Friday, October 28, 2011

It's 8:15 (And That's The Time That It's Always Been)

Matt Smith has indicated that he has no plans to leave Doctor Who. Last week, a video emerged of the actor stating that he was keen to pursue a career in Hollywood after 'another year' of the BBC's popular family SF drama. And, as usual, fandom collectively put two and two together and found it equalled nineteen. However, in a new interview quoted by What's on TV and other sources, Smith claimed that he does not want to give up his 'wonderful' role. 'I love playing this role, and I don't want to give it up any time soon,' Matt insisted. 'We work very long hours every day for nine months. The schedule is pretty brutal, but I'd never complain about it.' Smith - who turns twenty nine today - added that he feels 'very lucky' to have been playing the Doctor since 2010. He explained: 'In the current climate for actors, I'd never say, "This is too much." Quite the opposite, in fact. I'd say, "Bring it on."'

In somewhat related news, Torchwood's Julie Gardner has admitted that the show's future is 'uncertain.' The executive producer told Assignment X that only 'time will tell' if the Doctor Who spin-off returns to Starz and BBC1. 'I don't know if there will be more,' she said. 'The thing about there being more or not - you look at Torchwood, and it's always had such a labyrinthine history. For this new season, Torchwood has been off the air for two years in the UK. The weird thing is there are some series where that would really matter. It would be a real problem. I think Torchwood is so elastic in some ways and has had such a strange peculiar life.' Gardner went on to suggest that 'all options are possible' with regards to the show's future. 'It has been across so many different channels and so many international audiences, across so many different story structures, and so many numbers of episodes,' she explained. 'There's no single way forward for the show.' Starz CEO Chris Albrecht first indicated that Torchwood might not return for another season in August. 'Torchwood is not one of the shows we went into thinking about a yearly return,' he said. 'It's about Russell Davies [because] he has a lot of things on his plate.'

The electric sports carmaker Tesla Motors will - very satisfyingly - lose its claim for alleged 'malicious falsehood' against Top Gear unless the company can demonstrate that it suffered financial damage from the episode featuring its flagship Roadster model running out of battery. Ruling at the high court in London on Friday, Mr Justice Tugendhat said that he would strike out the claim unless Tesla could directly show what 'probable damage' it has suffered from Top Gear, which is BBC2's most popular programme, regularly attracting audiences of more than six million viewers overnight (together with huge timeshift and iPlayer figures). Tesla's separate libel claim against the BBC was struck out last week. Tesla, one of the world's leading electric carmakers, complained that it has seen 'a continuing impact' from the 2008 Top Gear episode in which presenter Jeremy Clarkson said the Roadster would run out of battery after fifty five miles on the programme's track – far short of the two hundred miles which Tesla claimed it could achieve. The US company also claimed that the Top Gear presenters had characterised a blown fuse as a brake failure and had falsely suggested that the model became 'immobile' as a result of overheating. Friday's ruling means that Tesla has so far been unable to show what 'probable loss' it has suffered from the programme. Tesla will now have to submit an amended plea of damage, with more detail about the actual or probable loss, agreed by the BBC. Tugendhat said in his written judgment: 'I shall strike out the claim in this action unless the plea of damage is amended by agreement between the parties, or with the permission of the court.' One trusts that the judge will also award the entirety of any costs to the BBC since I fail to see why so much as a single penny of my licence fee should be spent on Top Gear having to defend itself against what appears to be such utterly groundless whinging. A BBC spokeswoman said after the judgment: 'We are pleased that Mr Justice Tugendhat has found Tesla's claims of libel and malicious falsehood against BBC's Top Gear to be unarguable.' Tesla's claim only applied to repeats of the Top Gear episode seen by approximately 1.7 million viewers in England and Wales after March 2010, because of strict time-period rules governing claims for malicious falsehood. Andrew Caldecott QC, representing the BBC, told Mr Justice Tugendhat that it would be 'obvious' to the viewer that the use of the car on the test track was not like driving on the road, and that Top Gear had made the point that they were not contrasting 'like with like.' The judge agreed.

