Thursday, March 07, 2013

There's A New Sensation, A Fabulous Creation

We start today's blog update with some genuinely appalling news.
And, on that bombshell ... Yer actual Peter Davison his very self has confirmed that he is due to 'enter talks' about Doctor Who's fiftieth anniversary. However, the actor - who played The Doctor (superbly, in this blogger's opinion) from 1981 to 1984 - claimed at the fan convention MystiCon that he does not expect to play a role in the celebratory 3D special due to be broadcast later this year. 'I've got a meeting with the head of BBC Wales to go through various things the BBC have got planned,' Davison said. 'I don't think she's going to offer me a part in it. I might be wrong.' He added: 'I honestly don't know very much. I know that Steven Moffat will have something planned. I don't think it will involve the older Doctors, certainly in their present form, because of course we're meant to look exactly as we did when we left the TARDIS and none of us really do.' Davison suggested that the special - to be directed by Nick Hurran - is more likely to incorporate past Doctors through the use of archive footage. 'I think we'll be featured somewhere but I should think it's probably footage lifted from older stories,' he said.

BBC Worldwide have released a new clip from the forthcoming animation for episode four of The Tenth Planet, which features the original regeneration of lead actor from William Hartnell to Patrick Troughton. Talking about the sequence, to be released on DVD later this year, lead animator Chris Chapman said: 'We knew that we had to throw everything at this scene and in fact the whole story is historic, with the first appearance of The Cybermen, so we really worked very hard on it. It was a real pleasure. It has definitely made me a fan of Doctor Who.'

Meanwhile, Sunday 10 March sees the broadcast of the massive over-rated five-part 1971 story The Daemons featuring the massively over-rated Jon Pertwee in Australia and New Zealand. The story is the tenth part in the fiftieth Anniversary season of classic Doctor Who stories on the UKTV channel. The story is scheduled in New Zealand at 3:45pm and in Australia at 4:00pm. The Daemons was first broadcast in New Zealand in 1985. The following year, Australians got to see it for the first time. UKTV is showing stories every week throughout the year in the lead-up to the anniversary in November. The Daemons is the second in a set of four stories featuring Pertwee's Doctor scheduled to screen in March. The next two stories are The Three Doctors (17 March) and Death to the Daleks (24 March).

And now, here's a picture of a girl with a massive pair of jugs.
This is, after all, a public service blog. Next ...

BBC1's Mayday appears to have steadied itself in the ratings in beating rival ITV drama Lightfields on Wednesday night. The penultimate edition of the five-part drama, stripped across the week, averaged 4.38 million viewers across the 9pm hour. Mayday, which began with over six million overnight punters on Sunday, was heavily dented by ITV's new David Tennant series Broadchurch the following night. However the subsequent episodes three and four have both achieved steady figures around the 4.3m to 4.4m figure. ITV couldn't repeat its success as the Marchlands sequel Lightfields slumped to 2.54m for its second episode. Last week, Lightfields got the better of BBC1's broadcast of Child in our Time. Fake Britain preceded Mayday on BBC1 with 3.91m at 8.30pm, while the Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads show Food Glorious Food fell further to a hilariously underwhelming overnight of 2.35m (three hundred and fifty thousand viewers down on its, already poor, audience from last week's opening episode). Somewhat restores ones shattered faith in the viewing public, does it not? I'd stick to talents shows if I were you, Wee Shughie, you don't appear to be much cop at anything else, TV-wise. Channel Four's Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners won 1.97m from 8pm, after which One Born Every Minute had 1.91m punters at 9pm. Hairy Bikers Everyday Gourmets (1.99m) and This World (1.51m) aired on BBC2. Overall, BBC1 topped primetime with 20.9 per cent of the total audience share above ITV's 16.7 per cent.

