Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Market Forces

It's bloggerisationisms time again, dear blog reader but, first, a word from our sponsor.
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The lack of culture secretary the vile and odious rascal Whippingdale, sorry, Whittingdale has claimed that he was 'not to blame' for the BBC deciding to axe 'soft' content from its website, including thousands of recipes, pointing the finger instead at 'pressure from commercial rivals' such as newspapers. The vile and odious rascal Whippingdale, sorry, Whittingdale, who last week unveiled wide-ranging plans including challenging the BBC to be more 'distinctive' in a White Paper on the corporation's future, attempted to distance himself from rising public outrage over the website content cut backs claiming that BBC chiefs make the decisions and that it was nothing - na-thing - to do with him. Typical politician, really, a bloody snivelling coward despite the bluster - aal big of the gob until they do something which upsets people and then they shite in their own pants and run an effing mile. 'It's not my job to tell the BBC whether [or not] to broadcast The Voice, or Strictly Come Dancing or indeed to put recipes up on its website,' he weaselled like a weaselling weasel, speaking at radio industry body RadioCentre's annual conference on Tuesday. No one had the gumption to point out to the vile and odious rascal (and coward) Whippingdale, sorry, Whittingdale, that he had just spent the previous year doing more or less exactly that. 'We have said firstly that the BBC needs to be more distinctive. And also it has to be sensitive to its market impact and not be directly going out of its way to compete with commercial offerings.' The BBC and the government faced a huge backlash against plans to mothball the BBC recipes website – part of a range of plans to refocus its digital offering including axing the Newsbeat site and app – with more than one hundred and sixty five thousand people signing an online petition calling for the corporation to reverse its decision within hours of the public announcement. The vile and odious rascal (and coward) Whittingdale alleged that there has been 'vigorous lobbying' from commercial publishers, in particular newspapers, calling for curbs at home and abroad on the BBC expansion beyond its core news remit into traditionally commercial editorial areas such as 'soft' news articles, magazine 'lifestyle' content and celebrity columnists. So, shifting the blame, effectively. What a bloody hero, you are, pal. 'If people want to access news the BBC is a trusted brand for news provision and it is right there should be a BBC news website,' he said. 'Once beyond that there have been complaints about soft news [and] magazine-type content, newspapers in particular have been quite sensitive to the competition offered by the BBC online. That is something the BBC has taken account of and to some extent [mothballing digital recipes] is a reflection of that. But it is for the BBC [not government to decide]. How to go about that is for the BBC in the first instance and secondly for the new external regulator [Ofcom] if there are formal complaints.' A huge public outcry, including the petition, quickly provoked a climbdown at the BBC, which promised to keep many of its most popular recipes online less than twenty four hours after announcing the closure of one of its food website. In a statement issued late on Tuesday, the corporation said that it would move 'as much as possible' of the content currently on its BBC Food website over to the BBC Good Food site, which is owned by their commercial arm BBC Worldwide and is, therefore, not covered by the licence fee. 'In response to the massive public reaction, we have decided to accelerate our plans to move our content,' one alleged 'source' allegedly told the Gruniad Morning Star. 'People won't lose the recipes they love.' During the day more than one hundred and sixty five thousand people signed a petition calling for the BBC Food site to be maintained in its current form, while politicians and public figures expressed their outrage that the BBC was - under pressure from those with a vested interest - culling a service used by many millions of licence-fee payers. The plan to mothball the BBC Food site is part of a fifteen million knicker cost-cutting plan which is also driven by the corporation's attempts to make its services more 'distinctive' as laid out in the vile and odious rascal (and coward) Whittingdale's White Paper. The shadow lack of culture secretary, Maria Eagle, branded the move 'mindless destruction' while Labour's deputy leader, Tom Watson (power to the people!), said it would make the 'busy lives' of millions of citizens a 'little less easy.' Eagle said the move was 'an example of mindless destruction' caused by the lack of culture secretary's 'Obsession with diminishing the BBC. These recipes are a fantastic resource for thousands of people, which they have already paid for through the licence fee. Labour will continue to stand up for the licence fee payer and will fight any further government attacks on the BBC’s independence.' Watto weighed in on Facebook, saying hat 'nobody wins' out of the decision 'except John Whittingdale who represents the pre-Internet age and the politics of dogma. The government believe this undermines competition. John Whittingdale and the BBC executives he has bullied into submission think that the recipe site represents "mission creep." They want the markets to decide how you choose and pay for your recipes. Yet no market could offer access to so many recipes, free at the point of use because they can’t recreate the licence fee model. It's not the worst thing in the world, but millions of UK citizens will be mildly inconvenienced by this. Their busy lives made a little less easy as a result of the decision. Well done Mister Whittingdale. May your Yorkshires never rise.' Chef and food blogger Jack Monroe (no, me neither) described the service as 'vital' and said that to reduce it was 'an abomination.' Although the plan will see the recipes on the BBC Food website remain online, the homepage and other parts of the site were to be taken down and links to recipes removed, making them harder to find. Recipes associated with TV shows would be maintained, but only for thirty days after the show is broadcast. An alleged 'BBC source' had allegedly said the recipes would 'fall off the face of the Internet' after the food site was closed. However, moving them to Good Food would make them easy to find and help ensure they continue to appear near the top of Google search results. The BBC Director of News, James Harding, said of the review: 'We don't accept the argument that the BBC should step off the Internet. We are making the case for what we do online.' The review decided to remove duplication, halt publishing in areas where there are much bigger competitors, and cut bespoke services that are accessed online, such as youth-focused news site Newsbeat, which is being rolled into the main news operation. The local news index pages, travel section and the science-focused iWonder site, which was launched only two years ago, will also be axed, as will ring-fenced budgets for programming that will only be on iPlayer. One alleged BBC 'source' allegedly said that no more than fifty jobs would be affected. Separately, the BBC also announced on Tuesday that it was considering a new twenty four-hour channel to replace its two existing services, BBC News and BBC World News, as part of the cost-cutting measures.
The very excellent Toby Jones is to play a villain in the fourth series of Sherlock. Jones will join yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman his very self in the second episode of the new three-part series. Filming began on Monday. Jones said: 'I'm excited and intrigued by the character I shall be playing in Sherlock.' The internationally massive drama's co-creator The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat said: 'Delighted to have Toby Jones on board, bringing to life one of Doyle's finest villains.' Co-creator Mark Gatiss his very self added: 'We're thrilled to welcome one of our finest actors to the Sherlock family. I know Toby will embrace the part with true relish!'
If you were at all worried that The X-Files' return to TV would be short-lived, you can relax. But, it's probably going to be a while before we see the next series. While speaking to the press about FOX's 2016-17 schedule, CEO Dana Walden confirmed that there have been 'conversations' with creator Chris Carter and with David Duchovny and From The North favourite Gillian Anderson for another run. 'I believe everyone is on board to do another instalment of the show,' he said. However, Walden added that it will 'take a while' for the new episodes to be made, saying: 'Hopefully, this time next year we will have more news.' In February, Carter said that he was 'interested' in making more episodes, saying: 'I can't imagine, with the ratings that we've got and the way we ended this season, that there won't be more X-Files. They will find a way to get that done. Because I spoke about it briefly with Dana Walden so there's an appetite there and a chance certainly to find how we're gonna get ourselves off this precipice.'
Here, dear blog reader, are the final and consolidated ratings figures for the Top Twenty Six programmes, week-ending Sunday 8 May 2016 were as follows:-
1 Britain's Got Toilets - Sat ITV - 10.81m
2 Coronation Street - Mon ITV - 7.16m
3 EastEnders - Mon BBC1 - 6.94m
4 The Durrells - Sun ITV - 5.97m
5= MasterChef - Fri BBC1 - 5.91m
5= Marcella - Mon ITV - 5.91m
7 Emmerdale - Thurs ITV - 5.65m
8 Attenborough At Ninety - Sun BBC1 - 5.11m
9 BBC News - Sun BBC1 - 5.09m
10 Have I Got News For You - Fri BBC1 - 5.08m
11 In The Club - Tues BBC1 - 4.87
12 Ten O'Clock News - Thurs BBC1 - 4.79m
13 Casualty - Sat BBC1 - 4.77m
14 The British Academy Television Awards - Sun BBC1 - 4.67m
15 Six O'Clock News - Tues BBC1 - 4.39m
16 Countryfile - Sun BBC1 - 4.36m
17 Home Fires - Sun ITV - 4.39m*
18 Holby City - Tues BBC1- 4.30m
19 Michael McIntyre's Big Show - Sat BBC1 - 4.28m
20 Peter Kay's Comedy Shuffle - Mon BBC1 - 4.26m
21= Mrs Brown's Boys - Sat BBC1 - 4.15m
22= The Secret - Fri ITV - 4.15m*
24 Gareth's Invictus Choir - Thurs BBC1 - 4.08m
26 Match Of The Day - Sat BBC1 - 4.06m
These consolidated figures include all viewers who watched the programmes live and on catch-up during the seven days after broadcast, but does not include those who watched on BBC's iPlayer or ITV Player via their computers. Why? I dunno, they just don't. Those ITV programmes marked "*" do not include HD figures. That episode of Britain's Got Toilets incidentally, was the one featuring this blogger's old mucker and sometime writing partner Alfie Joey as one half of The Mimic Men. Keith Telly Topping always said that lad would go far. All four episodes of MasterChef's finals week drew audiences of more than five million. On BBC2, with Line Of Duty having ended the previous week, Bake Off: Crème De La Crème was the most-watched programme with 3.49 million punters. The return of the excellent Peaky Blinders was watched by 2.95 million, World Championship Snooker attracted 2.68 million, followed by Gardeners' World (2.12 million), Horizon (1.79m), Dad's Army (1.70m), Attenborough's Passion Project (1.67,), Hillsborough (1.61m), This World: Conspiracy Files (1.58m) and From The North favourite Mary Beard's Ultimate Rome (1.50m). The opening episode of The Hollow Crown: The War Of The Roses had a consolidated audience of 1.16 million. Aside from Googlebox (3.50 million), The Island With Bear Grylls continued as Channel Four's second highest-rated broadcast of the week (2.35 million), followed by The Windsors (1.90m), Twenty Four Hours In Police Custody (1.89m) and The Supervet (also 1.89m). The latest episode of Paul Merton's Secret Stations drew 1.26 million. Channel Five's top performer was The Secret Life Of Puppies with 1.65 million. Can't Pay? We'll Take It Away had 1.63m and Ian Brady: Fifty Years Behind Bars had 1.58 million. The latest episode of Gotham attracted 1.31m and NCIS attracted 1.25m. Sky Sports 1's most-watched programme was Live Ford Monday Night Football with Leicester City clinching the Premier League title after Stottingtot Hotshots could only draw with Moscow Chelski FC, watched by 1.58 million viewers. Sky Sport 2's top-rated broadcast was Live Fight Night which attracting one hundred and nineteen thousand punters. Clearly the first rule of Live Fight Night is that not many people talk about Live Fight Night. Gillette Soccer Special was Sky Sports News's highest-rated broadcast with four hundred and forty three thousand. On Sky Sports F1, Ted's Notebook: Russia had an audience of seventeen thousand. Midsomer Murders was ITV3's top-rated drama (seven hundred and sixty nine thousand). Lewis drew five hundred and sixty nine thousand. The movies Jaws and Double Jeopardy headed ITV4's top ten, with three hundred and thirty one thousand and two hundred and ninety one thousand respectively. Disgraceful steaming pile of rotten faeces, and the classic example of everything that is wrong with British television - and society - in the Twenty First Century, Celebrity Juice, was ITV2's most-watched programme with 1.22 million viewers. Every single one of whom needs to hang their heads in shame for watching such tripe. The not-much-more intellectually stimulating Britain's Got More Toilets had 1.10 million whilst witless Plebs drew 1.03 million. The latest episode of drama flop Houdini & Doyle headed ITV Encore's top ten with a tragic eighty one thousand viewers. For context, the nine hundred and twelfth repeat of an old episode of Agatha Christie's Poirot was watched by a mere thirty one thousand less viewers than Houdini & Doyle. BBC4's The Silk Road had an audience of six hundred and sixty five thousand in a top-ten list which also included Hinterland (five hundred and eighty two thousand), Caravans: A British Love Affair (five hundred and seventy eight thousand) and Timeshift: A Very British Map (five hundred and sixty nine thousand). A History Of Ancient Britain (With Scottish Neil Oliver & His Lovely Hair) attracted five hundred and sixty thousand. Forest Field & Sky: Art Out Of Nature drew four hundred and eighty five thousand, Jim Clark: The Quiet Champion, four hundred and twenty eight thousand, Balmoral, three hundred and ninety four thousand and The Dark Ages: An Age Of Light three hundred and fifty seven thousand. Sky1's weekly top-ten was headed by The Flash (1.03 million), Hawaii Five-0 (eight hundred and fifty five thousand) and Modern Family (eight hundred and forty one thousand). Arrow drew five hundred and fifty six thousand and DC's Legends Of Tomorrow seven hundred and six thousand. Much-trailed The Five shed even more viewers, the latest episode having an audience of six hundred and thirteen thousand. Sky Atlantic's list was topped, of course, by Game Of Thrones (2.47 million, the highest-rated multichannel audience of the week). The Monday repeat of the previous episode had 1.21 million. Penny Dreadful continued with four hundred and ninety nine thousand, Thornecast was seen by four hundred and sixty six thousand and The Tunnel, three hundred and one thousand. On Sky Living, The Blacklist drew seven hundred and fifty seven thousand, Blindspot had seven hundred and forty nine thousand and Elementary, seven hundred and forty eight thousand. Sky Arts' broadcast of the movie The Phantom Of The Opera had an audience of fifty six thousand. Coldplay Live 2012 was seen by fifty two thousand. Although, quite why anyone but the world's stupidest glake would wish to see a band made entirely of hummus is anyone's guess. Some people are, simply, weird. 5USA's The Mysteries Of Laura - recently cancelled in the US, of course - was watched by five hundred and sixty seven thousand viewers. NCIS drew three hundred and four thousand. NCIS also topped the weekly top tens of FOX - the latest episode of series thirteen attracting eight hundred and nine thousand punters - and CBS Action (ninety five thousand) and featured in the Universal Channel's list (one hundred thousand) as well as Channel Five's. And, all - as usual - with different episodes. Aside, from NCIS, FOX's list also included American Dad! (two hundred and thirty six thousand), the fifth episode of 11.22.63 (two hundred and twenty seven thousand) and Family Guy (one hundred and two thousand). On CBS Action, JAG was seen by eighty six thousand. The Universal Channel's top ten was headed by Chicago Med (two hundred and thirty seven thousand) and Bates Motel (one hundred and six thousand). On Dave, Room 101 was the highest-rated broadcast with three hundred and seventy seven thousand punters. That was followed by Mock The Week (three hundred and thirty five thousand), Dynamo: Magician Impossible (three hundred and thirty three thousand), Have I Got A Bit More News For You (three hundred and ten thousand) and Qi XL (two hundred and seventy six thousand). Drama's Inspector George Gently was watched by five hundred and twenty nine thousand viewers. Hetty Wainthropp Investigates had four hundred and four thousand. No, this blogger has absolutely no idea why either. Alibi's highest-rated programme was another programme to recently find itself part of the annual US TV cull, Castle (four hundred and eleven thousand), followed by Death In Paradise (two hundred and fifty four thousand), Quantico (two hundred and twenty thousand), Murdoch Mysteries (one hundred and fifty seven thousand) and Lie To Me (seventy six thousand). The latest episode of Yesterday's repeat run of Open All Hours was watched by two hundred and twenty four thousand. On the Discovery Channel, Marooned With Ed Stafford was seen by an audience of one hundred and forty three thousand punters and Deadliest Catch by one hundred and nine thousand. Alaskan Bush People had one hundred and three thousand viewers. Gold Divers - complete with that trailer featuring the really annoying woman who wants to get more gold than anyone else ('is that too much to ask?') - drew eighty four thousand. Discovery History's latest Time Team repeat topped the weekly-list with fifteen thousand viewers. Seven Ages Of Britain had thirteen thousand. On Discovery Science, Food Factory USA attracted fifty five thousand viewers. Discovery Turbo's most-watched programmes were Fast N' Loud (forty three thousand) and Wheeler Dealers (thirty six thousand). National Geographic's top ten was headed by Car SOS which had one hundred and forty five thousand viewers. Nazi Megastructures was seen by eighty thousand. On The History Channel, Black Sails attracted eighty thousand. Swamp People had an audience of seventy six and Forged In Fire, sixty five thousand. Pirate Treasure Of the Knights Templar on Military History had twenty two thousand, Alien Files Unsealed, twenty one thousand and A History Of Britain, also twenty one thousand. Copycat Killers and Nightmare Next Door were ID's top-rated programmes of the week (thirty three thousand and thirty one thousand viewers respectively). After The First Forty Eight headed CI's list (eighty two thousand). The latest episode of GOLD's repeat run of Mrs Brown's Boys attracted two hundred and thirty two thousand. Comedy Central's largest audience of the week was for Impractical Jokers (two hundred and ninety eight thousand). Your TV's Crimes Of The Rich & Famous had sixty thousand viewers. On More4, The Good Wife was viewed by seven hundred and nine thousand whilst E4's latest episode of The Big Bang Theory drew 2.34 million punters (beaten only by Game Of Thrones as the largest multichannels audience of the week). The Horror Channel's broadcast of one of this blogger's favourite Hammer movies, Twins Of Evil attracted seventy nine thousand viewers. Planet Earth had twenty nine thousand on Eden. Tanked was the Animal Planet's most watched programme with seventy thousand. On W, Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders was seen by three hundred and ninety six thousand. Say Yes To The Dress was TLC's most-watched programme (one hundred and eighty nine thousand) whilst the opening episode of Heartbeat drew but sixty eight thousand despite having had more trailers across various channels over the previous two weeks than just about every other programme in the history of the medium, put together.

