Wednesday, December 01, 2010

We Can't Salute Ya, Can't Find A Flag. If That Don't Suit Ya, That's A Drag!

The BBC has vigorous defended their right to broadcast a documentary which alleges that three FIFA officials took bribes in the 1990s. As reported yesterday, Nicolas Leoz, Issa Hayatou and Ricardo Teixeira allegedly took the money from a sport marketing firm which was subsequently awarded lucrative World Cup rights, Panorama claimed in Monday night's programme. The BBC investigation was shown three days before a vote to decide the hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, a vote that all three men will have a vote in. BBC executive editor Clive Edwards said that it was Panorama's job 'to investigate corruption and wrongdoing.' The International Olympic Committee has asked the BBC to hand over any evidence it has relating to the claims made against Hayatou, who is also a long-standing member of the IOC. The alleged bribes are included in a confidential document listing one hundred and seventy five payments totalling about one hundred million dollars. The three men did not respond to Panorama over the allegations, not even to say 'we deny these allegations,' which some may consider curious. FIFA, world football's governing body, also declined interview requests to address the allegations. However, in a statement issued on Tuesday, it said the case was 'definitely closed' as the allegations had already been investigated in Switzerland, with no FIFA officials being convicted. This, despite FIFA having what they publicly describe as 'a zero tolerance policy [against] all violations of standards.' In its programme, Panorama reported on evidence a fourth senior FIFA executive - vice-president Jack Warner - continues to be involved in the resale of World Cup tickets to touts as recently as this summer. The BBC stood by its decision to air the allegations ahead of Thursday's vote in Zurich. Clive Edwards told Radio 4's Today programme that Panorama had received a list showing the alleged payment of bribes in October, and had spent the intervening time checking the claims and putting them to those named. Edwards added Panorama presented its evidence to FIFA on 10 November. 'Some people have said that it would have been better to do it after the vote but it is surely nonsense to suggest that you know a process could be flawed and you don't say anything until after it has happened,' Edwards said. 'I am not prepared to sit on information we have. I believe that it is in everyone's interest that there should be a fair process and that corruption should be exposed.' The BBC has been criticised by the English Football Association, of course. A statement from the FA described the investigation as 'an embarrassment to the BBC. We stand by our previous position that the BBC's Panorama did nothing more than rake over a series of historical allegations none of which are relevant to the current bidding process. The 2018 team are entirely focused on winning the bid for England.' They forgot to add, seemingly, 'by any means necessary, and we don't care who we have to sleep with to achieve this.' But Michel Platini, president of football's European governing body UEFA, said that the Panorama programme should not affect England's bid to hold the World Cup. Speaking to reporters after the documentary aired, he said: 'I don't think this programme will have an effect, no - but I think what may affect the decision is the atmosphere going back a long time and what people have been writing about FIFA in the British press for many years.' The alleged bribes to the three members of FIFA's executive committee were paid by sports marketing company International Sport and Leisure and date from 1989 to 1999, Panorama reports. The company collapsed in 2001. FIFA granted ISL exclusive rights to market World Cup tournaments to some of the world's biggest brands and ISL received millions more from negotiating television broadcast rights. Some details of the alleged bribes emerged in 2008, when six ISL managers were accused of misusing company money. Bribery was not a criminal offence in Switzerland at the time the money was allegedly paid out, although is was against FIFA's ethics code. But Panorama has obtained a confidential ISL document which lists one hundred and seventy five secret payments. The ISL list shows a front company in Liechtenstein called Sanud received twenty one payments totalling nine and a half million dollars. Teixeira was closely linked to Sanud by an inquiry of the Brazilian senate in 2001. It found that funds from Sanud had been secretly channelled to Teixeira through one of his companies. FIFA president Sepp Blatter said in a statement that the 2008 court case had largely exonerated the former ISL officials. Largely, being the operative word. He added: 'It is important to stress that no FIFA officials were accused of any criminal offence in these proceedings.' And, indeed, nobody is accusing them of that now. Merely, of doing things contrary to FIFA's own ethics code. You know, the one they have a zero tolerance of? Allegedly. The recipients of most of the money paid by ISL into accounts in Liechtenstein cannot be traced. These latest allegations of wrongdoing by FIFA executive members come after two of the twenty four committee members were banned last month from voting in Thursday's ballot. The bans came after the Sunday Times - in a brilliant bit of journalism - accused Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii