Thursday, March 31, 2011

Are You Trying To Tempt Me? Because I Come From The Land Of Plenty

Around thirty per cent of BBC Breakfast staff have chosen to relocate to the corporation's new northern headquarters in Salford according to early newspaper tittle-tattle disguised as 'early indications.' Yes you, Gruniad with your 'we know what we're talking about' malarkey. Because, you just don't, you're guessing like everyone else! They claim that according to 'sources', presenter Sian Williams - who pretty much the entire press had said intended to leave the production just two days ago - 'could stay' with the popular morning show for its relaunch from its new home in MediaCityUK. Which probably gives you, dear blog reader, an idea of how much credence to put into pretty much anything which appears in a newspaper. The one hundred or so staff working on Breakfast had until the end of Wednesday to decide if they would move to Salford as part of the corporation's drive to make itself less London-centric. BBC Children's, BBC Sport, BBC Learning, parts of Radio 5Live and Future Media and Technology are moving to the new North-West base by 2012. Although just a few executives at BBC North have access to the electronic system that staff use to verify their decision, the Gruniad claims that an 'exit poll' by 'some staff' within BBC Breakfast puts the number relocating at around thirty per cent. In addition, the newspaper claims, 'there are concerns about how many senior experienced Breakfast producers will move to Salford.' According, again, to - nameless - 'sources', two of the top four people currently working on Breakfast are staying in London and 'have found work in other parts of BBC News.' One 'insider' allegedly added: 'On the presenter front, Bill Turnbull is going, and it looks as though Sian Williams will go for the launch in Salford for a bit and then return to a job in London and Susannah [sic] Reid will be lined up to replace her.' Although this 'insider' has such a good grasp of the situation that he, or she, seemingly, doesn't know how to spell 'Susanna.' A low 'yes' vote, the Gruniad claims, will 'be a blow for BBC North management as the average across the other departments who had to decide if they would relocate stands at forty six per cent.' However, Breakfast staff who have said 'no' could still be persuaded to change their minds and many are likely to discuss their options at a so-called 'Salford or fuck it' drinks party they have organised in London on Friday night.

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping was, he is forced to confess, rather surprised to find in his e-mail in box this morning, a communiqué from Susan Mubarak the former first lady of Egypt and wife of the deposed generalissimo Hosni Mubarak. Of course, the wives of ex-international heads of state often e-mail me. Usually to find out if I can give them any spoilers on what's happening on the next series of CSI. But, anyway, this was different. Susan was on the beg. 'I am Mrs. Susan Hosni Mubarak, the wife of the Former President of Egypt Hosni Mubarak. I got your information from the list of world philanthropist willing to assist the oppressed for any kind of help and I felt that you could handy to my family on this vital issue. As you may be aware that my husband is presently facing trial on maladministration charges in Egypt and we his family mem [sic] A CRY FOR URGENT ASSISTANCE.' And, that's where it ended. At least Imelda Marcos had the wherewithal to send a stamped addressed envelope when she sent me a begging letter in the 1980s. Personally, yer actual Keith Telly Topping currently finds himself somewhat in a financial straitjacket - so, no change there, then. But if any of you, dear blog readers, would like to know more about Mrs Mubarak and her family's, no doubt terrible, plight then you can drop me an e-mail and I'd be delighted to pass it on to her at the address she gave me.

Lee Mack confirmed on Steve Wright's radio show this week that series five of Not Going Out had been given the green light by the BBC.

Sofie Gråbøl has revealed that she loves the fact that Sarah Lund in The Killing is not a 'stereotype.' Speaking to the Gruniad, Gråbøl explained that she never wanted the fact that Lund is a woman to be a big issue. 'We agreed that we didn't want to go there,' she said. 'It's not to diss the issue of a woman in a man's world, but we felt that's been done many times before. The classical story is of the working mother with a love life, a woman who wants to be something to everyone. There would be scenes of her having sex with her boyfriend, cooking, and all those usual clichés. We didn't want to do any of those things. Lund's not like that. She can't separate herself from the case.' She continued: 'Some people see her as a superwoman, but she's not. She's brave and strong, but she has so many weak points she's almost crippled.' Gråbøl also suggested that Lund is a different kind of character from those normally seen on television. 'The strength of the character is that you can't put her in a box,' she said. 'I like it when there's something held back so a character isn't defined for you. I like that as an actor and I like it as an audience member. Lund isn't a stereotype - she's a character who came to life as we made the series.' The BBC has already confirmed that it will broadcast the second series of The Killing later this year, while an American remake will begin in the US on Sunday on AMC.

Lark Rise To Candleford and Clocking Off writer Bill Gallagher is scripting a drama series for BBC1 in which a local politician attempts to atone for his sins. Red Production Company's five-part Fuse features a young idealist and family man who loses his way. After a night of drink and drugs, he wakes to hear about a local man who is in a coma after an attack, and slowly comes to realise he was involved. A twist of fate results in the central character becoming a local hero and subsequently running for mayor. The series charts his race against time to use his political power to make amends, before his crime is discovered. The series was commissioned by BBC controller, drama commissioning, Ben Stephenson and BBC1 controller Danny Cohen, and is scheduled for broadcast in the winter of 2012. Cohen said: 'The timeline running in the background is genuinely exciting, as the character tries to make amends before his past catches up with him.' Gallagher added: 'It's a morality tale, a political drama with a thriller element about a man trying to come to terms with his own shadows. Politicians are usually depicted descending into corruption, but this is about his driving need to make wrongs right, and there is genuine conflict with what politicians describe as the "realities of office." I'm interested in exploring the best of humanity, and the journey he goes on is redemptive.' Gallagher said that the character's attempts to deal with 'his own darkness' has echoes of his BBC3 drama hit Conviction, which was shown in 2004. It attracted critical acclaim for its complexity, dark humour and the innovative visual style created by director Marc Munden, who has also directed the upcoming Crimson Petal And The White for BBC2. Fuse will be executive produced by Piers Wenger for the BBC and Nicola Schindler for Red. The cast and crew are still to be confirmed and filming begins in September.

Kate Garraway has said that she is enjoying her role as Daybreak's entertainment editor. The former GMTV anchor took on the new position when ITV launched the replacement breakfast show last year. Speaking to Metro, Garraway admitted that the job is 'a nice change' to covering news such as the 'nitty gritty' of politics. 'I'm always off to swanky hotels to interview people and go to gigs, films and the theatre,' she said. And yet, still nobody's watching you. How tragic.

Electric sports car maker Tesla Motors has said that intends to sue the BBC's Top Gear for allegedly 'faking' a scene showing the company's Roadster car running out of electricity and slowing to a halt in a race. The legal move is the culmination of a row which has rumbled on between the show and Telsa since the episode was first broadcast in 2008. Specialist libel law firm Carter-Ruck issued the writ on behalf of the firm on Tuesday at the high court because the scene was still being shown worldwide repeats and was available on DVD, and the BBC had failed to 'correct' it. The firm expects to recover not more than one hundred thousand pounds in damages. If it wins the case, of course, something which the Gruniad in reporting their intention curiously failed to point out. In the race with a petrol-powered Lotus Elise, the eighty seven thousand pound electric car was shown stopping for a recharge. But, the company claim, the car never ran out of electricity. Tesla - who according to informed sources in the US (Reuters, no less), do seem to be a rather litigious company - said after the episode had been broadcast that neither of the two Roadsters which it loaned Jeremy Clarkson's team had gone below twenty per cent of their charge. Earlier in the same episode, Clarkson had praised the Tesla: 'I cannot believe this – that's biblically quick. This car is electric, literally. The top speed may only be one hundred and twenty five mph but there's so much torque it does nought-to-sixty in 3.9 seconds. Not bad from a motor the size of a watermelon and which has only one moving part.' Tesla is suing the show for 'libel and malicious falsehood,' and says that the show misrepresented the car's true range – claiming fifty five miles rather than two hundred and eleven. In a statement, the California-based company, whose first cars were based on British-made Lotuses, said: 'Tesla simply wants Top Gear to stop rebroadcasting this malicious episode and to correct the record, but they've repeatedly ignored Tesla's requests.' A Top Gear spokeswoman said: 'We can confirm that we have received notification that Tesla have issued proceedings against the BBC. The BBC stands by the programme and will be vigorously defending this claim.' And so, once again we have, at least at this stage, essentially a nothing story. But, one which some hippy-Communist lice at the Gruniad Morning Star and some goose-stepping bullyboy thugs at the Daily Scum Mail will take a great delight in reporting but which, actually, is likely to end up with a few solicitors letters flying backwards and forwards followed, in all probability, by a very public silence. Well, it helps to fill up a few newspaper pages until the next series of Top Gear comes along in the summer, I suppose.

The BBC has announced that it has renewed Outnumbered for a fourth season. The partially-improvised comedy, written by the award-winning team of Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin which has run since 2007, focuses on two parents struggling to keep their children under control. The cast includes Claire Skinner, Hugh Dennis, Tyger Drew-Honey, Daniel Roche and Ramona Marquez. The BBC has now revealed that six new episodes will be made for broadcast on BBC1 later this year, although a return date has not yet been set. A Christmas special of the show will also be made. The announcement was posted on the BBC Comedy blog along with the promise that the new series will see the characters 'confronted by an array of challenges in the shape of death, drugs, terrorism, getting old, food science, Top Gear, the joy of ventriloquism and the perils of Subbuteo.' Andy Hamilton has previously admitted that the BBC was initially reluctant to commission the comedy.

Katie Holmes and Greg Kinnear have confessed that they were 'surprised' by the controversy surrounding their historical mini-series The Kennedys. The History channel in the US dropped the drama earlier this year, and it was subsequently shopped to several networks before being picked up by the Reelz Channel. '[The controversy] was absolutely a surprise to me like it was to everyone else. I don't think anyone else saw it coming,' Holmes told PopTarts about the difficulties faced by the production. 'It's a very entertaining story about a very powerful family that lives in intense times with lots of drama.' Kinnear added: 'I was surprised about [the controversy], everybody was. I think it has all died down for the most part, and now people can decide how controversial it actually is, and that's the great thing about this country, and I'm looking forward to that.' Executive producer Joel Surnow recently claimed that The Kennedys faced difficulties because of 'discrimination and censorship.'

The BBC's flagship children's series Blue Peter may no longer be broadcast on BBC1 if the latest proposals to emerge from the BBC's Delivering Quality First initiative come about. The plan to remove the 3.05pm-5.15pm children's block on BBC1, with such content being broadcast exclusively on the CBBC and CBeebies channels, was one idea discussed at a meeting of around sixty senior BBC Vision staff last Friday. It would free up the BBC1 daytime schedule to run BBC2 daytime output in a move which could save twenty million pounds, and post-digital switchover audiences would still have access to the BBC's children's channels. Event programming such as Comic Relief Does Glee Club would retain its BBC1 home. Other plans for replacing BBC2 daytime include running news or airing repeats and archive programming. However, it is understood that the 6pm to 7pm slot, where series such as Great British Railways and Royal Upstairs Downstairs are broadcast, is not part of discussions. The meeting on Friday was led by the acting BBC Vision head George Entwistle and invited feedback about the proposals so far. No firm decisions were made, but sources suggest it involved some 'difficult' conversations. Which is nothing to the 'difficult' conversations they're going to have once the viewers get themselves involved in all this.

