Friday, May 20, 2011

Everybody Was Really Happy And Having A Really Good Time. Except Me.

The first episode of this year's Doctor Who, The Impossible Astronaut, was 'the most recorded TV event of all time,' according to Kantar Media. An analysis of BARB data shows that record-breaking numbers of viewers recorded the programme. A total of 8.9 million viewers watched the programme, making it the sixth most viewed programme of the week on British TV. Within that figure, 4.1 million viewers chose to timeshift the episode by watching a recording of the show either later that day or in the following seven days. The figure easily beat the previous record holder, the 2010 Christmas Day episode of Come Fly With Me.  Other shows likely to have viewers reaching for the record button to ensure they are not missed include reality TV shows like The X Factor and Britain's Got Talent, along with comedy favourites like The Royle Family and Top Gear, according to Kantar. Dalia Gereis, commercial director at Kantar Media Audiences, said:  'With the continued growth of hard drive recording devices like Sky+, it's no surprise that all the episodes of these top ten recorded shows come from the last three years. Increasingly viewers are using their own "time travel" abilities to watch TV shows when they want them - this particularly applies to dramas and "must see" reality shows. Given that these figures do not include data from online catch-up services like BBC iPlayer and ITVplayer, it is clear that judging a show's performance just by looking at it's overnight viewing figures is unlikely to give the full picture.' Which we all knew anyway. Well,  most of us. The Daily Scum Mail, seemingly, still don't.

According to the Mirra, 'the BBC is angry that the Britain’s Got Talent final on Saturday 4 June is being moved an hour earlier so it clashes with Doctor Who at 7pm.' Someone described as 'an insider' allegedly said: 'This is crazy.' Almost as crazy, one could suggest, as some glake commissioning Don't Scare The Hare. What you reap, you sow, Auntie. A necessary lesson for all to observe, there.

Shoppers will be able to buy items with a tap of their smartphones after the launch of Britain's first contactless mobile payment service. The system will 'revolutionise' the high street, developers claim. Tap-and-go credit card technology was launched in Britain several years ago. But take-up had 'not been great,' said Dan Moore, senior researcher at Which? consumer group. However, the mobile system sounded 'convenient' and 'positive.' Moore added: 'It will be fascinating to see if there is take-up. It will depend on three issues – do people think it's safe, is it convenient and what is the awareness like?' The Quick Tap mobile service, created by Orange and Barclaycard, is available for use on contactless terminals in more than fifty thousand shops, such as Pret A-Manger, Eat and Subway, for purchases of fifteen pounds or less. It will being offered to Orange users with Quick Tap-enabled handsets, the first of which – the Samsung Tocco Quick Tap – is out today. More enabled phones will follow. The system was launched this week with Gadget Show presenter the divine Suzy Perry demonstrating how easy it was to use even at a fruit-and-veg stall. One inevitably wonders if she was, perhaps, after a nice juicy pear?
Sorry.

BBC2's popular topical panel show Mock the Week will return for a tenth series next month, it has been confirmed. Dara O'Briain will be back as host of the show along with regular panellists Hugh Dennis and Andy Parsons. No Russell Howard by the look of things, however. Show creator Dan Patterson said: 'What a year 2011 has been. We've had a referendum, a royal wedding and the discovery of the world's most wanted man. Unfortunately, that's all gone now, but I'm sure we'll get just as much mileage out of the Turkish elections, the England v Sri Lanka Test Series and the effect of inflation on utility bills. We can't wait to get started.' Chris Addison, Micky Flanagan, Ed Byrne, Greg Davies, Milton Jones, Ava Vidal, Stewart Francis and Zoe Lyons will be among the guests during the series. Mock the Week returns on Thursday 9 June on BBC2 and will broadcast for six weeks. It will then return for another half dozen shows in September and October, followed by a Christmas special. At Christmas. Obviously.

The latest episode of Qi to be filmed - the fifth for series nine - has the theme of Incomprehensible and features returning favourites Wor Ross Noble, Sue Perkins (who will be hoping everyone has just quietly forgotten about her involvement in Don't Scare The Hare) and, impressively, making his debut on the show that could've been designed for him, professor Brian Cox.