This week saw the twentieth anniversary of the first broadcast of the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie and, yer actual Keith Telly Topping's very excellent friend Greg Bakun, has done a superb piece on the film at his From The Archives blog. Check it out, here. There is also quite a good piece on the same subject at the Doctor Who News site, here, which features a contribution from, among others, another of this blogger's old friends, Shaun Lyon.
Two former Doctor Who alumni are returning to the London stage this summer. Though, in different productions, obviously. Yer actual Billie Piper will make her debut at the Young Vic, playing the lead in a new production based on Federico Lorca's Yerma, about a woman whose inability to have a child tears her life apart. Meanwhile, Matt Smith his very self will return to the Royal Court in a new play by Anthony Neilson, which will be created in the rehearsal room. The story, which will be documented online as it evolves, will centre around an obsessive film director. Both plays will open in July.
Ukraine's Jamala won this year's Eurovision Song Contest, held in Stockholm. The country scored five hundred and thirty four points with the song '1944', about the deportation of Crimean Tatars under Josef Stalin. Not 'Waterloo' admittedly but, you know, Eurovision can be a broad church, occasionally. Australia - which, just in case you're wondering, is not in Europe - finished second with five hundred and eleven points, while Russia - which was the favourite going into the competition - was third with four hundred and ninety one points. Bet that put a smile of Putin's face. Expect some deportations to the Salt Mines over that malarkey. Joe and/or Jake, who represented the UK with their song 'You're Not Alone', finished in a massively disappointing - if somewhat predictable - twenty fourth place with but sixty two points. Jamala is the first Crimean Tatar to perform at the contest and her song caused some controversy because of its alleged 'political overtones.' It references the year when Stalin deported almost all of the Tatar ethnic group from its native region of Crimea in what was then the Soviet Union. The song had angered Russia, which annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, as tension between the two countries grew. There have been calls in Russia for 'a review' of her victory after someone described as 'a prankster' told Russian TV that Jamala had 'admitted' to him that her song had a political subtext while he posed as an aide to Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko. A Russian MP, Elena Drapeko, blamed Russia's defeat on what she called 'an information war' and 'general demonisation' of her country. She stopped short of calling for the nuclear obliteration of Kiev in revenge. Just. But Poroshenko hailed Jamala's victory and said that her performance had been 'incredible.' The juries from Russia and Ukraine did not award each other any points, which some might consider to be a bit 'my dad's bigger than your dad' but, when all is said and done, it was quite funny. However it seems that a large numbers of the Russian public voted for the Ukrainian song, awarding it ten points while the Ukrainian public gave Russia's entry the maximum twelve points. Good God, the general public are more inclusive and broad-minded than politicians? Who'd've thought it? Ukraine confounded the bookmakers and Eurovision commentators (for there are such people) who had been convinced that Russia - or possibly Australia - would win. Russia was the pre-event bookmakers' favourite for so long, possibly because their entry was considered to be similar to last year's Swedish winner. Ukraine appears to have slipped under the radar. Simon Bennett, head of the International OGAE Eurovision fan club, told the BBC News website that former Soviet countries that would 'normally vote for Russia' sent it a message by voting this year for Ukraine instead. The singer had dedicated the song to her great-grandmother who was forced to leave Crimea along with a quarter of a million Tatars, as a collective punishment for those who had collaborated during the Nazi occupation. Collecting her award, an emotional Jamala thanked Europe for their votes, adding: 'I really want peace and love to everyone.' Speaking about her win backstage after, the singer said: 'It's amazing. I was sure that if you talk about truth it really can touch people.' A new scoring system was introduced this year, providing separate scores for each country's jury and public votes, rather than combining them as in previous years. At the half way point after the juries' votes had been counted, Australia - which had been invited back to perform after last year's sixtieth anniversary celebrations - topped the scoreboard with three hundred and twenty points and a firm lead over Ukraine's two hundred and eleven points. But Dami Im's 'Sound Of Silence' (no relation) failed to strike the same chord with the public and was voted the fourth most popular song overall. It allowed Poland, which was in penultimate place with seven points from the jury, to leap to eighth when the public's two hundred and twenty seven points were taken into account. It also meant the UK, which had been placed seventeenth after the jury vote with fifty four points, was pushed down to twenty fourth out of twenty six when the public's mere eight points were added. Despite the low finishing position, the UK still scored more points than it has done since 2011, when Blue competed. Germany's Jamie-Lee finished in last place - her song 'Ghost' received eleven points. Tragically, this year, there were no Moldovans wearing pointy hats on unicycles. Which was the only reason this blogger was watching, frankly. Graham Norton, who provided commentary to viewers watching in the UK, paid tribute to his predecessor Sir Terry Wogan during the contest. He recalled Sir Terry, who died in January, advising him not to drink anything alcoholic until the ninth song had been performed. 'I would urge you at home to raise a cup, a mug, a glass and give thanks to the man who was, and always will be, the voice of Eurovision,' Graham said as the ninth competitor began. This year's contest took place at the Ericsson Globe arena in Stockholm and was hosted by last year's winner, Mans Zelmerlow and Swedish TV personality Mede. Justin Timberlake performed his new single during the interval of the show, which also included a sketch featuring Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Derek Jacobi as their Vicious characters. It was actually quite funny. Which is more than can be said for Vicious itself, obviously.

It might have been yet another in long series of dismal showings for the UK but Eurovision performed rather better for BBC1, with more than seven million overnight viewers, bouncing back from last year’s five-year ratings low. The annual song contest had an average of 7.1 million viewers on BBC1 from 7pm on Saturday, with a five-minute peak of 8.5 million. This was up on last year, when an average of 6.6 million viewers tuned in, but not as high as 2014, when that year's event was watched by 8.8 million people, or 2011 when it drew 9.5 million viewers. BBC1's Eurovision lost out to Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads' Britain’s Got Toilets on ITV which had an overnight of 7.8 million viewers, also from 8pm. When the two were head-to-head, Eurovision had an average of 5.7 million viewers. But Eurovision was on substantially longer, finally coming to a close after around three-and-a-half hours. Elsewhere on Saturday, the second episode of BBC2's star-studded The Hollow Crown: The Wars Of The Roses, had a fraction under eight hundred thousand overnight viewers from 9pm. This was slightly down from just over over million overnight viewers for the first episode of the Shakespeare adaptation. Earlier, nearly 1.2 million viewers watched a BBC2 repeat of a David Attenborough documentary from 2009. Charles Darwin & The Tree Of Life had 1.17 million viewers from 7.30pm. Broadcast to mark the acclaimed natural history broadcaster's ninetieth birthday, it followed another episode of Attenborough's Passion Project, Lost Worlds, Vanished Lives, from 1989, which had eight hundred and seventy five thousand viewers from 6.30pm.

The line-up for this year's Celebrity MasterChef has been revealed. One word to describe the line-up would be eclectic. Another, is that it appears to be every bit as 'z-list' as usual. Contestants include Strictly Come Dancing professional Gleb Savchenko, the pop singer and 'friend' of Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads, Sinitta and Tommy Cannon (but, not Bobby Ball). This is starting to soun just like the punchline of a Mad Frankie Boyle joke, is it not? They will be joined by Simon Webbe from Blue and Sugababe Amelle Berrabah, plus The Reverend Richard Coles, someone this blogger really respects. Oh Richard, mate, what were you thinking of? BBC Breakfast presenter Louise Minchin, Cherry Healey and antiques expert David Harper will also be showing off their cooking skills, or lack of them - alongside actress Donna Air, Little Jimmy Osmond and Amy Childs, who is a The Only Way Is Essex-type person. Shameless actress and professional reality TV regular Tina Malone and former EastEnders actors Sid Owen and Laila Morse will also feature. The world of sport is represented by Olympic gold medallist boxer Audley Harrison, former rugby World Cup winner Neil Back and paralympic swimmer Liz Johnson. Completing the line-up are 'YouTube vlogger' Marcus Butler (no, me neither, I'm afraid) and presenter Alexis Conran. Among their challenges this year will be cooking a five-course dinner for the Chelsea Pensioners to celebrate the Queen's ninetieth birthday. Last year's finalists Rylan Clark-Neal and Sam Nixon will be among the judges joining regulars yer actual Gregg Wallace and John Torode his very self.

The Blacklist is getting a full series spin-off on NBC, with the title The Blacklist: Redemption. The show will follow Susan Hargrave (played by yer actual Famke Janssen), the chief of Grey Matters and Tom Keen (Ryan Eggold). Their relationship is said to 'mirror' that of Ray Reddington (James Spader) and Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) on the main show. Janssen debuted on The Blacklist this week in a planted pilot episode, the spin-off having been heavily rumoured over the last few months. Redemption is also starring Edi Gathegi and Tawny Cypress.
Wor Geet Canny Tim Healy is reported 'recovering in hospital' after being taken ill during the filming of the ITV show Benidorm. He was flown to Manchester from Spain on Saturday after his condition improved enough to allow him to travel. The Mirra reported that Tim was taken ill 'almost a month ago' and had been 'fighting for his life.' An ITV spokesman said the sixty four-year-old was 'feeling much better' and that filming of the show had been 'adjusted to accommodate Tim's absence.' It is understood that Tim's former wife, Denise Welch, flew to Spain at one point to visit him in hospital, where his current wife, Joan, has been by his side. Wor Geet Canny Tim, who was born in Newcastle and, after a decade of mostly playing small parts, found fame in the 1980s' comedy drama Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, has played the cross-dressing character Les in Benidorm since 2010. The ITV spokesman, who did not confirm the nature of Tim's illness, said the show's team were 'currently mid-way through filming the new series,' which will be shown in 2017. He added that 'all the Benidorm cast and crew wish [Tim] a healthy recovery in his own time.'
It has already prompted a national debate about domestic abuse and a huge fundraising campaign, but now the story of Helen Titchener's treatment in the Radio 4 drama The Archers has led the justice secretary, the rat-faced loathsome wretched odious nasty slavver-merchant, George Formby lookalike (and tit) Gove, 'to push for greater prison reform.' At least, according to the Gruniad Morning Star albeit, their story appears to be based on a handful of quotes the rat-faced loathsome wretched odious nasty slavver-merchant, George Formby lookalike (and tit) Gove gave to the Radio Times three months ago. So, rather atypical of the 'journalism' that the Gruniad Morning Star appears to specialise in these days, in fact. In recent episodes of The Archers, the pregnant Helen has been refused bail after stabbing her abusive husband and has agreed to move to a dedicated mother and baby unit in a prison miles away from her home and her young child. The rat-faced loathsome wretched odious nasty slavver-merchant, George Formby lookalike (and tit) Gove told the Radio Times that the long-running Radio 4 drama and its 'gripping' storyline was 'required listening in our house. As well as being superb drama, it has exemplified one of the virtues of public service broadcasting,' he said. 'Helen's story has brought welcome attention to the real problems many women face from coercive and controlling men. Now Helen's plight has shone a light on the position of women in our prisons and reinforces the case for reform.' In February, David Cameron called for 'a rethink' of the way the prison system treats pregnant women and mothers with babies. Ministry of Justice figures suggest one hundred babies spent time living with their mothers in prisons in 2015. The Archers' storyline, which first introduced Helen's partner Rob as a charming man two years ago before slowly revealing his violent and coercive nature, has already led to a campaign to support 'real-life Helens' raising more than one hundred and thirty grand. Following the episode in which Helen was provoked into stabbing Rob, listeners have since learned that she faces either six years in the pokey for wounding with intent or twelve for attempted murder, as well as the certainty of giving birth whilst in custody. According to new figures, audiences requested three miliion five hundred and ninety nine thousand nine hundred and forty downloads of The Archers via BBC iPlayer in March, a forty two per cent increase from the previous year. In February, the rat-faced loathsome wretched odious nasty slavver-merchant, George Formby lookalike (and tit) Gove said: 'We need radically to reform how we treat women offenders. At the moment, too many women are in jail. A prison sentence not only punishes them, but also makes life much tougher for their children.' With only sixty four MBU places in England and Wales and fewer prisons for women than men, women are often held further from their homes than men, even though they tend to serve shorter sentences on average. The Archers' editor, Sean O'Connor, who will shortly leave the Radio 4 programme to take over at BBC1's EastEnders, made a direct comparison between the two very different shows. 'In the past, it's been soaps like EastEnders who have covered women in prison. We aimed to show how shocking it is when you are hit by the full force of the law. And we wanted to represent the greater injustice women experience in the prison system.' The BBC's Director General, Tony Hall, has already praised the storyline for achieving the highest appreciation figures in the show's sixty five-year history. 'The much talked-about Archers storyline has brought about unprecedented public focus on domestic violence,' he said. 'It's important that our programmes can tackle difficult issues – and the public seem to agree.' The programme has worked closely with several domestic violence charities such as Women's Aid and Refuge to develop the story over a long period of time. Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, said: 'Now in custody, Helen is more isolated than ever. Like many abused women, Helen is struggling to resist Rob's narrative: that everything is her fault and that she is a bad mother. I hope that, as the storyline continues, Helen receives the empathy she deserves.' Women's Aid has previously reported a twenty per cent increase in calls to the National Domestic Violence Helpline in the year. Polly Neate, chief executive, said that she thought this was 'in part down to "The Archers' effect."'