The lack of culture secretary the vile and odious rascal Hunt has warned the BBC not to cut 'core services' as it struggles to deal with a real terms reduction in its licence fee. The viler and odious rascal Hunt told MPs it was up to the BBC to make decisions about which services it invests in, but that he expected savings to come from efficiencies rather than core services. 'At a time of great pressure on the public purse and on licence fee payers, it was right that the BBC should look to make efficiency savings just like the rest of the public sector,' he told members of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee. 'It was in that context that we agreed on the sixteen per cent real terms reduction in the licence fee, so I would be concerned if there was a reduction in the BBC's core services.' He added: 'I would be very concerned if I thought that rather than making efficiency savings, which I believe the BBC is capable of, they were actually making their savings by cutting into core services.' The vile and odious rascal Hunt was responding to a question from Therese Coffey, Tory MP for Suffolk Coastal and a member of the select committee, who expressed concern about possible cuts to local radio coverage in order to save money at the BBC. The lack of culture secretary unveiled a deal in October with the BBC to freeze the licence fee for six years at £145.50, equivalent to a sixteen per cent budget cut in real terms. The vile and odious rascal Hunt also defended the independence of newly appointed BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten of Barnes. He told MPs that Patten, former Governor of Hong Kong and Conservative Party chairman, had shown independence in 'spades' throughout his career. 'The chairman of the BBC Trust has to be politically impartial and has to defend what I think what most people would consider the most important thing about the BBC of all which is its independence,' the vile and odious rascal Hunt said. 'I had to choose the best person for the job on the basis of the people I interviewed and my consideration was that someone who has demonstrated in his career that he is able to stand up to Margaret Thatcher and able to stand up to the Chinese government, is someone who whether you agree or disagree with the individual decisions he took, has demonstrated that independence in spades, that is why I decided he was the right person for the job.'

BBC4 has ordered three more episodes of Dirk Gently. A pilot for the show, based on the best-selling Douglas Adams novel, broadcast last December to good viewing figures and some critical acclaim. The programme's lead, Stephen Mangan, has now confirmed that the BBC has asked for some new episodes. Writing on his Twitter page, he said: 'Dirk Gently gets recommissioned! BBC4 have asked for three one hours. No news yet on what they will be about/which bits of the books will be there/when they will be on.[sic]' Mangan also joked: 'That's the good news, the bad news is that Gok Wan will be playing Dirk and Kay Burley will be Richard MacDuff.' Mangan had previously claimed that he would be 'heartbroken' if the show wasn't renewed. Dirk Gently, which follows Mangan's character as he uses bizarre methods to solve crimes, is written by Misfits author Howard Overman.

PACT has raised concerns with Ofcom that Channel Five is failing to meet its Public Service Broadcasting obligations, and is said to be taking legal advice over Five's treatment of suppliers. The trade body remains hopeful of repairing its strained relationship with the broadcaster, but the PACT Council has voted to approve legal action if it becomes necessary. Talks between the two parties are ongoing, according to Broadcast magazine, but PACT said Channel Five continues to break new provisional agreements it has made. PACT is also warning its members about taking commissions from the broadcaster, with concerns focused around lengthy payment terms and work going unpaid. In some cases, they claim, suppliers are being paid fifty per cent of their fee sixty days after delivery of a show, with the final fifty per cent paid a further sixty days after that. PACT chief executive John McVay said that he was committed to battling the broadcaster on behalf of its members. 'We will pursue every action to get any broadcaster to meet the agreements they are bound to. That includes taking legal advice, talking to the regulator Ofcom and advising our members to be cautious about working with C5,' said McVay. 'The current situation is that it is issuing contracts which it has not agreed with us. If you decide to take on work from C5, then make sure you go in with your eyes wide open.' McVay added that much of the goodwill towards the broadcaster from its suppliers had evaporated following its acquisition by Richard Desmond's Northern & Shell. 'C5 is entitled to negotiate different payment terms with PACT and should have proper agreements in place with suppliers - and stick to the terms agreed.' Tough sell, mate? You must feel like Russell Kane in front of an audience of Nintendo DS3 geeks. The highest-profile incident between C5 and a supplier was its very public disagreement with the Shine Group last year. Channel Five queried a payment of nearly a million pounds and refused to pay for marketing and advertising costs, before settling the dispute a few weeks later.

BBC Worldwide is said to be close to selecting a preferred bidder in the one hundred million pound-plus sale of its magazine division, with German publisher Bauer still considered to be the favourite from a 'handful' of credible candidates still in the running to become the new owner of titles that include Top Gear magazine and Radio Times. It is understood that BBC Magazines – the BBC Worldwide subsidiary which owns thirty four titles including Gardeners' World, Good Food and Bob the Builder – is aiming in the next few weeks to put the name of the favoured buyer through the three-step process required to move to preferred bidder status and exclusive negotiations. It is thought that a number of companies that had been considered to be weighing up submitting a serious bid – including Metal Hammer and Total Film owner Future Publishing and Love It! publisher Hubert Media – have not become actively involved in the final round. However, according to 'one source with knowledge of the negotiations' there are still 'a handful' of credible bidders – both in a financial sense and also fitting the bill as a suitable owner for a raft of treasured BBC assets – being considered. Several of those still in the running are thought not to have yet been named in the media. In order for a company to be officially named as preferred bidder BBC Magazines must go through a three-stage process of informing, and getting the greenlight, from the BBC Worldwide board, the BBC executive board and the BBC Trust. 'There are a handful of credible bids in the running, the process has certainly not moved to preferred bidder status let alone exclusive negotiations, it has to get three ticks before anything like that,' the source allegedly said. 'It is close but there are a number still in the running.' Bauer, the owner of titles including Grazia and FHM, has long been considered the leading contender, although it could face potential competition issues. The German company owns a second publishing operation in the UK, H Bauer, owner of titles including TV Choice and Total TV Guide, which could spark competition concerns over market dominance in TV listings magazines if the BBC's flagship Radio Times is included in the stable. BBC Worldwide has been hunting for a partner to take control of its magazine business since last April and is seeking a single buyer for all of its magazines. This stipulation is understood to have put off a number of potential buyers looking to cherry pick the best-selling parts of the portfolio. In September, BBC Worldwide got the greenlight from the BBC Trust to start the search for a commercial partner to either buy, licence or take a majority stake in its magazine business, having previously said the corporation was restricted by constraints in both its borrowing capability and editorial remit, as well as having other strategic priorities.

One a marginally related subject, if it was still going then the Listener would be one of the titles up for grabs from the BBC's portfolio. It was one of the most distinguished titles in British journalism for more than six decades, nurturing the careers of literary talent including Virginia Woolf, Phillip Larkin and TS Eliot, and home to what became regarded as the toughest cryptic crossword in any weekly publication. But twenty years after the closure of the Listener magazine, all three thousand one hundred and ninety seven issues are to be made available online as part of a major new digitisation project. Initially due to be opened to universities, schools, libraries and research institutions, BBC Worldwide has spent eighteen months collaborating with digital archive specialists Cengage Learning to scan and index one hundred and thirty thousand pages in colour, making the every issue of the Listener fully searchable. Established in 1929 by Lord Reith, the first director general of the BBC, the Listener was designed to be the intellectual counterpart to the more populist Radio Times, a cultural and intellectual record of the corporation's programming. Jean Seaton, professor of media history at the University of Westminster and official historian of the BBC, described the Listener's 'profound literary role,' from its roll call of contributors to the quality of the editorial. 'It was edited with a real eye, a testament to the power of the editor, intelligent and constructive and with a style driven by the urgency and topicality of the BBC, but about as real an insight into what the serious minds of the time were thinking about,' she said. 'At that time in the 1930s the Listener was part of the immense ambition of the BBC to be part of British life, and early on established a tone more bohemian than the BBC.' Just as today, that immense ambition attracted scorn from the BBC's commercial rivals at launch, with the Newspaper Proprietors' Association claiming the Listener represented 'an illegitimate stretching of official activity.' Nonetheless, the title was published for sixty two years until, after a period of declining interest and suffering from competition from weekend newspapers and their supplements, it finally closed in 1991. The first decades of the Listener are particularly significant because live shows were not usually recorded, and tapes of radio shows were usually wiped. As well as more recent contributors including Stephen Fry, Ian Hislop and John Peel, the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy is covered by Anthony Burgess, King George VI's speech at the outbreak of the second world war – as featured in The King's Speech – is transcribed in full, and Philip Larkin makes his national weekly publication debut at just eighteen with his poem Ultimatum. Time has been rather less kind to other pieces in the Listener's collection. Reporting from Berlin in March 1933, Vernon Bartlett describes how nobody he has seen in Nazi Germany has 'suffered any inconvenience.' He writes of the failure of France, the US and Britain to help moderate Germans after the first world war, and how the allies knew the treaty of Versailles would put Germany in a position of lasting inferiority that would 'inevitably be disputed by a young and vigorous race. The outline of Herr Hitler's programme must have done a good deal to allay anxiety in Poland or France. I am inclined to think that the Nazi revolution was an inevitable step towards the recovery to German greatness and influence.' Oh dear.

Filming continues on the new series of Torchwood over the last couple of weeks. The principle cast have all been busy this fortnight, with John Barrowman, Mekhi Phifer and Alexa Havins recently spotted on location, and Kai Owen tweeting prominently from the set. The great Olivia Hallinan (Sugar Rush, Lark Rise To Candleford) has been widely rumoured to be appearing in the series. Of course, she has been in Torchwood before (in the episode Out Of Time) so, it's possible she may be playing the same character. The press release for this event indicates that the series - Miracle Day - will consist of ten fifty minute episodes.

ITV is reportedly holding discussions with the US production company behind Disney On Ice to develop a new TV show. Broadcast claims that ITV Studios has met with Feld Entertainment, a family-run business which has produced both Disney Live and the successful ice show. The company is said to specialise in 'spectacular' events which have included Monster Jam and circus Ringling Bros. A team from ITV Studios have visited the US to compile footage of various productions, while executives have held meetings with Feld chairman and chief executive Kenneth Feld. According to the report, the new series could be based around self-contained episodes, which would see contestants competing to win slots in different Feld events, such as the Monster Jam. ITV chief executive Adam Crozier recently stated that he is keen for ITV to develop a format which could go on to become an international success. He told the Sunday Telegraph: 'The key thing is to see lots more programme ideas coming through, particularly in [entertainment, drama and factual entertainment], which drive the big audiences here but are also the key export markets.'