Imogen Thomas has reportedly been offered a six-figure deal to appear on the next series of I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! The former Big Brother contestant allegedly became a target for 'bosses' after hitting the headlines when it was revealed that she had had an affair with a married Premier League footballer - whose identity has been protected by a superinjunction. Thomas has twice failed to have the gagging order overturned and this week denied suggestions that she had effectively blackmailed her former lover, whom she claims to have dated for six months. That bastion of truth and honesty the Sun reports that the twenty eight-year-old's agent Max Clifford - who also represents last year's Jungle Queen Stacey Solomon - confirmed that an offer had been received. 'It would be interesting to see what comes out in the jungle,' he told the paper. If the superinjunction has not been lifted by November, Thomas could discuss the affair because of the show being based in Australia. However, ITV would have to edit any conversations revealing details about the footballer. An 'insider' allegedly remarked: 'It could spark a national guessing game and make this year's series the most talked about yet.' But, hang on, is this pretty much exactly the same sort of story that went around this time last year in the Daily Lies? On that occasions it was another couple of - alleged - slappers who'd had it off with a footballer (in that case, Wayne Rooney) and who were alleged to have been 'targetted' by I'm A Celebrity ... producers. Then, just a few weeks later the very same newspaper carried quotes from a member of the production team saying 'I'm A Celebrity ... is a successful format and doesn't need people like this. They're two trashy girls who are just not famous. They're fit - but not for a family show.' So, what - exactly - is different this time around. Is it no longer 'a family show'? Thomas previously said that she would 'love' to take part in the series. Of course she would, more publicity and mucho wonga therein for not having to do anything so horrible as to actually work for living. But, she admitted that she would be 'awful' at the Bushtucker Trials. She said: 'There's no way I'd eat spiders so I'd probably make everyone starve for days. If I had to go in a box full of rats then I'd do it, but I couldn't eat eyeballs.' There is something sick and wrong with this world, dear blog reader. Sick and wrong.

Sarah Michelle Gellar has confessed that her time on Buffy The Vampire Slayer took over her life. The cult show, which debuted in 1997, filmed one hundred and forty forty episode episodes before ending after its seventh season in 2003, a schedule which the actress said made her feel exhausted and in need of 'a break.' However, she was recently confirmed to start in the new CW drama The Ringer, and revealed that she is looking forward to the familiar setting. 'Buffy was all-encompassing; it was my life and you really need to take a break from that. But then I realised I missed the familial atmosphere,' she told Extra. 'And now having a small child, I have the best of both worlds.' Gellar went on to say that she relies heavily on her multitasking skills on the set of The Ringer, adding: 'Don't forget, I'm playing two characters and I'm the executive producer! You men think if we are texting on our BlackBerrys, we can't hear you. But we can.'

Channel Four News has hired the BBC's Matt Frei to be its new Washington correspondent. Frei, anchor of the BBC World News America bulletin, is joining Channel Four News as part of what is described as 'a rejig' of its on-screen line-up. One which will also see political correspondent Cathy Newman becoming a regular presenter alongside main anchor Jon Snow and co-host Krishnan Guru-Murthy. Channel Four News has hired another BBC journalist, Newsnight correspondent Jackie Long, to be social affairs editor. Frei will also join the bulletin's presenting team and will present other programmes across the channel's news and current affairs portfolio including Dispatches. Newman, the former chief political correspondent of the Financial Times, joined Channel Four News in 2006. She is the programme's first new regular presenter for thirteen years. The Channel Four News editor, Jim Gray, who will also appoint a science editor to complete the programme's new line-up, described it as 'the perfect mix of homegrown talent and established names.' Frei said: 'I've always respected the journalism at Channel Four News – and it's an honour to join such a distinguished team. I'm looking forward to the editorial creativity and the opportunities across the channel that come with working for a broadcaster with a remit for challenging, fearless news.' The Channel Four chief creative officer, Jay Hunt, added: 'These new appointments to Channel Four News will simply reinforce its reputation for agenda-setting journalism. Matt Frei is a truly exceptional correspondent and writer and Cathy's political insight makes her the perfect addition to the presenting team.'

