Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Bit Of Skulduggery

The Scotland Yard officer who oversaw the 2009 'review' - if you can call it that - of phone hacking has been accused of giving 'unconvincing' evidence to a committee of MPs reviewing the police investigation during an afternoon of high drama (and, at times, high - almost pantomime - comedy) in the latest twists in Hackgate.
Assistant commissioner John Yates insisted that he has 'no intention' of quitting over the inglorious affair, despite admitting that the whole fiasco had been 'damaging' to the reputation of the police. Scotland Yard officers carrying out the phone-hacking inquiry, known as Operation Weeting, are currently examining eleven thousand pages of material containing nearly four thousand names of potential hacking victims. But, Yates - who in 2009 said that 'no additional evidence has come to light since this case has concluded,' agreed that he had not seen the eleven thousand pages himself and did not even know what was in them. He was followed by former colleague Andy Hayman who was told by the Committee chairman that he was 'More Clouseau than Columbo.' Hayman, the officer in charge of the original investigation into phone hacking, told MPs that that his operation now looks 'very lame' but rejected suggestions that he was in the 'back pocket' of News International calling such claims 'unfounded.' Hayman, who served as assistant commissioner for specialist operations at the Metropolitan police during the first investigation in 2006, gave a comically inept performance in front of the committee as he faced accusations of coming across to the public as 'a dodgy geezer.' Hayman, who became a columnist for The Times, owned by News International, two months after retiring from the police, also rejected claims made in the New York Times that he 'made a deal' with NI because they held damaging information about his personal life. Confronted with an article he wrote for The Times in 2009 in which he claimed that he had 'left no stone unturned' in the original investigation, Hayman told MPs that his detectives were 'the best team that I ever had.' But, Hayman said that he had 'no involvement at all' in the decision not to trawl through the eleven thousand documents recovered from Glenn Mulciare's flat when he was arrested. Later in the session, Sue Akers, the deputy assistant commissioner of the Met who is in charge of the current investigation, admitted that her officers had so far contacted only around one hundred and seventy of the approximately three thousand eight hundred and seventy suspected hacking victims whose details were found in the notes seized from Mulcaire. The gruelling Home Affairs select committee session began with a stern warning from Keith Vaz, the chair of the committee, that any witnesses who gave false evidence and 'persistently mislead a committee may be considered guilty of contempt of the House of Commons.' Yates strongly denied allegations made in the New York Times that he, too, had been 'put under pressure' not to investigate phone hacking at the News of the World because of fears that the Sunday tabloid would publish details about his personal life. 'I categorically state that was not the case. I think it's despicable, I think it's cowardly,' he told the MPs. Yates said he had 'never, ever' received any payment from journalists - or anyone else for that matter - for information, although he did admit that it was 'highly probable' some of his fellow officers did. At the start of his evidence, he read from a prepared statement, saying: 'I have never lied, all the information provided to this committee and others have been given in good faith.' Despite a session that ran over by twenty minutes following a volley of tough questioning from MPs, Vaz concluded that Yates's evidence had been 'unconvincing' and that he may be called back to the committee at a later stage for further questioning. Yates appeared before MPs as Britain's biggest police force attempted to salvage its shattered to fragments reputation after it emerged that it missed numerous allegedly criminal acts of phone hacking by the News of the World, and that some of its officers allegedly sold information to the paper, which facilitated the hacking of members of the Royal family. Yates, who became involved in the affair in 2009 as the assistant commissioner in charge of specialist operations, acknowledged in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph that his decision not to reopen an investigation was 'pretty crap.' He expressed 'regret' to the committee for errors that had been made, but he blamed the failure to reopen the investigation on the News of the World's reluctance to co-operate at the time. He admitted that he did not take fresh legal advice when reviewing the evidence in 2009, and said that he had not conducted a review of the original 2006 investigation, but had merely tried to establish whether action was needed in light of revelations made in a Gruniad article in 2009 that hacking was more widespread than had been previously thought. He said then that there was no new evidence which the police were aware of. Asked by Vaz if he had considered his position, Yates told him: 'If you are suggesting that I should resign for what News of the World has done, I think that is probably unfair.' Pressed again, later, on whether he thought he would keep his job, Yates insisted this was 'not a resignation matter.' In his opening statement, however, he did tell the committee: 'Had I known then what I know now, I would have made different decisions.' He said the recent Sunday Telegraph article fairly reflected his views on the matter, and he admitted 'more could have been done' on his part when he took up the baton. 