Thursday, April 21, 2011

It's Like A Mystery That Never Ends, I See You Crying And I Want To Kill Your Friends

Let's kick-off today's From The North with a really very good interview with The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods A'Fore He) with SFX magazine. I particularly draw your attention, dear blog reader, to The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods A'Fore He)'s answer to the question How is Doctor Who seen by the BBC these days?: 'I think all of us as fans probably don't appreciate just how utterly loved Doctor Who is at the BBC, because no show performs like Doctor Who. Alright, there are shows that do slightly better, but not after this number of years, and not shows that sell all over the world. Think how many people have now seen Rose, that first Christopher Eccleston episode. Never mind who saw it in the first week, or even the first year. People are still watching that for the first time. Just imagine if we were able to add up everybody who eventually, over a period of years, watches an individual episode of Doctor Who, which unlike The X-Factor, unlike EastEnders, unlike any of those shows, continues to exist on your shelf. We'd be the biggest show in the country. One of the biggest shows in the world. If they measured book sales this way we'd be saying, 'Well, it only counts if it sells on the day!' Doctor Who carries on gaining new viewers. I'd love to know what percentage of Britain has now seen Christopher Eccleston's first episode, say. Or David Tennant's first episode. I'm sure it's way, way over half. That's what we don't quite appreciate, especially as television is going to change and we'll be more like publishers than broadcasters, because the time of transmission is now just the date of publication, isn't it? You know, you can catch it on iPlayer, on iTunes, you know you can see it later. There's no impetus, or not the same impetus, to see it at the time. And that's the world in which Doctor Who will triumph. Which is why I got so ratty at the time they were saying our ratings were down when they weren't. I remember yelling at some journalist, which I shouldn't have done, saying "do you even know that iPlayer isn't counted in the ratings? You know there's a whole two to two and a half million we're not even allowed to mention, in typical BBC style?" The only absolutely verified members of the audience, the only ones who are definitely there, aren't counted in the ratings! We just use the big guess. But anyway, that's me ranting on.'

And, on a related theme, Matt Smith has dismissed Trevor Eve's recent criticism of the BBC's treatment of Doctor Who. Last year, Waking the Dead actor Eve criticised the BBC for giving the popular SF family drama 'all the budget and all the attention.' 'If we all listen to Trevor Eve, then we're in trouble,' Smith told the Torygraph. 'Doctor Who is brilliant. That's why it attracts some of the best writers in the country, and some of the best actors. Try telling that to Sir Michael Gambon.' He also praised the series for its 'inventive' nature and branded Eve's criticisms ridiculous. 'Show me any other series that can tackle this many big issues, appeal to this broad a range of people, and still have a laugh along the way,' he argued. Smith added that his own involvement with the show feels like 'a privilege' and praised showrunner Steven Moffat. 'This whole show is testament to Steven and his ambition and his scope,' he said. 'That's a privilege to be part of. It's as simple as that.' Moffat also recently responded to criticism of the show, noting that if you want to know how popular Doctor Who is in Britain, consider this: 'Doctor Who is the show celebrities trash when they're desperate for more attention.'

A 'married TV personality' - who may or may not exist - has been granted a 'permanent gagging order' at the High Court. Mr Justice Eady issued a permanent injunction this week to prevent the publication of compromising pictures of the actor, described as a 'household name', with 'an unnamed woman.' The judge ruled that the TV personality had 'a reasonable expectation of privacy' and that the woman in the photographs owed the celebrity 'a duty of confidence.' The court granted a permanent 'contra mundum' injunction, which applies to print and online media worldwide for an indefinite period of time. Contra mundum orders have previously been used to protect the identities of child killers such as Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, who were found guilty of the murder of James Bulger in 1993. Maxine Carr, the former girlfriend of convicted murderer Ian Huntley, also won similar legal protection in 2004 as a result of fears over her safety following her release from jail. OPQ, the claimant in this case, originally obtained an injunction on 29 January, which was extended on 2 February. It banned the defendant and her partner - referred to as BJM and CJM in court papers - from publishing material about OPQ's private life in what the judge described as 'a straightforward and blatant blackmail case.' The decision marks a further move by the courts to extend protection of the right to respect for private and family life under Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights. It is the latest in a string of injunctions made in favour of celebrities. A 'world famous' actor is also currently the subject of a temporary injunction which was granted earlier this month. The actor is reported to have cheated on his wife with the prostitute Helen Wood, who was at the centre of the Wayne Rooney sex scandal last year. A temporary injunction protecting the identity of a married Premier League footballer who reportedly had an affair with former Big Brother contestant Imogen Thomas was also upheld at the High Court this week.

