Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tears Before Supper

The MasterChef finals reached boiling point (or, you know, pigeon roasting point anyway) as the three finalist - Shelina, Andrew and Tom - faced their penultimate and most terrifying challenge, The Chef's Table. First though, the cooks had to make three types of amuse bouche - a bite-sized tingler for the taste buds which showcases the chefs approach to cooking. And, what's more, they needed to knock up thirty portions of each one. Why, since John and Gregg were only eating one of each, they didn't say. Presumably the BBC canteen would be well stocked for a few days thereafter. Amuse bouche, noted Tom in a clear effort to usurp Gregg Wallace's MasterChef double entendre specialist crown, is 'the foreplay before the meal. So, that's the plan. To go out there and smash it.' The last time somebody said anything remotely like that on national TV, they were sacked from Sky Sports shortly afterwards. Anyway, Tom's three tasty thumb-sized tasters were supposed to be rhubarb spaghetti with white chocolate (no, really!), salad of crayfish with sweet tomato and celeriac velouté with smoky bacon. In the end, Tom got his timings wrong again and only the latter was plated up entirely to his satisfaction. Although, what he did get out was, according to John and Gregg, good. Very good. Andrew could've been beating himself up after misunderstanding the exact - bite-sized - nature of amuse bouche and, instead, delivered, effectively, three starters. They were bloody fine starters, though, so he rather got away with it. Mediterranean fig salad with a port wine reduction, autumnal woodland (sauteed wild-mushroom crostini with olive tapenade and toast) and savoury goats' cheese crumble with a red pepper compôte. 'Looks a fright, but it delivers,' said Torode with a smile as big as Sydney Harbour Bridge. Lastly, Shelina presented another three faultless dishes, chicken and vermicelli bhajis ('well made balls' said Gregg in an effort to win back his recently lost double entendre title), sticky rice with mango and papaya and sumac salmon and coriander tabbouleh with pine nuts. So, with that little escapade out of the way, next there was the main dish of the episode as the finalists had to cook an exquisite three-course menu designed by three Michelin starred chef Clare Smyth for seven of Britain's greatest chefs. 'Really scary people' as Shelina described them, rather harshly I felt. Although the sight of Tom Kitchin in a kilt and a wee sporron that looked like it was made out of a kangaroo was, even this blogger had to admit, a sight to see, dear blog reader. Also there were lovely Michel Roux, Jason Atherton, Simon Rogan, coquettish Claire Clark, Jocky Petrie and Jocelyn Herland. Nothing scary about them. Well, alright, nothing scary about Michel Roux, anyway.
Smyth is known for her uncompromising standards and meticulous work ethic, and is the only female chef in the UK to hold three Michelin stars. Shelina, Andrew and Tom were tasked with preparing one course each from a daunting menu. Tension was high and the pressure immense in the kitchen, as the finalists battled to overcome new techniques, working with unfamiliar ingredients in highly complex dishes and, of course, a fair dose of nerves. Shelina got the starter, poached Scottish lobster with lobster and egg-white jelly, pickled baby vegetables and a tarragon vinaigrette. It was stunning, even despite the complex nature of the plate's visual appearance. She got praised to high-heaven by the great and the good. Queue lots of blubbing. Which is sort of par for the course at this stage of the competition. Next up was Andrew on the main course. His dish was a really complicated and time-consuming one - roasted breast of pigeon with cubes of belly pork, pigeon confit leg cooked in duck fat, grilled polenta and a pigeon jeux. This one, if anything, got even better comments than Shelina. Tom Kitchin was especially effusive in his praise. Andrew looked like he'd been kicked in the knackers. Queue lots more blubbing. Again, it's the second-to-last episode, we can sort of understand that. Finally, Tom got landed with the dessert - lemonade parfait with sheep's milk sorbet, bergamot gel and honey sugar tweels. Tom also got superb comments - particularly from saucy minx Claire Clark who described the dish as 'sexy.' We thought we might get away with no blubbing here but, even Tom wasn't immune to a bit of emotion after quite a day. I still think Shelina's going to have to do something desperately bad to lose this one although I do rather hope that my own favourite, Andrew, manages to pull off a surprise. It's been an entertaining, frustrating, at times maddeningly addictive eight weeks. And, on Thursday, it's all over bar the shouting.
Incidentally, a message to the utterly vile and sick individual who sent an embarrassingly ignorant racist rant to this blog concerning one of the contestants on the latest series of MasterChef a small tip from yer actual Keith Telly Topping. Get yourself a new mind, pal. Because, the one you've got at present is narrow and full of shit. Your comments will not be published so that your despicable views will reach a wider audience via this site. Start your own blog if you want to spout drivel like that, it's a free country, but you're not using mine.

