Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dial M For Murdoch

David Cameron has told MPs that 'with the benefit of twenty-twenty hindsight' he would not have hired the ex-News of the World editor Andy Coulson.
In the closest he has yet come to a full and frank apology - without actually using the word - the prime minister said: 'Of course I regret, and I am extremely sorry, about the furore it has caused.' About the furore, note, not about doing the wrong thing. Coulson quit the News of the World over phone hacking, saying that he knew nothing ('naaaa-thing!') about any hacking, blagging, pinging or buggery but took ultimate responsibility. Amid stormy Commons scenes Labour leader Ed Milimolimandi said that hiring Coulson was 'a catastrophic error of judgement.' The BBC's political correspondent Gary O'Donoghue said 'bit by bit, Mr Cameron is cutting Mr Coulson further adrift.' The prime minister returned early from a trip to Africa to make an emergency statement on the phone hacking crisis. He said that if Coulson - Cameron's former director of communications - had lied about phone hacking at his time at the News of the World then he should face 'severe' criminal charges. He added: 'If it turns out I have been lied to that would be a moment for a profound apology, and in that event I can tell you I will not fall short.' And he told MPs that with hindsight 'I would not have offered him the job and I expect that he wouldn't have taken it.' But Milimolimandi said that this was 'not good enough' and that repeated questions about Coulson had been met 'with a wall of silence' by Cameron's aides. 'The country has the right to expect that the prime minister would have made every effort to know the facts about Mr Coulson, to protect himself and his office,' he said. 'This can't be put down to gross ignorance. It was a deliberate attempt to hide from the facts on Mr Coulson.' Labour MPs continued to press Cameron on the subject of Coulson throughout the debate - asking what advice he had received from other figures concerning Coulson, including from the deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, and which company had been used to vet the former tabloid editor before he was hired. They also questioned Cameron about his contacts with another former News of the World journalist Neil Wallis. Cameron accused Labour of making a 'litany of rather pathetic conspiracy theories to try and win a political game' - which of course they were ... but, it has to be admitted, he had handed them a stick with which to beat him. He also defended his chief of staff, Ed Llewellyn, after it was suggested on Tuesday he had failed to pass on information about phone hacking to the prime minister. Cameron also faced a barrage of questions from Labour MPs over whether he had broken the ministerial code by discussing Rupert Murdoch's bid to take control of BSkyB with News International executives such as Rebekah Brooks. To roars of outrage from the opposition benches, Cameron replied: 'I never had any inappropriate conversations.' He insisted he had taken himself out of the decision-making process entirely - and that his Labour predecessors Tony Blair and Gordon Brown had enjoyed a closer relationship with the Murdoch empire than he did. He grew increasingly exasperated as Labour MPs continue to press him on whether he had discussed BSkyB with News International executives - when one Labour MP asked if he had ever mentioned the word in Rebekah Brooks' presence, said, simply, 'I have', sighed heavily and sat back down again. Several Conservative MPs stood up to attack the previous Labour government's record on dealing with press intrusion, previous Downing Street aides Damian McBride and Alastair Campbell and Miliband's own communications director - former News International journalist Tom Baldwin. Downing Street had released e-mails on Tuesday showing that Llewellyn had prevented senior police officers briefing the Tory leader on the phone-hacking investigation. Coulson's former deputy at the News of the World, Neil Wallis, also gave 'informal' advice to the Conservative Party ahead of the election, the party has confirmed. Both Wallis and Coulson have since been arrested and questioned by detectives on the new phone-hacking inquiry launched earlier this year. Cameron would not be drawn on whether the hiring of Coulson was George Osborne's idea as Rebekah Brooks claimed in her submission to the culture committee on Tuesday. 'The Chancellor has many bright ideas,' Cameron claimed (although I'm struggling to think of one at the moment), 'but in the end this was my decision.' Cameron was asked several times which company had vetted Coulson, and refused to answer. One MP asked whether the company has donated to the Conservative Party, and Cameron replied 'I'll write to the honourable gentleman. I don't want to give an answer that is wrong.' Cameron was also asked whether the forthcoming judicial inquiry will look into the death of David Kelly. Cameron said that it's important the inquiry doesn't go 'completely viral, as it were,' and added that Kelly's death had already been looked into very closely. The Prime Minister also claimed that the Left have, in the past, overestimated the power of Rupert Murdoch's empire just as the Right have overestimated the alleged Left-wing bias at the BBC. Over-regulating the media could have dire consequences, he said, pointing out that the Jonathan Aitken and MPs expenses scandals were both uncovered by methods that strict regulation may have banned. Labour's Chris Byrant said that the Leveson inquiry will not be able to examine whether police officers lied to parliament because of parliamentary privilege and the Bill of Rights. Cameron said he would give Bryant 'a considered reply' on this point because 'it is an important one.' Cameron added that he would like the Leveson inquiry to consider limits on media ownership. There should be cross-party consensus on this, he argued, otherwise parties will compete with each other to offer media organisations the best offer. Nick Raynsford, a former Labour minister, claimed that a senior civil servant had been the victim of phone hacking. In a question to Cameron, Raynsford said: 'A year ago during the period when Mr Coulson was director of communications, the cabinet secretary was alerted to evidence of illegal phone hacking, covert surveillance and hostile media briefing directed against a senior official in the Government service. What action, if any, was taken to investigate what appears to have been disgraceful and illegal conduct close to the heart of Government?' Cameron said that he would look into the allegation. But he also said that he had received no complaints about anything Coulson had done when Coulson had been working at No 10. Labour's Natascha Engel asked if it is true, as reported at the weekend, that Cameron was going to hire the former BBC reporter Guto Harri as his director of communications until Rebekah Brooks said that he should hire Coulson instead because he would be 'more acceptable to News International.' Cameron said that Brooks had addressed this claim in her evidence yesterday. (She said that it was George Osborne who suggested that Cameron should hire Coulson.) Asked to define what an 'acceptable' conversation about the BSkyB bid would be, Cameron said Brooks put it well in her evidence. It would be one that you could have in front of a select committee. Paul Farrelly, the Labour member of the culture committee, said that the News International defence has shifted from 'rogue journalist' to 'rogue lawyers.' What does Cameron want them to do? 'They should tell the truth,' Cameron said. Oily snake Ben Bradshaw asked if there had been any conversation with Brooks about the BSkyB bid. 'As Rebekah Brooks says, we never had a conversation that we couldn't have had in front of the select committee,' says Cameron. Cameron was, by this point, clearly getting defensive about Brooks, responding to another Labour MP's question by angrily saying 'At least I haven't had a slumber party or seen her in her pyjamas.' Blogger Paul Waugh spoke for a nation when he said: 'We are all relieved to hear that.' Dennis Skinner then suggested Cameron has been asked a simple question twice: did he ever discuss the BSkyB bid at any of his social meetings with either Brooks or the Murdochs. Cameron yet again didn't, quite, answer the question, saying 'I never had an inappropriate conversation.' Skinner clapped sarcastically. Louise Bagashite Mensch - fresh for her nine round bout with oily faceache (and drag) Piers Morgan last night - argued that 'cheap partisanship' is not what is needed at the moment but, rather spoiled the effect by then sneering 'It doesn't look good coming from the party of Tom Baldwin and Damian McBride.' Err ... I think you'll find that's, actually, a dictionary definition of 'cheap partisanship,' Louie. Tom Watson confirms that Cameron said no-one raised Coulson's conduct with him when he worked for the PM. Watson then disagrees, saying that he wrote a letter to the prime minister regarding Coulson last year and that he has yet to receive a reply. Cameron responded that he meant no-one complained had about Coulson's conduct during his time at No 10. Watson added that he wrote to PM on 4 October 2010 raising new evidence of Coulson complicity on hacking. Cameron tried the old 'can I pay tribute to the Honourable Gentleman' defusing tactic. This was one occasion where it clearly didn't work. Alan Johnson was up next. 'The Home Secretary made a statement last week of over a thousand words,' he said. 'But the words "Neil" and "Wallis" were not mentioned.' He wondered whether the prime minister knew that the Met had employed the former News of the World deputy editor. Cameron said that he did not. Challenged upon what checks Ed Miliolimandi took over appointing Tom Baldwin, the Labour leader said that he specifically checked with The Times newspaper and was given assurances that Baldwin conducted no illegal activity. Miliband told the Prime Minister to stop 'chuntering' about the veracity of the checks, because Tom Baldwin's line manager for much of the time at the newspaper was none other than the Education secretary, Michael Gove. Milimolimandi also hit back at the prime minister's claim that he never invited Rebekah Brooks to No 10 Downing Street. Miliband said that's because all the meetings they two had were in Oxfordshire. Nadhim Zahiwi, a Conservative asked if Miliband had any meetings with News International during the Labour leadership campaign. Miliband replied that he did. But that they were profoundly unsuccessful. As the Sun's 'Red Ed' coverage showed, he could not be accused of having 'a close relationship' with the Murdoch press.