The prime minister, meanwhile, has waded into the debate on the use of superinjunctions by the rich and famous to avoid allegations of scandal, declaring that parliament and not the courts should decide where the right to privacy begins. David Cameron said the development of a privacy law by judges based on European regulations made him feel 'a little uneasy.' His comments were made while touring a car factory in Luton. Cameron said: 'I think there is a question here about privacy and the way our system works. What's happening here is that the judges are using the European convention on human rights to deliver a sort of privacy law without parliament saying so. We do need to have a proper sit back and think: is this right, is this the right thing to happen? The judges are creating a sort of privacy law, whereas what ought to happen in a parliamentary democracy is parliament – which you elect and put there – should decide how much protection do we want for individuals and how much freedom of the press and the rest of it. So I am a little uneasy about what is happening.' He added: 'It might be odd to hear it, but I don't really have the answer to this one, I need to do some more thinking about it. It is an odd situation if the judges are making the law rather than parliament.' Although superinjunctions refer strictly only to legal orders whose existence cannot even be reported, the term has been used more loosely to describe injunctions aimed at suppressing the identification of individuals who claim they are entitled to anonymity under 'the right to respect for private and family life' incorporated in Article Eight of the European convention on human rights. There is said to be a disagreement within the legal profession itself about whether there has been a significant increase in such injunctions. Mark Stobbs, the Law Society's director of legal policy, said: 'This is a new development and it is something which needs to be watched very closely. There is a huge debate between the right to privacy and the right to public knowledge. We support open justice and transparency as a basic principle, but there must be occasional cases where there is a public interest in privacy. You might get it sometimes in the context of terrorist trials where there are real national security implications.' But Cameron Doley, of the law firm Carter Ruck, which has obtained privacy orders for clients, doubted there had been an increase in their frequency over recent years. 'The newspapers have decided that the way to change policy is to shout about it from the rooftops,' he told the Gruniad Morning Star - one particular newspaper that's done more than its fair share of rooftop shouting. 'There's a lot to be said for a reasoned debate about it that won't be one-sided. But judges will still have to interpret the Human Rights Act.' One of the problems, he added, was that people comment about cases in which they had not seen the evidence while the most widely-reported cases were those where the courts ruled there was insufficient justification for maintaining an injunction - such as the one involving the England football captain, John Terry. 'The rich and famous can't pay their way out of scandal. These things are high risk,' he said. 'It's not just the rich and famous and the law shouldn't be for the rich and famous. The protection of privacy is perhaps more important to genuinely private people. None of us, unless we are in the courts, see the evidence.'

ITV has insisted that it is 'fully committed' to Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley's future on Daybreak. The broadcaster spoke out as a various report claimed that Chiles could be replaced on Daybreak in moves ITV are said to be considering to improve the breakfast show. 'Leaked' Audience Appreciation Index figures published in the Daily Scum Mail earlier this week have revealed that the programme - launched last September to replace GMTV - regularly scores little more than sixty among twenty thousand viewers who rate shows out of one hundred. The Sun has also picked up on the story. Now, the Mirra claims that ITV bosses are 'now unhappy' that Daybreak - hosted by Chiles and Christine Bleakley - could be damaging other daytime programmes including Lorraine and This Morning. 'A number of big changes are being considered now because the ratings are simply not good enough,' a 'source' allegedly told the paper. 'Bosses were very patient about the low audience figures, hoping they would slowly improve over time. But research is suggesting that Daybreak is now damaging the station's entire daytime schedule. That simply won't be tolerated. We don't want these figures to have a knock-on effect, so there are still big changes that need to be made.' The 'insider' supposedly continued: 'Adrian has done well hosting the football and his own prime time show on ITV, but reviews of him at breakfast time are not good. It could be that removing him as a host is a change that is needed.' However, a 'friend' of Chiles insisted to the newspaper that the presenter is 'keen to continue working on the show' alongside Bleakley. 'Adrian signed up to do Daybreak for the long term and on a personal level he has had a great run. The football is going really well. He is a happy person at the moment, it just takes a long time to move a big boat.' Meanwhile Broadcast suggests that ITV have denied planning to drop Chiles. They quote an ITV spokesperson saying that the channel was 'committed' to Chiles. And then, they were given the opportunity to bang out the usual media-speak bollocks about March being their 'most successful month since launch and despite the normal change to viewing patterns over holiday periods such as the Easter break, audiences have remained robust with share of viewing unaltered and increasing levels of positive feedback from viewers.' Which is a long-winded way of saying, it's crap, hardly anybody's watching it and those that are, seemingly, don't like it very much. Having said that, all of this blige about audience share and demographic to deflect attention away from the fact the show's ratings are tanking, big-style, is one thing but isn't at least part of this sentence just flat-out untrue? The statement about 'increasing levels of positive feedback from viewers' can't be anything to do with the AIs, for instance. Maybe they met somebody at a bus stop who told them that he (or she) really liked the show? And the bit about March being their 'most successful month,' what the hell is that all about? Using what criteria, exactly, was it their 'most successful month?' In terms of ratings? No it wasn't, last September was. In terms of AI? No it wasn't, January was. And so on. It would seem, dear blog reader, that there are indeed lies, there are damned lies and there are ITV 'spokesperson' statements. If I was Chiles, frankly, I'd be worried by 'the dreaded vote of confidence' as well. If he was, for instance, the manager of some championship football team, such a move would almost certainly mean the tin-tack within the next seventy two hours.