MasterChef entered its final week with more than four million viewers in a battle royal with Channel Four's Big Fat Gypsy Weddings in which the biggest loser was, very satisfyingly, ITV's risible, odious, wretched freak-show The Biggest Loser. MasterChef: the Final Three, which runs over three consecutive nights until Thursday's final, was watched by 4.2 million viewers between 9pm and 10pm on Monday. It beat Big Fat Gypsy Weddings, which drew four million viewers. Sandwiched in between was the final of ITV dieting show The Biggest Loser, or Let's All Laugh At Fatties which came to the end of its run with a distinctly slimline 2.7 million viewers. It was only just ahead of Channel Five's CSI, which returned for a new series with former Cheers star Ted Danson in the lead role. It pulled in 2.5 million viewers, a ten per cent audience share, from nine o'clock. In fifth place was BBC2's Horizon, which looked at evidence suggesting the unconscious mind was responsible for many of the decisions people make. Including what they watch on TV. It attracted 1.8 million viewers.

A 'sophisticated cyber-attack' on the BBC has been linked to Iran's efforts to disrupt the BBC Persian Service. In a speech Director General Mark Thompson plans to say that the Internet attack coincided with efforts to jam two of the service's satellite feeds into Iran. He will say: 'We regard the coincidence of these different attacks as self-evidently suspicious.' Last month Thompson accused Iran of intimidating Persian service workers. Reporters Without Borders has also complained about Iran's 'cyber-army.' The latest revelation follows a blog post by Thompson in February in which he complained of the 'repeated jamming of international TV stations such as BBC Persian TV, preventing the Iranian people from accessing a vital source of free information.' In his speech to the Royal Television Society he will note that on the day of the cyber-attack there had also been an attempt to disrupt the Persian Service's London phone-lines by the use of multiple automatic calls. 'I don't want to go into any more detail about these incidents except to say that we are taking every step we can, as we always do, to ensure that this vital service continues to reach the people who need it,' Thompson will say. Some parts of the BBC were unable to access e-mail and other Internet services on 1 March, but the BBC would not confirm whether the two incidents were linked. 'I'm afraid we can't comment any further on the details of the attacks than what's in the extract [of the speech],' a spokeswoman said. The revelations follow Reporters Without Borders 'Enemies of the Internet' report which was released at the start of the week. The free-speech lobby group reported that Iran and some of the other countries on its register 'censor Internet access so effectively that they restrict their populations to local intranets that bear no resemblance to the world wide web.' It added that Iran's authorities were now capable of blocking ports used by virtual private networks designed to bypass the restrictions. It also reported that at times of unrest the state had slowed Internet connections speeds to make it impossible to send or receive photos or videos. Iran's Revolutionary Guard created a 'cyber army' in 2010. Hundreds of net users have been arrested and some even sentenced to death. Earlier this month the country's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also ordered officials to create The Supreme Council of Virtual Space - a body tasked with defining policy and co-ordinating decisions regarding the net. Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not reply to a request for comment. Which, sounds like a guilty conscience to this blogger.