'I can assure you all that I have never lied and all the information that I've provided to this committee has been given in good faith,' he said. 'It is a matter of great concern that, for whatever reason, the News of the World appears to have failed to co-operate in the way that we now know they should have with the relevant police inquiries up until January of this year. They have only recently supplied information and evidence that would clearly have had a significant impact on the decisions I took in 2009 had it been provided to us.' Yates said that he was asked in 2009 to see if there was anything in the Gruniad article which merited further investigation. He had just one day to do this. He conceded that, with hindsight, it was a poor decision. 'But we didn't have the information we should have done.' As was pointed out to him, actually, the police did have the vast majority of the information they have now - eleven thousand pages of it, to be exact - if only he had chosen to look at it. Yates also admitted that he had attended social events with News International executives, but stressed that no investigation was going on at the time he did this. 'I have been absolutely open about that, but the investigation was not open at that time. It was closed. So I have not been in contact during a live investigation under my oversight.' He was ridiculed by Labour's Steve McCabe, who told him that he was not the 'dogged, determined sleuth' the MPs had been expecting. The public should be reassured that the police are now 'investigating the matter properly,' said Yates to the sounds of much mocking laughter. 'Every MP on the committee raised their eyebrows at that,' tweeted the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg. Yates had earlier received the backing of the home secretary, Theresa May, who said that she had confidence in him and he was doing 'a very good job.' May's own judgement is now being called into question after Yates's unimpressive performance in front of the committee. Speaking before Yates gave evidence to MPs, May said: 'John Yates is in charge of counter-terrorism. He is doing a very good job in that role. I have confidence in John Yates.' She also told a Home Office press briefing that she took any suggestion of corruption in the police 'very seriously.' She had spoken to Sir Paul Stephenson, the Met commissioner, as soon as the allegations emerged last week to satisfy herself that they were being dealt with properly, she said. 'Any officer who is involved in corruption or illegal activity of any sort in any way should be identified and dealt with according to the law.' Yates admitted at one point that 'there was probably an element of that' when asked if the first inquiry was an exercise in 'doing the minimum possible' to appear as though the matter had been properly investigated. Asked by Lorraine Fulbrook whether he took fresh legal advice after the Gruniad's 2009 article alleging widespread phone hacking, Yates started to go into a lengthy answer. 'I think she is asking for a yes or no,' interrupted Vaz. Yates replied 'I want to get some context around it.' Fulbrook then told him to 'stop the smokescreen' and she received an answer - 'no.' MPs also heard from Lord Blair, the former Met chief, who said that his home and mobile phones were found on lists obtained by detectives investigating phone hacking at the News of the World. Blair, who stood down as Met commissioner in late 2008, made the revelation as he gave evidence on the separate issue of the police's response to anti-social behaviour. Blair told the committee: 'What I am aware of is that my mobile and home telephone numbers were within the files that have been examined. I have no evidence and nor, as far I am aware, does Operation Weeting have any evidence to suggest that those phones were hacked.' The former police officer also said that an earlier inquiry into phone hacking by the tabloid while he was head of Scotland Yard was 'not a major issue at the time. Never during my period of office, which ended in 2008, did it become a major issue,' he added. MPs asked the former Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke why the full extent of hacking at the News of the World was not uncovered. He told them: 'We pursued it as far as we could through the correspondence with the News of the World's lawyers.' But, he said, it was a global company with access to the best legal advice. He added that his remit during the initial investigation was strictly to look into who had been hacking into the phones of members of the Royal household. Only the 'most important' victims of phone hacking had been told about it, he said. He told MPs that he had to weigh up a breach of privacy investigation with counter-terrorism investigations, and an exhaustive analysis