Friday, September 23, 2011

Week Forty: And This is My Four Leaf Clover

So, you're all eager to know the answer to the most important TV question of the summer. 'Keith Telly Topping,' I hear you shout, as one, 'what-oh-what is Ted Danson like in the new series of CSI?' All right, I heard about four of you dear blog readers shouting that. But, anyway, the answer is really rather good. More Grissom than Langston, and there's an interesting backstory bubbling about how the team have been allowed to become 'social workers instead of investigators.' Which, possibly, has an element of truth in it. Anyway, evidence of the opening episode of CSI's twelfth series, Seventy Three Seconds is that the production are trying a back-to-basics approach. And, it might just work.
The International Olympic Committee has called on the BBC to provide evidence to support allegations of attempted match fixing in boxing ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games. BBC2's Newsnight programme claims to have uncovered evidence of secret payments made by Azerbaijan to World Series Boxing, allegedly for the guarantee of two gold medals at the Games next year. 'We take every allegation very seriously,' said International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge. The International Amateur Boxing Association, which runs World Series Boxing as a franchised league, has denied the claims, but is running an investigation. Rogge added: 'We welcome AIBA's announcement of an immediate inquiry into these claims and we await the outcome of their investigation. For its part the IOC takes all allegations of corruption very seriously. And we would urge the BBC to make any evidence they have available to AIBA and to our Ethics Commission which will then determine if further action is necessary. We would also note that the judging process in boxing as in other sports at the Games is transparent and open to public scrutiny - and a number of sports including boxing have made significant changes to their procedures in recent years to deal with any potential issues.' According to the Newsnight report, broadcast on Thursday evening, an Azeri national paid nine million US dollars to a WSB competition, claimed to be for the assurance of two golds. But AIBA president Wu Ching-kuo has denounced the BBC's claims, saying they are 'totally untrue and ludicrous.' The AIBA said in a statement that the money was a loan to WSB by 'an Azerbaijani investor,' which was 'made on a commercial basis and with a view to a commercial return for the investor.' AIBA said it believed the allegations were made by individuals with an agenda against the body, adding that the claims 'demonstrate a complete misunderstanding of the procedures which lead to the award of Olympic boxing medals and the impossibility of influencing these.' The statement added: 'Any suggestion that the loan was made in return for promises of gold medals at the 2012 Olympics is preposterous and utterly untrue.' A spokesperson for the Amateur Boxing Association of England, which is affiliated to AIBA, said: 'We are surprised by the allegations. We support AIBA's zero tolerance position on corruption and its decision to hold an investigation.' The BBC's report comes only days before the World Amateur Boxing Championships are due to get under way in Baku, Azerbaijan. This is not the first time the BBC has ruffled features in sport, after a Panorama investigation exposed alleged corruption at world football body FIFA in December last year. The then FIFA vice-president Jack Warner later blamed the BBC and other UK media for England's failure to secure the 2018 World Cup, arguing that FIFA had been insulted 'in the worst possible way' by the corruption claims. This, you may remember, is the same odious Jack Warner who resigned from FIFA shortly before he was due to face corruption charges last year. However, BBC director general Mark Thompson defended the Panorama report, arguing that it contained 'significant information about matters of very serious public interest and public concern.'