There was, at least, one bravura performance in the House of Commons – not from David Cameron, but from Nick Clegg, who managed to spend the entire time staring at the ceiling, twiddling with his thumbs, and generally projecting the air of a man absent-mindedly considering where to go for dinner this evening. It conveyed, with overwhelming clarity, the idea that this statement – and, indeed, this scandal – have absolutely nothing to do with Clegg and the Lib Dems, and that as far as he was concerned, his friend Dave was on his own.
The vile and odious rascal Hunt said that News Corporation still has questions to answer about why Rupert Murdoch and other executives did not know about the extent of phone hacking at the News of the World. The lack of culture secretary told the BBC he was 'shocked' that 'people at the top' did not know about wrongdoing. Murdoch said yesterday that he had been 'betrayed' by some staff at News International. He has since sent an e-mail to all employees, saying that those responsible must 'be held accountable under the law.' In his evidence to the Commons culture committee on Tuesday, Murdoch said he only learned that phone hacking was more widespread at the paper than originally claimed at the start of the year - when the company passed new information over to the police. He said he felt 'betrayed' by certain executives within News International but did not pinpoint those he felt were responsible so as not to prejudice the police investigation. The vile and odious rascal Hunt, who has responsibility for media regulation, said that he was 'worried' by what had been said by Murdoch and his son James. 'The question that News International have to answer is why malpractice happened throughout a very important part of their organisation without people like Rupert Murdoch knowing. What shocked me listening yesterday was the fact that so much wrongdoing seemed to happen without the knowledge of the people at the top. And they did say that apology is not enough - they have to demonstrate through what they do, not what they say, that they are putting it right. But it does seem like a huge amount was going wrong in that organisation and no-one felt it necessary to tell the person at the top and I think that is something that will have worried a lot of people.'