The Daily Scum Express has taken the Daily Scum Mail's favourite seasonal TV repeats whinge story to another level. 'Channel Five to the rescue with film magic at Easter,' trumpets page fifteen of Wednesday's Scum Express. The story claims that from Good Friday to Easter Monday terrestrial television will feature repeats of thirty four feature films, while just two new films will be broadcast, Tinkerbell and the 'royal romance' William and Kate. And guess where you can find those two extraordinary movie events? That's right. Channel Five. Which also happens to be owned by Daily Scum Express proprietor Richard Desmond. So, no obvious sycophantic brown-tonguing going on there then. No siree, Bob.

There's a great interview with John Simm on the Life of Wylie blog where John says - among other things - that he was, perhaps, too hasty in stopping Life On Mars and wishes he made another series. So do six million regular viewers, John. Plus, Simms confirms the previously reported rumour that he wouldn't mind playing The Master in Doctor Who again and also reveals that he's filming a second series of Mad Dogs. Skill.

Phillip Schofield has admitted that he is 'nervous' over royal wedding, Probably best not to watch it then, mate. You'll be in good company, yer actual Keith Telly Topping is planning on avoiding it too.

John Torode and Gregg Wallace have been confirmed as the first duo to co-host an episode of Have I Got News For You. The MasterChef presenters will co-host the Friday 13 May edition of the BBC's political panel show. Friday 13th. What could possibly go wrong?! 'It's brilliant being on Have I Got News For You,' Wallace said. 'I've watched it for years and never dreamed I'd ever be on it. Mum's going to be so proud!' He then added, 'hosting doesn't get any tougher than this.' Well, no he didn't. But it would've been a right good laugh if he had, trust me. Torode added: 'Have I Got News For You is a fantastic show and I'm really excited to be asked to be part of the first ever double act to host it. Quizzes don't get tougher than this!' Ah, Tordoe got to say it instead, the little tinker! Meanwhile Richard Wilson, executive producer for Hat Trick Productions, joked: 'Have we booked two of them? There must be some mistake.' Other hosts confirmed for the current series include Rhod Gilbert and Alexander Armstrong. The satirical comedy show, which stars Ian Hislop and Paul Merton, recently returned to its original Friday night slot having moved to Thursday nights last year.

