Thursday, February 28, 2013

Power Is Measured By The Power Or The Fist, It's As Clear As This

BBC2's new Sue Perkins sitcom Heading Out began with 1.8 million viewers on Tuesday, beating the return for the last time of Channel Four's Shameless in the 10pm slot. Heading Out, about a woman heading towards forty who is facing up to the challenge of telling her parents that she is gay, launched with 1.84 million viewers between 10pm and 10.30pm, including one hundred and thirty six thousand viewers on BBC HD. Shameless, back for its eleventh – and final – series on Channel Four kicked of with 1.67 million viewers between 10pm and 11.05pm. BBC1's Ben Miller drama Death In Paradise came to the end of its second series with 6.1 million viewers between 9pm and 10pm. Death In Paradise, which will return for another season in the sun, easily had the better of ITV's live coverage of the fifth round FA Cup replay between Everton and Oldham Not Very Athletic which the Premier League side won 3-1. The overnight football score was an average of three million viewers between 7.30pm and 10pm, and a five-minute peak of 4.08 million. Channel Five's new series of CSI: Crime Investigation – its thirteenth run – began with 1.5 million viewers between 9pm and 10pm. Also at 9pm, Channel Four documentary Secrets of the Pickpockets drew 2.75 million punters, its most-watched show of the night, earning bragging rights over BBC2's The Railway: Keeping Britain on Track, which attracted 1.85 million including one hundred and twenty six thousand on BBC HD. The return of Sing Date for a second series wasn't an entirely happy tune for Sky Living with just eighty thousand viewers between 8.30pm and 9pm. However, it was up eleven per cent on the channel's slot average over the past three months. Alexander Armstrong's Big Ask was also back for a second series with two hundred and eighty seven thousand viewers between 10pm and 10.40pm. It was down nearly twenty per cent on Dave's slot average.