The Labour MP Chris Bryant claimed that 'senior members of the Royal family' were 'very troubled' by Cameron's decision to hire a man who resigned after his newspaper hacked the phones of aides to Prince William and Prince Harry. Bryant even suggested that palace staff tried to raise their concerns with Cameron himself. Buckingham Palace issued a forthright denial that any member of the Royal household or of the Royal family had tried to warn Cameron against hiring Coulson and Downing Street chipped in saying that any such claim was 'complete rubbish.' The palace spokesman said: 'On no occasion did any officials from Buckingham Palace raise concerns to Downing Street and indeed it is outrageous to suggest this.' But the fact that members of the Royal household privately held strong opinions about Coulson's appointment will inevitably ratchet up the pressure on the prime minister. One 'source' allegedly said that staff within the royal palaces were 'surprised' when Coulson was hired as media strategist to the then leader of the opposition, and 'eyebrows were raised' further when he was taken into Downing Street following the Tories' election victory. Bryant said he knew this indirectly from 'a very good source.' He said that he had not spoken to the person involved directly, but that he had spoken to a person who had spoken to the person (a member of the Buckingham Palace staff, he seemed to imply) who 'made it quite clear to people that there was a high degree of anxiety about this.' The message, he suggested, was passed on not directly to Cameron, but to 'members of his team.' He wasn't the only one to make the claim either. Sky News's Paul Harrison reported on Twitter that Buckingham Palace was - presumably collectively - gobsmacked by the Andy Coulson appointment, but that they didn't raise concerns with Downing Street. He said: 'Buckingham Palace "sources" tell me senior royal household members "gobsmacked and astonished" re Coulson's appointment. Palace source tells me "taking on former editor of NoW anyway, let alone the #hacking scandal" was 'very surprising'. Palace sources [say] "palace staff were surprised when Coulson was taken on in opposition, more so, when he went into No 10.'

News International has terminated 'with immediate effect' its arrangement to pay the legal fees of Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator at the centre of the phone-hacking scandal. The move follows evidence given by James Murdoch to the Commons culture, media and sport select committee, when he told MPs he was 'as surprised as you are' when he discovered 'certain legal fees were paid to Mr Mulcaire' by the News of the World publisher. The News Corporation management and standards committee met on Wednesday morning and decided to terminate the arrangement. It said in a statement: 'The MSC is authorised to co-operate fully with all relevant investigations and inquiries in the News of the World phone hacking case, police payments and all other related issues across News International as well as conducting its own inquiries where appropriate.' Mulcaire was jailed for intercepting voicemails on phones used by aides to Princes William and Harry at the behest of the News of the World, has run up a legal bill of hundreds of thousands of pounds so far, with no end in sight, as he battles a string of ongoing phone-hacking civil lawsuits. He worked under contract for the News of the World until 2006 – and took careful notes of who at the newspaper commissioned his services. Detailed paperwork from his office was seized by the Met as part of their investigation into Mulcaire and former royal editor Clive Goodman. Both men were jailed in January 2007 for plotting to intercept voicemails belonging to royal aides, with Mulcaire receiving a six-month sentence. The question of whether Mulcaire's fees were being paid by News International has been a source of some debate for several months with News International failing to provide answers to several direct questions on the matter. It was raised again by Paul Farrelly on Tuesday, who asked the Murdochs: 'Is the organisation still contributing to Glenn Mulcaire's legal fees?' James Murdoch replied: 'As I said earlier I don't know the precise status of that now but I do know that I asked for those things – for the company to find a way for those things to cease with respect to these things.' When asked by Farrelly whether News International should stop contributing to Mulcaire's legal fees, James Murdoch said: 'I would like to do that. I don't know the status of what we are doing now or what his contract was.' Farrelly then asked Rupert Murdoch the same question. 'Provided we are not in breach of a legal contract, yes,' he replied. James Murdoch was asked would he let the committee know when a decision had been reached and replied 'I'm happy to follow up with the committee on the status of those legal fees.' Mulcaire has refused to confirm News Corp's decision to stop paying his legal fees. Speaking outside his home earlier today when doorstepped by a BBC reporter Mulcaire also would not be drawn on whether he had been visited by officers from Operation Weeting. 'As you can appreciate, we are in the middle of a number of inquiries at the moment,' he said. 'It's a very fluent and developing situation. Like I said, the developments have been different from day to day and I have no further comment to make at this stage. However, this may change.'