The BBC has this week launched a so-called 'beta' of a revamped version of its web homepage, designed to 'more widely showcase the corporation's online content beyond just news and sport.' The new homepage, which will run alongside the old page for a trial period, features a video and image-rich carousel design highlighting the latest news and sport headlines, but also content from all BBC platforms, including radio and blogs. Users are being invited to give their feedback on the design while it's in beta mode, before the new homepage goes live at 'some point in the future.' The old BBC Homepage attracts around nine million browser requests every week across all devices, including tablets and smartphones, but its design has largely remained the same since 2005. In 2008, the corporation introduced the site's 'modular' structure, enabling users to move around and prioritise elements of the homepage that mattered most to them. However, the BBC found that only a third of users were actually doing this and of those that were, two-thirds were just setting their location on the weather tab. Phil Fearnley, the general manager for news and knowledge at the BBC's Future Media and Technology department, said that the old homepage had 'too narrow a focus' on just news and sport. Fearnley said that the new homepage remains a 'daily dashboard' for latest sport and news headlines, but also makes it easier for people to discover other BBC online content. He said that the resigned site is 'a statement of what the BBC thinks is important for its online audience,' allowing users to 'come for what you need and come back for what you discover.'
Rebuilt 'from the ground-up,' the homepage has shifted to a carousel structure that is more akin with next generation touch-screen smartphones and tablet computers. Around fifteen to twenty per cent of BBC homepage users access it from mobile devices, and the BBC is keen to optimise its online service for these new technologies, as well as connected TVs. The redesign, which comes out of a major restructure of BBC Online earlier in the year, highlights a much broader range of content via the carousel. Users can flick between editorialised pages of content, featuring prominent video and pictures. They can also filter the carousel to their preferences, such as sport and entertainment, to only show stories and images in that area. The BBC said that the homepage's carousel design will 'pave the way for a graphically-rich London 2012 Olympics digital offer.' All news and sport headlines have been given 'at-a-glance aspects,' featuring images and short summaries. The same will be true for travel news updates, weather forecasts and lottery results. A 'What's On' guide shows the 'now-and-next' TV and radio shows on BBC services, while an algorithmic-based navigation and search box highlights what other people are watching, listening to and reading at that moment. The weather forecast has been moved into the top right-hand corner showing a simplified three-day view, while the clock has shifted to the other side of the page. The whole homepage can again be personalised by location, throwing up local weather forecasts, local news and updates. Location setting is not yet enabled in the beta (it defaults to London) but this will be introduced in the future, along with dedicated traffic and travel pages. There will be also be nations and regions-focused homepages in future, providing relevant local and national information based on the user's choice of location, a key requirement of the BBC's Delivering Quality First initiative. In a statement, Fearnley said: 'We've made improvements progressively to the BBC Homepage since it launched in 1997. The beta version launched today represents a real step change - we've rebuilt from first principles to deliver an intuitive experience which makes it easier for users to explore the wealth of BBC content on the web than ever before. The BBC Homepage attracts over nine million unique browsers a week across devices and the new page is designed to meet the challenge of serving this mass audience by showcasing the breadth of what we create on the web, whilst enabling the simple filtering which users have come to expect.' The page is now live in a beta version, meaning visitors to BBC.co.uk will be prompted to click through and check out the new design, and also leave feedback. The BBC said that its user testing has already shown that the new page 'feels quite natural,' and is just like 'flicking through a magazine,' giving the corporation confidence to go into the beta. However, BBC Online managing editor Ian Hunter accepted there will inevitably be some negative reaction from users, particularly as people are often 'resistant to change'. He said that the corporation would work to delineate what of the negative responses are just knee-jerk reactions, and what are flagging up serious issues with the redesign. Hunter also said that the FM&T team would run the beta BBC Homepage alongside the current version for a number of weeks while it gathers feedback and tweaks the design. In time, the new BBC Homepage will also be further optimised for mobile and connected TV devices.

And so to this week's Top Telly Tips:

Friday 30 September
Thwe new series of Strictly Come Dancing begins proper tonight - 9:00 BBC1. The pro-celebrity contest returns for its ninth season, as Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly host the first of this weekend's two live shows. Seven of the fourteen couples perform either a waltz or a cha-cha-cha each night, beginning with Alex Jones, Anita Dobson, Audley Harrison, Dan Lobb, Lulu, Barry Gibb lookalike Robbie Savage and big fat Russell Grant, watched by the ever-critical judges Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli, Craig Revel Horwood and Alesha Dixon. The panellists gives their verdicts on the routines - usually, respectively, 'Seven!', 'Marrrrrrvelllous!', 'you were crap, darling!' and 'I have nothing even remotely interesting to say' - but the dancers are safe in the knowledge there will be no public vote or elimination this week. Continues tomorrow before Doctor Who. All of this, of course, comes in the week in which Anton du Beke told The Press Association that he had forgotten how 'terrible' the show's celebrity contestants were until he started rehearsals with his partner for this series, Nancy Dell'Olio. He said: 'Always when I do this I forget how terrible the celebrities really are because all I remember is how they finished in the series and I forget the pain at the beginning but they pick it up.'