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping received some genuinely appalling, upsetting and disquieting news on Wednesday, dear blog reader. Young Stacey, Mama Telly Topping's (quite excellent and lovely) carer, informed yer actual Keith Telly Topping that, on Tuesday evening, she (Stacey, that is, not Mama Telly Topping) had been to see Olly Murs on the opening night of his tour at the Arena. That, in and of itself, isn't the genuinely appalling, upsetting and disquieting news. Oh no. The genuinely appalling, upsetting and disquieting news came when Stace casually mentioned that young Olly is doing some cover versions in his current set. 'He did that 'Town Called Malice' and he did 'Should I Stay Or Should I Go?' at the end,' she said, as yer actual Keith Telly Topping's jaw quite literally hit the floor and shattered into a million tiny pieces. To sum up, then, dear blog reader, this odious fraction of an individual is currently touring the UK massacring The Jam and The Clash on a nightly basis. It's wrong on so many levels. This man simply MUST BE STOPPED!
And from one horrorshow (and drag), and another.
The newspaper industry was given 'privileged access' to the government's planned response to The Leveson Report – ahead of the victims of phone-hacking and the Labour opposition, according to the campaign group Hacked Off. A leaked e-mail from the industry describes proposals set out by the government in January as 'monstrous and chilling.' The lengthy e-mail sent by Peter Wright – editor emeritus at Associated Newspapers and former Scum Mail on Sunday editor – to the cabinet office minister, Oliver Letwin, reveals 'an absolute opposition' to any element of statute. Wright has been one of the figures leading the industry response to Leveson. Hacked Off points out that the industry had 'prepared a legal opinion' in 17 January on draft clauses handed to it by government, but these draft clauses were not given to Hacked Off until 12 February. Brian Cathcart, the director of Hacked Off, said: 'This is proof of a disgraceful stitch-up which puts proprietors before victims. Taken alongside the changes that have been made to the Royal Charter, it shows that newspaper bosses have been giving orders to ministers behind the scenes, just weeks after The Leveson Report declared that such secret manipulation damaged the interests of the public. Sections of the press are clearly using privileged access to the most senior ranks of government to water down Lord Justice Leveson's recommendations. We are grateful to Oliver Letwin for candidly admitting that each of the changes had been made "in response to representations from the press industry." But it is appalling that he and the prime minister appear to have caved in on almost every point.' The Hacked Off attack comes as inter-party talks have reached such a deadlock that the political parties have decided to hold separate seminars with Hacked Off and the industry to see if grounds for a breakthrough can be made. One alleged Labour 'source' allegedly told the Gruniad Morning Star: 'We are making progress only to the extent that Oliver Letwin is being open that he cannot get the industry to agree to specific proposals.' The deadlocks include ownership of the new press code, the appointment of the chairman independent regulator, and any exemplary damages.
The questions keep coming and, it would seem, the answer keeps on changing. When Channel Four News presenter Cathy Newman telephoned Nick Clegg on his LBC phone-in show on Wednesday morning to challenge him over what he knew (and when he didn't know it) about former Lib-Dem chief executive Lord Rennard, the radio show's presenter Nick Ferrari was as surprised as the deputy prime minister. Newman, who first broke the story about - numerous - allegations of sexual impropriety against Rennard - which he strenuously denies – rang the London radio station's phone-in, introducing herself as 'Cathy from Dulwich.' After her name was read out by Clegg – who introduces some of the callers on the show – she revealed: 'It's Cathy Newman from Channel Four News. I'm what you might call a self-appointed detective.' The station, which is owned by Global Radio, said the show's producers were 'not aware' of the caller's identity when she rang. 'LBC, Channel Four, gosh my head is spinning with the number of media outlets involved here,' said Clegg. 'Anyone can ring in,' said Ferrari, who interrupted to double check, 'Cathy from Channel Four?' Newman said she would 'love to do an interview' with Clegg – he pointedly chose not to respond to the offer – but had to make do with one question. 'At the weekend you said Lord Rennard quit on health grounds. Now you appear to be accepting his behaviour was part of the reason he went,' she asked. Clegg replied: 'He left on health grounds, but of course the issues of his inappropriate behaviour were in the background, of course they were.' Issues of inappropriate behaviour which just a couple of days earlier, let us remember, Clegg had insisted he knew nothing - nahhhh-thing - about before backtracking and claiming that he had been told about 'general concerns' – though, not specific complaints – about the peer. Ferrari told the Gruniad that he had 'no idea' it was the Channel Four presenter calling, and a spokesman for Global Radio said producers were none-the-wiser either, although it was surely more than just luck that Newman got through. 'I just read it as Cathy from Dulwich, without having time to think about it,' said Ferrari. 'In all honesty, I don't think [Clegg] was overjoyed, but I don't remember his exact choice of words.' Asked whether it meant the weekly phone-in would now be inundated with journalists keen to put questions to Clegg, he was unwilling to answer. In another forum, Ferrari said: 'Let's worry about that when it happens. When we've got Jon Snow, Huw Edwards and Mark Austin ringing in on a regular basis, then we will worry about it.' A spokeswoman for Channel Four News said Newman, the show's former political editor who was elevated to its presenting team fifteen months ago, had been 'swamped' with requests for interviews since Wednesday morning's call, but was 'too busy working' on Channel Four News to respond. Newman wasn't the only high-profile caller to Wednesday's show (which has previously featured an inquiry by London mayor Boris Johnson). Former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott, in a tweet read out by Ferrari, wrote: 'Can you ask Nick Clegg why as deputy prime minister he has fifteen special advisers costing one million pounds, I, this is Prescott speaking, only had two. Even Jesus capped it at twelve.' Prescott later contacted Newman on Twitter, telling her: 'Got a present for you' – a picture of a 'private detective' badge. 'Love it,' responded Newman. Almost as much as LBC, which has reaped no end of free publicity with the weekly phone-ins to the deputy prime minister which began on 10 January. The morning shows have revealed, among other things, Clegg's ownership of a 'onesie' and prompted his admission that he would consider sending his oldest son to a private school.

