Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Frankie Goes Too Far

The Press Complaints Commission says it will ask the Daily Mail to respond to complaints about a column it ran on the death of Boyzone singer Stephen Gately. The PCC said it had received more than twenty two thousand complaints since the article's publication on 16 October - the most ever made about a single newspaper article. Jan Moir's hateful piece stated Gately's death struck a blow to the 'happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships.' She has denied that there was any homophobic undertone to her comments and continues to insist that the public reaction is part of 'an orchestrated Internet campaign.' Members of the press are subject to the PCC Code, which is a set of ethical and practical guidelines for self-regulation. It includes clauses on discrimination which state that 'the press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.' In a statement on Monday, the PCC said it would generally wait for a complaint from 'directly-affected parties' - in this case, Gately's family or partner - before launching an investigation. But it added: 'If, for whatever reason, those individuals do not wish to make a complaint, the PCC will in any case write to the Daily Mail for its response to the more general complaints from the public before considering whether there are any issues under the code to pursue.' The Lesbian & Gay Foundation has also reported Ms Moir to police. The organisation claimed that the article, is a homophobic incitement to hatred and suggests by inference and innuendo that Gately's gay lifestyle contributed to his death. 'Everyone at the Lesbian & Gay Foundation is appalled and very disappointed. The death of Stephen Gately at such a young age is a tragedy and should be treated as such,' chief executive Paul Martin said in a statement. 'Instead, Moir's sweeping generalisations have not only insulted the singer, his partner and his family, but the lesbian, gay, and bisexual community as a whole. This incident highlights the ongoing challenge organisations like the LGF have in combating homophobia. We, of course, send our deepest condolences to Stephen's husband, family and friends.' Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police confirmed that they have also received a further complaint from a member of the public on the same matter.

Alan Davies has revealed that the new Jonathan Creek special is being delayed by the BBC due to financial reasons. The forty three-year-old actor will be seen in another one-off episode of the mystery show next Easter, rather than over Christmas as producers had initially hoped. 'This year we went out on New Year's Day and we were the highest-rated show. We even beat EastEnders,' Davies is quoted by the Daily Express as saying. 'We thought, "Great, we'll have that again." But we were told, "No, we can't have New Year's Day, it has to go out in the next tax year because we have spent all the money for this year."' He added: 'There is a Jonathan Creek special coming. It's really good so be patient. It will be out - in about half a year's time!'

The BBC Trust has censured the BBC over a joke on Mock The Week which suggested that the Olympic swimming gold medallist Rebecca Adlington was 'very dirty.' The Trust upheld a complaint over the episode ruling that it was 'humiliating' and had breached the corporation's 'harm and offence' guidelines. In the episode, which aired on BBC2 on 28 August last year, less than a month after Adlington secured Britain's first women's swimming gold since 1960, Mad Frankie Boyle said Adlington looked like she had been distorted in 'the back of a spoon' and joked about how long she could hold her breath. 'When she arrived back on the flight she met her boyfriend. Did you see her boyfriend? He was really attractive. He was like a male model. So from that I have deduced that Rebecca Adlington is very dirty – I mean if you just take into account how long she can hold her breath.' Host Dara Ó Briain seemed surprised by the comment and stated that he hoped Adlington was not watching the show at home 'wonder[ing] who they're tearing into ... Oh -' at which point Boyle added: 'Do you know what? She's sitting there going "He's got a point. I am dirty."' The lone complainant - out of, it must be stressed, an audience of two million viewers plus - said he was 'appalled' by the comments and that he 'could not believe the BBC had broadcast them.' Now, at this point I have to say that, whilst there are few bigger or more vocal supporters of Mock The Week than Keith Telly Topping (and, indeed, few bigger or more vocal fans of Mad Frankie Boyle himself either) I was a bit concerned by the comment, myself. Funny? Yes, probably. But, necessary? Maybe not. Initially the BBC had pointed out that Mock The Week is flagged as satirical show - which it is - and apologised that the individual had been upset. Which was fair enough. It later said 'nothing and no-one is ever safe on the programme.' Which is true. And that 'We feel that Frankie Boyle's comments are well recognised by viewers as being close to the mark but are without malice, for example this is exemplified in his light-hearted rant about his own children in this episode.' Again, hard to argue with any of that. And yet it still, somehow, felt wrong. I think it was the fact that the butt of the comment wasn't a politician, or a publicity-seeking fame-hungry member of the show-business fraternity but, rather, a young sportswoman who was just experiencing being thrust into the media spotlight for the first time. In some ways, that made the comments - whilst, as noted not necessarily unfunny - appear rather cruel and mean. In a way that similar remarks about, say, Silvio Berlusconi or Kerry Katona don't. The trust discovered that Mock The Week's commissioning editor had actually raised concerns about including the comments at the time but had 'been unable to obtain the edits she would have preferred.' Though they didn't explain why. A similar complaint about a joke concerning the Queen - yes that one! - was not upheld. The BBC Trust's editorial standards committee concluded that although the joke was 'in poor taste and clearly was offensive to some of the audience, it would not have gone beyond audience expectations for the programme. For some people any risqué joke mentioning the Queen would cause serious offence,' the trust said. Although the committee felt that it 'had ageist and sexist overtones,' the joke had not breached BBC editorial guidelines and the complaints were not upheld.

