenger for the BBC and Nicola Schindler for Red. The cast and crew are still to be confirmed and filming begins in September.

Kate Garraway has said that she is enjoying her role as Daybreak's entertainment editor. The former GMTV anchor took on the new position when ITV launched the replacement breakfast show last year. Speaking to Metro, Garraway admitted that the job is 'a nice change' to covering news such as the 'nitty gritty' of politics. 'I'm always off to swanky hotels to interview people and go to gigs, films and the theatre,' she said. And yet, still nobody's watching you. How tragic.

Electric sports car maker Tesla Motors has said that intends to sue the BBC's Top Gear for allegedly 'faking' a scene showing the company's Roadster car running out of electricity and slowing to a halt in a race. The legal move is the culmination of a row which has rumbled on between the show and Telsa since the episode was first broadcast in 2008. Specialist libel law firm Carter-Ruck issued the writ on behalf of the firm on Tuesday at the high court because the scene was still being shown worldwide repeats and was available on DVD, and the BBC had failed to 'correct' it. The firm expects to recover not more than one hundred thousand pounds in damages. If it wins the case, of course, something which the Gruniad in reporting their intention curiously failed to point out. In the race with a petrol-powered Lotus Elise, the eighty seven thousand pound electric car was shown stopping for a recharge. But, the company claim, the car never ran out of electricity. Tesla - who according to informed sources in the US (Reuters, no less), do seem to be a rather litigious company - said after the episode had been broadcast that neither of the two Roadsters which it loaned Jeremy Clarkson's team had gone below twenty per cent of their charge. Earlier in the same episode, Clarkson had praised the Tesla: 'I cannot believe this – that's biblically quick. This car is electric, literally. The top speed may only be one hundred and twenty five mph but there's so much torque it does nought-to-sixty in 3.9 seconds. Not bad from a motor the size of a watermelon and which has only one moving part.' Tesla is suing the show for 'libel and malicious falsehood,' and says that the show misrepresented the car's true range – claiming fifty five miles rather than two hundred and eleven. In a statement, the California-based company, whose first cars were based on British-made Lotuses, said: 'Tesla simply wants Top Gear to stop rebroadcasting this malicious episode and to correct the record, but they've repeatedly ignored Tesla's requests.' A Top Gear spokeswoman said: 'We can confirm that we have received notification that Tesla have issued proceedings against the BBC. The BBC stands by the programme and will be vigorously defending this claim.' And so, once again we have, at least at this stage, essentially a nothing story. But, one which some hippy-Communist lice at the Gruniad Morning Star and some goose-stepping bullyboy thugs at the Daily Scum Mail will take a great delight in reporting but which, actually, is likely to end up with a few solicitors letters flying backwards and forwards followed, in all probability, by a very public silence. Well, it helps to fill up a few newspaper pages until the next series of Top Gear comes along in the summer, I suppose.

The BBC has announced that it has renewed Outnumbered for a fourth season. The partially-improvised comedy, written by the award-winning team of Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin which has run since 2007, focuses on two parents struggling to keep their children under control. The cast includes Claire Skinner, Hugh Dennis, Tyger Drew-Honey, Daniel Roche and Ramona Marquez. The BBC has now revealed that six new episodes will be made for broadcast on BBC1 later this year, although a return date has not yet been set. A Christmas special of the show will also be made. The announcement was posted on the BBC Comedy blog along with the promise that the new series will see the characters 'confronted by an array of challenges in the shape of death, drugs, terrorism, getting old, food science, Top Gear, the joy of ventriloquism and the perils of Subbuteo.' Andy Hamilton has previously admitted that the BBC was initially reluctant to commission the comedy.

Katie Holmes and Greg Kinnear have confessed that they were 'surprised' by the controversy surrounding their historical mini-series The Kennedys. The History channel in the US dropped the drama earlier this year, and it was subsequently shopped to several networks before being picked up by the Reelz Channel. '[The controversy] was absolutely a surprise to me like it was to everyone else. I don't think anyone else saw it coming,' Holmes told PopTarts about the difficulties faced by the production. 'It's a very entertaining story about a very powerful family that lives in intense times with lots of drama.' Kinnear added: 'I was surprised about [the controversy], everybody was. I think it has all died down for the most part, and now people can decide how controversial it actually is, and that's the great thing about this country, and I'm looking forward to that.' Executive producer Joel Surnow recently claimed that The Kennedys faced difficulties because of 'discrimination and censorship.'