Meanwhile, a former Liberal Democrat activist is set to meet police over what she describes as a 'very, very serious' alleged incident involving the former chief executive of the party, Lord Rennard. Alison Smith, now a lecturer at Oxford University, has accused the peer of sexually inappropriate behaviour. 'People have been talking about hands on the knee, and things like that. It was very much more serious than that,' she told the BBC. Lord Rennard denies the allegations. Smith claimed that she had left the Liberal Democrat party as a consequence of how it had dealt with the claims against Lord Rennard, who as a senior strategist was 'responsible for all campaign financing.' This was a 'very important' role, she said, because the Lib Dems 'target seats very closely; they don't otherwise have enough resources to compete in the first-past-the-post system.' She said that she had decided to go public with the claims against Lord Rennard because she was 'very worried that he would make a comeback,' and will discuss the allegations with the police on Thursday. 'Even people that you think of as very senior MPs,' she said, 'even they're very scared of this man, because he at some point had been in a position to make or break their careers and he might again in the future.' Asked whether aspiring Lib Dem MPs had been put in 'casting-couch' scenarios, she said: 'I don't think it was that precise. There was never a formal kind of "you're up for a specific job, and you won't get this job if you don't comply." But the phrase that I heard was "favoured daughters." And certainly a lot of people have batted him off and gone on to do well anyway. A lot of people have put up with a lot over the years, and I definitely wouldn't want anybody trying to work out who has been casting-couched or who hadn't been. It was just a feeling that we had that if you would do what he wanted then you could get a lot out of it and if you didn't then there could be consequences.' Smith, a politics lecturer, said her experiences had left her feeling 'horrified when my students started talking about a career in the Liberal Democrats.' Earlier, the party reprimanded Lib Dem peer Lord Stoneham following reports that he had telephoned and 'angrily remonstrated' with one of the women who had complained to newspapers about Lord Rennard's conduct. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg's aides said he regarded Lord Stoneham's conduct as 'completely unacceptable.' Lord Rennard quit his party role in 2009 and, over the last week, he has faced accusations of sexually inappropriate behaviour towards a number of female activists. Police have spoken to party officials about the claims, and are working to establish whether or not any criminal behaviour had taken place. But senior Lib Dem Baroness Williams called Lord Rennard a 'very fine man.' The situation had been 'hopelessly exaggerated,' she said. In previous statements, Lord Rennard has said he is 'deeply shocked' by the allegations and described them as a 'total distortion' of his character. The peer said he knew of no complaints against him in his twenty seven years working for the party but he has temporarily stood aside from the Lib Dem group in the Lords to avoid 'embarrassment' to the party. Bit late for that if Nick Clegg's squirming on the radio yesterday is anything to go by.

The BBC has announced its religious programmes for the Easter season. It will feature the Most Reverend Justin Welby's first Thought for the Day as the Archbishop of Canterbury on BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Radio 4 will also broadcast the last Easter address from The Right Reverend James Jones as The Bishop of Liverpool. Melvyn Bragg will present a documentary on Mary Magdalene. And Ann Widdecombe will look at how Christianity is portrayed in comedy. 'Easter is the cornerstone of Christianity' said Aaqil Ahmed, Commissioning Editor and Head of Religion and Ethics who said the programmes reflect 'the beauty and mystery of the season.' On Good Friday evening, BBC Radio 2 broadcasts Handel's Messiah, with the Bach Choir and the BBC Concert Orchestra. In addition, BBC Radio 3 will broadcast Choral Evensong live from Manchester Cathedral on Easter Sunday.
Coronation Street actor Michael Le Vell has appeared in court charged with nineteen sexual offences against a child. Le Vell, whose real name is Michael Turner, faced the charges at Manchester Magistrates' Court. The alleged offences date between 2001 and 2010 and include six charges of rape, six of indecent assault and seven of sexual touching. The actor, who plays Kevin Webster in the ITV soap, was bailed to appear at Manchester Crown Court on 20 March. Le Vell, of Hale in Trafford, spoke only to confirm his details in court and did not enter a plea. His solicitor said that the charges would be 'fully contested' at the crown court.

Sinbad has been cancelled by Sky1 after a single series. The twelve-part action adventure saga, featuring Elliot Knight as the titular hero, will not be returning for a second series as its 'story has now been told,' the broadcaster announced. Or, in other words, because the ratings weren't good enough for the cost of the production. 'As a broad, family entertainment channel, Sinbad was the perfect drama to showcase Sky1's ambitions for long-running, blockbuster series,' Sky claimed, not very convincingly in a statement explaining why it was getting the boot. 'We were thrilled with the cast and the production team at Impossible, however, we feel that Sinbad's story has now been told.' The company added: 'We're in development on a number of exciting new projects and look forward to sharing more news with our customers very soon.' Sinbad premiered on Sky1 in July and counted Lost's Naveen Andrews and Fringe star Orla Brady among its cast. Dougray Scott, Sophie Okonedo, Timothy Spall and Mathew Horne also made guest appearances.