of being willing to sell their World Cup votes. Panorama also says that it has seen e-mails and an invoice which show Warner was involved in the procurement of eighty four thousand dollars worth of 2010 World Cup tickets. The e-mail trail suggests that the tickets were destined for the black market but the planned deal - including thirty eight tickets for the final in Johannesburg - collapsed because the touts were not prepared to pay the asking price. In 2006, Panorama revealed that Warner had sold tickets on the black market for that year's World Cup tournament in Germany. FIFA subsequently ordered Warner's family business, Simpaul Travel, to make a one million dollar donation to charity to 'compensate for the profits it had made through resale of 2006 FIFA World Cup tickets.' Asked to respond to Panorama's allegations by the Press Association news agency, Warner said he had 'no interest in this matter ... now or ever.' And this, ladies and gentlemen, is a man that David Cameron - your prime minister - is going to meet this week, shake hands with and then, presumably, get down on his hands and knees and, quite literally, beg to vote for England's bid for 2018. What, exactly, that says about Cameron's own credibility, I'll leave up to the individual reader to decide. Although I'm sure some of you would like, as I would, an explanation from the prime minister of this country as to since when has investigating - and potentially uncovering - multi-million pound corruption been 'embarrassing?' Is the prime minister going to tell the CPS to add crimes like that to all the others that they don't think are worth investigating? I don't know about anybody else but, when I was young I was always taught that you should do the right thing with regard to reporting dodgy behaviour that I came across, even if that meant getting into trouble myself. Now, seemingly, on no less authority than the effing prime minister, we're being told no, you don't do that, not if it's going to cost the country a few quid. I hope I'm not the only one who finds that deeply offensive. England will almost certainly lose the 2018 bid on Thursday. They would have probably lost it anyway - England aren't particularly well liked by many in FIFA due, in no small part, to decades of rather sniffy colonialist attitudes towards foreigners by the FA. But, more recently, the England bid was always a long-short because FIFA don't like the British press and it's been an even longer shot since the Scum Mail on Sunday published the details of a gossipy conversation between the bid's first chairman, David Triesman and some woman he knew in a restaurant which, ultimately, caused Triesman's resignation. It became an even longer-shot when the Sunday Times exposed the nefarious skulduggery surrounding Adamu and Temarii six weeks ago. In the last few days, however, all of that has been quietly forgotten by, and you'll like the irony here, people like the Scum Mail on Sunday's sister paper, the Daily Scum Mail, and Sky News, which shares a major shareholder, Rupert Murdoch, with the Sunday Times. These, and many other organs of the British press who've never been shy to publish anti-FIFA stories in the past, now sense the chance to pass the buck for us 'losing the bid' onto another messenger and blame a convenient scapegoat - the Beeb - should the bid fall. Which it's likely to for all sorts of reasons, a mere one of which is that FIFA, seemingly, don't like people who investigate them. I'd like the World Cup to be played in England in 2018 as much as anyone - and I include David Beckham, Prince William and David Cameron on that - but, if that means we have to bend over backwards to accommodate (alleged) bullies and (again, alleged) corrupt individuals then, personally, I reckon that's a price that isn't worth paying. Still, you never know, come Thursday FIFA might surprise us all and prove to be bigger and more transparent than they've been painted. Somehow, however, I doubt it. Once again, I'll close with the thoughts of the Telegraph's Jonathan Liew: 'For months, the England 2018 team have been furiously lobbying the BBC to scrap the programme, or at least move it to a less inflammatory time slot, ideally just before Doctors on a Friday afternoon. A bemused BBC, for its part, has been accused of "sensationalism" — which is a little spurious when you consider that Panorama is up against I'm a Celebrity on ITV — and a "lack of patriotism." The criticism is somewhat understandable, given the amount of time and effort invested in the bid: the hours spent waiting by airport baggage carousels, the interminable four-course lunches with deaf old men. For it all to come to naught as a result of half an hour of television must seem a little deflating. But all perspective has been lost. When did it become a condition of hosting a World Cup that all criticism of FIFA be suppressed? There's a term for that. It's called "bending over." Whatever happened to the idea of World Cup hosts being decided on the basis of stadiums and transport and Nelson Mandela? It's only a TV programme, for heaven's sake. If FIFA is going to form a negative view of this country as a result of a TV programme, surely that programme should be The Alan Titchmarsh Show? There's hardly a football fan in the country that wouldn't like to see the World Cup being held in England. But if it means telling our broadcasters what they can and can't show after EastEnders on a Monday night, then let someone else do it.'