The BBC's flagship children's series Blue Peter may no longer be broadcast on BBC1 if the latest proposals to emerge from the BBC's Delivering Quality First initiative come about. The plan to remove the 3.05pm-5.15pm children's block on BBC1, with such content being broadcast exclusively on the CBBC and CBeebies channels, was one idea discussed at a meeting of around sixty senior BBC Vision staff last Friday. It would free up the BBC1 daytime schedule to run BBC2 daytime output in a move which could save twenty million pounds, and post-digital switchover audiences would still have access to the BBC's children's channels. Event programming such as Comic Relief Does Glee Club would retain its BBC1 home. Other plans for replacing BBC2 daytime include running news or airing repeats and archive programming. However, it is understood that the 6pm to 7pm slot, where series such as Great British Railways and Royal Upstairs Downstairs are broadcast, is not part of discussions. The meeting on Friday was led by the acting BBC Vision head George Entwistle and invited feedback about the proposals so far. No firm decisions were made, but sources suggest it involved some 'difficult' conversations. Which is nothing to the 'difficult' conversations they're going to have once the viewers get themselves involved in all this.

The lack of culture secretary the vile and odious rascal Hunt has warned the BBC not to cut 'core services' as it struggles to deal with a real terms reduction in its licence fee. The viler and odious rascal Hunt told MPs it was up to the BBC to make decisions about which services it invests in, but that he expected savings to come from efficiencies rather than core services. 'At a time of great pressure on the public purse and on licence fee payers, it was right that the BBC should look to make efficiency savings just like the rest of the public sector,' he told members of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee. 'It was in that context that we agreed on the sixteen per cent real terms reduction in the licence fee, so I would be concerned if there was a reduction in the BBC's core services.' He added: 'I would be very concerned if I thought that rather than making efficiency savings, which I believe the BBC is capable of, they were actually making their savings by cutting into core services.' The vile and odious rascal Hunt was responding to a question from Therese Coffey, Tory MP for Suffolk Coastal and a member of the select committee, who expressed concern about possible cuts to local radio coverage in order to save money at the BBC. The lack of culture secretary unveiled a deal in October with the BBC to freeze the licence fee for six years at £145.50, equivalent to a sixteen per cent budget cut in real terms. The vile and odious rascal Hunt also defended the independence of newly appointed BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten of Barnes. He told MPs that Patten, former Governor of Hong Kong and Conservative Party chairman, had shown independence in 'spades' throughout his career. 'The chairman of the BBC Trust has to be politically impartial and has to defend what I think what most people would consider the most important thing about the BBC of all which is its independence,' the vile and odious rascal Hunt said. 'I had to choose the best person for the job on the basis of the people I interviewed and my consideration was that someone who has demonstrated in his career that he is able to stand up to Margaret Thatcher and able to stand up to the Chinese government, is someone who whether you agree or disagree with the individual decisions he took, has demonstrated that independence in spades, that is why I decided he was the right person for the job.'

BBC4 has ordered three more episodes of Dirk Gently. A pilot for the show, based on the best-selling Douglas Adams novel, broadcast last December to good viewing figures and some critical acclaim. The programme's lead, Stephen Mangan, has now confirmed that the BBC has asked for some new episodes. Writing on his Twitter page, he said: 'Dirk Gently gets recommissioned! BBC4 have asked for three one hours. No news yet on what they will be about/which bits of the books will be there/when they will be on.[sic]' Mangan also joked: 'That's the good news, the bad news is that Gok Wan will be playing Dirk and Kay Burley will be Richard MacDuff.' Mangan had previously claimed that he would be 'heartbroken' if the show wasn't renewed. Dirk Gently, which follows Mangan's character as he uses bizarre methods to solve crimes, is written by Misfits author Howard Overman.