The BBC is considering proposals including a 'slimmed-down' BBC News channel concentrating on 'developing news and headlines' and increasing commercial income from its journalism as part of director general Mark Thompson's drive to cut costs by twenty per cent. According to internal documents seen by the Gruniad, BBC News is looking to 'release twenty per cent in overall savings between 2013-14 and 2016-17' under Thompson's 'Delivering Quality First' initiative. BBC executives are looking at options including reducing the BBC News channel's forty six million pounds-a-year budget by 'offering a slimmed-down channel focusing on developing news and headlines,' while also focusing on improving its reputation for 'delivering breaking news.' Other proposals being discussed including making the BBC Parliament channel 'more cost effective and accessible' and making more money from selling BBC News output to overseas broadcasters 'without damaging our brand and reputation.' A BBC News spokeswoman said: 'No decisions have been taken and any decisions coming out of the Delivering Quality First process would be subject to approval by the BBC Trust.' The twenty per cent cuts are a result of the six-year licence fee freeze the BBC had foisted upon them by the government in October and Thompson has asked staff to come up with ideas as to how they can be achieved while maintaining the quality of the corporation's content and services. Last month he unveiled twenty one different proposals, including axing overnight programming on BBC1 and BBC2, but admitted 'some, frankly, are ideas that aren't going to fly' and said the corporation's policy will not be finalised until the summer. However, Kevin Bakhurst, the controller of BBC News channel and the BBC1 lunchtime news, has outlined 'initial thoughts' in an e-mail to staff from a working group chaired by the Radio 2 controller, Bob Shennan, set up to look into how BBC Journalism can save money. Bakhurst said: 'What is clear is that all areas of news will be impacted and the News channel as one of the bigger areas of expense (around forty six million a year) will clearly be looked at closely. I fully expect that we will have to make savings of around twenty per cent a year from 2013-14 and I have been involved in looking at how we can do this with the lowest on-air impact for the audiences.' According to the document there are twelve 'key questions for further investigation.' Some are vague but, interestingly, one of the most detailed covers the BBC News Channel and asks: 'Is there an opportunity to improve the news channel's reputation for delivering breaking news whilst offering a slimmed-down channel focusing on developing news and headlines? Are there opportunities to focus our offer and share more whilst continuing to be the best provider of regional and local news?' Another question covers the BBC Parliament channel and asks: 'Can we take our democratic institutions to UK audiences in a more cost effective and accessible manner?' This may leave politicians wondering if BBC Parliament could be made available only online. Another question being posed by Shennan is: 'Commercial income: Are there opportunities to drive greater commercial income to News from ex-UK offers without damaging our brand and reputation (within appropriate framework)?' There have been a number of leaks about DQF proposals including replacing BBC2 daytime shows with output from the BBC News channel – which could help spread the cost of its forty six million pounds a year budget to another division – as well as cutting children's programmes from afternoons on BBC1 and reducing BBC1's budget. Bakhurst told staff in his e-mail that there will be further discussion about the twelve key questions about BBC Journalism at away days this summer. 'Work continues and nothing has been signed off either by Bob Shennan and his group nor by Helen [Boaden, BBC director of news] or the DG,' he said. 'I do think it is important to remind ourselves that although some of this will be painful, we remain a well-funded news organisation and News channel with a fair degree of certainty overall about the level of BBC funding for several years to come.'

The government should have its power to rule on media mergers and takeovers removed so that ministers can no longer determine whether such deals are in the public interest, the Labour party has said. Ivan Lewis, the shadow lack of culture minister, wrote to his opposite number the vile and odious rascal Hunt in March asking him to consider stripping ministers of their quasi-judicial role in the communications act that is planned for this parliament. His demand comes as the vile and odious rascal Hunt prepares to sign off News Corporation's controversial bid to take full control of BSkyB following a consultation period, possibly as early as next week. The deal was approved by the vile and odious rascal Hunt at the beginning of March despite concerns over the market power Rupert Murdoch's media conglomerate would wield in the UK. In his letter Lewis wrote: 'In light of the very real issues of impartiality that have arisen in relation to this case [News Corp's BSkyB bid] will you consider including provisions in the bill which would in future remove politicians from having any quasi-judicial role in relation to specific plurality and cross-media ownership decisions.' The lack of culture secretary replied to Lewis on Tuesday but he did not directly answer Lewis's question about whether he would remove the government's power to decide whether media mergers are in the public interest. The vile and odious rascal Hunt told the shadow lack of culture secretary: 'I will certainly be considering whether we need to introduce new provisions in respect of media plurality.' Lewis responded on Thursday: 'Jeremy Hunt's response reveals that there are still crucial governance and finance issues to be resolved if the independence and viability of Sky News are to be guaranteed. The onus is on Mr Hunt to produce sufficient evidence to demonstrate his final decision is in the public interest and deals with legitimate concerns about media plurality. I am disappointed that he has not agreed to consider my proposal that future legislation should remove ministers from having a quasi-judicial role in relation to specific media ownership and merger decisions. This would be a way of rebuilding trust in a process which has been tarnished by a lack of confidence in the impartiality of Jeremy Hunt and Vince Cable.' The lack of culture secretary waved the purchase through after News Corp said it would 'spin-off' Sky News, which is currently wholly owned by BSkyB, as a separate company quoted on the London Stock Exchange. News Corp will take a minority stake in the news provider. The vile and odious rascal Hunt was handed the power to rule on media mergers by David Cameron in December after business secretary Cable was secretly taped by undercover reporters from the Daily Torygraph saying that he had 'declared war' on Murdoch. Since giving the go-ahead for the News Corp/Sky merger, the vile and odious rascal Hunt has said that it may be necessary to introduce new legislation which would enable ministers to act when too much media power becomes concentrated in the hands of a single company. Currently the vile and odious rascal Hunt can only ask the Competition Commission to assess whether a 'media plurality' test is necessary when a merger or acquisition is announced. The vile and odious rascal Hunt had indicated that a new communications act could contain measures allowing them to refer a company to regulators when it achieves a similarly dominant position by its increasing market share as a result of expansion rather than buying or merging with a rival. The vile and odious rascal Hunt's Department for Culture, Media and Sport expects to publish a consultation paper by the end of the year, but he told Lewis a bill would follow 'as soon as practicable.' Lewis had asked him to work with Labour to ensure a communications act can be passed by 2013. The vile and odious rascal Hunt said that timetable was 'unrealistic.' The lack of culture secretary also confirmed to Lewis that a ten-year content deal between BSkyB and the Sky News 'will be of key importance' to the newly independent company. But he refused to divulge what percentage of its revenues will be generated by its continued role as the pay-TV company's news provider. Lewis claims eighty five per cent of Sky's revenues will come from BSkyB. The vile and odious rascal Hunt also confirmed that the majority of Sky News's directors, including its chairman, will be independent and not appointed by News Corp.