Tonight also sees the second series of BBC4's excellent Singer-Songwriters at the BBC - 9:15. This includes archive performances from the 1960s and 70s, featuring Leonard Cohen and Julie Felix, Sandy Denny, John Martyn, Don McLean, Tim Buckley, Stealers Wheel, Joni Mitchell, Elton John, Paul Simon, Rab Noakes, Loudon Wainwright III, Clifford T Ward and Cat Stevens.

The latest episode of Qi - 10:00 BBC2 - concerns Indecision. Or, perhaps it doesn't. We'll have to watch to find out, I suppose. Stephen Fry hosts 'the quiz with a difference,' joined by regular guests comedians Phill Jupitus, Rich Hall, Jimmy Carr and 'we just can't get rid of him' panellist Alan Davies. This week Stephen asks questions based on the theme of indecision, and awards points for the most interesting answers. The extended - and, usually, slightly better - XL edition will be shown tomorrow at 9:00.

Saturday 1 October
Just when you thought you'd seen the last of Amy and Rory, they both back in the series finale of Doctor Who - The Wedding of River Song - at 7:05 on BBC1. Hurrah. The Time Lord makes his final journey to the shores of Lake Silencio in Utah in the certain foreknowledge that only one thing can save the universe - his own death. However, he has reckoned without the love of a good woman. Or, at least, a very naughty woman. And, all of those soup-for-brains glakes who've been whinging all year 'oh, it's too complicated these days, I like simple things, me' will finally learn the answers they've been seeking. That's if they haven't pissed off to watch All Star Family Favourites on the other side, by now. Perhaps, that's more to their dumbed-down, lowest-common-denominator tastes. Last episode till Christmas.

As one BBC Telefantasy icon ends its latest run, another begins. Merlin - 7:50 BBC1. The Darkest Hour. The evil sorceress Morgana summons mighty gatekeeper the Cailleach, who opens a door to another world from which hellish creatures pour forth. As Arthur and his loyal knights take up arms, Merlin discovers the only thing that will stop them is an unimaginable sacrifice. Colin Morgan returns as the young wizard in the first of a two-part story, guest starring the great Gemma Jones and Silent Witness's Emilia Fox. Camp as Butlin's and, on a good day, unmissable drama. Again, it's great to have it back.

Frost on Nixon - 7:00 BBC2 - sees TV presenter Sir David Frost talking to broadcaster Joan Bakewell about his landmark interviews with former US president Richard Nixon, which were first shown in 1977. And, later of course, became the subject of both a West End play and Oscar-nominated film Frost/Nixon, which receives its world TV debut later tonight on BBC2 (after Qi: XL). He discusses the struggle to raise enough money to finance the televised conversations, and Nixon's momentous apology to the American people for the Watergate scandal. The programme ends with a broadcast of the original Watergate interview. Which, if you've never seen it before, is true television gold.

Sunday 2 October
In the latest episode of [spooks] - 9:00 BBC1 - the team discovers that a dangerous anarchist (is there any other sort of anarchist?), linked to a previous bombing campaign, has entered the country. Dimitri is enlisted to find out more by honey-trapping the man's sister - leading to a deadly game of cat and mouse. Meanwhile, everyone realises the leaking of spies' names and the foiled assassination of Russian minister Gavrik are connected, with all evidence pointing toward the USA. But Harry's CIA friend Jim Coaver denies any involvement. And, Ruth considers an offer to become the Home Secretary's security adviser. With Peter Firth, Nicola Walker, Max Brown and Lara Pulver.

Meanwhile, back in the first world war at Downton Abbey - 9:00 ITV - the wounded officers arrive at Downton and Matthew suggests he bring General Sir Herbert Strutt to inspect the new convalescent home. But Thomas decides to spoil the visit after being discharged from the Army. Meanwhile, William's return results in an awkward surprise for Daisy, and Violet and Rosamund discover Lavinia's past misdeeds. Costume drama, starring Dan Stevens, Rob James-Collier, Thomas Howes, Maggie Smith and Zoe Boyle.