Gillian Anderson has revealed that she had a lesbian relationship when she was a student. You know, sometimes dear blog reader, you type one line of a story and then just wish someone would film it and show it every Christmas. Ah well, we can dream, at least. Dreaming, as Blondie once noted, is free. The actress revealed the romance during an interview with Out magazine. Anderson said that while she had a relationship with a woman it wasn't life-altering because she was still attracted to men. Anderson told the magazine 'I was in a relationship with a girl for a long time when I was in high school. You know, I'm old enough that I can talk about that. If I had thought I was one hundred per cent gay, would it have been a difference experience for me? Would it have been a bigger deal if shame had been attached to it and all those things that become huge life-altering issues for youngsters in that situation? It's possible that my attitude around it came, on some level, from knowing that I still liked boys.' Anderson is best known for playing Dana Scully on FOX's cult drama series The X Files between 1993 and 2002, reprising her role for two feature films. More recently Anderson appeared in BBC1's critically acclaimed adaptation of Great Expectations, Any Human Heart, Moby Dick, The Crimson Petal and the White and Bleak House.
Oily little creep James Murdoch the small has written to the parliamentary select committee investigating phone-hacking to express his 'deep regret' over the scandal whilst still protesting his complete and utter innocence. The letter is due to be published on Wednesday by the culture, media and sport select committee. It comes a day after well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International, was arrested and bailed on suspicion of conspiring to pervert the course of justice as part of a police investigation into hacking. According to a report in the Financial Times, in the letter Murdoch finally, after years of denial, now claims that he 'accepts responsibility' for not uncovering phone-hacking which ended up seeing the abrupt closure in disgrace of the Scum of the World last July. He also offers an unreserved apology for the invasion of privacy phone-hacking has caused. It is the second letter Murdoch has written to the committee this year to protest his innocence. The letter, which has been described as 'lengthy', reiterates his long-held position that he did not mislead parliament when he told them he did not know phone hacking was widespread at the Scum of the World when he agreed to the seven hundred and twenty five thousand smackers payout to Gordon Taylor, the chief of the Professional Footballers Association. He also explains his decision to step down as executive chairman at News International, characterising it as 'an opportunity' to concentrate on his other duties including News Corporation's international pay TV business, and that it is 'nothing to do' with the continuing scandal threatening to engulf News International or with him jumping before he got his ass ignominiously kicked out of the door by shareholders. News Corporation declined to comment, but John Whittingdale, the chairman of the select committee, confirmed that the letter had been sent. He said that it articulates Murdoch's position well. 'We are hoping to have it on the website this afternoon,' he said, pending agreement among all committee members. The timing of Murdoch's letter is interesting. The select committee is hoping to publish its report into the phone-hacking scandal at the end of the month and Murdoch's position as chairman of BSkyB could be threatened if it finds that he mislead parliament. Murdoch's stature within News Corporation has already been damaged and there is a widespread feeling that the de facto heir to the top executive job at the company now lies with Chase Carey, the chief operating officer. Murdoch may also come under pressure from Ofcom, which has stepped up its investigation into whether he is 'a fit and proper person' to sit on the board of BSkyB. Ofcom has formed a project team to examine evidence of phone-hacking and corrupt payments emerging from the police and the Leveson inquiry.

A former Scum of the World journalist has been arrested in connection with the suspected intimidation of a witness. The arrest of Neville Thurlbeck, by police investigating phone-hacking, also related to an allegation of 'encouraging or assisting an offence.' Thurlbeck was arrested last April on suspicion of conspiring to hack phones. Thurlbeck had been a chief reporter at the Scum of the World, which was closed down in shame and disgrace last year because of the phone-hacking scandal. A statement issued by the Metropolitan Police said a fifty one-year-old man had been arrested 'by appointment' at a central London police station by officers from Operation Weeting - the inquiry into phone-hacking. It said the same man had previously been arrested on 5 April last year on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications and unlawful interception of voicemail messages. On Tuesday, former News International chief executive and well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks was among six people arrested in dawn raids by Operation Weeting officers on suspicion of 'conspiring to pervert the course of justice.' Brooks, her husband Charlie, News International head of security Mark Hanna and three other men were later freed on bail until April.