News International has been found by a parliamentary committee to have 'deliberately' tried to block a Scotland Yard criminal investigation into phone hacking at the News of the World. The report from MPs on the all-party home affairs committee was released on Wednesday morning. Its publication had been moved forward in time for the statement on the scandal by the prime minister. The report's central finding come a day after Rupert and James Murdoch testified before the culture, media and sport committee. The home affairs committee report marks an official damning judgment on News International's actions. It finds the company 'deliberately' tried to 'thwart' the 2005-2006 Metropolitan police investigation into phone hacking carried out by the News of the World. The full report's findings include the view that police failed to examine a vast amount of material which could have identified others involved in the phone-hacking conspiracy and victims much earlier. That John Yates made 'a serious misjudgment' in deciding in July 2009 that the Met's criminal investigation should not be reopened. He resigned on Monday. That the new phone-hacking investigation should receive more money, from government if necessary, so that it can contact potential victims more speedily. Only a fraction have been contacted so far. And that the information commissioner should be given new powers to deal with phone hacking and blagging. The central conclusion about NI's hampering of the police investigation comes after the home affairs committee heard evidence from senior Met officers who were involved in the case that News International obstructed justice. Last week the man who oversaw the first Metropolitan police investigation into phone hacking, Peter Clarke, damned News International: 'If at any time News International had offered some meaningful co-operation instead of prevarication and what we now know to be lies, we would not be here today.' The first police inquiry led to the conviction in January 2007 of just one journalist, Clive Goodman, and the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire. But subsequent developments, and the handing over of documents by News International, are alleged to show the practice of phone hacking was much more widespread than the company ever admitted. NI claimed for years that it was the work of one rogue reporter, a defence the company has now abandoned, at least in part because of a Gruniad investigation which eventually led to the Met reopening its inquiry. The committee heard on Tuesday that 'blindingly obvious' evidence of corrupt payments to police officers was found by the former director of public prosecutions, Lord Macdonald (eee-aye eee-aye oh), when he inspected News of the World e-mails. Macdonald said that when he looked at the messages from NI it took him between 'three to five minutes' to decide that the material was potentially evidence of crime and that it had to be passed to police. The e-mails and other material has been in the possession of NI or its lawyers for some years. MacDonald said: 'The material I saw was so blindingly obvious that trying to argue that it should not be given to the police would have been a hard task. It was evidence of serious criminal offences.' Ed Llewellyn, David Cameron's chief of staff, was dragged into the phone-hacking scandal on Tuesday when two of the country's most senior police officers revealed that he had urged them not to brief the prime minister on developments. Llewellyn sought to stop information about the scandal being passed on to the prime minister in September, a few days after the New York Times ran an article claiming that Coulson had been aware of the use of the illegal practice when he edited the News of the World. The former Metropolitan police commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson and former assistant commissioner John Yates told the select committee that they believed Llewellyn was keen to avoid 'compromising' the prime minister. Yates told the committee he was offering to discuss only police protocol – not operational matters. Committee chair Keith Vaz said: 'There has been a catalogue of failures by the Metropolitan police and deliberate attempts by News International to thwart the various investigations. Police and prosecutors have been arguing over the interpretation of the law. The new inquiry requires additional resources and if these are not forthcoming it will take years to inform all the potential victims. The victims of hacking should have come first and I am shocked that this has not happened. We deplore the response of News International to the original investigation into hacking. It is almost impossible to escape the conclusion voiced by [Peter] Clarke that they were deliberately trying to thwart a criminal investigation. We are astounded at the length of time it has taken for News International to cooperate with the police.' They also accused Rebekah Brooks of 'not telling the full truth' about her knowledge of phone hacking or payments to the police. 'We note that neither of these carefully-crafted responses [contained in a letter sent by Brooks to the committee in July 2011] is a categorical denial: Ms Brooks's denial of knowledge of hacking is limited to her time as editor of News of the World; and on payments to police, she did not say that she had no knowledge of specific payments but that she had not intended to give the impression that she had knowledge of specific cases.' The MPs also strongly criticised the police for failing to investigate phone hacking properly in 2006. 'The failure of lawbreakers to cooperate with the police is a common state of affairs. Indeed, it might be argued that a failure to cooperate might offer good reason to intensify the investigations rather than being a reason for abandoning them. None of the evidence given to us suggests that these problems were escalated for consideration by the commissioner of the Metropolitan police or by ministers. The difficulties were offered to us as justifying a failure to investigate further and we saw nothing that suggested there was a real will to tackle and overcome those obstacles. We cannot overlook the fact that the decision taken not to properly investigate led to serious wrongdoing which the commissioner himself now accepts was disreputable.' They also accused Andy Hayman, the assistant commissioner who oversaw the original phone hacking investigation, of 'trying to mislead the committee.' They suggest that he should have taken a closer interest in the 2006 investigation. And they are particularly critical of the attitude which he adopted when he spoke to the committee about his contacts with News International executives last week. 'Mr Hayman claims to have had little knowledge of the detail of the 2006 operation, and to have taken no part in scoping it or reviewing it; his role seems to have been merely to rubber-stamp what more junior officers did. Whilst we have no reason to question the ability and diligence of the officers on the investigation team, we do wonder what "oversight," "responsibility" and "accountability" — all of which words were used by Mr Hayman to describe his role — mean in this context. Leaving aside the fact that his approach to our evidence session failed to demonstrate any sense of the public outrage at the role of the police in this scandal, we were very concerned about Mr Hayman's apparently lackadaisical attitude towards contacts with those under investigation. Even if all his social contacts with News International personnel were entirely above board, no information was exchanged and no obligations considered to have been incurred, it seems to us extraordinary that he did not realise what the public perception of such contacts would be — or, if he did realise, he did not care that confidence in the impartiality of the police could be seriously undermined. We do not expressly accuse Mr Hayman of lying to us in his evidence, but it is difficult to escape the suspicion that he deliberately prevaricated in order to mislead us. This is very serious.' This last comment seems to be a reference to the fact that Hayman told the MPs when he had dinner with News International executives, he was always accompanied by the Met's director of communications, Dick Fedorcio. Fedorcio later said that this was not correct. The MPs strongly criticised the way Fedorcio had hired Neil Wallis, the former News of the World deputy editor, as a part-time PR adviser. 'We are appalled at what we have learnt about the letting of the media support contract to Mr Wallis. We are particularly shocked by the approach taken by Mr Fedorcio: he said he could not remember who had suggested seeking a quote from Mr Wallis; he appears to have carried out no due diligence in any generally recognised sense of that term; he failed to answer when asked whether he knew that AC Yates was a friend of Mr Wallis; he entirely inappropriately asked Mr Yates to sound out Mr Wallis although he knew that Mr Yates had recently looked at the hacking investigation of 2005-06; and he attempted to deflect all blame on to Mr Yates when he himself was responsible for letting the contract.' The MPs said that John Yates himself should have conducted a more thorough review of the phone hacking case in 2009. 'His decision not to conduct an effective assessment of the evidence in police possession was a serious misjudgement,' the MPs said.

