Friday, August 03, 2012

And The Archer Split The Tree

Great Britain won its fourth Olympic gold in twenty four hours - and sixth in total - as Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins triumphed in the women's double sculls on Day Seven of the London Olympics. For Grainger, thirty six, it was a case of fourth time lucky - she was a silver medallist at all of the three previous Games. Watkins is also an experienced Olympian, who picked up a bronze in Beijing four years ago. The world champion pair clocked in six minutes 55.82 seconds beating the Australian duo into second place. Grainger said: 'It was worth the wait. Steve Redgrave promised me there would be tears of joy this time and they are. For both of us we knew we had the goods to perform and it was about delivering.' The gold came twenty minutes after the British men's pair of George Nash and Will Satch won a surprise, but very deserved, bronze. Eric Murray and Hamish Bond underlined their tag as overwhelming favourites with gold in the event. The New Zealand duo, who are unbeaten in the last three years and lowered their own world record by six seconds in the heat, raced to victory in style. France's Germain Chardin and Dorian Mortelette led through 500m before Murray and Bond swept past them. Nash and Satch chased down the French but were beaten to the line. It was Britain's fourth rowing medal at London 2012 - soon followed by a fifth - and Satch was clearly delighted with third place. 'I can't really believe it,' he told BBC Sport. 'Six months ago didn't think I'd even be coming as a spare. It is a dream come true.' And, there was even better news from Eton Dorny shortly afterwards as the Northern Irish solo sculler Alan Campbell also picked up a hard-fought bronze. In the afternoon, Great Britain's Karina Bryant also claimed a bronze medal in the women's plus seventy eight kilos judo following on from Gemma Gibbons's silver the day before. Then it was back to the Velodrome where the the British team pursuit cyclists - Geraint Thomas, Ed Clancy, Steven Burke and Peter Kennaugh - not only won the gold medal but also, for the second time in two days, smashed the world record with a time of three minutes, 51.659 seconds. God, it was epic stuff. For Thomas and Clancy it was a second taste of gold following their feats in the same event in Beijing (when they rode with Bradley Wiggins and Paul Manning). Australia finished with silver, while New Zealand took bronze. World champion cyclist and BBC pundit Mark Cavendish said: 'That was incredible, the noise in here was the most incredible thing I have ever heard. I had goosebumps. The lads looked on fire.' Although not literally, obviously. Cos, there'd be you know smoke, and burns and shit. Anyway, his BBC colleague - and 1992 Olympic gold medallist - Chris Boardman, added: 'There is not a lot more you can ask. A world record and gold medal in the final and in London. They rejigged their tactics after the first heat, Ed Clancy and Burke were super strong, they were given longer turns and Geraint Thomas was given the opportunity to bury it.' The British quartet's performance in qualifying on Thursday had showed they were in the same form that had secured them the world title - in a then world record time - in Melbourne in April. Meanwhile, Britain's women's pursuit team of Dani King, Laura Trott and Joanna Rowsell also look favourites for gold after setting a new world record in their event in qualifying. They posted a new mark of three minutes 15.669 seconds as they qualified fastest. Both the first round and final take place on Saturday. Then, came the big one, The Keiran - once brilliantly described by Hugh Dennis as 'six people in lycra chasing a Pizza delivery boy!' And, this time no sour-faced jobsworth of a judge was going to deny Queen Victoria Pendleton of another gold medal. She blew away the field - including long-time rival Anna Meares - although she was pushed all the way to the line by China's Shuang Guo who took the silver. Tour De France winner and time trial champion Bradley Wiggins, speaking to BBC Radio 5Live said: 'Vicky rises to the occasion. She pulls it out when she needs to. To pull out a performance like that in what isn't her strongest event is phenomenal.' Over the course of a long and glittering career, Vicky has won nine world titles - including a record-equalling six in the individual sprint discipline - in addition to a gold at the 2008 Beijing Games. She will retire after the games as the most successful British female track cyclist of all time. In the pool, meanwhile, American fifteen-year-old Katie Ledecky stunned Rebecca Adlington - and the thousands of punters who'd all rocked up to the Aquatic Centre to watch Rebecca win the gold medal that the majority of the British media had assured them she was 'certain' to take for most of the last four years - in winning the women's eight hundred metres freestyle title. Not to mention millions watching at home. Adlington finished third to win her second bronze of the games (to go with, of course, the two golds which she won four years ago). She was also, sadly, then subjected to possibly the single most buttock-clenchingly embarrassing interview in TV history by Sharon Davies at poolside. Ledecky took off at a stunning pace and maintained her lead, leaving defending champion Adlington and Danish rival Lotte Friis floundering. The look on Clare Balding face afterwards suggested that she's just been smacked, hard, in the mush, with a wet haddock. Poor old Rebecca probably knew exactly how she felt. Balding subsequently felt it necessary to apologise to BBC viewers for coming over all disappointed. Well, it shows you care, I suppose. Oh, and the athletics started as well, dear blog reader. Excellent, now it feels like the Olympics.

