Friday, June 08, 2012

It Was A Fleeting Visit All Too Brief

Cheeky-chappie Scouse comedian John Bishop - funny in small doses in this blogger's opinion - is to host a new stand-up show in which members of the public will crack their favourite jokes. The ten-part Sky One series, John Bishop’s Only Joking will put the emphasis on gags over each half-hour episode. Celebrities and comedians, both old-school new, will join the amateurs in telling the jokes. It will be recorded in front of a live audience, with the public telling their jokes on video – a similar mix of live and recorded footage as used in the BBC1 show John Bishop’s Britain. Bishop – who has previously worked with Sky on their wretched A League Of Their Own – is also one of the executive producers on the new show, which will be made by his own production company Lola Entertainment, along with Channel X. He said: 'This is a great opportunity to make a show that allows everyone to join in the joke. I'm really looking forward to working with everyone involved.' Phil Edgar Jones, Sky’s head of entertainment, added: 'If there's one person who's guaranteed to put a smile on our faces, it's John Bishop. We're thrilled to be working with him, and the team at Lola Entertainment and Channel X on this exciting new show which will, almost literally, deliver a laugh a minute.'

The official BBC1 teaser for the new Olympic rowing drama Bert & Dickie featuring Matt Smith and Sam Hoare has been released.
Lewis concluded its latest series with a respectable audience on Wednesday, overnight data indicates. The Kevin Whately detective drama rose two hundred thousand viewers week-on-week to an average of 5.01m between 8pm and 10pm, adding a further three hundred and fifty thousand on ITV+1. These figures come despite facing an hour of BBC1's popular soap EastEnders. A new edition of DIY SOS: The Big Build was watched 4.22m an hour later from 9pm. The Inspector Morse sequel, recently commissioned for a further series, has underperformed away from its traditional Sunday night slot versus The Apprentice. Big Brother took its usual post-launch plunge on Channel Five, drawing 1.42m at 10pm for its first highlights show. Over on BBC2, The Great British Menu had an audience of 1.7m punters at 7pm, then both Springwatch and The Secret History of Our Streets commanded identical audiences of 1.93m.

Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads is reported to be turning his hand to a talent show for cooking, according to the Sun. The TV maestro is said to be cooking up a 'Best of British' hunt for homemade dishes, with the winner set to be snapped up by Marks & Spencer rather than a global record label. The ITV show, apparently pencilled in for February, has jokingly been given the working title The Eggs Factor. Could this be the beginning of a new ITV-BBC talent show war? Might the Beeb call in for MasterChef?

Thin-skinned Fearne Cotton has described those people who criticise her work as 'bullies.' Ah, I think we have something of a misunderstanding here, Fearne m'love. They're not bullies, they're simply licence fee payers. You know, some of those annoying 'little people' who pay your hugely inflated salary to do whatever it is that you do to justify your existence. Just a wee thought to drop in your toaster and see if it pops up brown, there. Others may, of course, disagree. That is their right in an open, democratic society in which free speech (within, of course, the boundaries of the law as it currently stands) is a given. But, playing the 'bullying card' when somebody merely says they don't think you're very good is rather shallow and small. The TV presenter had been singled out by some viewers for her role in the BBC's risible, trite and spectacularly underwhelming coverage of the Diamond Jubilee last weekend. It wasn't all her fault, of course. But some of it was. 'People who sit lazily and judge others will never grow,' she opined. This, coming from the presenter of Must Be The Music in which various people do sit lazily and judge others. Was that supposed to be irony, Fearne? 'They'll never take a look at themselves or feel content. Shame so many do,' Cotton whinged on Twitter in a bit of a sweeping generalisation which will, no doubt, have gone down well in some corners of Fleet Street, much less some corners of the Internet. 'Grown men who slag me off in articles/online are huge bullies,' she claimed. She didn't say what grown women who do the same thing, are, which, some would argue makes these comments, by their very nature, inherently sexist. I couldn't possibly comment. 'I love my job and wouldn't be doing it if I wasn't any good at it,' she claimed. She added, rather self-pityingly: 'I'm a postive [sic] person who believes in treating people kindly. I don't understnad [sic] the mentality of others who think differently. Good vibes and happiness all round.' When one Twitter user told Cotton that he believed she was 'pretty rubbish on the Pageant day' and urged her to 'find a new career' if she could not see why he thought so, she responded: 'Right, this is what I'm talking about. YOU = bully. Take a look at yourself. I have been working non-stop for fifteen years, thank you.' Cotton continued: 'Thanks for your nice tweets guys! I was bullied at school so there's no way I'm having it again as a grown woman. I'm from a working class family and have worked hard to get to where I am today.' What any of that has to do with whether she was an appropriate presenter for the TV show in question - or whether she's good, bad or indifferent at her job - is, it would seem, neither here nor there. 'Others will just sit and do nothing but judge,' she continued. 'In my last few tweets I have not said people can't have an opinion.' Except, seemingly, if it's a negative one. 'Opinions are one thing, out right bullying is another. VERY different.' Cotton, of course, has plenty of form over this sort of thing. She previously dismissed critics of her work as 'odd people' who are 'bitter and angry', claiming that they are 'famous for slagging people off.' Yep. Very thin skinned.

