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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Travels with my Football

Latest News
Saturday, November 14, 2015

From the BBC “News Magazine" Issue 10 - Nov Dec 2006

Travels with my football

Many tools of the journalist’s trade are acquired through experience or with a

charge code. But an interview with Henry Kissinger prompted New York Bureau

Chief Kevin Bishop to look back at how one particular area of knowledge has

helped him over the years


Driving north through the Bronx on my way to Connecticut I was worried. I was going to set up an interview with Henry Kissinger for Sunday AM and my concern was simple: what if I had to make small talk? The solution came when I spotted the New York Yankees baseball stadium. The week before I’d been watching a film about the rise of the New York Cosmos soccer team in the late 70s. The team, which attracted stars such as Pele and Beckenbauer, had a brief period in the spotlight when it filled the stadium with 70,000-plus fans. One of them was Henry Kissinger.

So, sitting by the fireplace in the Kissinger security house, all wired up and ready to go, we waited while London prepared the studio. I took my chance and nonchalantly asked if he was still interested in football (which I still maintain the sport is called). The floodgates opened. He’d just finished watching Sheffield United lose at home to Manchester United (what did I think of Sheffield’s chances of staying up, he asked). He then reeled off the rest of that day’s scores and we discussed whether I should drop Essien from my fantasyteam. I couldn’t by this stage resist bringing my team, QPR, into the conversation and we spent a good while reminiscing about Stan Bowles andRodney Marsh. The Nobel Peace Prize winner and architect of rapprochement with China agrees with me that our true home is the premiership and that John Gregory has got off to a solid start. I ought to get him down the British Queen one Saturday this season. After a while someone in London with the name of Andrew Marr interrupted our chat and wanted to ask a few questions about Iraq or something, but my day was made.

Football has been, I think, the most useful tool of the trade I’ve had. Money, cigarettes, official stamps and flirting can often get you what you want, but come up with an explanation as to why Man City got rid of Keegan and you’re onto a winner.

I’ve had some memorable moments with football over the years: the school teacher on the Kenyan coast who truly believed the four best footballsides ever were – in this order – Brazil, WestGermany, Darlington and England; Hamid, the young orphaned refugee from Kosovo, who would guard our live position in Kukes wearing a QPR hat; the time when an excited group of children in

Marseilles had been promised that local hero and ex-Olympique player Chris Waddle was to visit their school and, due to an unfortunate miscommunication, got me instead.

I know it’s a cliché, but football really is the international language. Arriving at Rio de Janeiro airport in 1998 with cameraman Nik Millard, a pile of camera gear and insufficient paperwork, we were about to be put back on a flight home when I mentioned almost as an afterthought that we were due to interview 1970 World Cup winning captain Carlos Alberto the next day. If I remember correctly, the customs officer not only hurried us through with no need of any kind of stamp but he also hailed us a taxi.

In Liberia a year earlier with Glenn Middleton, we’d been held up by Nigerian peacekeepers for filming somewhere a bit dodgy. The colonel – a big round man with a thick neck and no sense of humour – was getting angry with us and our attempts to bribe our way out of trouble were proving fruitless. I then spotted something on his desk, which seemed out of place. A Littlewoods pools coupon. He caught my glance and held it up in front of me. “What is this?” he asked. I explained to him the principles of score draws, no score draws and the pools panel. We filled in the column for that Saturday’s fixtures and, in return for letting us go, I agreed to sub him a couple of quid and send in the form. I posted the coupon from Jo’burg a few days later but never heard if he won or not. In any case Spurs were never going to draw at Man U.

In Tajikistan shortly after 9/11, the Russian defence ministry controlled the border with Afghanistan. To get in, you had to pass through a large army base. Our contacts had promised us that the commanding officer was expecting us. We arrived and knocked on the gate. Obviously nobody had the slightest idea we were coming and any thought that we could talk to the CO, let alone go through the base, was just nonsense. Until they started to look through our gear. We’d brought a Sky dish with us as a sweetener and I explained we planned to set it up in the officer’smess. Within the hour I was sitting in the officers’ sauna being force-fed pig fat and vodka and trying to make out shadowy images on an ancient Soviet TV, which I think, showed the Nationwide Conference league table. Or was it the Kazakhcup draw? 

