Friday, July 22, 2011

Hackgate: It Just Keeps On Giving

Every time, dear blog reader, that you think Hackgate is just about to start running out of energy, another delicious revelation comes along to keep the ball rolling down the hill, hurdling ever decreasing layers of shielding as it gets closer and closer to those with the most to lose. A media empire, and the leadership of a country, to be exact.
In the latest spurt of manifest schadenfreudegasm evidence on phone hacking given to MPs by James Murdoch has been called into question by two former executives at the firm. Murdoch told the media committee on Tuesday that he was 'not aware' of an e-mail suggesting that the practice went wider than a single 'rogue' News of the World reporter. Former News of the World editor Colin Myler and ex-News International legal manager Tom Crone said that they 'did inform' him of the e-mail. Of course, that revelation in and of itself also means that Myler and crone themselves are effectively admitting that they also knew that the company's insistent for four years from 2007 until January of this year, on the lone rogue reporter defence was a lie. In April 2008, Murdoch authorised the payment of an out-of-court settlement of more than six hundred thousand pounds to Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, over the hacking of his phone. Murdoch has said that at the time he did not know the 'full extent' of hacking that may have been going on at the News of the World. The paper's royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire had both been jailed for hacking into phones of the royal household in 2007. But the e-mail in question was marked 'for Neville' and is said to have implied that the News of the World's chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck was also implicated in malpractices. Commons culture, media and sport committee chairman John Whittingdale said that the committee will ask Murdoch to 'clarify' what he said on the matter as part of a written response containing additional information that he has already promised to provide. The BBC's business editor Robert Peston - involved in a rather ugly Twitter spat with Tommy Watson ('Power to the People!') yesterday - described the pronouncements as 'a potentially important development' in respect of who knew what and when. At the committee hearing on Tuesday, Watson - the MP who, along with his colleague Chris Bryant and the Gruniad newspaper has done more than anyone else to keep this story alive when none on wanted to know about it - asked Murdoch: 'When you signed off the Taylor payment, did you see or were you made aware of the full Neville e-mail' suggesting that hacking was more widespread than had been previously admitted. Murdoch replied: 'No, I was not aware of that at the time.' He went add: 'There was every reason to settle the case, given the likelihood of losing the case and given the damages - we had received counsel - that would be levied.' In their statement, Myler and Crone said: 'Just by way of clarification relating to Tuesday's CMS Select Committee hearing, we would like to point out that James Murdoch's recollection of what he was told when agreeing to settle the Gordon Taylor litigation was mistaken. In fact, we did inform him of the "for Neville" e-mail which had been produced to us by Gordon Taylor's lawyers.' In a statement issued by News International's parent firm News Corporation, Murdoch said: 'I stand by my testimony to the select committee.' Crone and Myler must have been well aware that the statement they were about to make could prove fatal to James Murdoch. When the Gruniad pointed out in the wake of his parliamentary testimony that Murdoch's son had sought to blame them for concealment, a friend of the two men said: 'To contradict James will be as good as coming out and calling him a liar.' Myler and Crone, the News of the World's then editor and News International's top newspaper lawyer, both of whom have lost their jobs in the wake of the phone-hacking affair, subsequently spent the day debating what to do according to the Gruniad. If their statement of Thursday night is correct, then Murdoch will have proved to have misled parliament. It will also have destroyed the Murdoch family's last line of defence against the scandal: that they knew nothing, and had been betrayed by underlings whom they trusted. News Corporation insisted in a statement on Thursday night that James Murdoch stood by his testimony, but both sides cannot be correct. Myler and Crone are, in effect, jointly accusing James Murdoch of being part of the