of the evidence at hand may or may not have made any difference at all. As PoliticsHome.com's Paul Waugh tweeted shortly after this revelation emerged, this appears to be very much a case of life imitating art: 'The Wire becomes a reality. Police probe into phone hacking didn't get resources cos it wasn't about terrorism.' Clarke admitted that Glenn Mulcaire's notebooks were not thoroughly investigated at the time, Clarke saying that he 'shares the shock of almost everybody at the depths to which the media seem to have sunk.' He added that if there had been any meaningful cooperation from News International with the earlier investigation then they wouldn't be here now. James Clappison MP told Clarke 'I find your evidence hard to accept.' It was clearly going to be a tough day for police officers. Clarke did better than Yates, at least. He appeared to be genuinely angry at the way the investigation had gone and said that he not only 'suspected' but was 'as certain as I could be' that News International had something to hide. He concluded by accusing News International of 'prevarication and lies' and said that it 'deliberately tried to thwart the criminal investigation.' He added that 'very little material' was given to police. 'We were unable to spread the inquiry further with News International because of their refusal to co-operate more broadly.' Next up was the slapstick comedy highlight of the day - one Andy Hayman. He was almost immediately in difficulties with the committee over his rapid transition from leaving the Met to joining The Times as a columnist - 'being a writer was a boyhood ambition,' he said, with a somewhat nervous giggle. 'Did no alarm bells ring at the move?' Keith Vaz asked, dryly. Haymen was asked about his contract with News International, and said that he would only discuss it in a 'private conversation.' The BBC's Laura Kuenssberg noted on Twitter soon afterwards that the paper had reported this morning that Haymen's contract has been terminated. He admitted the decision to work for a Murdoch newspaper may have been naive. 'Looking back at it, you might say they're part of the same stable,' he conceded. You might, indeed, say that Andy - because they are. 'But I just didn't see that,' he continued giving a flawless impression of a clueless buffoon. 'I was seen by the editor and deputy editor and I didn't know them from Adam. Any hint that I am in the back pocket [of NI] is unfounded. I refute that,' said Hayman. 'More Clouseau than Columbo,' noted Vaz as Hayman admitted to having dinners with the very people whom he was investigating. Hayman said that he 'has no idea' if his own phone was hacked, despite being on the list of victims. 'Don't beat me up for being upfront and honest,' complained Hayman, as the committee questioned him about his aspirations to be a journalist. 'You made a judgement to accept hospitality from people you were investigating,' the committee said. 'Not having dinner [with NI chiefs] would have been more suspicious than having it,' replied Hayman, somewhat bizarrely. The committee collectively laughed. It wasn't a good laugh, either. 'We're astonished at how you're answering these questions,' said Vaz, when a visibly annoyed Hayman asked why they were laughing at him. A baffled Nicola Blackwood MP said that she felt like she had 'fallen through the rabbit hole' in this investigation. Stephen McCabe wondered why Hayman 'ridiculed' Lord Prescott for his claim that phone hacking was widespread, and accused him of 'ranting.' Hayman said that 'of course' he owes Prescott a sincere apology. He called the effect of the hacking on its victims 'a horror story' and said that he fully supported a judge-led inquiry. Was his first inquiry a 'disaster,' asked Louise Fulbrook? Haymen replied: 'It was under my watch, under my command, sure.' Fullbrook said that the public would see Hayman as a 'dodgy geezer.' The inquiry was a disaster, she added. 'No, it wasn't a disaster, two people were jailed,' replied Haymen as though that made everything all right. James Clappison read from an article which Hayman wrote for The Times back to him. 'When I learned that the Royal family were making allegations, my heart sank. This was not the time for a half-hearted investigation. We put our best team on it.' At this point Fulbrook asked, as she had with all previous witnesses, 'did you ever receive payment from a news organisation?' Hayman snorted like a startled racehorse, a sort of exaggerated 'humphing' noise, and blustered 'Come on! That's a real attack on my integrity! I'm not going to let you get away with that!' Vaz had to calm the situation, pointing out to Haymen that Fulbrook had asked all the witnesses the same question and that, as a member of a House committee she can ask those called to it any question she damn well likes. 