TELEVISION / BRIEFING: Wing and a prayer

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The Independent Culture
Puffins may soon only grace the covers of books. In a familiar refrain 'Clowns of the Air', tonight's WILDLIFE ON ONE (8pm BBC1), underlines that these rather ridiculous-looking birds are under threat not only from other birds but from man, too. Bernard Walton's eye-catching film has spectacular footage of arctic skuas swooping on puffins, which often drop the fish they have just caught and fly off in panic. It also shows the birds, with their distinctive rainbow-coloured beaks and 'dinner jacket' plumage, plunging to depths of 60 metres in pursuit of sand-eels. (As if the fish did not already have enough to worry about, the birds are said to be more adept at 'flying' underwater than in the air.) But, thanks to excessive trawling, stocks of sand-eels have become severely depleted, and puffins have in consequence been starving to death in Norway and Scotland. The sea-parrot may soon be no more.

In a commendable attempt to broaden its coverage, THE LATE SHOW (11.15pm BBC2) tonight begins a monthly broadcast from Scotland. Kirsty Wark presents an examination of the dispute over the Government's pounds 9.5m annual grant to Gaelic television, and a survey of the work of the French-American sculptor Niki de Saint-Phalle, the subject of a major retrospective in Glasgow.

(Photograph omitted)

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