Madness will perform live in the front of BBC Television Centre as part of an evening of entertainment bidding farewell to the iconic building. Celebrating its fifty three year history, BBC4 will produce the hour-long programme to be shown on 22 March, nine days before TV Centre closes its doors. U2, Coldplay and Beyonce have performed in the car park in previous years. Madness said that they are 'honoured' to be part of this 'fond farewell.' A statement from the band, who rose to prominence in the early 1980s, read: 'We've played at some exciting places in London lately but the closing of BBC TV Centre, that is close to our hearts. As a band we grew up there, those walls have plenty of Madness tales to tell, a sad day, the end of an era, oh, but what a celebration.' The band will play new material from their recent tenth studio CD Oui, Oui, Si, Si, Ja, Ja, Da, Da alongside the hits 'Baggy Trousers' and 'Our House'. The transition to the BBC's new London home, the central New Broadcasting House, began in October last year. The 1960s building in West London, once home of Top of the Pops and Blue Peter and sold for two hundred million smackers, closes on 31 March and will be redeveloped into hotels, flats, a cinema and office space. The main television studios will be retained and refurbished for leasing out to production companies, including the BBC, from 2014. Richard Klein, controller BBC4, said: 'I can think of no better band than Madness to help celebrate a golden age of television coming out of the BBC's Television Centre. I am really pleased that one of Britain's finest groups has agreed to come along and help BBC4 celebrate in fine style.' The concert will be followed by a two-hour special, pre-recorded on 18 March, called Goodbye TV Centre. Hosted by former BBC chairman Michael Grade in front of a studio audience, it will feature interviews with the likes of Sir David Attenborough, Ronnie Corbett, Noel Edmonds, Sir David Jason and Sir Terry Wogan.

Rick Smith, one half of British dance act Underworld, will be heard on the score of Danny Boyle's new film Trance alongside double Brit-winning singer Emeli Sande. Smith previously worked with Underworld partner Karl Hyde on the music for Boyle's London 2012 opening ceremony. Smith's score will feature a new song, called 'Here It Comes', that Sande has co-written and appears on. Trance, Boyle's first film since 127 Hours, is released in the UK on 27 March. It stars James McAvoy as an art auctioneer who becomes involved in a heist. 'Working with Danny is a joy, because he's both a great collaborator and a giver of artistic freedom' said Smith. 'He wants his film music loud and with presence, almost like another character.' Smith has written and recorded eleven original pieces which appear in the film alongside music by Moby, Unkle and M People. The collaboration came about after Boyle sent Smith a text message after the Olympic opening ceremony last July. 'Exactly one month and three days after we said goodbye in the stadium, I received a text from Danny,' Smith said. 'Two minutes later I was on board.' Smith first worked with Boyle on the soundtrack for the Oscar-winning director's earlier film Trainspotting.

