Wednesday, July 06, 2011

If You're Feeling Queasy Keep Taking The Tabloids

'I do know you're totally epic!' Luther ended its extraordinary second series on Tuesday evening with an episode which more than lived up to the previous three. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping didn't think that anything could match the dramatic gripping intensity of The Shadow Line on British TV this year. In the end, it took just six weeks for something to get very close! Constructed like an elaborate hall of mirrors, the story mixed in psychotic twin serial killers, internal police politics, a bizarre love triangle, questions of madness and destiny and fate, clever intertextual games and, in its stunning final ten minutes, a quite literal toss of the dice to decide who lives and who dies. Brilliant. As regular dear blog readers will know, the series has been doing very well in the ratings this year - last week's episode scoring over five million on overnights and over six million of consolidated. Tuesday's overnight were 5.7m. I fully expect the BBC to recommission Luther with all haste - once Idris Elba's busy schedule has been accommodated. And, I couldn't be happier about that.

John Barrowman has admitted that he felt 'very nervous' working with Bill Pullman on Torchwood: Miracle Day. Independence Day star Pullman will play child killer Oswald Danes in the ten-part SF drama, while Barrowman will reprise his role as Captain Jack Harkness. Referencing Pullman's Independence Day role, Barrowman told TV Choice: 'I was very nervous, but became very excited because I was going to be standing in a little room with the President of the United States.' Especially the alien-killing one. He added: 'When you're filming, you don't really have time to think about it. You just get up and do it, [but] who would ever have thought I would be on a TV show with Bill?' Barrowman also revealed that Captain Jack has an 'interesting' connection with Pullman's deranged character. 'The first time Jack sees Oswald is on television,' he revealed. 'Jack's sitting by the computer doing some research and he sees him on a talk show. Every time this miracle is mentioned, Oswald pops up. So if that happens, [Jack] deduces that he has something to do with it. It's very interesting the way the path turns and changes.'