cover-up, one in which the company's executives vainly twisted and turned to conceal the truth about phone hacking and blame it on a single rogue reporter. James Murdoch's crucial claim to the committee was that although he had personally agreed to a massive payout to hacking victim Gordon Taylor, he had done so in ignorance of the true facts. He said Crone and Myler had told him the payout was 'legally necessary.' Watson extracted from Murdoch towards the end of the session what has now proved to be an incendiary claim. Murdoch, sitting alongside his father Rupert, claimed that Crone and Myler had concealed from him the crucial piece of evidence in the case: that an e-mail had come to light with a voicemail hacking transcript, marked 'for Neville' [Neville Thurlbeck, the News of the World's chief reporter]. The existence of this e-mail, had it been made public at the time, would have exploded the 'rogue reporter' defence and begun to implicate at least a portion of the rest of the News of the World newsroom. It was, and is, effectively the 'smoking gun' in the whole hacking case. When the Gruniad subsequently queried his version of events with his office, they provided a written statement repeating it. It said: 'In June 2008 James Murdoch had given verbal approval to settle the case, following legal advice. He did this without knowledge of the "for Neville" email.' John Whittingdale, chairman of the culture sport and media select committee, said, ominously, on Thursday night: 'We as a committee regarded the "for Neville" e-mail as one of the most critical pieces of evidence in the whole inquiry. We will be asking James Murdoch to respond and ask him to clarify.' In police inquiries, the most sensitive moment is generally considered to be when those involved start to turn on one another. James Murdoch and the then News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks had, seemingly, turned on Crone and Myler – particularly the long-serving Crone – in their testimony. Murdoch told the MPs that Brooks had 'removed' Crone from his job. Brooks then testified that Crone was apparently the only former News of the World employee for whom there would be no new job found within news International after the sudden closure of the title. By adding that the Murdoch family had personally been kept in ignorance of the 'for Neville' e-mail, James was pointing the finger at the two men as, in effect, sole architects of a cover-up. The two had already been put in an exposed position when they testified to one of the Whittingdale committee's earlier hearings in 2009 that James Murdoch had been personally appraised of the huge Gordon Taylor settlement. Myler had protested that two thousand five hundred e-mails had been 'rigorously examined,' and no evidence of further wrongdoing had been found something now known to be simply untrue. But the committee report still suggested that News International had been engaged in, effectively, buying Gordon Taylor's silence. Before Crone and Myler threw down their challenge to the testimony of Rupert Murdoch's son, analysis of James' parliamentary evidence had already revealed some inconsistencies. Murdoch claimed to the MPs that he had accepted legal advice that Taylor's lawsuit was worth two hundred and fifty thousand pounds in damages. But he failed to explain why the company went on to pay the hacking victim almost twice as much: reportedly four hundred and twenty five thousand smackers, plus costs. The News of the World executives had originally rejected Taylor's claim for damages altogether. But in May 2008, they changed their tune abruptly, when Taylor's lawyers obtained the 'for Neville' e-mail. The Gruinad claims that they offered fifty thousand quid, then one hundred and fifty thousand, if Taylor would drop his case. In June 2008, when Crone and Myler went to get permission from James Murdoch for an even bigger payout, the offer went up to three hundred and fifty thousand smackers, then four hundred grand. According to earlier testimony from Taylor's lawyer, the News of the World team demanded a confidentiality clause in the final settlement: that the court file would be sealed and Taylor was not to reveal that a settlement of any kind had been made. This, effectively, served to hush up the existence of the deal. Murdoch tried to persuade the MPs that such a deal was 'perfectly normal.' In a scandal where, it had seemed, the stakes could go no higher, Crone and Myler's defiant statement has raised them to new heights. Murdoch's whole corporate future has been called into question in the most dramatic fashion.