And, speaking of people talking utter piss and a load of old cock, dunno if you've been watching Big Brother so far this series, dear blog reader? This blogger felt duty bound to watch the first episode so you don't have to and report back on its wretched risible awfulness. Frankly, he needed a bath afterwards following Ashleigh Hughes bringing up the subjects of golden showers and penis enlargement during the opening night in the Big Brother house. Lovely.

George Osborne will join David Cameron and Ed Milimolimandi in giving evidence up a'fore yer actual Lord Justice Leveson next week, in what is likely to be the most significant four days yet at the judicial inquiry into media standards and ethics. They are part of a line-up of political heavyweights including deputy prime minister Nick Clegg and former prime ministers Gordon Brown and Sir John Major, who will be questioned at the inquiry about their dealings with the media, and in particular billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. The chancellor, who was originally only going to submit written evidence to the inquiry, will now appear in person on Monday, along with Brown. Liberal Democrat leader Clegg will give evidence on Wednesday, along with Scottish first minister Alex Salmond. Cameron will face a full seven-hour day of grilling before the inquiry on Thursday. Labour leader Milimolimandi and former prime minister Major will appear on Tuesday, along with Labour deputy leader and shadow lack of culture secretary Mad Hattie Harman. Osborne was not originally planning to appear in person at the inquiry, but was dragged - kicking and screaming - into the row over the government's handling of News Corp's abandoned BSkyB bid when lack of culture secretary the vile and odious rascal Hunt gave evidence last week. The chancellor will be quizzed about his role in handing responsibility for the media merger to the lack of culture secretary in December 2010. It emerged last week that he texted the vile and odious rascal Hunt 'I hope you like our solution' when the lack of culture secretary was given the oversight of the deal following Vince Cable's unguarded remarks to undercover Daily Torygraph reporters. Osborne also played a crucial role in recruiting Andy Coulson as Cameron's director of communications four months after the former Scum of the World editor quit the paper following the jailing of Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire over phone-hacking in January 2007. On Thursday the prime minister is likely to face the most pressing scrutiny yet about his party's dealings with Murdoch's newspapers in what will be a key day in the course of the public inquiry, which was set up - in a total panic - by Cameron himself at the height of the phone-hacking scandal in July 2011. Robert Jay QC, the inquiry's lead counsel, is expected to ask Cameron about his friendly text messages to former News International chief executive and well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks and the appointment of Coulson. Coulson told the inquiry last month that Cameron asked him about phone-hacking only once during his employment by the Tories between 2007 and January 2011, despite a wave of fresh revelations emerging at regular intervals from July 2009 onwards. Cameron is also likely to be questioned about his handling of criticism of the vile and odious rascal Hunt's oversight of the News Corp/BSkyB deal. Milimolimandi and Harman have led calls for the vile and odious rascal Hunt to resign over allegations that he was too pro-News Corp and failed to act in a quasi-judicial manner while handling the bid. The inquiry will also give Brown, the Labour prime minister for three years until 2010, the chance to explain his dealings with national newspaper groups. He has denied claims by billionaire tyrant Murdoch that he threatened to 'make war' on News Corp in a phone call after the Sun switched its support to the Tories in late 2009.