It's getting to the stage where it's almost impossible to keep up-to-date with the latest revelations involving the dodgy goings-on (allegedly) at the News of the Scum, such has been the avalanche of shenanigans to have occurred and enter the public domain in the last forty eight hours. Perhaps that explains why the police, until relatively recently, appear to have done such an utterly rubbish job of actually getting to the bottom of this whole rotten-as-hell fiasco of, in George Orwell's words, 'power, corruption and lies.' Anyway, late Tuesday evening brought tales of further terrible doings and, on Newsnight, Paxman (and Alastair Campbell, actually) were having a fine old time ripping to pieces the stories of the whole sorry bunch of chancers involved. With some glee. Which was understandable. In an effort to keep up, the BBC, the Gruniad and the Torygraph have pages containing a live 'running commentary' on who has been accused of what, when, and where. And why. So, to the latest breathless malarkey: Police officers investigating phone hacking by the News of the World - and, you'll have noticed that most people aren't even bothering to call it 'alleged phone-hacking' now since it seems clear News International have pretty much coughed up to the charge - are reported to be 'turning their attention to examine every high-profile case involving the murder, abduction or attack on any child since 2001.' This, in response to the revelation that journalists from the tabloid newspaper hacked into the voicemail messages of the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler in 2002. The move is a direct response to the Gruniad Morning Star's story on Monday that, Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator working for the tabloid, caused her parents to wrongly believe that she was still alive – and potentially interfered with police inquiries into her disappearance – by hacking into the teenager's mobile phone and deleting messages. The case of Madeleine McCann is expected to be one of the first to be re-examined by detectives from Scotland Yard's new inquiry into the phone hacking, Operation Weeting. Other cases likely to be re-examined include fifteen-year-old Danielle Jones, who was abducted and murdered in East Tilbury, in 2001 by her uncle, Stuart Campbell. Officers from Operation Weeting have already told the parents of one of the two little girls killed in Soham in 2002 by Ian Huntley that their mobiles had been hacked. Documents seized by the Metropolitan police in a 2006 raid on Mulcaire's home show he targeted Leslie Chapman, the father of Jessica Chapman. It is understood the name 'Greg' appeared in the corner of notes taken by Mulcaire – believed, the Gruniad suggests, to be a reference to the News of the World's former assistant editor Greg Miskiw. Quite why this staggering - game-changing - discovery wasn't highlighted five years ago and has only now come to light is something which, it would appear, only the police who took part in the first investigation can answer. The Gruniad suggest that the parents of the other murdered girl, Holly Wells, were also targeted although they provide no direct evidence of this. Police officers, they state, will trawl through their collection of eleven thousand pages of notes kept by Mulcaire, and seized from him in 2006, when he and the News of the World's royal editor, Clive Goodman, were jailed for hacking into mobile phones belonging to aides to Prince William and Harry and other members of the royal household. Mulcaire issued a public apology on Tuesday to all of those 'hurt or upset' by his activities, saying that after the developments of the past twenty four hours he had to 'break his silence.' He added: 'I want to apologise to anybody who was hurt or upset by what I have done. I've been to court. I've pleaded guilty. And I've gone to prison and been punished. I still face the possibility of further criminal prosecution. Working for the News of the World was never easy. There was relentless pressure. There was a constant demand for results. I knew what we did pushed the limits ethically. But, at the time, I didn't understand that I had broken the law at all.' As Jeremy Paxman noted on Newsnight it was also ironic, some would suggest perfectly obscene given what Mulcaire has just admitted to, that he then asked for privacy for his own family at this difficult time. What a pity would didn't think of that a decade ago, Glenn. As, one could suggest anyone with a heart beating in their chest should have done. You might have saved everybody, including yourself and your family, a whole heap of heartache. So, if you're fishing for sympathy, I think I'm on fairly safe ground in suggesting that you're unlikely to find much for anybody, you know, human. News of the impending police action capped a dramatic day of one astonishing development after another in the scandal. Throughout the day pressure intensified on the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper and, in particular, its former editor and now News International chief executive, well-known Crystal Tipps-lookalike Rebekah Brooks – who insisted that she 'knew nothing' of the Dowler hacking allegations despite the fact that she was the editor of the newspaper at the time. As has been pointed out by my old acquaintance Nick Cooper, it's probably a bit unfair of me to point out the similarity - in appearance, at any rate - between Mrs Brooks and Crystal Tipps. For the simple reason that 'Crystal Tipps was nice and people liked her.' And dogs, too, if Alistair was anything to go by. Which is, of course, true. I would only say in my defence that people, generally, cannot help whom the they have the misfortune to look like. I mean, take lovely Ron Mael out of Sparks, for example. He happens to look like Hitler, it doesn't make him a bad person. Ron, I mean. Hitler was, I think we can all agree on that. As for Rebekah Brooks, well, the jury's still out in that regard. And, shortly, that might be quite literally. Anyway, the media regulator, Ofcom, is understood to be ready to examine whether News Corporation directors would be 'fit and proper persons' to own BSkyB – if any senior employees at News Corporation or its UK arm, News International, were to be charged to be with hacking-related offences. Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation is, as most dear blog readers will know, closing in on winning regulatory approval for its proposed eight billion pounds-plus takeover of the sixty one per cent of BSkyB which it does not already own. 'Sources' close to the lack of culture secretary the vile and odious rascal Hunt, who has already decided on the issue, have apparently insisted that he could not take phone hacking into account in a decision that is focused on 'media plurality.' That is, of course, if the vile and odious rascal Hunt were even of a mind to tell Uncle Rupert where to go and what to do with the horse he rode in on. Which, seemingly, he isn't. Because he's a coward. Thankfully, there are some people in the world, it would seem, who do have a working backbone. A string of high-profile companies – including Ford, npower, Halifax, T-Mobile and Orange – have said that they they would be reviewing or withdrawing completely their advertising in the News of the World. These five brands alone are estimated to account for more than two million pounds worth of advertising in the tabloid in the past year. T-Mobile and Orange are thought to have spent an estimated one and a half million smackers between them. Ford said that it would be using 'alternative media within and outside News International Group instead of placing Ford advertising in the News of the World' while it awaited the outcome of an internal investigation. The company added: 'Ford is a company which cares about the standards of behaviour of its own people and those it deals with externally.' Ford, this is, the company created by the horrific anti-Semite, union-buster and Nazi-sympathiser Henry Ford. Anyway, Halifax - tragically not through the medium of really annoying songs as used in their crappy adverts on TV - said that it was 'considering our options' about advertising in the News of the World, adding: 'We are sensitive to the views of our customers and will take them into account.' Yer actual Keith Telly Topping was wondering if they were to have made this announcement through the medium of song, which one they'd have chosen. Adele's crappy cover of 'That's It I Quit, I'm Movin' On', probably. The Gruniad reported that 'in one indication of the wider impact the phone hacking scandal is having on News International beyond the News of the World, the Mumsnet website says it has pulled an advertising campaign from Sky because of the latest revelations.' Which, all joking aside - and it was used as the butt of a joke on Newsnight by Paxman - is a far more significant step than many people may believe. When you lose the mummies, you really are in trouble. Calls for boycotts of the News of the World appeared on Twitter and Facebook - although, sadly, most of those who are contributing to these threads are exactly the sought of people who would never have bought the News of the World in a million years in the first place. Which is pretty much always the problem with Internet campaigns of any description, its a case of preaching to the already converted. Companies are, however, coming under sustained public pressure to pull their advertising from the sleaze-rag. Those wishing to direct their fury at the firms who advertise through the News of the World were provided with a one-stop page where they could automatically tweet their concerns to companies such as the Co-operative, easyJet, Butlins and Renault. Others went further, calling for direct boycotts of the firms who do advertise with News International unless they took their advertising money elsewhere. Meanwhile, John Bercow, the speaker of Commons, granted a rare emergency debate – which will happen on Wednesday afternoon – into calls for a public inquiry into phone-hacking. And whether there was a potential cover-up by its senior executives (and, by extension elements of the police during the initial investigation). Ministers in the Commons opposed the emergency debate - one wonders if the News of the World on Sunday will do a Named and Shamed exclusive on those who didn't support this call, which the public clearly supported, as they once threatened to over MPs who didn't support a motion on Sarah's Law in 2000? Place your bets now, dear blog reader. But, in what will be seen as another show of force by Bercow, he accepted arguments in favour of the debate put - rather well it must be said - by the Labour MP Chris Bryant - himself a frequent target of tabloid bashing from pond scum like the News of the World. Sensing an opportunity to make himself look a bit less of a total and utter plank as he has in the last few weeks, the weak-as-piss Labour leader, Ed Milimolimandi, gave a moderately decent speech in which he said that Brooks needed to 'examine her conscience' and that he was sure that she would because 'this happened on her watch.' Although his words were Labour's strongest intervention so far on the phone-hacking crisis, the party is still said to be collectively undecided about whether to put forward a substantive motion calling for a public inquiry which could be subject to a vote or amendment. Whether that's because they're still terrified of the power that Murdoch's media empire wields in, supposedly, deciding the outcome of general elections is unclear. Although, one wouldn't bet against it, to be honest. In the first sign of potential coalition tension over the vile and odious rascal Hunt's planned approval of the Murdoch BSkyB deal, Tim Farron, the president of the Liberal Democrats, told BBC Radio 4's World at One on Tuesday: 'I ask myself, is Rupert Murdoch a fit and proper person to own any more of the media market? Well, certainly not.' And, you've only just realised this in the last forty eight hours have you Tim? Welcome to the real world, what have you been doing for the last thirty years? Licking Murdoch's chuff, probably, like the vast majority of politicians of all parties in this country. The Milly Dowler revelations were 'the tip of the iceberg,' he added. Then came another revelation. Channel Four News reported that Brooks had been 'confronted' by the Met in 2002 about the fact a senior detective investigating the murder of a private investigator, Daniel Morgan, was allegedly 'targeted' by Mulcaire on behalf of the News of the World. The main suspect in the case, which was being led by Detective Superintendent David Cook, was a man with close links to the News of the World. Cook and his wife, the Crimewatch presenter Jackie Haines, were told by Scotland Yard in April of this year that their mobile phone numbers and payroll details had been found in Mulcaire's notebook. News International said that it could not confirm or deny whether Brooks had ever attended such a meeting. Undergoing a fearful grilling by the former Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil, Her Ladyship Buscombe, the chair of the Press Complaints Commission, said that she had been lied to by the News of the World over phone hacking. 'There's only so much we can do when people are lying to us. We know now that I was not being given the truth by the News of the World,' she told the BBC's Daily Politics. Which, as noted in a previous blog - and by Neil himself after she said it - suggests that the PCC are about as much use to man or beast as a bloody chocolate fireguard. If you can't get your mates to tell you the truth then you need to be asking yourself what that says about you and the commission you run, yer ladyness. Brooks, meanwhile, had e-mailed employees at News International on Tuesday to insist that she 'knew nothing' about phone hacking: 'It is inconceivable that I knew or worse, sanctioned these appalling allegations. I am aware of the speculation about my position. Therefore it is important you all know that as chief executive, I am determined to lead the company to ensure we do the right thing and resolve these serious issues.'
Overnight, additional developments continued to push the story forward at a rapid pace. Writing on his BBC blog, Robert Peston revealed that: 'News international has uncovered e-mails that indicate payments were made to the police by the News of the World, during the editorship from 2003 to 2007 of Andy Coulson. The e-mails, which appear to show that Mr Coulson authorised the payments, have been passed to the police. I tried to contact Mr Coulson and left a message on his voicemail, but so far he has made no comment on the new allegations.' The disclosure, Peston continued, is 'a significant development.' It has an important political dimension, in that Coulson after resigning from his position at the News of the World following the Clive Goodman scandal, went on to work for David Cameron as his director of communications both as leader of the opposition and, after the general election, as prime minister. Coulson resigned from that post in January of this year. It also shows, Peston suggests, 'that the police investigation into alleged illicit techniques used by the News of the World to obtain stories goes much wider than an examination of the hacking of mobile phones.' Peston states that he 'obtained this story in a circuitous route, when I heard that Vanity Fair was planning to publish a story on alleged payments to police. As it happens, Vanity Fair hadn't published by the time I went live on the Ten O'Clock News.' The magazine has now published its story. News International provided a statement to Vanity Fair in response: 'As a result of enquiries it is correct to state that new information has recently been provided to the police. As News International and News Group Newspapers has reiterated many times, full and continuing cooperation has been provided to the police since the current investigation started in January 2011. Well understood arrangements are in place to ensure that any material of importance to which they are entitled is provided to them. We cannot comment any further due to the ongoing investigations.' The BBC's political editor, Nick Robinson, suggests that this is 'the link David Cameron's aides always feared. The link between the prime minister's former close aide and director of communications, Andy Coulson, and alleged illegality when he was editor of the News of the World. Cameron will have returned from Afghanistan to find himself at the centre of the row about media ethics, the power of the Murdoch empire and his own judgement in hiring Andy Coulson.' This story is, Robinson continues, not about hacking. It is about paying the police. 'News International have now confirmed that they have passed on e-mails to the investigation which, it is alleged, show that Coulson authorised payments to the police when he was editor of the NoW.' Robinson goes to to state that 'I am told that News International did not inform their old employee and favourite son, Andy Coulson, about what they had passed to the police. What this shows is that those in the firing line are no longer standing together. What it ensures is that David Cameron has returned from Afghanistan tonight to find himself at the centre of the row about media ethics, the power of the Murdoch empire and his own judgement in hiring Andy Coulson.' If you've a long memory, dear blog reader, you may recall that Rebekah Brooks - then Rebekah Wade - inadvertently revealed during 2003 that her papers had paid police when under questioning at a Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee hearing. When asked by Chris Bryant if this was the case, Wade (now Brooks) replied 'We have paid the police for information in the past.' Bryant asked 'And will you do it in the future?' to which Wade replied 'It depends ...' At which point Coulson, in Robinson's words, 'leapt in to rescue his boss and old friend.' He interrupted her evidence by saying 'We operate within the code and within the law and if there is a clear public interest then we will. The same holds for private detectives, subterfuge, a video bag - whatever you want to talk about.' Of course, the paying of money to police officers by a newspaper for information is, at best morally questionable and, at worst, downright illegal. After this Brooks subsequently 'clarified' her evidence in a letter which stated that: 'My intention was simply to comment generally on the widely-held belief that payments had been made in the past to police officers. If, in doing so, I gave the impression that I had knowledge of any specific cases, I can assure you that this was not my intention.' Oh well, that seems fair and reasonable and not at all wholly unbelievable bollocks. A further twist came in the early hours of Wednesday morning with the claim - initially made in the Daily Torygraph - that families of 7/7 bombing victims may have had their phones hacked by the News of the World. A solicitor representing some of the relatives said one family had been contacted by police and told their phone may have been hacked in 2005. Graham Foulkes, whose son David died in the Edgware Road blast, told the BBC that he was contacted by officers on Tuesday after his details were found on a list as part of the police inquiry in hacking claims. Foulkes, of Oldham, recalled how his family had waited for a week after the 2005 attacks for news of David. 'My wife and I were kind of all over the place, we were chatting to friends on the phone, in a very personal and deeply emotional context - and the thought that somebody may have been listening to that just looking for a cheap headline is just horrendous.' Hard to argue with that. He said that police contacted him on Tuesday when they became aware of media reports that 7/7 victims' families may have had their phones hacked. Foulkes said he would like to meet News International's owner, Rupert Murdoch, to talk to him about 'the power he has.' He added: 'I certainly think that News International need to come clean, they need to accept their responsibility and their culpability, and they need to do the decent thing, but I suppose they won't.' The BBC's media correspondent, Tobin Douglas, also notes that the News of the World 'has already started paying compensation for phone-hacking. Now it is facing another financial penalty - a loss of advertising. Following the Milly Dowler allegations, Ford has suspended its advertisements, saying "it cares about the standards of behaviour of those it deals with externally." Halifax and npower say they are reviewing their options. Tesco and Virgin Media say they're awaiting the outcome of the police investigations. Many will applaud Ford's action. But should advertisers use their financial muscle to try to influence the behaviour of the media? It is not usually regarded as a good thing for big business to threaten newspapers and broadcasters, particularly over editorial issues. There have been exceptions. Carphone Warehouse stopped sponsoring Channel Four's Big Brother, following allegations of racism towards Shilpa Shetty. It's the advertisers' money - but are they the right people to tell the media how to behave?' Well, since no other form of protest except the purely financial seems to get through to these people just how disgusting their actions appear to many that would seem to be a moot point, frankly.

