Thursday, April 19, 2012

It's No Secret That Ambition Bites The Nails of Success

A documentary telling the story of BBC Television Centre is to be broadcast next month - and, of specific interest, I know, to many dear blog readers - it will feature contributions from many people associated with Doctor Who. And, of course, some other programmes the BBC have made too. Just, you know, for a bit of balance. Tales of Television Centre has been produced and directed by Richard Marson, who is a former editor of Blue Peter and who wrote for what was then known as The Doctor Who Monthly between 1983 and 1988. BBC Television Centre has been the main studio complex of the Beeb since it opened in 1960. In 2007, the BBC announced its intention to sell the site by the end of 2013 and to relocate its operations to various centres around the UK. Radio 5Live, the Children's department, and BBC Sport have already relocated to Salford Quays, BBC Drama is now - of course - based in Cardiff, and BBC News will move into a new state-of-the-art building in Central London over the next year. In its early years, Doctor Who was excluded from the new modern facilities at Television Centre, with the studios only available for occasional recordings. Doctor Who usually had to make do with the more limited facilities in the nearby Lime Grove or the Riverside studios. From 1964 to 1969, around fifty six black-and-white episodes were recorded at TV Centre, the first being episode two of The Aztecs, The Warriors of Death, which went before the cameras in Studio Three on 8 May 1964. Once the series moved into colour, TVC was the almost-exclusive home of Doctor Who. Except for one short foray up to Birmingham to film Horror of Fang Rock in 1977, every studio-filmed Doctor Who story from Doctor Who And The Silurians onwards was recorded at TVC during the classic era. As well as Doctor Who, TVC was also home to some of the best-loved British television programmes of the past fifty years. Comedies such as Monty Python's Flying Circus, Dad's Army, Are You Being Served?, Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads? and Fawlty Towers were made there as well as dramas such as I, Claudius, The Six Wives of Henry VIII and Elizabeth R. Light entertainment such as The Morecambe and Wise Show, The Two Ronnies and The generation Game were recorded alongside programmes such as Blue Peter and Top of the Pops. The ninety-minute programme is to be broadcast on BBC4 on Thursday 17 May at 9pm, and a special preview screening, will take place at the BFI Southbank two days earlier. One worth setting your recording devices for, wisely, I'd've said dear blog reader.

Actress Olga Fedori is to leave the BBC1 medical drama Holby City. The actress plays the fan favourite character of Frieda Petrenko and joined the cast of Holby City in February 2010. However, it has now been announced that Olga has filmed her last scenes for the drama which will be broadcast next month. 'Olga has been a fantastic asset and will be sorely missed by the cast and crew. Everyone wishes her all the best for the future' a BBC spokesperson said. The actress was nominated for Best Newcomer in the 2011 National Television Awards. Fedori's character is a favourite among fans of Holby City and news of her departure has, seemingly, not gone down well with many.