Russia is 'very sorry' and 'ashamed' of cheating athletes who were not caught by its anti-doping systems, the country's sports minister has said. Although, one suspects that, actually, what they're even more sorry and ashamed about is the fact that they got caught in the first place. Russia was extremely banned from international competition after a damning report by the World Anti-Doping Agency. But Vitaly Mutko argued not lifting the ban for the forthcoming 2016 Rio Olympics would be 'unfair and disproportionate' and that clean athletes - if, indeed, any such creatures exist in Russia - should not be punished. They will have been 'rigorously tested' by Rio, he wrote in The Sunday Times. WADA's report depicted 'a culture of systematic state-sponsored cheating' by Russia's athletes, with even the secret services involved. It said the All-Russia Athletics Federation, the Russian anti-doping agency and the Russian Athletics Federation had 'failed to comply' with anti-doping procedures. 'We do not deny having a problem in Russia and we are doing everything possible at state level to eradicate doping, including punishing athletes and coaches found to have violated anti-doping rules,' Mutko claimed. One or two people even believed him. 'But, doping is a global problem, not just a Russian problem.' Mutko said by the time the Rio games get under way in August, Russian athletes hoping to compete will have 'been through a minimum of three anti-doping controls' by the sport's world governing body - the IAAF - in addition to in-competition testing. 'These are men and women who have sacrificed years of their lives striving to compete at the very highest level, who have dreamed of taking part in the Olympic Games and who now face having their sacrifice wasted and their dreams shattered,' he said. 'The reasons for the All-Russian Athletics Federation being suspended from the IAAF have been well documented. They are weighty. Serious mistakes have been made by the federation management, along with athletes and coaches who have broken anti-doping rules and neglected the principle of fair play, so fundamental to sport, for immediate benefits. Let us be clear. We are ashamed of them.' However, Mutko stopped suspiciously short of admitting that the doping scandal was 'state sponsored' as the original report had suggested. 'We are very sorry that athletes who tried to deceive us, and the world, were not caught sooner,' he weaselled. 'We are very sorry because Russia is committed to upholding the highest standards in sport and is opposed to anything that threatens the Olympic values.' He added that 'measures' put in place since the ban - including handing over all testing to the UK Anti-Doping Agency until Russia's own programme is restored, changing the leadership of Russian athletics and handing over alleged doping cases to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne - means testing is now 'extra transparent. No other country's athletes will have been placed under the spotlight to the same degree as ours will be,' Mutko wrote. 'Such an intense glare does not allow anywhere for cheats to hide. We have done everything that has been asked of us by the IAAF in order to be reinstated. It would be unjust to demand all these changes and measures, witness them happen, and then still punish Russia's athletes.'

Disrupting brain activity in sleeping mice, specifically during the rapid eye movement phase, can stop the animals remembering things they learned that day, a study suggests. It is the clearest evidence to date that REM sleep is critical for memory. By switching off certain brain cells, the researchers 'silenced' a particular, rhythmic type of brain function - without waking up the mice. If they did this during REM sleep, the mice failed subsequent memory tests. Like remembering who won the Battle of Crécy, that sort of thing. The research is reported in the journal Science. REM sleep is the phase during which, at least in humans, dreams take place - but the question of whether it is important for settling new memories has previously been difficult to answer. Recent studies have tended to focus on deep, non-REM sleep instead, during which brain cells fire in various patterns that reflect memory consolidation and 're-play' of the day's experiences. During REM sleep, while our eyes flicker and our muscles relax, exactly what the brain is doing has been something of a mystery. But, it is a type of sleep seen across the animal kingdom, in mammals and birds and even lizards. Especially in animals, REM phases can be quite fleeting. This and other complications have made it difficult to test what effect such sleep has. Simply waking up humans or animals when they enter the REM phase, for example, causes stress and other problems which can confound any memory tests. In addition to, you know, really pissing off the humans involved. Hence the mice, they tend not to complain quite as much. So Doctor Sylvain Williams, from McGill University in Canada, working with colleagues at the University of Bern decided to 'meddle directly' with the sleeping brain of mice. You know, for a laugh. 'What we did was we used a technique, in mice, to solely disrupt REM sleep activity,' Williams told BBC News. Using the system known as 'optogenetics', he and his colleagues were able to control a particular population of brain cells in the mice, just by shining light through a tiny, implanted optical fibre. Whenever they switched on the light, they drastically reduced a particular rhythm in the brain, called 'theta oscillations.' And, if that disruption was delivered during a mouse's REM sleep, there were consequences. 'Disrupting the activity only during REM sleep and not other sleep, basically obliterates consolidation and memory formation,' Williams said. For example, if it was shown one brand new object and one that it had seen the day before, the mouse would thoroughly investigate both, instead of concentrating - like a normal mouse would - on the unfamiliar one. Thus, it seems that REM sleep is crucial, in some cases, for laying down new memories. Williams said this arguably poses more questions than it answers. For one thing, the other, deeper phase of sleep is already known to be involved in memory consolidation. So what are their distinct jobs? 'I think at the moment we don't know the difference between the two phases,' he said. 'It's an eye-opener to say that REM sleep has this very central role.' Whatever that role is, the new findings suggest it involves the oscillations that the scientists disrupted - in which brain cells synchronise their activity, leading to a widespread and measurable rhythm with, in this case, about seven beats per second. That signature could be something to study in patients with dementia or other memory problems, Williams said. 'It'd be interesting to see, for example, how this normal activity might be affected, specifically, in Alzheimer's patients. To see if that contributes to memory impairments.'

Excavation work for a new metro line in Rome has unearthed a huge Roman barracks from the Second Century AD during the period of Emperor Hadrian's reign. The find is so impressive that Italy plans to create Rome's first 'archaeological station' at Amba Aradam, on the city's third metro line. The new station is being built while archaeologists brush the dirt away from artefacts and mosaics nine metres below street level. The ruins cover nine hundred square metres. The site, thought to have housed Hadrian's Praetorian Guard, includes a one hundred metre hallway with thirty nine rooms. Amba Aradam lies near an important metro interchange at the Colosseum, called Fori Imperiali/Colosseo. The new station, on Metro Line C, is scheduled to open in 2020. The head of archaeology in the Colosseum area, Francesco Prosperetti, said that work on the metro would not be delayed although there would have to be changes to the station's design. Amba Aradam is named after an Italian Fascist victory against Emperor Haile Selassie's Ethiopian troops in 1936, in the Abyssinian war. An Italian Culture Ministry official called the unearthing of the Roman Praetorian Guard barracks 'exceptional.' The Praetorian Guard was created by Rome's first emperor, Augustus and served as the emperors' bodyguards and private military force. Rossella Rea, quoted by the Associated Press news agency, said that it was 'near four other Roman barracks,' so 'we can characterise this area as a military neighbourhood.'

Philippines President-Elect Rodrigo Duterte - who sounds like a bit mental, to be honest - is to reintroduce the death penalty after his election victory. Murderers, rapists, robbers (and, presumably, people who look at El Presidente 'in a funny way') will be very hanged, he said. Those convicted of more than one crime will be hanged twice, 'until their head is severed,' he added. As for recidivists who are convicted of three capital offences, trust me dear blog reader, you really don't want to know what they'll be hanged by. It'll make your eyes water just thinking about it.
A bullet accidentally fired by a man with a gun stuffed into his sock hurt a woman who was sitting fifty feet away at a graduation ceremony, media reports have claim. The bullet is said to have gone through the man's foot before ricocheting into the woman's calf at Augusta High School in Kansas. Police described it as 'a knucklehead situation.' No kidding?

NASA's Kepler telescope has discovered more than one hundred Earth-sized planets orbiting alien stars. It has also detected nine small planets within so-called 'habitable zones,' where conditions are favourable for liquid water - and, therefore, the potentially for life. The finds are contained within a catalogue of one thousand two hundred and eighty four new planets detected by Kepler - which more than doubles the previous tally. NASA said that it was 'the biggest single announcement of new exoplanets.' Space agency scientists discussed the new findings in a teleconference on Tuesday. Statistical analyses of Kepler's expanding sample of worlds help astronomers to understand how common planets like our own might be. Doctor Natalie Batalha, the Kepler mission scientist at NASA's Ames Research Centre in California, said calculations suggested there could be more than ten billion potentially habitable planets in the Milky Way. 'About twenty four per cent of the stars harbour potentially habitable planets that are smaller than about 1.6 times the size of the Earth. That's a number that we like because it's below that size that we estimate planets are likely to be rocky,' said Batalha. 'If you ask yourself where is the next habitable planet likely to be, it's within about eleven light-years, which is very close.' Future observatories such as the James Webb Space Telescope could examine starlight filtered through the atmospheres of exoplanets for potential markers of biology. 'The ultimate goal of our search is to detect the light from a habitable exoplanet and analyse that light for gases like water vapour, oxygen, methane and carbon dioxide - gases that might indicate the presence of a biological ecosystem,' said Paul Hertz, the director of astrophysics at NASA. Of the telescope's finds to date, the planets Kepler-186F and Kepler-452B are, arguably, the most Earth-like in terms of properties such as their size, the temperature of their host star and the energy received from their star. Batalha said that the new finds Kepler 1638B and Kepler-1229B were 'intriguing targets' in the search for habitable planets. The NASA Ames researcher said the Kepler mission was part of a 'larger strategic goal of finding evidence of life beyond Earth: knowing whether we're alone or not, to know how life manifests itself in the galaxy and what is the diversity.' She added: 'Being able to look up to a point of light and being able to say: "That star has a living world orbiting it." I think that's very profound and answers questions about why we're here.' Doctor Timothy Morton, from Princeton University in New Jersey, said the overwhelming majority of exoplanets found by Kepler fell into the super-Earth (between 1.2 and 1.9 times bigger than the radius of Earth) and sub-Neptune sized (1.9 to 3.1 times bigger than Earth's radius). He noted that planets in this size range had 'no known analogues' in our Solar System. Scientists used a new statistical technique to validate the twelve hundred and eighty four new exoplanets from a pool of four thousand three hundred and two targets from Kepler's July 2015 catalogue of planet candidates. The technique folded in different types of information about the candidates from simulations, giving the astronomers a reliability score for each potential new world. Candidates with a reliability greater than ninety nine per cent were designated as 'validated planets.' The team identified a further one thousand three hundred and twenty seven candidates that are more likely than not to be planets, but do not meet the ninety nine per cent threshold and will require further study. Kepler employs the transit method to detect planets orbiting other stars. This involves measuring the slight dimming of a star's light when an orbiting planet passes between it and the Earth. The same orbital phenomenon was involved when Mercury passed across the face of the Sun on Monday. The Kepler telescope, named after the Renaissance astronomer Johannes Kepler, was launched on 7 March 2009. In May 2013, the second of four reaction wheels - used to control a spacecraft's orientation - failed on Kepler. This robbed the orbiting observatory of its ability to stay pointed at a target without drifting off course. However, engineers came up with an innovative solution: using the pressure of sunlight to stabilise the spacecraft, allowing it to continue its planet hunt. The resulting mission was dubbed K2.