Former US vice-president Al Gore has hit out at Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, accusing it of 'an abuse of power' by forcing his liberal TV station off-air in Italy because it did not fit in with the media giant's 'ideological agenda.' In an interview with the Gruniad Morning Star, Gore said the Current TV news and documentary channel was told unexpectedly three weeks ago that it could no longer be carried by Sky Italia because of its decision to hire a US left-leaning commentator often critical of Murdoch's company. He added that the decision reflected how News Corporation operated worldwide. 'News Corporation is an international conglomerate with an ideological agenda. It seeks political power in every nation they operate. They wield that power to shut down voices that disagree with the agenda of Rupert Murdoch,' Gore said. The decision, he added, was 'a complete shock' but Current TV executives were told 'off the record that the decision was taken on News Corp instructions from New York.' The primary reason, he said, was 'because Current is launching Keith Olbermann next month.' Olbermann – who styles himself as a left-wing alternative to the right-wing shock jock journalism of FOX News – worked at rival cable news network MSNBC until he left abruptly in January. This came after he was briefly suspended by MSNBC in November for making donations to three Democratic candidates in the mid-term elections without seeking prior approval, in breach of company rules. 'Olbermann has often been critical of News Corporation,' Gore added. Current TV broadcasts around the world, including the UK, but the channel has been more successful in Italy, where it claims that 'one in three' Sky Italia viewers watch at some point during the week. However, Gore said that decision to not renew the channel's existing distribution deal also had implications in the UK – where News Corp's takeover of BSkyB is under review on the grounds of media plurality. 'I know that News Corp is close to reaching an agreement to buy BSkyB. Now I may not be a party to that debate, but if anybody believes that [News Corp] will remain hands off if there are diverse opinions that do not agree with its ideological agenda then they are fools. This is proof positive of their abuse of power,' Gore said. However, Current TV's existing agreement with BSkyB does not expire until next year, so there is no immediate threat to its UK position on the satellite service in this country. Gore also said he understood there has been 'a rapprochement' in the struggle between News Corp and Silvio Berlusconi's media empire in Italy. Current TV has run several documentaries critical of the Italian premier and his government. 'Sky Italia is in the midst of negotiations to enter the digital terrestrial television market and the need Berlusconi's support,' he said. Gore added that he had 'a pleasant personal relationship' with Murdoch dating back to the former vice-president's time in the White House, and said that he wasn't sure exactly on whose authority the decision was made to order Current TV off the air in Italy. He said that he didn't want 'to make this ad hominem' but added it was clear that Murdoch and News Corp had too much power. Programming aired by Current TV in Italy has included Citizen Berlusconi, a documentary first produced by the US PBS network, and about the consequences of handing a media mogul formal political power. 'Anglo-American political theory highlights the problem. Too much power in the hands of one person is dangerous, no matter the ideology,' Gore said. 'The conversation of democracy, which used to happen in newspapers or in other public places now happens on the television screen. But this is a public space in which gatekeepers charge rents.' He cited the example of the 2003 Iraq war, in which News Corp had acted as 'an aggressive cheerleader' for the US-led invasion, to the point where 'three quarters of the American public got the impression that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the attacks of 2001.' This journalism, Gore said, 'has consequences' and he argued that 'our democracy is much better when there are diverse viewpoints' to inform decision-making.

Sky1 are launching what they describe as an 'access-all-areas' police documentary showing 'what life on the beat is really like.' Cambridge is renowned for its University and picture postcard appearance, which have attracted the hustle and bustle of tourists worldwide, but this new series goes beneath the city’s image to look at how the local police deal with crime in the area in Cop Squad. No, don't laugh, I know it sounds like something from The Young Ones, but that's what they're calling it, seemingly. The Sky1 crew follow the Cambridgeshire police force as they patrol the streets and discover that the unexpected is never far away. The city’s police force deals with nearly nineteen thousand 999 calls every month, ranging from robberies and burglaries to drug dealers and drunks. 'Cop Squad exclusively captures the changing tactics of criminals, and perhaps more importantly their increasing violence and recklessness towards the police, the public and each other. In this insightful documentary series, viewers are offered the chance to watch Cambridgeshire’s elite cops fighting daily crime on the frontline and witness their efforts to bring justice to the streets.' Sky say. The undercover cameras capture the action leading up to, during and after the arrests. With begging and pleading suspects, drunk and disorderedly teenagers and high speed car chases, this latest documentary series is out to prove that life in the force is anything but quiet. And, various people get banged-up good a proper for their nefarious skulduggery, and shit.