PACT has raised concerns with Ofcom that Channel Five is failing to meet its Public Service Broadcasting obligations, and is said to be taking legal advice over Five's treatment of suppliers. The trade body remains hopeful of repairing its strained relationship with the broadcaster, but the PACT Council has voted to approve legal action if it becomes necessary. Talks between the two parties are ongoing, according to Broadcast magazine, but PACT said Channel Five continues to break new provisional agreements it has made. PACT is also warning its members about taking commissions from the broadcaster, with concerns focused around lengthy payment terms and work going unpaid. In some cases, they claim, suppliers are being paid fifty per cent of their fee sixty days after delivery of a show, with the final fifty per cent paid a further sixty days after that. PACT chief executive John McVay said that he was committed to battling the broadcaster on behalf of its members. 'We will pursue every action to get any broadcaster to meet the agreements they are bound to. That includes taking legal advice, talking to the regulator Ofcom and advising our members to be cautious about working with C5,' said McVay. 'The current situation is that it is issuing contracts which it has not agreed with us. If you decide to take on work from C5, then make sure you go in with your eyes wide open.' McVay added that much of the goodwill towards the broadcaster from its suppliers had evaporated following its acquisition by Richard Desmond's Northern & Shell. 'C5 is entitled to negotiate different payment terms with PACT and should have proper agreements in place with suppliers - and stick to the terms agreed.' Tough sell, mate? You must feel like Russell Kane in front of an audience of Nintendo DS3 geeks. The highest-profile incident between C5 and a supplier was its very public disagreement with the Shine Group last year. Channel Five queried a payment of nearly a million pounds and refused to pay for marketing and advertising costs, before settling the dispute a few weeks later.

BBC Worldwide is said to be close to selecting a preferred bidder in the one hundred million pound-plus sale of its magazine division, with German publisher Bauer still considered to be the favourite from a 'handful' of credible candidates still in the running to become the new owner of titles that include Top Gear magazine and Radio Times. It is understood that BBC Magazines – the BBC Worldwide subsidiary which owns thirty four titles including Gardeners' World, Good Food and Bob the Builder – is aiming in the next few weeks to put the name of the favoured buyer through the three-step process required to move to preferred bidder status and exclusive negotiations. It is thought that a number of companies that had been considered to be weighing up submitting a serious bid – including Metal Hammer and Total Film owner Future Publishing and Love It! publisher Hubert Media – have not become actively involved in the final round. However, according to 'one source with knowledge of the negotiations' there are still 'a handful' of credible bidders – both in a financial sense and also fitting the bill as a suitable owner for a raft of treasured BBC assets – being considered. Several of those still in the running are thought not to have yet been named in the media. In order for a company to be officially named as preferred bidder BBC Magazines must go through a three-stage process of informing, and getting the greenlight, from the BBC Worldwide board, the BBC executive board and the BBC Trust. 'There are a handful of credible bids in the running, the process has certainly not moved to preferred bidder status let alone exclusive negotiations, it has to get three ticks before anything like that,' the source allegedly said. 'It is close but there are a number still in the running.' Bauer, the owner of titles including Grazia and FHM, has long been considered the leading contender, although it could face potential competition issues. The German company owns a second publishing operation in the UK, H Bauer, owner of titles including TV Choice and Total TV Guide, which could spark competition concerns over market dominance in TV listings magazines if the BBC's flagship Radio Times is included in the stable. BBC Worldwide has been hunting for a partner to take control of its magazine business since last April and is seeking a single buyer for all of its magazines. This stipulation is understood to have put off a number of potential buyers looking to cherry pick the best-selling parts of the portfolio. In September, BBC Worldwide got the greenlight from the BBC Trust to start the search for a commercial partner to either buy, licence or take a majority stake in its magazine business, having previously said the corporation was restricted by constraints in both its borrowing capability and editorial remit, as well as having other strategic priorities.