A former News of the World news editor has been sacked from his current position at the Sun over allegations of misconduct during his time at the Sunday tabloid. Matt Nixson became news editor in 2006, and reported directly to Ian Edmondson, an assistant editor who was sacked from the paper earlier this year and arrested by police in April. Nixson joined the News of the World in early 2005, having worked previously been a reporter at the Scum Mail on Sunday. He rose to become features editor and was given the news job by Andy Coulson, shortly before his resignation in 2007. 'Sources' allegedly said that he was escorted from News International's Wapping headquarters by security staff. Nixson, who had worked for the Sun for six months, was said to have been approached by four News International security guards at 6.30pm at the newspaper's office at Wapping. The guards asked him to leave the building immediately because he was being dismissed. His computer was reportedly seized. News International 'sources' allegedly stressed this was 'standard procedure' and did not necessarily indicate any wrongdoing during Nixson's time at the Sun. They said that the evidence indicating wrongdoing related to his time at the News of the World. The evidence against Nixson was allegedly uncovered as part of the internal News International investigation run by Will Lewis, the company's general manager, and Simon Greenberg, the director of corporate affairs. Lewis and Greenberg report to Lord Grabiner, the QC who is acting as the independent chairman of News Corporation's management and standards committee.

Here's an odd little sidebar to the evening's news of the dismissal of Nixson, as reported - rather gleefully by the Gruniad. On Thursday morning, the Sydney Morning Herald ran an article about what it was like to work as a reporter under the editorship of Rebekah Brooks. It quoted Michael Taggart, who worked at the Sun in 2003, as saying that the paper was marked by 'ruthlessness and misogyny.' He added: 'The reporters who were prepared to subject themselves and others to the most ridicule were the ones earmarked for success.' Taggart, who now works as a media consultant for a London-based financial PR firm MRM, also spoke about Brooks ignoring misogynous copy, claiming that he and his fellow journalists were encouraged to refer to women as 'tarts, slappers or hookers.' They were, he suggested, 'expected to childishly objectify women.' Taggart was surprised to receive an e-mail from Nixson in which he wrote sarcastically: 'Just wondered how you were qualified to write about the Sun. Just checked cuttings library and you appear to have two bylines. Just seemed a bit weird that you're an expert. Hope all well.' Clearly, Nixson was unaware of what was about to happen to him. His e-mail to Taggart was timed at 17.28. Just one hour later, he was being frogmarched from the Sun's Wapping office by four security guards and having his ass thrown out into the street. Once again, schadenfreudegasm seems a completely appropriate phrase.

Meanwhile, Greg Miskiw, the former news editor at the News of the World who left the UK after being alleged to have repeatedly authorised illegal voicemail hacking, has said that he is willing to return to Britain to face questioning by police. Miskiw, alleged to have been one of a select handful of 'gatekeepers' authorised to order phone hacking, told the Daily Torygraph outside his home in Florida that his solicitors had been talking to officers from the Metropolitan Police 'for some time. I'm returning to the UK voluntarily,' he said outside his flat in Delray Beach. 'My solicitors have been talking to the police for some time now. They know where I am and they know I'm returning. That's all I have to say.' Asked if he expected to be arrested, as several of his ex-colleagues have been, Miskiw, said: 'I don't know.' He declined to answer when asked if he authorised hacking at the newspaper, or if he had been part of the authorisation for Glenn Mulcaire to hack the voicemail of Milly Dowler, the Surrey schoolgirl who was murdered in 2002. Miskiw was assistant editor to Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor who resigned as David Cameron's press chief earlier this year after the extent of the newspaper's illegal activity emerged. Before that, he also worked under the editorship of Coulson's predecessor, Rebekah Brooks. Miskiw would not say if Coulson or Brooks - who last week resigned as Rupert Murdoch's UK newspaper chief — knew their newspaper had hacked voicemails. Miskiw — notorious for once saying of the News of the World's activities: 'That is what we do - we go out and destroy other people's lives' — sped off in his dark orange Saab convertible after talking to the newspaper. On his return to Britain he may face serious criminal charges. Records seized by police from the home of Mulcaire had 'Greg' written in a corner. In a legal case involving the actress Sienna Miller, the High Court was told this referred to Miskiw. In 2009, a parliamentary committee was shown a document on headed News of the World notepaper in which Miskiw offered Mulcaire a seven thousand pound bonus if he could obtain information to help with a story about Gordon Taylor. Taylor later received a confidential - and massive - pay-off from the newspaper, after it admitted that his phone had been hacked. Last month Terenia Taras, a thirty nine-year-old freelance journalist and ex-girlfriend of Miskiw, was arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications. She was questioned and later released. Police said they wanted to talk to Miskiw, but were not clear where he was. Miskiw has in fact been living under his real first name of Ihor in a small flat within a four-apartment building in Delray Beach, a city of sixty thousand people on the east coast of Florida. Miskiw is believed to have been working until recently for the Globe, a tabloid magazine in nearby Boca Raton. Jeff Rodack, its editor, told the Torygraph: 'All I can tell you is Mr Miskiw does not work here.' He recently incorporated his own media agency, News Team LLC, which he registered to his home. Kendall Pfeffer, a magazine writer who is currently Miskiw’s only neighbour in the building, told the newspaper as she left for work: 'I knew he was a journalist. But I didn't know anything about all this.' Last week it was also alleged that Miskiw may have conspired with police to track subjects of News of the World investigations by monitoring the locations of their mobile phones via phone mast signals. The technique, known as 'pinging,' is restricted by law to police officers and the security services and is understood to be used primarily on serious investigations including counter-terrorism.

