Real life | 27 April 2017

With so many last-straw moments to choose from in my house-moving experience, it is a close call to pick the very, very last. But I think the absolute last straw happened like this. I was sitting in my house surrounded by boxes, pretty much waiting for the removals lorry to turn up. With exchange only hours away, and completion two working days after that, my lawyer had phoned me a few hours earlier to make sure I had taken out buildings insurance on the new property. Yes, I told him. I had just put it on a credit card, a year’s worth paid up front, effective from that day. I

Sign in haste, repent at leisure: Sky Talk hikes prices

You know the feeling. Your head is turned by a good-looking broadband and phone deal but, after a while, things change. You belatedly discover the superficially attractive package included some unappealing habits, like the tendency to ‘review pricing from time to time’. And so the honeymoon would seem to be over for Sky Talk customers lured to switch from other providers by once keener call rates. Some existing Sky Talk customers – Sky won’t say how many – have been told their bills are going up by inflation-busting proportions from April. Line rental and calls to UK landlines are both rising by around 9 per cent from £17.40 to £18.99

Kids’ stuff | 6 October 2016

When a new TV channel calls its flagship food show Fuck, That’s Delicious, we might surmise that the Reithian ideals are not foremost in its corporate philosophy. You probably haven’t heard of Viceland. You certainly haven’t watched it. It seeped on to the airwaves with little fanfare and few viewers. Viceland is the new 24-hour TV channel of Vice Media, the Canadian-American outfit that describes itself as the ‘world’s preeminent youth media company and content creation studio’. Vice began in 1994 as a magazine but now encompasses a news division, a record label, a film studio and myriad digital ventures. It prides itself on being ‘alternative’, ’disruptive’, sticking it to

Conference party round-up: Corbyn-mania hits Liverpool

As Labour conference draws to a close for another year, over the past four days there has been plenty of drama played out in both the conference hall and the fringe events. However, the after hours soirees have also proved eventful. At Sky News‘s bash, attendees got to choose whether they were a champagne socialist or a prosecco socialist thanks to a well-stocked bar. While Owen Smith was nowhere to be seen at the event — perhaps still smarting from his leadership defeat — he can take heart that he was deemed important enough to have his face decorate a cupcake. Alas, out of the four cake options available — Smith, Jeremy Corbyn,

Our (nearly) golden summer

It seems like a long time ago, but back in the day, when Sir John Major launched the National Lottery, there was a fair bit of sanctimonious tut-tutting from the liberal establishment: it was a tax on the poor who couldn’t be trusted to spend their own money, it encouraged gambling, it was just a bit vulgar. And all that. Well, how’s that drivel looking now? A shedload of Team GB golds later, and how do those who sneered at the lottery feel about it today? Notwithstanding Britain’s staggering achievements, the Games are not perfect, of course: there’s too much track cycling and way too many swimming events. And possibly

Courageous Kemp

Before I set about reviewing Ross Kemp: The Fight Against Isis (Sky 1), I thought I’d have a glance to see whether other critics had been as impressed as I was. Clearly the flip groovester from the Guardian — who opened, inevitably, with a jaunty quip about Grant from EastEnders — had seen a very different documentary from the one I saw. Otherwise, he could not have failed to be moved by Kemp’s heartbreaking interview with the Yazidi woman from Sinjar who’d recently escaped from Isis. Her 10-year-old daughter squatted beside her — only survivor of the five children she had had when Isis captured her town. The eldest (11)

Jeremy Corbyn refuses to take the blame for a Brexit in lacklustre Sky debate

After finding himself accused of putting forward a half-hearted case for Remain, tonight Jeremy Corbyn had the chance to prove the naysayers wrong in his first — and final — live television debate of the referendum. Yet instead of making a passionate plea for In, Corbyn used the Sky News debate to raise some of his own reservations with the EU. While Corbyn admitted that he is not a ‘lover of the European Union’, he argued that it is better to stay and fight from within than to leave and be left with greater economic problems. However, it’s his answers dwelling on the EU’s flaws which are most likely to be remembered. While fielding questions from a studio audience of young voters, Corbyn was asked how he

I hope more darlings are killed off in Game of Thrones season 6

So: Game of Thrones. Finally — season six — the TV series has overtaken the books on which it is based and the big worry for all us fans is: will it live up to the warped, convoluted, sinister genius of George R.R. Martin’s original material? As regulars will know, the great thing about Martin is that you never know which of your favourite characters he’s going to kill off next. Really — and I can’t think of any other series of which this is true — they could die any moment, which is one of the things that makes it such gripping, unsettling, memorable TV. (The ritual immolation of

The BBC must address its lack of diversity – or risk losing viewers

Growing up in my Mum’s house, Wogan was king. Throughout the 1980s leading lights like Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and Sammy Davis Jr sat on his sofa and – vicariously – in our living room in Tottenham too. As well as its historic duty to ‘inform, educate and entertain’, the principle of universality has always been at the very heart of what the BBC stands for. Our most cherished cultural institution is at its root a universal service that must reflect all of Britain by virtue of the simple fact that it is funded by all Britons. In a multi-platform, digital age where more content is available than ever before

Watch: Jeremy Corbyn ignores questions about the lack of women in his shadow cabinet

Jeremy Corbyn is only two days into his leadership of the Labour party, and his fans are beginning to realise what they have done Despite insisting throughout his leadership campaign that he would ensure ‘real gender equality’, Corbyn hasn’t seen fit to appoint a woman in any of the more senior Cabinet roles. As Helen Lewis observed, he has married more women than he has placed shadowing the great offices of state. Vive le Revolution! While it had been expected that he would offer Angela Eagle the role of shadow Chancellor, instead he opted for his old time socialist chum John McDonnell. You may remember him from the furore he caused