A woman trying to navigate a foggy night in Ontario ended up driving straight into Lake Huron, according to police. The - unnamed - twenty three-year-old Kitchener resident was following her car's GPS when she 'somehow lost her way' at the Little Tub Harbour boat launch. It was after midnight when she took the fateful turn, and suddenly felt her Toyota Yaris filling with very cold water as it sank. Thinking quickly, the woman managed to roll down the windows before the vehicle disappeared below the surface, got out and swam to shore. 'How the launch works, it's not an airborne thing. It's not Dukes Of Hazzard. It kind of goes off the road and the launch just drops all of a sudden,' Constable Katrina Rubinstein-Gilbert told the Canadian Press. 'So, she would have been driving on the road and then, all of a sudden, just dropped and hit water.' Officials sent out a warning to all boats to avoid the area and news of the woman's embarrassing error spread quickly – police, the Ministry of the Environment and officers from the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre all rushed to the scene. Rubinstein-Gilbert said that the driver was 'a little embarrassed,' but generally 'in good spirits.' Apparently, no alcohol was involved in the incident and the driver will not be charged with anything.
A North Tonawanda man is facing charges after what has been described as 'a bizarre incident' at the Mid-City Plaza on Monday. A woman was in The Dollar Store in the Payne Avenue plaza with her child and a neighbour's child when police say that sixty seven-year-old Herbert Forrester began following them around the store. Seven Eyewitness News spoke to the woman who claims that Forrester followed her and the children around whilst 'wearing a clown nose.' Which, is a bit weird although not, I think, illegal, per se. When the woman and children left the store, police say, Forrester followed them out, ran to his van and put a toilet seat around his head and toilet paper in his mouth. Okay, that's very weird. Police say the woman ran to her car with the children as Forrester allegedly shouted, 'Yeah, run!' Once safely inside the car, the woman says she took a picture of Forrester for 'evidence' and then called the police. Authorities later arrested Forrester, charging him with 'harassment.' Officers say he told them that he 'has a strange sense of humour and I have to stop.' The woman told media reports that she did not consider the incident to be a joke. It was 'a frightening incident', she said, which was 'inappropriate and scary.' Forrester is currently free on one hundred dollars bail.
An 'urgent inquiry' has been demanded after a 'dummy' bomb used in a security exercise caused a Premier League match at Old Trafford to be postponed. The game - between The Scum and Bournemouth - was called off after the item was discovered shortly before kick-off. A controlled explosion was carried out on the device, which police said was 'accidentally' left by a private firm. Manchester Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd called for 'a full inquiry' into 'the fiasco.' Bomb disposal experts were called to the seventy five thousand-seat stadium on Sunday after the replica device was found in a toilet. The Premier League match has been rearranged for Tuesday. Lloyd called the situation 'unacceptable' and demanded - demanded, no less - an inquiry to discover 'how this happened, why it happened and who will be held accountable.' He added that 'this fiasco' had: 'Caused massive inconvenience to supporters who had come from far and wide to watch the match' (not just from Bournemouth, obviously, but given that the majority of The Scum's support doesn't live within a hundred miles of Manchester, we presume he's talking about the majority of the crowd). It had also 'wasted the time of huge numbers of police officers and the army's bomb squad' and 'unnecessarily put people in danger,' he continued. The Premier League praised the way that the incident was dealt with. A statement read: 'We would like to thank Manchester United's staff, the police and other emergency services for all their efforts today as well as rearranging the match for this coming Tuesday. Both Manchester United and AFC Bournemouth's management has been extremely helpful in reaching a swift resolution, which is the best possible given today's events.' The Scum said that will refund all tickets and allow ticket holders from both clubs to watch Tuesday's re-arranged game for free, while season ticket holders would also be 'given a credit.' The gesture is estimated to cost The Scum around three million knicker. But, they can easily afford it, so what's the problem? A Greater Manchester Police statement read: 'Shortly before today's planned football fixture, staff from the Manchester United ground alerted police to a suspicious item that had been found in the toilets within the North West Quadrant, between the Sir Alex Ferguson stand and the Stretford End. Police quickly attended and explosive experts were called in to assess the item, which has been described as an incredibly realistic-looking explosive device.' The Sir Alex Ferguson Stand and the Stretford End were both evacuated and sniffer dogs brought in. Kick-off was delayed initially and shortly afterwards the match was abandoned on police advice. A bomb disposal team carried out the explosion at about 4.30pm. Assistant chief constable John O'Hare said: 'I am grateful to the Manchester United and Bournemouth supporters for their support and assistance today. Following today's controlled explosion, we have since found out that the item was a training device which had accidentally been left by a private company following a training exercise involving explosive search dogs. While this item did not turn out to be a viable explosive, on appearance this device was as real as could be, and the decision to evacuate the stadium was the right thing to do, until we could be sure that people were not at risk.' Just under two hours before the controlled explosion was carried out, an 'operation red code' alert was issued over the public address system. Fans were then advised that, because of the discovery of a suspect package in the ground, the match was being abandoned on police advice. Supporters who were still in the ground were advised to stay in their seats while the forecourt was cleared of fans who had been in the two evacuated stands.

A senior policewoman is reportedly 'under investigation' amid claims she had a heated argument with a colleague about which of them has the most attractive breasts. Well, to be fair, we've all done it at one time or another. Assistant Chief Constable Rebekah Sutcliffe has been very suspended by Greater Manchester Police after the reported late-night row in a hotel bar. The forty six-year-old is said to have got into 'a loud disagreement' with Superintendent Sarah Jackson about who had 'the best boobs' while attending the Senior Women In Policing conference. It is unknown which of the two women started the row, but the Scum Mail on Sunday reported that an alleged - though, suspiciously nameless and, therefore, probably fictitious - 'source' claiming Sutcliffe had been 'comparing' breasts with Jackson. Sutcliffe has now been suspended for allegations of 'inappropriate behaviour' by the force. Sutcliffe is said to not be facing any sanctions over the argument. The alleged row took place during the three-day event designed to improve the 'profile and perception' of female officers at Manchester's Hilton hotel. Sutcliffe gave one of the speeches at the conference, which was attended by female police chiefs from across Britain and where other speakers included Sara Thornton, chairman of the National Police Chiefs' Council and Victims' Commissioner Baroness Newlove. Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins later tweeted that he was 'so proud' of the officers who organised the event. Sutcliffe told the Scum Mail on Sunday: 'I have nothing to say. This is an incredibly stressful time.' A Greater Manchester Police spokesman said: 'A senior officer has been suspended following allegations of inappropriate behaviour. An investigation is under way and it would be inappropriate to make further comment.' As to the answer to the original question, which of them has the best bobbies, the spokesman declined to comment. Probably.

The French actress Madeleine Lebeau, the last surviving cast member of the classic 1942 film Casablanca, has died at the age of ninety two, her family says. Her stepson, the filmmaker Carlo Alberto Pinelli, told The Hollywood Reporter that she had died on 1 May in Spain. In Casablanca, Lebeau played Humphrey Bogart's spurned lover. In one of the movie's most famous scenes, she tearfully shouts 'Vive La France,' after the clientèle in Rick's Café have sung 'La Marseillaise' to drown out singing by German soldiers. Born in 1923 near Paris, Leabeau fled Nazi-occupied France with her then husband, the prominent actor Marcel Dalio, in 1940. The couple ended up in Hollywood and both appeared in Casablanca. They had met while performing a play together. In 1939 she appeared in her first film, the melodrama Jeunes Filles En Détresse (Girls in Distress). In June 1940, Lebeau and Dalio (who was Jewish) fled Paris just ahead of the invading German Army and reached Lisbon. They are presumed to have received transit visas from Aristides de Sousa Mendes, allowing them to enter Spain and journey on to Portugal. It took them two months to obtain visas to Chile. However, when their ship, the SS Quanza, stopped in Mexico, they were stranded, along with around two hundred other passengers, when the Chilean visas they had purchased turned out to be forgeries. Eventually, they were able to get temporary Canadian passports and entered the United States. Lebeau made her Hollywood debut in 1941 in Hold Back The Dawn. The following year, she appeared in the Errol Flynn movie Gentleman Jim. Lebeau appeared in two more American films after Casablanca, a leading role in the war drama Paris After Dark (1943, again with her, by now ex-husband, Dalio) and smaller role in Music For Millions. before returning to France after the war. Her subsequent work includes the role of a temperamental French actress in Fellini's (1963). She also worked in Britain, appearing with Jean Simmons in Cage Of Gold (1950). In 1988, she married the Italian screenwriter Tullio Pinelli who had written script for .

The former press officer for The Be-Atles (a popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might have heard of them) and, allegedly, the man who first coined the phrase 'The Fab Four' to describe them has died. Tony Barrow represented the band between 1962 and 1968 and also wrote sleeve notes for some of their early LPs, as well as the strip cartoon for The Magical Mystery Tour EP booklet and the scripts for their early fan club records. Tony died on Saturday, aged eighty, at his home in Morecambe. In the late 1950s, whilst the teenage John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison were getting their shit together in one part of Liverpool, Tony Barrow was presenting jazz, skiffle and folk groups at local dance halls and clubs across town in Crosby. Born in 1936 and educated at Merchant Taylor's School, Tony studied languages at Durham University. In 1954, when he was still a seventeen-year-old sixth form schoolboy, he landed his first regular freelance writing job as pop record reviewer for the Liverpool Echo. After university, Barrow moved to London to work for Decca Records where he wrote liner notes which appeared on the back of LP covers. He also continued to contribute a weekly record column to the Liverpool Echo and, when Brian Epstein signed The Be-Atles at the end of 1961, he contacted Barrow for professional advice. In a 1968 interview, Tony recounted that Epstein asked him to write a column about the band. This led to an informal arrangement whereby Barrow became The Be-Atles' part-time publicity consultant, which involved promoting the launch of the EMI band from behind a desk at their rival record company (and one that had, infamously, already rejected the group). His earliest task for Epstein was to co-ordinate a media campaign for the release of The Be-Atles first single, 'Love Me Do' in October 1962. He was paid a freelance fee of around fifty quid to compile The Be-Atles' initial press kit. When Epstein promised to double his Decca salary, Tony left the company to join Epstein's artists' management company, NEMS Enterprises, in May 1963. Tony opened Epstein's first London office and as head of the Press and Public Relations Division, began to promote the careers of not only The Fabs but also Epstein's other artists, from Cilla Black to Gerry & The Pacemakers, Billy J Kramer & The Dakotas and The Fourmost. In view of his previous writing experience with Decca, it was taken for granted that he would do the same job for The Be-Atles and Epstein's other acts (a job he shared for a time with Derek Taylor). Barrow saw Beatlemania as beginning with the band's appearance on the London Palladium on 13 October 1963. It was Barrow's idea to give out Be-Atles Christmas greetings in the form of a flexi-disc to their fan club members. He thought this goodwill gesture might limit the damage done to the group's reputation by delays in replying to an ever-increasing volume of fan mail. At the time he said that he noted how the Queen always sent out yuletide greetings to her subjects and decided that the Be-Atles should 'follow her fine example but in their own way.' In 1965 and 1966 Barrow travelled around the globe with The Be-Atles' on their international concert tours, conducting their massive and chaotic press conferences wherever they were on the road, accompanying them on their meeting with Elvis Presley at his home in Bel Air and setting up media interviews and photoshoots when they returned home. One of Barrow's final tasks as The Be-Atles' Press Officer was to compile and edit the strip-cartoon story booklet which was part of The Magical Mystery Tour EP at the end of 1967. When The Be-Atles set up their own self-management operation, Apple, in 1968 after Epstein's death, Tony left NEMS to set up his own independent PR consultancy, Tony Barrow International. Headquartered in Mayfair, TBI represented many of Britain's entertainers and recording artists in the 1970s, including Paul McCartney & Wings, The Kinks, The Bay City Rollers, The New Seekers, Bob Monkhouse and Hello and American artists, like David Cassidy, Gladys Knight, David Soul, The Monkees, Tony Bennett, The Jackson Five, Andy Williams and Neil Sedaka, for their European tours. In 1980 returned to freelance journalism, writing various books including a highly successful career guide, Inside The Music Business (co-authored with Julian Newby) and John, Paul, George, Ringo & Me, his memoir of the 1960s. He is survived by his widow, Corinne, and his two sons.

Friday, May 13, 2016

No Future?