Having managed to rouse himself, somewhat unwillingly from his stinking pit at some Christforsaken hour of the (very) early morning on Thursday, yer actual Keith Telly Topping found himself back on the old wireless box at approximately 8:15 (that's, very definitely AM, not PM). He was speaking to the legends that are yer actual Housewives Choice Alfie Joey and yer actual Divine Goddess of Breckie Radio Charlie Charlton about the impending death of CEEFAX. Of course, in our region, dear blog reader, it's still going to be available until September. But, because it went off air in London this week, it's - officially - a big media story, and one that BBC Newcastle felt obliged to cover. Anyway, if you happened to miss yer Keith Telly Topping's seven minutes of glory on the subject - because, I dunno, you have a life or something - then it's be available on Listen Again herefor the next seven days, I'm on Alfie and Charlie at Breakfast around one hour and forty minutes into the show. There's quite a good joke about Belgium in there even if I do say so myself.
Nearly nine million punters watched Moscow Chelski FC's 1-0 win over Barcelona in their Champions League semi-final first leg on Wednesday night, which kept the Russian club's chances of progressing to the final alive. It also, effectively, played BBC1's The Apprentice off the park. Champions League Live averaged 7.1 million viewers between 7.30pm and 10pm on ITV on Wednesday, with a five-minute peak of 8.9 million. Live coverage of the match itself, which kicked off at 7.45pm, averaged eight million viewers over about two hours. BBC1's The Apprentice, which had the best audience of the series so far last week, slipped back to 6.1 million between 9pm and 10pm. ITV's football also beat BBC1 drama Waterloo Road, which had 4.4 million viewers, between 8pm and 9pm. Channel Four's documentary Elizabeth Taylor: Auction of a Lifetime, about the sale of the late actresses jewellery collection, was watched by 2.1 million viewers between 9pm and 10.35pm. The documentary beat BBC2's Divine Women, the second of a three-part look at the history of women in religion, which was watched by eight hundred thousand viewers between 9pm and 10pm. Including yer actual Keith Telly Topping who thinks Bettany Hughes should be canonised. Following the equally impressive historical documentaries earlier in the week from Dominic Sandbrook and Mary Beard, it's nice to know that, in these times of celebrity-by-non-entity, dumping down and crass, ignorant, lowest-common-denominator telly (and, that's just the good stuff), somebody's making programmes which ask the viewer to do a bit of thinking for a change. God bless the BBC. Because, the Tories sure as hell won't.