Real life | 4 June 2015

Foolishly, I have this wild notion that one day, if the stars align in my favour, I might be able to reduce my Sky subscription. I know, I know. What a crazy, idealistic dreamer I am. But I just feel it ought to be possible to watch television for less than a thousand pounds a year. I seem to remember, in the dark recesses of my brain, that once upon a time, far away in a wonderful utopia where TVs had big fat buttons, there used to be three channels with everything you wanted to see on them and no more bureaucratic or financial a nightmare to access this simple

Rupert Murdoch calls Ed Miliband out on his debate boast

Ed Miliband used last night’s election interview with Jeremy Paxman as an opportunity to blast the Murdoch press. The Labour leader told viewers that he had stood up to Rupert Murdoch, and would continue to do so in spite of whatever bad publicity is thrown at him as a result. However, this appeared to come as news to Murdoch. The media mogul took to Twitter in a bid to set the record straight, claiming that the Labour leader only had gushing praise for him when they met the one time. Thanks for 2 mentions, Ed Miliband. Only met once for all of 2 minutes when you embarrassed me with over the top flattery. —

Adam Boulton: David Dimbleby is a backwards step for BBC’s election coverage

Tonight Kay Burley will moderate a ‘town hall’ style Q&A with David Cameron and Ed Miliband as part of the election debate package. When Mr S bumped into Burley’s Sky colleague Adam Boulton at this morning’s Helen Darroze Regency Power Breakfast at The Connaught, there was no sign of sour grapes about him not being assigned the gig: ‘Sky took a decision, really immediately after 2010 – which I was part of – that because they were all male shows last time round, we wanted to put a woman forward.’ Still, not everyone has been able to keep up with Sky according to Boulton. The presenter appeared less than impressed with the BBC’s choice of David

118 000 is, I now realise, the number of the beast

‘Orange 1-1-8 thousand how may I help you?’ said the cheerful voice. Carefree as you like, I asked for the number for Sky customer services to report my parents’ broken digibox. This was back on Christmas eve morning. I had been walking the dog around Kenilworth Castle when my dad rang in a panic saying the Sky box had broken, and, well, we had rather hoped to watch some television over Christmas. So I took it upon myself to sit in my car and make a phone call to sort it out. But when I searched Sky’s website on my iPhone I could not find a number for customer services.

Boulton and Co

Journalists do, occasionally, say something nice about politicians. It does not happen very often; but, when it does, it’s usually heartfelt. Adam Boulton hosted a party at the Savoy last night to celebrate his 25 years at Sky News. Boulton heaped praise on those politicians with whom he has worked while covering the life and times of ‘5 Prime Ministers, 5 US Presidents, 5 Labour leaders, 6 Tory leaders and 4 Lib Dems – and counting’. He said: ‘As journalists, we need people who are prepared to engage our profession with their arguments and accountability. And you do. And often. And properly, which is vital to the democratic process. For

I truly loved you, BT Broadband. I should never have reached for Sky

Don’t do it. Do not, whatever you do, even think about doing it. I was happy not doing it. And then I weakened and did it. And now I am living to bitterly regret it. I speak of switching my broadband provider, of course. Like any ‘switch’, it promised to be many things — cheaper, faster, shinier — and turned out to be a living nightmare. What made it worse was that my BT service was very good. It was expensive, but it worked. I remember the fateful day I decided to ditch it. I knew deep down it was the wrong thing to do. I loved you, BT broadband.

Harry Shearer on bringing out Richard Nixon’s feminine side

Hollywood tends to treat Richard Nixon as an oafish B-movie villain, so it is ambitious and original of Harry Shearer to try to convince a British audience of the very feminine side of the 37th American president. As a veteran comedy actor and the ‘voice’ of several of the Simpsons cartoon characters — including Mr Burns, Smithers, and Ned Flanders — Shearer has the vocal range to get almost anyone right if he puts his mind to it. But voice work was not the main challenge in the forthcoming Sky Arts drama. Shearer is more intrigued by the physical aspects of the central role in Nixon’s the One, which he

Nature study

On my desk is the vertebra of a narwhal. It was given to me by a man in Canada after a convivial dinner. Narwhals are Arctic whales with long spiky tusks on their noses. This vertebra is about three inches across, embedded in bone expanding into waisted wings, like a propeller. If I were the award-winning Scots poet Kathleen Jamie I would be describing it better. A whale vertebra, for her, felt ‘grainy, not quite cold’, and smelt of wax crayons, which are, or were, made of whale oil. She was in the Whale Hall of the Natural History Museum in Bergen where the dusty skeletons of 24 whales hung

Right to reply: How we beat the Beeb

A slight change to the normal rules of engagement for this latest post in our ‘Right to reply’ series. Whereas these posts normally take issue with what your Coffee House baristas have written, this one takes issue with the post by the BBC’s Jon Williams that we put up yesterday. It’s by Al Jazeera’s Ben Rayner: In wars reputations of whole news organizations can be made or broken very quickly. And the spin on the result is almost as important as the reality. Undoubtedly the BBC took a fearful kicking in the press over its coverage of the fall of Tripoli in August. To the British papers, Sky’s Alex Crawford

Plurality or not?

With all the provisos attached to News Corp’s takeover of BSkyB, opposition to the deal has surely now been diluted. But there are, perhaps, two groups who can still legitimately complain about the outcome.   Firstly, those of us who believe that unrestricted freedom of speech is vital in the TV broadcasting arena. The Murdoch empire has had to surrender its news channel in order to, essentially, buy a profitable platform for broadcasting sport and movies. This is seriously disturbing for anyone who feels that the BBC’s output of ‘neutral news’ needs to be challenged. The only major independent broadcaster – ITV – gave up long ago with their own