Stephen Fry - as eloquent and sesquipedalian as ever - explores the relationship between speech and identity, whether through people's native tongues, regional dialects or class variations in the second episode of Fry's Planet Word called Identity. From markets in Kenya to call centres in yer actual Keith Telly Topping's homeboy gaff Newcastle Upon Tyne, the actor, presenter and national treasure (Stephen Fry this is, not yer actual Keith Telly Topping, he's just a regional treasure) charts the shifting patterns of hybrid languages. Stephen also learns how TV soaps are keeping Irish alive and is taught the subtle variations of dialect by Bradford poet Ian McMillan.

Film of weekend - even more than the premiere of Frost/Nixon is Star Trek at 6:30 on Channel Four. The eleventh Star Trek motion picture is, of course, a prequel to the original TV series - a canny decision from producer/director JJ Abrams, tasked with reviving the franchise following the largely unloved TV series Enterprise. A big budget (one hundred and fifty big ones) and top-flight digital effects designed to snare a new audience combine with a scene-setting scenario and enough in-jokes to more than satisfy the old guard. Big and shouty, but equally interested in relationships and the mechanics of leadership and trust, it really works very well indeed and went down big not only with general audiences but also with Trek's notoriously picky fandom. A young, impulsive James Kirk (Chris Pine), made cynical by a pre-credits tragedy, reluctantly attends Starfleet Academy and stows aboard the USS Enterprise. Here his frosty relationship with Vulcan science officer Spock (a great performance by Zachary Quinto from TV's Heroes) thaws in the grip of an epic, time-travelling battle with Eric Bana's impressive Romulan foe, Nero. Light relief is provided by Simon Pegg's offbeat engineer Montgomery Scott and an already grumpy and madly cynical Doctor McCoy (Karl Urban). With the help of his young and pretty cast, Abrams has managed what seems to many a very difficult task for the Twenty First Century, to successfully reboot a forty three-year-old formula.

Monday 3 October
Tonight sees the return of The Hotel Inspector - 9:00 Channel Five. Interfering busybody Alex Polizzi visits a hotel located in six acres of Dorset countryside, complete with stables, an outdoor pool and a cricket pitch. The owners of the lodge have seen a steady decline in bookings since they put an end to letting it for profitable functions, causing concern that the house may not be able to support them in the future. Alex believes, however, their long-serving assistant could help guide the venue to prosperity.

The latest episode of Doc Martin - 9:00 ITV - sees Louisa's hippie mother Eleanor (played by former Doctor Who companion Louise Jameson) arrive in the village. And, when she gets there, she immediately taking over Martin's kitchen to prepare a herbal tonic, which she later gives to the baby to stop his crying. A culinary rivalry develops between Bert and Mark Bridge, the landlord of the Crab and Lobster pub, at Portwenn Fun Day, with both keen to take advantage of the event by providing food for the spectators.

It's always been something of a puzzle to this blogger as to why anybody would want to go on Embarrassing Bodies - 9:00 Channel Four. I mean I, myself, have a couple of ... you know, warts in odd places, but I'd really rather not share intimate pictures of them with million of viewers. Even if it is on Channel Four. Tonight a twenty six-year-old woman seeks advice about her chronic genital pain and Dawn Harper diagnoses the red blisters on a fourteen-year-old's legs. Meanwhile, Christian Jessen plays a brain-controlled video game in Brighton with a teenager who has ADHD, and an investment banker talks about using a dialysis machine every night to cleanse her blood. Worthy, of course, and one doesn't seek to in any way minimise the misery of many of the conditions covered in this series. Maybe it's just me but, I'd prefer to go to a doctor rather than a TV show.

Tuesday 4 October
Having traitorously left the BBC for mucho wonga elsewhere, Mary Portas returns in Mary Queen of Frocks - 9:00 Channel Four. The retail consultant plans to open her own shop - presumably so that she can then give herself a damned good talking to when things start to go wrong like she normally does with others. Her idea for sexy and stylish clothes for the over-forties gets the backing of a major department store. The company's CEO expects her to take two million quid in the first year, but things get off to a bad start when only one person applies to join her staff. See, that's what happens when you go around annoying people.