Yer actual Michael Palin is to star in a BBC2 film about a First World War 'forerunner' to Private Eye, co-written by the magazine's editor Ian Hislop. The Have I Got News For You regular has written The Wipers Times with his frequent collaborator Nick Newman. It is based on the true story of Captain Fred Roberts who found a printing press in the ruins of Ypres in 1916 and published articles lampooning the fighting with cartoons, poetry, inter-dugout gossip and even spoof real estate adverts for No Man's Land. Ben Chaplin will play Roberts, of the Twelfth Battalion Sherwood Forresters, who put together the magazine despite enemy fire and the condemnation of some of his superiors. Palin co-stars as General Mitford, a supporter of the paper, who recognised its worth to the troops morale, with Ben Daniels playing his deputy, Lieutenant-Colonel Howfield, a composite character of the various high command officers who wanted Roberts to be court-martialled for his naughty satirical ways. Julian Rhind-Tutt plays Roberts' sidekick, while Steve Oram is Sergeant Harris, a printer by trade who co-ordinates the paper's production. Emilia Fox plays Roberts' wife, Kate. Shooting of scenes set in Ypres and at the Somme have begun on location at Ballywalter Park Estate in County Down, and filming will take place across Northern Ireland over the next few weeks. The ninety-minute film is being made by Trademark Films, which also produced Shakespeare In Love, The Madness of King George and, last year, adapted the First World War novel Parade's End for BBC2. It will be directed by Andy de Emmony and produced by David Parfitt. No transmission date has been set but a spokesperson for Trademark said there 'was a possibility' The Wipers Times would be scheduled for 2014 as part of the BBC's centenary programming about World War One, but added: 'I think the idea is to transmit it this year.' The publicist added: 'A lot has been taken from the actual papers themselves, the narrative is interspersed with sketches illustrating the jokes and stories. Cocking a snook at the senior staff was one of its main aims. Roberts wanted to boost morale at the front line with a bit of light relief. When it got there it was always very welcome as a respite from their horrendous situation.' Published at irregular intervals between early February 1916 and February 1918, The Wipers Times changed title each time the Forresters moved to another part of the front line, becoming The Kemmel Times and The Somme Times in turn. The cover of each issue was comprised of mock adverts for war-related music-hall extravaganzas and like Private Eye, the paper used pseudonyms for correspondents and euphemisms such as PBI for 'Poor Bloody Infantry.' Two issues of The Better Times were published after the war, the second billed as the Xmas, Peace and Final Number. Hislop, who wrote for Dawn French's Murder Most Horrid and the children's sitcom My Dad's The Prime Minister with Newman is, of course, a keen historian who has made several excellent television documentaries for the BBC about the First World War and other subjects. He travelled to Australia to meet Roberts' family for the film, who handed him artefacts left to them after he died in Canada in 1964, having attained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. Hislop also made a short documentary, Are We As Offensive As We Might Be?, about The Wipers Times for Radio 4 in 2004, and wrote a foreword for a collected edition of the magazine published in 2006, calling it 'an extraordinary mix of sarcasm, black humour and sentimental poetry' which 'make it a unique record of the period.' He added: 'It is quite literally laughing in the face of death, with jokes about flamethrowers and gas attacks from the troops who were facing them. It is also very rude about senior officers, the home front and the organisation of the war. It is Blackadder for real and an obvious forerunner of magazines like Private Eye. "Are We As Offensive As We Might Be?" was a question which staff officers from headquarters used to ask troops in the front line when they thought that they were insufficiently keen to go over-the-top and attack the Germans. It became a sort of catchphrase for the writers of the magazine. I thought that this was very British - as was the fact that the editor, a very talented man called Captain Fred Roberts, was working on the copy for an edition of the magazine called The Somme Times during the Battle of the Somme. He was correcting proofs in the trench and yet he went on to win the Military Cross for bravery in that very battle. That's an editor who commands respect.'

Former Channel Four News editor Jim Gray is in the running for the BBC's head of news programmes job, just under a year since he quit his job. Gray is no stranger to the BBC, having spent seventeen years there working on the likes of Radio 4 and Newsnight. Today editor Ceri Thomas is favourite for the role, with two others understood to be in contention – current affairs commissioning editor Clive Edwards and head of radio current affairs Nicola Meyrick. Interviews for the job are taking place this week according to a somewhat typical sour and rotten piece of muck-stirring shat in the Gruniad Morning Star. The director of news job will also become vacant when Helen Boaden switches to the new role of director of radio, with the deputy director of news role given to Fran Unsworth. The appointment will be particularly interesting for Jeremy Paxman – not just because the head of news programmes will be responsible for Newsnight (Robbie Gibb remains the hot tip for the editor's job) – but because the presenter opined to The Pollard Report about what he perceived to be the takeover of BBC News by radio. 'Helen Boaden, a radio person. Steve Mitchell, a radio person. Peter Rippon was a radio person. These people belong to a different kind of culture,' he told the inquiry.