BBC Worldwide is understood to be planning changes to its senior management team, in a reorganisation expected to result in the departure of former BBC director of vision Jana Bennett. John Smith, the BBC Worldwide chief executive, is said to be working on plans for the restructure of the thirteen-strong executive committee that runs the corporation's commercial arm. Bennett, BBC Worldwide's president of global networks and the global iPlayer, is a member of the executive committee. Smith is in discussions about the proposals with the BBC Trust, the corporation's governance and regulatory body, with an announcement expected in the coming weeks, according to alleged 'sources' whom, the Gruniad Morning Star claim are 'familiar with the management reorganisation plan.' A BBC Worldwide spokeswoman said: 'We've been looking at a number of options to increase our penetration of high growth markets around the world, and sustain our record of successful growth. This work remains underway and we are not going to comment on speculation about it.' A BBC Trust spokeswoman said: 'As you would expect, the trust has regular and ongoing discussions with the BBC executive about Worldwide's future strategy and business planning.' Bennett joined BBC Worldwide in her current job in February 2011, with responsibility for the global rollout of the iPlayer. She also oversees BBC Worldwide's wholly-owned channels outside the US, including BBC Entertainment, BBC Knowledge, CBeebies and BBC HD and the corporation's fifty per cent stake in the UKTV joint venture with Virgin Media, which operates ten networks including Dave, Gold and Watch. Bennett moved to BBC Worldwide after eight years as BBC Vision director and director of television, responsible for the corporation's portfolio of TV channels. A BBC veteran who has spent all her career at the corporation aside from a two-and-a-half-year stint running Discovery's TLC cable channel in the US, Bennett joined the BBC as a news trainee in 1979. She went on to work for Newsnight, The Money Programme and Nationwide before producing Panorama, editing Horizon and running the BBC science department in the late 1990s when it made Walking with Dinosaurs and The Human Body. BBC Worldwide reported annual revenues of £1.16bn and underlying profits of one hundred and sixty million smackers in the year to the end of March 2011 – up ten per cent on the previous year. Whether Smith will reach his target of a two hundred million quid annual profit for 2011-12 will be revealed in July when Worldwide publishes its accounts for the last financial year on the same day as the BBC annual report.

Channel Four News chief correspondent Alex Thompson has claimed that Syrian rebels deliberately tried to get him and his crew killed by gunfire from government forces in a bid to discredit the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Thompson alleged a small group from the Free Syrian Army deliberately guided the vehicle in which he and his Channel Four News colleagues were travelling into what he described as a 'free-fire zone' on a blocked road in 'no man's land' in the vicinity of the city of al-Qusayr, because 'dead journos are bad for Damascus.' He also claimed UN vehicles the Channel Four News team were travelling with later abandoned them when they were surrounded by 'shouting militia.' Thompson said after being led into no man's land between Syrian army and rebel forces by four men in a black car, his team were fired upon and forced to take evasive action, eventually managing to 'floor it back to the road we'd been led in on.' The incident took place last weekend and Thompson is now back in the UK. 'Suddenly four men in a black car beckon us to follow. We move out behind,' Thompson wrote in a Channel Four News website blog published on Friday morning. 'We are led another route. Led in fact, straight into a free-fire zone. Told by the Free Syrian Army to follow a road that was blocked off in the middle of no-man's land,' he added. 'At that point there was the crack of a bullet and one of the slower three-point turns I've experienced. We screamed off into the nearest side-street for cover. Another dead-end. There was no option but to drive back out on to the sniping ground and floor it back to the road we'd been led in on. Predictably the black car was there which had led us to the trap. They roared off as soon as we re-appeared. I'm quite clear the rebels deliberately set us up to be shot by the Syrian army. Dead journos are bad for Damascus.' Thompson said that this conviction was only strengthened half-an-hour later when 'our four friends in the same beaten-up black car suddenly pulled out of a side-street, blocking us from the UN vehicles ahead. The UN duly drove back past us, witnessed us surrounded by shouting militia, and left town. Eventually we got out too and on the right route, back to Damascus,' he added. 'In a war where they slit the throats of toddlers back to the spine, what's the big deal in sending a van full of journalists into the killing zone? It was nothing personal.' A spokeswoman for ITN-produced Channel Four News said: 'The safety of our journalists is of paramount importance and we only ever send experienced teams into these hostile environments. Alex is an incredibly experienced journalist who has covered conflicts around the world for more than two decades and has used social media to share the full detail of these assignments. We will be reviewing this trip, as we do with every other foreign send and sharing the review across ITN as we continue to cover this complex and important story.'