Graham Norton has revealed that he is happy to take a second pay cut as his BBC contract is renegotiated. The BAFTA-winning broadcaster works across a number of platforms for the corporation, including Radio 2 and his self-titled talkshow on BBC1. He has also provided Eurovision Song Contest commentary since 2009, succeeding Sir Terry Wogan. Norton said in an interview with the Mirra: 'Will I take a pay cut? Absolutely. There should be no special cases. The cutbacks at the BBC are across the board, which is how it should be. Okay, I'm not thrilled at the prospect of a cut. I won't open a bottle of cava to celebrate. But I'm realistic about the future of the BBC and how things have to be.' Norton - who revealed that he took a pay cut in 2009 - added that he fears criticism of the BBC could damage its long-term quality and that he thinks the government should be doing more to defend the corporation. He explained: 'We know what the BBC pays every on-screen person - presenter, actor, weatherman, extra, newsreader, dancer - and it's something tiny like eight per cent of the overall licence fee. The country should be proud of the BBC and you'd think the government would be bending over backwards to protect it.' Yes, you would, wouldn't you? But, they don't. 'My fear is that people will wake up when it's too late, saying, "Remember when it was great?" By then it will be operating out of two Portakabins in Leeds.'

The government has been urged to look again at the BBC's funding and reveal the extent to which it was discussed with News Corporation before last year's shotgun licence fee settlement. John McDonnell MP claimed that there were 'undue influences from the Murdoch empire' in the hastily agreed settlement which saw the licence fee frozen for six years and the corporation take on a greater financial burden, including the BBC World Service. Asked to provide evidence to back up his claims, McDonnell, the Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington in West London, said: 'That's one of the issues we have been raising with ministers. It would be helpful if ministers could publish the information about the number of times that they met with the Murdoch empire to discuss the licence fee itself. Up until now we have not received any detailed information from them about the times that they met with Murdoch and the times they discussed the licence fee settlement.' McDonnell alleged that James Murdoch, the under-fire deputy chief operating officer at News Corporation, had made it 'quite clear' that he wanted a reduced licence fee so that News Corporation could 'exploit and develop their own empire at the expense of the BBC.' The lack of culture minister Ed Vaizey, responding to McDonnell's claims in a Westminster Hall debate about the future of BBC local radio on Wednesday, said: 'I have never discussed the licence fee with Rupert Murdoch or the Murdoch empire. Funnily enough the most influential discussion I had was with the Guardian Media Group who complained about the size of the BBC website.' McDonnell responded: 'To be frank I think those discussions around the BBC licence fee that took place with News International were above the honourable member's pay grade.' Ouch. Burn. Shadow lack of culture minister Helen Goodman that said she hoped Vaizey would not 'wash his hands' of the seven hundred million smackers programme of cuts being driven through at the BBC, with the loss of two thousand jobs, as a result of last year's funding agreement. She said the growth in inflation since the deal was struck in October last year meant the licence fee was being eroded even faster than anticipated. 'Since the chancellor of the exchequer has not kept inflation under control we can all work out the cuts are going to be much larger. Does he not see there is a case for readdressing the size of the licence fee?' But Vaizey described the settlement as 'a good deal' for the BBC. 'There is not a single other media group in the country that has certainty of funding going to 2016-17. That is an enormous luxury.' MPs accused him of being 'lighthearted' about their concerns for local radio – Vaizey used one reply to come up with a jingle for BBC Radio Oxford – and former Labour lack of culture minister the vile and odious Bradshaw said that he was acting like a cheerleader for the corporation. 'With due respect to the minister his speech could have been written by BBC management,' said Bradshaw. 'My job is to be a candid friend of the BBC, I don't apologise for supporting it,' said Vaizey. 'It is certainly not my job to tell the BBC what to do, it would be quite wrong for a minister to tell the BBC to close down a particular service or save a particular service. That is a job for BBC management.'