Katherine Jenkins has admitted that she was nervous about taking on a role in this year's Doctor Who Christmas special. It was originally announced in July that the singer will star alongside Matt Smith and Michael Gambon in the festive episode. 'It was far worse than any nerves I've ever had for any [musical] performance,' she told the Radio Times. 'I spent a lot of time thinking about it. It's such an iconic show and it's one that we watch as a family.' Jenkins also admitted, 'I'm the first to say I don't really consider myself an actress. I asked if I could go in and read to them, and I thought, "Well, if I'm rubbish they won't give it to me, will they?"' she explained. 'I read to them and they called me on my thirtieth birthday and offered me the part.'

Mad Frankie Boyle's much-anticipated solo vehicle, Tramadol Nights began on Channel Four last night with a perfectly terrifying opening sequence. In this, members of the audience, unwise enough to sit too close to the stage, got both barrels of outrageous abuse. God, it was funny. The episode also included quite possibly the best line Mad Frankie's ever come up with, the one about the Popemobile being ecologically friendly because it 'runs on the tears of abused choirboys.' Thereafter ... I dunno, the sketches weren't much cop, frankly (although I did quite enjoy Loose Women: Iran and the clever parody of shite Jimmy McGovern-style identikit faceless drama for what they were), I don't think Frankie's an actor of any description. So, although the stand-up was as fierce as you'd expect, the jury is very much still out on this one. Of course, there'll be complaints, you knew that as soon as the 'c' word got used exactly forty five seconds into the episode! Still, at least this time somebody other than the BBC will be getting them, which makes a nice change.

The Simpsons added an extra joke about FOX News to its latest episode at the last minute. The show's executive producer Al Jean told The Hollywood Reporter that the team had decided to include the joke following criticism from gobshite rent-a-quote Bill O'Reilly. O'Reilly had previously complained about an episode which included a FOX helicopter painted with the motto: 'Fox News: Not Racist But #1 With Racists.' The pilot also yelled: 'We're unbalanced! It's not fair!' when the helicopter began to crash. Following O'Reilly's complaints, not a little unhinged themselves as it happens, another joke about a FOX chopper was included in the show. 'It was inserted late because we did the first joke last week and Bill O'Reilly got upset and called [the characters] "pinheads,"' Jean said. 'If you're calling cartoon characters "pinheads," what does that make you? Matt Groening wanted to do a response to O'Reilly so we slipped this in just for the US version. We didn't pay to put it in every edition, which saves the company money that can be funnelled back to FOX News and O'Reilly.' However, Jean suggested that the show will not make any more jokes about FOX helicopters in the near future. 'I think at that point after two you're becoming stale,' he said. 'I believe that something is only funny twice. Next week, the show is so long we don't even have a couch gag.'