I do urge you to read, dear blog reader, Michael White's parliamentary sketch in the Gruniad, which is a straight mixture of quality sitcom writing and grand political reportage. I quote - at some length but do, please, check out the original piece in its context: 'Shortly before 3.30pm Labour MPs piled in on the green Commons benches as if they had just got news of a car boot sale or a free pie tasting. What they were here for was to savour what the Sun would call a "Gotcha" moment when public ire has turned, not against MPs for once, but against their tormentors in the press, the people who expose their shortcomings (or invent them) and make their children cry. Most voters don't much care what phone hackers, blaggers and paparazzi do to MPs, to overpaid footballers, dodgy bankers or the tangled love lives of film stars. But they do care about the ordeal of murdered Milly Dowler's family. Such public revulsion happens only once in a decade – and does not last. It fell to Chris Bryant of tabloid Y-fronts fame to throw the brick through News International's window by successfully demanding an emergency debate over the Guardian's Dowler revelation. But plenty of colleagues had spent the afternoon throwing gravel, starting with Harriet Harman. Would Nick Clegg join her in condemning this monstrous behaviour, she asked? He certainly would: it was "beneath contempt." Would he also support a public inquiry to "clean up the British press," thundered Hotwheels Hattie? Er, no. Clegg still thinks a police inquiry will suffice, bless him. It shows he has managed to keep a sense of humour. If Scotland Yard's inquiry pursues the evidence "ruthlessly wherever it leads," as the DPM suggests, the boys in blue could find themselves bursting into David Cameron's Witney kitchen to feel the collars of Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and other weekend cronies who know even less about the hacking conspiracy than Dave does. There again, perhaps not. The Yard has shown as strange a reluctance as successive prime ministers on four continents to cross News International's shadowy Australian Mr Big, the Ernst Blofeld of global media, whose white Persian cat, Sheila, is said to drink the blood of Sun readers' children. Mr Big would have to be caught personally hacking the Pope's voicemail ("It's God here, Benny, please ring me back") before being in trouble. That immunity does not extend to his associates. If ad revenue implodes and Blofeld starts stroking Sheila in a menacing way it may be time for Mrs Brooks to clear her desk. Yet one person did not hesitate yesterday to rattle Mr Big's gilded cage, whatever the risk to life or limb. His name? Mr Speaker, John Bercow. No sooner had Labour's Bryant completed his tremendous rant against the NoW "playing God with a family's emotions" than the Speaker declared unhesitatingly that, yes, he would grant an emergency debate later today if MPs so wished. It would have taken a brave, libertarian Tory to defend the press by trying to block the debate when even Cameron has jettisoned his mates from the relative safety of Afghanistan. None was available and as a wall of Labour MPs rose to endorse Bryant, a handful of Tories did likewise. They will not be named in this column. They have vulnerable families and mobile phones too. Hordes of reporters will have to settle for Bercow's bins. There can only be one explanation. Between the hacks, his Tory colleagues and Mrs Bercow's Twitter feed, the speaker's reputation may be beyond repair. There is nothing more they can do to harm him. It's an interesting theory. Good luck, Mr Speaker.' I usually enjoy White's articles a great deal but, he seemed to have lost the plot by his next one, much of which might be balanced, fair opinions but it's massively out of step in terms of public mood and will, undoubtedly, get a roasting on Mumsnet for daring to defend the indefensible. Let's hope Alan Rusbridger is as protective of White as, for the moment, Uncle Rupert appears to be of Brooks.