In The Great British Bake Off - 8:00 BBC2 - the three finalists face the challenge of cooking for a street party attended by judges, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, as well as friends, family and former Bake Off contestants, before the winner is announced. The thing I don't understand about Mary Berry is, she's a pastry expect so, presumably, spends much of her time scoffing it and yet she's got a figure most women would kill for. How's she manage that? As the cooks compete to be crowned Britain's best amateur baker, their offerings include mille-feuille, mini Victoria sponges, and miniature strawberry and rhubarb cheesecakes. Presented by Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins.

Meanwhile, The Body Farm - 9:00 BBC1 - continues to wade, knee-deep, through the sheer detritus of human existence in a curiously appealing way. Odd that. Tonight, the team is called to a women's prison to examine the body of an inmate, who appears to have been beaten to death. Although Eve suspects a more sinister explanation, a riot makes it difficult to gather evidence - and with the clock ticking before the Press get involved, the scientists are frustrated that none of their theories is proving right. But then Eve makes a shocking discovery that throws the Home Office into panic. Guest starring the great Vicky McClure (from This Is England '86).

Wednesday 5 October
All Roads Lead Home - 8:00 BBC2 - is a new series in which the actor Stephen Mangan, comedienne Sue Perkins (second night in row for her on Top Telly Tips this week) and actress Alison Steadman try to travel the UK using only nature as their guide. They do this with the assistance of navigation expert Tristan Gooley. Beginning with a trek from Bodmin Moor to Cape Cornwall they discover one wrong turn could mean disaster. A rather curious conceit; I mean why - in today's world - you would need a skill such as this unless you're actively planning to abandon all accoutrements of modern existence, I have not a clue. Traditionally, you don't need to be able to navigate by the stars (or, even, by a compass) to nip down the local Starbucks for a Frappuncino. But, despite that illogicality, there's three reasonably personable presenter on it so, it could be fun.

Tonuight also sees the annual The Pride of Britain Awards - 8:00 ITV. Carol Vorderman hosts the awards show from London's Grosvenor House, where Prince Charles joins more than one hundred 'stars from TV, showbusiness, politics and sport' (allegedly) to celebrate the nation's unsung heroes. The winners include a schoolboy who saved his father from a rampaging bull, a fundraising seven-year-old and a woman who risked her life to rescue a motorist from the path of a train, while residents who stood up to rioters across the UK last summer also receive recognition. Great stuff and these people do, undoubtedly, deserve recognition for their various good works. But, do we really need Cheryl Cole in Afghanistan to meet members of the armed forces? The poor sods, they've go enough to put up with already with the Taliban. Meanwhile David Beckham, Richard Hammond and One Direction take part in surprises for some of the other recipients.

Rab C Nesbitt - 10:00 BBC2 - is back. Rab returns home to find Mary has kidnapped the government minister for work as payback for losing her job. But now they have him, the couple have no idea what to do next - and as a full-scale siege develops, they are mistaken for terrorists. Gregor Fisher and Elaine C Smith star, with guest appearances from Richard E Grant and John Sessions.

In the latest episode of The Fades - 9:00 BBC3 - Paul's powers manifest themselves and his friendship with Mac and relationship with Jay are pushed to breaking point. Meanwhile, Mark becomes convinced Neil is involved in Sarah's disappearance, and a host of new Angelics arrives in town just as the Fades' plans evolve in a chilling direction. Starring Iain de Caestecker and Daniel Kaluuya.