BBC Radio 4 has seen its audience fall by three hundred thousand listeners in the last three months, according to new figures released by Rajar. The station's record weekly audience of 10.8 million from the previous quarter has since fallen back to 10.5 million. Its flagship news programme Today also saw listenership slip from 7.1 to 6.7 million. Overall, though, the network's audience is up two hundred thousand year-on-year. Chris Evans' Radio 2 breakfast show audience rose from 8.6 to 8.8 million. That represents an extra four hundred thousand listeners, compared with the same period last year. The presenter's Radio 1 counterpart, Chris Moyles, saw his listenership fall from 7.4 to 7.1 million people during the last three months. This time last year, he was attracting 7.1 million listeners to his weekday early morning show. But Radio 1 as a whole drew in more than 11.8 million listeners per week, a new benchmark for the station since current audience measuring methods were introduced in 1999. The network's acting controller Ben Cooper said he was 'thrilled' with the station's reach over the summer months. 'Whether it was standing in a muddy field in wellies, or being in a club in Ibiza, this summer was all about us getting out and about reflecting the best live and new music from UK festivals and abroad,' he added. Classical station Radio 3 maintained a listenership of above two million in the new figures. BBC 5Live slipped slightly, losing fifty eight thousand listeners over the last twelve months to achieve a weekly audience of 6.2 million. Classic FM saw its audience fall from 5.7 to 5.3 million in the past three months, while Smooth UK continued to add listeners, with its most recent audience standing at 3.3 million people. Rajar also reported that digital radio in the UK accounted for more than three hundred million listening hours in the last three months. Overall, listening via a digital receiver accounted for 28.2 per cent of all radio consumption. Compared with this time last year, listening via mobile phones had also risen by almost twenty five per cent. Tim Davie, the BBC's director of audio and music said there was 'a clear transition' of radio listeners to digital. Overall, Q3’11 was another solid quarter for BBC Local Radio in England. Average weekly reach came in at 7.25 million - just over seventeen per cent audience share - slightly up on last quarter. Average hours per listener per week came in at 9.49hrs. BBC Radio Stoke, BBC Radio Leicester and BBC Coventry & Warwickshire all saw significant year-on-year gains in reach. BBC Radio Merseyside also saw their highest average weekly reach numbers since 2008. BBC Guernsey has continued to perform well with current reach figures at their highest levels since 2002. BBC Radio Kent and BBC Radio York both recorded their highest share since 2006.

David Attenborough's acclaimed new natural history series Frozen Planet began with nearly seven million viewers on BBC1. The first in the seven-part series about life at the poles averaged 6.82 million viewers between 9pm and 10pm on Wednesday. It was forty two per cent up on BBC1's average for the slot over the last three months and eclipsed the second half of ITV's Midsomer Murders. Wednesday's episode of the long-running home counties crime drama, in which a nun was found strangled in a chicken coop, had 5.73 million viewers between 8pm and 10pm. Frozen Planet's ratings performance was even more impressive because it was saddled with a very substandard inheritance from another new BBC1 series, The Impressions Show. The third season of the frequently piss-poor Jon Culshaw vehicle could only manage 2.9 million viewers between 8.30pm and 9pm. BBC1's school drama Waterloo Road also struggled, with 3.5 million viewers between 7.30pm and 8.30pm. It suffered against ITV's Coronation Street, with 8.11 million viewers between 7.30pm and 8pm. Critics were united in their praise for Frozen Planet, describing it as 'dazzling' (the Independent), 'fabulous, beautiful, sumptuous' (the Gruniad) and 'brilliant' (the Daily Torygraph).