'Your answer is an unequivocal no?' he asked. Then he closed Haymen's - thoroughly entertaining - appearance before the committee with 'normally, I summarise the evidence provided, but in this case I think your evidence speaks for itself.' Burn. Apparently ignoring or not noticing the dig, Hayman merely said 'thank you.' Two particular highlights from the end of Hayman's session were when Fulbrook asked if Haymen didn't realise 'that the public will see you as a dodgy geezer' and Nicola Blackwood telling him that he talks 'like a tabloid journalist rather than senior police officer.' One could go on, at some length, about Haymen's fifteen minutes in the spotlight but the Gruniad's Simon Hoggart does it so much better: 'The star of the marathon committee session on phone hacking was undoubtedly Andy Hayman, the then top copper who was in charge of the first inquiry that led nowhere. He must be given his own sitcom, a blend of Life On Mars and Minder, starring Hayman as Del Boy. One of the MPs called him "a dodgy geezer" to his face. Put it this way: I wouldn't let him sell me a cheap Rolex, if I wanted to know the time.' Sophy Ridge, once of the News of the World and now of Sky News, tweeted afterwards concerning Hayman's rather Sweeneyesque performance in front of the committee: 'Twitter is split into those who hated Andy Hayman, and those who want to give him his own cop show!' Peter Bleksley, a founding member of Scotland Yard's undercover unit, subsequently savaged Hayman's 'performance' in front of the select committee, saying: 'Although Andy Hayman is no longer serving, the lack of respect he showed was quite unforgivable. He was glib and flippant. His performance was appalling.' After the remarkable slapstick of Hayman's evidence, Sue Akers was disappointingly calm and low-key and a much more impressive witness. After watching the MPs take it in turns to beat up John Yates and then Andy Hayman beat up himself, almost anyone would have been an improvement. But it was hard not to be quietly impressed by Sue Akers. She joined the Met in 1976 and has spent most of her career in CID. She's served at police stations in Fulham, Sutton, Rochester Row, Hornsey and Wembley, worked with the Flying Squad and spent three years on an armed surveillance unit. She also trained as a hostage negotiator in 1991. She was given responsibility for gun crime in London, including the high-profile Operations Trident and Trafalgar, as well being put in charge of kidnapping and hostage negotiation. Tough lady. And, she clearly impressed the committee more than the previous three contributors put together. She said 'I don't doubt that everyone's analysis is that confidence in the police has been damaged. I don't doubt that if we don't get this right, it will continue to be damaged.' She was asked if she was confident that hers will be a thorough inquiry. Akers - who reportedly helped Helen Mirren research her role as DCI Jane Tennison for ITV drama Prime Suspect - replied, positively 'I guarantee it will be a thorough inquiry.' And, she said, she hoped this would restore faith in the Met. Akers was vastly more composed and calm than any of the previous witnesses. She said that there must be people 'sitting on a lot of material' relating to the case and asked that they come forward. She added that Operation Weeting has spent two months preparing a 'protocol' for the investigation with News International, and that the Met have direct contact with company executives Will Lewis and Simon Greenberg. She said that she is taking a 'very broad' approach to the inquiry, with all the victims from the original investigation as well as subsequent alleged ones within its scope. She said that around four thousand people are named in Glenn Mulcaire's notes, and that she believes she has all of the resources she needs to pursue the investigation, but that the situation is constantly under constant review. And, she appealed to journalists or any other members of the public, with information relevant to the inquiry to provide it to the police.

Chris Bryant joined the chorus of voices expressing admiration for Akers after she completed her evidence, despite the admission that more than three thousand potential victims have yet to be contacted. He also said that it 'beggars belief' Andy Hayman, who was 'giving it his honest geezer routine,' said that he always wanted to be a journalist and is now a journalist for News International. Bryant then appeared on Sky News and, deliciously, asked Kay Burley to apologise for having previously dismissed his claims about phone hacking. The last time the two faced-off, he memorably ended up describing her as 'a bit dim.' No apology from the thoroughly odious Ms Burley was forthcoming. 'I'm certainly not going to apologise to you, Mr Bryant, I don't think our viewers are particularly interested in that.' On that score, you horribly deceitful woman, sadly, you're probably correct. Tragically, Bryant didn't press the point and note that Burley has spent the last few years under the protection of Uncle Rupert's umbrella of fear as some kind of Rottweiler with high heels. She's been very good at making the likes of Peter Andre cry for his mummy but, like all bullies, when somebody stands up to her she shits in her own pants and runs an effing mile. Bryant did go on to say that the police must take action against News International in the light of Peter Clarke's claim in the Home Affairs committee that it had lied to the original phone hacking inquiry. 'That is a very serious charge against what is one of the most important organisations in our country and I think it is important we pursue these issues and we find out the full criminality that went on at News International,' Bryant said.