Anyone else noticed Fiona Bruce sounding particularly aal full of cold when reading the Six O'Clock News on Thursday? Poor lamb.

The BBC has asserted its commitment to genre fiction in all forms following an attack by a group of grumpy authors which accused the programmer of adopting a 'sneering tone' towards science fiction, fantasy and horror. Led by fantasy author Stephen Hunt, eighty five writers, ranging from science fiction authors Iain M Banks, Elizabeth Moon and Michael Moorcock to acclaimed fantasy author Steven Erikson, horror writer Ramsey Campbell and children's author Tamora Pierce, wrote to the BBC's director general Mark Thompson earlier this week, attacking its books coverage on World Book Night last month. The programming, which included The Books We Really Read: A Culture Show Special and New Novelists: Twelve of the Best, used 'a sneering derogatory tone' to address commercial fiction, focusing instead on literary fiction, the letter read. 'The vast majority of novels that are read in this country fall far outside of the contemporary fiction genre – they very much include the three genres of science fiction, fantasy and horror, which has produced everything from classics by HG Wells, Bram Stoker, Roald Dahl, Mary Shelley, George Orwell and JRR Tolkien, to modern bestsellers by such authors as Iain M Banks, Sir Terry Pratchett and JK Rowling – these three genres being totally excluded from the BBC's World Book Night coverage,' the authors complained. 'The BBC World Book Nights self-indulgent coverage gave the general public the misleading impression that novels are only for an elite, and that unless you're reading Dostoevsky, preferably in the original Russian, you're wasting your time on trash.' But the BBC said this week that it was 'absolutely committed to celebrating books in all their forms,' including science fiction, pointing to Mark Gatiss's adaptation of HG Wells's Man on the Moon, which ran last October on BBC4, and to three-time Arthur C Clarke award winner China Miéville's appearance on The Review Show. 'Sci-fi has, and will continue to be, represented across the BBC's output,' the BBC said, adding that the genre would be featured as part of the forthcoming Review Show book specials this summer, and also in a May edition of The Culture Show, which will see Mark Kermode reporting on the British Library's new exhibition, Out of This World: Science fiction but not as you know it. As well as contemporary literary fiction, books celebrated by the BBC on World Book Night included titles by women's fiction author Marian Keyes, children's fantasy writer Philip Pullman and thriller author John le Carré. 'The BBC is committed to delivering a broad range of books programmes across radio and television, from The Books People Really Read, an irreverent but enthusiastic authored film, to The Culture Show's forthcoming science fiction coverage in May and a new Book Review Show later in the year,' said a BBC spokesperson in response to Hunt's letter. They failed to add that Hunt's chances of getting any of his work featured on the BBC were now, probably, pretty low. Because they're far too nice to indulge in that sort of thing. Other book-related programming coming up on the BBC includes a Dickens season at the end of the year, featuring Armando Iannucci setting out to rediscover Dickens the novelist – 'how he wrote, what he thought and why it works.' And a new Stephen Fry series on BBC2, Planet Word, which will see Fry 'dissect language in all its guises with his inimitable mixture of learning, love of lexicon and humour.'