Meanwhile, a Sky executive has responded to criticism of the low overnight audience figures for Mad Men on Sky Atlantic, accusing people of making 'misleading conclusions' about the show's popularity on pay-TV. Season five of the acclaimed drama, poached by Sky from the BBC for the launch of Sky Atlantic in 2011, was seen by an average of just seventy two thousand overnight viewers across its double episode premiere on the Sky exclusive channel on 27 March. Including yer actual Keith Telly Topping, as it happens. Episode one pulled in ninety eight thousand viewers, while episode two slumped to just forty five thousand. Subsequent overnight figures have been in a similar sort of range. In contrast, the season four premiere on BBC2 was seen by three hundred and sixty thousand last year. However, Naomi Gibney, the acting director of Sky Atlantic, accused 'one or two people' of making 'misleading conclusions' about the show's popularity due to the viewing figures. Well, it's a hell of a lot more than one or two, Naomi. And, whilst what you're going to go on to say has some merit to it (in so much as the way in which people consume TV there days is rapidly changing and overnights are no longer as important as they once were), much of it is also, highly misleading - and in one or two cases deliberately mendacious - media-speak bollocks. So, let's see what excuses she came up with shall we, dear blog reader? In a post on the Sky Views blog, Gibney claimed that Mad Men is 'available to more than ten million Sky homes, which is around half the amount it could reach on subscription-free TV platform Freeview.' True. It's also around a third of the number it could reach on terrestrial telly where Sky half-inched it from. She also said that taking into account the number of people who caught the show in the seven days after transmission via Sky+ or video on-demand service Sky Anytime, it is actually 'more popular than ever' on Sky. Which is, quite simply, untrue. And not just a little bit either. 'Back when it was on BBC4, the biggest ever audience for Mad Men in Sky homes was one hundred and forty one thousand viewers (for the very first episode of Season One in 2008),' said Gibney. Note, that she's chosen to highlight BBC4 figures, not BBC2's where the show had been shown for two years prior to Sky's intervention. 'By contrast, the first episode of Season Five was watched by a total of two hundred and nine thousand, an increase of almost fifty per cent.' Or, a decrease of almost forty per cent on the average BBC2 figure. 'The average for the first three episodes of this series is one hundred and forty two thousand, which is thirty eight per cent up on Season Four in Sky homes.' Again, you'll noticed, the constant reference only to 'in Sky homes', completely forgetting that three times as many people watch terrestrial TV as do satellite or digital. 'But this isn't about who got more viewers than who,' she continued. Which is normally the kind of thing industry people who have just found themselves on the wrong side of a head-to-head say. It's exactly what ITV's risible former Head of Press James MacLeod used to come out with when, for instance, Sherlock had just given Wild At Heart a spanking in the overnights. Of course, you can absolutely guarantee that the next time The X Factor got a few hundred thousand more than Strictly Come Dancing he wouldn't be going down the 'it's not about who got more viewers' route. No, he'll be crowing about it to anyone that'll listen (and, indeed, anyone that won't) on Twitter and elsewhere. Horrorshow. 'Ultimately it's about creating value for customers,' Gibney continued, unconvincingly. Echoing the recent statements of Sky1 controller Stuart Murphy, Gibney claimed that Sky+ recording and on-demand have made the 'live' premiere for linear TV shows 'far less important that once was the case.' Which very definitely is true. She claimed that during Mad Men's latest series, almost eight per cent of its total audience had watched the show via 'timeshifted modes on Sky+, Sky Anytime and multiplatform service Sky Go.' The story is similar for other Sky Atlantic shows, such as Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire, she added. Albeit, it should be noted that both of those still get massively more overnight viewers than Mad Men. 'In other words, audience behaviour is changing dramatically as people take advantage of all the different ways to catch up with their favourites,' said Gibney. 'These days, to measure how successful a show is, we need to look at how it is enjoyed across all platforms it's shown on. It's not just us who realises this - the BBC too have recently launched a new measurement system (called Live+7) that does exactly that.' Again, all true. She added: 'Anecdotally, we're all aware of the trend for people to stack up episodes on their Sky+ box to enjoy in a single viewing, the same way they might watch a box set. We go out of our way to offer all that flexibility to Sky customers because it really doesn't matter to us how they choose to watch - live, on-demand, on the go, or catch-up. So, if some commentators continue to fixate on ratings for linear TV premieres, perhaps it's time for them to catch up too?' Gibney concluded by saying that Mad Men's popularity 'should not be judged' on how many viewers it gets for each episode, but the passion and devotion of its fans. Which is utter bollocks. The only way to assess the popularity of any TV show - by definition - is by how many viewers it gets. Television's a visual medium, it's sod all good saying 'people like this show, they just don't watch it.' She claimed that serving this audience is what a pay-TV business such as Sky - which is not so reliant on viewing figures for revenue - should be doing. 'The success of Mad Men - and the reason why it is such great TV - has never really been about the size of the audience. There are, and there always will be, many other shows that get more viewers,' Gibney claimed. 'But there are few which inspire the same levels of passion and devotion among their fans.' So, in other words, a bunch of pretentious wankers who write articles for the Gruniad Morning Star and the Daily Torygraph really like Mad Men and try to pretend it's the biggest TV show in the world when, actually, it isn't. It's a niche show (a very good one, it should be noted, this blogger is a regular viewer) with a niche audience. It's that in the US and it's certainly that in Britain. 'That's why Mad Men makes such sense for a subscription business like Sky. We're much more interested in keeping our customers happy and loyal than the audience for a premiere of any single show. For those of us who are hooked on our weekly dose of life at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, nothing comes closer to that goal than Mad Men.' So, to sum up then dear blog reader, Mad Men is currently getting about half as many viewers on Sky as it used to get on BBC2. But, according to Naomi Gibney, that's irrelevant. And, hopefully, it is. Although for a commercial broadcaster, that's one hell of a laissez-faire attitude to have. One wonders if her bosses are quite so relaxed about the situation.