You may also enjoy a really sarcastic piece by the Spectator's Alex Massie entitled Rebekah Brooks: Don't Blame Me, I'm A Victim Too! which includes the following gem: 'That, I think, is what we are supposed to take away from the ridiculous statement News International's Chief Executive has issued today. Surely the editor of the News of the World asks the occasional question about the provenance of the stories she chooses to publish? Apparently not. This being so a reasonable person might just be tempted to ask if Ms Brooks is (a) telling the truth or (b) any good at her job? It's surely one or the other but her defence appears to be, "It wasn't me; I was just the clueless, hapless, innocent editor." I am not sure how many parsnips this butters. There are a couple of nice touches in her statement: "It is almost too horrific to believe that a professional journalist or even a freelance inquiry agent working on behalf of a member of the News of the World staff could behave in this way. If the allegations are proved to be true then I can promise the strongest possible action will be taken as this company will not tolerate such disgraceful behaviour. I hope that you all realise it is inconceivable that I knew or worse, sanctioned these appalling allegations." That "almost" is good and so is the faux-shock of that "even a freelance inquiry agent." But this also seems to be a telling indicator, surely, that these "inquiry agents" (a distinctly decorous term itself!) were not expected to adhere to the standards expected of a "professional journalist" and existed to do the dirty work demanded by the paper while granting the top brass some measure of plausible deniability. If this was not the case then the "even" in Brooks' statement is redundant.' Yeah. What he said.