Within weeks of the 2007 jailing of Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire for hacking into the phones of advisers to Prince William and Prince Harry, News International was denying and downplaying the significance of what had happened to anyone that asked. It was the single 'rogue reporter' defence that ran through four years of public denials and which stepped up when the Gruniad Morning Star first said hacking was 'likely to have been widespread' in July 2009 and that MPs from all parties were among the targets. But it was a series of denials that became increasingly hard to sustain. Les Hinton, former chief executive of News International, was asked by a parliamentary select committee in March 2007, two months after Goodman and Mulcaire went to jail, whether News International had conducted 'a full, rigorous internal inquiry' into these doings and whether he was 'absolutely convinced that Clive Goodman was the only person who knew what was going on.' His reply was confidently straightforward: 'Yes, we have, and I believe he was the only person, but that investigation, under the new editor, continues.'
The hacking issue largely disappeared until the Gruniad returned to it in July 2009. At the tail end of a Friday afternoon, News International issued a statement with a point-by-point denial. Its journalists had not hacked into the phone of John Prescott, or various celebrities; neither had Scum of the World journalists hacked into 'thousands' of mobile phones. The sickeningly triumphant breast-beating conclusion read: 'All of these irresponsible and unsubstantiated allegations against News of the World and other News International titles and its journalists are false.' The Murdoch publisher was prepared to make one concession to the Gruniad report; that during a secret court action brought in 2008 by Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, it had made a 'six-figure payment' as it had emerged that he had been a victim of phone hacking. Colin Myler, Scum of the World editor, told the Press Complaints Commission in August 2009: 'Our internal inquiries have found no evidence of involvement by News of the World staff other than Clive Goodman in phone-message interception beyond the e-mail transcript which emerged in April 2008 during the Gordon Taylor litigation.' We now know that this was entirely untrue and that Myler along with other senior figures at News International knew that others were involved. However, those public denials continued throughout 2010. A New York Times investigation into phone-hacking in September of that year prompted another Scum of the World statement: 'We reject absolutely any suggestion there was a widespread culture of wrongdoing at the [paper].' However, legal documents underlying a stream of civil claims brought successfully against the Scum of the World on behalf of people ranging from the actor Jude Law to the Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes and the singer Charlotte Church, alleged that the publisher was behind efforts to delete internal e-mails.
According to a claim brought by the hacking victims, in November 2009, News International allegedly discussed an 'e-mail deletion policy.' Under a section marked 'opportunity' its aim, it was said, was 'to eliminate in a consistent manner across NI (subject to compliance with legal and regulatory requirements) e-mails that could be unhelpful in the context of future litigation in which an NI company is a defendant.' Subsequently it appears that some deletions of the e-mail archive were carried out, for unknown reasons, with an estimated half a terrabyte of data (equivalent to five hundred editions of the Encyclopædia Britannica) eliminated. That prompted a behind-the-scenes row with Scotland Yard's hacking investigation, details of which leaked last July. In a civil hearing in January 2012, Mr Justice Vos said that it appeared 'a previously conceived plan to conceal evidence was put in train by News Group managers' shortly after the solicitor for the actress Sienna Miller had asked them to retain all e-mails relating to phone-hacking. In October 2010 it was alleged that News International had destroyed all the old computers used by its journalists, including that of one reporter named in Miller's legal claim. By last summer, the phone-hacking narrative had fundamentally altered with the Gruniad's revelation that voicemails sent to the Surrey teenager Milly Dowler had been targeted when she went missing in 2002. News International had already begun, gradually, to concede that the single 'rogue reporter' defence was unsustainable. And the Met police's phone-hacking investigation, Operation Weeting, made the first arrests of Scum of the World journalists on suspicion of intercepting communications. In July, the wave of revulsion that followed the Dowler story and subsequent revelations about the hacking of the families of victims of crime led to the closure of the Scum of the World, resignations of various senior executives including the chief executive, well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks, and heightened efforts by the company's management and standards committee to investigate any wrongdoing. That paved the way for reconstruction of an archive of three hundred million e-mails, and greater co-operation in the phone-hacking cases and the police enquiry. In January this year, to help speed up the settlement of the phone-hacking cases, News International agreed to what the presiding judge, Vos, said was an 'admission of sorts' in which the Scum of the World publisher conceded that unnamed employees and directors knew about wrongdoing and 'sought to conceal it.' That concealment, the agreed statement said, occurred, among other things, through 'putting out statements [the publisher] knew to be false,' and 'destroying evidence of wrongdoing.' Even as recently as January this year, against that backdrop, Vos insisted that News International allow civil claimants to search three laptops and six desktops assigned to unnamed senior employees because there were 'compelling questions' about whether the newspaper had 'actively tried to get off scot-free' by destroying e-mails in the past. The newspaper publisher had, after a long period of denial, been forced to make wide-ranging disclosures, leading to the payout of millions of pounds in damages and costs in a string of civil actions. And two criminal enquiries – the Weeting and the Elveden inquiry, concerned with corrupt payments to public officials – continue.