The BBC will return nearly half the six hundred million smackers fund it was given to help the elderly and disabled convert from analogue to digital TV after the switch proved more straightforward than many people had feared. One of last big hurdles on the way to a digital-only future was cleared on Wednesday when analogue BBC1, ITV, Channel Four and Channel Five were turned off across the London region. Around nine in ten households have now completed the switchover process which began in Whitehaven in Cumbria on 17 October 2007. A total of six hundred and three million quid was allocated out of licence fee revenues to help the over-seventy fives, the blind and partially sighted and with other serious disabilities get digital TV. Eligible households were given free help to convert one set, but the total cost has been much cheaper than the original projection which was at the top end of expectations and at a time when digital take up was much slower. The BBC, which has helped nearly 1.2 million people to date, expects to return almost three hundred million of the fund to the government, substantially higher than previous estimates of a two hundred and fifty million notes underspend. The money will be spent on broadband roll out and the lack of culture secretary the vile and odious rascal Hunt's plan to develop new local TV services across the country. London switch-off followed the shutdown of the analogue BBC2 signal in the capital on 4 April which led to thirty one thousand calls to a helpline set up by Digital UK, the body overseeing the five-year switchover process. Despite more channels being involved in the latest switch-off, the BBC2 shutdown may have pre-empted further problems and confusion among viewers. The London TV region has about five million households and twelve million television sets. Sir David Attenborough and Professor Brian Cox were due to press the button on a spectacular light show at London's Crystal Palace transmitter on Wednesday night, boasting more than two hundred thousand watts, or 7.5bn candlepower, of energy efficient lighting. It will also be lit up on Thursday night. The analogue switch-off will also boost Freeview coverage with more than four hundred thousand viewers across London and the home counties able to access all the channels offered via the digital terrestrial TV service for the first time. The Crystal Palace analogue signal was switched off by BBC director general Mark Thompson shortly after midnight on Wednesday. Engineers then worked through the day to make sure new digital services were working from relay transmitters. The last regions to switch will be Kent, the North-East of England and finally Northern Ireland on 24 October.

John Barrowman spoke about the representation of gay characters on US television during his panel at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, held last weekend: 'There's more gays and lesbians represented on American television than anywhere else in the world, and I think that's a fantastic thing. I just don’t think that they're always represented in the right way. I think that there's a diversity amongst [members of the community]. Everybody is different. We're got butch, we've got macho, we've got effeminate — you name it, we've got it. But it always seems that they're portrayed in the effeminate. So I was quite proud to be an action hero. I was quite proud to be an action man, a hero to young men and women, and also gay and lesbian women who could actually look myself and Scott. We are men. We just happen to like men. If I had someone like Captain Jack when I was younger to look up to, I wouldn't have had to have hidden who I was for a long time, because I would have been proud to be who I was at the age of eight and nine when I knew that I was gay. I am exceptionally proud of it. Not every gay man or gay woman agrees with me on how I feel, but that's my opinion and you asked for it and I appreciate that you did ask, so there you go.'

Silk writer Peter Moffat has revealed that viewers should expect 'more sex and one great big personal story' in the second series of the BBC1 legal drama, which begins next month. The six new episodes will see regulars Maxine Peake, Rupert Penry-Jones and Neil Stuke all return to their roles, with Frances Barber, Phil Davis, Indira Varma and Shaun Evans joining the cast. Discussing Maxine Peake's character, Moffat commented: 'Martha Costello has gangland murder to honour killings, heroin importations and an unlawful death in Afghanistan, every defendant she represents is up against it and all of them need her badly.' He added: 'The pressure is on. I was thrilled to get the chance to write more about this set of characters - the barristers and the clerks room. The politics gets meatier, more complex and more dangerous, there's more sex and one great big personal story looks like it might change Shoe Lane forever.'
Detectives investigating alleged illegal payments to public officials by journalists have arrested more three people. A former member of the armed forces was among those dragged from their beds and bundled off to the nick when officers from Scotland Yard's Operation Elveden swooped on two houses in Kent and Lancashire in a dawn raid on Thursday. A thirty six-year-old man, believed to be Duncan Larcombe, the Sun's royal editor, was arrested at his home in Kent on suspicion of conspiracy to corrupt and conspiracy to cause misconduct in a public office. The man is being questioned at a police station in Kent. Officers carried out searches at the homes of those under arrest. Detectives also arrested a former serviceman, aged forty two, and a woman, thirty eight, at their home in Lancashire about 6am. The man was held on suspicion of misconduct in a public office, and the woman on suspicion of aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office. They are being questioned at a police station in Lancashire. Scotland Yard said in a statement: 'Today's operation is the result of information provided to police by News Corporation's management standards committee. It relates to suspected payments to a public official and is not about seeking journalists to reveal confidential sources in relation to information that has been obtained legitimately.' A total of twenty six people have now been arrested since last July as part of the Operation Elveden inquiry, which is linked to the Met's continuing investigations into phone and computer hacking. The management standards committee was set up by Rupert Murdoch's parent company, News Corporation, in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal that led to the closure of the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World last July to investigate alleged illegal activity by News International journalists. Information provided by the MSC led to the arrest and bailing of eleven current and former Sun journalists earlier this year by detectives working on Operation Elveden.