The award-winning producer of Undercover Mosque and Secret NHS Diaries is set to tell the Lords' Communications Committee that the BBC's Editorial Policy Unit should be scrapped. Hardcash Productions managing director David Henshaw will next week give evidence to the select committee, which is looking into compliance and the EPU as part of its review of the BBC Trust. Company Of Soldiers producer Tom Roberts will also appear. Henshaw will tell the committee - which includes Lord Bragg - that the EPU is a 'wholly unnecessary parallel hierarchy that soaks up time and money.' He told Broadcast: 'My recommendation is simple: get rid of the EPU. You don't need a third person between the editorial executive and a lawyer. If BBC editors and producers cannot adequately interpret the BBC's own guidelines, they are in the wrong job.' He will also argue the BBC's response of tightening Editorial Policy after the so-called Queengate affair, Sachsgate and the Hutton affair was misguided. 'Those cases were about deception, over-indulged talent or journalistic practices - but you don't need to send twenty five thousand people on a course to explain that,' he said, adding 'too often [the BBC] reacts out of terror of what the Daily Mail might say.' Word, my brother! Broadcast notes that 'this chimes with what Roberts plans to say.' He will suggest that the BBC finds itself subject to massive scrutiny by other media organisations whose own practices are much more questionable. Editorial Policy director David Jordan said the BBC looked forward to hearing the select committee evidence and discussing the issues.

The legend that is Mr T will reportedly front a new comedy-entertainment clipshow series made by Roughcut for BBC3. World's Craziest Fools (working title) will reportedly see the former A-Team and Rocky III actor - famed for his catchphrase 'I pity the fool' - unearth funny stories and footage of people doing stupid things as he searches for the world's biggest imbecile. The series will use original animation to provide a humorous take on newspaper stories, phone calls, insurance claims and exam answers, as well as featuring footage from home videos, TV archives and CCTV.

Noel Gallagher has reportedly demanded to move hotel rooms during a recent stay in Los Angeles because he refused to have a suite overlooking a giant billboard of his friend Russell Brand. The comedian is currently on the promotional trail for his new movie Arthur, in which he appears opposite Dame Helen Mirren. And former Oasis guitarist and songwriter Gallagher was 'left fuming' when he settled into a hotel room, only to discover that he would have to look out at his friend's mush on a poster for the film. Brand told the Sun, 'Noel's in LA at the moment and outside his hotel window he said all he can see is a great big billboard for Arthur. He said they showed him the room and the bloke asked, "Is there anything you'd like to change, sir?" He said, "Yeah. That fucking poster. I want another room," so they moved him.'

There is nothing, dear blog reader, quite like reading someone's angry, vague, heat-of-the moment Facebook postings, particularly when they're condemning 'peeple' and then seeing someone else correcting their spelling mistake. If everything goes according to plan, they'll get even angrier and continue to misspell things in their blind and impotent fury, thus giving the pedantic respondent further ammunition to belittle them. To be honest, it's a bit like poking a bear with a stick, only in this particular case the bear can't spell because its mother never taught it the importance of the written word. Take the following conversation between one Elizabeth and her, presumably, 'friend' Daniel. Cruel, I know but then the Internet is a spectator sport, after all.

The aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal has been listed for auction online by the Ministry of Defence. The two hundred and ten-metre-long vessel, which was officially decommissioned on 1 March after twenty five years of service, is available for purchase on the government's e-Bay style auction website Edisposals. Prospective bidders must be able to attend one of two viewings on 3 or 4 May in Portsmouth. They must also be willing to disclose what they intend to do with the ship if they secure it in order to pre-qualify to take part in the bidding process. They'll also need a pretty big garden pond.

Sexy cheerleaders have been blamed for a string of poor performances from struggling Championship football side Crystal Palace. Rather than the fact that they're just not a very good team. The American-style pom-pom girls were brought in by bosses at Crystal Palace in December last year to try to 'inspire the players' before each home game. But with the team falling to just above the relegation zone, some fans say the cheerleaders – called The Crystals – are 'a waste of time' because they are distracting the team. Some online forum users have slagged them off for 'looking silly.' 'They are just pole dancers on grass and they should be stopped – they are not doing the team any favours,' said one Internet blogger. Gareth Pollock added: 'When they come out waving their pom-poms I just hang my head.' He added: 'They put everyone off the game – you see the players eyeing them up when they should be focusing on the game. The sooner they go the better.' But The Crystals have hit back at Gareth and his mates, saying the fans should 'grow up.' 'The comments are quite nasty,' said cheerleader Amie Latter, twenty three, who is a season ticket holder at Selhurst Park and works in investment management. Fellow cheerleader Laura Howes, a nineteen-year-old who is studying for a law degree and volunteers for Citizens Advice, added: 'I think people look at someone and think they know what they're like. But everybody has their own little twists – I say don't judge on first appearances.' Sharon Lacey, marketing manager for Crystal Palace, said: 'The girls are excellent and they're passionate about what they do. They do it off their own bats and don't earn a penny.'

And finally for yer actual Keith Telly Topping's (shaped) 45 of the Day we're back in the 80s and a very well-remembered song (and one that's very much in the news today over the question of its authorship), sung by a Scotsman - in a cod Jamaican accent - about his adoptive country in the antipodes. This one's for Ricky Ponting - and, yes, the irony of the band's name is not lost at this juncture. Whose ashes?We'll be back the right way up again tomorrow dead blog reader.

When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Show Off Their Tattoos On MasterChef

Wednesday night saw yet another series of hilarious hijinx on yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved MasterChef. 'They've survived some tough tests to get this far,' husky-doyen of the voice-over India Fisher told the audience, as she described the final six contestants' next challenge amid the dreaming spires of New College Oxford. 'Where people are taught to question and criticise.' So, definitely the right show for them, then. Because the Bright Young Things (one hundred and fifty of them, plus fifteen senior fellows and tutors) were about to get a taste of what Tim the Mad Professor, Gregg's-pretend-mummy Annie, The Gospel According to St James the Carpenter, stroppy bossy mouthy Jackie, Can't Think of a Nickname Tom and Riviera Sara could throw at them in a 'Formal Hall', a three course formal dinner with silver service. Gregg Wallace didn't say 'cooking doesn't get any tougher than this' but, if he had, for once, we might have agreed with him. John Tordoe and Gregg ramped up the pressure with a series of bits of totally unhelpful advice. Like 'you're got seven hours to prepare but, it'll go in the blink of an eye.' And other cliches. Tim and Annie got given the starter - three types of salmon, a confit with lemon and dill, pastry coated cured salmon rolls with chutney and a salmon mousse with chives and peppercorn. 'Dinner hasn't been late in seven hundred years and that's not going to change tonight,' said Tim confidently although when they had to redo the first thirty dishes because he found a shard of glass in the peppercorn, you did start to wonder a bit. On the main course were the decidely odd couple pairing of St James and drama queen Jackie who had a big task preparing loin of rabbit and rabbit and mushroom risotto. It was a big task made even harder when Jackie started confusing matters by baffling James with mathematics. Come on James, mate, you're a carpenter, you know all about angles and fractions, surely? 'Don't get panicky, just get fast,' said John - again totally unhelpfully - but, it was inevitable that they'd find themselves behind the clock and need a bit of help. Only, Jackie didn't seem too pleased to have any help, and took a right hissy-strop whilst, in Gregg's words, 'running round like a headless chicken.' He eventually got so pissed off with her that he withdrew Tom and Sara and sent them back to what they were doing whilst Jackie had another little rant at the camera about her not really being 'a bossy-boots.' From the evidence of the editing on the last three or four episodes it's clear that the producers want the audience to find her a really unlikeable person. Nobody else has been shown arguing back when told that they're doing something wrong. And, if that's what the producers want, then this blogger, at least, is happy to comply. The Gospel According to St James the Carpenter, meanwhile, was up to his elbows in risotto with a spoon that looked like an oar. He picked up on the metaphor, noting, 'I could row for this college, never mind cook for it!' After that comedy diamond, finally, there was Tom (who was, for some strange reason, off lurking in the freezer for a while) and Sara who made a desert of blackberry parfait, blackberry and apple pie and brandysnap tweels. Now, I don't want you, dear blog reader, to think of yer actual Keith Telly Topping as a snob nor nothing. Heaven forbid. But, my God, some of the students had all of the personality of a housebrick. Particularly that prat in the white blazer who said everything was just, like, rilly marrrrvelous. I'll bet he's running a bank in about five years time. Either that or working in the No. 10 communications office and looking forward to a nice comfy seat in the shires with a majority of fifteen thousand. Frankly, if that's the future movers and shakers of this country then it might be time to emigrate, dear blog reader! Although, to be fair, one American young lady student did produce the highlight of the episode by being, I think I'm right in saying, the first person ever to use the words 'crusty awesomeness' outside of an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the history of television. The exercise, beautifully shot - particularly that closing timelapse bit of cinematography of sunset over the dreaming spires - frankly didn't tell us anything which we don't already know. Except that somebody on the production team really doesn't want us to like Jackie. But, actually, we kind of knew that already as well. So, it was back to MasterChef HQ for an invention test, two dishes - one main course and one desert. We opened with a shot of Gregg and John (the latter wearing a really tasty Edwardian jacket, seemingly from the Urban Pimp collection) staring earnestly at the cameras. Are we going to get a 'cooking doesn't get any tougher than this' now? Na. Still nowt, I'm afraid. Of course, there was a twist as helping them judge this round was the great Michel Roux jr who strode into the kitchen in his whites like Jesus entering the temple to chuck out the money lenders. It was a sight to see, dear blog reader and I mean a sight to see. Typically Jackie pulled her usual drama queen trick of looking all aghast because, clearly she's never watched this show before and doesn't know that somewhere around the quarter final stage Michel usually puts in a, very welcome, appearance to sort out the men from the boys and the women from the girls. So, first up was the Gospel According to St James who delivered two excellent dishes; his own take on mussels mouliere with lobster tails - only, without mussels but with clams instead. Which, to be honest, is a bit like those odd times when yer actual Keith Telly Topping goes to the local Chinese takeaway and gets prawn sweet and sour but asks 'can you do that with curry sauce instead of sweet and sour, please?' The desert was a cherry and amaretto tart with butterscotch sauce. Gregg Wallace gave James one of those looks like he wanted to kiss him. On the mouth. And, then have his babies. Asked how much he wanted to stay in the competition James showed off a new tattoo on his tit, the MasterChef symbol. A nice touch which brought smiles to the faces of all the judges. Albeit, a bit crawly! But, we'll let him off that minor bit of sycophancy because he's been jolly entertaining thus far in the competition. James said: 'I decided to get the tattoo done when I reached the final ten on MasterChef, just before we went to Scotland. As you can see I have a lot of tattoos, and they all mean something important; I thought reaching the final ten was pretty huge, and worthy of staying with me forever.' Next up was Jackie, who had no tattoos to show off but, instead, delivered aubergine parmigiana with walnut pesto followed by chocolate mousse with hazelnut and some fancy gold-leaf decoration. And a short lecture to camera about how unfair it is that she doesn't cook desserts and here she was being judged by the king of the dessert, Michel Roux. Me heart bleeds for you. 'She sometimes struggles to keep her cool' noted India in voice-over and there were definite signs of that again when all three judges found Jackie's desert to be good looking but, because of the thick pastry, too stodgy. (Mind you, all that aside, personally I'd've eaten it in one go and asked for seconds and possibly thirds.) Then there was Tim, who cooked two faultless dishes, vanilla barley lobster risotto and, bizarrely, goatscheese vanilla cheesecake with figs. The elaborate construction of the latter sadly collapsed and Tim noted that whilst it might not be visually appealing he hoped it still tasted good. 'It's gonna have to taste good looking like that,' said John, curling his lip. But, once again, the mad professor managed to pull it off drawing praise from all three judges ('inventive and delicious' noted Gregg, impressed). Then there was Sara. She was asked what food means to Italians and she noted, with a cheeky grin, that it's 'better than sex.' 'That had better be one hell of a lobster,' said Gregg with a wink pointing to what she was preparing. I really like this lass, and she again produced the goods with a lobster and clam stack with potatoes and a frangipane tart with a calvados sauvignon. Oh baby. Better than sex? That desert would've had Barry White moaning in ecstacy. Then, it all started to go wrong for the final two contestants. Tom's fillet of lamb with sweetbreads was simply overcooked and Michel refused to even touch the sweetbeards which, he said, resembled 'a lump of coal.' Tom's dessert of chocolate honeycomb and pistachio mousse was marginally better - although only marginally - and probably, ultimately, kept him in the competition although he was clearly upset at what a bad day at the office he'd had. Finally, there was Annie. She made lamb with fondant potatoes and Jerusalem artichoke purée and caramel parfait with chocolate ganache. Both of which simply fell flat on their face. It was heartbreaking because, up till now, she had barely put a foot wrong in eight episodes. One could tell that both John and Gregg were gutted. 'Good luck with the judging,' said Michel beating a hasty retreat. Tim, Sara and James' progress was assured, Jackie, despite many flaws, also got through and, in the end so did Tom who promptly burst into the sort of tears we thought we'd seen the last of when Alice left last week. It was contagious and Jackie and Sara joined in. The men, Tim and James, stood there stoically, thinking manly thoughts. Annie, whose desert was over-dramatically described by John Tordoe as 'a big chunka chocolate,' was the one to leave. Though they really dragged out the suspense of the ending a bit too much for my own - particular - tastes. This followed a tiny moment which, I'm sure, MasterChef conspiracy theorists will pour over in great detail during the coming week. There was a seemingly throwaway comment from Annie just before the final judgement (intriguingly left in by the editors, whereas one would normally imagine that there must be a lot of comments of this kind most weeks which are all meticulously edited out). She said something along the lines of she had gone back to the freezer at one point and somebody had left the door open and that was why her pudding hadn't set so disastrously. This was followed by several brief shots of her sitting alone looking thoroughly (and, perhaps, justifiably) pissed off. One wonders to whom that venom was, specifically, directed. If it was directed at anyone, of course. Because yer actual Keith Telly Topping is, perhaps, guilty here of reading too much into a ten second sequence. Don't ask me, I'm just a licence fee payer. By the time it came to the final sound-bites Annie had recovered herself and was both stoical and very gracious in defeat. But it was a fascinating - and perhaps revealing - little peak into what goes on in what is, clearly, a highly competitive environment. Next time, we have that particularly sour-faced trio of restaurant critics (without, even, the sarkiness of Jay Rayner to puncture their own towering sense of self-importance). So, that'll be good!