TV adventurer Bear Grylls, star of the survival show Man vs Wild, has been sacked by the Discovery Channel. The US channel said: 'Due to a continuing contractual dispute with Bear Grylls, Discovery has terminated all current productions with him.' Grylls, who has presented the show since 2006, is known for eating insects and drinking animal urine in the wild. Well, someone's got to do it, haven't they? His publicist confirmed the move saying they could not reach a 'mutual agreement on new programming.' Heather Krug told The Hollywood Reporter: 'Bear's goal has always been to make life-empowering shows for his many fans around the globe, and he has taken great risks to bring Discovery such award-winning programming over seven seasons. Unfortunately, Bear and Discovery have not been able to come to mutual agreement on new programming, and he disagrees with Discovery's decision to terminate current productions. Bear has loved the Man vs Wild journey and looks forward to producing further cutting edge content again soon for his loyal audience.' Man vs Wild, which is broadcast in the UK as Born Survivor, revolves around Grylls being dropped into remote locations around the world, and showing the audience how to survive using only the materials he finds in the wild. The show, which is now in its sixth series, is broadcast in nearly two hundred territories. It attracted some A-list celebrity fans including actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Will Ferrell who tagged along on some of Grylls' adventures. In 2008, he apologised for misleading viewers for an episode which saw him supposedly abandoned in the wilderness - a programme consultant later claimed that he had stayed in a motel. 'If people felt misled on how the first series was represented, I'm really sorry for that,' Grylls told the BBC. Writing on Twitter, Grylls said: 'Super-proud of my team and all they've built with Man Vs Wild. Looking forward to the next set of adventures!' Thanking fans, he added: 'Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.' Grylls had also worked on another survival-based series for Discovery called Worst Case Scenarios, which placed him in the imagined aftermath of both natural and man-made disasters.

Actor Stephen Fry has backed a Southampton pub after it was threatened with legal action by US movie lawyers. The Hobbit pub has been accused of copyright infringement by lawyers representing the Saul Zaentz Company in California. Fry, in New Zealand working on the forthcoming film of The Hobbit, called it 'pointless, self-defeating bullying.' His support boosted the pub's Facebook supporters to more than fifteen thousand. SZC owns the worldwide rights to several brands associated with author JRR Tolkien, including The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings. The pub in Bevois Valley, which is popular with students, has traded with the name for more than twenty years. It features characters from Tolkien's stories on its signs, has 'Frodo' and 'Gandalf' cocktails on the menu, and the face of Lord of the Rings film star Elijah Wood on its loyalty card. The Lord of The Rings films and the soon to be released adaptation of The Hobbit, made by New Line Cinema, have been licensed from SZC. A letter from SZC asked the pub to remove all references to the characters. The company asserts it has 'exclusive worldwide rights to motion picture, merchandising, stage and other rights in certain literary works of JRR Tolkien including The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.' Writing on Twitter, Fry said: 'Honestly, sometimes I'm ashamed of the business I'm in. What pointless, self-defeating bullying.' Landlady Stella Mary Roberts said: 'We are overwhelmed. The support has been phenomenal. At the end of the day it is a legal mater. This just shows people's support and how petty the actions of the lawyers are.' She added there was 'a flood' of customers wanting to buy Hobbit T-shirts when the pub opened on Tuesday evening. Also on Twitter, the MP for Southampton Itchen John Denham said: 'You would have thought the film company makes enough money to be able to leave the popular Hobbit pub in Southampton alone.' Michael Coyle, intellectual property expert from Lawdit Solicitors in Southampton, said: 'The problem for Stella is these guys have so much money and costs could run into six figures. It's a game of poker - ultimately they would win because they have deeper pockets. It would be difficult to stop the pub from using the name - it would be very unfair because of the length of time they have used it. Where perhaps the problem would lie is in using images, photographs and the names of drinks. But it's not going to do the film's PR any good - all the sympathy is with the pub so it will have a backlash as well.' Punch Taverns, which owns the freehold to the building, said: 'We are aware of the situation and are currently consulting with our legal advisers.'

US network HBO has agreed to stop filming with horses on Dustin Hoffman drama Luck after a third animal was injured and put down during production. The American Humane Association issued the order, pending a 'thorough and comprehensive investigation.' HBO said the horse was being led to a stable by a groom when it reared and fell back, suffering a head injury. The animal was put down at the track in suburban Arcadia, California, where Luck is filming its second series. Although the AHA - which oversees Hollywood productions - noted the accident did not occur during filming or racing, it issued the demand 'that all production involving horses shut down.' On Tuesday, California Horse Racing Board vet Gary Beck said that he had just examined the horse as part of routine health and safety procedures before it was to race later in the day. 'The horse was on her way back to the stall when she reared, flipped over backwards, and struck her head on the ground,' Beck said in a statement. A second vet determined that euthanasia was appropriate, he added. Rick Arthur, medical director of the state racing board, said that such injuries occurred in stable areas every year and were more common than thought. HBO said in a statement that an AHA safety representative was at the track when the accident occurred and 'as always, all safety precautions were in place.' It added it was 'deeply saddened' by the horse's death and was working with the AHA on its inquiry. During filming of the first series in 2010 and 2011, two horses were hurt during racing scenes and were subsequently put down. The AHA called for a production halt at the Santa Anita Racetrack after the second horse's death, and racing resumed in February after new protocols were put in place. The first two horse deaths drew criticism from animal rights group PETA, which said the safety guidelines were 'clearly inadequate' as they failed to prevent the deaths. On Tuesday, PETA vice-president Kathy Guillermo said: 'Three horses have now died and all the evidence we have gathered points to sloppy oversight, the use of unfit, injured horses, and disregard for the treatment of thoroughbreds.' The series, which looks at racing's seedier side, sees Oscar winner Hoffman play a crime kingpin scheming to gain control of a racetrack and introduce casino gambling.