News Corporation is a 'toxic institution' that operated like a 'shadow state' in British society, according to a Labour MP who is the co-author of a new book about the phone-hacking scandal. Tommy Watson (power to the people!), joint writer of Dial M for Murdoch, said that the book also featured allegations that Murdoch's Scum of the World set out to search for 'secret lovers' or 'extramarital affairs' of MPs on the culture, media and sport select committee in 2009. At a packed press conference, Watson, a member of the committee, said that the surveillance revelation – passed onto him by former Scum of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck – demonstrated how the Murdoch organisation tried to intimidate parliament. Thurlbeck gave Watson an on-the-record interview, with a witness present, in which he said the then Scum of the World editor, Colin Myler, told journalists on the Sunday tabloid to 'find out everything you can about every single member.' At the time the select committee was conducting its second inquiry into phone-hacking, in the wake of revelations in the Gruniad that the practice went beyond a single 'rogue reporter' at the tabloid. Something which News International claimed and stuck to for four years until forced to change their story. The aim was to discover 'who was gay, who had affairs, anything we can use,' according to Thurlbeck, as quoted in the book. 'Each reporter was given two members [MPs] and there were six reporters that went on for around ten days.' Thurlbeck told Watson that the investigations eventually 'fell by the wayside' and that 'even Ian Edmondson', the then news editor, 'realised that there was something quite horrible about doing this.' Watson, and his co-author Martin Hickman, an Independent journalist, said that they believed pressure on MPs at the time influenced the decision not to compel well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks, who was then News International's chief executive, to give evidence before the committee.

News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch is to appear before the Leveson Inquiry on Wednesday and Thursday next week. His son James Murdoch will appear on Tuesday, the inquiry also confirmed. Rupert Murdoch will be questioned about practices at his British newspapers in the light of the phone-hacking scandal that resulted in the closure of the Scum of the World. James Murdoch resigned as the chairman of News International in February.

Meanwhile, according to several national newspapers - including, let's just take at random, the Belfast Telegraph, well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks, 'could be charged with perverting justice after her name was included among eleven suspects in the first files handed to prosecutors by detectives investigating phone hacking.' The Crown Prosecution Service said it had received four files from police in the past few weeks covering a range of offences allegedly committed by four journalists, a police officer and six members of the public. They refused to confirm the identity of any of those involved. Not that this has stopped most of the newspapers from having a guess, of course. The Belfast Telegraph goes on to suggest that 'the CPS declined to name anyone in the files but said not all of them were arrested during Operation Weeting, the hacking inquiry which began in January 2011, and four other linked police inquiries. There was speculation last night that Amelia Hill, a Guardian journalist who worked on stories exposing the hacking scandal, was among those named in the four files. She was questioned under caution last year over allegations that she received leaked information from a detective in the phone-hacking team. A fifty one-year-old police officer was also arrested. The handover of the files follows the arrests of Brooks and her husband, the racehorse trainer Charlie Brooks, at their Oxfordshire home last month. Four other people, including News International's head of security, Mark Hanna, were also arrested. Police were believed to be investigating a possible plot to conceal the extent of voicemail interception at the News Of The World after Operation Weeting was launched. The offence of perverting the course of justice carries a penalty of up to life in prison and a fine.' Jesus, that's heavy. Life's bad enough, but having to stump up some cash fer yer crimes an'all ... 'Neville Thurlbeck, a former chief reporter at the News of the World, was also thought to be included in the first tranche of files submitted to four senior lawyers who will consider if anyone should face court action.'