Here's a tiny little titbit that could become a major story in a few days time. Tommy Watson asked John Yates about phone hacking in the Milly Dowler and Soham murder cases as long ago as March 2011, fully four months before the story broke in the Gruniad. It was during oral evidence taken before the culture, media and sport committee follow-up to press standards, privacy and libel on 24 March this year.

The post-Hackgate clampdown on the media has started already, it would seem. According to Paul Waugh on his PoliticsHome blog, a BBC producer, Paul Lambert, has had his House of Commons pass withdrawn for filming the plank who hit Rupert Murdoch with a foam pie as he was held in a Commons corridor yesterday. (There are strict rules in the Commons about where you can and cannot film.) Waugh suggested Sky News have also had their right to film in the building temporarily withdrawn. Louise Mensch, appears to have worked herself into a fury over the news. She soon took to Twitter, reporting that the pass stripping might have gone further than just Lambert: 'Apparently a young Press Association reporter also had his pass taken away. Can someone enlighten me on name and alleged offence?' she asked. She later announced that the journalists' passes had been restored: 'The Serjeant [sic] at Arms informs me that the two journalists are having their Lobby passes restored. Apparently they apologised and wrote letters which have been accepted. I did state my view that when journalists are reporting on the failures of House security they ought not to have had passes suspended at all.'