The BBC must put 'distinctive content' - whatever the Hell that deliberate exercise in obfuscation actually means - at ;the heart of its output,' the vile and odious rascal Whittingdale has said. This is part of what was described as 'a major overhaul' of how the BBC is run, which was unveiled by the government on Thursday. The licence fee will continue for at least eleven years and viewers will now need to pay it to use BBC iPlayer. The vile and odious rascal Whittingdale made clear that he was 'emphatically not saying the BBC should not be popular.' The lack of culture secretary was referring to earlier, widespread media speculation - mostly in newspapers which hate the BBC and all it stands for with a sick agenda a mile thick - that the corporation would not be allowed to schedule popular programmes against rivals. Other, possibly inaccurate, reports had claimed that the BBC would be required to scale back its online services, including losing recipe pages and magazine content. The BBC said that it was 'reviewing' its online services but that such claims were 'speculation.' 'Commissioning editors should ask consistently of new programming: "Is this idea sufficiently innovative and high quality?" rather than simply "How will it do in the ratings?"' the vile and odious rascal Whittingdale told the House of Commons. Because, of course, he's such an expert in making TV programmes, isn't he? The vile and odious rascal Whittingdale also said that the BBC will be 'required' to give 'greater focus to under-served audiences, in particular those from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds, and those in the nations and regions.' Because, again, the Tories are huge fans of those particular demographics. 'We want the BBC to be the leading broadcaster in promoting diversity,' he said. Thus, at least Lenny Henry - last funny, briefly, in 1983 - will be kept happy. Which is clearly a massive relief for everyone. 'The BBC is a world-class broadcaster and one of our country's greatest institutions,' an alleged 'government source' allegedly told the Independent. 'Our plans will mean that the BBC will keep making the great programmes we love and will continue to thrive in the future.' Maria Eagle, the shadow lack of culture secretary, said that the vile and odious rascal Whittingdale's views were 'totally out of step with the licence fee-payers who value and support the BBC.' The White Paper states that the Trust governing the BBC is to be very abolished and that a replacement board will be set up to run day-to-day matters, while Ofcom - a politically appointed quango, elected by no-one - will become the corporation's external regulator. The licence fee, which has been frozen at £145.50 since 2010, will now rise with inflation from next year. Measures announced include a new mission statement for the BBC: 'To act in the public interest, serving all audiences with impartial, high-quality, and distinctive media content and services that inform, educate and entertain.' The BBC will have the ability to appoint the majority of its new board, independent of government. Editorial decisions will be explicitly the responsibility of the Director General but Ofcom will be given the power to regulate all BBC services. The salaries of all BBC employees and freelancers who earn more than four hundred and fifty grand will be published. The vile and odious rascal Whittingdale claimed that the White Paper gives the BBC 'more freedom' to manage its budgets in an era when the traditional licence becomes 'less sustainable' in the Internet-age. 'The government therefore welcomes the BBC's intention to explore whether additional revenue could be raised at home and abroad from additional subscription services sitting alongside the core universal fee,' he said. 'We would also like to see BBC content become portable, so that licence fee payers have access when travelling abroad.' Responding to the vile and odious rascal Whittingdale's statement, Eagle said: 'We know the secretary of state is extremely hostile to the BBC. He wants it diminished in size. His views are totally out of step with the licence fee-payers who value and support the BBC.' Eagle said she did not agree that [the vile and odious rascal Whittingdale's] 'obsession with distinctiveness' should be imported into the BBC's mission statement.
Conservative attitudes to the BBC vary widely - from those, including the vile and odious rascal Whittingdale, who believe in the primacy of markets and dislike the BBC because it is not subject to market mechanisms and is funded by a licence fee he once described as 'worse than a poll tax,' to those more pragmatic centrist One Nation Tories who see an organisation that produces very popular programmes, enjoys wide support from viewers and listeners (including many traditional Tory voters), brings the nation together and is widely admired abroad and think if it ain't broke, it is a bad idea to try to fix it. The BBC's current Royal Charter - the agreement which sets the broadcaster's rules and purpose - expires at the end of December and a public consultation into its future was launched last year. The White Paper will be debated by MPs in the autumn before the new Charter is drafted and signed for the next eleven years. Responding to the White Paper, Director General Tony Hall said that it 'delivers a mandate for the strong, creative BBC the public believe in. A BBC that will be good for the creative industries - and most importantly of all, for Britain. There has been a big debate about the future of the BBC. Searching questions have been asked about its role and its place in the UK. That's right and healthy, and I welcome that debate. At the end, we have an eleven-year charter, a licence fee guaranteed for eleven years and an endorsement of the scale and scope of what the BBC does today.' But then, he would say that, wouldn't he? The focus on eleven years does, rather, suggest that Hall's attitude is 'my watch will be okay, in eleven years time it'll be someone else's problem.' But, he added there were 'some areas' where the BBC will continue to talk to the government to address 'remaining issues,' including allowing the National Audit Office to be the BBC's auditor and how the new board is to be appointed. He said: 'We have an honest disagreement with the government on this. I do not believe that the appointments proposals for the new unitary board are yet right.' The vile and odious rascal Whittingdale, speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, had said that media reports ahead of the publication of the White Paper had ranged from 'complete fantasy' to 'quite well-informed,' adding: 'But certainly not informed by me or my department.' One or two people even believed him. An alleged 'government source' had allegedly told The Sunday Times the White Paper was 'intended to set a broad set of principles and guidelines. How that is applied to individual programmes and scheduling is a matter for them. But they will be subject to external regulation.' The Gruniad Morning Star had claimed the licence fee would be subjected to 'top-slicing,' with a portion of it being handed to commercial rivals in areas such as children's programming. That, seemingly, was incorrect, so one has to wonder who, exactly, told the Gruniad this and why they did so. Indeed, there is much speculation currently doing the rounds in the industry that the majority of the truly horrific scare stories which had been appearing in newspapers such as the Daily Scum Mail, the Torygraph and, especially, the Gruniad over the last few weeks, based on suspiciously anonymous alleged 'quotes' by alleged 'sources' have, in fact, been deliberately placed by those close to the government to create the impression of an oncoming apocalypse for the Beeb. So that, when the actual announcement of the White Paper's contents came, the general consensus was 'oh, it's not as bad as we feared it might be. Could've been a lot worse.' The Independent even produced claims of 'a government climb down' over 'contentious' plans. Several newspapers, for example, had speculated that the vile and odious rascal Whittingdale would, in a bid to 'increase transparency', make the BBC publish how much it pays top talent earning more than one hundred and fifty thousand smackers. In the event, that was three times smaller than the actual pay figure announced. It is believed this - extremely small - group of individuals could include Top Gear host and radio DJ Chris Evans, Match Of The Day presenter Gary Lineker and chat-show host Graham Norton. At Sunday night's TV BAFTA awards, Wolf Hall director Peter Kosminsky was one of a number of media figures who spoke out bitterly against alleged government plans. He claimed that ministers were trying to 'eviscerate' the BBC and that now was 'a dangerous time for broadcasting in Britain.' Meanwhile, in a speech at the British Museum, the Prime Minister David Cameron said that the broadcaster was one of 'the most recognised brands on the planet,' whilst the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Lester of Herne Hill warned 'a public protest march' would follow any 'stupid' decisions in regards to the BBC's future. The White Paper had also been expected to address the conclusions of Sir David Clementi's - government-sponsored - report into the BBC Trust, which recommended 'fundamental reform' of the body. The document follows 2015's Green Paper, which was a consultation paper about the future of the corporation. In that, the vile and odious rascal Whittingdale said there was 'a need to ask some hard questions in Charter review if we are to ensure the future success of the BBC and, indeed, UK broadcasting. I believe the BBC can continue to thrive. But to do that it will need to evolve,' he said at the time. But, the story behind the year-long negotiations, launched with a 'declaration of war' on the BBC splashed across the Torygraph when the vile and odious rascal Whittingdale was appointed to the post, was always far more complicated than a vile and odious right-wing minister overruled by his bosses. The White Paper is the result of the government, as many governments of different political persuasions have in the past, attempting to exert more control over the nation's ninety three-year-old broadcaster only to find that fewer people than they expected were on their side. Concerns about what the vile and odious rascal Whittingdale was up to mounted among backbenchers. Up to twenty Tory MPs reportedly threatened a rebellion if BBC's independence was attacked. A day before the White Paper, respected Tories such as Jesse Norman, chair of the media select committee and Damian Green raised questions in the House about the likely impact on the BBC's editorial independence that left the vile and odious rascal Whittingdale squirming and assuring the House that he had no intention of telling the BBC where it had to schedule Strictly.

Following the announcement, the BBC's media correspondent David Silitoe reported, with regard to the publishing of top salaries, 'there is a concern it would make it easier for rival broadcasters to poach stars or that the scrutiny might put some stars off from working for the BBC.' However, what was most interesting, he added, were 'the things that aren't appearing' in the White Paper: 'No sign yet of "top slicing" – giving money away to other rival broadcasters. No mention of meddling in the schedules – telling the BBC when it can or can't put Strictly Come Dancing on a Saturday night.' It was also reported - by the BBC News website, no less - that alleged 'government sources' had allegedly suggested Cameron and George Osborne had been 'heavily involved' in the final draft of the White Paper. That they had 'basically reined in the culture department,' according to Newsnight's political editor Nicholas Watt. '[The government] has decided it doesn't want another row – it's got the junior doctors on its back, it's got the teachers on its back,' he said. 'And, the crucial thing they want to be able to say tomorrow is, "Yes we are protecting the BBC's historic independence."' The Spectator editor Fraser Nelson also speculated that Cameron was, personally, 'quite happy' with the BBC and 'baffled' by some of his more right-wing colleagues who 'loathe it' and everything it stands for. In a piece for the Toryraph, the columnist added that 'Cameron can't be bothered to take on the BBC' and suggested 'the hardest questions that the BBC needs to address will be left for another time.' It had been feared that the vile and odious rascal Whittingdale would only allow the BBC to appoint three of the thirteen-member board. Those plans were allegedly scrapped after Tory backbenchers warned of a revolt 'over attempts to stuff it with government acolytes,' according to Sky News. Another alleged 'government insider' allegedly quoted in the Gruniad allegedly said: 'The aim is for this to land somewhere in the middle. Fundamentalists will say this is a terrible assault on the BBC. The right-wing of the Tory party will say it doesn't go far enough. We will continue to make the case to government. It is vital for the future of the BBC that its independence is fully preserved.'

For an exercise billed as a far-reaching reform, what's most striking about the White Paper - at first glance, anyway - is how little should change fundamentally. At least in the short term. The licence fee remains, indexed to inflation rather than frozen as it has been for the past five years. It will still be a criminal offence not to pay it and this will be extended to cover the growing numbers of people who watch the BBC's iPlayer catch-up service rather than live or recorded television broadcasts, though it is not yet clear exactly how that will be policed. The proposal to abolish the BBC Trust and make Ofcom the corporation's regulator is, largely, uncontroversial despite this blogger's very low opinion of that particular politically appointed quango, elected by no-one. But where the BBC and the lack of culture secretary are still very much at odds is over the appointment by government of 'some' members of the new BBC board. The corporation believes this represents a potential threat to its cherished independence and the Director General said that the government and the BBC have 'an honest difference' on the matter. The BBC's critics, particularly its snitchy commercial rivals will probably be rather disappointed by the White Paper; they may have had hoped for more stringent measures to curb the corporation's ability to compete, especially online. The shadow lack of culture secretary claimed that most of what she called the vile and odious rascal Whittingdale's 'wilder proposals' had been 'watered down' or 'dumped' and that he had been 'overruled' by the Prime Minister and Chancellor. If that speculation is true and he was - which is perfectly possible - that was, perhaps, to avoid a political row which might divide Conservatives in the run up to the EU referendum. But the BBC will be given a new mission statement, not just to 'inform, educate and entertain' as it has done for ninety years, but to do so in a way that is 'impartial, high-quality and distinctive.' And, that brings us back to who, exactly, decides what is 'distinctive' and what isn't. The debate about balancing the BBC's need to be popular - after all, everyone pays for it through the licence fee, so everyone should, in theory, be entitled to get something from it - and its need to be 'distinctive' - because licence-fee funding is a peculiar privilege the BBC must earn by showing it is different from commercial broadcasters - has been going on for decades. This White Paper does not resolve it, nor does it reframe that debate in significantly different terms. So, expect further, in depth, discussions on the subject of 'distinctiveness' over the coming months and years. Peter Kosminsky, for example, said that he was 'not reassured at all' by the government's proposals to radically overhaul BBC governance, saying they could mean the BBC 'drifts dangerously close to becoming a state broadcaster.' The award-winning director told the Gruniad that plans for the government to appoint members of the new unitary board were 'an anathema' and represented 'a direct attack' on the corporation's editorial independence. 'Once we start to have that number of people on the editorial board put there by the government you can kiss goodbye to the BBC's reputation for independence.' To be frank, this blogger is with Kosminsky on that particular score. And, on several others. Some people seem to think that the BBC have, effectively, dodged a bullet with this Charter review. In an interview with Tony Hall, Laura Kuenssberg specifically asked whether Hall felt the Beeb had 'got away with it' on this occasion. Hall denied this but, personally, this blogger is nowhere near so sure. I think, in the small print and the double-speak about 'distinctiveness' we might, just, have seen the BBC's last remaining strands of its Reithian remit severed to within an inch of snapping. And, it seems Keith Telly Topping is not alone in this belief; Robert Peston, for instance, appears to be in broad agreement expression particular concern about the future role of the NAO in BBC policy. It might be a slow, lingering death of a thousand cuts with some fight in it but, come the next date for a Charter renewal, 2027, yer actual Keith Telly Topping wonders whether there will be anything left of his beloved BBC to renew.

Still, at least, the entire saga has kept the Gruniad Morning Star in a non-stop round of articles, op-ed pieces and commentary for the last week couple of weeks, all full of their usual mixture of fence-squatting, organising hard-hitting quiche mornings where Middle Class hippy Communists can whinge about things to their heart's content without having to actually do anything about it, employing full-of-his-own-importance Stewart Lee to talk shit for money and, you know, wilful speculation based - seemingly - on leaks by people with an agenda to mess their their heads. So, no change there, then. See for instance, this one. And this one. And this one. And this one. And this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this and this. Quite a collection, dear blog reader, I'm sure you'll agree. They mustn't have had any real news to report, clearly.

David Cameron has said he will ask the lack of culture secretary to 'investigate' an ITV drama based on the murder of a mother by her husband which has been made without her family's permission. So, it's nice to see the Tories' equal opportunity interference in matters of artistic concern that are absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with them. God save us all from politicians who want to be TV critics. The Secret, starring yer actual James Nesbitt, recounts the story of Bradford's mother, who was initially thought to have committed suicide in 1991 before it was discovered in 2009 that she had, in fact, been murdered by her husband and his lover. Haigh said that she had contacted ITV and regulator Ofcom, but 'as far as I can see no rules have been broken. I don't think anyone in this house can imagine the pain and suffering they have had to endure,' she said. 'They are having to relive this pain because ITV are dramatising the whole ordeal completely against their wishes, using not only the real names of her family but also her own. Does the Prime Minister not agree victims should have a far greater role in any accounting of their story?' Oily Cameron said that he 'remembered occasions' from his own time in the TV industry when 'decisions are made that can cause a huge amount of hurt and upset to families' and said he would ask the vile and odious rascal Whittingdale 'what could be done' about Bradford's case and any 'future instances.' Writing in the Grniad Morning Star earlier this month, Bradford described the 'additional trauma' created by the dramatisation: 'Behind the high viewing figures, whether for fiction or the coverage of real crimes, there are people living with murder-bereavement on a daily basis. And an intrusive media experience can often compound this original trauma. If deemed "a good enough story," private grief becomes public property.' An ITV spokeswoman said: 'ITV has a proud record of broadcasting award-winning factual dramas, based on or representing real events and people. The scripts for The Secret were based on an exhaustively researched book by a highly respected journalist as well as extensive additional research and the documented court cases, which have been widely reported in the media. The programme makers informed the families of the production and gave them the opportunity to see the series prior to broadcast. We have never suggested that they approved or authorised the drama. We do believe that we have conducted the making and broadcast of this series responsibly, in seeking to minimise distress to family members, in so far as we were able to do so, given the subject matter.'

The 'campaign group' Thirty Eight degrees has taken down a whinging petition calling for BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg to be sacked for daring to suggest that Labour didn't have a very good time of it in the local elections last week (which, as it happens, they didn't), saying it had become 'a focal point for misogynist abuse.' The majority of those signing and supporting the petition whinged about what they saw as 'biased reporting' of the Labour party and its leader, Jezza Corbyn, by Kuenssberg. However, some supporters on social media used abusive and sexist language in calling for the BBC's first female political editor to go. Which, incidentally, she's not going to or anything even remotely like it so, as usual, the whole point of online petitions has t be called into question. Thirty Eight Degrees executive director David Babbs said that the petition had been taken down 'with the agreement of the person who had posted it.' He said: 'I am really concerned that a petition hosted on the Thirty Eight Degrees website has been hijacked and used as a focal point for sexist and hateful abuse made towards Laura Kuenssberg on Twitter. That is totally unacceptable and, with the agreement of the petition starter, we've taken the petition down to prevent it being used in this way. There is no place in the Thirty Eight Degrees family for sexism or any form of discrimination or hate speech.' Prior to the petition being taken down, former Independent On Sunday political editor Jane Merrick told the Gruniad that Kuenssberg had faced 'an extra layer' of sexist criticism. 'She has been called "a whore" and "a bitch" on Twitter,' said Merrick. 'Nick Robinson used to be accused of Tory bias but he never experienced this level of nastiness. Of course, not all Corbyn supporters are sexist – far from it – but there is a core of hard-left misogyny that comes out against women when Corbyn is under pressure – such as the abuse against Stella Creasy and Jess Phillips. Jeremy Corbyn said back in September he wanted "a kinder politics" so he should condemn these vile attacks against a respected and experienced journalist.' The original poster of the petition had also tried to distance himself from those using it to make misogynistic attacks, writing in an update that he 'would like to reassure everyone that I am a passionate advocate for equality in all areas, not just gender equality.' Equality in all areas except having a view of the world that is different from his own it would seem. He added: 'This petition has precisely zero to do with Kuenssberg's gender. Regardless of the gender you identify with, there is no excuse for biased reporting and misrepresentation of facts when you represent an organisation that has been famed for its impartiality and balanced approach.'