Some of the Britain's most acclaimed authors and playwrights including Sir Tom Stoppard, William Boyd, Margaret Drabble, Ian McEwan and Salman Rushdie have called on the main political party leaders to honour their pledge and implement a defamation bill aimed at transforming one hundred and seventy-year-old laws they say have silenced scientists and authors as well as journalists and activists. In an open letter, the authors tell David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Milimolimandi that they were 'deeply concerned' the bill was going to be killed off after three years going through the legislative process simply because it had become entangled in a political row over The Leveson Report on press regulation in the past month. They said it was 'entirely inappropriate, and even reckless, for libel reform to be sacrificed to the current political stalemate' in the letter, organised by the writers' lobby group English Pen. Current British libel laws, the authors argue, have not changed substantially since 1843, have made London the libel capital of the world and are 'not just a national disgrace' but an international concern. In 2010 the US president, Barack Obama, introduced laws in America to protect US citizens from British courts. The signatories, who also include Julian Barnes, Claire Tomalin, Ali Smith, Dame Antonia Fraser, Sir David Hare, Stephen Fry, Susie Orbach and Michael Frayn, are concerned that improved libel laws are on the verge of collapse because of amendments inserted by Lord Puttnam into the bill in the past month during its final stage in the House of Lords. The bill has been three years in the making and was included in the Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem manifestos. It did not touch on press regulation until last month, when a group of peers, frustrated by the lack of progress on The Leveson Report among the political parties, won overwhelming support in the Lords to add sections to the bill covering a newspaper watchdog's activities. Writer Gillian Slovo, daughter of the anti-apartheid leader Joe Slovo, told the Gruniad Morning Star: 'It would be a terrible thing if the bill was killed, not because it isn't supported by all three parties, because it is, but because it became entangled in Leveson. It would be a great loss.' She said that 'one of the great strengths of Britain was freedom of speech but its Achilles heel is the libel laws which are mostly used to silence the less well-off.' Libel reform campaigners including Lord Lester, believe it can be salvaged but only if it gets on to Commons business by the middle of March. Alleged political 'sources' have confirmed it is not currently slated for discussion and will not be while Leveson talks continue, raising fears that the bill is already dead. Boyd, vice-president of English Pen, said Puttnam's amendments had 'nothing to do with the principle of libel reforms, whose validity had already been established' through consultation and debate in three parliamentary committees. The amendments include proposals for a new arbitration unit to resolve disputes with newspapers and an incentive system that would mean publishers who did not sign up to the new press regulator could face punitive damages and costs in high court libel actions. The authors say that in the past three years a number of scientists have faced 'ruinous libel suits simply for blowing the whistle on dangerous medical practices.' If the defamation bill became law, the risk of libel action would be lessened because of a new public interest defence. Big corporations such as drugs companies would also have to prove serious financial harm before they could take action. 'If the law is not reformed, bullies will continue to be able to prevent the publication of stories that are often not only in the public interest, but a matter of public health and safety,' the letter says. Other signatories are Lisa Appignanesi, Jake Arnott, Amanda Craig, Victoria Glendinning, Mark Haddon, Ronald Harwood, Michael Holroyd, Howard Jacobson, Hisham Matar, Philippe Sands, Will Self, Kamila Shamsie and Raleigh Trevelyan. Downing Street said that it supported the bill but claimed that it was 'stymied' as long as the Puttnam amendments remained. 'The government is strongly behind the objectives of the original defamation bill. The government does not support the Puttnam amendments and is clear the Puttnam amendments will not make it onto statute,' said a spokesman for Downing Street.
Comedian Kevin Bridges is facing criminal charges following a drunken incident in which a car was damaged. The comic was arrested in Killarney in December, where he was performing his tour show The Story Continues. He was charged with being intoxicated in a public place and with criminal damage. His lawyer said that he would not be contesting the charges. In a police statement, Bridges said: I was acting aggressively and I never intended to cause damage. I would like to apologise to the man in person [the owner of the car] and cover the cost.' The case at Killarney District Court has been adjourned until May.