And, still on the subject of complaints, Channel 4 did not handle the first episode of controversial series Boys and Girls Alone properly, Ofcom has found, but it cleared the broadcaster of serious wrongdoing across the series. The four-part documentary showed ten boys and ten girls, aged eight to twelve, as they apparently experienced life without adults for two weeks. When it aired in a 9pm slot in February, viewers were concerned that the children appeared to have been left largely to their own devices in a potentially unsafe environment without adequate adult supervision. Ofcom received one hundred and eighty complaints about the series, which included general concerns raised by: the Children's Commissioner for England, Cornwall Children, Young People & Families, on behalf of Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Safeguarding Children Board, the Family and Parenting Institute, the NSPCC and a number of psychologists.

Stephen Fry has apologised after angering Polish citizens by implying that the country played a role in the Holocaust. The star was taking part in a feature on Poland's Law and Justice Party for Channel 4 News last week when he referred to the location of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz. He said: 'Let's face it, there has been a history in Poland of right-wing Catholicism, which has been deeply disturbing for those of us who know a little history. And remember which side of the border Auschwitz was on.' The comments sparked outrage from the Polish embassy, prompting an apology from Fry - members of whose family, of course, died in Auschwitz. In a post on his official blog, he wrote: 'I offer no excuse. I seemed to imply that the Polish people had been responsible for the most infamous of all the death factories of the Third Reich. I didn't even really at the time notice the importance of what I had said, so gave myself no opportunity instantly to retract the statement. It was a rubbishy, cheap and offensive remark that I have been regretting ever since. I take this opportunity to apologise now. I said a stupid, thoughtless and fatuous thing. It detracted from and devalued my argument, such as it was, and it outraged and offended a large group of people for no very good reason. I am sorry in all directions.' A note to Jan Moir, Carol Thatcher and the Daily Mail editorial board - that's how you apologise if you've said something idiotic. Not half-heartedly, not blaming anyone else for being upset by what you've said, just 'mea culpa, I'll try not to do it again.'

Cabinet minister Peter Hain has warned the BBC that it may face legal action over plans to allow BNP leader Nick Griffin to appear on Question Time. In a letter sent to BBC director general Mark Thompson, Welsh secretary Hain described Griffin's forthcoming involvement in the show as 'abhorrent.' He said that the far-right BNP is currently 'an unlawful body' as it operates a white-only policy for membership, despite the party recently indicating that it would amend its constitution. The situation follows legal action launched by the Equality and Human Rights Commission over the BNP's membership rules, which were found to be in breach of the Race Relations Act as black, Asian and non-indigenous white people are not allowed to participate. Despite the legal issue, Griffin - 'a plucked owl fast-tracked into a management position in Gregg's' according to Rebecca Adlington's tormentor - is still controversially scheduled to appear on Thursday's Question Time alongside justice secretary Jack Straw and black writer Bonnie Greer. 'Now that the BNP has accepted they are at present an unlawful body, it would be perverse of you to maintain that they are just like any other democratically elected party. On their own admission, at present, they are not,' said Hain in his correspondence to Thompson. 'If you do not review the decision you may run the very serious risk of legal challenge in addition to the moral objections that I make. In my view, your approach is unreasonable, irrational and unlawful.'