Latest developments: The broadcasters are reporting that Sue Akers, the Metropolitan police officer in charge of the current phone hacking inquiry, will give evidence to the Commons home affairs committee next week. Actually, Keith Vaz, the committee chairman, had already announced this yesterday. Andy Hayman and Peter Clarke, the two officers in charge of the original investigation, will also be appearing. Which should be good for a laugh. The session will start at 12pm on Tuesday. Also, Media Standards Trust - as mentioned yesterday - have launched a petition calling for a public inquiry into the phone hacking affair. Personally, I won't be signing it because it - in and of itself - is not going to make the slightest difference as to whether there will, or won't, be such a public enquiry. That will, ultimately, come down to how much David Cameron wants to distance himself from this whole sorry affair. Which, perhaps through an innate sense of self-preservation, he had done before I'd even finished writing this piece. Oily slaphead Nick Robinson updated his blog with the following: 'News International executives believe that they have uncovered evidence of who at the News of the World commissioned and sanctioned the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone. The evidence is said to have emerged in a document trawl carried out in the immediate aftermath of the revelation by the Guardian of the hacking of the murdered girl's phone. I am told that the evidential jigsaw is not yet complete but executives believe they know who was responsible.' Robinson also says that the new evidence 'does not contradict Rebekah Brooks's statement yesterday that it was "inconceivable" that she know about what was going on.' And, finally, as the Gruniad notes: 'Anyone who watches cop programmes knows that when gang solidarity starts to break down, the police are almost home and dry. That's what's so interesting about The Times story focusing on Andy Coulson and News of the World payments to police. The Telegraph's Benedict Brogan has got a nice take on this on his daily e-mail morning briefing: "The problem with a strategy of throwing former colleagues to the wolves is that you soon run out of colleagues. And it might encourage them to say more than they might have otherwise. The buck hasn't stopped yet, it's still moving. All those politicians who invested themselves personally in the NI combine must be feeling queasy this morning."' And, still the news flies in by lunchtime David Cameron had told the Commons there will be a public inquiry. There has to be an investigation into why the original police inquiry failed, he said. That, obviously, wouldn't start until the current police inquiry is over. But there would also have to be a general inquiry into the behaviour of the media and some elements of this could start straight away. Renault, Vauxhall, Lloyds TSB, Co-op and Virgin reportedly join Ford in pulling advertising in the News of the World. The Torygraphs' Josie Ensor notes that 'Lloyds TSB said today that the decision was a "direct response to the growing backlash against the paper."' Proctor & Gamble is also said to be 'reviewing its relationship' with the News of the World. James Kirkup writes that 'David Cameron takes "full responsibility" for Andy Coulson.' Britain's top police officer has admitted that News International gave Scotland Yard documents indicating 'inappropriate' payments were made to officers. Sir Paul Stephenson said that evidence handed over by the newspaper publisher via its legal representatives last month suggested that a 'small number' of officers were involved. Twitter users are apparently likening Simon Greenberg, News International's hapless PR chief, to Saddam Hussein's bumbling information minister Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf. Greenberg's performance in defending News International has been ridiculed by many media commentators. The interview being billed as his biggest 'car crash moment' so far was on Channel Four News on Tuesday night. Which is effing hilarious to watch as Jon Snow barbeques him and serves him on a plate of chips. Many observers, meanwhile, are chalking up Wednesday's PMQs up as a definite - and rather rare - 'win' for Ed Milimolimandi. The Gruniad's Charlie Brooker excellently tweeting: 'Who knew Miliband had a "Hulk" mode?' And finally, the News of the World is now reported to be 'considering' running a front page apology on the phone hacking scandal on Sunday. Only 'considering', mind. Slowly but surely, the whole rotten pile of diarrhoea starts to collapse in on itself. It's a sight to see, ladies and gentlemen, a sight to see.

