Monday, July 11, 2011

I Thought I Was Lord Of This Crappy Jungle, I Should've Been Put Behind Bars

The lack of culture secretary is, this morning, 'seeking fresh advice' from regulators on News Corp's takeover bid for BSkyB, amid the News of the World phone-hacking scandal. The BBC's business editor, Robert Peston, said that the vile and odious rascal Hunt had written to Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading after the one hundred and sixty eight-year-old paper was shut down. For being utter disgraceful scum. Peston suggests that the implication is the vile and odious rascal Hunt could now refer the deal to the Competition Commission. The vile and odious rascal Hunt is likely to suggest that the News of the World closure is 'a significant change to the media landscape.' In his letter to Ofcom and the OFT, the vile and odious rascal Hunt writes: 'I would be grateful if you could indicate whether this development (and/or the events surrounding it) gives you any additional concerns in respect of plurality over and above those raised in your initial report to me on this matter received on 31 December 2010.' He goes on to ask if last week's events caused them to 'reconsider previous advice about the credibility, sustainability or practicalities of the undertakings offered by News Corporation.' Peston adds: 'For Mr Hunt to suggest that News Corp might not be a fit-and-proper owner of anything is a pretty big shift from the prevailing - and some would say fawning - attitudes towards Mr Murdoch we've witnessed from British governments in recent years.' Peston's BBC colleague, slaphead Nick Robinson notes that: 'Hunt is to ask Ofcom and the OFT to consider three developments since their last advice. The closure of the News of World, Ofcom's announcement that it is considering whether to deploy the "fit and proper" test of News Corp as owners of a broadcaster and whether they still trust News Corp to stick to undertakings they have given over the independence of Sky News in the event of the takeover going ahead. In reality, Hunt is straining every sinew to delay, if not block, the takeover whilst ensuring that he is not subject to judicial review.' The vile and odious rascal Hunt has two legitimate reasons to ask Ofcom to re-examine the status of the bid for BSkyB. The disappearance of the News of the World arguably changes News International's share of the UK newspaper market. In practice most people expect Murdoch to produce a Sunday red-top tabloid in the shape of a Sun on Sunday. However, at the least a new uncertainty has been injected into the equation. Secondly, and potentially far more damaging to NI, the vile and odious rascal Hunt is to ask whether the assurances given by Murdoch about the editorial independence of Sky News need to be viewed in a new light given that senior NI figures appear to have been at best economical with the truth in their answers to a parliamentary select committee, the police and the Press Complaints Commission, as well as to the wider public. That accusation has now been levelled by the chairman of the culture select committee, John Whittingdale, the Metropolitan Police's assistant commissioner, John Yates, and the chair of the PCC, Lady Buscombe. In that context it is entirely legitimate - both morally and legally - for the vile and odious rascal Hunt to ask whether this is an organisation that is 'fit and proper' to hold a broadcasting licence. In practice the OFT is incapable of giving a clear answer to the the vile and odious rascal Hunt's letter immediately. But, this allows the vile and odious rascal Hunt to say in Wednesday's debate that he realises wide long-term issues have now been raised and the issue is no longer one of narrow plurality. John Whittingdale, the Conservative chair of the culture select committee, has joined calls for the Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB takeover bid to be put on hold. He told the Today programme that given the 'poisonous' atmosphere it would be difficult for the takeover to proceed. 'The best thing would be if it could be put on hold until we have a much clearer idea of who knew what, who was responsible,' Whittingdale said. 'It could be a long time but I'm not sure it's in News International or News Corp's interest to proceed in the present climate. Now whether or not they will be considering putting it on hold or whether or not there is a legal mechanism – that's something I assume the OFT and Ofcom will advise – remains to be seen. There will be a question mark over whether or not the undertakings given can be trusted. All the events we have had today relate to News International, which is the British arm of News Corp. It is not NI which is taking over BSkyB. There would have to be question marks over directors of News Corp. And that, essentially, is the Murdochs.' Pressed on whether he would recall Les Hinton, who previously gave evidence to the select committee and insisted at the time that the phone hacking was down to 'one rogue reporter,' Whittingdale said the committee had yet to meet and discuss the latest developments. But, he said that matters were 'complicated' by an ongoing police inquiry. 'There is a danger, as David Cameron has referred to in relation to the judicial inquiry, that the police inquiry has to take precedence. And then there is to be this judicial review, so there's going to be no shortage of people looking at this. And whether or not we were misled, it is a very serious matter to mislead parliament, but nevertheless it slightly pales in comparison to some of the other charges.' Even if the vile and odious Hunt's actions do not scupper the BSkyB deal, then the House of Commons itself still could. According to a leading Liberal Democrat MP - Tim Farron - speaking this morning, many of his colleagues plan to support a Labour-inspired motion in the chamber on Wednesday, calling for the bid to be put on ice pending any police investigation into actions at the News of the World.