A High Court judge has ordered the police to disclose information relating to alleged hacking of the voicemail messages of Hugh Grant and Jemima Khan. Mr Justice Vos said the Metropolitan Police should make information available to the actor or his former girlfriend. Neither Grant nor Khan attended the twenty-minute hearing in London.

And, on a somewhat related note, there's been an unexpected intervention into British politics by Hollywood's Alec Baldwin, who tweets with touching confidence: 'Cameron should resign. England is filled with people who could do a better job.' Surely that's the death knell for the prime minister. Thanks for your contribution to the debate, Alec, we couldn't have made it without you.

The opening episode of Abi Morgan's new period drama The Hour launched with 2.9m on Tuesday evening, while the new Richard Hammond documentary grabbed nearly five million, according to the latest overnight audience data. The Hour, a Dominic West-starring series about a group of people setting up a current affairs TV show in the 1950s, entertained 2.68m on BBC2 in the 9pm hour, whilst a further one hundred and sixty six thousand punters watched on the BBC HD channel. Also in the 9pm hour, Richard Hammond's Journey to the Centre of the Earth had an audience of 4.92m on BBC1, beating Homes From Hell's 2.82m on ITV. Wildlife Patrol was watched by 2.42m on ITV from 7.30pm. BBC1's Holby City achieved 5.43m in the 8pm hour, beating Cops With Cameras' 2.68m on yet another thoroughly rotten night for ITV. Meanwhile the BBC's excellent Imagine documentary on the life of Harry Nilssen was watched by 1.87m from 10.45pm.

The BBC's programme-making rules are to be simplified, the BBC Trust has said. The BBC's governing body said there had been 'debate' about whether current procedures, known as compliance, were 'too restrictive.' The issue made headlines in 2008 following the dispute over prank calls made by Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand on Radio 2. It is hoped there will be 'simpler forms' and 'fewer layers of checking.' In June, Radio 2 breakfast presenter Chris Evans criticised the corporation and its compliance procedure. 'The compliance department of the BBC is so extensive it's an unbelievable nightmare,' he told an audience at the Hay Literary Festival in Powys. 'Sometimes you come up with an idea and the compliance is so great that you just say, "Let's not bother."' A report from the Trust said it was testing the process, which is supposed to make programme-making easier. 'The aim is to create a more proportionate, risk-based approach that places trust in individuals to make decisions in line with the BBC's values. We would expect to see simpler forms and processes, fewer layers of checking, more empowerment - as well as more responsibility and accountability - for front-line programme-makers.' BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten signalled earlier this year that he wanted to simplify the process. The report also said the corporation planned to build on its existing relationship with Ofcom and that roles within the BBC Trust and the top managers should be made clearer. The report also called for clearer and simpler information to be provided to the public on where they should go to complain about BBC content or services.

Michael Caine has praised Tom Hanks, Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan for their 'incredible' impersonations of him. The actor, whose iconic voice can be heard in the Pixar sequel Cars 2, claimed to be impressed by Hanks's impressions of him on Saturday Night Live and the British comedians' attempts to perfect his accent on BBC series The Trip. On Brydon and Coogan, he said: 'Yeah, I think they're fantastic. They did [their impressions] way out of date because there was a chance in my voice from when I was very young to what I am now. Your voice gets older and gruffer with cigarettes and everything.' And, not a lot of people know that, dear blog reader.

BBC science coverage is of 'high quality and significant quantity,' an independent review has found. But the report, by genetics professor Steve Jones, said the BBC 'must make make a distinction between well-established fact and opinion.' Attempts at balance were giving 'free publicity to marginal opinions,' the BBC Trust-published report said. Or, at least, opinions with which Professor Jones does not agree. The BBC, which has announced a new science editor role, welcomed the 'generally positive assessment.' The review of impartiality and accuracy of the BBC's coverage of science includes Jones' assessment as well as analysis of BBC science output carried out by Imperial College London. The report praised 'a thriving and improving genre of programming which is well established across a wide range of BBC services.' Its accuracy was 'exemplary,' it added. It also found that one in four broadcast news items was science-related with BBC1's Panorama and Radio 4's Today programme providing particularly strong output. But it found that, where there was consensus on scientific matters, providing an opposite view without consideration of 'due weight' could lead to 'a false balance.' This meant viewers 'might perceive an issue to be more controversial than it actually is.' Jones cited issues including global warming, MMR vaccines and GM foods. He said the BBC 'still gives space' to global warming sceptics 'to make statements that are not supported by the facts.' I love the use of the phrase global warming sceptics there, spat out of the mouth in the same way that most people use the phrase Holocaust deniers. He added that, for years, 'the climate change deniers have been marginal to the scientific debate but somehow they continued to find a place on the airwaves. Equality of voice calls for a match of scientists, not with politicians or activists, but with those qualified to take a knowledgeable, albeit perhaps divergent view of research,' he said. The report said that, when opposite views were deemed appropriate, the BBC 'must clearly communicate the degree of credibility the view carries.' It also found that the links between science programme-makers across the BBC was 'underdeveloped, meaning that internal expertise is not sufficiently exploited.' And it said the range of sources for stories was too narrow and overly-reliant on press releases. Writing in a blog, head of newsgathering Fran Unsworth said that she was generally delighted by the report's praise for the BBC's science coverage. She said Jones' findings did not mean that 'in future we will, for example, not interview climate change sceptics.' She said some scientific stories 'should be presented as a debate purely and simply within the scientific community. There will be others when it is appropriate to broadcast a range of views, including some from non-experts, because science cannot be divorced from the social, political and cultural environment in which it operates,' she added. On those occasions, the BBC must explain to audiences 'whether they are scientists, policy-makers, lobbyists or whether they are taking an ethical stand.' She also confirmed the creation of the role of science editor 'to bring a new level of analysis to science coverage, strengthen our contacts, and help us to take an overview of our coverage.'