Speaking of pond scum newspapers, the Sun and Daily Mirra are currently in the dock. These published three stories after the arrest of a suspect in the hunt for the killer of Joanna Yeates which could have 'prejudiced' and 'impeded' a potential trial, the attorney general, Dominic Grieve QC, told the high court on Tuesday. Grieve, the government's chief legal adviser, said that reports in the two papers would have posed a 'substantial risk' to any trial Yeates's landlord, Christopher Jefferies, might have faced. He added that material in the articles gave an 'overall impression' that Jefferies, who is in his sixties, had 'a propensity' to commit the kind of offences for which he had been arrested. The court heard that Jefferies, a retired teacher, had been arrested on 30 December, five days after Yeates's body was found. He was subsequently released without charge and was 'entirely innocent of any involvement,' Grieve told judges. That was not, however, the impression given by these two newspapers over the new year period when he was, effectively, tried and convicted by innuendo, whispers and rumour. Grieve said his concerns related to articles in the Mirra on 31 December and 1 January and an article in the Sun on 1 January. The articles were 'prominent' (front page in all cases) and accompanied by 'striking' photographs of Jefferies, he added. He told a panel of three judges sitting at the high court in London that the newspapers' publishers were in contempt of court – and called for them to be punished. Severely. 'It is difficult not to conclude that the coverage was designed to have the maximum impact possible,' Grieve told the court. 'Whilst not all details will be remembered, it is the overall impression that matters. The prejudice lies in the impression given of Mr Jefferies' character.' The Sun is, of course, published by News International subsidiary News Group Newspapers and the Daily Mirra by Mirror Group Newspapers, part of Trinity Mirror. Both publishers dispute Grieve's claims and deny contempt. Lawyers representing Mirror Group Newspapers, and News Group Newspapers have outlined their defence in written submissions given to judges. That, essentially, 'it wasn't us guv, nowt to do with us. We were on the moon at the time.' Or something. Miss Yeates, a landscape architect who lived in Clifton, Bristol, disappeared on 17 December 2010 after going for Christmas drinks with colleagues. Her frozen body was found on a roadside verge in Failand, Somerset, on Christmas Day. A thirty three-year-old engineer has admitted killing Yeates. Vincent Tabak has pleaded guilty to manslaughter but denied murder. Tabak, who lived next door to Yeates, is due to go on trial accused of her murder at Bristol crown court in October. Grieve said that coverage suggested that Jefferies was 'a known voyeur' and one report contained an allegation that he had 'stalked' a woman. Neither claim, it would seem, has any substantiating evidence to it. When the articles were published, neither newspaper would have known whether Jefferies would be charged – or what defence he might have mounted had he been charge, Grieve added. He said that the articles contained material which was 'exceptionally adverse and hostile' to Jefferies. Prejudicial, one might argue. Grieve said that Jefferies 'challenged' material contained in the articles and has made a 'separate libel complaint' against both newspapers. Jefferies is also taking further libel action against the Daily Lies, the Daily Scum Express, the Daily Scum Mail and the Glasgow-based Daily McScum Record. He said that the Sun and Mirra articles not only posed a substantial risk of prejudice and 'impedance' to any trial, but also contained material which would not have been placed before a jury as admissible evidence. Grieves told judges that he had warned the media about coverage 'in the context of (Mr Jefferies') arrest' during a BBC radio interview on 31 December. The judges, who include the fantastically named Lord Judge, the lord chief justice, said they will not make a ruling on Tuesday. Lawyers are expected to finish making legal submissions on today.

Whinging embittered old Red gasbag Jimmy McGovern has suggested that The Only Way Is Essex could end up killing off a number of drama series. Well, one, anyway. The Accused writer made the comments during the Royal Television Society Anthony Wilson memorial lecture, the Sun reports. Describing The Only Way Is Essex as 'the biggest suicide note in British TV history,' McGovern claimed that young viewers may begin to switch off from drama. 'The Only Way is Essex to me seems to be just as good as Hollyoaks and very much cheaper to make,' he said. 'Therefore Hollyoaks is finished - I think that's the way it's going to go.' McGovern added: 'If The Only Way Is Essex is comparable to a fair bit of TV drama, is that because it's as good or is it that a lot of TV drama is as bad as The Only Way Is Essex?' Of course, dear blog readers with short-to-medium-term memories will recall that McGovern has much previous over exactly this sort of 'talking bollocks.'

Ex-Hotel Babylon actor Michael Obiora and newcomer Madeline Mantock have joined the cast of Casualty according to the Digital Spy website. The new recruits will make their on-screen debut in the BBC hospital drama - now in its twenty fifth year - in late August as newly-qualified nurses Lloyd and Scarlett. Obiora, who will play cocky new nursing recruit Lloyd, most recently appeared as receptionist Ben Trueman in the BBC drama Hotel Babylon. The twenty five-year-old's other credits include Grange Hill and EastEnders, where he briefly appeared as the footballer boyfriend of former resident Chelsea Fox. Meanwhile, Mantock, who is fresh of out drama school after studying on a bursary from the BBC Performing Arts Fund, will take on the role of terrified ingénue nurse Scarlett.

Channel Four is reportedly planning a reality show based in Liverpool called Desperate Scousewives. No, dear blog reader, this isn't 1 April. Honest. The programme will be similar in style to 'hit regional reality shows' such as Geordie Shore and The Only Way Is Essex, according to the Liverpool Echo. Scousewives will also be based around the hit American drama Desperate Housewives, claims the report. Hence the name. Based in what way, the report does not speculate. The show is expected to go head-to-head with MTV's Geordie Shore spin-off Mersey Shore, which is also currently casting in the North-West region. Following the success of Lime Pictures' BAFTA-winning ITV2 series The Only Way Is Essex, numerous broadcasters have attempted to mimic the reality soap format.