Speaking to the Digital Spy website after her elimination from MasterChef, Annie Assheton admitted that the dish she made for guest judge Michel Roux was 'a bit of a disaster' but revealed that she was 'devastated' that she had to leave the competition. 'I just regret that hour and a half so much,' she said. 'I've recooked those dishes in my head one hundred times and I keep imagining what I might have done differently. There are many things I should have done differently!' However, Annie continued that she had enjoyed her time on the show, adding: '[What] really surprised me [was] the level of camaraderie within the group. I made some really good friends.'

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's long-awaited and much-anticipated long-weekend-away in Harrogate this coming Friday is now off, dear blog reader, due to an illness in the family. So, instead, he'll be sitting at home this weekend scowling a lot and muttering at the telly. So, no change there then.

The BBC has released a new, extended trailer for the next series of Doctor Who. The sixty-second clip has been unveiled exclusively online and received its first television airing at 8pm on BBC1 immediately before Waterloo Road. A brief teaser trailer was also previously released online. The new trail provides the first official look at guest stars Hugh Bonneville and Lily Cole and also reveals a number of new foes for The Doctor (Matt Smith). The show's new series will begin in April, kicking off with two-part adventure The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon. A two-minute prequel to the episodes is also available to watch online.

Vandals have uprooted fence posts and a gate near the Isle of Man home of Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson. The posts were then thrown from the cliff on to rocks below the beauty spot of Langness. Wire fencing has also been cut away from around the perimeter of Jezza's holiday home. The peninsula became the subject of controversy after ramblers complained that Clarkson had diverted a footpath. He claims that there had never been any public right of way across the land. The row is currently being dealt with by the High Court and no final ruling has been made.

The News International chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, was asked by the chair of a Commons committee late on Wednesday to provide details of payments made by the Sun newspaper to police officers. The request to the paper's former editor, who now runs all of Rupert Murdoch's UK newspapers, follows evidence given by John Yates, the acting deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan police, to the home affairs select committee on Tuesday. Keith Vaz MP, the chairman of the committee, wrote to Brooks on Wednesday asking her for information on how many officers were paid for tips or stories, the amounts they received and when the practice stopped. Brooks edited the paper for six years from 2003 and was previously editor of its Sunday sister title the News of the World. Eight years ago, Brooks told the culture, media and sport select committee that 'We have paid the police for information in the past.' She was appearing with then News of the World editor Andy Coulson, who later resigned after it emerged that one of his journalists had used a private investigator to hack into voicemails left on the mobiles of members of the royal household. Questioned on Tuesday about Brooks's admission, Yates told MPs that the Met is 'doing some research' into her remarks. It is not clear if Scotland Yard has ever questioned Brooks about the payments she referred to. In his letter of Wednesday, Vaz reminded Brooks: 'In March 2003, whilst editor of the Sun newspaper, you gave evidence to the culture, media, and sport committee. You stated that the newspaper had paid police officers for information.' Paying police officers is a criminal offence. Yates said during separate evidence he gave to the culture committee last week that 'possible offences' might have been committed. Vaz asked Brooks to reply by Tuesday, when the committee will question the director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, as part of its ongoing inquiry into the phone tapping saga. Yates and Starmer are currently engaged in a public row about the original 2006 police investigation into phone hacking at the News of the World. Yates insists that Scotland Yard was told by the CPS to adopt a narrow definition of the offence which made it difficult to obtain convictions, a claim which he has repeated four times before two parliamentary committees. Starmer denies this.

The lack of culture secretary, the vile and odious rascal Hunt, expects to return his final verdict on whether to approve News Corporation's eight billion smackers takeover of BSkyB around 26 April, but admitted that the plurality review system 'may not be as robust as it should be.' The vile and odious rascal Hunt, who earlier this month recommended regulatory approval as long as News Corp spins off Sky News, said that he expects to announce the final decision as soon after parliament returns from the Easter break on 26 April. 'I hope we'll have it shortly, probably now, just after the parliamentary recess, but we are going through all the consultation responses we received and we're going to do this as quickly as we can,' he said, speaking on BBC Radio 4's The Media Show on Wednesday. The vile and odious rascal Hunt has faced criticism for allowing the News Corp-BSkyB merger – including from an alliance of media owners – and he admitted that there needs to be a strengthening of the grounds for which a plurality test can move to a full investigation. He said that there needs to be 'mechanisms similar to competition law' that might allow intervention regardless of if a merger was taking place, a view also previously raised by Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards. 'What no one wants to have in a free society is a situation where any one person has too much control of our media and what I think this process has exposed is that the system may not be as robust as it should be,' the vile and odious rascal Hunt added. However, the vile and odious rascal Hunt also gave an assurance that if the takeover proved to have a major negative impact on the commercial landscape then News Corp, owner of News International titles including the Sun and The Times, would face regulatory investigation. 'Even if right now [it] doesn't cause competition concerns if in five years time the situation was to change, and this is a very fluid marketplace, all the competition remedies are there,' he said. 'Irrespective of my decision, competition law will mean that if News Corporation were to become too dominant in the media market the Office of Fair Trading could trigger an investigation by the Competition Commission and with no reference to politicians at all the Competition Commission has some very radical remedies at its disposal.' The vile and odious rascal Hunt also said that there needed to be a better system for looking at issues of impartiality in BBC coverage. 'If you talk to MPs in parliament there are lots of people who aren't happy and I would like to have a better mechanism whereby when these issues come up they are better able to be addressed,' he added.

Paul O'Grady has admitted that he enjoys doing his chat show because he is a 'nosey so-and-so.' The presenter will return for a previously-confirmed second series of ITV show Paul O'Grady Live on Friday 15 April. 'The reason I love doing the show so much is because I'm nosey,' he said. 'It's always a joy to meet someone you've always really wanted to meet and you're thinking, "Ooh, I'm dying to chat to this one." Especially when you've grown up with these people, because they are so familiar to you, they're like one of the family. And I still get ridiculously over-excited when I meet my heroes.' Recalling an interview with Coronation Street actress Barbara Knox, O'Grady confessed that he 'went to pieces' when meeting her for the first time. 'I can't help it,' he said. 'It took me five years to persuade her to come on, so that was a dream come to true to interview her last year. It was the same with Bette Midler because I'm a huge fan. I mean, aren't I a lucky old so-and-so, really?' On the return of the show, he added: 'I'm really looking forward to being back behind my desk. We've got some fabulous guests lined up and I'll be having a good gossip and getting up to my usual antics!'

A London-based artist has created a series of paintings based on the original television test card to mark the countdown to completion of Britain's digital TV switchover. Colin Moore, who works from the Tile Kiln studios in Archway, decided to mark the end of analogue TV signals in Britain by referring back to the 1960s and '70s. His paintings feature images of test cards, which were typically broadcast at times when the transmitter was not active. The artworks are designed to celebrate London's switch to digital in time for the Olympic Games next summer. Used since the earliest television broadcasts, test cards acted as placeholders for the calibration and alignment of images on screen. The most famous test card was Test Card F, featuring a colour image of Carole Hersee, the daughter of BBC engineer George Hersee, playing noughts and crosses with a rather sinister looking doll. As most channels now broadcast twenty four hours a day, the cards are rarely used anymore. Discussing his artistic tribute, Moore said that he was excited by the 'graphic possibilities' of test cards, but also 'overwhelmed by a feeling of nostalgia' for the early days of TV. 'As we enter the digital TV age it's a good time to reflect on our ubiquitous companion,' he said. 'Of course, now were screwing the forty-inch flatscreens to the wall like works of art and we're creating our own BBC with the help of iPlayer and watching it where and when we want on our laptops. We are shopping, gambling, voting with it now. So I guess these paintings are an attempt to answer the question, what is TV, "the blue flickering light" as Jack Kerouac called it, which bathes the walls of every living room in the civilised world?' The UK's digital TV switchover will reach completion in late 2012, with Wales and the majority of Scotland, along with the West, South West and North West of England already having made the switch to digital. This week, the switchover began in the Anglia TV region, bringing Freeview to thousands more homes in Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire.