BBC4 is to look at the story of how the United Kingdom fell in love with regional television in tonight's Regional TV: Life Through A Lens. Contributors including Angela Rippon, Michael Parkinson, Anne Diamond, Martin Bell, the legend that is Mike Neville and Richard Madeley describe the excitement and sense of adventure that existed during the very early days of local broadcasting. In the late 1950s and early 60s viewers were offered a new vision of the places where they lived. ITV and the BBC took advantage of transmitter technology and battled for the attention of an emerging regional audience. The first ITV regional service to launch was Associated Rediffusion, swiftly followed by ATV London in September 1955. Other areas soon followed such as Granada for the North West and ATV Midlands for central England in 1956. In March 1956 a Gallup Poll was undertaken in two ITV regions, London and Midlands, with the question posed which broadcaster do you prefer, the BBC or ITV? The ATV and ABC service to the Midlands had been on barely a month, but fifty eight per cent of those polled put the service above the BBC. Local television made household names of some of its stars and some of the regional programmes became national treasures upon being 'networked'. From Coronation Street to Countdown, to Nick Owen, Gordon Burns and Bob Warman as well as Jean Morton, Eamonn Holmes, Gloria Hunniford and Shaw Taylor. All local faces that went on to national stardom. Mike Neville first worked for Tyne Tees as an announcer before switching to the BBC in the 1960s. At the beeb he was host of Look North and became a national star when he joined Nationwide. However he refused to move to London and continued to present both the national and regional North East news at the same time, a first in British television. He re-joined Tyne Tees in the 1990s but not before he was 'honoured' with a 'Gotcha' from Noel Edmonds on House Party. Regional TV also launched Richard and Judy upon the nation. The pair started off as the hosts of evening news show Granada Reports before being picked to front a new daytime slot that everyone said would fail, This Morning. It was often a low budget affair, as current ATV Network president Alan Coleman recalls his early days at ATV Midlands’ Alpha Television studios: 'The studios were actually a converted cinema, which I believe started out life as a theatre. It was an old building, it gave us problems. I remember very often we had to move all the buckets off the studio floor which were there to catch the water which came in through the roof on a rainy day. It was a little bit dangerous as water and two hundred and forty volts don’t mix, but fortunately we all survived.' From those rather damp and underfunded facilities came the first regional news service in the UK, when ATV, before the BBC, began providing daily news for the region. However, later on, it still seemed a battle against time to get news reports to the air: 'Monday to Friday I read the evening news for ATV and during the day I would be a reporter and could be sent anywhere within the huge Midlands region, which in those days stretched from Leicester to Hereford, Nottingham to Oxford. I'd be required to rush back to base in Birmingham in time to develop and edit the film. You had to be quick to get your film into developing before the day's Crossroads shoot! And then go into make-up in time to slide into the newsreader's seat at 6.00pm to say "Welcome to ATV Today"' Anne Diamond told the Radio Times. Some viewers believed everything they saw on their own regional service was produced in the region; the story goes that when Tyne Tees Television began broadcasting the American cowboy action series The Lone Ranger to the people of the North East, viewers turned up at the Newcastle studios to see Trigger the horse! The regions of ITV, while working towards bringing viewers to one network, were known to have silly and trivial rivalries, which Granada were the best at being the bitches of broadcasting. 'Even though Yorkshire Television and Granada weren't rivals in the sense that they were broadcasting to the same audience, there was a lot of professional rivalry. Yorkshire thought that Granada news was crap and as soon as I got to Granada, I thought that Yorkshire news was crap. I got poached by Granada and when I told the head of news at Yorkshire, he just gave me this long look and says "Richard, they eat their young at Granada. For your own sake don't go there." I knew what he meant, Granada was, and still is, unbelievably political,' Richard Madeley who worked for Border TV from 1978-80, Yorkshire from 1980-82 and Granada from 1982-88 told the Radio Times. The power of local broadcasting became noted when daily daytime chat and music show Lunchbox started outside specials. Production company ATV expected around three thousand to attend the live transmission from Nottingham Forest Football Ground, nearly thirty thousand turned up to catch a glimpse of hostess Noele Gordon. The programme makers were an eclectic bunch but shared a common passion for a new form of TV that they were creating. For more than half a century they have reported on local stories. The early film-makers were granted freedom to experiment and create different shows and formats, including programmes that would later become huge hits. Regional programming also acted as a launch pad for presenters and reporters who would become household names. Today one of the most successful regional services in the UK is UTV for Northern Ireland, while the majority of other ITV regions are now little more than local news outlets, UTV continues to rate well in its ITV broadcast area. Michael Wilson, Managing Director, UTV Television, said recently on Ultimate Ulster, one of the company's most successful none-news programmes: 'Ultimate Ulster continues to be one of the strongest regional programmes in the UK.' He adds that, 'previous series of Ultimate Ulster have out-performed EastEnders [in the UTV region] and I hope that the audience continues to grow.' BBC4 aims to find out just how real the portrayal of regional life was in those early years and asks how will local life be reflected on our screens in the future?