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has suggested that coverage of the world's premium motor sport could end on the BBC following Sky's successful debut as broadcaster of the sport. This week it has been announced that the rights to broadcast live F1 races in Italy have been sold to Sky Italia, the pay-TV giant owned by billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. Many commentators are viewing this as a sign that the days of free-to-air coverage of Formula One in Europe are numbered. In Britain, this year marked the first time that not all Grand Prix are available live on free-to-air television, after the BBC agreed to share the rights. Sky is showing every practice, qualifying and race session live on its new Sky Sports F1 channel, while the BBC has rights to show half the races live, with delayed highlights of the others. Formula One fans reacted with anger to the deal, as many faced the prospect of stumping up nearly five hundred smackers a year to get the Sky Sports package to watch all the live coverage. Ecclestone reassured fans in other regions that the sport will remain on free-to-air, in part at least, but refused to give the same assurances for UK viewers. 'We will never move all countries to pay‑per‑view only, though it wouldn't make any difference here in the UK,' he told the Gruniad. Ecclestone praised Sky for doing 'a super job', and noted that the BBC showed complacency in letting the live rights slip through its grasp. 'The Beeb were sure we wouldn't be able to go anywhere else,' he said. Ecclestone said that Sky is able to reach ten million UK homes, which the sport doesn't get with the BBC. 'Sky reaches over ten million households,' Ecclestone said. 'We don't get ten million on the BBC, normally about six or seven million.' The BBC's viewing figures have also suffered from the arrival of Sky's coverage, as the corporation's opening live race, the Chinese Grand Prix in April, was down around one million on the 2011 audience. Grand Prix coverage on Sky Sports F1, Sky's first channel dedicated to just one sport, has averaged one million viewers over the first four races of the 2012 season. Sky is also more able to flex its financial muscles in picking up live rights to sport, as the BBC recently suffered a fifteen per cent cut in its budget for sports rights bidding. 'The thing that TV stations want to buy most is live sport,' said Ecclestone. 'People don't want to watch delayed stuff because nowadays it's hard not to know the result if you don't want to.'

Kevin Bridges was heckled so severely a warm-up gig that the local council could be offering him a formal apology. A loud-mouthy chancer in the audience of Kevin's Arbroath gig on Tuesday of this week threatened to take the twenty five-year-old comic 'outside and kick his head in.' Bridges was said to have been 'visibly shaken' by the bitter exchange, which escalated after the man - no doubt a perfect specimen of humanity himself - started shouting abuse based on Bridges' weight. Audience member Gary Cavanagh posted on Facebook: 'He started calling [Kevin] a fat bastard and progressed to threatening to take him outside and kick his head in. The audience were shouting their disapproval but he kept on slagging him and other people in the audience until he took hold of his senses and left.' Bridges told the crowd: 'I'm only here to tell jokes and have a bit of fun — there's no need for that. That goes beyond heckling.' He later apologised to the audience of six hundred, and called the heckler a 'knuckle-dragger' as he left the stage. Arbroath councillor David Fairweather, who was at the show in the Webster Memorial Theatre has now asked asking the council to personally apologise to Bridges. He told the local Courier newspaper: 'It was absolutely scandalous and I've no doubt drink played a part. I just felt the guy got personal and I felt it rattled Kevin. Kevin Bridges is a young man who is now internationally known, and for him to come to a town like Arbroath was fantastic, but I have got my doubts if he will come back. I'll be contacting the director of neighbourhood services to ask him to apologise personally to Kevin on behalf of Angus Council.'

The Spectator has been ordered to pay five thousand six hundred smackers after admitting an article on the trial of Stephen Lawrence's killers breached a court order. Rod Liddle's article claimed the two defendants would not get a fair trial. The article appeared after the trial had begun and when judges had already banned reports that could influence the jury's view of the defendants. The magazine's lawyer apologised unreservedly for its 'bitterly regrettable' failure to make checks. Editor Fraser Nelson had previously said the magazine would not contest the prosecution. The prosecution said Liddle's article had directly contravened the court order and had potential for devastating consequences for the trial. The fine imposed on the Spectator's publisher was three grand, and it was also told to pay a further two thousand smackers in compensation for the Lawrence family and six hundred quid court costs. Gary Dobson and David Norris were convicted of Stephen Lawrence's murder earlier this year after a complex trial relating to fragments of DNA evidence. Before the trial began, senior judges imposed a ban on any media reports referring to allegations that either of the defendants were violent or racist. This kind of reporting restriction is a standard procedure used in many trials to ensure the jury is not influenced by the media. In the Spectator article, Liddle ignored this and wrote that Dobson and Norris had already been presented as violent racists and any judge who took action against him for saying so was 'singularly perverse.' Justice Treacy, the trial judge, ordered the jury not to read the article and referred the matter to the attorney general for possible contempt of court. Under the law, Liddle himself was not liable for prosecution but the magazine's publisher was. It was not prosecuted for contempt of court, but for breaching a court order which imposed reporting restrictions on the trial.