Former News International chief executive, well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike (and drag) Rebekah Brooks was formally charged with naughty phone-hacking and will appear in court next month, Scotland Yard have said. Brooks, forty four, answered bail at Lewisham police station and will appear at Westminster magistrates court on 3 September. Six other ex-journalists from the Scum of the World, including David Cameron's former spin doctor Andy Coulson, have also been officially charged and will appear at the same court on 16 August. The seven all stand accused of one general charge of alleged phone-hacking between October 2000 and August 2006 which could affect as many as six hundred victims. Brooks and Coulson face specific charges of illegally accessing the voicemail of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler. The other former Scum of the World staff who face court action are ex-managing editor Stuart Kuttner, former news editor Greg Miskiw, former head of news Ian Edmondson, ex-chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck and former reporter James Weatherup. All deny the charges. In a statement issued last month, well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks insisted that she was innocent, adding: 'The charge concerning Milly Dowler is particularly upsetting, not only as it is untrue but also because I have spent my journalistic career campaigning for victims of crime.' So, it would seem that well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks also has a secret identity of Batman. Who knew? Well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike (and Caped Crusader, apparently) Brooks is already facing three further counts of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, linked to the investigation into phone-hacking. She and five others, including her racehorse trainer husband, millionaire Old Etonian Robin, sorry, Charlie, who faces one count of the same offence, are due to appear at Southwark crown court in London on 26 September. All deny the charges.

That Steven Moffat, he's such a tease isn't he, dear blog reader?
BBC1 again dominated peaktime on Thursday evening with its Olympics coverage, with its 7pm to 10pm programme - compiling various swimming events plus highlights of the earlier British gold medal victories in shooting, canoeing and cycling - averaging 7.59m across the three hours with an initial peak of 8.2m around 8:30pm, just as they were showing the much-anticipated trailer for the much-anticipated forthcoming series of Doctor Who. Clever bit of scheduling, that. The audience then built even further with a whopping 9.6m peak watching by 9pm when Michael Phelps won the two hundred metres individual medley. Earlier, a peak of 8.2m saw Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny and Philip Hindes win gold in the Men’s Track Cycling (BBC1: 8.1m, During the afternoon, BBC Olympics Seven: one hundred and forty two thousand punters). A peak audience of 3.7m had seen Peter Wilson shoot his way to gold in the double trap (BBC1: 3.7m, Olympics Twelve: fifty three thousand). At almost the same time Britain was also winning the gold and silver in the double canoe slalom – going to Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott, and David Florence and Richard Hounslow, respectively – with a five-minute peak of nine hundred thousand punters tuning in at 3.40pm. The live action was watched by eight hundred thousand on BBC3, with a further one hundred and forty six thousand catching it on BBC Olympics One. When the action was replayed at 2.55pm on BBC1 a peak of 4.5 million watched. 4.7m saw Gemma Gibbons win silver in the Judo (BBC1: 4.6m, BBC Olympics Nine: one hundred thousand). Over on BBC2, Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight launched with an impressive 2.43m in the 8pm hour - popular lads are Si and Davey - benefiting from its lead-in from EastEnders 5.3m. Amish: A Secret Life followed with a more than decent 2.01m, only just losing out to ITV's law documentary The Briefs, which mustered a mere 2.12m. Débâcle. BBC1 thrashed ITV's ass hollow in primetime with 31.3 per cent of the audience share versus 14.4 per cent - the latter almost entirely down to the audience for the night's episode of Coronation Street (6.2m).

The abuse, Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton decided on Thursday, had simply become too much too take. With a final sign-off to her forty thousand followers, she said goodbye to Twitter. 'Turns out I don't have very thick skin after all so I am closing my Twitter account. Enjoy the games.' A day earlier, it had been the turn of Channel Four presenter Kirstie Allsopp to air her frustration with so-called 'trolls' posting abuse on her Twitter account. Allsopp said that she had called in the police over 'utterly vile and unacceptable' messages from two anonymous Twitter users. Allsopp refused to leave the social network over the comments, but told her two hundred and thirty five thousand followers: 'I will not accept being told to shoot my own womb or bleed to death with a spade in my vagina by anyone. Bullying is unacceptable.'  Indeed, it is. It's despicable and, it's also against the law. The presenter, who fronts Location, Location, Location for Channel Four, said there should be a way to tackle Internet trolls without calling in the police. This, dear blog reader, is why this blogger has never bothered with Twitter - because it is, quite simply, more trouble than it's worth. Of course, there is the other side to all this - the fact that many of the celebrities who use Twitter do so as something of a vanity exercise and seem entirely oblivious to the fact that there are some utter gits in the world. And, of course, as at least a couple of recent high profile spats involving thin-skinned Fearne Cotton have proved screamed headlines about 'trolling' aren't, always, what they may seems to be. Saying 'I don't think you're very good', for example, to a TV presenter on Twitter (or on a blog for that matter) is not, whatever anyone may say to the contrary, 'trolling'. Neither is it illegal. It's a matter of opinion from a licence fee payer (you know, one of those annoying 'little people' who pay TV personalities wages). Nevertheless, there appears to be a growing wave of very pointed abuse targeting high-profile personalities on Twitter, prompting something of a heated debate about free expression on the Internet. Skelton did not re-tweet the comments which she had found so insulting, so we've no idea if they actually were, although they are understood to be messages sent to her relating to her work on the Olympics, where she has been interviewing members of the public around the games venues. This week, the police in Dorset were criticised by libertarian groups when they arrested a seventeen-year-old on suspicion of malicious communications following allegedly 'threatening' tweets to the British Olympic diver Tom Daley. The move was described by some as over-the-top, quick-triggered and motivated mainly by a public outcry in defence of the sportsman on Twitter. Others have argued - and this blogger is one of them - that the law must equally apply in cyberspace and that the Internet is no different from a British high street in regard to what you say. In May, a student who tweeted vile racist comments about the footballer Fabrice Muamba when he collapsed during a match was released after serving half of a fifty six-day sentence imposed by magistrates in Swansea. Internet trolls can face prosecution under legislation such as the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, Malicious Communications Act 1998 and Communications Act 2003 depending on what they say. The weightlifter Zoe Smith, 'stuck two fingers up' to her Internet critics on Monday when she lifted a British record-breaking one hundred and twenty one kilogrammes. She spoke out about how she and some of her team-mates faced abuse for their appearance and choice of sport. Smith said: 'I love using Twitter. I am pretty much known as the athlete who sits there and tweets in between her clean and jerk. Some people just abuse it. Just because, at the moment perhaps while we are competing they think we are public figures, they think they can stay as faceless people who would say these things.' She was not alone. The swimmer Rebecca Adlington has been taunted on Twitter and several footballers, including the England international Micah Richards and Manchester United's Darron Gibson, have ditched the social network after being abused. The BBC's Gary Lineker said he felt 'physically sick' reading some of the messages sent to his son, George, who suffered from leukaemia as a child. Lineker highlighted three tweets posted by an anonymous user. One, no doubt perfect specimen of humanity, is reported to have said: 'Heard ya Leukaemia, pity ya didn't die.' Other athletes have chosen to avoid the social network altogether. Louis Smith, Britain's bronze-winning gymnast, said: 'It is just that one message. You can get one hundred nice ones but there is that one message that you do not want to see – so that is why I took the decision to stop tweeting.'