The success of independent producers in securing BBC commissions has been highlighted by figures showing that outside suppliers secured ninety nine per cent of available drama hours in the year to the end of March 2012. However, the BBC has been told there is 'still room for improvement' in its relationship with outside programme suppliers. It has been asked to look at its seating arrangements to ensure in-house programme makers are not being given an unfair advantage over independent producers. This recommendation was included in a report by the BBC Trust which said the corporation should do more to build confidence among independent producers about the openness of its commissioning process. The latest trust review of the BBC's 'window of creative competition', published on Wednesday, concluded that it was generally working well. Independents won the lion's share of programmes available to both in-house and outside producers in the year to the end of March 2012. As well as winning ninety nine per cent of the available hours in the WoCC, they dominated entertainment and children's commissioning. BBC dramas commissioned from the independent sector during the twelve-month period included Merlin, from Elisabeth Murdoch's Shine, Neal Street's Call The Midwife, Kudos' Hunted and World's Line of Duty. However, the BBC Trust said that more could be done to allay concerns by independent programme makers about a perceived lack of transparency and claims that in-house producers had an 'unfair advantage.' The Trust said BBC executives should take steps to address any 'potential information imbalance' between in-house and independent producers. It also said management should ensure the 'most appropriate seating arrangements within BBC buildings for commissioners, independent executives and in-house teams to ensure no undue advantage is provided to any one party.' The BBC's commissioning operation is a regular source of whinging from independent producers, with complaints including that it is 'too Byzantine' (whatever the hell that means) and that it takes too long to get decisions on programme proposals. In the twelve months to the end of March 2012, the BBC commissioned a total of forty six per cent of all network TV hours from the independent sector, up from forty three per cent in 2010-11. With fifty per cent of all hours guaranteed for in-house, and twenty five per cent for independents, of the remaining twenty five per cent, independents won a total of eighty three per cent available to both in 2011-12, an increase on the previous year. The proportion of the WoCC hours won by independent drama producers has steadily increased over the past five years, from less than half in 2007-08. The downturn in the amount of drama hours BBC in-house won in the WoCC was due to the cancelling of two key shows amounting to around twenty hours of programming, said the Trust report. It added that, overall, BBC's in-house drama production had still delivered sixty six per cent of its total drama output. BBC trustee Anthony Fry said: 'We have found that after six years of the WoCC, the principle of choosing the best ideas regardless of source is firmly embedded in the BBC's commissioning culture. This is good news and can only have a positive impact on the corporation's ability to deliver high-quality television for licence-fee payers. However, we have identified some areas for further improvement. We particularly want to see more work going into ensuring that independent producers and in-house teams are aware of all commissioning opportunities, and that they have confidence in an open and fair process at the BBC.' John McVay, chief executive of independent producers' trade body PACT, said: 'Competition has proved a great success for the BBC and for the independent production sector. The latest review shows that the indie sector is delivering what the BBC wants: great TV shows that are providing value for money for licence fee-payers and achieving excellent viewing figures. Indies are delivering across all genres and the WOCC review is compelling evidence that competition is delivering what the BBC needs and what viewers want. The success of the WOCC begs the question that with such a clear success story on its hands, why wouldn't the BBC consider opening up more of its programming schedule to competition?'
It is the opening salvo in the most anticipated media book war of the year – a clash of biographies on the political consultant-turned-media tycoon, Roger Ailes. First out of the blocks is what amounts to an official account, by the columnist Zev Chafets. In a short extract published on the Vanity Fair website, the FOX News boss rails against a slew of top politicians and media figures, from President Obama, Joe Biden and Newt Gingrich to CNN anchors Wolf Blitzer and Soledad O'Brien. 'Newt's a prick,' Ailes tells Chafets without mincing words. 'He's a sore loser and if he had won [the Republican presidential nomination] he would have been a sore winner.' Biden is 'dumb as an ashtray.' And, in the latest blast in the running dispute between the FOX News chief and Obama, he comes perilously close to adopting an old racist stereotype by calling the president 'lazy. Obama's the one who never worked a day in his life,' he tells his biographer. 'He never earned a penny that wasn't public money. How many fundraisers does he attend every week? How often does he play basketball and golf? I wish I had that kind of time. He's lazy, but the media won't report that.' The Chafets book, Roger Ailes Off Camera, is due to be published on 19 March and was written with the benefit of many hours of interviews with Ailes as well as with his friends, family and colleagues. In the Chafets book, Ailes comes across as a cantankerous but witty old right-wing twat. Blitzer gets a nod of approval as a 'good journalist' but is castigated for his rear end as it appears on camera: 'I doubt if the audience really wants to see some size forty two short guy with his back to the camera.' And O'Brien? She's 'named after a prison.' The left-of-centre news channel, MSNBC, also gets a not-unexpected kicking. Ailes advised NBC not to go with that name, on the grounds that 'MS is a damn disease.' There has been much speculation that Ailes agreed to co-operate with Chafets in order to get in a rose-tinted version of his life before the unauthorised account gets onto the bookshelves. The Loudest Voice in the Room: FOX News and the Making of America, by the New York magazine writer Gabriel Sherman, will be published in May without the benefit of access to Ailes but drawing on Sherman's prodigious skills as a reporter. Certainly, Chafets' account portrays the TV giant in a relatively positive light, if the extract is anything to go by. It opens with Ailes watching his son Zac, twelve, play basketball in a school match and in highlights put out by Vanity Fair, Ailes is shown to be collecting memorabilia to leave his child when he dies. The collection includes a pocket-size copy of the US constitution with a note: 'The founders believed it and so should you.' There's also a couple of biographies of Ronald Reagan and a plain brown envelope stuffed with two thousand dollars in cash that says: 'Here's the allowance I owe you.' The one person who doesn't fall foul of Ailes's caustic humour, apart from his son, is billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch, his boss and patron. No surprises there – the two men have been thick as thieves since Murdoch employed Ailes to create FOX News for News Corporation in 1996. But Ailes tells Chafets the secret of their enduring bond is not friendship. 'Does Rupert like me? I think so, but it doesn't matter. When I go up to the magic room in the sky every three months, if my numbers are right, I get to live. If not, I'm killed. Our relationship isn't about love – it's about arithmetic. Survival means hitting your numbers. I've met or exceeded mine in fifty six straight quarters. The reason is: I treat Rupert's money like it is mine.'