ITV's director of entertainment Elaine Bedell has insisted that The X Factor is not in 'a ratings crisis.' Speaking to Broadcast, Bedell branded the media criticism of the revamped show 'ludicrous' and spoke highly of the new judging line-up. She reserved special praise for Tulisa Contostavlos for bringing 'rawness' to the talent show, which has grown its share of younger viewers aged between sixteen and thirty four from twenty six to twenty seven per cent. However, she admitted that the increased number of clashes with Strictly Come Dancing has hurt the show. Overall, X Factor's overnight figures have fell sixteen per cent compared to this time last year, while Strictly has seen a six per cent drop.

Ben Miller reportedly 'loathed' making his new BBC Caribbean-set series Death in Paradise. According to Metro, like the character he plays in the detective drama, 'I like the bad weather in Britain - after a while I got sick to death of all the sunshine.'

The Labour MP Tom Watson (power to the people!) has said there is 'no chance' he will quit his role on the committee investigating the phone-hacking scandal. John Whittingdale, who chairs the culture, media and sport committee, said Watson's recent appointment to the shadow cabinet had created a potential conflict of interest. But Watson said: 'It is bluster from a small group of Conservative MPs that are worried about this. When they were in opposition they had shadow spokesmen serving on select committees.' The West Bromwich East MP, who was made deputy party chair during the recent Labour reshuffle, said he would definitely take his place at the committee on 10 November when James Murdoch gives evidence for a second time. He said: 'I don't have frontbench responsibility for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Nothing will stop me from being there. There is no chance this is going to stop me from being involved in the hacking inquiry.' Whittingdale is powerless to change the committee's membership as appointments are in the gift of the political parties, but said that he had spoken to Watson to make his views known. Earlier this month he said: 'Select committees need to be independent so should be confined to backbenchers. If he is a member of a select committee and a member of the shadow cabinet there is a conflict of interest because frontbenchers are bound by the party line. The liaison committee [made up of select committee chairs] has made it very clear that appointments should be made from backbenchers. He should step down and it may be that he decides to step down once the phone-hacking inquiry is completed.'

Bosses at Burnley Council have 'slammed' - that's tabloid-speak for 'criticiseed' only with less syllables - the BBC over its portrayal of the Lancashire town during news coverage of this week's visit by Prince Charles. During the visit, the prince saw the Weavers' Triangle in Burnley, the site of a multi-million pound regeneration, and also met local sustainability groups. However, Burnley Council expressed concern that the BBC Six O'Clock News report on Tuesday predominantly focused on the rundown areas of Burnley, highlighting that the town was the twelfth most deprived district in the country. BBC News home affairs editor Mark Easton said in the report: 'No-one can accuse Prince Charles of choosing an easy place to turn around. Burnley was struggling even in the boom years. Windows and doors decorated to disguise the desolation. The Prince was shown the inevitable supermarket trolley dredged from the old mill town's canal.' Burnley Council chief executive Steve Rumbelow accused the BBC of taking a 'tabloid' approach to its coverage of the Prince's visit to Burnley, deliberately putting forward a negative view of the town. 'The most disappointing and annoying part of the day was the coverage on the BBC national news,' he told the Burnley Express. 'The multi-million pound investment in the regeneration of the Weavers' Triangle will create a significant number of jobs and revitalise the area. There was no mention of that - instead the BBC took a "tabloid" approach and put out a negative story that painted Burnley in a poor light.' Rumbelow confirmed that the council will write to the BBC outlining its concerns about the national coverage, which he said was in contrast to the approach of the regional BBC. A BBC spokesman said: 'We will respond directly to Burnley Council when we receive their correspondence.'