The abuse threatens to cast a shadow over Twitter, which has become known as the social network where big-name personalities mingle with non-famous users. Stephen Fry, one of the site's earliest and most high-profile users, has repeatedly threatened to quit over abusive messages - although in at least one of those cases the 'abusive message' in question was actually nothing of the kind, merely a comment from a reader who said he found some of Stephen's posting 'boring' - a perfectly valid opinion to voice - and was then, himself, subjected to some, quite vile, abuse from supposed 'defenders' of Fry. See, this is it. Twitter, despite its appealing qualities does, undeniably, seem to bring out the very worst in many people. That's why this blogger refuses to have anything to do with it. I've seen more people get into trouble over a stray comment on Twitter than virtually every other form of communication put together. Not only that but, the one hundred and forty characters thing rather pisses me off. If you've got a thought which you believe is worth sharing to the world, it should not have a limit put on it. If it's worth saying, it's worth being verbose about. I mean, look at this blog for a kick-off! Twitter declined to comment about 'abusive behaviour' on its social network. The company, which describes itself as 'the free speech wing of the free speech party,' has said it does not monitor or intervene in messages posted by its one hundred and forty million active users. It encourages users to block people whom they find insulting. The site's rules say that users must not post 'direct, specific threats of violence' against others. But the company's hands-off approach contrasts with the recent interventions by police over Twitter messages. Mark Williams-Thomas, a criminologist and child protection expert, accused Twitter of turning a blind eye to the darker corners of its site. 'To simply say we don't monitor content is irresponsible from a commercial operation and it's also morally completely wrong,' he said. Williams-Thomas said the law must apply online but it would put added strain on the already-stretched police force. He added: 'My view is if you break the law and you are threatening and abusive to people on Twitter, you deserve to have the full weight of law come down on you.' But, again, define 'abusive', mate. If you walk up to someone in the street and say 'I think you're ugly,' you're - undoubtedly - being abusive. You're also not being very nice. You're not, however, as far as I can see, breaking the law. I'd be interested to know what a police officer could possibly arrest you for if you did that? Breach of the peace? Possibly, but they'd have a hell of a job making it stick in court, I'd've thought. Thus, we have a situation now, seemingly, where it's possible to commit a 'crime' on Twitter that you couldn't, possibly, commit in the street. And that isn't right. Stuart Hyde, the chief constable of Cumbria Constabulary and lead on e-crime for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said there police conducted inquiries into messages on Facebook on fourteen thousand occasions last year. That number will rise sharply if police are called in over comments on Twitter and other websites. 'People have a right to publish their views but when these views become indecent, threatening or offensive then the individuals they affect also have the right to report them,' said Hyde. 'The public have a responsibility to keep their comments on social networks within the law. If they are not, then the police will assist with any prosecution.' Quite right.