On Monday morning, Peston arguably broke an even bigger story, writing: 'Regarding the e-mails that were found in 2007 but only passed to the police on July. At least some of them provided evidence that the News of the World was buying the contact details of the Royal family and their friends from a Royal protection officer. This suggests that the security of the head of state was being compromised. It's a remarkable story. As soon as the newer management of the NOTW became aware of what was in the e-mails, they were told that they had to give them immediately to the police. But, here is evidence that the private details of the Royal family were sold, by a protection officer, to the News of the World. They were seen by the prosecution at the trial of Clive Goodman, the paper's former Royal editor who was jailed for hacking. But, although they came to light then, they were not handed to police in 2007. So, you must believe that they were buried; it's impossible to believe otherwise. We do know that some [News International] executives back in 2007 were aware of these e-mails, and you have to wonder why they took so long to be passed to the police. This takes us right back to the takeover issues and the matter of control, and it's time to pause for breath at the idea that a reputable national newspaper paying a police officer for the contact details of the highest level of the Royal family. And that is how it's been described to me.'

News International executives are facing increasing demands to appear before MPs to answer allegations that they suppressed evidence of widespread illegal activity at the News of the World. The company is under mounting scrutiny following revelations that an internal inquiry in 2007 gathered what the Daily Torygraph describes as 'smoking gun' e-mails showing that several of its journalists were hacking mobile phones and making payments to police officers. The evidence was only passed to the police last month, four years after it was collected. During that time, James Murdoch, European chief executive of News International, personally authorised at least one substantial settlement payment to a victim of phone hacking, in exchange for signing a gagging clause. That has led MPs to accuse News International of a 'cover-up on a massive scale' and of misleading Parliament. The latest twist in the scandal which forced the closure of the News of the World left Murdoch and his allies fighting to prevent the affair doing further damage to the wider Murdoch media empire. For several days, News International executives have been quietly claiming that there was 'worse to come' in the aftermath of the revelation that Milly Dowler's voicemails were hacked into, the Soham murder victim's families were also hacked, as were the families of the victims of the terrorist atrocities of 7/7 and the families of British soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. It may have been hard to conceive of anything more serious than monitoring messages left for a murdered schoolgirl or bugging the parents of bomb victims – but that was not quite what the executives meant. 'Worse' in this context can only have meant more damaging revelations about the conduct of some key company executives. Despite the damage-limitation exercise, political pressure on the company continued to mount all weekend. In another blow to Murdoch, there were signs that David Cameron, under pressure from Labour and his Liberal Democrat coalition partners, is preparing to sanction a new - and potentially damaging - delay in News Corporation's bid to take over British Sky Broadcasting. In other developments on Sunday Rupert Murdoch flew in to 'handle' personally the company’s response to the mounting revelations, and it was disclosed that Rebekah Brooks, News International's UK chief executive - and, currently, the most unpopular woman in Great Britain - has contacted Scotland Yard detectives and offered to be interviewed 'as a witness' rather than a suspect. The News International internal investigation is said to have involved around two thousand five hundred e-mails from the accounts of various News of the World staff. They were assembled in 2007 by two News International executives, Daniel Cloke and Jon Chapman, after Clive Goodman, the tabloid's Royal editor, was jailed for phone hacking. In 2007, after Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire, the newspaper's private investigator, pleaded guilty to hacking into mobile phones belonging to members of the staff of Prince William and Prince Harry, News International commissioned a 'mini-inquiry.' Goodman had said, in the context of the case, that he was not the only reporter who knew about hacking for the now-closed-in-disgrace