Doug Hutchison is to make a guest appearance on the crime drama Lie To Me. Movieline reports that the actor will play a police detective named Lane Bradley in a forthcoming episode. When his infant daughter is kidnapped, the promising officer will encounter Cal Lightman and his team. Hutchison previously played Horace Goodspeed on ABC's Lost and also featured in the final season of 24. His television guest appearances include roles in CSI: Miami and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Channel Four has announced that its television chefs have signed up to take part in The Big Fish Fight. Heston Blumenthal, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Gordon Ramsay and that wretched bloody Oliver fellow, who previously took part in The Big Food Fight and The Great British Food Fight, will be joined by eco-chef Arthur Potts Dawson. Each personality will host a programme about cooking fish and the problems of dwindling stocks. Fearnley-Whittingstall will appear in Hugh's Big Fish Fight as he attempts to explore the problems with fish stocks and the industry. He will also take his information to politicians, the public and supermarkets. Ramsay will investigate the controversial dish shark fin soup in Gordon's Shark Bait, which will also see him swimming with sharks and campaigning against the shark fishing industry. Blumenthal will host Heston's Fish Feast, in which he creates a 'marine cuisine banquet like nothing seen before,' while Jamie's Fish Supper will see Oliver - who, to be fair, does actually have lips that look like those of a fish. From Yellow Submarine - presenting ten four-minute programmes focused on new recipes. And, hopefully, getting smacked in the mush with a wet haddock at least once. That, I'd watch. Well, at least they're mercifully short, anyway. Finally, Potts Dawson will host Arthur's Hell On High Water. The chef is opposed to trawler fishing but joins fishermen on a commercial trawler for a week to learn more about the industry.

The UK's nine regional screen agencies are to be restructured into three 'hubs' under sweeping changes announced this week by lack of culture minister, Ed Vaizey. The agencies will be 'recalibrated' into three hubs Creative North, Creative Central and Creative South, which will all fall under the banner of Creative England. The screen agencies, including Northern Film and Media and Film London, will work together to restructure into the three groups over the next year. It is not yet known how many jobs are likely to be affected or what impact the move will have on television production funding mechanisms. A full Creative England proposal document will be published and opened up to an industry consultation next year. Feedback will help create a business plan for the new system. 'Providing locations support and encouraging inward investment is extremely important to both the national and regional film economy, and these will continue to be key areas of activity going forward,' Screen England, the umbrella organisation for the screen agencies, said in a statement. 'The regional screen agencies will work together to decide the best way to continue this support under Creative England, and we will confirm further details in due course.' John Newbigin, chair of Screen England added: 'We are pleased to say that in the Creative England structure, we believe we have arrived at a framework that will deliver effective and streamlined support to the regions via a new hub and spoke network.'

Top Twenty TV programmes week ending 21 November 2010:
1 The X Factor - ITV - 16.14 million
2 Strictly Come Dancing - BBC1 - 12.28 million
3 I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! - ITV - 11.48 million
4 Coronation Street - ITV - 10.59 million
5 EastEnders - BBC1 - 10.46 million
6 Children In Need (19:00 - 22:00) - BBC1 - 9.36 million
7 Emmerdale - ITV - 8.03 million
8 Countryfile - BBC1 - 8.01 million
9 The Apprentice - BBC1 - 7.71 million
10 Merlin - BBc1 - 7.42 million
11 Harry Hill's TV Burp - ITV - 7.08 million
12 Ten O'Clock News - BBC1 - 6.83 million
13 The ONE Show - BBC1 - 6.47 million
14 International Football: England vs France - ITV - 6.39 million
15 Antiques Roadshow - BBC1 - 5.96 million
16 Holby City - BBC1 - 5.95 million
17 ITV News Special - ITV - 5.82 million
18 The Cube - ITV - 5.42 million
19 Casualty - BBC1 - 5.40 million
20 Accused - BBC1 - 5.39 million