BBC3 chose to cut out Mad Frankie Boyle's set from the Give It Up Gig for Comic Relief broadcast on Wednesday night. Hosted by Russell Brand, the evening's entertainment included comedy from Eddie Izzard, Jimmy Carr, Simon Amstell and Jason Manford and music from Nicole Scherzinger, Noel Gallagher and Jake Bugg. The show was pre-recorded earlier in the evening and during the editing process, Boyle's routine was not included. In a typically forthright set, Boyle made jokes about Kate Middleton's breasts, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, Oscar Pistorius and a reference to the Jimmy Savile fiasco. So, just yer average Mad Frankie Boyle gig, it would seem. Writing on Twitter after his set, Boyle said: 'Was a nice gig at Wembley, and big up Russell Brand – a shot in the arms for addicts everywhere.' Ho, ho. Manford used the gig as a chance to poke fun at his recent sex scandal troubles, pointing out that it was ironic to be performing a 'comic relief' gig. Heh. Meanwhile, host Brand referenced his infamous Manuel-gate controversy at the BBC in 2008, when he demonstrated how viewers could donate money via texts. 'Bearing in mind this is on the BBC and I'm playing with someone's phone, we're already into deep risky territory,' he joked. Four people laughed.

Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi - once described by Mad Frankie Boyle as the sort of man who 'if you told him to go fuck himself, he'd give it a try!' - has been convicted and sentenced to a year in jail over an illegal wiretap. He was accused of arranging for a police wiretap concerning a political rival to be leaked and published in a newspaper run by his brother. Berlusconi is likely to appeal. He is presently appealing against another conviction and faces two more verdicts in the coming weeks. One of the rulings expected later this month is about tax fraud, and the other trial concerns allegations that he paid for sex with an underage prostitute. There is, of course, no real prospect of Berlusconi actually going to jail any time soon, but the conviction is another very serious blow to his reputation. It comes weeks after his right-wing coalition did better than expected in a general election, and is expected to form a major bloc in the next parliament. In October last year, Berlusconi was convicted in another tax fraud case and sentenced, then, to a year in jail. That conviction is currently subject to an appeal. Prosecutors brought the wiretap case after a transcript of a phone conversation intercepted by the authorities was published in the newspaper Il Giornale, owned by Berlusconi's brother, Paolo. The conversation took place between the head of insurer Unipol and Piero Fassino, who was the leader of the biggest centre-left party and Berlusconi's biggest political rival at the time. Unipol was trying to take over BNL bank in 2005. Magistrates had ordered the wiretap as part of an investigation into 'inappropriate interference' in the takeover. The publication of the transcript in a national newspaper broke secrecy rules, and Berlusconi was accused of obtaining the transcript from the wiretap company used by magistrates. In numerous trials over the years, Berlusconi has been accused of charges including accounting fraud, perjury, bribery, corruption, having unlawful sex with a minor, and fraud over the sale of film rights. Berlusconi says that he is the constant target of a vendetta by politically biased prosecutors. He has denied all the accusations against him and has either been acquitted or let off under statutes of limitations.

Star Trek Into Darkness will open in UK cinemas a week earlier than previously announced. JJ Abrams's blockbuster sequel - which was initially planned to launch on 17 May - will now premiere on IMAX 3D, 3D and 2D screens on 9 May, Paramount has confirmed. Star Trek Into Darkness pits the crew of the Enterprise against Benedict Cumberbatch's villain John Harrison, a 'one-man weapon of mass destruction' intent on destroying Starfleet. Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Simon Pegg and Anton Yelchin all reprise their roles from 2009's Star Trek, while Alice Eve, Noel Clarke and Peter Weller join Cumberbatch as new additions to the franchise.