ITV, Channel Four and a range of production companies have signed up to use the BBC's new carbon calculator in a bid to reduce emissions across the industry. In November 2010, the BBC launched the online carbon calculator, known as Albert, as part of its sustainability plan The Difference. The BBC has set itself the target of a twenty per cent reduction in energy consumption by 2012, along with a twenty per cent cut in CO2 emissions from transport, twenty five per cent reduction in water usage and twenty five per cent cut in waste to landfill. Use of Albert is mandatory for BBC Vision Productions, and the calculator has also been made available to other broadcasters in collaboration with BAFTA and trade association PACT. A consortium of companies are now using Albert, including Channel Four and ITV, along with production companies IMG, Kudos Film and TV, Shine, Talkback Thames and Twofour. The BBC aims to open up access to the calculator to anyone working in TV production later this year on a not-for-profit basis. The current consortium also plans to collaborate in the long-term on other sustainability issues within the industry. Sally Debonnaire, the BBC Vision controller of production operations, said: 'TV producers who want to cut carbon and reduce their company's energy bills no longer have to worry if they don't know where to start. By using Albert they can track their carbon emissions and work out how best to cut them, saving money and lowering their environmental impact.' Channel Four director of creative diversity Stuart Cosgrove commented: 'Channel Four is delighted to be a member of this group in support of environmentally sustainable practices within the TV production industry.' Julie Burnell, ITV Studios production executive - drama, added: 'ITV is committed to reducing the impact of its production activity on the environment, and Albert will be a valuable tool for our programme makers to use to estimate their carbon footprint, and then consider ways of reducing their emissions.' Other energy efficiency measures introduced by the BBC include the roll out of low-energy studio lighting and twenty four-hour zones for working outside of office hours, along with the installation of water-saving devices and video conferencing to reduce the need for travel.