The 'pathetic' protest against Sadiq Khan by Britain First's Paul Golding has been granted the honour of being so risible it had the piss taken out of it by Mad Frankie Boyle on a rather fine episode of Have I Got News For You on Friday. Mad Frankie, making his first appearance on the BBC in quite a while, said: 'There was quite a sad moment where Paul Golding, who's the head of Britain First, turned his back on Sadiq Khan during his acceptance speech. I thought it'd be good if he'd accidentally turned to face Mecca!'
Comedy line of the episode - and, indeed, the week - however, came from the always-reliable Ian Hislop on the subject of David Cameron calling the Nigerian government corrupt: 'What [the Nigerian President] demanded, he said "I don't want an apology, I'd like some of the money back." Because, most of the Nigerian money flows into Britain through British colonies and ends up in houses in London, schools, cars, dealerships and he's saying "if you could stop our Kleptocrats spending all the money in your tax havens, then perhaps that would be a start." And, at that point, Cameron remembered mum and dad ... and probably went a bit quiet.'
'This is the news that David Cameron and the Queen have been filmed making indiscreet comments about foreigners. This all came despite the fact that we're always being told the Royal Family are great for tourism and business,' added yer man Mad Frankie. 'Perhaps, if we had a country worth visiting we wouldn't have to parade the products of centuries of incest around to try and sell fridge magnets.'
Former Top Gear presenters Jezza Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May's new show on Amazon's streaming video service will be called The Grand Tour. Unveiling the name this week, yer man Clarkson suggested the new show would see them 'hosting each episode in a different country.' The trio, who will front three series on Amazon Prime, said that name suggestions from fans had been 'much appreciated.' Meanwhile, the BBC revealed the new Top Gear series, fronted by Chris Evans, Matt LeBlanc and some other people, will debut on 29 May. The BBC2 show announced its return on Twitter, shortly after The Grand Tour was introduced. The Grand Tour will launch this autumn and will be available to watch exclusively by Amazon Prime members. The 'round-the-world' format will allow customers of different nations to be in the audience as tickets are to be released through prize draws this summer. The name befits the presenters' wish to make a new show noticeably different from what they had presented before, which was mainly studio-based with pre-recorded segments and big set-pieces. Top Gear's long-time producer Andy Wilman also left the BBC last year to join the presenters on the Amazon show. In a tongue-in-cheek statement, Clarkson said: 'We'll be travelling the world hosting each episode in a different country. It's sort of a 'grand tour', if you like. So we've decided to call it The Grand Tour.' In response, Cap'n Slowly remarked that he was 'underwhelmed' by the name and had 'wanted to call it Nigel, or Roger. We needed a name and they're names,' he said. Hammond, by contrast, was more positive, saying: 'I already love camping, but this is something else. We are like our pioneering and prospecting forebears, sallying forth into a new frontier of broadcasting.'
Last Friday saw Chris Evans on the front of both the leading red-tops, as their row continued about whether BBC [is] too scared to stop bully Evans (the Sun) or Chris Evans isn't a bully ... He's a victim of a vile hate campaign (the Daily Mirra). Less keen on the story was the Daily Scum Mail, surprisingly given that it joined fully in the fun over the not-dissimilar predicament of Jezza Clarkson back in the day and is generally keen on anything offering a chance not only to trash egocentric, allegedly out-of-control celebrities with more money than them but, also, to bash the BBC. On the same day, however, it relegated the hullabaloo about Evans (BBC must act on 'vile, bullying' Chris Evans ... says his old friend) to page fifteen, making clear that it was, only reluctantly, following up distasteful red-top fodder by coyly crediting the piece to a - nameless - 'Daily Mail Reporter.' But then, the Scum Mail is awkwardly placed, since Evans is the car reviewer of its Sunday sister paper – indeed it was his Mail On Sunday credentials as much as his broadcasting experience that, it is claimed, put him in, ahem, pole position to be the new Clarkson.
The BBC's Tokyo correspondent, Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, has been expelled from North Korea, three days after he was detained in the capital, for showing disrespect, 'distorting facts and realities' and 'speaking ill' of its leader, Kim Jong-un. So, it's nice to see what it's not just in its own back yard that the BBC is abused by knobcheese dictators. Wingfield-Hayes was detained in Pyongyang on Friday of last week along with producer Maria Byrne and cameraman Matthew Goddard as they were about to leave North Korea, according to the BBC News website. Wingfield-Hayes was not among the dozens of foreign media organisations covering the Workers party's first congress in thirty six years; he had covered an earlier trip of Nobel laureates and had been scheduled to leave North Korea on Friday. China's official Xinhua news agency, which has a bureau in Pyongyang, said that the North's National Peace Committee had held a press conference on Monday saying Wingfield-Hayes had been expelled for 'attacking the DPRK system and non-objective reporting.' O Ryong-il, secretary-general of the committee - who is, obviously, not mental or anything - said the journalist's news coverage 'distorted facts' and 'spoke ill of the system and the leadership of the country.' He added that Wingfield-Hayes wrote an apology, was being expelled on Monday and would not be readmitted into the country. The broadcaster reportedly decided not to report the detention until it became apparent that Wingfield-Hayes and his colleagues would be expelled. The three BBC staff arrived in Beijing after their government minders brought them to Pyongyang airport. BBC reports said that Wingfield-Hayes was questioned for eight hours by North Korean officials and was 'made' to sign the apologetic statement. Reports said that North Korean officials were 'unhappy' about Wingfield-Hayes' coverage of a visit to a children's hospital in Pyongyang along with Nobel prize laureates. In the report, which was broadcast on BBC News last week, Wingfield-Hayes said that the patients at the hospital looked 'remarkably well and there isn't a real doctor in sight.' He added: 'Everything we see looks like a set-up.' Another BBC correspondent in Pyongyang, John Sudworth, said in a broadcast report that there was 'disagreement, a concern over the content of Rupert's reporting,' including questioning the authenticity of the hospital. 'When he reached the airport on Friday, he was separated from the rest of his team, prevented from boarding that flight, taken to a hotel and interrogated by the security bureau here in Pyongyang before being made to sign a statement and then released, eventually allowed to rejoin us here in this hotel,' Sudworth said. 'They were certainly very shaken,' he said, adding that Wingfield-Hayes had 'suddenly' found himself 'under a huge amount of pressure.' In another report, Wingfield-Hayes, who reported from Russia and China before moving to Japan, said of Kim Jong-un: 'What exactly he's done to deserve the title marshal is hard to say. On state TV, the young ruler seems to spend a lot of time sitting in a large chair watching artillery firing at mountainsides.' He didn't say, however, that Kim Jong-un has a very small penis (probably) which might help to explain all those missiles he keeps launching. Compensation, clearly. CNN's Tokyo-based correspondent Will Ripley, who is also in Pyongyang, said that references to Kim, who has ruled the state since late 2011, 'carried risks' for international journalists. 'Obviously, this is a very sensitive issue for all journalists who come into North Korea to report and the North Koreans take very seriously any comments made about their leader,' Ripley told CNN. The BBC's Stephen Evans, who is still in Pyongyang, said the North Korean leadership was 'displeased' with the broadcaster's depictions of life in the country's capital, during which foreign reporters are 'constantly supervised' by government-appointed interpreters. In his first report, Wingfield-Hayes said he was 'hoping for any chance to see North Korea "off script."' He added that on a previous visit to Pyongyang, 'I tried to sneak out to see a bit of Pyongyang street life ... a soldier jumped out of the bushes and ordered me to turn around.' 'We are very disappointed that our reporter Rupert Wingfield-Hayes and his team have been deported from North Korea after the government took offence at material he had filed,' the BBC said in a statement. 'Four BBC staff, who were invited to cover the Workers' Party Congress, remain in North Korea and we expect them to be allowed to continue their reporting.' And, interestingly, the British government said nothing about one of their citizens being detained by a foreign power for doing his job. Nah-thing. Odd that.

Robert Peston's new politics show on ITV attracted just one hundred and sixty six thousand overnight viewers on Sunday morning, a tenth of the 1.6 million punters who watched The Andrew Marr Show on BBC1. A guest line-up including the chancellor, George Osborne, and broadcaster Louis Theroux did not keep viewers indoors on the hottest day of the year. The programme was scheduled to start immediately after its BBC rival, from 10am, during which it also performed worse than BBC1's than Big Questions, which attracted more than seven hundred thousand viewers for an hour-long special on the legacy of the British Empire. The chance to front his own show was one of the deciding factors in Pestinfestation's move from BBC business editor to become ITV's new political editor last year. Reviewers have welcomed a more relaxed approach than its BBC rival, with guests including Osborne appearing without ties and comments Peston on how nervous he was on the show's debut. The programme has also made audience participation central to its attempts to distinguish itself from Marr, with tweets displayed on a TV called Screeny McScreenface in reference to the wholly media-created 'controversy' over the naming of the UK's new research vessel. As Mark Lawson wrote in the Gruniad on Sunday: 'Despite showing promising signs, amid inevitable first-morning nerves, of being lively and likeable, Peston On Sunday risks winning the energy medal but losing the ratings war to the tie-knotted, old technology Marr.' A repeat of Murder She Wrote, which was broadcast from 10.25am to 11.20am in the same slot the previous week was seen by three hundred and thirteen thousand people, nearly double Peston's audience. ITV 'sources' suggested that the heatwave which struck the country had led to many people abandoning the television to head outside, but a repeat of The Jeremy Kyle Show, which immediately followed Peston On Sunday, was watched by two hundred and eleven thousand viewers.

Meanwhile, the political sketch writer Quentin Letts has grovellingly apologised for an article he wrote mocking the disability of Andrew Marr. In a Daily Scum Mail review of Peston On Sunday, Letts described Marr as 'Captain-Hop-Along, growling away on BBC1, throwing his arm about like a tipsy conductor.' Marr, of course, had a stroke in January 2013. Letts tweeted his apology after an article from media commentator Roy Greenslade appeared in the Gruniad Morning Star. Greenslade said in his article, called It Isn't Funny Or Smart For Quentin Letts To Poke Fun At Andrew Marr: 'I don't want to come off all namby-pamby.' (Bit late for that, Roy, mate. You work for the Gruniad, namby-pamby kind of goes with the territory.) 'I understand that no-one should be beyond criticism and that Letts was exercising his right to press freedom. But really Quentin, that was a graceless remark.' He then called for Letts to apologise. Letts admitted his comments about 'the admirable Marr' were 'horrid.' His tweet of apology was met with comments below it, calling him 'utterly disgraceful' and 'appalling.' The Daily Scum Mail article appeared in both the print copy of the newspaper and its online version. Marr's wife, the journalist Jackie Ashley, tweeted about Letts' article, criticising the message it sent out to disabled people. The Stroke Association said: 'A stroke is not a joke. Stroke survivors deserve our respect and support and Andrew Marr deserves an apology,' before encouraging people make complaints to the Independent Press Standards Organisation. In a statement to the BBC, the Independent Press Standards Organisation said: 'we have received a total of eleven complaints about the article. All of the complaints are under Clause twelve (Discrimination), with one or two also citing Clause one (Accuracy) or Clause four (Intrusion into grief or shock). It is IPSO policy not to comment on the identity of individual complainants, so I am unable to confirm the names of anyone who has contacted us on this article.'

A series of letters have been published revealing glimpses into the early life of Sir David Attenborough. The broadcaster, who recently turned ninety, lived on the campus of the former University College Leicester with his family, during the 1940s. The letters written by his father, the college's principal, speak of his son's ambitions and show how David's father withheld consent for David joining the Home Guard. The University of Leicester have shared the documents for the first time. The letter includes the line: 'My second son, David, hopes to be a geologist.' Doctor Simon Dixon from the university's special collections department said: 'We don't know very much about David and Richard back then as no-one knew what they would go on to do. But what's nice about these letters is they tell you about David's ambitions and interest in geology and the way his father supported his career, trying to find opportunities for him.' In one letter sent to Professor Henry Swinnerton of University College, Nottingham, in 1944, Frederick Attenborough speaks of David's love of botany and zoology. Another of Frederick Attenborough's letters reveals how he withheld consent for his son to enrol in the AA Battery of the Home Guard during World War Two. He said: 'He is to take the Higher Schools Certificate Examination shortly and his future plans are uncertain.' Sir David and his brother, the actor and film director Richard, used the campus as their playground and stories abound about what they go up to. Doctor Dixon said that Richard once locked his younger brother in a padded cell of a former Victorian asylum which was on the campus and there is also a story about Sir David selling newts to the zoology department for three pence each.
Charles Gurassa, the new chairman of Channel Four, said that continued uncertainty about its future was 'not helpful,' in comments that could be regarded as critical of the government's handling of the state-owned broadcaster's possible privatisation. And, indeed, are. Addressing his first press conference to launch the channel's annual report this week, Gurassa urged the government to 'make up its mind' after further leaks on Tuesday suggested that 'partial' privatisation was 'still on the cards' as well as a move outside London. 'From a Channel Four perspective what is not helpful is prolonged uncertainty,' he said, adding news that the government was considering privatisation of the commercially funded broadcaster first emerged as long ago as last autumn. 'Prolonged uncertainty is not good for any organisation, it's not good for staff, business partners or advertisers who are all asking the same questions you're asking, what is going to happen. My encouragement to government is you have the information, we will happily engage on any options that you will consider, but it will be good to get to a position where we can move on and be clear,' he said. He refused to discuss the merits of a partial privatisation as the government had not even spoken of these plans. 'The government is said to be looking at various options ... we don't really know what it means.' Appointed earlier this year, Gurassa's previous involvement in privatisations had led to speculation that he may have been brought in specifically to sell off the channel. However, in answer to questions, he offered support for the broadcaster's existing structure, which he described as 'a very good model.' He described Channel Four as 'a brilliant organisation for attracting private capital.' Speaking about mooted plans to sell off the broadcaster's landmark headquarters in Central London, he pointed out that with two hundred and fifty million knicker in reserves the group's finances were 'in good shape.' The Channel Four chief executive, David Abraham, 'declined to comment' on reports that the broadcaster 'could' be made to 'move North,' saying that it had already expanded its operations in Manchester and Glasgow. Channel Four is to present new investment plans before the end of this year.