One a marginally related subject, if it was still going then the Listener would be one of the titles up for grabs from the BBC's portfolio. It was one of the most distinguished titles in British journalism for more than six decades, nurturing the careers of literary talent including Virginia Woolf, Phillip Larkin and TS Eliot, and home to what became regarded as the toughest cryptic crossword in any weekly publication. But twenty years after the closure of the Listener magazine, all three thousand one hundred and ninety seven issues are to be made available online as part of a major new digitisation project. Initially due to be opened to universities, schools, libraries and research institutions, BBC Worldwide has spent eighteen months collaborating with digital archive specialists Cengage Learning to scan and index one hundred and thirty thousand pages in colour, making the every issue of the Listener fully searchable. Established in 1929 by Lord Reith, the first director general of the BBC, the Listener was designed to be the intellectual counterpart to the more populist Radio Times, a cultural and intellectual record of the corporation's programming. Jean Seaton, professor of media history at the University of Westminster and official historian of the BBC, described the Listener's 'profound literary role,' from its roll call of contributors to the quality of the editorial. 'It was edited with a real eye, a testament to the power of the editor, intelligent and constructive and with a style driven by the urgency and topicality of the BBC, but about as real an insight into what the serious minds of the time were thinking about,' she said. 'At that time in the 1930s the Listener was part of the immense ambition of the BBC to be part of British life, and early on established a tone more bohemian than the BBC.' Just as today, that immense ambition attracted scorn from the BBC's commercial rivals at launch, with the Newspaper Proprietors' Association claiming the Listener represented 'an illegitimate stretching of official activity.' Nonetheless, the title was published for sixty two years until, after a period of declining interest and suffering from competition from weekend newspapers and their supplements, it finally closed in 1991. The first decades of the Listener are particularly significant because live shows were not usually recorded, and tapes of radio shows were usually wiped. As well as more recent contributors including Stephen Fry, Ian Hislop and John Peel, the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy is covered by Anthony Burgess, King George VI's speech at the outbreak of the second world war – as featured in The King's Speech – is transcribed in full, and Philip Larkin makes his national weekly publication debut at just eighteen with his poem Ultimatum. Time has been rather less kind to other pieces in the Listener's collection. Reporting from Berlin in March 1933, Vernon Bartlett describes how nobody he has seen in Nazi Germany has 'suffered any inconvenience.' He writes of the failure of France, the US and Britain to help moderate Germans after the first world war, and how the allies knew the treaty of Versailles would put Germany in a position of lasting inferiority that would 'inevitably be disputed by a young and vigorous race. The outline of Herr Hitler's programme must have done a good deal to allay anxiety in Poland or France. I am inclined to think that the Nazi revolution was an inevitable step towards the recovery to German greatness and influence.' Oh dear.

Filming continues on the new series of Torchwood over the last couple of weeks. The principle cast have all been busy this fortnight, with John Barrowman, Mekhi Phifer and Alexa Havins recently spotted on location, and Kai Owen tweeting prominently from the set. The great Olivia Hallinan (Sugar Rush, Lark Rise To Candleford) has been widely rumoured to be appearing in the series. Of course, she has been in Torchwood before (in the episode Out Of Time) so, it's possible she may be playing the same character. The press release for this event indicates that the series - Miracle Day - will consist of ten fifty minute episodes.

ITV is reportedly holding discussions with the US production company behind Disney On Ice to develop a new TV show. Broadcast claims that ITV Studios has met with Feld Entertainment, a family-run business which has produced both Disney Live and the successful ice show. The company is said to specialise in 'spectacular' events which have included Monster Jam and circus Ringling Bros. A team from ITV Studios have visited the US to compile footage of various productions, while executives have held meetings with Feld chairman and chief executive Kenneth Feld. According to the report, the new series could be based around self-contained episodes, which would see contestants competing to win slots in different Feld events, such as the Monster Jam. ITV chief executive Adam Crozier recently stated that he is keen for ITV to develop a format which could go on to become an international success. He told the Sunday Telegraph: 'The key thing is to see lots more programme ideas coming through, particularly in [entertainment, drama and factual entertainment], which drive the big audiences here but are also the key export markets.'

The award-winning producer of Undercover Mosque and Secret NHS Diaries is set to tell the Lords' Communications Committee that the BBC's Editorial Policy Unit should be scrapped. Hardcash Productions managing director David Henshaw will next week give evidence to the select committee, which is looking into compliance and the EPU as part of its review of the BBC Trust. Company Of Soldiers producer Tom Roberts will also appear. Henshaw will tell the committee - which includes Lord Bragg - that the EPU is a 'wholly unnecessary parallel hierarchy that soaks up time and money.' He told Broadcast: 'My recommendation is simple: get rid of the EPU. You don't need a third person between the editorial executive and a lawyer. If BBC editors and producers cannot adequately interpret the BBC's own guidelines, they are in the wrong job.' He will also argue the BBC's response of tightening Editorial Policy after the so-called Queengate affair, Sachsgate and the Hutton affair was misguided. 'Those cases were about deception, over-indulged talent or journalistic practices - but you don't need to send twenty five thousand people on a course to explain that,' he said, adding 'too often [the BBC] reacts out of terror of what the Daily Mail might say.' Word, my brother! Broadcast notes that 'this chimes with what Roberts plans to say.' He will suggest that the BBC finds itself subject to massive scrutiny by other media organisations whose own practices are much more questionable. Editorial Policy director David Jordan said the BBC looked forward to hearing the select committee evidence and discussing the issues.