Sir Fred Goodwin, who may or may not be the controversial former chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, which may or may not exist, obtained a superinjunction - or not - to prevent details of his alleged extra-marital affair, which may or may not exist, with a senior colleague - who may or may not exist - being made public, it has been claimed in the House of Lords. Or otherwise. The wide-ranging gagging order – which prevented Goodwin from being identified as a banker. Or not – was brought up by Lord Stoneham, a Liberal Democrat peer, who may or may not exist, during a debate in the Lords. Which may or may not exist. Stoneham's comments - or not - are protected by parliamentary privilege. Which does exist. Thankfully. Goodwin's superinjunction - which may or may not exist - was first made public during a House of Commons debate in March. Which probably does exist since, if it didn't, there's be a hole in the calendar between February and April. However, there have been no claims about the subject matter of the injunction until now. Stoneham, speaking on behalf of fellow Liberal Democrat peer Lord Oakeshott, who may or may not exist, said during the debate: 'Would [the speaker, who may or may not exist] accept that every taxpayer has a direct public interest in the events leading up to the collapse of the Royal Bank of Scotland? So how can it be right for a superinjunction to hide the alleged relationship between Sir Fred Goodwin and a senior colleague? If true it would be a serious breach of corporate governance and not even the Financial Services Authority would know about it.' Lord McNally, the deputy leader of the Lords, who may or may not exist, responded: 'I do not think that it is appropriate from this dispatch box to comment on individual cases, some of which are before the courts.' In the ensuing debate on gagging orders, McNally said the Ministry of Justice - which may or may not exist - did not know how many superinjunctions were currently in place. Although, seemingly, someone on Twitter does. Or not. Perhaps we'll never care. 'I have to confess that the Ministry of Justice do not have a figure on the number of superinjunctions,' he added. 'I do understand that the Ministry of Justice chief statistician is looking into the matter and we do hope to be able to give those figures shortly.' The ability of MPs and peers to undermine gagging orders - which may or may not exist - issued against the media - which may or may not exist - is likely to feature in a report on superinjunctions by the master of the rolls, Lord Neuberger, who may or may not exist, on Friday. McNally said that he hoped Neuberger would address growing calls for the press to be allowed in to court when injunctions and superinjunctions are granted. 'The very fact that there is so much discussion and public debate means that it has been sensible to get the master of the rolls to look at these issues. When we have the full knowledge of his deliberations, we will be making statements on steps forward,' he added. How far the media can go in reporting speeches in parliament which would breach court orders if given elsewhere is a dilemma that is rarely tested in the courts. But, it could be now. The common belief is that anything said by MPs or peers can be published or broadcast without fear of legal action. But opinion upon the matter is divided. The issue has repeatedly arisen in the course of the media dispute over the use of superinjunctions. It is likely to be addressed Lord Neuberger's report. Parliamentary privilege – the right of the Commons and Lords to discuss whatever they wish – is enshrined in article nine of the Bill of Rights from 1689. It guarantees that the 'freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of parliament.' The courts have expressed the hope that parliament may voluntarily limit the scope of its own debates and respect sub-judice rules to 'avoid any possible interference with the administration of justice,' as Lord Judge put it in 2009. But that would be a decision for parliament itself, he stressed. The media's right to share any information which is revealed under parliamentary privilege is less clear-cut. One view is that if the Speaker of the Commons (or, in this case, The Lords) does not swiftly require comments which blatantly flout a court's order to be struck from Hansard, the official parliamentary record, then they can be reported by anyone. In this particular case, the Daily Record. And the Financial Times. And the Gruniad Morning Star. And many other media outlets. And, as a consequence, anyone - like this blog, for instance - is free to report what they have reported. But some media commentators point to the 1999 privilege committee's view that 'in such circumstances [relating to the contents of an injunction] reporting a matter divulged in parliamentary proceedings is strictly a contempt of court. The common law affords protection against claims for defamation. It is doubtful whether the common law affords protection against a contempt of court claim, or against prosecution for a breach of the official secrets legislation, when a newspaper carries a report of statements made in parliament in breach of a court "no-publicity" injunction or in breach of the Official Secrets Act.' But, the parliamentary committee also concluded: 'In practice such claims are unlikely, but if there is to be legislation the position should sensibly be clarified, in favour of the press. As the clerks of the two houses put it: why expose the media to criminal liability for publishing the same speech that the public can read in Hansard?' The issue remains unresolved. The Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming had already asked the Commons Treasury select committee to consider whether the injunction raised any public interest matters in relation to the near financial collapse of the Royal Bank of Scotland. The committee has not yet made a decision.

ITV's plans for the crucial end-of-year TV advertising trading season could be thrown into disarray because of a dispute with Richard Desmond's Channel Five over a senior executive. In January, ITV's managing director of commercial and online Fru Hazlitt appointed former Channel Five executive Kelly Williams to become ITV's new director of TV sales. Williams will start at ITV in August, but Channel Five parent company Northern & Shell is understood to be trying to enforce a twelve-month non-compete clause, which would stop him leading ITV's 2012 airtime sales negations this autumn, reports the Gruniad. The final quarter of each year is the critical period when deals for more than eighty per cent of the three and a half billion pound annual TV advertising market are agreed between commercial broadcasters and media agencies working on behalf of advertisers. However, Northern & Shell is thought to be pushing for a one-year non-compete clause, effectively blocking Williams from dealing with any clients until January. A source at Northern & Shell said: 'Kelly Williams is starting at ITV on 1 August but under [the] non-compete [clause] he can't speak to any Channel Five competitors or customers until January.' The move would be very bad news for ITV, which is already facing up to a tough summer period, with the TV advertising market expected to be down in May and June due to the lack of a major sporting event this year. One senior industry executive said that Northern & Shell would be unlikely to win if the situation went to court, but it would be a hollow victory for ITV. '[Non-compete clauses] are difficult to enforce and ultimately a court will probably say it is a restriction of trade but - and it is a big but - to get a court to say it is invalid you have to go through a very expensive, very time-consuming and very painful process,' said the executive. 'How tough rather depends on who the [previous] employer is and how tough they want to get about it.' An ITV spokesperson merely confirmed that Kelly Williams will join the broadcaster on 1 August.