Hugh Laurie has admitted that he has been 'upset' by recent leaks from inside the production surrounding Jennifer Morrison's House exit. Last month, details surfaced outlining Morrison's impending departure from the show. The plot will apparently see her marriage to Dr Chase crumble after he purposely misdiagnoses a patient and she finds out. Speaking to TV Guide magazine, Laurie, who plays the titular role on the FOX drama, said: 'It's a bit upsetting that someone in our midst who we think of as a friend and an ally is selling us out.' Executive producer David Shore added that there may be some confusion surrounding Morrison's departure from the show. 'We did this little round of applause for Jennifer after she finished her work on [the marriage breakdown episode] and I think someone took that to mean it was her last scene of the series and called up somebody and it was reported that she was leaving.'

The author, broadcaster and social campaigner Sir Ludovic Kennedy has died aged eighty nine. A former Panorama journalist and presenter, Sir Ludovic spent decades investigating miscarriages of justice. He contributed significantly to the abolition of the death penalty and was also president of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society. He is understood to have died on Sunday at a nursing home in Salisbury, after recently contracting pneumonia. Edinburgh-born, Ludovic was a prominent supporter of the British Humanist Association and its chief executive Hanne Stinson paid tribute to him. 'Sir Ludovic was a stalwart supporter of the BHA and a progressive campaigner on many fronts. He will be sorely missed,' she said. As a young man, Sir Ludovic joined the Royal Navy and his ship HMS Tartar was involved in the sinking of the great German battleship Bismarck during World War II. After the war, he attended Oxford University and went on to become a successful journalist and broadcaster. During his career, he carried out his own investigations into a number of high-profile criminal cases. Among them was that of Derek Bentley who was hanged for his part in the shooting of a policeman even though it was his partner, Christopher Craig, who actually pulled the trigger. His most famous book, Ten Rillington Place (later filmed), caused a national outcry when it argued that another executed man, Timothy Evans, did not murder his baby daughter. Sir Ludovic maintained that the serial killer John Christie was responsible and after a police inquiry, Evans was granted a posthumous pardon in 1970. For much of his life, Sir Ludovic was a member of the Liberal Democrat Party and stood unsuccessfully as a Liberal candidate in 1958. He quit the party in 2001 when the then leader Charles Kennedy refused to endorse assisted dying and he stood for Parliament again unsuccessfully as an independent candidate on a pro-euthanasia platform at the 2001 election. He later rejoined the Lib Dems and their current leader, Nick Clegg, paid tribute to him on Monday. 'Ludovic Kennedy was one of the great thinkers of his generation,' he said. 'His pursuit of justice and his championing of sometimes unpopular and controversial causes marked him out as a true liberal. He will be greatly missed.' Sir Ludovic had an instinctive knack for uncovering the truth and he investigated many more perceived miscarriages of justice. 'I became committed to revealing hidden truths, and propelled, compelled, by a very heady feeling of excitement,' he once said. He began to re-examine cases which police, lawyers and even judges had hoped were closed forever. Some of his best known campaigns involved the convictions of the Guildford Four (during which period Keith Telly Topping briefly met him, and a vastly impressed by his humanity, intellect and oratory skills), the Maguire Seven and the Birmingham Six. In each of these cases his tireless efforts, in what originally looked like lost causes, were eventually vindicated. Knighted in 1994, Sir Ludovic Kennedy also had other strong convictions. Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying - formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society - said the organisation was saddened to hear of Sir Ludovic's death. 'He was a passionate advocate of assisted dying for terminally ill people, whose compassion and vigorous intellect were an asset to the organisation,' she said. 'As a former president, he helped to lay the foundation for the recent successes of the campaign, with the director of public prosecutions now formally recognising a difference between compassionate and malicious behaviour, and the change in the law which will inevitably come.' On television, in addition to fronting numerous documentaries, he was best known as the host of the 1980s review series Did You See...? Sir Ludovic married the ballet dancer and actress Moira Shearer in 1950. They celebrated their fifty fifth wedding anniversary shortly before Moira's death in January 2006 at the age of eighty. The couple had one son and three daughters.

Coronation Street actress Samia Smith has given birth to a baby girl. The twenty seven-year-old and husband Matt welcomed their first child, Freya, into the world on Monday morning. A show spokesperson said: 'Samia and Matt are delighted and everyone at Coronation Street is thrilled by the latest arrival to the Corrie family.' And, on a similar note, Emmerdale actress Charlotte Bellamy gave birth to her third child. The thirty six-year-old - who plays Laurel Thomas in the soap - and her partner Mungo Denison welcomed their first daughter Teddie Boo Florence. Speaking of her new arrival, Bellamy said: 'She is beautiful and perfect and we are totally over the moon!' From The North sends both Samia and Charlotte and their families our best wishes at this happy time.

