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Soap opera drinking 'irresponsible', warns health chief

Hard-drinking soap characters offer an "irresponsible" portrayal of excessive alcohol consumption, according to the Chief Medical Officer for England

Analysis of six weeks of soap operas and found characters drinking too much on 162 occasions, with negative consequences often left out.

The Rovers Return pub is frequented by characters in Coronation Street. Credit: Eamon and James Clarke/Eamonn and James Clarke/EMPICS Entertainment

However, Dame Sally Davies' report on the state of the nation's health points out that this kind of portrayal of drinking is not a modern phenomenon - every single one of Shakespeare's plays mentions alcohol at least once.

She also says that the way drinking is presented in popular culture is out of kilter with ordinary people's behaviour.

"Drinking to excess is not ‘normal behaviour’, and portraying it as such is irresponsible. Some 75% of the population does not consume excessive quantities of alcohol, and the proportion of the population which abstains from alcohol (15% in 2009) is increasing," she writes.

Corrie star Bill Ward becomes new face of Emmerdale

Bill Ward said: "The Emmerdale team are a very talented bunch indeed and I’m extremely chuffed to have been asked to join them.” Credit: Ian West/PA Archive

Former Coronation Street actor Bill Ward has joined the cast of Emmerdale as a surprise new member of the Barton family.

Ward plays farmer and single father James Barton, the estranged older brother of the recently deceased John Barton, who turns up in the village out of the blue.

The actor, whose Corrie killing as builder Charlie Stubbs won him "best exit" at the 2007 British Soap Awards, is also known for roles in Cold Blood and the West End musical Spamalot.

He said he was "really looking forward" to filming, which starts next month before his screen debut in late October.

Kate Oates, Emmerdale series producer says: “I'm delighted to welcome Bill to the show. The Barton family have always been extremely popular with our audience and the arrival of James will be the start of a new era for them.”