And from that little lot to the news: The government is set to drop a major reform of rules governing children appearing on TV which has been on the cards for more than two years, Broadcast magazine claims to have 'learned.' Prompted by concerns around Channel Four series Boys and Girls Alone and the appearance of ten-year-old Hollie Steel sobbing her poor little heart out on Britain's Got Talent, the previous Labour government launched a review of the use of children on TV in June 2009, with the aim of updating the 1963 Children and Young Persons Act and 1968 Children's Entertainment Regulations. Initially, the government pledged to tighten the rules. However, the focus shifted towards addressing inconsistent legislation designed for a bygone era. Reform was then championed under the coalition government by new children's minister Tim Loughton. New primary legislation, based on a report published last year, was expected to be pushed through parliament. However, 'senior sources' have allegedly indicated that it is unlikely to be passed during this term - and its future is now uncertain. The report, written by industry consultant Sarah Thane, recommended a 'more streamlined, proportionate and risk-based licensing' approach, starting with 'a presumption in favour of licensing child performance.' With the onus on producers to demonstrate due care, something they are already required to do under the existing Ofcom code, there would be 'very few occasions when a local authority would refuse a licence based on the nature of the production,' Thane said. She stressed the importance of updating the 'anachronistic' legislation. 'I would urge that the impetus around this issue be maintained,' she wrote. However, indications are that this has now dropped down the government's agenda, leaving the industry with rules from another era which, Broadcast claim, one 'insider' described as 'an utter mess.' A second 'insider' (also anonymous so, therefore, possibly made-up) claimed the current system amounted to a postcode lottery in which local authorities could 'exercise prejudices about who deserved licences.' They added: 'Licences are given out on a case-by-case basis, which is unsatisfactory - people can make it work, but it's not what we should be doing. If things become too difficult, the industry will just stop using children in programming.' The Department for Education spokesman said: 'We want children to have the opportunity to perform and we are continuing to develop, along with partners, our proposals for changing the safeguarding legislation. We will issue detailed options for consultation in due course.'

The BBC, ITN and Sky News have reportedly handed over hundreds of hours of unbroadcast footage of the UK riots in August after being served with court orders by the police. The three broadcasters had to give the Metropolitan Police raw, unedited footage of the rioting and looting after Scotland Yard obtained a production order under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. The Daily Torygraph is also understood to have disclosed its newsgathering material from the riots to the police after being served with a similar order. The Times and the Gruniad Morning Star have consistently resisted police requests for footage, and it is not clear whether Independent News & Media, owner of the Independent, has been contacted as yet. Police have been putting intense pressure on all media groups to reveal their video and picture evidence of the riots that engulfed England last month. However, someone described as 'a senior insider' at one of the broadcasters told the Gruniad that it was unusual for footage to be handed over in such a way. 'It is very very rare that we are served with a court order to hand over footage like this,' the source said. 'We don't hand over material willy-nilly because it compromises the security of our journalists on the streets. Clearly we don't want them being seen as an evidence-gathering arm of the police.' A BBC spokeswoman said in a statement: 'Police requests for BBC untransmitted material are dealt with through our legal department, regardless of the subject matter. We require requests for untransmitted material to be made through the courts. A production order requiring footage of the riots was served on the BBC and a court agreed that the material should be supplied.' An ITN spokesman said: 'ITN's policy is that we do not release unbroadcast material to police. On some occasions when the police apply to a judge for a court order to force the release of such material, we have challenged the police's application.' A Sky News spokeswoman said: 'Our standard policy is that we do not supply material to the police without a court order. On occasions - as has happened with some of our footage of the riots - where police request untransmitted material and an order is obtained we will comply with it.' Reporters and cameramen from the BBC, Sky and ITN were attacked while trying to cover the riots that blighted London seven weeks ago. A BBC radio car was also set on fire in Salford as the violence spread to the North of England.

CCH Pounder has signed up for a role in Revenge. The actress will appear in several episodes of the ABC drama, which premiered this week, TV Line reports. She is expected to play Warden Stiles, the woman in charge of the juvenile detention centre where Emily (Emily Van Camp) was held. Pounder will reportedly have scenes in both the show's present day and flashback moments. Pounder has previously starred in shows including Warehouse 13, The West Wing, Law & Order: SVU, Brothers, ER and, most memorably, The Shield.