BBC director general Mark Thompson has confirmed plans for an iTunes-style download service that will allow viewers to buy programmes minutes after they have finished on TV. Thompson said the proposal, called Project Barcelona, would allow viewers to 'purchase a digital copy of a programme to own and keep [for] a relatively modest charge.' Thompson was not specific about the timescale or pricing, but alleged 'sources' quoted by the Gruniad Morning Star said it was hoped that programmes would be available to buy at the same time as they go on the iPlayer. Early speculation, the Gruniad continue, put the price at £1.89 a show. Anticipating criticism - from the usual suspects - that viewers were being made to pay twice for the same content, Thompson said: 'This is not a second licence-fee by stealth or any reduction in the current public service offering from the BBC – it's the exact analogy of going into a high-street shop to buy a DVD or, before that, a VHS cassette. For decades the British public has understood the distinction between watching Dad's Army on BBC1 and then going out to buy a permanent copy of it. Barcelona is the digital equivalent of doing the second.' Thompson outlined the plans in a speech to the Royal Television Society on Wednesday, where he said that he had already started to talk to independent producers and producers' trade association, PACT. Media commentator Steve Hewlett said: 'Other broadcasters could be concerned about the service's impact.' Although, to be frank, what the hell it has to do with them is neither here nor there. 'When it launched, iPlayer was extremely disruptive to emerging paid-for content models because it was free at the point of use. People will be asking whether Project Barcelona will have a similar effect on the market.' Hewlett added: 'The BBC's archive programmes - like Fawlty Towers and Doctor Who - already represent a significant commercial revenue stream in the form of DVDs and downloads on services like iTunes. If it is going to open up the broader archive, then it would naturally expect people to pay for access.' Project Barcelona is viewed as another part of a strategy to give access to the BBC's programmes, which the corporation has been pursuing for the past decade. Thompson said the window would be 'non-exclusive' and 'open-ended – in other words, the programmes would be available permanently.' He added: 'Our ambition would ultimately be to let everyone who pays the licence fee access all of our programmes on this basis and, over time, to load more and more of our archive into the window. It could also mark an important step in broadcast's journey from being a transitory medium into a growing body of outstanding and valuable content which is always available to enjoy and which persists forever.' Thompson, who is expected to step down as director general later this year or early in 2013, said he did 'not propose to lay out an exact timetable this evening' about his departure. 'I'll share that with the BBC Trust and all of my colleagues at the BBC when the time is right.' But he did use the occasion to reflect on his eight years in charge of the corporation and to take aim at his critics in parliament and the press. On his decision to close 6 Music, which was reversed following an outcry from listeners, Thompson criticised those MPs who had 'been most vocal about the need to cut BBC services [who] promptly turned on a sixpence' when the public came out in support of the station. He did not name specific names but the current broadcasting minister Ed Vaizey, then in opposition, was highly vocal in his support for 6 Music. 'It's been much the same with the Asian Network and with the more recent debate about sharing some programmes on local radio,' added Thompson. On Crowngate, the misleading footage of the Queen which forced the resignation of the then BBC1 controller Peter Fincham in 2007, Thompson said: 'The splash in that morning's Times was CRISIS OF TRUST AT THE BBC in a font size which a short-sighted mole could have read at twenty paces, but which seemed to take a little longer to find when that newspaper reported its own rather more recent computer-hacking scandal.' A good point, well made, matey! He said that the incident and another so-called BBC 'gate' – Sachsgate – were 'serious but isolated mistakes in what are usually highly dependable services with exceptional standards and values. We were heavily criticised for being too slow to respond to The Russell Brand Show,' he said. 'Yet within four days of the story breaking in the Mail On Sunday, we'd completed an investigation into what had happened, two senior editorial leaders had left the BBC, one presenter had resigned while the other had been suspended, and we'd announced how we intended to ensure there would be no repetition of such a failure. Compare those four "slow" days with the long years of phone-hacking.' Another good point. Bloody hell, that's twice in one day Mark Thompson's been right about something. Thompson also defended the pay bill of the BBC's senior management, including himself, which he said amounted to 'less than two per cent of the BBC's costs.' Or, in other words, the salaries of just about all of the two thousand staff who are going to lose their jobs under DQF. Yes, I knew your winning streak had to come to an end sooner or later, Mark.