A record 14.8m viewers tuned in to Sunday night's episode of The X Factor - smashing the peak audience from last year's finale and sealing a huge ratings weekend for Simon Cowell's juggernaut. According to overnight figures from Attentional, Sunday night's sing-off between Rikki Loney and Rachel Adedeji peaked at a whopping 14.8m on ITV – beating last year's finale when 14.6m watched Alexandra Burke claim the winner's crown. The X Factor Live Results, which also featured judge Cheryl Cole performing her new single 'Fight For This Love' and Whitney Houston singing her comeback song 'Million Dollar Bill' averaged 13.2m between 7.45pm and 9pm last night. On Saturday night, BBC1's Strictly Come Dancing averaged 7.8m between 7.15pm and 9.25pm, peaking at 8.6m at 7.55pm, just before The X Factor started. But, despite dipping, the show bounced back to achieve and audience of 8.4m at 9.05pm as boxer Joe Calzaghe and dance partner Kristina Rihanoff were knocked out of the competition. Shifting Casualty to Sunday night against The X Factor did not sit well for viewers, with just 4.4m tuning in to the BBC1 medical drama. But, BBC2's Last Chance to See fared better, ending its six-week run with a respectable three million audience. Casualty was moved from its normal Saturday slot to Sunday in order to make way for coverage of the Brazilian Grand Prix prior to Strictly Come Dancing. The audience figures seem to reflect dissatisfaction, with over a million fewer viewers than the show's normal audience this year, making it the lowest audience since 30 May, when it was up against the finale of Britain's Got Talent.

Channel 4 has commissioned a one-off documentary about Russell Brand. The hour-long show, titled The Road To Russell Brand: Skinned will combine stand-up performances with an in-depth interview conducted by Frank Skinner. Earlier this year, Brand completed an international tour which included dates in America and Australia and culminated with a gig at London's O2 arena. Behind-the-scenes footage from the tour will also feature in the show. The interview is said to focus on his alleged sexual promiscuity and the fallout from his telephone calls to Andrew Sachs.

Goldfrapp have admitted they were 'extremely honoured' to soundtrack a film biopic about John Lennon's childhood and adolescence. Nowhere Boy, which is directed by conceptual artist Sam Taylor-Wood, is based on the book Imagine This: Growing Up With My Brother John Lennon by his half-sister, Julia Baird. Which is, I have to say, one a single worst-written books that Keith Telly Topping has ever read in his entire life. And, trust me, he's read some stinkers in his time. Lead singer Alison Goldfrapp said: 'It's a traditional score for a film. The music is very orchestral and I use my voice to help drive the story.' The film trails the late Beatle's first first steps to stardom and focuses on the influence his aunt Mimi and his mother Julia had on his early life. It also follows his friendship with Paul McCartney. Goldfrapp keyboardist Will Gregory has previously scored the silent film classic He Who Gets Slapped but this is the first time the pair have worked on a soundtrack together.

So, dear blog reader, we come to what you've all been waiting for, I believe. Today's photo illustrating Octobeard, Day Nineteen. It's not a pretty sight, is it? I think it's the cheesy grin, it makes Keith Telly Topping look like either an unplucked owl fast-tracked into a management position in Gregg's or, alternatively, the sort of person who sits at his computer all day devising various cunning methods of stalking Piers Morgan. Keith Telly Topping might be a right bad bugger in some aspects of his personal life, dear blog reader. But he's neither of those. Honest. And, finally, a mad-quick reminder for everyone in the vague North East of England region (or, to anyone who has access to digital channel 975 anyway) that Keith Telly Topping's radio producer, the legend that is Big Quiffed Scunthorpe Stevie Drayton, will be appearing on tonight's Look North (BBC1 6:30 to 7:00pm). He's doing a filmed report on the forthcoming clash of the titans between his beloved Scunny Iron and my beloved (though seemingly unsellable) Magpies at Glanford Park later this evening. Love the socks, Steve. It's his birthday today as well, and Keith Telly Topping has spent the morning scoffing some of the choccy cake that's currently holding sway at BBC Newcastle. Happy birthday, Stevie.

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