Quote of the Olympics so far was from the BBC's notoriously - but lovably - over excitable rowing commentator Garry Herbert just as Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins were winning their gold medal on Friday: 'The flags are going wild!' Err, Garry, flag are inanimate objects and, therefore, by definition cannot display any emotional response to stimuli of any kind. But, it was a jolly exciting race!
There's a thoroughly good piece of reportage by the excellently-named Stuart Heritage in the Gruniad Morning Star on the subject of the BBC's Red Button Olympic coverage: 'BBC1 might be happy to dedicate the bulk of its Olympic coverage to swimming, gymnastics and grating Stella McCartney interviews, but the Red Button continues to be the purist's way to consume the London 2012 games. It isn't entirely without drawbacks – by ignoring the big sports in favour of more obscure fare, sometimes you can feel like Jo Whiley at Glastonbury, joylessly vox-popping a human statue in The Moondazzle Field during Jay-Z's set - but for the most part it's great. Watching the Olympics on the Red Button is as close as you can get to actually being there. My own personal voyage into the unknown continued with a preliminary women's handball match between Spain and France on Monday afternoon. Like many people, my knowledge of handball is scant at best – I know that Koreans love it, and also that about eighty five per cent of all people going to the Olympics somehow ended up with handball tickets – but it's now become one of my favourite sports. It turns out that handball is faster than netball, more tactical than basketball and higher scoring than football. It's relentlessly physical, too, with both teams sprinting and shoving and launching themselves into the air to ferociously pelt the ball at goal at a million miles an hour. It's Speedball 2, basically, but without all the death.' On a similar note, the Mirra's TV critic Jim Shelley has also been rather taken with the Red Button: 'I love the Olympics. The levels of sporting commitment and achievement are - obviously - phenomenal. But above all the Olympics makes great television. It's fantastic daytime telly – which admittedly is not saying very much when the choice is usually between Countdown and The Jeremy Kyle Show. And in terms of drama, most evenings have put EastEnders and Downton Abbey to shame. Dreams are sealed or shattered and heroes and villains are made, live before our eyes - even in events as obscure as women's badminton. London 2012 will also surely be remembered as the time when the BBC's Red Button finally came of age, looking like the best innovation to revolutionise how we watch sport since Sky Plus. All over the country, viewers have been getting the chance to play Programme Director and "pressing their red button." They can over-rule what is meant to be the best event and choose from between two and twenty four other sporting options (depending on whether they are watching on Freeview, Sky, Virgin or, as they increasingly are, on their iPads and computers). Thanks to the Red Button, suddenly we are all experts on archery, air rifles and the bikinis they wear in the beach volleyball. We can flick from posh people jumping over what looks like a course designed by the Teletubbies, to the hunks and babes spinning miraculously in the diving. Like Wimbledon and the Grand National, the Olympics have seen the BBC at its best. It's hard to imagine how awful or average the Olympics would be if they were screened on ITV (with Adrian Chiles) or Sky (with so many ad breaks). Its coverage has by no means been perfect but the BBC has struck a balance between expertise and enthusiasm that can seduce you into become engrossed in sports you previously never cared less about - from boxing and judo to dressage and yachting. Well, maybe not yachting ...'

That might be about to change for yer man, Jim, as there's be a right old kerfuffle going on down at the yacht club. More 'avast yer varlet' and less 'hello sailor', if you know what I mean. Ben Ainslie warned his rivals they had 'made him angry' as he reignited his quest for a fourth Olympic gold medal. Cos, you know, you wouldn't like him when he's angry. The Briton hit back with a first and a third to narrow the gap to leader Jonas Hogh-Christensen to three points with two races and the medal race left on Thursday. Ainslie claimed Hogh-Christensen and Dutchman Pieter-Jan Postma teamed up against him, forcing him to do a penalty turn in race two. 'They've made a big mistake,' said three-time Olympic champion Ainslie. 'They've made me angry and you don't want to make me angry.' Blimey. Pistols at dawns, eh? The thirty five-year-old resumed after the rest day with his pursuit of a fourth Olympic title in the balance. Ainslie had not managed to beat surprise leader Hogh-Christensen in any of the first six races and was ten points behind the Dane. But he made an aggressive statement of intent in the first race in big waves and strong winds out in Weymouth Bay. Ainslie led off the start line leaving Hogh-Christensen in his wake, but the Dane fought back from eighth to fourth on the first downwind leg before capsizing and losing thirty seconds as he righted his boat. Postma overhauled Ainslie briefly but the Briton regained the lead to cross the finish line with a substantial gap and pumped his fists in delight. Hogh-Christensen came home in eighth to see his overall lead narrow to four points. 'I had a day off yesterday and I watched the girls winning the gold medal in the rowing and Bradley Wiggins smashing the time trial and that was a big inspiration,' said Ainslie. 'I thought to myself, "If they can go out and do that, why can't I?" You see British people performing really well at the highest level and it inspires you to do the same.' In race two, the action heated up even more as the Dane and the Dutchman both claimed Ainslie hit a mark. Ainslie says he did not, but took a penalty turn as a precaution, fearing he would lose in the protest room later with two voices against one. But that fired him up and he made up seventy metres on the final downwind leg to overtake Hogh-Christensen for third. After crossing the line, Ainslie was seen to gesture angrily towards the Dane. 'The Dutch and the Danish guys teamed up against me to claim I hit the mark when I didn't,' said Ainslie. 'I was seriously unhappy about that. It's disappointing. It's happened to me a lot in the Olympics before but I guess I'm older and wise enough to know not to fall for it. But those guys better watch out. I can tell you, it's made me pretty angry to make amends. It is sport, they're going to take any advantage they can. I don't particularly appreciate it because I'm sure I didn't hit the mark. Maybe their time will come.' Ainslie was the subject of a protest from a French sailor in the second race in Athens and opted not to take a penalty turn at the time. He lost his argument in the protest room later and was disqualified from the race, giving him a twenty sixth place. That result instantly became the one score he would discard and left him with no room for error for the rest of the regatta, and he was forced to fight extra hard to secure his third gold. Hogh-Christensen was unrepentant and claimed that he saw Ainslie hit the mark. 'Ganging up is a hard allegation,' he said. 'I don't think anybody teams up to call somebody on that. I saw him hit the mark, I think the Dutch guy saw him hit the mark, so if two guys see it, it's probably because he hit the mark. There was no bad words from either of us, we just called him on it. He decided to do what he had to do and he took his penalty. If he was so sure he didn't hit the mark, why do you take the penalty? The exchange of words was probably unnecessary but that's the way life is. What Ben said is between me and Mr Ainslie.' And the world's press, it would seem. Slice the mainbrace and prepare to walk the plank, me beauties, this is going to get tasty.