Britt Ekland has criticised Gillian McKeith's behaviour on I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! as being 'absolutely appalling.' The actress, who was voted out of the jungle on Sunday night, hit out at the TV host and hate figure to everybody who's ever eaten a cream cake and enjoyed it, as McKeith became the latest celebrity to leave the show on Monday. 'I think she has been so incredibly appalling that I won't take her e-mail address,' Ekland told the Sun. Ow. Burn. 'I won't have anything to do with her. I found her behaviour and lack of knowledge about the show absolutely astounding for a professional woman.' Ekland continued: 'She is a fake - a bloody good fake but a bloody annoying one.' The sixty eight-year-old criticised the You Are What You Eat presenter's refusal to share. 'Gillian wasn't a team player. I understand saying no to the trials but she didn't have the skills to cope,' she said. 'She didn't want to share, she didn't want to give, she only took.'

Jason Manford has joined Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley in going to that place where all old ONE Show hosts go to die, ITV. The commerical broacaster has commissioned a full series of Jason's Friday night entertainment show Comedy Rocks. The comedian quit the BBC last week, after admitting to sending flirty messages on Twitter to ladies who were not his wife. Or something. it was all a bit 1930sa, to be honest, and nobody seemed very bothered about the whole deal except for a few tabloids. But, anyway, Comedy Rocks will get a full series in 2011, after the pilot back in March which featured Jo Brand, John Bishop and Scouting for Girls proved to be a hit. For the series, Manford hopes to attract the likes of Eddie Izzard, Lee Evans and Michael Buble. Though, presumably, he won't be using Twitter to contact them.

Eliza Dushku has been announced as the star of a new TNT pilot. Dushku, who appeared in, and has a cult following via, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dollhouse (and, the best-forgotten Tru Calling) has joined TNT's new series called Bird Dog, reports Entertainment Weekly. Bird Dog tells the story of a cop duo made up of a father and daughter. Ooo, formula. And, you can just bet that probably took five guys in a smoky room about thirteen hours to come up with. it would have been on the list right after 'four kids and their dog travel around the country in a camper van solving crime.' Dushku will play the daughter, while the father role is yet to be cast. According to Deadline, Dushku's character is estranged from her father, a New York City police officer, until he turns up as her new partner. Together, they solve crimes in a sleepy Pacific Northwestern town which has a curiously high murder rate, while building their own relationship. Dushku most recently featured in The Big Bang Theory as an FBI agent.

The producers of Total Wipeout, 101 Ways To Leave a Game Show and The Whole Nineteen Yards are looking for teams of three people to take part in 'an exciting new game show for Saturday night on BBC1.' It says here. Each show 'sees contestants face a series of mental and physical challenges as they battle to win a major cash prize.' It seems the BBC might have actually commissioned a show from Endemol based on a pilot initially called Don't Scare The Hare which was filmed on 9 September last year and was - by all accounts - pretty much a farce. The pilot was hosted by Jason Bradbury, from Mercenaries. Commentary and voice-over work was provided by the unlikely figure of Barry Davies. Sounds ... painful.

Alan Titchmarsh has defended the decision to host a discussion about sex toys on his afternoon show. Ofcom received more than three hundred complaints when the sixty one-year-old chaired a debate about sex aids on The Alan Titchmarsh Show earlier this year. Most of the complaints concerned rthe subject matter although at least one or two were, reportedly, about Titchmarsh himself beibng 'a smarmy little tosser.' Allegedly. However, Titchmarsh downplayed the controversy and insisted that such a subject was appropriate for a programme going out at 3pm. 'I think rather too much was made of the complaints about the show with the sex toys,' he told the Sunday Mercury. 'Surely people must expect a gardener to know about pollination?' Oh, top comedy, mate. Think up that one all on your own or do you have a team for writers for all your pithy quips? The presenter also lamented the fact that he is unable to deal with more adult topics now that his show has moved from 3pm to 5pm. 'You can talk about more grown-up things at 3pm than you can at 5pm, when children might be watching,' he said. 'I don't see why you can't talk, very decorously, before 3.30pm about improving your sex life.' What this blogger objects most to is the fact that Titchmarsh and his smug face was on my TV three times on Tuesday. His own ITV show, plus an appearance on The ONE Show and BBC2's Garden Secrets. Ooo, I was cross so I was. In fact, I think I'll complain to Ofcom.