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of an Elizabethan theatre where some of William Shakespeare's plays were first performed. The remains of the Curtain Theatre, which opened in 1577, were found behind a pub in Shoreditch as part of regeneration works. The venue was immortalised as 'this wooden O' in the prologue to Henry V. It is hoped the site could be opened to the public, with plays staged there in the future. Archaeologists from the Museum of London Archaeology stumbled across parts of the playhouse's yard and gallery walls after development began on the site last October. 'This is a fantastic site which gives us unique insight into early Shakespearean theatres,' lead archaeologist Chris Thomas said. The Curtain was operated by theatre manager James Burbage and was home to Shakespeare's Company, the Lord Chamberlain's Men, from 1597 until The Globe opened two years later. The theatre disappeared from historical records in 1622 but could have remained in use until the outbreak of the Civil War, twenty years later. Plays thought to have premiered there include Henry V, Romeo and Juliet and Ben Jonson's Every Man in His Humour. 'This is one of the most significant Shakespearean discoveries of recent years,' a spokesman for Plough Yard Developments, which owns the site, said. 'Although The Curtain was known to have been in the area, its exact location was a mystery. The quality of the remains found is remarkable and we are looking forward to working with MOLA, [the] local community and Shakespearean experts to develop plans that will give the public access to the theatre remains as part of a new development.' Royal Shakespeare Company artistic director Michael Boyd added: 'I look forward to touching the mud and stone, if not wood, and feeling the presence of that space where Shakespeare's early work, including the histories, made such a lasting impact.' Further excavations are expected to take place later this year.

Bill Bailey is to receive one of the most prestigious honours in heavy metal. if that in and of itself isn't an oxymoron. The forty eight-year-old comic has been chosen as the recipient of the Spirit Of Hammer Award at the Golden Gods ceremony, run by Metal Hammer magazine. Previous winners have included Christopher Lee. Award organisers said: 'Bailey embodies the spirit of what it is to be "metal" – and last year he headlined the Saturn Stage at the Sonisphere Festival.' Metal Hammer editor Alexander Milas added: 'Anyone who's ever seen Bill Bailey parody Slayer, or perhaps backstage at Mastodon or Opeth gigs, will know that his heart beats for the music we love. It'll be an honour to have him down on such an already star-studded night.' Bill himself said: 'I am really chuffed to be honoured by Metal Hammer and its readers in this way. It proves what I have always thought, that the spirit of metal transcends the music.' He will receive his award on Monday at a ceremony that will feature Watain, BioHazard and Anthrax. That's the bands Biohazard and Anthrax, not the lethal substances BioHazard and Anthrex.

Elvis Presley is to be digitally recreated for a series of live shows and TV appearances. A virtual likeness of the late singer will be produced for the performances by the same company who made a Tupac 'hologram' earlier this year. The digitally resurrected rapper made a headline-grabbing appearance at the Coachella music festival in April. Elvis Presley Enterprises said: 'This is a new and exciting way to bring the magic and music of Elvis to life. His lifelong fans will be thrilled all over again and new audiences will discover the electric experience of Elvis the performer.' The technological brains behind the project are The Digital Domain Media Group, co-founded by Avatar director James Cameron. They have previously created computer-generated human characters for films including The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, TRON: Legacy and X-Men: First Class. They also animated the figure of Tupac seen performing alongside Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg at the Coachella Festival. That performance was staged by AV Concepts and the UK-based Musion Systems, who previously enabled Madonna to perform with cartoon hip-hop band Gorillaz at the 2006 Grammy Awards. Although the striking, 3D images have been called 'holograms,' they are in fact the result of an optical illusion pioneered in the Victorian era. Known as Pepper's Ghost, the illusion involves projecting the image on an angled piece of glass, according to the Wall Street Journal. Presley died in 1977 aged forty two. His backing band still tour today, playing along to archive footage of the singer, which is projected on big screens in venues including London's Wembley Arena.