The legend that is Mr T will reportedly front a new comedy-entertainment clipshow series made by Roughcut for BBC3. World's Craziest Fools (working title) will reportedly see the former A-Team and Rocky III actor - famed for his catchphrase 'I pity the fool' - unearth funny stories and footage of people doing stupid things as he searches for the world's biggest imbecile. The series will use original animation to provide a humorous take on newspaper stories, phone calls, insurance claims and exam answers, as well as featuring footage from home videos, TV archives and CCTV.

Noel Gallagher has reportedly demanded to move hotel rooms during a recent stay in Los Angeles because he refused to have a suite overlooking a giant billboard of his friend Russell Brand. The comedian is currently on the promotional trail for his new movie Arthur, in which he appears opposite Dame Helen Mirren. And former Oasis guitarist and songwriter Gallagher was 'left fuming' when he settled into a hotel room, only to discover that he would have to look out at his friend's mush on a poster for the film. Brand told the Sun, 'Noel's in LA at the moment and outside his hotel window he said all he can see is a great big billboard for Arthur. He said they showed him the room and the bloke asked, "Is there anything you'd like to change, sir?" He said, "Yeah. That fucking poster. I want another room," so they moved him.'

There is nothing, dear blog reader, quite like reading someone's angry, vague, heat-of-the moment Facebook postings, particularly when they're condemning 'peeple' and then seeing someone else correcting their spelling mistake. If everything goes according to plan, they'll get even angrier and continue to misspell things in their blind and impotent fury, thus giving the pedantic respondent further ammunition to belittle them. To be honest, it's a bit like poking a bear with a stick, only in this particular case the bear can't spell because its mother never taught it the importance of the written word. Take the following conversation between one Elizabeth and her, presumably, 'friend' Daniel. Cruel, I know but then the Internet is a spectator sport, after all.

The aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal has been listed for auction online by the Ministry of Defence. The two hundred and ten-metre-long vessel, which was officially decommissioned on 1 March after twenty five years of service, is available for purchase on the government's e-Bay style auction website Edisposals. Prospective bidders must be able to attend one of two viewings on 3 or 4 May in Portsmouth. They must also be willing to disclose what they intend to do with the ship if they secure it in order to pre-qualify to take part in the bidding process. They'll also need a pretty big garden pond.

Sexy cheerleaders have been blamed for a string of poor performances from struggling Championship football side Crystal Palace. Rather than the fact that they're just not a very good team. The American-style pom-pom girls were brought in by bosses at Crystal Palace in December last year to try to 'inspire the players' before each home game. But with the team falling to just above the relegation zone, some fans say the cheerleaders – called The Crystals – are 'a waste of time' because they are distracting the team. Some online forum users have slagged them off for 'looking silly.' 'They are just pole dancers on grass and they should be stopped – they are not doing the team any favours,' said one Internet blogger. Gareth Pollock added: 'When they come out waving their pom-poms I just hang my head.' He added: 'They put everyone off the game – you see the players eyeing them up when they should be focusing on the game. The sooner they go the better.' But The Crystals have hit back at Gareth and his mates, saying the fans should 'grow up.' 'The comments are quite nasty,' said cheerleader Amie Latter, twenty three, who is a season ticket holder at Selhurst Park and works in investment management. Fellow cheerleader Laura Howes, a nineteen-year-old who is studying for a law degree and volunteers for Citizens Advice, added: 'I think people look at someone and think they know what they're like. But everybody has their own little twists – I say don't judge on first appearances.' Sharon Lacey, marketing manager for Crystal Palace, said: 'The girls are excellent and they're passionate about what they do. They do it off their own bats and don't earn a penny.'

And finally for yer actual Keith Telly Topping's (shaped) 45 of the Day we're back in the 80s and a very well-remembered song (and one that's very much in the news today over the question of its authorship), sung by a Scotsman - in a cod Jamaican accent - about his adoptive country in the antipodes. This one's for Ricky Ponting - and, yes, the irony of the band's name is not lost at this juncture. Whose ashes?We'll be back the right way up again tomorrow dead blog reader.

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