Heading outside the committee room, Laura Kuenssberg told her Twitter followers that, according to Credit-Suisse, the News Corp/BSkyB bid 'is effectively dead - only [a] ten per cent chance of going ahead.'

So, how does one follow the grilling of the Met's (alleged) finest in front of the Home Affairs select committee this afternoon? Difficult but, how about this - Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch, and Rebekah Brooks have all been 'invited' to give evidence in front of the Culture, Media and Sport select committee on Tuesday next week. It was reported that if they say no, the MPs will move to 'the summons stage,' according to committee member Therese Coffey, who tweeted: '[The] committee will move to summons stage if invitation declined (though we are advised power of summons does not apply to foreign nationals).' So, that would appear to suggest that, should they so wish, both of the Murdochs can simply decline (Rupert Murdoch is a naturalised American citizen whilst his son, James. was born Australia). But, one way or another, it appears that well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks will be required to appear if the summons stage goes ahead. And, at the committee she will, of course, be facing Labour MP Tom Watson among others. Book your seats now, dear blog reader, those are going to be hotter than tickets for the Olympics. As the Scum Mail's Tim Shipman noted: 'Tom Watson versus Rupert Murdoch. They should hold it at Wembley. Only place big enough!' This afternoon, Watson said: 'There's lot of arcane procedure as to this but we will be sitting next Tuesday and we expect them to be there. I suspect that some of them might be too cowardly to turn up but that's up to them to decide.' The Culture committee chair, John Whittingdale appeared on the BBC News Channel to state: 'I thought there was a strong chance that Rebekah Brooks would appear, as she is a British citizen and we do have powers to compel British citizens. But of course the Murdochs are not. I think it's a measure of how serious this is for News International that they have accepted this. I think it's the first sensible thing they've done.' The meeting, he noted, will be at 2.30pm next Tuesday. 'I suspect a lot of people will want to attend,' said Whittingdale, with considerable understatement. He added that a figure like Murdoch being brought before an HSC - if it happens - would be 'unprecedented.' Soon afterwards there was said to be 'some confusion' over the Murdoch, Murdoch and Brooks appearance at the Commons select committee. It seems that the assumptions they would attend were based on Rupert Murdoch's promise to 'cooperate with' the committee, rather than to specifically 'attend.'

The Gruniad reports that despite record 3.8m sales for the final News of the World, its stablemates the Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times didn't have nearly such a good weekend: 'The final issue of the News of the World sold a bumper 3.8m copies, but sales of News International stablemates the Sun and The Times slumped over the weekend as the public appeared to favour titles outside Rupert Murdoch's media empire. The Sun, Times on Saturday and The Sunday Times [are] thought to be the only nationals to have actually lost sales over the weekend. The Sun is believed to have had possibly its worst weekend of the year, losing as many as two hundred and fifty thousand sales on Saturday, according to unofficial estimates.