The week got off to a bad start for Bill O'Reilly, who was deeply disturbed by the news that Standard And Poor's have downgraded long-term US debt to a negative rating because of concerns that policy makers may fail to reach agreement on our budgetary challenges anytime soon. Even worse, the Democrats and the president are still harping on about the need to raise revenue by rolling back the tax cuts awarded to rich people by former President Bush (which were temporarily extended last year), yet remain reluctant to cut additional services to the poor, the elderly and to women's reproductive health. O'Reilly analyses the situation with Brit Hume, who shared his gloomy outlook. While both men took comfort in the fact that at least the Republican party seems absolutely determined this time around not to back down from their plan to redefine America's social compact by forcing through additional spending cuts for the poor while awarding additional tax cuts for the rich, they remain fearful that this strategy may backfire come election time. On a later segment, O'Reilly put on his commoner hat to have a go at the British royal family for foisting Prince William's lavish wedding plans on the American public, which has no time for Britain's culture of entitlement. He discussed the issue with FOX News anchor and royal enthusiast Martha MacCallum. 'I submit to you this is sport for England. It's fun for England. They got the old Windsor Castle. They got the old Queen running around. They've got all the scandals. It's fun for the peasants – and I'm a peasant, all right – it's fun for them. But for America, we don't recognise this, we don't have royalty in this country and people like you try to foist it upon us.' MacCallum suggested that a strong British monarchy is 'good for America' - and for western civilisation in general - because it's rebuilding a nationalistic feeling in the UK that will help counteract the failed multiculturalism experiment that Prime Minister David Cameron recently talked about. O'Reilly still found the idea of people like Prince Charles and Camilla, whom he describes as 'two pinheads,' living the high life and running up 'millions of dollars on the taxpayer's back' while the poor and downtrodden of Britain are 'struggling to cope with job losses and savage spending cuts,' too undemocratic for his liking. 'So, how did they get all of their carriages and all the maintenance on their castles and everything? Because they stole it from the peasants! From you and me and all the others. I'm Irish, but how do you think the kings got all their castles? They stole them!' Jeez, it's come to a pretty sorry state of affairs when yer actual Keith Telly Topping finds himself agreeing with Bill O'Reilly, dear blog reader! Then again, as previously noted, even a broken clock's right twice a day. MacCallum, who is of Scottish descent, agreed that some of that kind of thing may have gone on in the past, particularly in Scotland where the royal family did their share of pillaging and plundering. This infuriated O'Reilly. 'This would be like us in America celebrating the wedding of Al Capone's great-great-great-great-granddaughter because he stole the money. Come on!' O'Reilly closed out the segment insisting that he won't be going anyway near the royal wedding, even though he wasn't invited anyway. And then he got back to discussing the problem of the working class in America – or union thugs, if you prefer – who continue to protest about losing their collective bargaining rights, and even went so far, this past weekend, as to boo former Governor Sarah Palin when she suggested that it was a good thing that workers had their take home pay reduced so corporations could enjoy a lower tax rate. Bill O'Reilly, dear blog reader, a man of the peasants.

Meanwhile, still on the subject of FOX News, Glenn Beck was somewhat subdued this week as he returned from vacation to serve out the lame duck session of his cancelled TV show, but he did manage to work up a sweat about a story that he claimed to have read in the right-of-centre blog Redstate.com. One which drew attention to a new study by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms that looked at the importability of certain shotguns. Redstate concluded from reading the study that the ATF may be trying to spring new regulations on gun owners by imposing more restrictions on firearms that are not designed for 'a sporting purpose.' Beck thinks that preventing American citizens from owning weapons which were designed to, you know, kill human beings is unconstitutional - which it is only if you take some words away from the second amendment - and he suspects that it is just one of the many ways that President Obama is trying to undermine the founders' work. The second amendment notes that 'a well armed militia being necessary for the security of the state' Americans have the right to own a gun to protect themselves. But, against whom? Clay pigeons? No – Beck argues. An oppressive government. Mad as toast.