The next day we were in Afghanistan.

Albania has had its share of hairy moments for me. During the month the country went loopy with guns in 1997, I was sitting on a hillock in Gjirokaster outside a shed containing a huge arms cache. Two boys, who looked about 12 butprobably weren’t even that old, had apparently been put in charge of guarding the place. We were keen to film but they wanted to wait for higher authority. So I set about distracting the kids with a vocal game of Anglo-Albanian Snap – Gary Lineker! Besnik Hasi! Paul Gascoigne! Edwin Murati! It did the trick – we got the shots and sloped off.

The other hairy moment for me in Albania was on the day of the last match of the 98-99 season – a crucial relegation encounter with Crystal Palace at Loftus Road. I got a call in on a crackly sat phone from Vlore. The well-meaning Australian on thedesk raised my blood pressure to dangerous levels by saying that the score was six-nil but she wasn’t sure who had won.

It never ceases to amaze me how football permeates into the most remote of places. In a yurt in the Tian Shan Mountains in Kazakhstan I came across a kid who had a complete set of Shoot! league ladders from the mid seventies. Early in 1997 I was in living in South Africa to escape from the pain of relegation the previous season. In KwaZulu Natal I was filming a story about access to water. We followed a woman from a small village the three miles she had to walk to collect water. Her husband was not happy with us filming but she insisted. As she carried twobuckets and balanced a jug on her head, he kept trying to get in the way. I started talking about football to try to distract him. We clicked immediately and before long he had managed to give me a perfect rendition of Trevor Sinclair’s wonderful overhead scissors kick goal in the cup against Barnsley. I hadn’t seen the goal myself but when I did, I have to admit he was spot on.

Sitting in Connecticut listening to Henry Kissinger talk about the fall of Saigon it crossed my mind that at about the same time as those Americans were airlifted from the roof of the Embassy, I was playing “1-2-3 and in” on a muddy playground in Cornwall. In 1976, as he coped with resigning from international diplomacy, I had to deal with losing the first division title by one point to Liverpool.

Still, it gave us something to talk about.

Biggest Ever Gathering Of African Journalists Seeks New Media Future For The Continent.

Latest News
Thursday, November 12, 2015

More than 650 senior African media leaders are meeting in Johannesburg to seeks solutions to the challenges faced by the continent's media industry.

Brand South Africa head Thebe Ikalafeng told the Forum that only 30% of the brands Africans most admired were made on the continent, and that in the media realm the top three most admired brands were BBC, CNN and DSTV. This he said underlined a sense that African media needed to create more content that would resonate with their African audiences.

The Founder of Sekunjalo Investments Dr Iqbal Surve commented that to achieve this Africa needed to invest in training more journalists on all platforms. He said: "It is important that Africa is not a recipient of News about itself. That's way I've invested in the African News Agency as it is an example of news generated in Africa".

Thebe Ikalafeng added: "We need to tell stories from an African perspective. Our job is to think local but act global. That means we must stop judging ourselves in Africathrough western eyes".

Both were appearing on the Opening Panel of the African Media Initiative's African Media Leaders Forum which has brought together more than 650 media professionals to discuss how the continent can develop its media industry.

Dr Iqbal concluded: "We need to start celebrating ourselves and to do that we need to start investing in ourselves, research and journalist training"




Peep Show is back.

Latest News
Thursday, November 12, 2015


It’s been a while. Three years in fact, since the last series of Peep Show(Channel 4). They – Mitchell, Webb, writers Bain and Armstrong – have become busier and more successful, creating, procreating etc, since this all started.

Where were we, then? Oh yes, Jeremy hit on Mark’s girlfriend, Dobby, and she ran away to New York. So Jeremy ruined Mark’s life. Par for the course, really: they’ve being ruining each other’s lives all along, locked in an awkward PoV man-hug of mutual disgust but unable to let go, each dragging the other down to their own little part of hell.