Lord Snotty Julian Fellowes has admitted that the criticisms of Downton Abbey affected him. Yeah, we'd never have noticed, Jules. Particularly not from your bizarre attempt to turn such critique into a political fight. Fellowes, who wrote the drama, explained that he was upset when people complained about anachronisms in the show. However, he added that some of the things viewers complained about, such as the use of the word 'boyfriend,' were not out of place for the period. Fellowes told his good pals at the Daily Torygraph: 'I think I behaved rather stupidly about the criticisms. I allowed them to irritate me, but really they were a tribute to how much the nation took Downton to their hearts. There was also an assumption in the media that the complainant was automatically correct and we were wrong, which was frustrating. When there was a television aerial in shot, as there was once, I was happy to hold my hands up. But I expended a lot of energy getting agitated about accusations that such-and-such piece of music wasn't released until 1922, when in fact it was being played in 1910. Or the butler should have been in uniform when they came out of uniform in the Regency period - I mean, just shut up!' Fellowes added: 'This year I think it might be nice to have a column called 'This Week's Downton Blunders', where I have the right of reply and can say either, 'It's a fair cop' or, 'No, we got it right, they did wear bathing costumes in 1761' or whatever. That might be a much better way of handling all the excitement.'

UK take-up of digital television services such as Freeview, Virgin Media and Sky reached ninety three per cent in the first quarter of 2011, up by one per cent year-on-year, Ofcom has revealed. According to the media regulator's latest Digital Progress Report, 83.3 per cent of all TV sets in Britain had been converted to digital by the end of the quarter, with the remainder continuing to receive analogue signals where they were still available. Consumers are also converting their additional TVs, as 75.7 per cent of all secondary sets had been upgraded to digital signals by the end of March, up by more than five per cent on the same period in 2010. Ofcom found that sales of digital terrestrial television (essentially Freeview) equipment reached almost 3.2m units in Q1, but the market for Freeview set top boxes slumped 30.3 per cent in the quarter to just under six hundred thousand units sold. In the twelve months to the end of Q1, just over 12.6m units of Freeview receiver equipment were sold in the UK. The number of homes receiving Freeview as their primary TV service stood at 10.1m in the quarter, equivalent to 39.6 per cent of all households. Freesat - the BBC and ITV operated free-to-air satellite TV service - passed two million sales by the end of March, up by seven hundred thousand on Q1 in 2010. Over three-quarters of the Freesat receivers sold supported the platform's high definition channels. Ofcom found that almost 9.3m UK homes received Sky's pay-TV satellite service in Q1, roughly flat year-on-year. Separately, Sky reported that it added three hundred and seventy seven thousand subscribers to its television service in the first quarter of 2011, bringing its total base to 10.1m. The research also indicated that thirteen per cent of British homes took Virgin Media's cable TV service in the three months, up marginally from a year before. This marks Ofcom's thirtieth quarterly digital TV take up report, but the regulator has said that 'in light of the progress that has been made towards Digital TV switchover,' it will now produce just an annual report, starting in 2012 when the switchover reaches completion.

Charisma Carpenter has signed on to star in Burn Notice. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel actress will portray a trophy wife named Nicki in this season's eleventh episode, according to TV Line. Frustrated with her marital relationship, Carpenter's character ultimately provides a way for Michael (Jeffrey Donovan) and Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) to get at the wife's wanted husband. Carpenter recently praised the USA Network series while attending the Thirst Project Gala in June. 'I love White Collar and Burn Notice, and I am also obsessed with Sons of Anarchy, Shameless - I cannot miss an episode - and Californication has been a huge favourite for years,' Carpenter said. '[The cable networks] are just slammin' it with the great shows.' In March, the actress confessed that she had hoped to land a role on the new CW series Secret Circle, admitting that she was disappointed to not be a part of the project. Last year, Carpenter said that working with Sylvester Stallone on The Expendables was a 'surreal' experience, claiming that she grew up on the action hero's films.

Production teams on Daybreak and Lorraine have been absorbed by ITV Studios as part of plans to improve working practices. Staff on the morning shows were briefed about the move today, which will see ITV Breakfast become part of ITVS. The production teams will report into Fiona Keenaghan, ITVS's creative director of daytime and lifestyle, whereas previously the ITV Breakfast entity effectively reported into Alison Sharman, the commercial broadcaster’s director of factual and daytime. It is understood that there will not be any job losses as a result of the change and that Daybreak's senior management team, including editor Ian Rumsey, will remain in place. Whether any of this will make the programme any less of dog, is - at this time - unknown. ITV's director of television Peter Fincham told staff this week that the transition will take place over the next few months. It is designed to combine production expertise and allow Daybreak to benefit from ITVS's experience in producing programmes such as The Jeremy Kyle Show. 'This proposed change is about sharing the best of our daytime production expertise with the aim to strengthen the ongoing collaboration between the ITV Breakfast's production team and the wider ITV family,' a spokesman said. It follows ITV's move to incorporate Daybreak into the network news team in March this year and is a continuation of the 'one ITV' strategy, which is being championed by the broadcaster's senior management.