The FBI plans to contact the actor Jude Law following claims that his mobile phone was hacked during a visit to the US, officials have told the BBC. It is alleged that a 2003 story by the News of the World newspaper was based on information from Law's voicemail. If the accusation were true, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation could face charges in the US. The FBI is already investigating claims the Sunday tabloid tried to hack the phones of victims of the 9/11 attacks. It was alleged in a lawsuit filed by Law last week that his phone and that of his personal assistant, Ben Jackson, had been hacked by the News of the World while the pair were at New York's John F Kennedy Airport. An article in the News of the World published on published on 7 September 2003 gave a detailed account of the actor's communications with his assistant. Law's phone would have been using an American mobile network if used in the US, which could open the door to charges under US federal law. The thirty eight-year-old actor's British publicist declined to comment on the matter. Law has also taken legal action against the Sun newspaper, a stablemate of the News of the World. He claims the Sun hacked his voicemail for four articles published in 2005 and 2006. News International, the UK newspaper arm of News Corporation, said last week those claims would be 'defended vigorously. We believe this is a deeply cynical and deliberately mischievous attempt to draw the Sun into the phone-hacking issue,' News International said in a statement. 'The allegations have been carefully investigated by our lawyers and the evidence shows they have no foundation whatsoever,' it added. The News of the World was shut down this month after allegations surfaced that it had hacked the phones of a murdered schoolgirl, the victims of London's 2005 terrorist bombings and the families of dead British soldiers.

Once she was courted by prime ministers, celebrities and business moguls but now it seems Rebekah Brooks' reputation is too toxic to risk being associated with her, as a small Welsh radio station has discovered. Able Radio, an Internet broadcaster with a focus on disability issues, was forced to retract its offer to give Brooks a voluntary position after an outcry from listeners. Malcolm John, programme co-ordinator at the station based in Torfaen, said of Brooks: 'She is currently without a job or purpose in life – so she might like to give time, on a voluntary basis, to work alongside the volunteers here. Her contact list would be invaluable, as you would agree.' But the reaction of the station's listeners to his proposal was rather vitriolic. 'I think certainly from the reaction over the last twenty four hours we are alarmed at how unpopular this lady is. In fact I don't think we have had any favourable comments.'

David Cameron is understood to be the subject of a 'political obituary' by the BBC according to the Daily Torygraph. Having raised hackles among some of his MPs when he told the House of Commons this week that 'the Right overdoes the Left-leanings of the BBC,' Cameron the newspaper argues may be interested to learn that the corporation is 'already preparing for his exit from 10 Downing Street.' The Torygraph claims to 'have it on good authority' that the BBC has begun work on a political 'obituary' of the prime minister, for broadcast immediately after he leaves office. Given that Cameron's communications chief, Craig Oliver, was previously a senior executive at the BBC, the news will, inevitably, lead some to wonder whether the corporation knows something that we don't. This week, Ladbrokes slashed the odds on Cameron's leaving office from one hundred to one to eight to one as pressure mounted over the phone hacking scandal. The move came after the first calls for the PM's resignation were heard in the Commons, admittedly from what the Torygraph describes as 'some of Parliament's more excitable members, such as Sir Gerald Kaufman.' I think that must be the first time I've ever heard Gerald Kaufman described as 'excitable.' Oliver's predecessor at No 10, Andy Coulson, was forced to resign in January amid claims that he was aware phone hacking took place while he was the editor of the News of the World — an allegation that he has always denied. Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, was moved to say that Cameron should 'absolutely not' resign. The BBC has been criticised - mainly the Daily Scum Mail who, of course, have absolutely no sick and sinister agenda at work in this scenario whatsoever - for its 'unbalanced' coverage of the hacking scandal, which has seen long-standing critics of News International wheeled out at regular intervals. A BBC spokesman was, understandably, keen to play down talk of the 'obituary' programme. 'This is not something that we are doing,' he insists. In which case either he is lying, or the Torygraph's 'good authority' is. Answers on a postcard as to which is the most likely, dear blog reader.