A student stole a meerkat from a wildlife park to take home as a pet after watching the infamous Compare the Market insurance advert, a court heard. But Adam Catherick, nineteen, was unable to look after the six-year-old animal and it escaped from his girlfriend's house. The teenager made a 'spur of the moment' decision to take the meerkat and put it in his partner's rucksack as he went round a wildlife park in Canterbury, the court heard. When he got home he realised it was 'very difficult' to look after. Catherick, who took the animal after seeing the Compare the Market adverts featuring Aleksandr the Meerkat, kept the terrified animal in a dog cage before it started howling to get out. It eventually managed to escape from the home in Sandwich, through a cat-flap but was found frozen to death nearby some days later, Folkstone Magistrates' court was told. Meerkats - which have an average life span of between twelve and fourteen years - are native to Africa and are used to warm temperatures rather than the snowy weather experienced in the UK last December. Catherick was visiting Wingham Wildlife Park in Canterbury, with his girlfriend Debbie Smith, on 29 December last year when he stole the animal. Julie Farbrace, prosecuting, said that Catherick had tried to sell the meerkat before it escaped. Police had been tipped off and raided his girlfriend's home and also found cannabis plants growing there. So, you know, double bonus for them. She said: 'Police had intelligence that somebody was trying to sell a meerkat. Then the animal was found dead - [Catherick] admitted he stole the animal.' She added 'At the park visitors are allowed to stroke the meerkats and he thought it would be nice to have one as a pet. Once he got it to the house they couldn't control it so they put it into a dog cage in the living room. One night they heard the meerkat making barking noises and when they got downstairs they found it had escaped via the cat-flap.' Rocco Marranachio, defending, told the court: 'He saw the meerkats on TV - he didn't go to the park intending to steal one.' After Catherick admitted theft and possession of cannabis, magistrates adjourned sentencing until 2 June. Magistrate Lewis Norris told Catherick: 'If you hadn't taken the meerkat it would be alive today.' Smith, forty seven, was not charged with theft but was fined seventy pounds for possession of cannabis.

An Elvis impersonator who attacked the son of the late singer's guitarist at a tribute act convention in Birmingham has been given a suspended sentence. Michael Cawthray, forty three, punched and kicked Jeff Burton, the son of the great James Burton who played guitar - and was the de facto musical director - for Presley's backing band from 1969 until his death in 1977. The attack, which happened at the European Elvis Championships, left Burton with a fractured nose and bruising to his face and body. Cawthray, of Ebberston Road East, Rhos-on-Sea, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing. At Warwick Crown Court, sitting in Leamington Spa, he was sentenced to a twelve-week prison sentence, suspended for a year. The attack happened in January after Cawthray found his wife leaving the forty eight-year-old performer's hotel after the championships. Cawthray previously pleaded guilty to one count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. He was ordered to do 80 hours of unpaid work, to pay £750 compensation and £1,370 court costs. And add 'Jailhouse Rock'# to his set, presumably.

The Sun has denied claims that it knowingly published a false story about a woman who claimed she injected her eight-year-old daughter with Botox. In a sworn declaration to a California court, Sheena Upton said the tabloid newspaper gave her two hundred dollars to pose as 'Kerry Campbell' - a mother who injected her daughter, Britney, with Botox for beauty pageants, TMZ.com reports. The part-time beautician from San Francisco said that she then appeared on US TV shows Good Morning America and Inside Edition for an additional fee. Appearing under the name Campbell, Upton told viewers that she gave her daughter Botox and waxed her bikini line so she would become famous as a teenager. Her deposition came after her daughter was taken into care earlier this week by US child protection officials. 'The truth is that I have never given my daughter Botox, nor allowed her to get any type of waxing, nor is she a beauty pageant contestant,' she wrote in the court papers. Upton said that her daughter was examined by a doctor at UCLA who confirmed that the girl had never been injected. The Sun denied it in any way provoked Upton into making up the story, adding that it only ran the article after the reporter who wrote the story watched Upton give Britney what appeared to be Botox injections. 'The Sun strongly denies any suggestion it solicited or knowingly published a false story regarding Kerry Campbell and her daughter. The article was published in good faith, in common with a large number of other news organisations around the world, after being received in full from a reputable UK news agency,' the paper said in a statement. The newspaper added that it was considering legal action against Upton.