In other developments on Day Nine of Hackgate: Schadenfreudegasm's Coming Home - News International has denies that the Sun accessed the medical records of former prime minister Gordon Brown's son Fraser, explaining that a 2006 story about the infant having cystic fibrosis 'originated from a member of the public.' Quite how a member of the public obtained this private medical information, they haven't revealed. No doubt they will. Another NI paper, The Sunday Times, also denied that it broke any laws when investigating the purchase of a flat by Brown. The Labour leader Ed Miliband met David Cameron and Deputy PM Nick Clegg this evening to discuss the fall-out of the scandal. Cameron is to make a statement following tomorrow morning's prime minister's questions, according to Sky News. Quoting 'Sky sources', the broadcaster reported that the judge-led inquiry into the phone-hacking affair which Cameron has promised is going to have a much wider remit than the News of the World affair. Sky News chief political correspondent, Jon Craig, said that he had been told it will look at 'the relationship between politicians and the media' as well as the relationship between the police and the media and that politicians from past and present will be called to give evidence. Cameron appears to be engaged in a process of damage limitation. Last week, at PMQs, Ben Bradshaw suggested that Cameron should block the takeover on the grounds that News Corporation's assurances could not be trusted. Using a phrase which was seen by some as a pointed jibe at Bradshaw's homosexuality, Cameron mocked the idea: 'If you do not follow the correct legal processes, you will be judicially reviewed, and all the decisions that you would like to make from a political point of view will be struck down in the courts. You would look pretty for a day, but useless for a week.' This week, however, Cameron's stance is very different. Although the government has not abandoned its commitment to the 'correct legal processes,' the man who did not want to express a view on the News Corp bid last week is now telling his MPs to go through the Commons lobbies to vote against it. MPs will vote on Wednesday on a Labour motion urging Rupert Murdoch to withdraw his bid for BSkyB - both the Lib Dems and, significantly, the government say that they will back the call. Of course, what this makes abundantly clear is that politicians are following the polls. They must have noticed that the News Corp-BSkyB bid is deeply unpopular with the general public. According to a YouGov poll at the weekend, only nine per cent of those questioned who expressed a preference think that the bid should be allowed. Seventy per cent want it blocked. A majority of respondents also say they want the decision about the bid to take into account the phone hacking affair. Miliband earlier has a meeting with the family of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, whose phone was allegedly hacked, and told them his 'heart goes out' to them. The websites TheSunOnSunday.co.uk and SunOnSunday.co.uk have been transferred to News International amid speculation a seven-day edition of the Sun is being planned. News International says that it is to offer new positions to 'the vast majority' of former News of the World staff. How many of them will want to take it is, at this time, unknown. As is whether there's likely to be a vacancy for a new crossword compiler. The Information Commissioner Christopher Graham appeared on BBC News, making a passionate case that breaches of data protection law should carry 'a custodial penalty.' He says that data theft is seen as a 'victimless crime' and that it will take tougher sentences to discourage it. The Gruniad's Dan Sabbagh says that while rumours of Rupert Murdoch selling off his UK newspapers continue to whirl around, Daily Scum Express, Daily Lies and Channel Five owner Richard Desmond has been 'keeping a low profile.' Read into that what you will, dear blog reader. A former Scotland Yard detective plans to sue the publishers of the News of the World for harassment and hacking his phone while he was investigating a high-profile axe murder, according to Reuters. Mark Lewis, the lawyer for the policeman, Dave Cook, and for his wife Jacqui Hames, told the news agency that he believed the planned suit against News Group Newspapers would be the first action against the now-defunct weekly for the physical trailing and electronic surveillance of a police officer by journalists working for it. In the light of today's Gruniad story about the way a decision made by a judge six years ago not to go ahead with a court case effectively concealed evidence about Gordon Brown's data being illegally targeted, Ben Bradshaw, the former Labour lack of culture secretary, has revealed that he is writing to the Lord Chief Justice to demand an explanation.

Professor George Brock, head of City University's journalism department and a former editor of The Times, says that the ethics component of journalism courses is likely to be given greater prominence. 'Modules on subjects like "history of journalism" and "journalism and society" are constantly being updated and of course phone-hacking will be mentioned,' he says. 'We teach ethics in varying forms across most courses and phone-hacking is likely to raise the prominence of these issues.' Ros Coward, professor of journalism at Roehampton University, agrees that teaching ethics will be even more important now. 'It has always been considered important, but this is going to step up how important it is,' she notes. She added that the phone-hacking scandal has proven how important it is for would-be journalists to be properly trained. Ethics forms a major part of most - if not all - journalism courses. What about how the revelations of phone-hacking will be taught? Tim Luckhurst, professor of journalism at the University of Kent, says they will be studied in the 'History of Journalism' module alongside topics such as the failure of British Journalism during World War I, the Press Barons and Geoffrey Dawson's censorship of his Berlin Correspondent during the era of appeasement. The quote from Luckhurst is particularly damning. He lists three of the great low-points of British journalism. Now he has a fourth to add to his list.