One of yer actual Keith telly Topping's favourite TV critics - as I've said several times in the past - is the Metro's Keith Watson. His colleague Christoper Hooton, on the other hand, frequently talks a right load of old bollocks. Dear blog readers may remember a quite ridiculous piece of garbage he wrote last year about 'a drop' MasterChef's ratings and their being 'much talk' that the popular cookery show should be cancelled when, actually, the series' ratings had just gone up by a half-a-million viewers and the 'much talk' seemed to be, exclusively, by the TV critics of about four national newspapers ... of which, he was one. Nevertheless, working on the assumption that even a crap old broken clock is right twice a day, I note with some amusement Hooton's review of last night's Torchwood episode - Rendition - which manages to start well: 'Torchwood is a peculiar hybrid. Part camp comedy, part supernatural thriller it's as if someone filled a barrel with an episode of 24, an M Night Shyamalan script, a Gavin & Stacey character and a handful of glitter, shook it up and tipped the contents onto BBC1 at 9pm. It is truly an assault on the senses with explosions, fistfights, futuristic mumbo-jumbo and histrionics abound.' Then - after that burst of internal cleverness - it gets somewhat lost in the middle: 'Tonight John Barrowman was held hostage by Mekhi Phifer as his assailant took orders from his boss, Newman from Seinfeld (there's a sentence I'd never thought I'd say). Like any good action hero Jack Harkness escaped imprisonment as he was extradited back to the US by plane, even after being moments away from death following a poisoning. Ignoring the well-known fact that if a baddie hands you a drink while you're being held captive it is almost definitely laced with cyanide Captain Jack graciously accepted the tonic and was left gasping for air in seconds – allowing Barrowman to really let his overacting run wild. Sidekick Gwen ultimately saved his life after a frenzied search of the aeroplane revealed the ingredients for an antidote, though she still found time for sassy one-liners amid the chaos.' Before recovering with a big finish: 'Maybe it's just because I'm new to the show and haven't had the benefit of hearing the back story, but Torchwood: Miracle Day moves with such blistering pace if it were a human it would be a eight-year-old child who has just spent twenty five pounds on pick 'n' mix. Torchwood may be aimed at adults, with dangerous levels or peril and frequently gory deaths, but its sassiness and British sense of camp caper make it suitable for all the family. It's Jack Bauer in a rubber ring, it's James Bond with a Walther PPK that shoots sequins. A silly, but enjoyable action romp.' Good God, that's actually more or less accurate. Who'd've thought it?

Jason Manford has denied his own stand-up routine was cut from ITV's new flop comedy talent hunt Show Me The Funny because of a legal wrangle. The Sun claimed this week that the shows had been due to start with Manford performing ten minutes of his own material – but that Universal Pictures had blocked the move as they owned rights to routines that would be on his next DVD. The paper quoted Manford as saying: 'They edited all my bits out. It's all very complicated. I've got a DVD coming out and I'm on tour, and a certain production company owns my sets.' But on his Facebook page, Manford denied the story, saying: 'I was never booked to do stand-up so no one has "edited out my gags". The show isn't about me, it's about giving new comics a chance to shine on ITV, hopefully securing them a bright future and an amazing prize.' So, therefore, according to Jason, the Sun is lying. Which, if true, is of course shocking and terrible. If true. The audience for the first show started at a reasonably healthy 3.4m, but over a third of those had turned off during the course of the episode leaving an average across the hour of 2.7m. The chances of it going lower - much lower - next week are described by ratings analysts as 'potentially likely.'