Graham Carr, the chief scout at yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved Newcastle United has signed an eight-year contract to keep him at the club until the age of seventy five. Carr is the man credited with identifying much of the talent in Alan Pardew's team which finished fifth in the Premier League last season. He picked out the likes of Hatem Ben Arfa, Cheick Tiote, Yohan Cabaye, Papiss Cisse and Sylvain Marveaux. Newcastle's managing director Derek Llambias told the club's website: '[Graham] has been instrumental in helping us get some truly exceptional players. He has deservedly built one of the best reputations in the business.' Carr, sixty seven, joined the Magpies in February 2010, when Chris Hughton was in charge. He previously held scouting roles at Stottingtot Hotsphots and Shiekh Yer Man City. The former York and Northampton player and Blackpool manager, who is the father of the comedian and chat show host Alan Carr, is now poised to work for the club he has supported all his life - and played for as a teenager - well into his seventies. Graham's father, Wilf, was also on the books at St James' Park during the 1920s but, like his son, his appearances were restricted to reserve team football. Llambias said: 'Graham works tirelessly to identify talented young players from across the world and has done a magnificent job over the last two years. He has the complete faith and support of the owner, the board and the manager. It is excellent news that the club will continue to benefit from his expertise for many years to come.'

One might've thought that Stewart Downing would be considering himself jolly lucky to have made England's Euro 2012 squad after a thoroughly average first season at Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws and might have been more advised to keep his trap shut rather than shouting-the-odd. But, he's a footballer so life's never that simple. Downing claims that the squad 'does not fear' France and is confident of a result when the the sides meet at Euro 2012 on Monday. So, that'll be Hatem Ben Arfa running rings around the England defence, then. Jeez, haven't these idiots ever heard of karma? Roy Hodgson's England side face France in their opening group game, before taking on Sweden on 15 June and Ukraine four days later. Downing said: 'We are confident we can get a result. We don't fear them. We know they are a good team but so are we. We know their strength and weaknesses.' He denied that the England's players are talking about The Scum defender Rio Ferdinand's omission, saying: 'Whoever the manager picks, we get on with it. I concentrate on my position in the team and so do the other players.' Downing is one of six Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haw players in the England squad - more than any other club side - despite the club's vastly disappointing eighth-placed finish in the Premier League which got their manager the old tin-tack. The former Middlesbrough and Aston Villa midfielder defended the club's season, saying: 'If you look at our performances, we battered teams at times but we did not have the killer instinct.'

UK government ministers will boycott England's group games in the European football championships in Ukraine. The move is in protest at the 'selective justice' meted out to jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko. Attendance at later matches, such as the final in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, is to be kept 'under review.' Other EU nations including Germany, Holland and Austria have also threatened a boycott of the tournament being jointly hosted with Poland. Tymoshenko played a key role in the Orange Revolution in 2004 and says her imprisonment is an act of political revenge by Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych. The authorities have rejected Tymoshenko's allegations. She was jailed for seven years in October, for 'abuse of power' during her time as prime minister. Last week, she ended a twenty-day hunger strike after being moved to a hospital in Kharkiv where she is being treated by a German doctor. A Foreign Office spokesperson said: 'The government fully supports England's participation in Euro 2012. We hope this is a successful tournament for the England team, the fans, and the people of Ukraine and Poland. No ministers will be attending group games at Euro 2012. We are keeping attendance at later stages of the tournament under review in the light of ministers' busy schedules ahead of the Olympics and widespread concerns about selective justice and the rule of law in Ukraine.' If England do get to the final of the tournament - unlikely, I know, but just suppose - they will play at least five games in Ukraine. Should they get through to the knock-out phase, they will play their quarter-final in either Donetsk or Kiev. If England come second in their group and go on to win the quarter-final, their semi-final will be in Donetsk. The final is to be held in Kiev. Sports Minister Hugh Robertson would normally have been expected to go the group games, but was occupied with Olympic duties, the Department of Culture Media and Sport said. 'No final decision had been taken about which ministers were to go,' said a spokesman. Tymoshenko's daughter Eugenia this week told BBC News that she 'understood' the political boycott but wanted the tournament to go ahead. 'We understand the political boycott of European leaders who protect the rule of law, who respect human rights, who cannot go there and shake Yanukovych's hand. But I think sports events should go on. My mother, when she was in government, fought for the right to host this championship in Ukraine.' Poland, which is co-hosting the tournament with Ukraine, has warned that the EU should not push Ukraine into the arms of Russia through a boycott. President Bronislaw Komorowski told Polish state television: 'We feel that Ukraine is somewhere between a choice of integration with the Western world or a chance to participate in a customs union proposed by Russia. From this point of view, Poland has well-grounded fears that it (boycotting Ukraine) might result in Ukraine choosing a political route alternative to the process of European integration.

