Richard Ingrams: Should cricket be subject to such a rude interruption?


It seems ages since one was able to watch a whole Test match ball by ball on the BBC. Then Rupert Murdoch bought up pretty well all first-class cricket for Sky and I have not watched a Test match on TV since.

However, for the past few years Channel 5 has provided a welcome substitute in the form of an hour-long highlights programme at the end of each day's cricket. It has the advantage not only that it leaves out all the boring bits but it also features expert commentary by the likes of the curmudgeonly Geoffrey Boycott.

Watching the highlights of the most recent Test with a 13-year-old, cricket-mad schoolboy, I was brought up with a jolt during a commercial break by a trailer for a forthcoming Channel 5 programme called Red Hot Lesbians. This was about 7.30pm.

It was a timely reminder that Channel 5 is nowadays owned by Richard Desmond, a man who has made a fortune out of pornography. Ofcom, the over-manned quango which is supposed to police all TV channels, saw no objection to Desmond being allowed to acquire Channel 5 last year, despite the regulation laying down that any successful applicant had to be "fit and proper" – words that did not immediately spring to mind in connection with the sleazy Mr Desmond.

But having allowed him in, you might have expected Ofcom to tell him to clean up his act, at least when children are watching. Otherwise people might begin to think Ofcom is no more fit and proper than Desmond.

Hackers do have their uses after all

The story of 19-year-old Ryan Cleary, who spent his days shut in his bedroom with his computers and his cat Columbus, is a familiar one. Cleary was charged this week with attacking the website of the Serious Organised Crime Agency while police investigate claims that he may also have attacked the CIA, the US Senate and other important institutions. It seems there are young men all over the country engaged in targeting powerful organisations.

Only a few months ago there were stories of a public schoolboy in Manchester who, with the help of his computer, plundered £8m from 65,000 bank accounts, while in Banff another boy sent out from his mother's front room millions of virus-laden spam emails. Best known is Gary McKinnon, still awaiting possible extradition to the US to face charges that he hacked into the American army's website from his bedsitter in Neasden.

McKinnon is not a criminal. He is a computer addict, obsessed by the internet who probably needs psychiatric help. And instead of being prosecuted, these people should be commended for performing a public service in showing up the vulnerability of our systems. After all, if a nerd in Neasden bedsitter can check out the secrets of the US army, how easy it must be for al-Qa'ida or the Taliban to do so?

Harry Potter is not on my to-do list

There are books nowadays listing all those things you should do before you die. But I'm not tempted. It's a relief to think as you get older that not only have you never done all those things, but the chances are you never will. In my own case they include seeing The Sound of Music, going to the Chelsea Flower Show and buying a copy of The Economist.

Now I have a new candidate to add to my list. I have never read a Harry Potter book or seen a Harry Potter film. Why so? Partly because I have a perverse tendency to assume that when something is enormously popular it won't be any good. That, as I pointed out only recently, explains why I kept well away from The King's Speech film.

But also, I must confess, I am put off by seeing pictures of JK Rowling in the papers, most recently seen launching a new Harry Potter game on the internet. And it seems unfair that someone like her should be not only amazingly talented, successful and rich but also very pretty and youthful-looking.

It's illogical, I know, but there it is. I shall go to my grave with no Harry Potter in my intellectual baggage. And no special regrets, I have to add.