Sunday title. The inquiry - which the Torygraph says is 'understood to have been more a collection of e-mails than a formal report' - seems to have concluded that Goodman was telling the truth. However, that document, or collection of documents, never saw the light of day. One 'source' at News International allegedly told the Gruniad that 'five people' at the company saw the report, including Les Hinton, the former executive chairman who now runs the Dow Jones business for Rupert Murdoch. The News of the World editor in 2007 was Colin Myler, who produced the newspaper's valedictory edition on Sunday. The red-top's chief lawyer, Tom Crone, was also in position then. They could, the Torygraph states, 'have expected as senior executives to have been shown the results of any internal investigation of any significance.' The e-mails are said to implicate 'several of the paper's staff' in phone hacking and suggest that the practice was 'more widespread than Clive Goodman.' The suggestion that his company had evidence of phone hacking in 2007 has exposed James Murdoch to questions about his role in handling the affair. In 2008, he signed off a compensation payment to Gordon Taylor, the head of the Professional Footballers' Association, whose phone had been hacked. In exchange for his payment, Taylor signed a confidentiality agreement, forbidding him from discussing the matter. For several years after Goodman's conviction, James Murdoch and Brooks along with other official spokespersons for News International continued to insist that Goodman had acted alone and deny that anyone else at the company knew about phone hacking or other illegal activities either before or after the event. The company also made several statements to Commons committees to that effect, statements which now face intense scrutiny. Tom Watson, the Labour member of the Commons culture committee how - perhaps more than anyone else - has struggled to keep this story alive, said that Murdoch and Brooks should be called to face MPs' questions about the internal inquiry and when they knew about it. 'It is a fantastical notion that only two people knew about this report and its incriminating e-mails,' he said. 'It is now clear that our committee was misled, which is why I am insisting that we invite James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks to address us to put the matter right.' Chris Bryant, Labour frontbencher - and, like Watson, a regular thorn in News International's side - accused News International of 'a massive cover up' and suggested that Murdoch and Brooks could both face legal sanctions from Parliament. He said: 'It is inconceivable that the senior management of News International did not know about this. It is quite clear that Parliament has been lied to.' Murdoch and Brooks cannot be compelled to speak to a select committee, but Bryant suggested that MPs could summon them to the bar of the House for questioning, a sanction last applied in 1957. 'Parliament will have to address this issue of being misled,' Bryant added. 'It is open for Parliament to summon someone to the bar of the house.' A News International source said last night that Murdoch and Brooks did not see the internal report until April this year, and now accepted that decisions like the payment to Taylor were wrong. The 'source' added: 'Once Rebekah and James became aware of the contents of the report they realised that some of the decisions they had made were based on the wrong information.' Although, it should be noted that the documents were still not handed to the police until 20 June this year, six weeks after it is alleged that Brooks and Murdoch were made aware of its contents. As David Frost once memorably noted when interviewing Richard Nixon 'obstruction of justice is a crime whether is exists of one minute, five minutes or months.' The e-mails also suggest that Andy Coulson, the former editor who later worked for David Cameron as his communications chief, was aware of payments to police officers. Even now, not all of the two and half thousand e-mails have been located and accounted for. Around three hundred of them are understood to have been held by a London law firm asked to 'review' them in 2007. The company passed details of the investigation to Scotland Yard on 20 June, leading to Coulson's arrest last week. One police 'source' told the Gruniad that senior detectives investigating the phone hacking scandal and the paying of officers see the information contained in the memos as 'a potential game changer.' They believe it will make it plain News International failed to tell them everything it knew – and will, as a consequence, take some of the pressure off them for failing to reopen the case in 2009.