A team led by an eccentric millionaire and former space tourist Dennis Tito plans to send a 'tested couple' to Mars and back in a privately funded mission. The Inspiration Mars Foundation plans to start its one-and-a-half-year mission in January 2018. The foundation has carried out a study which it says shows that it is feasible to achieve such a mission using existing technology. The group still has to raise funding for their mission. Among those involved in the project is Jane Poynter, who spent two years locked away in a sealed ecosystem with seven other people in 1991 which she described as a 'New Age Garden of Eden.' She told BBC News that the mission planners wanted the crew to consist of an older couple whose relationship would be able to withstand the stress of living in a confined environment for two years. 'I can attest from personal experience from living in Biosphere Two that having somebody that you really deeply trusted and cared for was an extraordinary thing to have,' Poynter explained. Poynter, who ended up marrying one of those involved in the Biosphere Two project, Taber Macallum, admitted that it could be 'challenging' for the couple. But said that the selection process would attempt to find 'resilient people that would be able to maintain a happy upbeat attitude in the face of adversity.' The plan was to choose a middle-aged couple because their health and fertility would be less affected by the radiation they would be exposed to during such a long space mission. The couple would receive extensive training and would be able to draw on psychological support from mission control throughout the mission. MPoynter's expectation is that a couple journeying to Mars would be 'inspirational. We want the crew of vehicle to represent humanity,' she said. 'We want the youth of the world to be reflected in this crew and for girls as well as boys to have role models.' Space historian, Professor Christopher Riley of Lincoln University, believes that sending a couple to Mars might be a good idea. 'The idea of sending older astronauts on longer duration missions, after they have had children, has been around for a while. The reasoning is that such a long duration mission, outside of the protective magnetosphere of the Earth, could leave them infertile,' he said. 'Married couples have occasionally flown in space before, on short flights, and it seemed to work well, so why not?' However results emerging from the so-called Mars500 project suggests that even carefully screened individuals are likely to suffer from psychological problems from a prolonged space mission. The mission will be a straightforward flight to the Red Planet and return without landing. This greatly reduces the cost of the mission. The Mars Inspiration team believe that it is technically possible to launch such a mission in five years' time. The team is aiming for a January 2018 launch because it coincides with a close alignment of Mars and Earth, such that a round trip would take about a year-and-a half, five hundred and one days - whereas outside of this window such a trip might take two to three years. Many believe that new technologies will need to be developed to deal with the extended periods of radiation such a trip would involve and to cope with supplying food and water for the crew. The Mars Inspiration team says that it has 'carried out a feasibility study' for the mission which it plans to release on Sunday. Anu Ojha, from the British National Space Centre in Leicester has seen the study. He says that it is 'theoretically' possible to go to Mars and back using the Dragon and Falcon Heavy systems manufactured by California-based firm SpaceX. But conditions would be squeezed and spartan, with no room for pressurised space suits. The report suggests that one thousand three hundred and sixty kilogrammes of dehydrated food will be enough to last the journey and the manifest includes twenty eight kilogrammes of toilet paper for a crew of two for five hundred days (presumably, for the final day, they just hold it in). But the issue of radiation protection according to Ojha is 'glossed over' with the recognition that more work and 'creative solutions' need to be explored. More work will also need to done to improve recycling technologies to convert urine into water. The man leading the venture is Denis Tito, who paid twenty million dollars to become the first 'tourist' in space. He spent six days on the International Space Station in 2001. The millionaire is financing part of the project but much more money needs to be raised. The organisers have not stated how much the mission will cost nor how much they need to raise, saying only that it is 'much cheaper' than one would imagine a Mars mission to be. Poynter did, however, confirm that 'a significant amount of money' still needs to be raised. Anu Ojha believes that unless the venture is one hundred per cent underwritten at this stage it won't get off the ground. 'If a bunch of billionaires have committed the approx $1-2bn required, then we could see history being made in under five years. If (at the) the press conference they say "we have this fantastic concept but need the money - please give generously" then it's dead in the water,' he told BBC News. However Professor Riley is more optimistic. 'There are lots of big ifs in trying to achieve this epic endeavour, but none which are totally insurmountable given enough money and assistance, and the will to do it,' he said. 'It takes mavericks like Tito to create such pivot points in history where significant things happen, and such a trip would be as significant as Apollo 8's first circumnavigation of the Moon on Christmas Eve 1968, when the world listened in to the reflections of the first human beings to orbit another world. Perhaps fifty years later, on Christmas Eve 2018 we might be all tuning in to a similar broadcast from Mars. I hope so!' The effort represents the latest development in private sector companies moving into space exploration. Last December, one of the last men on the Moon, Harrison Schmitt, told BBC News that he believed NASA and other government run space agencies were 'too inefficient' to be able to send astronauts back to the Moon.

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 33(s) of the Day. This very evening, dear blog reader, yer actual Keith Telly Topping will be attending Uncle Scunthorpe's latest Record Player event at the Tyneside. And, this is one that yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self lobbied hard for and had been waiting for nigh on two years to occur, two of his very favouritist slabs on vinyl with a hole in the middle. Unknown Pleasures and Sound Affects. So, without further ado, dig this.
And, indeed, and very much, this.

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