The mysterious 'woman in red' who appeared in India's Olympic contingent in the opening ceremony has come forward and apologised for an 'error of judgement.' Madhura Nagendra told the NDTV news channel that she was a cast member at the event, and had not gatecrashed it. Indian team officials were reportedly angered by the woman's presence and had sought an apology - not from her but from the Olympica organisers which, frankly, seems a bit harsh. The head of the London 2012 organising committee, Lord Coe, later revealed that the woman was a cast member who got 'slightly over-excited' and joined the ceremony. Having been tracked down by the press, Nagendra claimed that she had entered the cast after 'rounds of audition' and did not walk into the stadium 'off the streets. [It was an] error of judgement. I landed up walking with the athletes. I think I have hurt the sentiments of my people. I apologise,' Nagendra said. 'There was chaos. Thousands of people were walking. I was blinded and as a result there was an error of judgement.' Nagendra said she was 'hurt' by the criticism of her act on social media outlets. 'I am a proud woman of India with a lot of enthusiasm. I was taken aback by the criticism. I hope this incident will be forgiven and I want to move forward.'

The ITV press office has confirmed some excellent news - Whitechapel is coming back for a fourth series and filming is about to start soon.

A spectator has been arrested by police investigating allegations that an Australian cyclist's family was 'abused' at the Olympic Velodrome on Thursday night. Kaarle McCulloch's mother Karen and step-father, Ken Bates, were reportedly insulted during a dramatic evening which saw Britain win gold. Three people were later reportedly 'frogmarched' from the venue by stewards, one of whom was arrested. A LOCOG spokesman said: 'We won't tolerate abusive behaviour in our venues.' Except if it's between consenting adults, obviously - although, even then, the law's something of a grey area. It's a good job yer actual Keith Telly Topping wasn't there last night, mind you dear blog reader. I'd've thought very seriously about giving a damned good mouthful of impertinence to that odious jobsworth prick of a judge who disqualified poor Jess and Victoria. Joyless sod, that he is!

Coronation Street's upcoming set move has been disrupted by construction problems, reports have alleged. The ITV soap is due to relocate to Salford Quays next year, but structural issues have now been identified in the steel frame for the new set's base. Reports in the Mirra and Place North West claim that the frame started to move as concrete was poured onto the site. ITV has insisted that the issue will only result in a 'slight' delay to the new set's progress, while it is also understood that there is no risk of collapse. A spokesperson for the broadcaster said: 'ITV's construction manager, Mace, confirm they are managing a construction issue on the new Coronation Street site, which has resulted in a slight delay to the build. 'Construction of the main building and the Coronation Street lot continues uninterrupted, as does production of the show at the current Quay Street site, and we remain on track to begin ITV's move to the new Media City UK base in the autumn.' Meanwhile, a representative for Mace commented: 'Mace confirm that work is in progress to identify the most appropriate strategy to remediate the steel frames of the partially built stage areas of the Coronation Street production facility.'

A new trailer has aired for Charlie Brooker's upcoming spoof police drama A Touch of Cloth. John Hannah stars as DI Jack Cloth, partnered by DC Anne Oldman (played by the brilliant Suranne Jones), in the series which starts later this month on Sky1. Brooker previously said that the show is 'just Airplane-style daftness. The inspiration there was just to entertain,' he explained. 'I co-wrote the pilot in 2003, something like that. Then we adapted it and changed it a lot. So that's always been something that I've wanted to do - something just daft.'

The competition regulator has said that BSkyB has too much power over pay-TV rivals, raising the possibility that the satellite company could face another investigation. On Thursday, the Competition Commission raised the issue of BSkyB's 'market power' as part of the publication of its final report into the pay-TV film market. The report gave more detail of the process behind the competition regulator's announcement in May that no action needs to be taken over BSkyB's monopoly of UK pay-TV film rights. As part of its investigation, the Competition Commission found that in the wider pay-TV market BSkyB enjoys 'an anti-competitive dominance.' However, it is powerless to tackle the issue at this time. Laura Carstensen, chairman of the inquiry group at the Competition Commission, said: 'In our view, competition in the pay-TV retail market remains ineffective but we were asked by Ofcom to look specifically at the role of first pay-movie content and Sky's position with regard to these rights.' The twelve-page summary of the final report found that there were 'significant barriers to large scale entry and expansion for a traditional pay-TV retailer.' The problems involved in taking on BSkyB's dominant position include costs to set up a rival, huge marketing costs to overcome the view held by subscribers that changing providers is too much hassle, and fending off the inevitable competitive response, according to the regulator. 'Together with Sky's large number of existing subscribers deriving from its historical position [Sky's incumbency advantage' and the restricted geographical coverage of Sky's main historical competitor, Virgin Media, it appeared to us that these factors resulted in Sky having too much market power in the pay-TV retail market,' the report said. The report added that the arrival of US video-on-demand subscription service Netflix in the UK and expansion of LoveFilm's VOD offering had increased competition, 'but not sufficiently to affect our conclusion that Sky had market power.' Ian Giles, senior associate at law firm Norton Rose, said the finding could pave the way for another investigation into the pay-TV market. 'Sky will no doubt be pleased with the result, but concerned that the Competition Commission still highlights concerns in relation to the broader pay TV sector – another broader investigation cannot be ruled out,' he said. BSkyB rejected that view, arguing that there is 'overwhelming' evidence of competition in the market. 'Sky considers there to be overwhelming evidence that UK consumers are well served by strong competition between a growing number of TV providers, including those offering movies,' said a spokesman for the company. 'As this dynamic marketplace continues to evolve, we remain committed to innovating for customers so that UK consumers continue to benefit from choice, value and innovation.'