The landlord of murdered landscape architect Jo Yeates has launched libel and privacy claims against a string of newspapers. Christopher Jefferies is to sue the Sun, Daily Mirra, Daily Scum Mail, Daily Scum Express and Daily Lies 'among others,' according to his lawyer Louis Charalambous. Jefferies was the subject of intense media scrutiny after he was arrested in December 2010 on suspicion of murder. He was later released without charge. Another man was subsequently charged with the murder and is currently awaiting trial. Jefferies is 'seeking vindication of his reputation for the terrible treatment he received' at the hands of the press, his solicitor's statement added. Miss Yeates vanished after returning to her basement flat in Bristol's Clifton area on 17 December. Her body was found on a grass verge about three miles away on Longwood Lane in Failand on Christmas Day. Charalambous, a partner at Simons Muirhead and Burton, said he was hoping for a swift resolution to Jefferies' case. In 2008 Charalambous represented British expatriate Robert Murat, who received a record settlement in 2008 of six hundred thousand pounds and an apology over 'seriously defamatory' allegations in nearly one hundred newspaper articles concerning the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. In Murat's case, the settlement was reached with the Sun, Daily Scum Express, Sunday Scum Express, Daily Lies, Daily Scum Mail, London Evening Standard, Metro, Daily Mirra, Sunday Mirra, News of the Scum and the Scotsman. He later also settled out of court with BSkyB, for an undisclosed sum.

The comedy writer Sol Saks, who created the 1960s US sitcom Bewitched, has died aged one hundred. He died on Saturday of respiratory failure as a result of pneumonia at a Los Angeles hospital, his wife told the Los Angeles Times. Starring Elizabeth Montgomery as a witch who marries a mortal, Bewitched ran in the US from 1964 to 1972. Yet while he wrote the original pilot script, Saks never wrote another episode. 'He just sat back and took in the royalties,' said Paul Wayne, a long-time friend and writer who worked on the show. Saks said his inspiration came from two films: 1942's I Married a Witch, starring Fredric March and Veronica Lake, and 1958's Bell Book and Candle, starring James Stewart and Kim Novak. 'He was pretty honest about the fact it wasn't a particularly original idea,' Wayne told the Los Angeles Times. Before Bewitched, Saks wrote for such US radio comedies and TV series as My Favorite Husband, Mr Adams and Eve and I Married Joan. He also wrote the screenplay for Cary Grant's last film, the 1966 comedy Walk Don't Run.

Cat Deeley has claimed that Cheryl Cole could become 'America's sweetheart' if she lands a judging role on The X Factor USA. Does that mean she won't be 'Britain's sweetheart' any more? And, if so, yeah, can we do that please?

Former Creation Records owner Alan McGee turned down the chance to make a film drama about the label's history, he has revealed. The British music label, which McGee founded in 1983, was home to bands like Oasis, Primal Scream and The Jesus and Mary Chain before folding in 1999. He said he was approached by the BBC and Channel Four about telling the story. But speaking to 5Live, McGee said that a straight dramatisation 'reeked of miscalculation.' The fifty-year-old added that Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh had agreed to write the screenplay and had suggested 'morphing' McGee, Sex Pistol's manager Malcolm McLaren and former Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham into one character. 'That, to me was a ten out of ten idea,' McGee said on Thursday. 'But not for the BBC or Channel Four, they want a dramatisation of Creation Records straight, so yesterday me and Irvine turned it down. It was going to be called something like Beyond The Eruption.' The former manager, who is featured in Upside, Down - a new film documentary about Creation's history - added: 'If we were going to do a literal Creation thing let's do it on one of two subjects. Either when we were out of our minds 88-94, or the whole Brit Pop political thing when Labour were asking me if I could get young Britain back to work and we were going to Downing Street. The rest of it is too much of a freak show.'