Craig Revel Horwood has claimed that he was 'upset' with Len Goodman on Saturday night's Strictly Come Dancing after they rowed about McFly's Harry Judd. Judd picked up the first ten of the series for his waltz with Aliona Vilani, but the performance was marred by a row between Horwood and Goodman over a 'whispering' segment on the stairs. 'I was really upset that Len mentioned the whispering and kiss stuff,' Horwood told It Takes Two. 'They are out of hold for ten seconds, they are allowed ten seconds, so go for it. As a director and choreographer, I encourage people to tell stories when they dance, so we are interested.' Horwood added: 'I never enjoy those spats. I like to do the judging and then get on with it and score.' Judd and Vilani picked up thirty five points for their waltz and Alesha Dixon handed the duo a ten, commenting: 'You make ballroom dancing look cool.'

The vile and odious rascal Hunt, the lack of culture secretary, has told MPs he is 'worried' about Richard Desmond's Health Lottery and has asked the gambling watchdog to intervene. The vile and odious rascal Hunt told the Commons culture, media and sport select committee on Thursday that the Gambling Commission was looking at whether the Health Lottery is diverting money from smaller society lotteries and good causes. 'I am worried about the Health Lottery because protecting the income of good causes is a very, very important responsibility that this government has,' he told MPs on the committee. The Health Lottery has attracted criticism from leading charity figures and the National Lottery operator, Camelot, since it launched last month. Critics have complained that the lottery donates the bare minimum – 20.3p in every one pound – to good causes, and that its unconventional structure is potentially in breach of the Gambling Act 2005. The Health Lottery draw is broadcast on Desmond-owned Channel Five on Saturday nights. The vile and odious rascal Hunt said: 'The National Lottery was set up in way that will generate money for those good causes and society lotteries are allowed on the basis that they are local lotteries. We are doing some work at the moment to look at what the impact of the Health Lottery might be on good cause revenues.' Critics have said that Desmond's Health Lottery sidesteps the spirit of the law by operating as a large umbrella group of fifty one separate society lotteries, meaning it can circumvent strict caps on the turnover of individual lotteries. The Gambling Act states that small society lotteries must operate and be branded individually and have a revenue cap of ten million smackers. The Health Lottery has been accused of effectively operating as an alternative national lottery, with a five hundred and ten million quid turnover cap from its fifty one individual lotteries. Critics point out that each of the fifty one Health Lottery companies has the same three directors, office address and branding. Martin Hall, the Health Lottery chief executive, dismissed the criticisms, saying the initiative aimed to generate at least fifty million quid in extra funding for charities. Hall added that the marketing around the launch of the Health Lottery in September had benefited Camelot by raising its profile. Camelot pointed out that it achieved record ticket sales in the financial year 2010-11. 'We know from recent data that sales in the National Lottery are in fact fifty thousand pounds higher per draw since the launch of the Health Lottery, proving the marketing maxim that a launch will also drive sales for the market leader and generally refresh consumer interest in a category,' Hall said. 'Over the course of a year, these figures show that Camelot could expect to increase sales by around five million pounds and therefore increase contributions to their good causes by an additional £1.4m. When this is added to the fifty million pounds of new money the Health Lottery will generate, this is excellent news for charities, with no losers in sight.' Hall also defended the structure of the Health Lottery, saying it represented fifty one local society lotteries, 'so that on average three times a year each local society lottery has funds to allocate to local health causes in their area. This delivers an even spread of funding for good causes across the country, and is a different approach to the National Lottery, where a disproportionate amount of good cause funding is allocated within the M25.' Hall said the Health Lottery had raised more than one million quid in its first three weeks for good causes, including Mencap's Gateway Active centres, the Alzheimer's Society and the Princess Royal Trust for Carers. Asked by the committee chairman, John Whittingdale, whether the Health Lottery was legal and whetherDaily Scum Express and Daily Lies and what she called their 'complete obsession' with the Channel Five owner's Big Brother and Health Lottery operations. The vile and odious rascal Hunt replied: 'Yes, I think that's right.' The lack of culture secretary also signalled an end to opt-in self-regulation of the newspaper industry. The vile and odious rascal Hunt said that it was 'unsatisfactory to say the least' of the Press Complaints Commission set up that Desmond was able to withdraw his titles from the body's remit in January this year.