Richard Desmond's Northern And Shell has said that it intends to take a leaf out of the innovation-led business model of Apple and look to offer collaborations with advertisers across its TV, magazine and newspaper properties. The company – which owns media assets including Channel Five, OK! magazine, the Daily Scum Express, the Daily Lies as well as adult channels such as Red Hot and Fantasy – said on Tuesday it needed to be 'a bit more like Apple' if it wants to win over advertisers with a new brand of media deals. Nick Bampton, the head of sales for Channel Five, also said that TV ad revenues at the broadcaster are up nineteen per cent year on year and that he expects full-year sales to come in even higher than this. While Channel Five's figures benefited from the resolution of a trading issue with Aegis Media – the media buying agency pulled its advertiser spend from the network last year – Bampton said that the broadcaster was performing exceptionally strongly regardless. 'We will see the real benefits [of our strategy] in the second half of the year,' he added. Bampton made the comments at an event unveiling an initiative called N&S Partnerships to about one hundred senior media buying agency executives. He outlined an ambitious partnership model for advertisers beyond buying traditional 'spots and spaces' of TV airtime, offering 'things money can't buy, until now' including tie-ups that will include access to talent, licensing, events and full editorial involvement. Bampton added that there was a possibility Northern And Shell could buy a significant amount of an advertiser's product as part of an overall deal, such as for giveaways or sampling across titles or in a competition. These arrangements between advertisers and media owners are generally known in the industry as contra deals. 'For us to just concentrate on the price of advertising. We would be missing a trick if we didn't utilise our assets better,' he said. 'The manufacturing [traditional trading] part of our business is already extremely efficient. We don't want to be just a siloed commodity-based advertising operation.' He compared the ambition of Northern And Shell's new partnership programmes with the model adopted by Apple – a company he said made real value out of design and innovation. 'We need to be a bit more like Apple. Apple leaves the low margin of manufacturing to others,' Bampton said. 'Manufacturing is crucial but what really adds value is design and innovation. We want value-rich, high-margin collaborations.' Bampton added that while it was still crucial to get right the selling of 'spots and paces,' what he referred to as the 'tangibles' of the current TV airtime trading system, he said what N&S is aiming to offer is 'intangibles' and challenged media buying agencies to work with the company to explore opportunities for their advertisers.

Zoe Ball will replace Claudia Winkleman on the new series of Strictly Come Dancing - It Takes Two, it has been announced. Whatsherface, currently pregnant with her third child, stepped down from her role hosting the BBC2 spin-off earlier this year. Ball, who placed third in the 2005 series of the dancing competition, admitted that she is 'quite literally beyond elation' to have won the role. 'There has been quite a hullabaloo at home with the news,' the presenter said. 'I'm giddy with glee and I may even have slipped momentarily into a celebratory cha cha cha, although technically not a very good one! Having been a contestant myself and having hosted the Strictly Come Dancing Tour, it would be fair to say I'm obsessed with the whole dance phenomenon. I love everything Strictly, from watching the partnerships blossom and bloom to the tricky footwork, the frocks and the shock exits, and of course the judges.' The forty-year-old, who currently hosts Radio 2's early Saturday morning breakfast show, added: 'Physically and metaphorically I may have trouble fitting my huge feet into Claudia's tiny wee shoes, she is one fabulous lady, but I will do my best to bring all the ups and downs and laughter and tears behind the nation's favourite show to the fans. I can't wait to start this thrilling adventure.' Moira Ross, Strictly Come Dancing's executive producer, commented: 'Zoe is a fantastic presenter and I'm delighted that she is joining It Takes Two. With her first-hand experience of the series, she's the perfect person to give viewers all the insider knowledge, gossip and news from this year's show.' Ball was previously reported to have screen-tested for the job alongside Denise Van Outen and Natasha Kaplinsky.

NCIS's executive producer Gary Glasberg has revealed that the characters will have to work together in the new season. Because, previously, they'd been just messin' around, presumably? Tony (Michael Weatherly) is expected to uncover the identity of The Mole in the season premiere, TV Guide reports. However, Glasberg explained that the discovery will not cause too many tensions for the characters. 'Our group will be working as a team more often [this season] and not be quite as splintered as they sometimes are,' he said. 'There are certain things that [the new Secretary of the Navy] may want them to do, and they're going to have to unite in certain ways to take on those challenges.' Glasberg has previously suggested that the investigation into the leak will 'impact the team.'

A woman has been caught trying to smuggle her husband out of jail in a suitcase. The failed escape attempt took place in a prison in Mexico. Local police have said that the prisoner, Juan Ramirez Tijerina, climbed into the black bag during a conjugal visit with his wife. Maria del Mar Arjona Rivero, nineteen, then raised suspicions when staff noticed she was rolling out 'a noticeably bulky' suitcase afterwards, Yahoo! 7 reports. Appearing nervous and claiming that the suitcase was full of 'dirty underwear,' the woman was asked by the guards on duty to open her bag. Upon finding her husband inside, Ajorna Rivero was arrested and charged for attempting to aid an escape. Ramirez Tijerina was found guilty of possessing illegal weapons in 2007, resulting in a twenty-year sentence. Prison authorities have stated that he is a 'very dangerous' inmate. Rumour has it that a TV company is interested in making a series out of this story. It's gonna be called Man in a Suitcase. Nah, lissen.

A pink flamingo has forced the temporary closure of an airport runway. The incident took place at Manchester Airport, where the bird had evaded capture by the wildlife control unit and police for more than four hours, Manchester Evening News reports. The flamingo, who has been given the nickname - Ringo - appeared briefly on Sunday night on runway two, but became a nuisance for the airport when it returned early on Monday morning. Staff and the wildlife control unit tried a variety of methods to move it - including driving a four-by-four lunchtime. James Welsh, frontman for the band Starsailor, tweeted on the day: 'Flight ten minutes late because of a flamingo on the loose. I kid you not. I'm flying from Manchester!'

And, finally for today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, this one's for everybody at News International. They're coming to get you ...

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