And, so to something not News International-related. I know, I was shocked as well. BBC Worldwide has reported record underlying profits, up ten per cent to one hundred and sixty million pounds in the year to the end of March, with its chief executive, John Smith, taking home a remuneration package up more than nine per cent year-on-year to eight hundred and ninety eight thousand smackers. Nice work if you can get it. The BBC's commercial arm reported record revenue of £1.16bn, up 7.8 per cent year-on-year in the twelve months to 31 March, helped by strong performances from its international TV channel business and exploitation of popular brands including Top Gear and Doctor Who. International sales increased by 9.6 per cent to account for fifty five per cent of total revenues, with a particular focus on 'the English-speaking markets of the USA and Australia.' BBC Worldwide's pre-tax profits were two hundred and one million quid when the proceeds of the sale of its fifty per cent share in its global TV channel joint venture with Discovery is included. The ten per cent growth in profits has slowed compared with the massive thirty six per cent rise recorded in the previous year to the end of March 2010. 'This was BBC Worldwide's most successful year ever in championing great UK content around the globe,' said Smith. 'We were able to lift revenues beyond a billion pounds for a third year in succession and also deliver impressive results.' BBC Worldwide said that the top five selling programme titles in the year to the end of March were the fifth series of Doctor Who, the debut series of Sherlock, the fifteenth and sixteenth series of Top Gear, and Human Planet. The Doctor Who franchise made the biggest value leap last year with revenue climbing forty nine per cent, thanks to significant growth in the US. BBC Worldwide has seen a forty five per cent increase in DVD and download-to-own sales, with Doctor Who the third-biggest seller in the US iTunes chart behind Mad Men and Glee. Sales also increased in Europe, moving the revenue mix to fifty per cent from outside the UK. In the previous year seventy per cent of revenues had come from sales of Doctor Who DVDs and merchandise in its home market. Overall the top TV brands by revenue – when sales of all series and programme titles are combined, not just for a single series – were Top Gear, Doctor Who and Waking the Dead. Advertising revenue sales from BBC.com, BBC Worldwide's flagship online property, rose by one hundred and thirteen per cent year-on-year in the US. Total digital sales, which primarily come from online and mobile operations, now account for 8.1 per cent of total net income. BBC Worldwide is aiming to get that figure to ten per cent by the end of March 2012. 'BBC Worldwide's results were driven by a number of key factors including continuing success of our programme sales and DVD businesses, growth in our TV channels as well as BBC.com's excellent momentum towards profitability,' said Smith. BBC Worldwide said that six of its seven operating divisions increased revenues, although two reported losses for the year. The channels business, which operates an international network of forty one TV services including BBC America, saw sales rise by nineteen per cent year-on-year to three hundred and twelve million smackers thanks to growth in subscriber revenues in the UK, US and Scandinavia. Advertising sales rose twenty seven per cent and profits were up by 2.3 per cent to forty million snots. Content and production, which derives profits from selling and making local versions of formats including Dancing with the Stars, the international version of Strictly Come Dancing, saw sales increase by nine per cent year-on-year to £102.8m 'mainly due' to commissions in France and India. However, profits in the division slumped by fifty five per cent to eight million smackers because of 'cost and investment' in Dancing in the Stars USA and development of a new production facility. Revenues at the digital media division, which includes BBC.com, investments in two digital start ups and a games unit, increased eighty seven per cent year-on-year to twenty seven million knicker. Total digital sales rose 31.5 per cent to eight two million spon. The division managed to slash losses by sixty per cent to £6.8m 'reflecting the move towards profitability of BBC.com.' Global brands, a division that aims to drive multiplatform value from premium brands such as Top Gear and Lonely Planet, saw revenue increase by 4.2 per cent year-on-year to eighty six million notes. However, losses in the global brands division widened by more than fourteen per cent year-on-year to £10.3m. The company said the division was affected by a range of factors including the strength of the Australian dollar, a 'challenging travel guide market' hitting Lonely Planet and 'strong competition' in the children's merchandising market. The sales and distribution division, which licenses BBC programming to broadcasters around the world, saw revenue increase from 3.3 per cent year-on-year to two hundred and thirty million quid and profit rise fourteen per cent to £58.8m. Consumer products, formerly known as the home entertainment division, which sells DVDs and audio and music content, saw revenues rise by 1.2 per cent year-on-year and profits rise by 14 per cent. BBC Worldwide said that £9.1m of consumer producers revenue, or four per cent, is now accounted for by digital download-to-own – almost triple the previous year and clearly a growing market. BBC Magazines, home to titles including the Radio Times, saw revenues fall by 0.4 per cent year-on-year to £164.5m. Profits rose by 9.1 per cent to £21.6m thanks to strong growth from specialist titles such as Good Food and Olive. BBC Worldwide is currently negotiating the sale of BBC Magazines to private equity company Exponent.