ITV Studios has announced that it is in talks with a major Canadian broadcaster over a new soap. Managing director Kevin Lygo admitted the discussions have reached 'quite far down the line' and believes the daily drama serial could be 'transformational' for ITV's in-house production company. Is 'transformational' a proper word? Can we get a ruling on that? 'We want to take our expertise in long-running dramas, with huge casts and many writers, and export that technique and experience,' Lygo told Broadcast. 'Coronation Street is a big success in Canada, so we're leveraging that reputation to make an equivalent that's domestic to Canada, Australia or anywhere we can get going.' Lygo added: 'Emmerdale and Corrie are two of the most successful dramas in the UK and they're on nearly every day of the year. We need to do something of that scale internationally to transform. It's hard to start [a soap opera], but if we can get it right, it is transformational because of its volume. A three- or six-part drama is fine, but then it stops and has little impact on your bottom line.' ITV's chief executive Adam Crozier previously emphasised drama as the driving force behind a recovery for the company. CBC, the Canadian public broadcaster thought to be broadcasting the soap, recently extended its multi-year deal with Corrie.

Patsy Kensit is fronting Birds Eye's latest campaign almost forty years after starring in an advert for the company as a five year old. The Holby City actress has returned to help mark the sixty fifth anniversary of Birds Eye's first pea harvest after appearing in a 1973 campaign - you remember that one, surely? 'Bird's Eye peas, fresh as the moment when the pod went "pop"'? Well, the little girl who appeared at the end of that and made the popping sound with her finger in her mouth was little Patsy. This is, obviously, before Jim Kerr, Liam Gallagher et al. She will play the role of ambassador for Birds Eye's Grow Your Own initiative. Terrific title. She will be sharing her own pea-growing efforts and tips with the nation. She said: 'Birds Eye is a brand that is very close to my heart, as I worked on their pea advert when I was just a child. I am really delighted to be reunited with them again all these years on and helping them to celebrate sixty five years of delivering quality choice for families.' The campaign includes an offer of free packs of seeds for customers to grow at home. Birds Eye spokesman Matthew Blackmore said: 'Through our new on-pack promotion we want to encourage families to try growing their own vegetables at home. This is so they can see, first hand, the care and attention required to grow wonderful peas which are picked and frozen within hours to lock in nutrients and flavour. Birds Eye has sixty five years' experience of growing vegetables and the new ad really brings to life our dedication to peas with a humorous spin.'
And, speaking of blond seventies icons, an auction of Sir Jimmy Savile's possessions, including his tracksuits and gold jewellery, is to be held in Leeds this summer. Items from the DJ's five homes, including flats in Leeds and Scarborough and a cottage in Glencoe, will form part of the sale. The sale is expected to be held at Saviles Conference Hall in Clarence Dock in June. Proceeds will go to The Jimmy Savile Charitable Trust. Star lots are expected to include the last Rolls Royce Corniche of its type to be made in Britain, a 1960s Italian Bubble Car and a collection of unique pop memorabilia. However virtually all of the houses' contents, including pots and pans, mugs and ornaments and exercise machines, will go under the hammer. Sir Jimmy's nephew told the Yorkshire Post: 'I am all in favour of the auction, as it will help to increase the funds of Jimmy's charitable trust. People collect many things for various reasons and it is nice to think that items that could easily be thrown away might be of interest to people, and so help his charity.' Sir Jimmy died in October last year at his home in Leeds, aged eighty four.

