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Innes Bowen Innes Bowen | 17:45 UK time, Wednesday, 17 February 2010

toilet paper

It's Friday lunchtime, and the team from the Donal MacIntyre show is frantically scouring the pages of this week's newspapers.

Me: "What about the one-armed thief who stole a single cufflink?"

Phil: "That one's true, I'm afraid."

Bob: "And the North Yorkshire Police really did have had 200,000 calls about a job ad. Though even if they hadn't, I'm not sure that story was interesting enough to be a MUP."

MUP is our shorthand term for Made Up Phenomena: stories which, though widely reported, turn out to be at best gross exaggerations and at worst completely untrue. An alleged link between Facebook and cancer; a plan for Kellogg's to laser their logo onto cornflakes; and an epidemic of middle class shoplifting. All have been outed as MUPs by team MacIntyre.

Donal MacIntyre is 5 live's own investigative magazine show. Most of what we do is hard-hitting, serious stuff. In recent months we've exposed flaws in the government's new student visa scheme, heard from a whistleblower about corruption inside the Royal Military Police and revealed how MPs routinely pay their staff a fraction of the minimum wage they voted into law.

Most of the week is spent researching big stories like these. However on Friday mornings everyone in the office applies the full forensic might of their investigative skills to more trivial subjects.

This week, we were struggling. But then... MUP alert! We noticed a story running in several of Thursday's papers about the imminent launch of a luxury toilet roll.

"Waitrose has included a 'significant' amount of cashmere, a luxury fibre usually associated with expensive jumpers, socks and scarfs, in the new toilet roll billed as 'the most luxurious bathroom tissue yet'," according to the The Daily Mail.


Our reporter Phil Kemp rang Waitrose to request a telephone interview. Keen for some extra publicity, they agreed. The spokesman admitted that there wasn't in fact any wool in the cashmere toilet roll. But it does contain, he said, oil extracted from goat hair.

A few minutes research on the internet and our reporter Phil was in touch with Martha Ann Englert, lead reporter on the website All About Goats. (Yes, there really is a website specialising in goat stories.) Did the idea of making a toilet roll containing goat wool oil make any sense? "I read a lot of scientific research papers on goats and I speak to a lot of people who breed them. This is the first time I have ever heard of someone claiming to extract oil from the fibre of goats."

Sheep wool apparently is much richer in oil. But who'd pay extra to wipe their bottom on Shetland or worsted?

Innes Bowen is Assistant Editor at BBC Radio Current Affairs and Producer of the Donal MacIntyre show


  • Comment number 1.


  • Comment number 2.

    Innes, as you are 5Live's investigative programme could you please investigate how many television studios MOTD presenters' chauffeurs drive past each week when shuttling them from the North East/West to London.

    Oh, and how many BBC Belfast radio studios are unused betweem 10-1pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and how much CO2 it costs (as the BBC is so concerned about "gloabl warming") to fly over 40 times a year between Belfast and London.

    Many thanks.

    And finally, nice to see you've started to cover items on your programme as banal and irrelevant as the rest of 5Live. The station does have standards to dumb down, it seems your programme recieved the memo.

    Well done.


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