In an interview with the Dallas Morning News, the actor Harry Goaz has revealed that yer actual David Bowie was set to appear in Showtime's star-studded Twin Peaks revival before his death earlier this year. The Grand Dame her very self previously appeared in a memorable cameo in the 1992 spin-off film the fantastically weird Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me as Agent Phillip Jeffries and would have reprised that role in the 2017 reboot. Other notable musicians in the cast of the revival include Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor (a close friend of The Late Bowmeister), Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder and Sky Ferreira.
Castle, The Muppets and Nashville are among the shows that have been cancelled in a cull by US TV networks. The cancellation of Castle after eight seasons follows a right old load of shenanigans and malarkey over the departure of one of the main cast, Stana Katic amid weeks of bad press and - unconfirmed - reports of some cast members being signed for a potential ninth series and others, not. Anyway, now it's gone. Country music-themed soap Nashville will come to an end later this month after four seasons on ABC. The network also dropped The Muppets, the series set behind the scenes of Miss Piggy's TV talk show, after only one season 'due to poor ratings.' Other cancellations that have been announced include The Family, The Grinder and Bordertown. And, after much speculation, Marvel's Agent Carter, starring Hayley Atwell, has been dropped by ABC after two seasons. The drama gathered a devoted fan-following but did not achieve ratings success in the US. ABC also announced that it wouldn't be proceeding with a planned production of Marvel's Most Wanted - a spin-off to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. CBS announced the cancellation of CSI: Cyber, the network's last remaining CSI series. It is likely that further shows will be dropped by networks in the coming days, in an annual clean-up of schedules as networks make way for new shows. The five major US broadcast channels will pitch pilot episodes for up to one hundred new shows to advertisers later this month. Successful shows will then have full or part series commissioned, which will begin in the autumn. Unsuccessful ones ... won't. Castle told the story of mystery novelist Richard Castle played by Nathan Fillion, who begins working with the police after a copycat murder based on one of his novels is committed. Andrew W Marlowe, the show's creator, said: 'To the whole Castle family - our amazing cast, our remarkable crew, our imaginative writers and our wonderful fans, thank you for eight amazing years.' Hayden Panettiere and Connie Britton play two rival country singers in musical drama Nashville, the final episode of which will be shown in the US later this month. Creator Callie Khouri tweeted: 'With a heavy heart, I thank all our incredible fans for all of your love, huge thanks to the city of Nashville. See you on down the road.' Rob Lowe, who starred in The Grinder, said the show was 'unapologetically original, smart, funny and had a murderer's row of talent. The great news is, that film is forever. And I'm thrilled to have twenty two episodes that were as acclaimed as they were. Time well spent,' he added.

Hayley Atwell fans still reeling from the news that Agent Carter has been axed in this week's annual US TV bloodbath may take some comfort in knowing that she will be back on our screens very soon. While Peggy Carter is no more, Atwell will stay on ABC next TV season in a new drama Conviction, where she plays lawyer and former first daughter Hayes Morrison - and a new trailer has just been released. Hayes is trying to stay out of jail for cocaine possession and also not damage her mother's bid to be elected to the Senate and so accepts a job from the New York District Attorney Wayne Wallis (played by Eddie Cahill).​ Also starring are Shawn Ashmore as Sam Sullivan, Merrin Dungey as Maxine, Emily Kinney as Tess Thompson, Manny Montan as Franklin Rios and Daniel DiTomasso as Jackson Morrison.
One series that hasn't been cancelled is Supergirl which is officially coming back - but it will be moving from CBS to The CW. A network swap was announced on Thursday, meaning Supergirl will now be shown on the same channel as fellow DC Comics shows Arrow, The Flash and Legends Of Tomorrow. Talks between The CW and CBS had been on-going for several weeks, even going past CBS's planned Wednesday deadline for deciding on Supergirl's future. One stumbling block was a potential budget cut in moving to The CW, but producers are now slashing costs by shifting production from Los Angeles to Vancouver. Such a move will mean that Supergirl's production base will be in the same city where Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow all currently shoot. A connection between The Flash and Supergirl was already explored in a crossover episode earlier this series, when Barry Allen became temporarily trapped in Kara's alternate version of Earth. It remains to be seen on which night of the week Supergirl will take up on The CW's already-packed primetime line-up.
Don't be too sad about Michael Weatherly's impending NCIS departure, because he might be back some day. The long-time cast member is set to bow out of the popular CBS procedural drama next week, after playing Tony DiNozzo for thirteen highly-rated seasons. However, he's now telling Deadline that Tony's story 'may' not completely wrap up in next week's episode. 'I believe in the franchise of NCIS very much,' he stressed. 'I would absolutely be open to anything and everything, including things that no-one's even thought of yet.' Weatherly also teased that Cote de Pablo's popular character Ziva David will have a major impact on the episode, even if the actress herself does not appear. 'I think the audience will feel very strongly that she's in the episode in a way that might be a little Shakespearean but it's real, and I think it's going to be a very exciting time for fans of that relationship,' he said. 'Bring a box of whatever you need, bring a change of clothing. You might not be able to go to work the next day. I think it's more than [her being dead or alive after a terror attack], a lot more. I would almost say you're going to finish the episode and then go back and watch it again.' Weatherly is sticking with CBS for the upcoming pilot Bull, a legal drama in which he will play a fictional version of Doctor Phil McGraw.
Still Game is returning almost a decade since its last series. A new six-part series of the popular Scottish comedy written and starring Greg Hemphill and Ford Kiernan will be shown later this year on BBC1, with the original cast returning to their roles. It will be filmed over the summer at a purpose-built set in BBC Scotland's Dumbarton Studios. 'We're super happy to come back with the show - we had no idea how much it had been missed until we played the Hydro,' Kiernan told BBC News. 'Myself and Greg are really excited about getting the gang together again and we are putting our all in to make our fantastic audience feel like we've never been away.'

Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston is to star in a new ten-part science fiction series on Channel Four, called Electric Dreams: The World Of Philip K Dick, from Battlestar Galactica's Ronald D Moore. Cranston, recently seen on the big screen in Oscar-nominated Trumbo, will executive produce and star in the series based on the celebrated SF author's work. Each episode will be a stand-alone drama adapted and made contemporary by a team of British and American writers, 'both illustrating Philip K Dick's prophetic vision and celebrating the enduring appeal of his work.' Dick's novels have long been adapted for both TV and film, including Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which became Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, which was adapted as Total Recall with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Minority Report, which became the film of the same name directed by Steven Spielberg. Another, The Man in the High Castle, was recently adapted by Scott for US on-demand service, Amazon Prime. Cranston said: 'This is an electric dream come true. We are so thrilled to be able to explore and expand upon the evergreen themes found in the incredible work of this literary master.' Moore, who reimagined rotten 1970s SF series Battlestar Galactica to much acclaim - this blogger was a big fan of the remake - will write and executive produce the series along with Michael Dinner (Justified, Masters Of Sex) which will be made by Sony Pictures Television. 'As a long-time fan of Philip K Dick's work, it is a tremendous honour and thrill to be part of this series,' he said. 'His short stories are a treasure-trove of material for artists to draw from and I think this will be a very exciting project.' Channel Four chief creative officer, Jay Hunt, said: 'Philip K Dick's short stories have shaped iconic Hollywood films from Blade Runner to Minority Report. Electric Dreams: The World Of Philip K Dick will adapt and modernise his singular vision for a TV audience. We are thrilled to be partnering with the talented team at Sony Pictures Television on an anthology series that brings together global stars of the calibre of Bryan Cranston and Ronald D Moore.' Channel Four's SF series Humans, starring Katherine Parkinson, Gemma Chan and William Hurt, was the channel's biggest original drama hit for twenty years and will return for a second series later this year. Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror was another Channel Four SF hit, but it will not return to the station after it was bought up my Netflix, much to the broadcaster's chagrin. And, Brooker's delight since this will, presumably, make him loads of coin. Let's see if me makes any trademark cynical comments about that. Another of the new show's executive producers is Dick's daughter, Isa Dick Hackett, who also worked on The Man In The High Castle. 'I'm thrilled to be working with this exceptional team to bring my father's short stories to life,' she said. 'Often the source for big, high concept feature films, these short stories represent some of the most dazzling conceptual work of his career, and the fact that they will be adapted by such a diverse set of creative voices is truly an honour.'

A Japanese court has found an artist not guilty for displaying a kayak based on the shape of her own vagina. The judge ruled that Megumi Igarashi's brightly-coloured kayak sculpture did not 'immediately suggest female anatomy.' However, she was fined four hundred thousand yen after the judge ruled that she broke the law by sharing data from 3D scans of her genitalia, which 'could' be used to 'recreate the shape of a vagina.' Which is illegal, apparently. Who knew? Japan's strict obscenity laws prohibit public displays of genitalia. Igarashi, who goes by the alias Rokudenashiko, or 'good-for-nothing girl,' was very arrested in 2014 after the kayak sculpture was displayed at a sex shop in Tokyo. She was charged under obscenity laws for displaying the sculpture and for distributing the data behind it to those who donated money towards its creation. On Monday, a judge decided that the bright colours and decorations applied to the kayak 'sufficiently disguised' the origin of its shape. But the data, despite having no discernible shape, 'could' be used to faithfully recreate Igarashi's front-bottom using a 3D printer if one was of a mind to do such a thing and, therefore, was obscene, the judge said. Igarashi's fine was only about half the eight hundred thousand yen penalty sought by the prosecution. Igarashi was first arrested in 2014 but released after several days following a legal appeal and a petition signed by more than seventeen thousand people. But police rearrested her shortly afterwards, along with the owner of the sex shop which displayed the offending sculpture. The case has sparked a debate on the nature of censorship and Japan's obscenity laws. Japan has a large - and very - lucrative porn industry but bans the depiction of genitalia, leading adult film distributors to pixellate the offending anatomical areas in their productions.

Atomic oxygen has been detected on Mars by NASA and could lead to scientists learning more about its atmosphere and how other gases escape the red planet. Scientists found the atoms in the upper layers of Mars atmosphere using an instrument on board the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, according to a NASA press release. SOFIA, a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Centre, is a Boeing 747SP jetliner modified to carry a one hundred-inch diameter telescope. CNN said the SOFIA jet was able to fly up to forty five thousand feet, above the moisture in Earth's atmosphere that blocks infrared wavelength detection, helping make the discovery. 'Atomic oxygen in the Martian atmosphere is notoriously difficult to measure,' said Pamela Marcum, a SOFIA project scientist. 'To observe the far-infrared wavelengths needed to detect atomic oxygen, researchers must be above the majority of Earth's atmosphere and use highly sensitive instruments, in this case a spectrometer. SOFIA provides both capabilities.' The work on distinguishing oxygen from Earth from the Martian atmosphere was first written about in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics last year. 'For the first time, a far-infrared transition of the atomic oxygen line was detected in the atmosphere of Mars,' said the study. 'The lack of other means for monitoring the atomic oxygen in the Martian upper atmosphere makes future observations with the SOFIA observatory highly desirable.' NASA said that scientists used the German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies (and, yes, the acronym for that is, indeed 'GREAT') to make the recognition between oxygen from Earth and that found in the Martian atmosphere. 'Atomic oxygen affects how other gases escape Mars and therefore has a significant impact on the planet's atmosphere,' NASA said. 'Scientists detected only about half the amount of oxygen expected, which may be due to variations in the Martian atmosphere. Scientists will continue to use SOFIA to study these variations to help better understand the atmosphere of the red planet.'

Yer actual Stone Roses have released their first single in twenty one years, an upbeat psych-rock song called 'All For One'. The song's fluid guitar riff and optimistic lyrics pick up more or less exactly where the band left off in 1995. It debuted on Annie Mac's BBC Radio 1 show at 8pm on Thursday and was made available to buy and stream immediately after. The release ends years of speculation and is expected to herald a third CD by the influential Mancunian band. Hints about the song first appeared at the start of the week, when The Stone Roses' lemon logo appeared on billboards in and around Manchester. On Thursday afternoon, they announced the single's imminent arrival on Twitter, but gave no clues as to the name or style of the song. Band members had discussed new material ever since they reformed in 2011, but nothing has emerged until now. Speaking in 2011, singer Ian Brown said: 'It's not a trip down memory lane, not at all. We are doing new songs.' Last year, bassist Mani said that the band had 'been working on a few bits' and a new CD was coming in '2015 man, 2015!' And, in March 2016, Brown confirmed to the NME that the quartet were in the studio with Paul Epworth who had previously worked with Adele, Primal Scream, Florence & The Machine and Paul McCartney his very self. 'It's going like a dream,' he said. 'It sounds glorious.' Fans who had spotted The Stone Roses visiting Epworth's Church Studios in North London were previously told the band was 'rehearsing for upcoming shows' at T In The Park, Madison Square Garden and Manchester's Etihad Stadium. Supposedly named after a novel by Sarah Gainham (or, according to another legend, The Jam song 'English Rose'), the band were at the forefront of the so-called 'Madchester' indie scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s, which also spawned the likes of The Happy Mondays and The Charlatans. And Candy Flip but, to be fair, they can't be blamed for that. They scored hits with songs including 'Fools Gold', 'One Love', 'I Wanna Be Adored', 'She Bangs The Drums', 'I Am The Resurrection' and 'Love Spreads' - their biggest single, reaching number two in the UK charts in 1994. Their eponymous 1989 LP is - rightly - regarded as a seminal work, combining psychedelic pop and funky rhythms. The Byrds with James Brown's drummer, basically. God, it was good. Legal wranglings as they tried to part company with their original record label kept the band occupied until 1991, after which they took another three years to produce the follow-up, Second Coming, a harder, more dense and overproduced record - Led Zeppelin with James Brown's drummer - though it still had moments of genius. Drummer Reni quit in 1995, followed months later by guitarist John Squire. The band struggled on for another six months with former Simply Red guitarist Aziz Ibrahim and other session men before finally splitting up against a backdrop of internal arguments and legal cases. Frontman Brown went on to pursue a solo career while bassist Mani joined Primal Scream. Squire formed his own band The Seahorses, who were quite successful in the short-term, and has also forged a career as an artist. Their 2011 reunion was triggered by the death of Mani's mother, as well as a détente between Brown and Squire, but recording sessions seemed to have been fruitless - with the band presumably wary of tarnishing their legacy. Nonetheless, they became a bankable live act. Fans snapped up one hundred and fifty thousand tickets for their first two reunion shows in Manchester's Heaton Park in summer 2012 in just fourteen minutes.