Roads around the East End of Newcastle have reopened after the major fire at a scrapyard caused chaos and entertainment in equal measure. Investigations are now under way into what caused the blaze, which led to part of Newcastle being evacuated. An area of Byker was cleared and nearby residents were told to stay inside with their doors and windows closed. Emergency services were called to Byker Bank at around 12.25pm on Thursday. Plumes of thick black smoke could be seen as far away as Middlesbrough, Hexham and the Scottish Borders. The surrounding area was evacuated as two people were treated by paramedics. One person was taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation, but their condition is - thankfully - not thought to be life-threatening. The flames came from the former Shepherd’s Scrapyard, on Albion Row, which has since been taken over eleven years ago by Ince Ltd. Fire crews stayed over night at the blaze dragging the massive pile of scrap apart using mechanical diggers in an effort to get at the smouldering remains beneath. The flames were eventually extinguished at 4am. Firefighters are still at the site today carrying out forensic examinations. Initially there were concerns about more than two thousand litres of kerosene, stored in a builders' merchants, next door to the burning scrapyard, and for gas cylinders on the site. Fears the cylinders could explode meant residents at exclusive Quayside apartments were advised to leave their homes. Safety chiefs also warned hundreds of families in the nearby Byker Wall estate to keep their doors and windows closed, in case the smoke carried unidentified health risks. Byker Bank was closed off to traffic and pedestrians as people working nearby were evacuated. There were more than seventy firefighters at the scene at the height of the blaze, and fourteen fire engines. Mark Fawcett, who works at nearby Quay Timber said: 'All the scrapyard was alight. We saw flames about one hundred feet high. The timber yard next door was in danger of going up. All of Byker Bridge was closed and you could see the flames coming over the top of it. Someone phoned me and said they could see the smoke in Sunderland. Everyone else was evacuated but we were just sitting tight. I had never seen anything like it.' Newcastle East MP Nick Brown, whose constituency covers the site of the fire, praised the response of the emergency services. 'I praise the swift reaction of the emergency services and urge everyone to cooperate with the fire, police and ambulance services and not to impede their important work,' said the Labour MP. Police asked people that gathered in Byker to watch the fire to move on as they are adding to congestion in the area. Several bus routes were affected but the Metro service was not hit.

In Friday's Metro newspaper there was a six page review of the 2010-11 football season. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though still seemingly unsellable) Magpies copped a couple of mentions. Under the heading Surprise of the Season, the paper's Gavin Brown noted: 'Blackpool, obviously. But the surprise surprise of the year is Newcastle. Start well after promotion, sack a popular manager, replace him with a man relived of his duties in League One, sell your star striker and homegrown hero in January, and spend the last four months of the season with Leon Best, Shola Ameobi and Peter Lovenkrands up front, finish comfortably mid-table. Implausible, but true.'
United also cropped up in the Game of the Season category: 'The madness of May has thrown up some cracking games at the bottom of the Premier League and in the Football League play-offs. But Newcastle's comeback from four goals down to nick a point off Arsenal (capped by a screamer from Cheik Tiote) was as brilliant as it was unexpected and, in terms of points gained and lost, fairly irrelevant.'

And so to today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. This one goes out to all fans of British alternative comedy and to every insufferable Beatles nerd who enjoys spotting a timely parody of 'I Am The Walrus'. Or two. The great Nigel Planer's five minutes of fame in the pop world. Heavy.
And, of course, the Top of the Pops performance - 'Fascists!' - was hilarious. 'Listen to the lyrics Paul Weller!'

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