Lost actor Doug Hutchison has claimed that he 'didn't want to hide' his relationship with sixteen-year-old Courtney Stodden. The actor married the teenage country singer in May and later confessed that he had struggled to cope with their thirty five-year age gap. However, the Green Mile villain clarified to E! that he had never been 'afraid' of going public with his love for Stodden. 'We had a lot of people, especially in my camp, because I'm in this profession, suggesting we keep [the relationship] under wraps for fear of the repercussions of whatever - career, perception - and I was adamant that I didn't want to hide,' he said. 'I believe there's one rule in Hollywood, and that's that there are no rules. That also can apply to love, and there are no rules, so. Was I afraid? No.' Hutchison even claimed that he had been offered more opportunities in Hollywood since his relationship with Stodden became public. 'What's kind of blown my mind about how this has all gone so global and viral is that I have had more opportunity now,' he said. 'I've been courted by producers, directors, agents, record executives. I don't think love is a career killer.'

Coronation Street's beleaguered boss has finally come out to defend his under-fire plotlines – but he agreed with some of the critics. Quoted in the Daily Mirra – one of the Street's fiercest critics – Phil Collinson says: 'We've been at the police station and the court a little bit too much. I can take that one on the chin.' Then he vowed to 'shift away from serial killers and crime storylines' in the coming months.

HBO's Emmy-nominated banking crisis drama Too Big To Fail will be broadcast on Sky Atlantic in the autumn, it has been confirmed. William Hurt, Paul Giamatti, James Woods and Cynthia Nixon star in the adaptation of Andrew Ross Sorkin's best-selling book about the US economic crisis in 2008. Oscar-winner Hurt plays treasury secretary Henry Paulson as he faces a multi-billion dollar black hole and is charged with stabilising the economy. Giamatti plays the chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke. Woods takes on the role of Lehman Brothers' CEO Richard Fuld, while Bill Pullman is CEO of JP Morgan Chase, Jamie Dimon. Matthew Modine and Michael O'Keefe are also among the cast. Too Big To Fail will be shown on Thursday 15 September on Sky Atlantic. The drama picked up eleven Emmy nominations earlier this month, including Outstanding Miniseries or Movie and Outstanding Lead Actor In a Miniseries or Movie for Hurt.

David Ngoombujarra, one of Australia's best-known Aborigine actors, has died aged forty four. The Australia and Rabbit Proof Fence actor was found dead in a park on Sunday in Fremantle, near Perth. Police said that his death was not suspicious. The three-time Australian Film Institute winner was also in movies including Blackfellas and Ned Kelly. His Australia co-star Hugh Jackman paid tribute to 'an extraordinary man, actor and friend. So saddened to hear about the passing of David Ngoombujarra. His laugh, warmth and humanity will live on with all who knew him,' Jackman wrote on Twitter. Born in Meekatharra, Western Australia, Ngoombujarra was one of thousands of Aboriginal children handed over to white families under Australian government 'assimilation policies.' He was adopted by a white family in Perth, as David Bernard Starr, before becoming one of the country's best-known indigenous actors. He won his first AFI award in 1993 for his role in the gritty urban drama Blackfellas. He was awarded a second in 2003 for Black and White in which he played an Aborigine convicted of killing a young white girl. And, in 2007, he won a third for a guest role in Australian TV legal drama The Circuit. His other films included Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles and Kangaroo Jack.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, as it happens, ladies and gentlemen, let us listen to the music of Sho. Waddy. Waddy. Stylish socks there, Dave.

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