Meanwhile, her former Shield cast mate, Catherine Dent has signed up for a recurring role on The Mentalist. The actress will appear in the CBS drama's new season as Susan Darcy, a special agent investigating the Red John case. 'She suspects there's more to the Red John story than [Patrick] Jane or the CBI is telling her,' series creator Bruno Heller told TV Guide. 'Over the course of the season, she will try to get under Jane's skin and inside his head to find the truth.' He added: 'Jane's not the only one who knows how to use deception and mind games to crack a mystery.' Darcy is expected to clash with Jane (Simon Baker) and Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney) when she derails one of their investigations. The character will debut in the season's seventh episode, to be directed by Baker and due to be broadcast in November. Dent previously starred in FX drama The Shield from 2002 to 2008 and has also played recurring roles on NCIS and Breakout Kings. Her other credits include guest stints on Criminal Minds, The Closer, CSI and an upcoming episode of Chuck.

Bagpuss, the pink and white striped cat beloved by children in the 1970s, has found a new home following a takeover deal announced this week. Coolabi, the media rights owner, has confirmed that an understanding in principle has been reached for it to be bought by a venture capital firm for £4.2 million. Investment vehicle North Promotions will pay 7.75p per share for Aim-listed Coolabi. Alongside the Bagpuss characters, Coolabi also owns the greetings card brand Purple Ronnie. The company has seen its revenues tumble in the last year, falling in the first six months of 2011 to six hundred and five thousand smackers from almost one million for the same period in 2010. Coolabi racked up pre-tax losses of over six hundred thousand quid for the six months to the end of June. Coolabi said in a statement: 'In arriving at this position, the independent directors, having consulted with the major shareholders of the company, considered alternative options available to the Company including, inter alia, continuing its current strategy of organic growth and an equity fundraising. As a result, the independent directors have concluded that the potential offer is the best option presently available to the company.' However, Coolabi also warned that there is 'no certainty that a firm offer will be made' by North Promotions. The rights to Bagpuss were acquired by Coolabi in 2008 as part of the firm's four hundred thousand pound deal to purchase Licensing By Design. In the same year, Bagpuss creator Oliver Postgate died, aged eighty three. He was also behind other children's TV favourites such as Noggin The Nog, Ivor The Engine and Clangers.

British online retailer Play.com - where yer actual Keith Telly Topping buys the vast majority of his swag, dear blog reader - has this week been purchased by Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten in a twenty five million notes deal. Rakuten will purchase one hundred per cent of outstanding Play.com stock from its current shareholders, with the deal expected to reach completion in early October. The company said that the deal represents 'a significant step' in its European and global expansion. It is the third such acquisition by the firm following deals for France's PriceMinister and German online shopping mall Tradoria. Rakuten now operates e-commerce businesses in ten countries globally, including Japan. Founded in 1998 in Jersey, Play.com is one of the UK's largest online retailers, with fourteen million registered users and seven million listed products at any one time, including books, DVDs and consumer electronics. The website was never able to unseat American giant Amazon as the leading online retailer, but Ratuken has clearly seen opportunities for growth with the site. The UK e-commerce industry is the largest in Europe and is expected to be worth more than thirty five billion smackers by 2014, according to research by Euromonitor, Forrester Research, and MasterCard. Hiroshi Mikitani, chairman and chief executive of Rakuten, said: 'The UK market is one of Europe's largest and most mature e-commerce markets. Play.com is not only a pioneer in the market, but also one of the UK's most successful e-commerce businesses. We aim to leverage our e-commerce strength and experience to further expand and develop Play.com's business model and channel its loyal user base, merchants, and deep product offerings into Rakuten's global e-commerce network.'

Turkish football club Fenerbahce SK have been punished by being forced to ban all male supporters for two games. Fenerbahce played Manisaspor in Istanbul on Tuesday, but only allowed women and children under the age of twelve to attend. The match drew forty one thousand spectators, and the away side were applauded onto the pitch rather than jeered, reports the BBC. Fenerbahce captain Alex de Sousa told Lig TV: 'This memory will stay with me forever. It's not always that you see so many women and children in one game.' Manisaspor player Omer Aysan added: 'It was such a fun and pleasant atmosphere.' The punishment came when violence erupted during a match between Fenerbahce and Ukrainian team Shakhtar Donetsk in July.