What could be more American than chowing down on a nice juicy heart-attack burger? What if there was rat DNA in the mix? In a newly released Hamburger Report by Clear Labs, scientist say that human DNA, rat DNA and 'other discrepancies' were found in some of the burgers they tested. Clear Labs tested two hundred and fifty eight samples from seventy nine brands and twenty two retailers from retailers and fast food chains in Northern California. The sample was, they claim, 'representative of both national brands and brands on the West Coast.' Using next-generation genomic sequencing and 'other third party tests,' Clear Labs screened for authenticity, major, medium, and minor substitution, contamination, gluten, toxigenic fungi and toxic plants, other allergens and missing ingredients. 'We also examine products for nutrition content accuracy, such as calories, carbs, fat, and protein. All of our tests are run through a secondary analysis pipeline and scrubbed for statistical accuracy and error,' said Clear Labs. Of the two hundred and fifty eight samples, Clear Labs says that human DNA was found in one - allegedly 'vegetarian' - burger and rat DNA was found in one fast food burger, one vegetarian burger and one ground meat sample. While unpleasant, it's important to note that it is unlikely human DNA (or rat DNA for that matter) is harmful to consumer health. 'What many consumers don't know is that some amounts of human and rat DNA may fall within an acceptable regulatory range,' said the company, helpfully. Also detailed in the report was the problem with substitution and missing ingredients. 'Our tests revealed evidence of substitution in sixteen products, or 6.6 per cent of all samples. We found beef in five samples, chicken in four samples, turkey in three samples, pork in two samples, rye in two samples and sunchoke in one sample that were not supposed to contain these ingredients.' According to scientists, sunchoke, or also known as 'fartichoke' contains the carbohydrate inulin, which can cause 'serious gas and bloating.' 'Sensitivity to inulin varies from person to person, however our methodology does not reveal how much inulin is in a sample of sunchoke,' said the company. Clear Labs called the absence of ingredients 'an issue of food quality,' and an indication that a brand may have serious gaps in its supply chain. 'This report provides new insights into the burger product industry to give suppliers, manufacturers, and retailers a representative overview of the supply chain at large and provides insights based on an objective molecular analysis into how we can strengthen the good and improve the bad,' said the company.

Italy's highest court has ruled that the theft of a sausage and a piece of cheese by a homeless man in 2011 did not constitute a crime because he was 'in desperate need of nourishment.' The high court judges in the Court of Cassation found that Roman Ostriakov, a young homeless man who had bought a bag of breadsticks from a supermarket but had slipped a wurstel and some cheese into his pocket, had 'acted out of an immediate need' by stealing 'a minimal amount of food' and, therefore, had not committed a crime. The case - which drew comparisons to the story of Jean Valjean, the hero of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables - was hailed in some media reports as an act of humanity at a time when hundreds of Italians are being added to the roster of the country's 'hungry' every day, despite improvements in the economy. One columnist writing in La Stampa said that, for supreme court judges, the right to survive still trumped property rights, a fact that would be considered 'blasphemy in America.' But others commented that the case highlighted Italy's notoriously inefficient legal system, in which the theft of food valued at about €4.70 was the subject of a three-part trial – the first hearing, the appeal and the final supreme court ruling – to determine whether the defendant had in fact committed a crime. 'Yes, you read that right,' an opinion column in Corriere Della Sera said, 'in a country with a burden of €60bn in corruption per year, it took three degrees of proceedings to determine "this was not a crime."' Ostriakov, who was described as a homeless thirty-year-old from Ukraine, had been sentenced to six months in jail and a one hundred Euro fine by a lower court in Genoa, but that punishment was overturned. 'The supreme court has established a sacrosanct principle: a small theft because of hunger is in no way comparable to an act of delinquency, because the need to feed justifies the fact,' Carlo Rienzi, President of Codacons, an environmental and consumer rights group, told Il Mesaggero. 'In recent years the economic crisis has increased dramatically the number of citizens, especially the elderly, forced to steal in supermarkets to be able to make ends meet.' Rienzi said that in such cases the real offence was caused by the state because of its abandonment of the poor, which it turned into food thieves. The decision will likely please Italy's most vociferous champion of the homeless: Pope Francis. The Vatican announced this week that the Pope would be welcoming thousands of homeless people and others who live on the margins of society to Rome in November, which will mark the closing of the jubilee year of mercy. Recent studies found that one in four people in Italy risk poverty or social exclusion. Another report by Noi Italia, based on 2013 data, confirmed the scale of the economic devastation facing Italians following years of recession and economic stagnation.

Even celebrity vegans can't resist pizza every now and again, it would seem - no matter what the consequences may be. Early last year, the staff at New York's now-closed raw-food vegan restaurant Pure Food & Wine walked out of the job, claiming that owner Sarma Melngailis hadn't paid them, or even showed up to the restaurant, in weeks. When Melngailis did resurface, she claimed that during her time away she was 'spending one hundred per cent of every waking moment trying to find a solution' to her financial problems and that, with the help of outside investors, she was going to right the ship. But last August, the owner suddenly vanished again - this time, it seemed, for good. In fact, she had been missing ever since and the lawsuits were piling up in her absence. But this week, detectives in Sevierville, Tennessee, caught up with Melngailis and an accomplice, Anthony Strangis. Authorities say that they were able to track down Melngailis, who has also written several cookbooks, after she and Strangis ordered a Domino's pizza to the hotel where the couple was staying. A vegetarian pizza, one would hope. Now Melngailis is facing charges of grand larceny, criminal tax fraud, scheme to defraud and violation of labour laws. Strangis, meanwhile, faces similar charges.

Sheep privacy matters, too it would seem. At least that's what the West Midlands Police believe. The police force jokingly blurred the faces of a group of stolen sheep found in the back of a truck. In a blog post titled, Sheep rustling suspects behind baa-rs after police chase, the West Midlands Police described the incident, where a group of sheep discovered in the back of a Ford Galaxy was rescued and taken into police care. They chose to blur the sheep's faces. 'The identity of the lambs has been protected due to their age and vulnerability,' the photo caption reads. For anyone who didn't quite get it, they added a helpful '(It's a joke!)' A spokesperson from West Midlands Police explained that the blurred image was originally uploaded to social media by an officer. After receiving requests for the original they took the blurred version down while trying to contact the officer, but due to them being on annual leave they were unable to do so.
In an alleged case of a lacrosse team's bonding being taken to a bloody extreme, the alleged violence was not aimed at humans but at a small animal, possibly a guinea pig. At least ten members of a high school lacrosse team in Michigan have been questioned about the possible guinea pig slaying, Detroit's Fox 2 News reports. A few students purportedly painted their faces with the animal's blood. The Grosse Ile High School lacrosse players, one unnamed source snitched to Fox 2, killed the animal prior to a match. Whatever the Grosse Ile Red Devils were hoping to achieve, it failed, as the rival Dexter Dreadnaughts [sic] won thirteen to six. On Monday, 'an individual' approached the Grosse Ile School District with 'information that one or more members of the District's lacrosse team engaged in cruelty to an animal,' reads a statement from the superintendent, Joanne Lelekatch, which was reprinted by the Detroit-area news outlet Local 4 and, later, picked up by the Washington Post. 'Allegedly, some of the team members got together before a game and killed an animal,' Joseph Porcerelli, the chief of police for Grosse Ile Township, wrote in an e-mail to the Detroit Free Press. 'This incident is an open investigation.' The Grosse Ile Township's police department confirmed via phone to the Washington Post that there is 'an ongoing investigation' into the lacrosse team, but declined to comment further. If the animal was, indeed, a guinea pig or another vertebrate, it is protected from cruelty under Michigan law. According to the state's penal code, the 'owner, possessor, or person having the charge or custody of an animal shall not' beat the animal, nor 'negligently allow any animal, including one who is aged, diseased, maimed, hopelessly sick, disabled, or non-ambulatory to suffer unnecessary neglect, torture, or pain.' Last winter, a Michigan woman plead very guilty to animal cruelty charges after abandoning her pets, including a guinea pig that starved to death. Parents and students in the township told Local 4 that 'several, but not all,' of the lacrosse players were involved in 'a sacrifice' of the animal, going as far to claim that a few smeared their faces with its remains; one member of the Red Devils, according to the allegations, ingested the animal's blood. All further Red Devils lacrosse games have been suspended, said superintendent Lelekatch, pending the results of the police investigation. Grosse Ile local Michael Goddard told television station WJBK, 'If that's what happened, I think maybe more than suspension should happen. That's the serial killer kind of stuff.' It is not the first time high school athletes have been accused of animal sacrifice. In 2011, a pair of teenage baseball players in Texas were charged with animal cruelty after killing two baby chickens. Both were dismissed from the sports team.

A Scotsman who 'provoked outrage' after filming his girlfriend's dog responding to Nazi slogans has been very arrested by Lanarkshire police according to the Torygraph. Earlier this year Markus Meechan uploaded a video of the dog, a pug named Buddah, responding to the phrase 'gas the Jews,' raising its paw in an imitation Nazi salute when it heard the words 'Sieg Heil,' and viewing footage of Hitler giving a speech. In the Youtube clip, titled M8 Yer Dugs A Nazi, Meechan says: 'My girlfriend is always ranting and raving about how cute her dog is so I thought I would turn her into the least cute thing you could think of which is a Nazi.' When the video was first uploaded, Meechan denied being racist and insisted that he had made the video solely to 'annoy' his girlfriend, saying: 'I am so sorry to the Jewish community for any offence I have caused them. This was never my intention and I apologise.' However, a spokeswoman for the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities told the Daily Mirra: 'Antisemitism is not something that can in any degree be regarded as a joke. It is a form of racism which needs to be condemned just as we would any other form of racism, just as we would condemn Islamophobia or anti-African racism.' Ephraim Borowski, director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities added: 'To regard the meticulously planned and industrialised murder of six million people solely on the grounds of their ethnicity as a joke is outrageous and for someone who does so to claim not to be racist, beggars belief.' It has now emerged that Meechan was arrested on 28 April at his house in Coatbridge. He was subsequently released pending further investigations. What, exactly, he was charged with is not, at this time known. Detective Inspector David Cockburn of Lanarkshire CID said: 'This clip was shared online and has been viewed almost one million times. I would ask anyone who has had the misfortune to have viewed it to think about the pain and hurt the narrative has caused a minority of people in our community. The clip is deeply offensive and no reasonable person can possibly find the content acceptable in today's society. This arrest should serve as a warning to anyone posting such material online, or in any other capacity, that such views will not be tolerated.'

Politely holding a door open for a police officer has landed a Massachusetts man in jail. Authorities say that Kayvon Mavaddat was at the Natick Mall on Friday when he held the door for the leaving officer. That officer thought that Mavaddat's face looked familiar and so went to check his car's computer. The officer found there were three warrants out for Mavaddat's arrest - for heroin possession, shoplifting and driving with a suspended license. Unlucky, mate. Still, that's what being polite gets you. The officer immediately returned to the mall and arrested Mavaddat. The MetroWest Daily News reports that twenty eight-year-old Mavaddat was held without bail at his arraignment Monday when his probation officer told the judge he routinely skips court dates, court-ordered drug tests and fails to pay probation fees. Mavaddat's lawyer argued for release, saying he has a job now and can pay the fees.

On 7 May, Marcus Daniel Allen, twenty, from Gainesville, Georgia was 'found passed out drunk' by a family member whilst at home babysitting his three-year old son according to media reports. The toddler was seen to be 'moving lethargically' and 'smelling of alcohol,' the family member thus decided to contact the police. When the police arrived they discovered Allen had been drinking a fruity cocktail through a straw and when he had passed out drunk, his son took sips of the alcoholic beverage, leaving the child in an intoxicated state. Both father and son were taken to the hospital where it had been discovered that the three-year-old's blood-alcohol intoxication level was twice that of the legal driving limit for an adult, which is over 0.16 per cent and another sip of alcohol could have potentially killed the toddler. Reported by WXIA, Gainesville Police Deputy Chief Jay Parrish told the station. 'Had the child ingested more alcohol, it could have been fatal.' Whilst in hospital the father of the child, tried to make an escape through the car park but was apprehended by the police. Allen was subsequently arrested and charged with a felony count of child cruelty and because he is, himself, under the legal drinking age in America, he has also been charged with drinking whilst under the legal age limit. The three-year-old is said to be recovering with his mother.

Radiohead have scored their sixth number one CD with A Moon Shaped Pool. Hopefully, that might help to cheer the miserable buggers up.
Some really sad news to finish this bloggerisationisms update; Tony Cozier - the iconic commentator for the BBC's Test Match Special - has died at the age of seventy five. Tony's death was confirmed on Wednesday by his long-time employer, the BBC. Tony was a batsman and wicketkeeper in club cricket in Barbados prior to becoming one of the sport's leading voices. A familiar and respected broadcaster around the world, the Barbadian will be remembered for a career in TV, radio and journalism spanning almost sixty years. Winston Anthony Lloyd Cozier was born in Bridgetown in 1940, he made his Test Match Special debut in 1966 covering that year's West Indies tour to England. He also wrote many books on the sport. He would later work for both Sky Sports and Channel Nine in Australia throughout his fifty eight-year career. BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew said: 'Tony was the master of going between TV and radio ball-by-ball commentary. He's easily the best I've come across in twenty five years at being able to do both discipline.' The son of a prominent journalist, Jimmy, Cozier studied journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa and began commentating and writing on West Indian cricket in 1958. He played hockey as a goalkeeper for Barbados and cricket as an opening batsman and keeper for two Barbados clubs, Wanderers and Carlton. But he became a household name through his work with major media organisations throughout the world. He first came to England in 1963 on a shoestring and reported on a memorable summer of cricket, in which the West Indies defeated England. He once described this experience of another age of sports journalism. 'Frank Worrell was the captain. Sobers, Hall and Griffith were there. These were fellas who I played with in Barbados at club level so I knew them. A lot of them were my age. I virtually became part of the team.' Tony, though not a first-class cricketer, had opened the batting for the Wanderers which, in the 1960s, required considerable skill and courage. That experience always informed his commentary. In December 2011, he was awarded honorary life membership of the Marylebone Cricket Club for services to the game and the media centre at the Kensington Oval in Barbados is named after him. Aside from his on-air work, he also wrote an acclaimed history of the sport in his home country under the title The West Indies: Fifty Years Of Test Cricket. His is survived by Jillian, his wife of over fifty years, along with their son, Craig, and daughter, Natalie.