Coronation Street's Canadian broadcaster CBC has signed a new multi-year deal to continue broadcasting the soap, it has been announced. CBC's latest contract with ITV Studios Global Entertainment keeps the long-running soap drama on-air in Canada and also includes digital catch-up rights for the first time. Under the terms of the deal, Coronation Street will become available on CBC's video-on-demand service along with iTunes in Canada. Coronation Street's creator Tony Warren said of the news: 'I am delighted to hear of the new Canadian deal especially as the unsung hero of the show, Harry Elton, who was the original executive producer and a Canadian, had the foresight to commission the programme.' Tobias de Graaff, Director of Global TV Distribution, added: 'Coronation Street's touching portrayal of British life in a backstreet of Manchester has been taken to heart by Canadian viewers and is becoming as important to audiences in Canada as it is here in the UK. We are delighted to be extending our relationship with our long-term partners in Canada who have given Corrie the fantastic support it deserves.' Coronation Street is currently shown every weeknight in Canada, where the episodes are airing eight months behind the UK broadcasts.

Steve Jones has defended cutting off Paula Abdul mid-speech on The X Factor. The host claimed that he was merely doing his job, when he cut Abdul short at the end of the first live show. An emotional Abdul was attempting to respond to her act, The Brewer Boys, who apologised to the judge for not living up to her expectations. 'My producers were screaming, "We're way over, we gotta move on, stop them,"' Jones told The Hollywood Reporter. 'It was always a task to showcase seventeen acts in two-and-a-half hours. With sixteen, we were going over, so it was a herculean feat that the production team pulled it off.' Responding to online critics, who suggested that he should have made time for Abdul, the Welsh presenter added: 'I don't want to stop these people arguing - it's thoroughly entertaining. But we're on limited time, so I had to stop her occasionally. I will never apologise for doing my job,' he said. 'Paula was cool, but she did look a little bit annoyed.'

This year's Children in Need telethon will once again feature a preview for the Doctor Who Christmas Special. A special preview will be broadcast during the Children in Need telethon this year. Previous years have either featured previews for the Christmas Special (such as The Next Doctor) or mini-scenes specially written - such as the remarkable Time Crash. The BBC's popular family SF drama has a long association with the charity telethon stretching right back to the original series though perhaps most fans would like to forget the 1993 Doctor Who special Dimensions in Time which featured a crossover with EastEnders. The special, for Children in Need, was to mark Doctor Who's thirtieth anniversary but isn't highly regarded by fans. Of either Doctor Who or EastEnders.

Meanwhile Silva Screen have announced the release of a new album containing a selection of Murray Gold's music for this year's series of Doctor Who. The two-disc Series Six CD will be available from Monday 5 December.

Johnny Vegas's autobiography has been delayed for a year – because the comic struggled to get it finished on time. The title, Becoming Johnny Vegas, had been due out this month, but now HarperCollins has put it off until this time next year. It tells the story of how he transformed himself from Michael Pennington into his stage persona. He told trade paper The Bookseller: 'It's proving far more complex than a straightforward autobiography. I'm sorry if I underestimated that at the start of the writing but I'm finding the process both fascinating and genuinely enlightening and I believe it's worth the wait to get this right.'

The vile and odious wretched Oliver fellow may have been 'let go' from his extremely lucrative deal with Sainsbury's but, according to the Metro's The Green Room, he's not too unhappy, telling 'pals': 'I have no regrets. I still have my points card.' Seriously, does anybody actually use the word 'pal' these days as anything other than a sarcastic way to end a sentence? Thought not.