The BBC has defended a recent Panorama investigation into racism and anti-Semitism at Euro 2012 hosts Poland and Ukraine, and said that it disagrees in the 'strongest terms' with the criticism from one of the programme contributors. The documentary, titled Euro 2012: Stadiums of Hate, included footage of Polish fans giving Nazi-style salutes, black players being heckled with monkey chants and a group of Asian men being viciously beaten at a club game in Ukraine. But Jonathan Ornstein, the executive director of the Jewish Community Centre in Krakow, who was interviewed for the programme, criticised at the BBC's portrayal of the perceived problems in both countries. In a letter sent to the Economist on 6 June, Ornstein said that he was 'furious' at the way Panorama had 'used [him] and others to manipulate the serious subject of anti-Semitism for its own sensationalist agenda.' He added: 'The BBC knowingly cheated its own audience - the British people - by concocting a false horror story about Poland. In doing so, the BBC has spread fear, ignorance, prejudice and hatred. I would urge the BBC to become more aware of its own negative stereotyping of Poles, before it goes pointing the finger of judgement.' However, the BBC hit back in a strongly worded statement to the magazine, saying that it denies in the 'strongest terms' that the interview with Ornstein was 'misrepresented.' The corporation said that the programme's commentary made it clear that Ornstein believed 'most Poles happily accept other faiths, but that football hooligans are yet to catch up with wider Polish society.' Certain comments from the BBC's hour-long interview with Ornstein were not included in the programme, including: 'I think we see Poland going in a very good direction in terms of Jewish relations and maybe the football stadiums and the football fans aren't going in that direction and that's something we need to work on as a country.' The BBC said that this quote 'goes precisely to the heart of what the programme was about,' and makes his later criticisms appear somewhat baffling. 'It becomes even more baffling in the context of UEFA's comment to the programme, that by awarding the tournament to Poland and Ukraine it would shine a light on such societal issues of racism and anti-Semitism with a view to improvement,' said the BBC. 'One wonders how UEFA's stated aim can be achieved in the light of the continued apparent failure of politicians, police, football officials and others in either Poland or Ukraine to condemn the racism, anti-Semitism and violence recorded by the Panorama team at recent matches in both countries.' The BBC also said that it 'takes issue' with Ornstein's claim that he told the BBC interviewer to speak to two Israeli footballers at Polish club Wisla Kraków, but was apparently told that 'this line of inquiry "didn't fit their story."' In its statement, the BBC responded: 'The programme's producer and reporter deny refusing the offer to interview two Israeli footballers playing in Poland because it did not fit the story. Neither have any recollection of such a conversation with Mr Ornstein. Had such an offer been made, both say they would not have responded in the way Mr Ornstein alleges - in fact they would have jumped at the chance of interviewing them.' In a rather stinging conclusion, the BBC added: 'Given that Mr Ornstein acknowledges in his statement "that problems do exist", it could be argued that he has now handed those racist and anti-Semitic followers of football in Poland a big excuse not to mend their ways, to find "the cure" as he put it, when he spoke to the Panorama team.'