Thank the Lord for good old Charlie Brooker taking aim at the - frankly, rather sickening - rose-tinted history of the News of the World presented in the tarnished tabloid's final edition: 'Inside is an account of the paper's history so rose-tinted you can smell the petals, focusing on its scoops and ignoring ghastly low points like the 1988 story about the actor David Scarboro (who played EastEnders' Mark Fowler before Todd Carty), in which it printed images of the psychiatric unit where he was receiving treatment. He later killed himself.' Noting that there's only a brief mention about the paper 'losing its way' among the tributes from readers and C-list celebrities, Brooker concedes: 'Still, if the edition's overall tone is more sentimental than apologetic, it's hardly surprising, given that it was assembled by a team who – whatever you think of them – didn't hack a murdered schoolgirl's phone. Regardless, they lose their jobs; the woman who was editor at the time keeps hers. Thank you Rebekah. And goodbye to your staff.' Rage on you scowling ... man, you.

In the midst of the phone hacking scandal the Daily Scum Mail - whilst being 'appalled, disgusted, sickened' et cetera - has, nevertheless, decided it doesn't like celebrities such as Steve Coogan and Hugh Grant lecturing the print media on morals. It carries a - frankly downright odd - article digging up old anecdotes about supposed scandal in Coogan's personal life. Melanie Phillips is, as you might expect, not happy either at the idea of the likes of Coogan and Hugh Grant taking a moral stance. Meanwhile, after last week's flurry of concern at the Sun, the surviving News International tabloid has rather dialled down its coverage on Monday, with an article emphasising yesterday's bumper sales for the News of the World and a Trevor Kavanagh lament for the paper, which - hilariously - criticises the BBC for covering the story too fully. Ignoring the fact that Sky News have been covering little else for the last six days. 'What is thoroughly contemptible, though, is the posturing, high-minded and politically prejudiced BBC. This media monster, which blows £2.3BILLION a year in public money, is bound by charter to be impartial and is anything but,' stated odious Sun associate editor. Someone from News International describing anyone as a 'media monster'? Pot, let me introduce you to kettle. You may have noticed he's black.' The article on the sales figures did admit - grudgingly - that the paper was 'shut down by owners News International in the wake of the phone hacking scandal,' adding later: 'Mr Murdoch, eighty, has flown in from the US to oversee NI's response to allegations of widespread illegal phone-hacking by former News of the World journalists.' It goes on: 'At least twelve people including nine journalists and three policemen are said to be facing jail over phone hacking and illegal payments to officers. Yesterday it emerged that internal NI memos dating back to 2007 and indicating widespread hacking at the News of the World, have been handed to Scotland Yard. The notes were written shortly after News of the World Royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were jailed for phone hacking. At the time the pair were said to be the only ones involved. Ms Brooks and James Murdoch were made aware of the memos only relatively recently.' Allegedly. Also in the news, The head of the Metropolitan police, Sir Paul Stephenson, is expected this week to apologise publicly for 'institutional' failures in his force's investigation of phone hacking and 'employment specialists', whoever the hell they are - presumably, people who've read the Employment Act once - believe that staffed sacked by News of the World who can't find new jobs and fear their professional reputations have been damaged could sue News International. For lots of Lovely wonga.

Despite orders reportedly being given from the top of News International to ensure that 'there were no libels or any hidden mocking messages of the chief executive,' staff appear to have found a cunning way of mocking well-known Crystal Tipps-lookalike Rebekah Brooks one last time. Among the clues in the paper's Quickie crossword puzzle were: 'Brook', 'stink', 'catastrope' [sic] and 'digital protection.' The clues for the Cryptic Crossword seemed to cut even closer to the bone, with examples including: 'criminal enterprise,' 'mix in prison,' 'string of recordings' and 'will fear new security measure.' The clue for twenty four across - which reads 'Woman stares wildly at calamity' - is thought to be a thinly-veiled reference to a photograph of Brooks staring furiously from the window of a car as she left News International's Wapping headquarters following the announcement the News of the World was to be shut down. The answer to the clue is not one she would appreciate: 'disaster.' Other answers included: 'stench,' 'racket' and 'tart.' A 'source' at the News of the World told the Daily Scum Mail that Brooks had ordered 'two loyal Sun journalists' to comb the papers 'looking for tricks.' They said: 'Rebekah tried everything to stop the staff having the last word and she utterly failed. She brought in two very senior Sun journalists to go though every line on every page with a fine tooth comb to ensure there were no libels or any hidden mocking messages of the chief executive. But they failed and we've had the last laugh.' Brooks, a former editor of the News of the World, was reportedly met with angry words when she addressed staff on Friday. In a secret recording made during her speech, Brooks can be heard saying: 'This is not exactly the best time in my life but I'm determined to get vindication for this paper and for people like you.' There are then cheers as an unidentified male staff member angrily replies: 'You're making the whole of News International toxic. There's an arrogance that you think we would want to work for you.'

One of the historic curiosities of the News of the World's demise has been the resurrection on Twitter of the curious tale of one Charles Begley. He was the paper's bespectacled, boyish-looking reporter who then-editor Rebekah Wade made 'Harry Potter correspondent' ahead of the release of the first of the franchise's movies in 2001, a task which apparently involved him changing his name by deed poll and being ordered to permanently dress in robes and a pointy hat. Begley finally objected after Brooks allegedly ordered him to don the outfit immediately after the 11 September 2001 attacks. Here's a Gruniad account from the the time, and -even funnier - a Daily Torygraph piece detailing phone transcripts about Begley's woes entitled Pottergate: we publish the secret tapes.

I'm indebted to my good friend, the genius that is Daniel Blythe for the following thought for the day: 'If the Beckhams' child had been born fifteen minutes later, would she have been called Corta Twait?'

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. A song from Paul Weller which describes what happens when your ambition exceeds your ability.
'I felt as reverend as Jesus, the sanctimony stunk/I thought I was Admiral of the Missing Fleet, couldn't see that I was sunk.' Remind you of anyone?

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