There's a very good piece by the BBC's David Bunker on the forthcoming Live Plus 7 rating figures that the intend to be publishing each month from 2011.

Coronation Street's forthcoming disaster storyline will affect life in Weatherfield for several months, a report has claimed. In next week's much-anticipated fiftieth anniversary episodes, a huge explosion will rock The Joinery bar, causing a tram to fall from the viaduct above and cause devastation on the street. With the death and horror and the screaming. The horrifying accident will see a number of much-loved characters lose their lives, while others are to be left in serious danger amid the carnage. Discussing the consequences of the tram crash, a Coronation Street 'source' allegedly told the Sun: 'The ramifications for the storyline will be seen for months to come.' Bill Roache had previously promised that the disaster will spark some 'amazing' follow-up storylines. Meanwhile, Corrie's producer, Phil Collinson, has said that he wants the stunt to keep hold of new viewers as it sends some existing plotlines 'in completely different directions.'

The BBC has issued an official response to complaints about last week's episode of Accused. Some viewers complained that the drama had been 'disrespectful towards the armed services.' Following its broadcast last Monday, former head of the army General Sir Richard Dannatt, criticised the broadcaster for making 'a gross error' of editorial judgement. 'The BBC has the utmost respect for the British Army and it was not the intention of this drama to denigrate British Soldiers,' the response stated. 'Indeed, the writer Jimmy McGovern is quoted as saying, "This episode is a work of fiction and as a dramatist I was interested in exploring how soldiers have to be at a certain mindset to kill. It is not my intention to slur British soldiers, for whom I have the greatest respect. At the heart of the drama is my belief in the sanctity of life."' The statement concluded: 'We believe that Accused is to be understood by the audience as a piece of fiction rather than a piece of journalistic reportage. This has been clearly explained as such in our press and promotional activity.'

BBC Entertainment commissioning editor Karl Warner is reportedly the leading contender to become the new controller of BBC3. According to the Independent, 'impeccable sources' place thirty one-year-old Warner as the frontrunner to replace Danny Cohen, who is moving to head up BBC1. Warner, who is the youngest commissioning editor at the BBC, currently acts as a commissioner and executive producer for entertainment programming on BBC1 and BBC3. Since joining the BBC in 2007, he has commissioned various hit shows for BBC3, including Undercover Princesses and Russell Howard's Good News, which has become the channel's most successful ever studio entertainment format. Prior to that, he was head of development at Monkey Kingdom, where he helped develop The Passions Of Girls Aloud for ITV2 (thanks for that, Karl) and The Charlotte Church Show for Channel 4. He also previously worked as a senior producer on reality show Big Brother while at Endemol. Last month, Cohen was named the new controller of flagship channel BBC1, replacing Jay Hunt, who will become Channel Four's first chief creative officer in January. Should Warner take the helm at BBC3, he will have to build on Cohen's strong work at the channel, which has seen a fifty eight per cent growth in its share of the target sixteen to thirty four-year-old audience since he took over in May 2007.