US officials now say the fall to Earth of NASA's six-tonne UARS satellite could occur early on Saturday. Estimates of where debris might fall will be narrowed hours before impact. And a UK team studying the trajectory says the most likely time for re-entry could be after 23:00 Friday, and as late as 03:00 on Saturday, GMT in both cases. Most of the decommissioned and now unpowered spacecraft should simply burn up, but modelling work suggests perhaps five hundred kilograms could survive to the surface. UARS is the largest American space agency satellite to return uncontrolled into the atmosphere in about thirty years. As of Friday afternoon, the satellite was orbiting at an altitude between one hundred and sixty and one hundred and seventy kilometres. If the estimates for its re-entry are correct, it means the spacecraft will not come in over North America. Which is convenient since it's their bloody junk in the first place. 'The spacecraft orbits the Earth in ninety minutes, so even if we're off by a few minutes in the prediction - that's thousands of kilometres down range,' said Mark Matney, an orbital debris scientist from NASA's Johnson Space Center. 'We'll be able to know generally a few hours before, but we'll only get a final report after it re-enters. Even then, we won't know where the pieces fall because they'll be scattered over a five hundred-mile path,' he told BBC News. So, the moral of this is, if you see a shooting star tonight ... duck!

Photographer Robert Whitaker, best known for this work with The Beatles during the 1960s, has died aged seventy one. Whitaker took many pictures of the Fab Four, including the initial cover for the American Yesterday and Today LP featuring the band holding bloodied meat and dismembered dolls. The controversial image was pasted over with a much less graphic shot of the band for the LP's US release after negative reaction from Middle-American. Whitaker also worked with other musicans including Cream and Mick Jagger and later covered the war in Cambodia and Vietnam as a photojournalist. Whitaker also took the cover photo for the US-only Beatles 65 and the back cover shot on Revolver. The photographer also worked during the conflict between Pakistan and Bangladesh in the 1970s. Although born in England in 1939, Whitaker first photographed the Beatles on their visit to Australia in 1964 where he had been working for the Melbourne Jewish News. Their manager Brian Epstein gave him the job of staff photographer for his company, NEMS, leading him to work with other artists including Cilla Black. He chronicled The Beatles' concerts at New York's Shea Stadium and on their final world tour in 1966. The photographer was also on hand to capture them in more informal poses during this period. Whitaker accompanied The Beatles on their 1966 tour of Japan. In Tokyo the promoter gave him a Nikon twenty one mm wide-angle lens with which he took numerous shots of The Beatles relaxing in their hotel room at the Tokyo Hilton. These include several photographs of the four Beatles at work on a collaborative painting Images of A Woman, the only such joint artwork they ever undertook, and a colour photo of the group inspecting antiques, which was used on the back cover of the compilation album A Collection of Beatles Oldies. Whitaker said that it had been 'hard work' to set up the Yesterday and Today 'butcher' pose, in which the band members wore white butchers coats. 'I had to go to the local butcher and get pork. I had to go to a doll factory and find the dolls. I had to go to an eye factory and find the eyes. False teeth. There's a lot in that photograph,' he said.

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. We have two today. Firstly, in tribute to Mr Drayton's memorable Record Player event at the Tyneside last night (see if you can spot yer actual Keith Telly Topping lurking at the back, dear blog reader), here's Ziggy playing his guitar.
And then this one's long-overdue, frankly. Here's a particular favourite of yer Keith Telly Topping from Tears For Fears.

1 comment:

Brian Barker said...

I hope that Stephen Fry will also cover the need for an international language in his BBC 2 series, And that won’t be Klingon! Esperanto however would be a worthy candidate.
Many ignorant people describe Esperanto as "failed" - other ignorant people say that if human beings were meant to fly, God would have given them wings. Esperanto is neither artificial nor a failure however. As the British Government now employs Esperanto translators it has ceased to be a hobby.
The new Esperanto online course http://www.lernu.net has 125 000 hits per day and Esperanto Wikipedia enjoys 400 000 hits per day. That can't be bad :)