Newcastle City Council has agreed to stop its regular funding for theatres and other arts venues and launch a new cultural fund worth half the current amount. The council will scrap its £1.2m core arts grants as part of one hundred million smackers savings. Setting its budget on Wednesday, the council confirmed that a new six hundred thousand quid culture fund would be launched instead. The council said the fund would provide security, although Arts Council England chairman Peter Bazalgette said the cut would still have a 'serious impact.' Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes - whom yer actual Keith Telly Topping sure as shite isn't voting for next time around - has warned that the city is on the brink of the 'abyss of austerity.' Well, maybe you should stop sending out your tenants so many stupid letters every five minutes, Nick, that might save a bit of cash. Better yet, scrap the department that sends spies around to look at the state of people's gardens. The council is also planning to shut a string of libraries, reduce funding for youth and children's services, cut the number of children entering care and get rid of thirteen hundred jobs. Cultural venues that currently receive council funding include the Theatre Royal, Northern Stage, the Live Theatre and Seven Stories, which recently won the right to be called the National Centre for Children's Books. The plan to scrap their subsidies was met with an outcry from the city's arts community as well as well-known North-East names including Sting, Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall and actor Kevin Whatley. Not a single one of whom, to the best of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's knowledge, actually stuck their hand in their pocket and offered to do a bit of funding themselves. It also led to fears that other cities would follow Newcastle's example. Forbes claimed that the Newcastle Culture Fund would give celebrities the chance 'to put their money where their mouth is. This new approach not only provides that security, but means those who wish can also make a contribution,' he said. Peter Bazalgette said he recognised the pressures faced by the council, adding: 'Of course, a fifty per cent cut to the culture budget still means serious economic and social impact for Newcastle and beyond.' There is uncertainty over which venues will get money from the Culture Fund and how it will be distributed. Elsewhere, local authorities in including Westminster, Stirling and Somerset have announced one hundred per cent cuts to their arts budgets. No other big city has gone down that route, although Newcastle was unusual in announcing plans for the next three years. Most plan twelve months ahead.

The National Theatre's artistic director Sir Nicholas Hytner has whinged at the BBC for a 'Downton ratings mentality' and said it is not doing enough to put the arts on television. Hytner said the BBC, about to welcome a new director general in Lord Hall, the outgoing chief executive of the Royal Opera House, should 'work more closely' with arts bodies such as his own in an interview with Thursday's Times. He added that the corporation should broadcast 'big set-piece performances' from the likes of the Royal Ballet and the Royal Exchange – which he described as 'low hanging fruit, there for the taking' – possibly on a weekly basis. Quite where this effing joker thinks the money for all this is going to come from given that the BBC haven't got a pot to piss in at the moment, he doesn't say. That's the beauty of taking wank from the outside, there's absolutely no danger of you having to put your stupid ideas into practice. It's something the Labour party does very well. Hytner said it would 'open up plays' previously watched by tens of thousands of people to an audience in the millions. Asked in The Times interview if the BBC had enough arts coverage, Hytner said: 'Plainly it doesn't. I'll be surprised if that doesn't change under Tony. To the extent that a DG can involve himself in nuts and bolts, he'll surely look at it.' The National Theatre already broadcasts many of its flagship performances in cinemas as part of NT Live, one of many of Hytner's initiatives to bring the arts to the masses. He said: 'NT Live is for the big screen, but there are ways to bring terrific performances to television. The conventional wisdom is that the two words are separate, and that needs challenging.' In a reference to ITV drama hit Downton Abbey, more than matched in the ratings by BBC1's Call The Midwife, watched by ten million viewers, Hytner said: 'A success at the Donmar might be seen by sixteen thousand people, here [at the National Theatre] seventy five thousand. So if a performance got a million on TV ... look, they've really got to detach themselves from this Downton ratings mentality.' Hytner said he was 'not concerned' by the switch, announced last month, of BBC2's The Review Show to BBC4, which he said was 'just journalism. I'm interested in performance,' said Hytner. 'I don't see why there couldn't be a closer relationship between the BBC and this vast performance network – us, the Crucible, the Royal Exchange, Opera North, Broadsides, Live Theatre, the Royal Ballet, everyone. Fifty-two weeks, more than fifty two companies, offering something. It's low-hanging fruit, there for the taking.' Yeah. Like that's going to happen. The BBC has broadcast live theatre events, most memorably the National Theatre's controversial Jerry Springer: The Opera, which generated more than fifty thousand complaints when it was broadcast on BBC2 in 2005. But the BBC tends to favour its own adaptations, such as its acclaimed Shakespeare season The Hollow Crown last year, than televised theatre shows which are more the preserve of BSkyB's two Sky Arts digital channels.

And, speaking of culture, Sky Sports has agreed a new rights deal with the Professional Darts Corporation that will take their partnership into its twenty fifth year. Under the new five-year rights deal, Sky Sports viewers will get over fifty days of live and exclusive darts throughout the year, including the Ladbrokes World Darts Championship each Christmas until 2018.