Channel Four has greenlit a new six-part drama from [spooks] writer Dennis Kelly. Utopia will follow a group of people who find themselves in possession of a manuscript of a cult graphic novel. The tome is rumoured to have predicted the worst disasters of the last century and the group soon find themselves targeted by a shadowy organisation known only as The Network. 'Utopia is everything you expect from a Channel Four drama - witty, utterly compelling and impossible to ignore,' said Channel Four's chief creative officer Jay Hunt. 'I'm delighted that as part of our increased commitment to new drama on the channel, we're working with one of the UK's leading writing talents, Dennis Kelly.' Kelly recently co-created the musical Matilda, which won a record seven Olivier Awards earlier this week. Utopia - which enters production later this year - will be directed by Marc Munden and produced by Rebekah Wray-Rogers who previously worked on This is England '88.

A four hundred and seventy four-year-old painting stolen by Nazis during World War II has been returned to the heirs of its Paris-based Italian Jewish owner. Christ Carrying the Cross Dragged By A Rascal by Girolamo de Romani was one of seventy items stolen from the collection of Frederico Gentili di Giuseppe. US officials confiscated the work in November as a fifteen-year effort to return the painting came to a head. Gentili died of natural causes in 1940, a month before the invasion of France. His collection was sold by the Vichy French government in 1941. 'Thanks to the tireless efforts of those involved, we are now righting a wrong perpetrated more than seventy years ago,' Susan McCormick, a special agent with US Homeland Security investigations told reporters. 'Seventy years is a very long time. But it shows that it is never too late to right a wrong.' The painting was one of fifty works on loan to a museum in Tallahassee, Florida from the Pinacoteca di Brera Museum in Milan. The Italian museum had purchased the work in 1998. An employee at Christie's auction house tipped off Interpol investigators last June that the painting may have been stolen. Gentili's grandchildren filed a suit in 1997 to get his art collection back. A few years later, the Louvre Museum in Paris returned five paintings belonging to the collector to his family. The paintings are among the estimated hundreds of thousands of works stolen from Jewish families by the Nazis. Homeland Security officials have repatriated almost two thousand five hundred works to twenty three countries since 2007. Gentili's grandchildren plan to sell the work. 'For a cake, it is relatively easy cutting it into six, not totally easy but quite easily,' Lionel Salem, one of the heirs, told the Reuters news agency. 'But for a painting, you see, it is more difficult.'

Men At Work flautist Greg Ham has been found dead at his Melbourne home, according to Australian reports. The fifty eight-year-old will be remembered for playing the famous flute riff from the band's biggest hit, 'Down Under'. Two friends found the body. They became concerned about Ham's well-being having not heard from him for some time. Local authorities have not confirmed the man's identity. A crime scene has been established and the cause of death is being investigated. 'Because of the early stages of our investigation, we're not prepared to go into the exact details of what has occurred,' Detective Senior Sergeant Shane O'Connell told reporters. Police added that relatives of the deceased still had to be notified. Ham joined Men at Work in 1979 playing flute, harmonica, saxophone and keyboards. The band achieved international fame in the 1980s with the 1983 hit 'Down Under', while their LP, Business As Usual, topped the Australian, American and British charts. They won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1983 before disbanding in 1985.

On Thursday evening, dear blog reader, yer actual Keith Telly Topping was due to attend the latest of Scunthorpe Steve  Drayton's weekly The Record Player events at the Tyneside. It The U2 Group this week (featuring yer actual Mr Bonio, yer actual Mr The Edge and ... yer actual the other two out of The U2 Group). It's okay, though, because it's Achtung, Baby. You know, the good one. Anyway, in celebration of one of the few proper decent records that The U2 Group (featuring Mr Bonio, Mr The Edge and ... the other two out of The U2 Group) did which didn't feature bombastic overblown pomposity and pretentious lyrics about Jesus, Martin Luther King and South Africa, here's today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Which, remarkably, features The U2 Group (featuring yer actual Mr Bonio, yer actual Mr The Edge and ... yer actual the other two out of The U2 Group) discovering irony. I know, I was surprised as well. So was everybody else in 1990, to be fair. It was nice whilst it lasted. Course, eventually, they felt it was time to start selling records again and so they went back to being a reasonably efficient, quite tuneful, but desperately underwhelming stadium rock band. Everything you know is wrong, guys. Watch more TV.

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