The BBC will broadcast its two-part series on the 2011 riots later this month – four weeks after the documentaries were banned by some moron of a judge presiding over a high-profile murder trial. The BBC was forced to cancel the original broadcast of its drama-documentary series, The Riots: In Their Own Words, in July following a rare court order made by Mr Justice Flaux. Who sounds like a hell of laugh. Now the BBC has confirmed that The Riots: In Their Own Words will be broadcast on 13 and 20 August, following the conclusion of the Olympic Games. Other media organisations were prevented from reporting the ban until the end of the trial, in which eight men were cleared of murdering three friends who were hit by a car during last summer's riots in Birmingham. The ban was a scheduling nightmare for BBC executives, who planned the programmes to run just before the first anniversary of the riots on 16 and 18 July. It also meant they were unlikely to be shown for several weeks as the BBC devoted all of its major channels to the London 2012 Olympics. The first documentary in the series is a verbatim drama, based on extracts from anonymous interviews with rioters conducted by the Gruniad Morning Star and London School of Economics study, Reading the Riots. The script for the film was produced by the award-winning playwright Alecky Blythe and the rioters are played by actors. The second film is a more conventional documentary format, with police officers talking about their experiences policing the riots. The BBC last month said it was 'disappointed' with Flaux's ruling and that it raised a critical point about the freedom of the media to report in the public interest. Flaux said the series was 'literally littered' with material that could potentially derail the high-profile trial in Birmingham. Legal experts described the injunction as 'excessive and misconceived.' Andm, this blogger described the injunction as 'bloody stupid.'

Champion jockey Kieren Fallon has told how he felt suicidal when he was confronted by the former Scum of the World's investigations editor Mazher Mahmood after a sting operation by the so-called 'fake sheikh.' Fallon told a Channel Four documentary about Mahmood's undercover operations, which was broadcast on Thursday evening, how he felt that he was being 'blackmailed' by the paper in 2004 after it 'fronted him up' and alleged he had thrown a race. He said that he recalled the moment vividly: 'My whole body drained. I was absolutely suicidal, because I had a wife and family at home.' Fallon was told that if he confessed to the story the paper would not mention that he had been with prostitutes on a trip to Marbella, something Fallon strenuously denied. 'They tried to blackmail me, saying: "If you admit to stopping horses, we won't mention the prostitutes,"' Fallon told Channel Four. 'At this time you nearly would admit anything to save face with your family back home.' Fallon was in Marbella on a trip laid on by the fake sheikh and an entourage that included Mahmood's cousin, who doubled up as a gold-toothed bodyguard, and a former PR man who acted as the fake sheikh's right hand man. The documentary, Undercover at the News of the World, is based on the story of an individual identified only as 'Kishan' who worked for Mahmood for nine years up to 2009. Fallon said he was glad 'Jaws', Mahmood's cousin-come-bodyguard was in the room at the time. 'Good job he was there. If he wasn't I would have ripped his [Mahmood's] head off. I was shaking with temper.' A Jockey Club investigation into whether he had brought the sport into disrepute was dropped after the club said there was no case to answer and Fallon was also cleared of race fixing by the courts three years later. Speaking for the first time about the sting, Fallon told how he was cornered in a Marbella hotel by Kishan, who was trying to persuade him to take money from the sheikh in relation to a horse race. 'He got very pushy, when I would not want to accept anything,' Fallon said. The newspaper nonetheless went ahead with the story, a decision which - very satisfyingly - later cost it three hundred thousand smackers in costs and damages. Fallon got a small apology on an inside page. 'It's wrong they can do this,' he said. 'They destroy people lives. I was suicidal about it and you can't put a price on that.' Kishan also gives a first hand account of another failed Scum of the World sting, this time against Sven Goran Eriksson, the former England football manager. Kishan claimed an unnamed executive at the Scum of the World had 'an obsession' with getting Eriksson sacked, and would ask: 'How can we get Sven, short of finding him in the sack with [Brian] Barwick's wife' – a reference to the then FA chief executive. The paper also ran a story about Eriksson, but had to pay damages and costs in a subsequent legal case. Another targets of Kishan's that was discussed in the programme was Faria Alam, a former girlfriend of Eriksson's. Mahmood moved to News International sister title The Sunday Times after the closure of the Scum of the World at the height of the phone-hacking scandal in July 2011. How really, genuinely, karmic it is to find him the subject of a bit of invasive investigative journalism.