The divine Laura Kuenssberg finished her final shift at BBC News on Thursday afternoon. Wrapping up a live report at 17:30, Gavin Esler said to Laura: 'Thank you very much for everything you've done for the BBC.' Laura is off to ITV where she will be ITV News' first business editor - effectively doing the same role for them as Robert Peston does for the BBC. As previously announced Radio 4's Norman Smith had been named as the divine Laura's replacement as chief political correspondent of BBC News. Norman has covered every election for the BBC since Tony Blair's first victory in 1997. Before joining the BBC political team, Norman worked as a news reporter covering major stories for the BBC including the fall of Gorbachev and the first Gulf War.

The search for a replacement for Michael Crick, the latest BBC News star to defect to a commercial rival after announcing his departure to Channel Four News, is alleged to be causing rumblings within the Newsnight team. David Grossman, the programme's current political correspondent, believes the political editor's job should be his according to claims made in the Gruniad. It is not so simple, however, not least because Iain Watson, the assiduous BBC political correspondent and Politics Show reporter with excellent contacts, would also fit the bill. However, Peter Rippon, the Newsnight editor facing the lowest ratings in the current affairs show's thirty one-year history, apparently has other ideas. With some broadcasts going out to fewer than two hundred thousand punters before the hacking crisis brought a boost in ratings, 'he feels he needs to act' according to the Gruniad. So after losing Crick, famed for his doorstepping of unwilling ministers, he wants to poach a 'personality' from the BBC's competitors; after all the corporation has not just seen Crick go to Channel Four, but also Matt Frei and Laura Kuenssberg switch to ITV. Rippon's problem, though, comes at a time when the show's eight million smackers budget is said to be 'under threat' and even Jezza Paxman has agreed a twenty per cent pay cut. Albeit with a scowl on his face. So, no change there, then. The cuts are expected to result in fewer film reports and the likelihood that more big names will leave. An 'insider' allegedly snitched to the newspaper: 'Michael and [his predecessor] Martha Kearney were appointed without external competition but Peter wants to advertise the post. They want to flash their knickers to get a big name even though big cuts are coming. It would be a real snub to the internal candidates.'

The Fast Show could be heading for a comeback Simon Day has revealed. He said that the show's creators - Charlie Higson and Paul Whitehouse - have been in talks about a possible reunion, although he refused to be drawn on the details. Day, who is promoting his memoirs, told ITV's flop breakfast show Daybreak: 'I can't divulge too much at the moment but certain members of The Fast Show have been convened together in a room in utmost security. No telephones anywhere, and you know, there's a possibility of something happening.' The hugely influential BBC comedy sketch show, which also starred Whitehouse, Higson, Mark Williams, John Thomson, Arabella Weir and Caroline Aherne, ran for three extraordinary and groundbreaking series between 1994 to 1997. There was also a one-off Christmas special and the team (without Aherne) staged a farewell tour in 2002. Most of the cast also reunited for a one-off special to launch their complete series DVD in 2007.

Doctor Who actress Karen Gillan is to make her professional theatre debut in a West End revival of John Osborne's 1964 play Inadmissible Evidence. Gillan, who plays the Doctor's feisty assistant Amy Pond, will appear with Douglas Hodge in the show, which opens at the Donmar Warehouse in October. Hodge plays a self-destructive lawyer, while Gillan will play his secretary. The twenty three-year-old Scot will be seen later this year playing model Jean Shrimpton in BBC4 film We'll Take Manhattan. Dame Eileen Atkins played Gillan's role in the original production of Osborne's play at the Royal Court in London. Jamie Lloyd will direct the Donmar's revival, which - according to the Daily Scum Mail - will make 'subtle cuts' to Osborne's text.