An Iranian actress who was sentenced to a year in prison and ninety lashes has been released after three months in custody, according to Amnesty International. Marzieh Vafamehr was detained for appearing in 2009 Australian film My Tehran For Sale, about an actress whose stage work is banned. Amnesty said the flogging had been overturned and her sentence commuted. The charity said it was 'deeply worrying' that other Iranian film-makers were still in prison. According to Amsterdam-based Persian language station Radio Zamaneh, Vafamehr was released without bail. In My Tehran For Sale, which is banned in Iran, she appeared in scenes without a hijab headscarf. The film, which premiered at the 2009 Adelaide Film Festival, was never intended for release in Iran but is believed to have found its way onto the black market. Last week, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences led Hollywood industry organisations in calling for the release of jailed Iranian film-makers - including Vafamehr. According to Amnesty, independent documentary makers Katayoun Shahabi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb both remain in prison after they were arrested in September. Producer Shahabi is accused of providing foreign broadcasters, including BBC Persian TV, with material deemed damaging to Iran. Mirtahmasb was jailed after making the documentary This is Not a Film about the life of another banned film director Ja'far Panahi. Mehran Zinatbakhsh is also believed to be being held in Evin Prison. It is not clear what charges he faces. A fortnight ago, Panahi - a vocal critic of Iran's strict Islamic law and government system - lost an appeal against a six-year prison sentence. He was convicted in December for trying to make a documentary about unrest following the disputed 2009 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He has not yet been imprisoned and remains under house arrest. Fellow Iranian director, Mohammad Rasoulof, was also sentenced to six years imprisonment in a separate case and also remains under house arrest. Broadcasts from BBC Persian TV have been jammed in Iran amid criticisms of the BBC by the country's government for daring to suggest that its people should, you know, think for themselves. A situation which many members of the Conservative Party and several national newspapers would also like to see mirrored in the UK.

The barrister for alleged Russian spy Katia Zatuliveter said that MI5 were more like the bumbling Inspector Clouseau than fictional spy hero George Smiley in their pursuit of her. Tim Owen QC attacked the UK security service for how its agents investigated the former parliamentary researcher. She previously worked for Mike Hancock, sixty five, MP for Portsmouth South. Owen was speaking on the final day of a hearing which will rule on whether Zatuliveter should be deported. The Special Immigration Appeals Commission hearing in London heard that MI5 had not tested the authentication of a diary which Zatuliveter submitted to them. The hearing also heard that the document seems to corroborate how she felt about her employer, who had also become her lover shortly after the pair met in April 2006. Owen said: 'On any view it reveals an extraordinarily poor investigative approach, more akin to Inspector Clouseau than George Smiley.'

The alleged Sunderland footballer Titus Bramble has been charged with two counts of sexual assault and urinating in a public place. The thirty-year-old defender, from Wynyard in Teesside, will appear at Teesside Magistrates Court on 10 November. Bramble was arrested on 28 September and 14 October on suspicion of carrying out separate sexual assaults. Bramble's lawyer said he would 'vigorously contest' the allegations. A Sunderland AFC spokesperson said: 'Titus Bramble is training independently at present and is not involved in any first team duties. This will remain the case, pending the outcome of club investigations.' Bramble began his footballing career - if you can call it that - at Ipswich Town, before making a six million pound move to this blogger's beloved (though still unsellable) Newcastle United. Where he his calamitous displays earned him the nickname Titus Shambles. He then joined Wigan Athletic and moved back to the North East with Sunderland last year.

A topless and drunk female driver has been arrested by police. Erin Holdsworth from Hiram, Ohio was being chased by police at up to 128mph when authorities used spike strips on the road, flattening her two left tyres and forcing her to stop, reports FOX News. She was revealed to be wearing nothing but a G-string and trainers when she got out of the car. Holdsworth was arrested on various charges, including for driving under a suspended licence and refusing a blood alcohol test. She is due at the Chardon Municipal Court on 2 November for a further hearing.

Today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day is a special request for my mate Dave. From the days when even blokes who couldn't dance could get on Top of the Pops, here's the finest ever single about nuclear warfare and our second Orchestral Manoeuvre In The Dark.