A BBC Bristol and Somerset radio presenter, Peter Rowell, who was reported to have missing earlier this week has been found 'safe and well' in Cumbria according to BBC News.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What Do We Have For Entertainment? Cops Kickin' Gypsies On The Pavement

Doctor Who actress Karen Gillan - one of the tastiest ladies on planet Earth right now - is to play 1960s model Jean Shrimpton - one of the tastiest ladies on planet Earth forty years ago - in a BBC4 drama about her affair with the photographer David Bailey. The project, with a working title We'll Take Manhattan, will be Gillan's first major drama role since she was cast as the Doctor's companion Amy Pond in 2009. Bailey is still to be cast and production has yet to begin. The drama will focus on a 1962 Vogue photo shoot in New York.We'll Take Manhattan reveals how a young, visionary photographer refused to conform and insisted on using the unconventional model Jean Shrimpton on an important photo shoot for British Vogue, inadvertently defining the style of the 1960s along the way,' the BBC said. Kudos, the independent producer of [spooks], Hustle and Life on Mars, is making the drama. John McKay is writing and directing, with Rebecca Hodgson producing. Executive producers are McKay, Claire Parker and Ruth Kenley-Letts for Kudos and Lucy Richer for the BBC. The project is being co-financed by US cable arts channel Ovation. The drama follows in a long line of BBC4 biopics on subjects including Hattie Jacques, Enid Blyton, Gracie Fields, Frankie Howerd, Kenneth Williams, Hughie Green and Tony Hancock. Plans for We'll Take Manhattan were announced by the BBC4 controller, Richard Klein, as he unveiled the digital network's spring and summer 2011 programming line-up this week. The Prince of Wales will present The Prince and the Composer, a BBC4 documentary about 'Jerusalem' composer Hubert Parry. BBC4 is marking the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Terence Rattigan with a documentary about the playwright fronted by Sherlock actor Benedict Cumberbatch while Richard E Grant will present The Secrets of the Arabian Nights. Upcoming BBC4 shows include Scrapheap Opera, in which junk, broken furniture and the contents of roadside skips are turned into instruments to be played by the BBC Orchestra, led by conductor Charles Hazlewood. The orchestra will attempt to perform a medley of three classical pieces, including Tchaikovsky's '1812 Overture', in a programme aiming to show how instruments work and the science of music. Afterlife, another BBC4 science show, looks at decay and decomposition through an Edinburgh Zoo exhibition to be displayed during the city's annual festival. The exhibition will feature a typical kitchen and garden in a purpose-built box and visitors to the event and online viewers will be able to witness the decay of everyday foods and substances over a two month period. The results will also feature in a programme to be presented by Oxford University's George McGavin. BBC4 seasons later this year will include Botany, tracing the history of plant science, including the three-part series Botany - A Blooming History. The Iceland season, reasonably enough, will explore Icelandic culture. And, thankfully, will not feature Kerry Katona, Coleen Nolan, Jason Donovan or Stacey Solomon. For which, trust me, we're all grateful. 'We're curious about the world around us and will continue to take an in depth exploration of subjects that you rarely see on television, from botany to Icelandic culture, as well as dramatising moments that have changed the course of cultural life, for example when David Bailey and Jean Shrimpton created an image that redefined the 1960s,' said Klein. He added that the channel has had a good start to 2011, increasing its audience share from 1.1 per cent in 2010 to 1.3 per cent for the year to date, helped by the success of shows including Hattie and imported crime drama The Killing.

Channel Four is said to be calling time on 'list shows,' which it has been running successfully for more than a decade on Saturday and Sunday nights on its main network and on its digital spin-off E4. According to 'a senior programming source,' Channel Four's new chief creative officer, Jay Hunt, who has been in her job for less than three months, has told colleagues that the programming genre, which usually relies on the findings of an online poll to rank subjects, has 'had its day.' Which has probably been true for five years at least, to be honest. 'It is felt that they are popular but we can be doing bolder and different things rather than something which is fun but which some people feel can feel a little spurious,' the source allegedly told the Gruniad. Instead the money saved from broadcasting clip shows will be ploughed back into original programming, particularly comedy. Last year Channel Four broadcast three list shows – 100 Greatest World Cup Moments, 100 Greatest Stand Ups and 100 Greatest Toys. E4 also broadcast three, The 50 Greatest Plastic Surgery Shockers, The Idiot Awards and How to Be Famous, alongside a handful of repeats. Which kind of suggests that they have, indeed, reached the bottom of the barrel. This came despite claims in 2007 by Channel Four's then director of television and content, Kevin Lygo, that the broadcaster would be abandoning that type of programme. 'I don't think we will be commissioning them any more,' Lygo, who left last year to become managing director of ITV Studios, said at the time. But while the format never quite went away, Channel Four insist that the end really is nigh for the list show except 'under very exceptional circumstances.' The broadcaster plans to keep Rude Tube, its occasional rundown of 'amusing or interesting' Internet clips presented by Alex Zane. And one list show waiting in the wings for a broadcast in April is 50 Worst Weddings, which will form part of the channel's coverage of the royal wedding. 'The Jonathan Ross rundown of the nation's favourite toys did well last year and if Jonathan comes up with an exceptionally brilliant idea like that we may do it,' added the Channel Four source. 'But the direction of travel is now very much not to do them any more.'

Matt Lucas has revealed that he would 'love' a role in EastEnders. The comedian told the Radio Times that he would relish the opportunity to join the Walford dynasty, admitting that it would put his acting skills to the test. Lucas said: 'I'd love to play the youngest Mitchell brother in EastEnders, but I would have to learn how to talk really quietly and menacingly.' He joked: 'Failing that, [I'd play] Pat Butcher's long-lost sister Nat, who would obviously also have a penchant for bleached hair, big earrings and leopard print.' The Come Fly With Me star also admitted that he is unable to watch himself on screen. 'If I am flicking through the channels and a repeat of Little Britain is on BBC3, I flick right on,' he said.

Richard Hammond has admitted his regret at the 'misunderstanding' of jokes he made about Mexicans and their cars on Top Gear. The presenter had described Mexican cars 'lazy, feckless [and] flatulent' in an edition of the BBC2 show earlier this year. His co-hosts Jeremy Clarkson and James May also made comments, including a suggestion that there would be no complaints because the Mexican Ambassador would be asleep. However, the Mexican Ambassador wasn't asleep although he was, clearly, suffering from a severe sense of humour bypass. He promptly lodged a complaint with the broadcaster, criticising the 'offensive, xenophobic and humiliating remarks' made by the trio. About his country's cars. Speaking to Metro, Hammond said: 'I regret any misunderstanding or upset that was caused. It was clearly intended as a joke. I was trying to portray myself as actually believing the images of Mexicans I received from Westerns were accurate.' He added: 'I clearly don't actually believe that - and the majority of people understood that. I was intentionally being ridiculous.' The BBC defended the comments, made as what it described as 'stereotype-based comedy,' and confirmed that the executive producer of Top Gear had apologised to the Mexican Ambassador.

Viewers of a certain age have fond memories of Top of the Top from the 1970s, when the likes of Dave Lee Travis, Noel Edmonds, Sensational Tony Blackburn and Jimmy Savile presided over a cheesy circus of big hair, massive flares and really bad dancing. From next Thursday BBC4 is giving viewers the chance to compare their memories with the reality, showing vintage Top of the Pops episodes from the equivalent week, starting in April 1976, in the music chart show's old BBC1 slot, 7.30pm. The BBC4 controller, Richard Klein, said the network planned to continue with the weekly TV nostalgia experiment for at least a year – and possibly longer – depending on its popularity. Klein added that the BBC4 had chosen April 1976 as a starting point because that was when the corporation began keeping every episode of TOTP. Before that, its archive of the show, which ran weekly from 1964 and 2006, is more patchy. Musically, April 1976 was something of an in-between era – after glam and before punk, with disco in full swing. Brotherhood of Man's Eurovision winner 'Save Your Kisses For Me' was number one in early April 1976, during a six-week stay at the top of the chart. 'The variety is extraordinary, all types of music,' said Klein. 'Today singles come and go from the chart quickly. Then they continued across many weeks, bands would stay in the charts for eight or ten weeks. You will get to watch your favourites two or three times.' The BBC commissioning editor of music and events, Jan Younghusband, added: 'Top of the Pops was at its most successful as a variety show, not just as a pop show.'

Representatives for Ant and Dec have said that reports suggesting the pair were involved in a hot air balloon accident are not true. Kent Online claimed that the presenting duo were filming titles for the upcoming series of ITV's Britain's Got Talent when the incident occurred. Plasterer Jim O'Cock detailed how the hot air balloon had crash landed with a 'resounding bump' after it apparently ran out of fuel over Maidstone. This is still 30 March, not the 1 April just in case you're wondering, dear blog reader. The forty two-year-old claimed he and several others had run to the aid of McPartlin and Donnelly as they observed the balloon fall 'out of the sky.' He said: 'They were absolutely lovely people, so down to earth.' Boom-boom. 'I told Ant he looked a bit shaken after the balloon landed, but his reply isn't printable. They said Kent looked lovely from above and asked about the oast houses we're working on because they'd never seen one before.' However, writing on their Twitter account, Hackford Jones PR stated: 'Stories currently running on line saying Ant & Dec had a hot air balloon crash whilst filming BGT are completely untrue. [sic]' This despite the fact that Kent Online have a photograph which appears to show the Geordie duo standing in front of a - very deflated - balloon. 'I shouted jokingly, "nice of you to drop in,"' O'Cock added. 'And this Geordie voice replied, "there's always a comedian isn't there?"' Well ... not noticeably on Ant & Dec's Push The Button, no. Although to be fair that is, also, sinking like a burst balloon.

The BBC's website went offline for almost an hour last night. The corporation's press office, clearly taken by surprise, said: 'We apologise for the loss of BBC Online. We are looking into it.' But just as millions of users started to look for the Ceefax button on their remote controls, the site was back. Nevali, described as a 'metadata magician at the BBC,' tweeted: 'It's not a DoS [Denial of Service] attack. Routing went away. Software config or hardware problem.' It didn't take long for the Twitterverse to catch light with some outlandish conspiracy theories. 'So the entire BBC website is offline – a glimpse of the future if the Murdochs and their pals, David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt, have their way,' wrote one Dick Mandrake. Somebody called Gary Delaney added: 'I don't believe all these rumours about the BBC website being down. There's nothing about it on the BBC website.' All of this was, of course, gleefully reported as 'news' by the Gruniad who seem to trawl Twitter for most of the quotes they use on just about every story these days as though that is the final arbiter of all things newsworthy. For instance, they also noted that Peter Horrocks, director of the BBC World Service, tweeted: 'We're having technical problems with the BBC website – they are being looked into urgently. Apologies from BBC News.' But the rumours continued anyway, given fuel by the news this January that the BBC had confirmed it would cut its online budget by twenty five per cent, or thirty four million smackers. Some of the more outrageous rumours claimed that Aunty might have been attacked by the Hacker collective known as Anonymous. Although why Anonymous would want to attack one of the few new services in the world that is, genuinely, independent and trustworthy is another matter entirely. Now, if somebody had claimed it was the Chinese, or the Iranians, or No. 10, then this blogger might've believed it. Some time later, Steve Herrmann, the editor of the BBC news website, said in a blog post: 'It's not often we get a message from the BBC's technical support teams saying, "Total outage of all BBC websites." But for getting on for an hour this evening, until just before midnight, that's what happened. We haven't yet had a full technical debrief, but it's clear it was a major network problem. We'd like to apologise to everyone who couldn't get onto the BBC News website during that time.' The sprawling network of websites, known collectively as BBC Online, launched in 1997. Last year, the BBC said it was investigating after members of the public said they could not access the World Cup and Wimbledon live streaming. Others could not access the site at all – getting a '500 internal server error' message instead. In 2009, similar problems appeared to afflict the site. On that occasion, the BBC said it was caused by a network failure which slowed down access to the site and had prevented some people from visiting its home page.