A rare single of 'God Save the Queen' by The Sex Pistols has been named the most valuable vinyl record of all time, with experts saying it is worth eight thousand pounds. The single was originally issued on A&M Records. But the group were dropped from the label before the record was released and most of the copies were destroyed. Record Collector magazine have compiled a list of the fifty one most collectible vinyl records. The Rolling Stones and The Beatles both feature in the top five. 'There is something of an investment market in mint-condition copies of iconic albums,' said Record Collector editor Ian McCann. 'The problem is people love them and play them to death, making it increasingly rare to find them in mint condition.' Early stereo copies of The Beatles' Please Please Me LP is ranked in second place with an estimated value of three thousand five hundred smackers. Now, hereby hangs a tale. Periodically, when they haven't got anything else to publish, one of the tabloids may do an article on record collecting. Inevitably, this will include a list of the rarest records in the world and will be a statement that 'stereo copies of the Beatles first LP are worth megabucks.' What usually happens thereafter is that a few gullible people will search through their vinyl, find they have a stereo copy of Please Please Me (which they bought for a fiver from HMV in the mid-eighties) and rush to their local second-hand record shop only to be told that what they've got is worth a couple of quid, if that. Records (particularly the successful ones) used to remain on catalogue for long periods but, every so often, a new batch would be pressed up with a slight amendment to either the cover, or the label, or both. So, for anyone who thinks they may have a valuable item gathering dust in the cupboard, please note; the – very rare – Please Please Me variant to which this price tag refers is one that was available, for a short time only, in early 1963 when almost all records sold were mono rather than stereo. It can be easily identified by its black Parlophone label, which features distinctive gold lettering. Not the subsequent black with yellow lettering, or black with silver lettering, both of which are common as muck. It's also worth noting that this price refers to a record in mint condition. Chances are if you bought Please Please Me in 1963, you’ll have played it few times since. Each time you put the stylus on the record, you’re diminishing any potential resale value. Original stereo copies of the Rolling Stones self-titled debut record from 1964 - valued at one thousand pounds - is fifth. Between them on the countdown are jazz saxophonist Hank Mobley's self-titled LP from 1957 and rocker Wil Malone's own self-titled release from 1970. Finally, a word of advice to all would-be record collectors. Remember, any record is only 'worth' what someone else is prepared to pay for it. In strictly scrap-value terms what you’ve actually got is twelve inches of black plastic housed in a cardboard sleeve. The raw materials are worth no more than a penny.

A woman accused of saying 'bang, bang' to the policeman blinded by killer Raoul Moat has pleaded not guilty to a public order offence. Kelsey Donkin allegedly made the comment when PC David Rathband arrived at Newcastle Crown Court for the trial of two men accused of helping Moat. Rathband attended court most days with his wife Katherine. Donkin, of Stamford Avenue in Sunderland, appeared before magistrates in Newcastle. She was arrested after allegedly making the comment and a gun gesture with two fingers behind the officer's back as he attended Newcastle Crown Court on 2 March. Donkin will next appear at Newcastle Magistrates' Court on 27 June accused of using threatening words and behaviour to cause PC Rathband distress. The unarmed PC lost his sight after Moat shot him in the face twice twenty four hours after he murdered his ex-girlfriend's new lover and seriously injured her. Minutes before PC Rathband was shot in the face, Moat had called Northumbria Police and said he intended to target police officers. Following the shootings, a manhunt started for Moat. The thirty seven-year-old died after a six-hour stand-off with police in Rothbury on 10 July. Karl Ness and Qhuram Awan were subsequently found guilty of helping Moat. Ness was given a forty-year minimum term, and Awan must serve at least twenty years.

Meanwhile, A mother of four accused of biting off her boyfriend's testicles has denied grievous bodily harm. Maria Topp allegedly attacked Martin Douglas at his Newcastle flat on 18 February. He required emergency hospital treatment for his injuries. Topp, from Aycliffe Place, Wrekenton appeared at Newcastle Crown Court for a brief hearing on Thursday to deny the charge. She was granted bail. Her two or three-day trial will be fixed later.

Spain's national cup, the Copa del Rey, isn't held in as much regard as the FA Cup is over here, but this year's trophy was special. Firstly, any Clásico between Real Madrid and Barcelona always gets the headlines. More importantly, Cristiano Ronaldo's extra-time header gave José Mourinho his first trophy at Madrid and the club key bragging rights over their Catalan rivals ahead of the two legs of their Champions League semi-final clash. It's a shame no-one told Sergio Ramos, though, as he accidentally dropped the cup from the top of a double-decker bus and watched helplessly as it fell under the wheels. 'The cup fell,' the Europa Press agency quotes Ramos as saying. 'But the cup is okay.' Squashed, but okay.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, we're off to Scotland yet again - third time in a week after Arab Strap and the Mary Chain - and a fantastic Roddy Frame song about unrequited love.

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