Some very sad news now, the guitarist Alvin Lee, leader of the band Ten Years After, has died aged sixty eight. His family announced on his official website that he unexpectedly died on 6 March following complications during routine surgery. The Nottingham-born musician rose to fame with his group after appearing at the Woodstock festival in 1969. The band, who had eight Top Forty LPs in the UK (and a couple of massive sellers in America), had their biggest hit single in 1971 with 'I'd Love To Change the World'. 'We have lost a wonderful and much loved father and companion, the world has lost a truly great and gifted musician,' said the statement from his wife and daughters. Alvinv also worked with George Harrison, Steve Winwood, Ronnie Wood and Mick Fleetwood on his first solo LP, On the Road to Freedom, in 1973. He released his fourteenth CD, Still on the Road to Freedom, in August last year. He had been due to play a concert at Olympia Hall in Paris on 7 April with blues guitarist Johnny Winter. In an recent interview with Guitar World Alvin said that he still picked up a guitar 'pretty much every day.' The Woodstock Festival, held in upstate New York in August 1969, featured legendary performances by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and The Who and, thanks to the movie of the events, made the careers of many of those who took part. This applied in particular to Ten Years After. Alvin's frantic, one-thousand-miles-per-hour eleven-minute rendition of Ten Years After's traditional showstopper, 'I'm Going Home', was immortalised in the movie although, as he would later note, it became something of a millstone around the band's neck as many fans turned up purely to see them play that. If you've never seen it, Christ, it's good! 'I've still got the original Woodstock 335, but sadly I don't use it these days as it has become too valuable,' Alvin said in 2012. Born in Nottingham, Alvin began playing guitar at the age of thirteen and formed the core of what would become Ten Years After by the time he was fiftee, initially as The Jaybirds. The band got their first recording contract in 1967 and travelled to America a year later due to success on underground radio stations, most notably their 1968 live LP Undead. Ten Years After toured the US twenty eight times over a seven-year period before splitting in 1974.

The former wife of ex-cabinet minister Chris Huhne has been found guilty of perverting the course of justice by taking speeding points on his behalf. Vicky Pryce, sixty, was convicted at Southwark Crown Court of committing the offence over a speeding incident on the M11 in Essex in 2003. She had denied the charge, saying Huhne had forced her to take the points. Huhne, fifty eight, admitted the same charge in February, resigning as Liberal Democrat MP for Eastleigh, in Hampshire. The decision is the result of a retrial, after a jury failed to reach a verdict in Pryce's original trial in February. The judge, Mr Justice Sweeney, said sentencing of Pryce and Huhne will take place at a later date. The pair were charged last year over an incident in March 2003 when Huhne's car was caught by a speed camera on the M11 motorway between Stansted Airport and London. He was an MEP at the time. It was alleged that between 12 March and 21 May 2003, Pryce, a prominent economist, had falsely informed police she had been the driver of the car, so Huhne would avoid prosecution. He was in danger of losing his licence having already accrued nine penalty points. During both trials, Pryce accepted that she had taken Huhne's points, but adopted a defence of marital coercion, claiming he had made her sign a form he had already completed in her name. However, the prosecution alleged Pryce had chosen to take the points, but later plotted to expose Huhne after he revealed he was having an affair with an aide and ended the couple's twenty six-year marriage. Sentencing Pryce the judge told her that she, like her ex-husband, should be 'under no illusion' about the sorry fate that she now faces.