Actor Johnny Depp has said that his portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates Of The Caribbean was not liked by Disney bosses. In an interview with Vanity Fair, the actor said former chief executive Michael Eisner 'couldn't stand' the way he interpreted the role. Depp went on to earn an Oscar nomination for his performance. A Disney spokesman said: 'The entire team at Disney could not be happier with Johnny Depp's performances in the Pirates trilogy which is why we are so excited to be bringing back a fourth installment to audiences next summer.' 'I think it was Michael Eisner, the head of Disney at the time, who was quoted as saying, "he's ruining the movie,"' Depp said. The actor also revealed that Eisner had questioned whether he was 'some kind of simpleton' or even drunk when acting in the movie. Depp famously based the character on The Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, who subsequently appeared in the third Pirates' movie At World's End as Captain Jack's father. Depp is currently filming a fourth installment - On Stranger Tides - which is due out next year.

One of the greats of post-war Italian cinema, Mario Monicelli, has killed himself by jumping out of a hospital window. Monicelli, ninety five, was dubbed 'the father of Italian comedy' for directing films such as Amici Mei and I Soliti Ignoti. He had received numerous awards and was nominated four times for an Oscar. Monicelli was admitted a few days ago to San Giovanni hospital where he was being treated for prostate cancer. He is believed to have leapt from the fifth floor. Monicelli was born in Viareggio in Tuscany and was the youngest son of the Mantuan journalist Tommaso Monicelli. His older brother Giorgio worked as writer and translator. Another older brother, Franco, was also a journalist. He attended studies in the local lyceum, and entered into the film world through his friendship with Giacomo Forzano, son of the playwright Giovacchino Forzano, who had been encharged by Benito Mussolini with the founding of cinema studios in Tirrenia. Monicelli lived a carefree youth, and many of the cinematic jokes he later shot in Amici Miei (1975) were taken from his experience. He made his debut as a director in 1949 and won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival ten years later for The Great War, a comedy about two young Italians who try to avoid going to the front line during World War I. He also helped launch the careers of Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale and Vittorio Gassman, with his 1958 film I Soliti Ignoti - released in the US as Big Deal on Madonna Street and in the UK as Persons Unknown. Mario Monicelli directed seventy movies, often focusing on stories about ordinary people confronted by extraordinary circumstances. A Very Little Man (1977) was one of his best-known works about a man who takes justice into his own hands after his son is killed in a robbery. Monicelli was known as politically left-wing and had called last year for students to protest against the government's proposals for cuts to the culture budget. His last feature film was The Roses of the Desert in 2006, which he directed when he was niety one years old. Paying tribute, Italy's President Giorgio Napolitano said he would be 'remembered by millions of Italians for the way he moved them, for how he made them laugh and reflect.'

A man has been sent three letters ordering him to repay an alleged debt of one penny to the Department for Work and Pensions. Ex-chef Stuart Garfield, of Forest Fields, Nottinghamshire, was warned that there would be consequences if he did not repay the sum, the Nottingham Post reports. Garfield said: 'I thought they were having a laugh at first. I went to the Jobcentre Plus straight away but they told me not to worry about it. They all thought it was quite funny. But then I got another letter.' He explained that he may have incurred the penny debt after getting a grant from the Adviser Discretion Fund to buy new chef clothing after losing his job at Fellows Morton & Clayton pub. After being told there was nothing to worry about, Garfield received a second letter on 15 November and a third on 22 November. The letter read: 'On 15 September you were informed that you had been overpaid Adviser Discretion Fund amounting to £0.01. You have not repaid this amount and I now request payment immediately. Cheques should be made payable to the Department of Work and Pensions and forwarded to this office. Until you repay this overpayment no future awards of Adviser Discretion Fund or Travel to Interview Scheme will be made.' A DWP spokesperson said: 'We apologise to Mr Garfield for any inconvenience caused. Our records have been amended to ensure that no further computer-generated correspondence can be issued regarding this matter.'

Which brings us to the latest sample from yer Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. And today we have a fierce slab of social comment, something which seems genuinely fitting what with all the snow shutting down many schools this week. This one, therefore, is for all the girls and boys, making all their noise:
'We got no class/And we got no principles/And we got no innocence/We can't even think of a word that rhymes!' Skill! Bordering on Jimmy Hill, in fact.