ITV has announced that Robert Bathurst will be joining the cast of Wild at Heart when filming on the new series begins in August. The show, which focuses on a group of - really boring - people living on a game park in South Africa, was confirmed for a seventh series earlier this year. Bathurst is to play Ed Lynch, a talented veterinary surgeon who also excels in business. When Ed is first introduced, he is running the animal park which he has transformed from a run-down zoo to a successful establishment. Bathurst revealed that he is 'looking forward' to acting in the programme. 'I'm very excited Ed is going to be shaking things up in Leopard's Den,' he commented. 'Wild at Heart is one of the most successful dramas of the last decade and I'm thoroughly looking forward to filming the new series and working with the rest of the cast.' Bathurst will join series regulars Stephen Tompkinson, Dawn Steele, Hayley Mills and Deon Stewardson. Earlier this year, Tompkinson revealed that he still enjoys working on Wild at Heart but admitted that filming with the animals can be difficult. Mostly, because the vast majority of them act him off the screen.

Morgana Robinson is to star in another Channel Four comedy show, despite attracting only modest (for which read piss-poor) ratings for her first show. She will again be working with the impressionist Terry Mynott for the new comedy, called VIP, which is due to be broadcast later this year. The show is being made by her agent John Noel, through his production company Running Bare Pictures. The first episode reportedly features a parody of ITV's flop breakfast show Daybreak, which has been seen as a not even particularly subtle dig at the vile and odious Bleakley, one of Noel's former clients who infuriated him when she dumped him for rival agents Avalon. The Sun has published a clip from the show in which Robinson and Mynott impersonate - none too flatteringly - Daybreak presenters the vile and odious Bleakley and Adrian Chiles, with the duo desperate to find viewers to watch their rubbish show. Robinson was a relative unknown when she landed her own five-part Channel Four series last year, as part of a double-bill with Frankie Boyle's Tramadol Nights. The first episode attracted just over seven hundred thousand punters viewers, with diminishing returns thereafter, however C4's head of comedy Shane Allen called her a 'fresh performer with a huge amount of potential'. She is also due to play Carol Caplin alongside Jennifer Saunders, Rik Mayall, Robbie Coltrane, Harry Enfield and Stephen Mangan in new Comic Strip Presents film The Hunt for Tony Blair, due to be broadcast on Channel Four in late 2011.

Jason Isaacs has described the American television industry as 'cut throat.' Isaacs has signed up to star in NBC's new mid season drama series Awake, which follows a man who begins to realise that he is living two parallel lives. Isaacs has previously admitted that he is concerned the drama is too 'high-concept' for the US networks. The actor has now responded to a reader who wished him luck with the show, in an interview with the Digital Spy website. 'We need luck,' he joked. 'American network television is a very cut throat business. If people don't watch you instantly out of the gate, you're cancelled.' However, Isaacs admitted that he has high hopes for the show, saying: 'I just loved the pilot script. I hope we can keep the series as good as the pilot. I hope the writing and the acting and everything else keeps the standard up.'

Mark Watson's improvised comedy (alleged) show is not to be commissioned by digital channel Dave, the comedian has revealed. A one-off pilot of Improvisation My Dear Mark Watson – also featuring Rufus Hound, Stephen K Amos, Josie Long and Isy Suttie – was broadcast earlier this month, but executives said the ratings were so low as to make the project untenable. On his blog, Watson wrote: 'So, the improv show didn't get commissioned for a series. Not enough people watched it, that was why. Rather peculiar, you might say, as it's asking a lot of people to watch a show they've never heard of before and which appears on a digital channel and doesn't have Keith Lemon in it, but there you are.' He also argued that his previous shows, We Need Answers and Mark Watson Kicks Off, were also axed because of poor ratings. All of which would seem to suggest that viewers, by and large, avoid Mark Watson like the plague. Now, there's a surprise. He added: 'I hope I'm not giving the impression that making TV shows is a well-paid but soul-destroying process. It's not THAT well-paid.' It's better paid than actually working for a living, matey, don't kid yourself.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, we have something a curio. Originally scheduled to be released on Tamla in late 1972, The Courtships' single eventually appeared early the following year on the - far less famous - Glades label. Silky groove of a stylish tune, though.

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