House actress Olivia Wilde has dropped hints about her upcoming return to the show. The actress is a series regular on the FOX medical drama, but has not appeared since the seventh season premiere episode last September due to other filming commitments. Wilde told Entertainment Weekly: 'I have to say, this episode is probably my favourite that I've ever done on the show. It explores her return, but it kind of takes the scenic route.' The episode, entitled The Dig, will see House pick up Wilde's character, Thirteen, from jail and take her on a road trip, determined to uncover the secret of her incarceration. 'In order to sort of melt her steely resolve, he has to show a little bit of his own vulnerability,' she explained. 'I think that's what makes their interaction ultimately really kind of unusual and really interesting. He's reaching out to her and showing her his rawness.' Wilde promised that viewers will eventually discover Thirteen's secret, after some initial misdirection. 'It comes after several attempts [by Thirteen] to throw [House] off the course,' she said. 'She tries to throw him off the scent, but it doesn't work because he's too smart. She eventually has to give it up.' House's executive producer David Shore previously claimed that Wilde's return to the show will be 'cool,' whilst Amber Tamblyn has confirmed that Thirteen will cross paths with her own departing character, Martha Masters.

A few bits of scheduling news: An extended Time Team Special is scheduled for 9pm on Channel Four on Monday 11 April. Later that week, on Wednesday, The Life Of Riley is promoted to an 8:30 slot on BBC1, with what looks like new episodes of DIY SOS before it at 7:30. Channel Four have one-off documentary on Thursday Meet The Middletons at 9pm. EastEnders on Thursday 14 April apparently runs from 7:25 to 8:00 - a thirty five minute episode. To make up for it losing five minutes the previous day, The ONE Show on Friday 15 April is on for sixty five minutes from 6:55 to 8pm. It's also repeated later that evening so it's clearly some sort of special.

Identical twins Cat and Sam Wilkinson have 'hit out' at the producers of ITV dating show Take Me Out. The duo, who appeared on the second series of the Paddy McGuinness hosted programme, claimed that they had been 'stitched up' by being made to appear with matching hairstyles and outfits. 'The producers never wanted us to get a date,' Cat told the Sun. 'We were only ever put on the show to look like twinnie freaks. Standing there week after week was soul destroying.' The duo were bypassed by fifty two men over the course of the series which sees thirty single ladies attempt to land a date with a man. Sam continued: 'We were horrified and broke down in tears. But despite begging them to let us go on as ourselves, they refused. We had to stand next to each other with our hair made to look over-the-top wild frizzy and these ridiculous clothes.' Cat went on to claim that the episodes had been edited to make them appear 'unintelligent,' prompting online critics to post 'nasty' messages about them. The twenty one-year-old said: 'Most chats were edited out as if we had nothing to say. We came over as unintelligent fools. People posted nasty stuff. We were called Fat and Fatter, and The Ugly Twins. We were just the novelty for viewers to pity.' An ITV 'source' allegedly responded: 'It's a shame the girls were unhappy as our aim is definitely to get everyone a date.' Instead of responding, as he should have, 'they signed up to go on a shown in which desperate women trying to get a date, what the Hell did they expect for their five minutes for fame?' Or, you know, something similar.

Oprah Winfrey is celebrating a legal victory after a US judge dismissed a sixty two and a half million pound lawsuit which alleged that she violated copyright during an episode of her talk show. The author Charles Harris filed the suit against the media mogul last year, alleging that Winfrey read questions from his political booklet, How America Elects Her Presidents, during an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show which was broadcast in February 2009. He claimed to have sent her copies of the publication in 2008 when she began supporting Barack Obama's presidential campaign. Harris filed the suit in Pennsylvania accusing her of copyright infringement for allegedly using his materials in her show. Winfrey's legal team subsequently filed a counter-motion to dismiss the case and seeking sanctions for a frivolous lawsuit. US district court judge Jan DuBois agreed to dismiss the case, but did not award any sanctions, which could have led to Harris being handed a massive fine for filing a lawsuit which has little chance of being won, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

A woman who burst into a hotel to tell a group of foreign journalists how she was gang raped by Moammar Gaddafi's troops will face criminal charges, a Libyan government spokesman has said. Moussa Ibrahim said that the men accused by Iman al-Obeidi have filed a case against her, calling her accusations a 'grave offence.' Iman al-Obeidi was allegedly held hostage at the Libyan leader's compound in Tripoli, after being dragged away by government minders when she tried to make her accusations public at a hotel in the capital on Saturday. The woman, who is a lawyer, said that troops had detained her at a Tripoli checkpoint on Wednesday, tied her up, abused her, then led her away to be gang-raped by fifteen men. 'They tied me up, they even defecated and urinated on me,' she said. 'The Gaddafi militiamen violated my honour.' Her story could not be independently verified although she was, clearly, very upset and angry when she rushed into a Tripoli hotel on Saturday morning, seeking to speak about her ordeal. She was tackled by waitresses and government minders and dragged away from the site despite protestations by many of the assembled journalists, and has since been missing. Libyan authorities have alternately labelled al-Obeidi a drunk, a prostitute and a thief. In an interview with al-Jazeera Arabic TV, broadcast on Monday, Obeidi's parents claimed she was being held hostage at Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound in the capital. Her mother said that she had received a phone call on Monday from an unidentified caller, purportedly from the Gaddafi camp, telling her that Obeidi was at the compound and asking her to instruct her daughter to change the rape claim in return for freedom and other benefits. 'Whatever you ask for, you will get: build a new house or get the money,' the mother claimed that the caller had offered.

The Leigh Francis character Keith Lemon has replaced Vernon Kay on ITV’s prime time entertainment format Sing if You Can after a pilot revealed the show would work better in the hands of a comedian. Out, out of the hands of Vernon Kay, whichever you prefer. An ITV 'insider' said that the format, which sees alleged 'celebrities' battle it out by singing in an extreme circumstances, took it 'by surprise' and was more 'madcap' in tone than expected. As a result, the broadcaster sat down with producer RDF Television last week and it was decided that Lemon, who was originally slated as a judge on the show, will replace original host Kay. Former X Factor contestant Stacey Solomon will remain in place as co-host. For the overseas market, presumably since just about everything she says is not recognisable as English. 'The tone took us by surprise a little - there was much more mayhem than we expected and we felt that a comedian would be best suited to host the show,' the ITV 'source' supposedly said. Kay added: 'Following the pilot, the producers and I sat down and talked about the tone of the show we all agreed that because of the mix of comedy and slapstick challenges that it would benefit from having a comedian host it. I’m really happy with the decision.' The six part series, to broadcast in mid-April on ITV, will see stars try to perform songs while undertaking challenges designed to distract them. Familiar faces including X Factor evictees Jedward and one-hit wonder Chesney Hawkes (he is the one and only) will attempt to hold their nerve while having their chest waxed or sitting atop a specially designed erupting volcano. The performances will be judged by a 'celebrity' panel, but the audience will decide which team will go on to try and secure money for the show's nominated charity, Teenage Cancer Trust. A member of the losing team will be dropped in a giant tank of water.

Kirsty Gallacher has signed up to front Sky Sports News' new-look Good Morning Sports Fans show from May. Luscious, pouting Gallacher began her career on Sky Sports in 1999 and went on to host shows including Sky1's Gladiators, Soccer Aid and be part of ITV's Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway. Albeit, not a very good part. Speaking about her return to the channel, she said: 'I'm delighted to be joining Sky Sports News HD. Sport has always been my passion. As a viewer I've watched how the channel has grown and developed over the last few years and I've remained in contact with many people at Sky. The scale of what it does now is breathtaking. I can't wait to start.' Sky Sports News executive editor Andy Cairns added: 'We're all delighted that Kirsty is joining - especially at such an exciting time for Sky Sports News. She compliments a team in the newsroom with a wealth of talent and experience. Our viewers have always loved Kirsty and her natural, conversational style, which is perfect for the new look Good Morning Sports Fans show we're launching later this summer.'

Channel Four is reportedly to have recommissioned the sitcom Friday Night Dinner, according to the TV critic Boyd Hilton. The first episode of the comedy was C4's highest ratings-performing debut for a sitcom since Max & Paddy in 2004, and the series has gone on to average 1.6m viewers in overnight ratings so far, including figures from C4+1.

Bones actress Michaela Conlin has promised that her character Angela will not be sidelined after giving birth. On the FOX series, the character is having a baby with her husband Jack Hodgins (played by TJ Thyne). Discussing Angela's future, Conlin told Entertainment Weekly: 'That was something I definitely talked to Hart Hanson about. When the pregnancy came up initially, I didn't want it to change who Angela was and how adventurous she is.' The actress joked that Angela will try 'to strap that baby in as she travels the world. I feel like Hart has always been very receptive to [my concerns],' she said. 'Besides the fact that Hodgins has a lot of money, so maybe we can have somebody helping us.' Conlin previously expressed her desire to have Angela's labour scenes be 'something really unconventional, given [her] crazy past.'

Helen Mirren has described joining the celebrity hand and foot prints outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood as a 'moment of triumph' on a par with winning an Oscar and becoming a dame. 'I've always loved the history of Hollywood,' she said as she left her mark outside the Los Angeles landmark. 'It's with incredible pride that I'm here to become a part of that history. 'Dame Helen was joined by Russell Brand - her co-star in upcoming comedy remake of Arthur - at Monday's ceremony. Brand said he felt 'hugely honoured' to be involved in her festivities 'having spent the last three months utterly ensnared by her charm.' Dame Helen has won a string of awards, including the Oscar, for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen. The star of stage and screen is well-known for her theatrical performances and for her recurring role as DCI Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect. Next month she will be seen on US television hosting an episode of long-running comedy sketch show Saturday Night Live.