MyAnna Buring and Matthew Goode are to star in a new drama for ITV. The Poison Tree will follow Karen Clarke (Buring), a haunted woman who goes to extraordinary lengths to protect her family. After encountering the glamorous Biba (Ophelia Lovibond) and her handsome brother Rex (Goode), Karen is drawn into their 'tragic family history' and their 'long summer of love' soon becomes 'a nightmare.' The two-part drama - based on the novel by Erin Kelly - has been written by Emilia di Girolamo. 'We are delighted to be working with STV and Emilia di Girolamo on this intriguing and emotional thriller,' said ITV's Steve November. 'Erin Kelly's novel is rich and absorbing and is perfectly suited to ITV.' Margaret Enefer - Head of Drama for STV Productions - added: 'We are thrilled to be bringing this dark and bewitching psychological thriller to life on screen for ITV. We're certain it will grip viewers from start to finish.' The Poison Tree will enter production this summer and will air on ITV later this year.

Yer actual Billie Piper is to make her debut at the National Theatre in a new play by Enron playwright Lucy Prebble. The Effect, starring Jonjo O'Neill, Ideal's Tom Goodman-Hill and Anastasia Hille, will explore questions of sanity, neurology and the limits of medicine. Directed by Rupert Goold, the new play will be a collaboration between his Headlong theatre company and the National Theatre. It is due to open at The Cottesloe in the autumn. Piper's most famous role came in 2005, when she was cast in the BBC's popular long-running family SF drama Doctor Who. She won several awards for her portrayal of Rose Tyler, including most popular actress category at the National Television Awards in 2005 and 2006. Piper, twenty nine, also gained some critical acclaim for ITV2's The Secret Diary of a Call Girl, in which she played the high-class London escort Belle de Jour. Where her character took it up the arse on a virtual weekly basis. It was a sight to see, dear blog reader, a sight to see. The erotic drama series - also written by Prebble - was broadcast on ITV2 between 2007 and 2011. On stage, Piper previously appeared in a revival of Christopher Hampton's Treats in the West End and played Carly in Neil LaBute's Reasons to Be Pretty at London's Almeida Theatre, a play which received rave reviews. In a BBC Radio 4 review of the play, Piper was described as 'fantastic, completely brilliant.' The Effect reunites Lucy Prebble with Rupert Goold, who directed the award-winning play Enron based on the 2001 scandal which led to the eventual bankruptcy of the major American energy company. Produced by Goold's Headlong Theatre, Enron premiered at the Chichester Festival Theatre in 2009 before transferring to the Royal Court, and then to the Noel Coward Theatre in the West End.

The vile and odious rascal Hunt has not had the best of years. Which is, of course, funny. First all the nasty entrails of his excessively close and sickeningly arse-licking relations with a News Corp lobbyist were laid bare at the Leveson inquiry. Then there was that 'being spotted hiding behind a tree' malarkey. Then came his now-infamous 'bell end' blunder on the eve of the London 2012 games. Now the lack of culture secretary has found himself out of pocket with Olympics tickets for the closing ceremony, according to the Daily Torygraph. Olympics organisers LOCOG made the vile and odious rascal Hunt pay two thousand four hundred smackers for the prestigious tickets, according to the Torygraph. The vile and odious rascal Hunt said: 'I said I'll take seats between twenty pounds and six hundred pounds and I got four for six hundred pounds each. I thought to myself, the bastards have got me.' Yeah. Good. Hope it effing hurts yer wallet.

And, speaking of horrorshows (and drags), Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads reportedly does not plan on rejoining The X Factor in the UK. Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads is said to worry that he would always look 'old and tired' due to the jet lag from flying between the UK and the US. 'Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads hates the way his face looks when he's jet-lagged and that's the real reason he will never be back,' an alleged 'source' allegedly close to Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads allegedly claimed to the Sun. 'When he's tired he gets bags and dark circles under his eyes and he hates that. The air-con on the plane also really dries out his skin. When he gets off a plane, he wears sunglasses to hide his eyes,' the alleged 'source' allegedly continued. The X Factor USA is usually broadcast on Wednesday and Thursdays across the Atlantic, meaning that Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads could - in theory - return home for live Saturday shows just as Strictly Come Dancing's Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli, who also judge the show's ABC counterpart Dancing with the Stars, do. The alleged 'insider' allegedly added: 'Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads's looks are important to him - he's got one of the most famous faces in the world. This is all about him protecting his image.' Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads was previously alleged in Tom Bower's unauthorised biography to regularly take botox injections in order to stay looking young.

Now, here's the awkward moment where a newspaper picture editor felt the need to include the word 'left'...
That's your chances of a knighthood at the next Honour's List gone, matey boy. Off to The Tower with him!