Meanwhile, on broadly the same subject UEFA has confirmed, after at first denying, that there were 'isolated incidents of racist chanting' aimed at Netherlands players during an open training session. But the governing body has not revealed whether it is investigating the incident in Krakow. Dutch captain Mark van Bommel said that monkey chants were aimed at team-mates. 'Should such behaviour happen at further training sessions, UEFA would evaluate the operational measures to be taken to protect players,' UEFA - those well-known cowardly appeasers of bullies and fascists - said. Whatever the hell that means. 'UEFA has now been made aware that there were some isolated incidents of racist chanting that occurred at the open training session of the Dutch team yesterday in Krakow. UEFA has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to discriminatory behaviour and has given the power to referees to stop matches in case of any repeated racist behaviour.' The governing body said no formal complaint had been received from the Dutch FA - and Netherlands officials have already said that none will be made. The matter is now considered closed, the Dutch FA told BBC Sport. While Van Bommel complained specifically of racist abuse, the Dutch FA said this was mixed with anti-Euro 2012 chanting believed to have been prompted by the fact the city has not been given any matches in the tournament. Netherlands head coach Bert van Marwijk did not hear any racist abuse, his FA added. When it was put to Van Bommel on Thursday that the chanting was a protest against Euro 2012 organisers, he said: 'Open your ears. If you did hear it and don't want to hear it, that is even worse.' The claims emerged on the opening day of the tournament, which is being co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine. Around twenty thousand fans had turned up to watch the training session at the Stadion Miejski on Wednesday. Journalist Marcel van der Kraan, who writes for Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, said that he heard the racist abuse. He told BBC Radio 5Live: 'As the Dutch players did their warm-up, during the first lap of the pitch they could hear monkey noises from one end of the crowd. When the players heard this they said they would do another lap and if they heard monkey noises again they would stop. The Dutch coach moved all the cones and started training on the pitch as far away from these people as possible. It was considerably more than two or three people. The Dutch media could hear it as well.' The day before the alleged abuse, the Netherlands players had visited Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz, which is nearby. Van Bommel said: 'It is a real disgrace, especially after getting back from Auschwitz, that you are confronted with this. We will take it up with UEFA and if it happens at a match we will talk to the referee and ask him to take us off the field.' Earlier this week, UEFA's thoroughly oily president Michel Platini told BBC Sport that the issue was one for wider society, not simply football. But, he added that referees had the power to stop games if there was racist abuse from the stands.

The second successive day of the third Test between England and West Indies at Edgbaston has been abandoned without a ball being bowled. The first day was washed out and the second was called off just before tow o'clock on Friday following further bad weather. The last time the first two days of a Test in England were both washed out was against Australia in 1964. England are looking to seal a 3-0 series sweep following wins at Lord's and Trent Bridge. England wicketkeeper Matt Prior was passed fit on Thursday following an eye infection, so reserve Steven Davies returned to county action with Surrey. The delayed start has given West Indies batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul extra time to recover from a side injury. West Indies captain Darren Sammy hinted on Wednesday that one of the two reserve batsmen, Assad Fudadin or Narsingh Deonarine, could come in if Chanderpaul's injury failed to heal.
Former Fleetwood Mac guitarist and vocalist Bob Welch has been found dead with a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home in Nashville. Police said that Welch, who was aged sixty six and also had a solo career, is understood to have had 'health issues' recently. Welch was part of Fleetwood Mac in their early years from 1971 to 1974 before forming hard rock group Paris. Three years later came the platinum solo LP French Kiss with the hits 'Sentimental Lady' and 'Ebony Eyes'. Nashville police spokesman Don Aaron said: 'Officers discovered Mr Welch with a single gunshot wound to the chest. There was a suicide note found at the residence. Mr Welch had health issues. The police are investigating it as a suicide and there was no evidence of foul play.' Welch was reportedly found dead by his wife. He worked on early 70s Fleetwood Mac LPs such as Future Games and Bare Trees. Bob left the band just before their biggest selling period. When Fleetwood Mac was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, Welch was not included in the group. 'It basically comes down to the fact that they don't like me anymore,' he told the Plain Dealer of Cleveland at the time. 'I guess they can do what they want. I could understand it if I had been a sideman for a year. But I was an integral part of that band. I put more of myself into that band than anything else I've ever done.' As a songwriter, Welch had his songs recorded by Kenny Rogers, Sammy Hagar, the Pointer Sisters and others. In 1999 he released a CD, Bob Welch Looks at Bop, a salute to bebop music in the 1940s. In an interview with The Tennessean in 2003, Welch said he never dreamed he'd be remembered for much. 'I just wanted to play guitar in a good band,' he said. 'I wanted to make the music I love. I wanted to travel the world and have adventures.' Welch also said 'music is disposable now. It doesn't have the emotional impact anymore. That's sad.' He had lived in Nashville since the 1990s. Bart Herbison, executive director of the Nashville Songwriters Association, quoted his wife Wendy as saying Welch had spinal surgery three months ago and doctors told him he would not get better, and he did not want her to have to care for an invalid.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, here's Bob with Mick, John, Chrissy and Danny Kirwan on German TV in 1970. With a masterpiece.

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