UKTV channel Watch have announced some plot details for Primeval's fifth series, including the appearance of a new regular character, April. Series five of the family time-travelling dinosaur drama will, as announced earlier in the week, begin on the pay TV channel from Tuesday 24 May. The channel's press office told the CultBox website: '[Series five] features more stunning special effects, adventure and incredible creatures, as the team at the ARC have their work cut out for them to police ruptured time anomalies, and the growing threat of entrepreneur Philip Burton, whose grip on the ARC is tightening with every episode. The series starts with the team still reeling after Danny's re-appearance and warning from the dramatic end of Series four. A vicious burrowing creature brings chaos to the city, forcing the team to track down the movements of this monster. When the creature strikes for the final time, the team finds one of its own in mortal danger. Matt, meanwhile, is now determined to wipe this creature off the face of the Earth - does he know more about this creature than he's letting on? Back at the ARC, Philip has provided Connor with a new lab assistant. But is there more to April than meets the eye? As the series continues, we'll see edge-of-your-seat adventures onboard a nuclear submarine, back in Victorian London and a volcano, at the same time finding out the truth about Matt's secret mission and Philip's true ambitions for Connor and the ARC.' And, hopefully, this time it might, actually, get some viewers.

The great phone-hacking scandal goes on and one - endless but absolutely fascinating. A bit like Bruce Forsyth. There may never be an actual end to the saga, but we are all hugely enjoying it. When we learned, for instance, that the News of the World actually had a huge number of e-mails which they had told us, in complete sincerity, were quite irretrievable – two of the leading protagonists had a bit of a set-to in the Commons. In one corner was Chris Bryant, the former Labour Europe minister and the party's most effective attack dog of late on this story and others relating to the media. In the boys-in-blue corner was John Yates, the senior copper who handled, or possibly mishandled the, shall we be charitable, as the Gruniad does, and call it a 'somewhat lackadaisical' investigation into the saga for a few years. Bryant had used parliamentary privilege to accuse Yates of ... general uselessness, basically. Yates has been trooping round parliamentary committee rooms arguing that Bryant has got it, and him, all wrong. At one point he threatened to sue for libel if the allegations were to be repeated outside parliament. The Gruniad is clearly loving this: 'Nobody has had their sword broken over a knee yet, but it can't be long,' they note. The skirmish was at the home affairs committee. Messrs Bryant and Yates came in to hear each other's evidence. Bryant's theme was that Yates had 'misled' MPs on at least two important issues: whether the people whose numbers had been unearthed and who might have been victims of hacking had been informed. Some of them, seemingly, were, others weren't. There was also a legal quibble. Yates had believed that no actual crime had been committed unless the hacker had heard a voice-mail message before the owner picked it up. 'This is, you might think, like saying it's a crime to steal someone's car, or silverware, but only if they have not already used them,' the Gruniad contents. It was, truth be told, difficult to follow the proceedings, since the committee had only one hour and the chairman, Labour MP Keith Vaz, wanted to get things moving. He had several ways of saying 'thank you!' in a voice that appeared to mean, 'get on with it,' 'mush!' or simply 'shut up!' Bryant said that Yates had always insisted there were 'few victims' whilst, in fact, Scotland Yard knew of 'a vast number.' Six thousand is the current figure being bandied about. How, asked Mark Reckless MP, could that be inadvertent rather than deliberate? 'Quite!' said Bryant, in one of the longer replies he was permitted to give by the committee. Next it was Yates's turn. He was asked if he had not enjoyed too many meals with News International staff. He replied that he had probably had more meals with Guardian people. At the end, Bryant legged it out of the room while Assistant Commissioner Yates was getting ready to leave. But once in the corridor they conducted rival briefings, each 'proving that they were right and the other one wrong.' Seriously, this one could go on forever.

England's friendly international with Ghana eclipsed the finale of popular legal drama Silk in ratings terms - if not, necessarily, in terms of quality - on Tuesday evening, the latest audience data has revealed. Live coverage of England's 1-1 draw with Ghana was watched by an average audience of six million on ITV1 between 7.30pm and 10.15pm. Who probably mostly enjoyed Andy Carroll's first England goal but, frankly, not much else. Particularly ITV's once again amateurish coverage. In the 9pm hour, series one of Silk bowed out with a steady 4.7m on BBC1, while Katie: My Beautiful Friends averaged 1.57m for Channel Four with a further two hundred and seventy four thousand viewers on +1. Earlier, BBC1's Holby City was watched by 5.79m in the 8pm hour. Over on BBC2, a repeat of Sunday night's Wonders Of The Universe captivated 1.31m in the 7pm hour, before The Hairy Bikers: Mums Know Best was watched by 2.14m from 8pm.

However, it was good news for Silk elsewhere as it was announced on Wednesday morning that it had been recommissioned for a second series. Starring Maxine Peake, Rupert Penry-Jones and Neil Stuke, consolidated ratings figures for the first six-part series adding seven-day catch-up viewing on PVRs such as Sky+, shows that so far the drama - based on the lives and loves of barristers - has averaged an audience of around six million viewers per episode. No only that, but it's actually pretty decent as legal dramas go. The new six-part series will be broadcast in 2012. It was recommissioned by BBC1 controller Danny Cohen and BBC drama controller Ben Stephenson. Cohen said: 'Maxine Peake has excelled in Silk and we're delighted to be bringing this high quality, popular drama back for a second series.' Stephenson added: 'Having a writer of Peter Moffat's calibre writing a series is what drama at the BBC is all about. The audiences who have fallen in love with Martha, Clive and Billy can look forward to six brand new cases next year.'

London's switch to digital television will be completed in time for the Olympics next summer, Digital UK has confirmed. There had been fears that the biggest region to transfer from analogue to digital might not be done in time for the London Games, which start on 27 July. However it is understood that the process will begin about this time next year and be completed by June. The exact date when the analogue transmitter in Crystal Palace which serves the majority of London will be switched off will be announced on Thursday 7 April. The rolling switchover programme to turn the UK over to digital television began in 2007 in Whitehaven in Cumbria and has so far been carried out with remarkably few hitches. However, London is the biggest region so far and is likely to attract a lot of media attention, as many journalists and politicians are based in the capital. The Digital UK London manager, Vivien Morgan, told the Gruniad: 'As soon as Digital UK became aware of the 2012 Olympics date it was paramount that with such a huge event happening digital switchover in London was completed before then. Such an event makes our job easier in some respect as we found with the football World Cup, people think that with such an occasion coming up they go out and buy a new digital television or one capable of receiving high definition.' Granada, Border, Wales, the West Country and the north of Scotland regions have already switched to digital terrestrial TV and central Scotland is currently going through the process of turning off its analogue signal. Switchover in the Anglia and Central regions is due to begin on Wednesday, with Yorkshire following in August, and Meridian, Tyne Tees and Ulster switching early next year along with London.

Police are said to be concerned about the welfare of a BBC Bristol and Somerset radio presenter who has gone missing. Peter Rowell was last seen on Tuesday morning at 8:30am when he set off for work from his home in Wickwar in South Gloucestershire. Police said that he parked his car at Morrison's supermarket in Yate but are concerned as it has not been possible to contact him. He is believed to have been depressed after the recent death of a close relative. A BBC spokesman said: 'Our main concern is for Peter's welfare and we'll provide all the support we can for his family.' Rowell, originally from Sunderland, presents The Afternoon Show on BBC Radio Bristol and BBC Somerset - a mixture of music and celebrity interviews. He has worked at BBC Bristol since last May and is a well-known face in the West County making many public appearances. Rowell has previously been a news presenter for ITV West and worked as a DJ on commercial radio station GWR in the 1980s - now part of the Heart group. Avon and Somerset police have asked Rowell, or anyone who may have information, to contact them.

Traditional Midsomer Murders-type villages really are a hotbed of racism and bigotry, new research has claimed. In the almost exclusively white enclaves, ethnic minorities suffer verbal abuse, physical violence and police apathy, it is alleged. Residents believe the countryside is a haven from what they consider 'negative attributes' of cities, including noise, pollution, crime and multiculturalism, the study by senior lecturers in criminology at the University of Leicester found. 'Commonly, they also felt forgotten or overlooked by criminal justice agencies, who seemingly refused to take their victimisation seriously,' they said in a report. The findings follow the resignation of Brian True-May as executive producer of Midsomer Murders after he admitted refusing to cast non-white actors in the show, saying 'it wouldn’t be an English village with them.'

Sir Paul McCartney has told of his delight after he was chosen to be immortalised on a mural at a library in his hometown of Liverpool. Officials at Liverpool Central Library plan to dedicate areas of the facility to famous artists who hail from the city, and The Beatles legend came top in a ballot of residents. His name will be used in a mural covering the rear of the building, and McCartney has written a letter to library bosses thanking them for the honour. He writes, 'I would be very happy for my name to be used on the external cladding of the redeveloped Liverpool Central Library and Archive. Thank you for doing me the honour.'

Author John Le Carre has asked judges to withdraw his name from the Man Booker International Prize shortlist saying he does not wish to take part. The British thriller writer said he was 'enormously flattered' but added: 'I do not compete for literary prizes.' But chief judge Rick Gekoski said that he and his panel were 'great admirers' of Le Carre and that his name would, 'of course, remain on the list.' Philip Pullman and Rohinton Mistry are also up for the sixty thousand pound biennial award. The list features thirteen writers from eight countries including China, which is represented - by 2009 Man Asian Literary Prize winner Su Tong - for the first time. The winner of the prize, which is awarded to a living author whose work has been published in English or widely translated into English, will be announced at the Sydney Writers' Festival in Australia on 18 May. Gekoski said the list was 'diverse, fresh and thought-provoking.' Le Carre's novels include The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, The Tailor of Panama and The Constant Gardener. Pullman is best known for His Dark Materials trilogy, which has won numerous prizes including the Carnegie Medal.

Off the Fence Productions has been recommissioned to follow a rogue gang of thieving monkeys. The Bristol office of OTF will produce the thirteen-part series Monkey Thieves, which returns to the mischievous Galta Gang – a sixty-strong troupe of rhesus macaques which live in a Hindu temple in India. It has been commissioned by Laurent Flahault for France Televisions and John Pannikar for Hi-Fi Canada. The producer is Colin Collis and executive producer Allison Bean. Flahult said: 'For the French version, Gang de Macaques, we wanted to create something new, and try a different tone for the commentary. We therefore decided to work with a young stand-up comedian, who recasts the narrative in a modern street-wise style of language. The result is an original and lively series which brings in a younger audience.'

A popular TV game show in the Philippines has been forced to apologise after featuring a boy of six being mocked by the audience as he tried to dance and sing. And, you thought Britain's Got Talent was ruthless? The boy was in tears when he performed as a contestant on an episode of Willing Willie, which is described as 'a variety talent and game show' which features mostly poor Filipinos who earn cash prizes for singing, dancing, telling their stories or playing games. Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman condemned 'the emotional abuse and humiliation' suffered by the little boy. She said that the host, Willie Revillame, and the audience showed no concern for the child and that the programme broke the law on child abuse. It was not clear if Revillame and channel TV5 will face any criminal charges. The government's Commission on Human Rights and the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board said it will investigate. TV5 apologised on behalf of Revillame and the station, saying there was no intention to humiliate the boy who was accompanied by his aunt who had approved his performance. It said the boy, called Jan-Jan, appeared to be in tears, not because he was forced to dance, but because he became scared of a towering former basketball player who also was on the set. The boy earned a prize of ten thousand pesos for his dance. Women's group Gabriela said the dance was punctuated by the live audience's loud cheers and guffaws and was 'an act of child abuse. Putting pressure on children to do acts such as mimicking adult sexy dances, in exchange for a certain amount of money, and at the expense of being laughed at and ridiculed by hundreds of people, clearly traumatises the child,' Soliman said in her statement. 'This is a clear form of child abuse and will not be tolerated by the Department of Social Welfare and Development.'