A film about the battle for Monte Cassino - one of the most bitterly-fought land campaigns of World War II - is being made to coincide with the battle's seventieth anniversary. Its British director, John Irvin, told the BBC that he didn't want to make a film that was 'merely a bloodbath. It's a moving story of tenderness, love and hope with a sense of salvation within it,' he said. Irvin's previous films include Hamburger Hill and The Dogs of War. Over several months in 1943 into 1944, Monte Cassino was the focal point of a series of German defensive positions stretching across the Italian peninsula that prevented the Allied advance to Rome, the Anzio campaign. During the harshest Italian winter on record, the mountainous terrain around the world-famous abbey provided the ideal protection for the German Army. The abbey was destroyed by aerial bombing - perhaps inevitably by the Americans - in February 1944, but not before the German troops had rescued many of its treasures from destruction. With nearly two hundred thousand soldiers participating from over thirty different countries, there were heavy losses on both sides. Some fifty five thousand Allied and twenty thousand German soldiers were injured or killed. Yer actual Keith telly Topping has visited the - rebuilt - monastery, and the British and Commonwealth cemetery in the town. A very moving place, so it is. Irvin said that his fascination with Monte Cassino dated back to his school days, when he had been taught by a history master whose brother had died there. 'It's not a battle that the Allies can be very proud of,' Irvin said. 'The casualties were jaw-dropping, a third of which were inflicted by friendly fire.' He added: 'The aspect of the battle that has haunted me was the decision to carpet bomb the abbey, one of the great architectural jewels of western culture, which was reduced to rubble in six hours.' The adviser on the film is Dr Peter Caddick-Adams, a professional military historian and author of the recently-published Monte Cassino: Ten Armies in Hell. The film tells the true story of two survivors of the battle, a wounded American soldier and the Italian nurse who cared for him. With casting underway, Irvin hopes to shoot Monte Cassino in Poland next year, and said the destruction of the abbey would involve a 'significant amount of CGI.' The producers are Steffen Wild of Fourth Culture Films and Davina Belling of Film and General Productions.

Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes has described herself as a 'psychotic Doctor Who fan.' Psychotic as in, what, murderous? yeah, I know a few of those. The showrunner revealed her affection for the popular long-running BBC family SF drama to Entertainment Weekly. 'I'm not even a giant sci-fi watcher,' she explained. 'I liked Buffy and I liked Angel and I liked Battlestar but - I hate to say this because I'll probably get some letters - I've never seen an episode of Star Trek. But if you are at all interested in television that's taking chances then, yeah, I think you like [Doctor Who]. It's completely different from anything that's on network television here, or even on cable.' Rhimes revealed that she even tried to hire departing Doctor Who star Karen Gillan for a 'top secret' project. 'I think she's really, really talented,' said Rhimes. 'But apparently she's doing a movie next, so we couldn't get her.' The forty two-year-old also confessed to being a fan of Torchwood star John Barrowman, having hired the actor to appear in her ABC pilot Gilded Lilys. 'It didn't get picked,' she said. 'But that doesn't mean I'm done stalking John Barrowman. I will be stalking him until the end of time.' Yes, I know a few of those sort of fans as well!

Chinese television may get more boring after the country's broadcasting regulator issued six new guidelines banning remakes of foreign shows and demanding serials cut back on excessive family conflict and jokes in historical dramas. China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television issued the new 'guidelines' (or, you know, orders) recently and they were put into effect over the past few days, the state-run Beijing News reported. Other guidelines include forbidding online games being adapted into television series and demanding that dramas on China's Communist revolution – a staple of the Chinese airwaves – clearly distinguish between heroes and villains. Chinese online games are notorious for their graphic and violent content. China periodically tries reining in its state-operated television channels, which increasingly have to rely on attracting advertisers, and therefore viewers, as government subsidies are reduced. In 2002, Beijing pulled the plug on the Taiwan-made soap opera Meteor Garden, fearing the decadent lifestyle portrayed by boy band F4 would 'corrupt' young Chinese minds. China described the series as 'electronic heroin.' Blimey. Must check out that one on YouTube. Aside from the usual restrictions on 'sensitive topics' such as human rights or excessive violence, previous guidelines have also demanded television stations broadcast 'healthier' content, such as programmes on public safety and housework. China's Internet industry has not been spared either. Last month, Youku Inc and Tudou Holdings Co – Chinese versions of YouTube – saw their shares sink after the Chinese government ordered a crackdown on content it considers inappropriate.

A Japanese company has launched soy sauce-flavoured ice cream. I'll repeat that. No, on second thoughts, i won't because I feel sick. The 'invention' (or, Abomination Against All Laws Of God And Man) comes from a collaboration between Hirota, a confectioner, and Yamani Soy Sauce Co, according to the Daily Torygraph. Kunihiko Shirokawa of Hirota stated: 'It's a mixture of soy sauce and ice cream, producing a well-balanced salty yet sweet ice cream which is perfect for the summer. We are planning another product for the autumn.' Urgh. Soy sauce-flavoured ice cream 'puffs' are being sold for one hundred and fifty yen (that's about one pound twenty). Ice cream with cone costs two hundred and fifty yen. A percentage of profits from the concoction will be donated to a project aimed at revitalising Rikuzentakata, a city in Japan that was effectively destroyed by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The rest will go to pumping the stomachs of those who eat it, presumably. Other unusual ice cream flavours to have been sold around the world include venison, breast milk (urgh!), squid ink (urgh!), sweet potato (urgh!), ox tongue and sweetcorn (mmm ... tasty!).

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, here's one of the most beautiful hit singles of the 1970s. An exquisite version of a stunning Neil Young song by Gateshead's very own Prelude. Perfection..

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