Just six months have passed in Peep Show time. They – Mark and Jeremy – are reunited for Super Hans’s stag do. What? Super Hans is settling down, marrying an actual woman, as opposed to a narcotic substance? That’s ridiculous. Imagine if he too procreated and became someone’s father! Well, at least, the stag should be a giggle, one last blast of depravity …

No! He’s detoxing for the wedding. They’re only doing – and only talking about – juice. Sober Hans. The stag is, as Jez says, “one load of PG-rated, Disney-assed, Which? magazine- approved, childproof, high-vitamin fucking bullshit”. Well, for about five minutes, until resolve inevitably crumbles; they have a little sip of lager, just to wet the whistle. Then another, and next thing you know they’re all in the toilet, singing filthy songs, Jeremy’s hitting on the barmaid, whistles well and properly sodden. Back to normal, then back to Super Hans’s flat, where Jeremy now lives, in the bathroom. “I mean it’s not Number One Hyde Park Palace, but it suits me down to the ground,” says Jeremy. Until Hans comes in for a Number Two Hyde Park Palace, so to speak, in Jeremy’s bedroom/kitchen. Then it’s disgusting.

Matt King’s Super Hans is everyone’s favourite, right? One of the comedy supporting characters/performances of the century so far, up there with Michelle Gomez in Green Wing. Here’s hoping he’ll feature as much in the rest of the series as he does in this episode. And that he’ll give up this juice nonsense.


Mark also has a new flatmate of his own, from the sort of bank where he now sort of works. Jerry, he’s called, to make things even more hurtful for Jeremy. “I’m the new, improved you,” Jerry gloats to Jeremy. “Total fucking arsehole,” is what Jeremy calls Jerry. Which is about spot on: Jerry is into William Morris, the socialist wallpaper fella, and reading books. What a TFA!

It’s Jerry v Jeremy then, in the fight for Mark’s affection (spare room). There’s only going to be one winner, especially when Super Hans – who wants Jeremy out of his bath or his marriage will go tits-up before it’s even started – shows up. Lovely from Tim Key as Jerry, by the way, while he lasted.

All back on then, Mark and Jeremy, for one final series. They can’t help it, they are drawn inexorably and inevitably together. Underneath the mutual destruction, the bickering and sordidness, there’s mutual dependence, the tiniest ember of genuine warmth, of companionship, of – whisper it – actual friendship.

Also a hint of truth; maybe you’ve got a friendship a bit like that, a relationship or a marriage? No? I see quite a lot of both in myself, worryingly. Even if you don’t recognise yourself in them you’ll recognise theirs as a special relationship, perhaps only ever really rivalled – in television comedy – by Beavis and Butt-head.

There are plenty of other, smaller truths. Like, an evening without either booze or television is a very long evening. And everyone hates futons. You don’t? Yes, you bloody do, everyone does. And they’re indestructible, so they’re here for ever.

It’s both sad, and right, that this is the final series of Peep Show. Sad because it has been brilliant, properly original, very funny, but somehow a little wise and, at times, even touching. Also so very of its time, with its voyeurism, nastiness, thinking- out-loud and point-of-view self-absorption and self-obsession, to the point where you could say it has captured a generation. Which is also why it’s right that it’s coming to an end; that time won’t last for ever, the generation is growing up; even Super Hans, maybe. Not quite yet, though.

First Jerry needs to be bagged up, in his green sleeping bag, drawstring drawn, like The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Then waterboarded, with beer! And sent down in the lift. Ha!

George Alagiah back on BBC News

Latest News
Wednesday, November 11, 2015


BBC's George Alagiah back on air after cancer treatment

10 November 2015 Last updated at 19:22 GMT

BBC journalist George Alagiah has presented his first News at Six bulletin since receiving the all-clear for cancer.

The presenter of BBC One's News at Six was diagnosed with bowel cancer, which had spread to his liver and lymph nodes, in April 2014.

Fellow presenter Huw Edwards was among those to welcome him back on air.


NYT and Google distribute VR kits

Latest News
Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The New York Times is linking up with Google to distribute more than a million virtual reality kits to its subscribers next month as part of a new project called NYT VR.

The Google Cardboard kits, which turn a smartphone into a basic virtual reality headset, will allow NYT readers to watch the first film to come out of the project, The Displaced, which follows three children who have been forced out their homes in south Sudan, eastern Ukraine and Syria.

The Displaced was developed by the Times’s magazine team with virtual reality company Vrse. The team will release another film later this year based on its behind-the-scenes look at the Walking New York cover story it ran in April, with further releases scheduled for 2016.