Chinese spies have been accused of hacking into the Australian prime minister Julia Gillard's computer and those of at least ten of her Ministers. The cyber attacks are also said to have also targeted the Foreign Affairs Minister and Defence Minister, resulting in several thousand e-mails possibly being accessed. Although since the vast majority of them were merely discussing Ricky Ponting's resignation, that's probably not going to worry the Aussies too much. A spokesman for the Labour government of Welsh-born Gillard declined to confirm or deny the reports, which said that tip-offs from the CIA and FBI had raised the alarm. But 'sources' in the government have confirmed that the espionage had. Among a list of suspected foreign hackers, said the sources, were Chinese intelligence agencies. China has long been suspected of infiltrating and manipulating computer networks around the world, causing major concern in the Pentagon. US military officials say China's sophisticated hacking skills have become a new and potentially dangerous military capability. Despite the US claims that China's cyber-warfare capabilities were formidable, Beijing has always strongly denied carrying out any computer spying. The Melbourne Herald-Sun newspaper paper said that the cyber attacks are thought to have occurred on the Australian Parliament House e-mail network, used mainly for MPs' correspondence and not on the more secure departmental network which ministers use for sensitive communications. But there was said to be concern in government circles that unknown hackers had, along with the computer of Gillard, been accessing computers of several Cabinet ministers, among them Foreign Affairs Minister - and former Prime Minister - Kevin Rudd and Defence Minister Stephen Smith.

A wealthy financier, who may or may not exist, involved in a family dispute, which may or may not exist, has made British legal history by winning anonymity in a libel case. Or otherwise. This latest court attempt to censor Internet material has led to claims that free speech is being further eroded in Britain. Which probably does exist but, just to hedge our bets, may not. Allegedly. In what the Gruniad Morning Star - which definitely does exist - describes as 'a novel extension of controversial superinjunctions,' Mr Justice Tugendhat, who may or may not exist, forbade anyone in Britain from identifying 'Mr Z', a man who claims to have been 'defamed' by his relatives in 'a row over a multimillion pound family trust.' Which may or may not exist. This blogger certainly would not dream of identifying Mr Z. Even if I knew who he was. Or, indeed, wasn't. Which I don't, by the way. Just so we're all very clear about this. Never even heard of the dude, all right? Who may, or may not, exist. The judge ordered that the relatives' identities also be kept secret, and that no-one be allowed to detail allegations aired in the secret hearings in the high court in London. Which may or may not exist (although I'm pretty sure that it does cos I've seen it on, like, maps and shit.) His ruling was published under the coded title ZAM v CFW and TFW. This 'extreme, court-ordered, secrecy' followed alleged threats on behalf of Mr Z's relations, who may or may not exist, to publicise their accusations globally on the Internet, which may or may not exist, where 'they could not be suppressed.' Allegedly. Mr Z told the judge that the allegations were 'entirely false,' and claimed that he was being blackmailed. Additionally, no defence was produced that the accusations were, indeed, true. Shortly after Tugendhat issued the gagging order, a lengthy set of allegations appeared online. Supposedly posted by a blogger in Niger. Which may or may not exist. In Africa. Which, also, may or may not exist (although, if it doesn't, where do all the Africans come from?) According to the Gruniad, this Niger blog - which may or may not exist - published a series of allegations which accuse Mr Z of misappropriating monies and of a serious offence of a sexual nature. Or not as the case may be. The judge's ruling means that no 'published source' in the UK can provide any information which would help any third party, who may or may not exist, to locate the posting on the Internet. Which may or may not exist. But the online document itself, which may or may not exist, would appear to be immune to British court rulings. Or, perhaps, not. Perhaps, we'll never care. Google, which may or may not exist, says of its service,, which definitely does exist because you're reading it right now, that it usually only censors illegal or hate-speech postings, and provides: 'a free service for communication, self-expression and freedom of speech.' Which yer actual Keith Telly Topping, who may or may not exist, is very grateful for. Or, indeed, otherwise. People in other countries, who may or may not exist, can continue to discuss the allegations. Which may or may not exist. The newspaper, which sadly, does exist, suggests that 'sources claiming to be close to the man's relatives' told the Gruniad they were living in Italy, which does exist because they've won the World Cup a few times, and, therefore, 'out of British jurisdiction.' The 'Niger blogger', if he or she exists, or otherwise, had purportedly been sent court documents, which may or may not exist, 'by accident', and could not now be prevented from circulating them. Superinjunctions, which may or may not exist, in which all details of court proceedings are concealed, have never been granted in cases of libel, as far as is known, though they have been granted in 'kiss-and-tell' or 'breach of confidence' cases. A special legal committee, which may or may not exist, investigating the controversial orders is due to report next month. In the most notorious case, the oil traders Trafigura, who may or may not exist, last year briefly obtained a superinjunction, allegedly, to suppress a leaked report, which may or may not exist, on its toxic waste dumping. or not. This even prevented reporting of proceedings in parliament where the issue was discussed. Or not if it doesn't exist. Although, tragically, the existence of the vile and odious rascal Hunt appears to suggest that it, indeed, does. It is rare, though not unknown, for conventional injunctions to be granted in libel cases. These prevent the disputed allegations from being repeated until a case is resolved. But it seems unprecedented, according to legal observers who may or may not exist, to in addition allow anonymity to all the parties. It is feared that such a precedent may allow a flood of wealthy libel litigants, who may or may not exist, to seek secrecy injunctions against the media. 'This takes the epidemic of super-injunctions down a dangerous new path,' said John Kampfner, who heads the free speech body Index on Censorship, among the groups campaigning for reform of the libel laws. 'Now they are being used not only to protect supposed privacy, but libel too.' Gavin Millar QC, a media specialist, told the Gruniad: 'Courts are increasingly granting anonymity to claimants where withholding details of evidence used to be regarded as sufficient. This case seems to be more of the same. Open justice is suffering.' During the hearing on 3 March, Richard Spearman QC, who may or may not exist, claimed that it would be unfair to identify Mr Z, even though there was 'no truth in the allegations,' because 'the fact that [he] has had to seek relief would be capable of being made into a story in its own right and would be likely to lead to widespread speculation as to what story he has been concerned to prevent the defendants from telling.' The court, which may or may not exist, was told that employers and other family members had been contacted with the allegations. Letters had been sent saying 'Cleared for worldwide publication' and 'on the verge of going viral' and mentioning the 'worldwide web.' Which may or may not exist. One letter asked, rhetorically: 'Will some evil person leak the entire proceedings and all the sordid details so that the irresponsible global media can really get their teeth into them?' Mr Justice Tugendhat, who may or may not exist, said in his ruling: 'In this particular case, the public interest in open justice is better served by granting anonymity.' No one knows precisely how many superinjunctions have been issued. They are, by nature, secretive. An 'informed legal estimate', according to the newspaper, is that as many as twenty have been granted in the UK over the past eighteen months. Their notoriety stems from the previously mentioned case in October 2009 involving the oil trading firm Trafigura. The solicitors Carter Ruck, who may or may not exist, allegedly warned the Gruniad that it would be 'in contempt of court' if it published a parliamentary question about the company. Or not. The extraordinary powers attributed to the gagging order triggered alarm about threats to freedom of expression and transparency of justice. Some lawyers caution that the term 'superinjunction'' is used too loosely. It might be narrowly defined as a court order prohibiting its existence from being revealed and in which the parties are in some way or another rendered anonymous. Or otherwise. In recent months, because of criticism of their clandestine nature, judges appear to have become reluctant to grant superinjunctions so readily and shown a preference for 'anonymised orders' where few details are provided. The Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, who may or may not exist, is currently chairing a committee, which may or may not exist, examining the use of super injunctions. It is due to report before Easter. In a speech earlier this month, Lord Neuberger recognised that there is a problem. 'The concern over super injunctions is that they have, as Professor Zuckerman has put it, developed into an entirely secret form of procedure,' he said. 'As he put it, "English administration of justice has not [previously] allowed," that is "for the entire legal process to be conducted out of the public view and for its very existence to be kept permanently secret under pain of contempt." English law has not known of such a procedure – of secret justice – since 5 July 1641, when the Long Parliament abolished the Court of Star Chamber.' Elsewhere Zuckerman has attacked super injunctions as 'curiosity suppressant orders' which undermine the rule of law. Another variant is the hyperinjunction, a term used for an order which attempted to ban an individual from contacting his MP. The Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming, who used the protection of parliamentary privilege to talk about it, said the order dated from 2005. Many superinjunctions relate to prominent footballers to prevent allegations about their private lives being published. An injunction awarded to Chelsea captain John Terry, who may or may not exist, preventing the reporting of an alleged affair was repealed earlier this year. Or not. So, they you have it, dear blog reader. it seems that these days justice is not only blind, it's occasionally mute as well.

More, now, from the vile and odious Kay Burley's 'racy and revealing' debut novel, thanks to the good old Gruniad who are taking great delight in revealing the more racy bits of it a day at a time. TV reporter Isla McGovern, you may remember, has accompanied randy handsome and dashing prime minister Julian Jenson on a trip to Dublin while filming an exclusive 'day in the life' piece: 'Leaning on the edge of the enormous walnut and leather inlay desk he now slowly began to unbutton her silk blouse. Isla was mightily relieved she had always heeded her mother's guidance of wearing good underwear, though that advice had no doubt been for other reasons.' As the Gruniad's Monkey columnist notes: 'The first thing Monkey learned at journalism school: always wear clean underwear when interviewing the PM.'

A junior football match in Brazil was temporarily halted by the referee on Sunday when a swarm of bees invaded the field. Referee Andrea Amorim was attacked by the insects half an hour into the game between Nautico and Ypiranga-PE in Santa Cruz do Capiperibe, Reuters reports. Nautico coach Sergio China told local media outlet Globo: 'At first, I thought it might be some kind of ploy by our opponents [to get the match suspended] since we were losing 1-0. But when the referee dived to the ground I saw it was really serious. She was the most attacked, perhaps because of her [yellow] shirt. We didn't get an explanation [for the bee attack] but we'd only have tried to find out why if the game had been cancelled.' China added that none of his players were stung. The game was later resumed and Nautico came back to win 3-1.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day we have one of the finest pieces from the canon of former poet laureate Saint Joe Strummer, OBE. 'Cheeseburger!''What have we got? Magnificence!' (Special bonus points, dear blog reader, if you can name the drummer providing Joe, Mick and Paul with a bit of backbeat on this live performance. If you're struggling, then here they are with Topper on startlingly fine form!) If anybody ever tries to tell you that The Clash weren't one of the two of three best live bands that ever lived, do me a favour - punch them!