Worldwide has also announced plans to rent digitally remastered episodes of classic Doctor Who on Facebook. Using the new Facebook Credits system, members of the social networking site will be able to visit the official Doctor Who page and stream a selection of nine stories from the history of the Time Lord, each containing several episodes. The digitally remastered classics include 1967's Tomb of the Cybermen, along with modern day favourites such as Silence in the Library and End of the World. The Greatest Show in the Galaxy will be exclusive to Facebook as it has never been released before on DVD. 'You were a wonderful clown once. Funny. Inventive. I'm not helping you any more!' Ah, that was a cracker. The episodes will be available for Facebook users in Europe, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, with rentals lasting for forty eight hours. Enough time to watch it, ooo, about twenty seven times. If you don't sleep for two days. Lots of coffee or a decent batch of 'perfectly-legal over-the-counter stay-awake drugs' called for in this instance, one imagines. Facebook Credits is a new system designed to provide a secure way for users to purchase content on the website. Credits can be bought within an app, or through the payments tab within the user account settings. BBC Worldwide chief executive John Smith said: 'As we have grown internationally, we've seen through our Facebook channel that fans who are loving the new series are asking for a guide into our rich Doctor Who back catalogue. Our approach to Facebook and other leading edge platforms is to be right there alongside them in fostering innovation. We see this service as a perfect way to give our fans what they want, as well as a great way for them to get their fix between now and the autumn when series six continues.'

Torchwood creator Big Rusty Davies has suggested that the SF series benefits from having a smaller episode count per series than most other US programmes. Davies said that Torchwood: Miracle Day's ten-episode order ensures that as much action as possible is packed into each instalment. 'I come from Britain, where the industry is smaller and we tend to have less money, but it survives because we're making much shorter series. I like it,' Davies told the Los Angeles Times. 'I've lived in America now for two years, and you get these blocks of programming that run for twenty three weeks of the year. And when they all stop before the summer, it's like TV-land is empty.' The Doctor Who writer added: 'I think stations should be more nimble and have ten-parters, six-parters. Audiences are getting smaller and more niche now; it just seems like the smart thing to do. That's what happened with Starz. We came in with a thirteen-part series for Torchwood, and they were like "cut it down" to ten episodes. We really made it fly.' Davies also insisted that intimate moments involving Captain Jack (John Barrowman) and Gwen (Eve Myles) are just as vital to Torchwood's appeal as monstrous alien races such as the 456, the Weevils and the Nostrovites. 'I like the fact that I can afford a helicopter chase now and again. But the real drama is the character moments. That's what I really write well. It's the same for Torchwood,' he said. 'When you reach Episode Nine, there's such a punch coming where we reveal the secrets of the show in a very clever way. But it doesn't always have to be drama on a scale. Intimate moments are just as effective. It's just such a great cast. If you want to give me a scene with Bill Pullman locked in a room with Eve Myles, then I would happily write you the best drama in the world. It all comes down to good actors in the end.' Aside from his work on Doctor Who and Torchwood, Davies created the critically acclaimed drama Queer as Folk as well the religious allegory The Second Coming.

The latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day is especially for all of the boys in The Met. We trust you. Thousands wouldn't.

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