And so to this week's ridiculous Top Gear story - the latest in a regular From The North feature. The BBC has admitted that the programme 'staged' a traffic jam for last weekend's episode, but stressed that the BBC2 motoring show is 'not a documentary.' Which, to be honest, anybody with half a sodding brain in their skulls would have known anyway. In the final episode of the current series, viewers saw presenter James May drive a Ferrari California Spider worth five and a half million quid and owned by Chris Evans. At one stage, May drove through Windsor and had to reverse the sports car on a tight road after being blocked in by three cars supposedly driven by learner drivers. 'Oh God not here, don't say you want to go backwards,' he said, before wincing when the cars narrowly missed the Ferrari's paintwork as they manoeuvred past. However, a really scummy and prejudicial newspaper 'report' has, shock-horror, 'revealed' that the drivers were not in fact learners, but actually their driving instructors, led by fully qualified Rob White. Speaking to the Evening Scum Standard, an instructor for the Clearway Driving School said that the sequence had been filmed in November 2009. She added: 'We were told not to bring learner drivers because of the value of the car, so it was the instructors who were really doing the driving. Their remit was to get in his way and make life awkward for him. We were there for comic effect.' Yes. As, indeed, is the Evening Scum Standard because it's certainly not there to report the frigging news. In a statement, a BBC spokesperson said that the set-up was 'a light-hearted take on the perils of driving one of the rarest and most valuable cars on the road.' They added that Top Gear is 'not a documentary,' although the scene in which school children ran towards the Ferrari was real. Ofcom said that it had not received any complaints about Sunday's episode. Top Gear is one of the BBC's most popular programme brands, but the show has regularly been accused - by glakes - of 'faking' scenes for the purposes of entertainment. In 2009, producers on the show admitted to setting up a stunt in which James May piloted a caravan adapted into an airship over Norwich airport, which, supposedly, 'attracted the ire of authorities.' At the time, a BBC spokesperson said, rather wearily: 'As an entertainment programme, Top Gear prides itself on making silly films that don't pretend to represent real life. Any suggestion it deliberately misled viewers is patently ludicrous.'

The opening episodes of The Voice and Britain's Got Talent will overlap for twenty minutes, it has been confirmed. The two shows will clash when they both launch on Saturday 24 March. The rival talent series were originally expected to overlap for forty five minutes. BBC1's The Voice was pushed forward from its original scheduled 7.15pm start time to 7pm to lessen the overlap, but ITV retaliated, rather crassly and like a over-grown school bully - by moving Britain's Got Talent from 7.45pm to 7.30pm. Now, however, the final schedules have been published and the start time for Britain's Got Talent has shifted back to 8pm.

Sian Williams has vowed not to cry on her last episode of BBC Breakfast on Thursday. The presenter, who announced last April that she would be leaving the show when the studios relocated to Salford, said that she has even come up with a plan with co-host Bill Turnbull to stop her getting 'too emotional.' Williams told the Sun: 'Bill said to me today, "What's our anti-crying strategy?" because we've got an anti-giggling strategy. So, we have to work it out from now to Thursday morning. We've got that time to work on how not to cry. I have already got quite emotional out there because Bill has said some lovely things. We have been friends for twenty years and working together for more than ten so it will be a big moment on Thursday.' Williams criticised reports that she will defect to front ITV's breakfast flop Daybreak, saying: 'I am with the BBC. I am really looking forward to doing the Olympics and going back to the newsroom.' She also admitted that she won't be able to even watch BBC Breakfast when Susanna Reid takes over her position, saying: 'I have a battle at my house anyway as to whether they watch their mum or CBeebies. If I am completely honest, CBeebies always wins.'

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. It might be a cold Thursday morning in March but, somewhere in the world, it's always Saturday Nite at the Duck Pond.

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