The NYT VR app was developed with virtual reality studio IM360 and is compatible with Apple and Android devices. Subscribers to the Times’s premium “Insider” digital package, and a selection of regular digital subscribers will be given promotional codes to claim a Google Cardboard set.

The Times is also releasing virtual reality films made by sponsors General Electric and Mini.

Times executive editor Dean Baquet said: “Our magazine team has created the first critical, serious piece of journalism using virtual reality, to shed light on one of the most dire humanitarian crises of our lifetime.”

“The power of VR is that it gives the viewer a unique sense of empathic connection to people and events,” said Jake Silverstein, editor-in-chief of the New York Times magazine. “In the context of international reporting and conflict reporting, where our readers rely on us to bring them news and stories from remote and inaccessible places, this has huge potential.”

Newspapers in the US and Europe have recently begun exploring the possibility of using virtual reality as a storytelling device. However, the cost of devices made by companies such as Oculus have previously been a barrier to mass adoption.


BBC newsreader George Alagiah says he is clear of cancer

Latest News
Friday, November 06, 2015

58-year-old says chemotherapy treatment has been a success and he is ‘feeling really good’

Newsreader George Alagiah has said he is clear of cancer and wants to get back on the air.
The 58-year-old, who has long been a familiar face on TV news bulletins, said chemotherapy treatment for the disease had been a success and he was feeling good.

The Sri Lanka-born journalist, the face of BBC1’s News at Six since 2007, was diagnosed with bowel cancer, which had spread to his liver and lymph nodes, in April last year.

He said he “knew it was as bad as it gets” when doctors described his condition as serious but said he tried to remain positive throughout. He told the Daily Mail: “I’m feeling really good. I have more energy every day, and feel stronger.

“All I can say is right now I don’t have cancer, but my life from now on will be punctuated by scans every three months. And if somebody tells me I’m finally cured, it’s likely to be years away.”

He said getting back to work with his BBC team was wonderful but admitted he was “going to take it easy at first”.
And he added: “I also want to get back on air for my audience. I received hundreds of letters from viewers while I was ill, in which they talked as if we knew each other. That support was incredible.”

Alagiah first began hosting the 6pm news bulletin in early 2003, but he stepped up to front it solo four years later following the departure of his co-host, Natasha Kaplinsky. The slot has been presented by fellow BBC News presenters in his absence.

He was previously a prominent foreign correspondent, often as a specialist in Africa with coverage of civil wars in Somalia and Liberia, as well as the genocide in Rwanda 20 years ago. Alagiah joined the BBC 25 years ago after working as a print journalist.
Bowel cancer is the third most common type of cancer in men, after prostate and lung, with almost three-quarters of cases affecting people over 65. If caught in its earliest stages, the chances of surviving for a further five years are 90%.

George Alagiah, the face of BBC1’s News at Six since 2007, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in April last year Photograph: Eamonn McCabe for the Guardian

Digital Journalist Apprenticeship

Latest News
Monday, November 02, 2015

Can you help shape the future of news?
Have you dreamed of working on Radio 1’s Newsbeat programme, BBC Radio 5Live, the Six O’Clock News, BBC Breakfast, Panorama, or any of our news programmes in BBC Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland?

Now it’s time to dream big – we’re offering journalism apprenticeships to talented, creative storytellers who will get the chance to work in the biggest and most respected news organisation in the world.

Our Digital Journalist Apprentices will write stories for the web and radio, connect with our audiences on social media, find guests and film news reports. Your own news stories could make it to air and be watched by millions.

Your apprenticeship will combine paid multi-platform work experience with a formal journalism qualification, supported by the National Council for the Training of Journalists.
Apply, and make a difference

It’ll be tough and you will work hard, but you will gain priceless work experience with the BBC, plus the chance to compete for jobs both in the BBC and the wider media industry.

This apprenticeship is aimed at non-graduates, aged 18 and over, with at least five GCSEs/Standard/National grades, (including Maths and English grade A-C). Most important of all, we’re on the look out for people who stand out from the crowd. And we want to reflect all our audiences, so, whoever you are, we want you, your voice, your stories, and your experience of living in the UK.

So get involved, apply and make a difference.