A winner of The Apprentice was warned not to 'upset' Lord Alan Sugar-Sweetie as she went into a meeting with him to discuss her job concerns, a tribunal has heard claimed. Stella English was employed by the tycoon's IT company Viglen, but said that its chief executive told her on her first day that there was 'no job.' The East London Employment Tribunal Service has heard she felt like 'an overpaid lackey.' English told the hearing that she feared being 'a troublemaker' if she complained. English, who won the show in 2010 and earned one hundred thousand knicker a year with the company, said she had 'no choice' but to resign after being told that her contract was not being renewed. She is claiming constructive dismissal at the tribunal, which began on Tuesday. The thirty four-year-old, from Whitstable, had to carry out a four-month probationary period before she was named the winner in December 2010. She told the hearing that she had 'no clear role' and was given only basic administrative tasks to do at Viglen. And she was getting paid a hundred grand for this and she's still whinging? Christ, some people don't know when they're well off. On Tuesday, she told the hearing that on her first day Bordan Tkachuk, the chief executive, told her: 'There is no job.' The tribunal previously heard that when she e-mailed Lord Sugar-Sweetie to ask for a one-to-one meeting, she was 'disappointed' to find Tkachuk and two other members of senior staff were also going to be there. English told the tribunal that before they went in, Tkachuk told her: '"Don't make me embarrass you." I believe that it meant don't raise any issues with Lord Sugar - any issues that he's not going to be happy about,' she said. 'The reality is that I had to work at this company with this person. Basically, I was just toeing the line. I didn't say anything, I just kept my mouth shut.' During cross examination Seamus Sweeney, representing Lord Sugar-Sweetie, asked her why she did not complain to Lord Sugar-Sweetie about how she was treated. English said: 'I was in a trial period to win The Apprentice. What value is there in me going into a company I don't know - whether I knew [I was going to win] or not - and then go and complain about people who have been working there a long time?' Asked why she did not drop out of the process if she was so unhappy, she said: 'It did cross my mind. I had still hoped that by not making complaints and not being difficult with these people that in time I could maybe win them over.' An e-mail was read out that English sent to Lord Sugar-Sweetie on 24 December 2010, after she was named the winner. The tribunal heard she wrote: 'I'm happy and people have been really kind to me.' Asked why she said that, English told the hearing that she had been in a 'whirlwind' after winning the competition and taking part in numerous TV appearances and photoshoots. 'Some people had been really kind to me. I don't dispute that,' she said. 'And some people hadn't been so kind to me. I'm not saying that every single person at Viglen was horrible. I'd just won The Apprentice. It was Christmas Eve.' Lord Sugar-Sweetie his very self described English as 'a suspicious person' with 'very odd conspiracy theories.' The businessman made the comments during cross-examination. 'I began to think that perhaps the reality of work rather than the glamour of showbusiness was beginning to bite with her,' Sugar said. 'Her time in the limelight was beginning to fade. In hindsight, I can now see that she was a very untrusting and suspicious person. It was clear to me now that she thought that everyone was out to trick her. She thought during the whole [Apprentice] process that she was being lied to and that the other candidate had been chosen as the winner. She always came across as quite reserved and detached and, some might argue, cold. At other times she would come to me with some very odd conspiracy theories.' Sugar-Sweetie said that English 'confronted' him during her four-month probation period with the idea that eventual runner-up Chris Bates had won the competition since she hadn't yet been filmed leaving his office in a chauffeur-driven car. Both candidates had worked for Sugar-Sweetie in 2010 before he made his final decision. She is also said to have accused his PR agency of leaking information about her family to the press. Meanwhile, English claimed to the tribunal that Sugar-Sweetie had told her: 'I did it for the BBC and the integrity of the show and a bit of my own PR and a bit of yours too. But the fact is that I don't give a shit.' Sugar-Sweetie said he had 'no intention' of paying out to English 'unless instructed to do so by the law. I believe this claim is simply an attempt to extract money from me ... something I will not do,' he said. 'I have principles which I have spoken about on abuse of law.' Sugar-Sweetie, who finished reading his witness statement to the hearing on Thursday, said he had spoken about a 'new wave of claim culture' in the House of Lords. The hearing continues.

Gemma Arterton has admitted to punching a dirty stinking auld Harry Ramp reet hard in the mush after he, allegedly, goosed her. The actress made the confession on The Graham Norton Show and said she felt 'quite bad' about the incident. Arterton told Norton: 'I was in one of those ATM cash machine rooms and there was a tramp in there. He kept looking at me and then he grabbed my bum. Really hard. I turned round and properly punched him in the face. I then realised I'd punched a tramp in the face so I ran. Thank God he didn't punch me back.' Frankly, you should think yourself lucky it wasn't this chancer, Gemma. Then you'd have something to complain about!
A fan of The Scum was so disgusted with the referee's decision to send off Nani in Tuesday's Champions League clash with Real Madrid that he called 999. The eighteen-year-old was watching at home in a village near Bingham, Nottinghamshire. Yeah, that sounds about right - mind you, compared to most of Man United's support, he's a local boy since he only lives a hundred miles away from Old Trafford. Anyway, he felt that the red card shown to the winger was 'a crime' so he called police. He later apologised for the call, saying that he was 'caught up in the moment.' The police said that they will not take any further action. The fan, who has not been named, called police at about 21:20 during the second leg clash against the Spanish giants. He was, he said, 'incensed' by the referee's decision to show Nani the red card for a high challenge on Alvaro Arbeloa. Chief Inspector Ted Antill said: 'While this recent example may be amusing, it illustrates the sort of insincere calls we have to deal with on a daily basis in the control room. They waste our time and they direct us away from genuine victims of crime, particularly if we dispatch officers out to something that turns out to be a bogus report.' He warned that prank 999 calls were a crime and said people had been prosecuted in the past. 'It's no joke. In this case, the man realised his bad judgement and apologised and we decided not to pursue it further,' he added. Had Tuesday's 999 caller followed Sir Alex Ferguson's example, he would have avoided a police telling off - the Manchester United manager was said afterwards to be 'too distraught' to speak about the match. Albeit the sour-faced old bully is now facing a UEFA sanctions for his 'non-fulfilment of post-match media obligations.' Which, to be honest, is even funnier than the story of the kid ringing 999.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, this very evening yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self will be dragging out his leopardskin spandex and eye-liner, closing one eye when looking at the camera just like Byron Ferrari and attending Uncle Scunthorpe's latest, delightful, Record Player event at the Tyneside. He does this spandex-and-eye-liner thing most weeks, to be fair but, tonight, he has extra special reason to as the featured LP for the evening in yer actual Roxy Music's For Your Pleasure. Fab-u-lous.

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