Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I'm In Trouble So Put Me Away

A group of very naughty computer hackers have tampered with the website of News International-owned the Sun's website. Which is, of course, very bad and wrong. (But, you know, nice one!) The breach was apparently the first hack of a major UK newspaper's website. And the irony of it being on News International will, I'm sure, not be lost on pretty much anyone. At first, readers were redirected to a hoax story which suggested that Rupert Murdoch had been found dead in his garden. A group of hackers called Lulz Security, which has previously targeted companies including Sony, claimed responsibility via Twitter. Visitors to the Sun website were then redirected to the group's Twitter page, before News International took the site down. News International said it was 'aware' of what was happening but made no further comment. Readers trying to access www.thesun.co.uk were taken instead to www.new-times.co.uk and a story entitled Media mogul's body discovered. It suggested that Murdoch had been found after he had 'ingested a large quantity of palladium.' After that site stopped working, the Sun's address was re-directing to LulzSec's Twitter account, which claimed to be displaying 'hacked internal Sun staff data' in one entry. In another, the group said: 'Arrest us. We dare you. We are the unstoppable hacking generation.' It is thought that The Times website and the News International corporate website were taken down by the company as a precaution on Monday evening. BBC technology reporter Iain MacKenzie said that the attack on the Sun website was in line with LulzSec's 'hacktivist' ethos, with the combination of a mischief-making news story, and a target which is seen as being involved in corporate wrongdoing. He said: 'Clearly this is not the most significant development in the scandal currently engulfing News International. But the turning of the hacking tables is, at least, curiously ironic sideshow.' If, by that he means pure-dead piss-yer-pants funny then, yeah, pretty much. The group first came to prominence when carrying out similar attacks on companies such as Sony and Nintendo. Broadcasters FOX and PBS, the CIA, and the United States Senate have also been cyber-attacked by the group. As a parting shot, the group released a selection of documents apparently including confidential material taken from the Arizona police department and US telecoms giant AT&T. 'This is only the beginning. Fuck you Murdoch. You are next,' tweeted the person behind the LulzSec Twitter account, thought to be the member known as Topiary, a Swedish-born citizen who lives in the Netherlands.
BBC2 has cleared this afternoon's schedule to offer live and uninterrupted coverage of Rupert and James Murdoch and Rebekah Brook's appearance before the DCMS select committee. A Daily Politics Special, presented by Andrew Neil, will begin at 2pm ahead of MPs questions to the trio over the phone hacking scandal that has engulfed Murdoch's News Corporation. The select committee will also air be shown on the BBC News channel, with presenters Jon Sopel and Laura Kuenssberg. Rupert and James Murdoch will be the first to be quizzed by MPs, including Tories John Whittingdale, Therese Coffey, Damian Collins, Philip Davies and Louise Mensch. The other committee members include Labour MPs the people's champion Tommy Watson, Paul Farrelly, Alan Keen and Jim Sheridan, and Liberal Democrat Adrian Sanders. Brooks, who resigned as News International chief executive on Friday, will then face questions from the MPs from 3.30pm. BBC2's coverage is scheduled to end at 4.30pm, replacing repeats of Animal 24:7, The Weakest Link and Antiques Roadshow. Three interesting titles considering the trio who are to appear before the committee. You'd better start working out which is which, dear blog reader. Brooks was arrested on Sunday by detectives investigating phone hacking allegations and the corruption of police officers by Sunday tabloid the News of the World. She was held throughout the day by Scotland Yard for questioning and released on bail. She is due to return to a police station in October. Brooks has denied any knowledge of phone hacking at the News of the World, of which she is a former editor. Rupert Murdoch's biographer Michael Wolff told ITV News that the media mogul's brand has been 'hopelessly damaged' and that he will handle questioning by the committee 'very poorly. This is something that Rupert doesn't know how to do, has never done, has resisted doing and frankly can't do,' said Wolff. 'Rupert is – on top of everything else - an incredibly shy man and he is also a very inarticulate man. I don't think he is going to know what to do with the fact that he will be confronted here. It is very likely he will get angry. He will say things that people should not say in public. I know they are drilling him and rehearsing him over and over and over and over again and they are saying to him "do not say anything, just answer the questions in as few words as possible." Whether he absorbs that lesson or not, actually I can't imagine that he will or that he has.' Last week, News Corp pulled out of bidding for the remaining sixty one per cent of BSkyB that it doesn't already own, in the wake of the hacking allegations. The pressure is now building on James Murdoch to quit as chairman of Sky. Wolff added: 'James is certainly done for. I think it's very clear that the Murdoch brand has been hopelessly damaged at this point and they are a liability to the company.' BBC Parliament, BBC News Channel and Sky news will also be covering the events live, the latter have been plugging it more than the last series of 24.

On Tuesday morning, Ed Milimolimandi told BBC News that he does not want today's hearing with Rupert Murdoch to be a witch-hunt. 'I think this has to be done in a calm and level-headed way and I'm sure it will be on all sides of the house, from MPs from all parties, because the key thing here is to get to the truth. It is not about a witch-hunt. It's about getting at the truth.' That 'not a witch-hunt' thing must be the line to take because Jim Sheridan, a Labour MP who sits on the culture committee, used exactly the same phrase when he was interviewed on Irish radio earlier. 'I like to know what kind of relationship [Murdoch has] had with senior politicians, what influence does he think he has had,' Sheridan noted. 'What it won't be today, as some of the leading commentators were suggesting that it will be, [is] some sort of witch-hunt of the MPs against the press. That is certainly not what it's about, we will be asking in a polite way, robust questions.' Lord Prescott was also on BBC News bright and early. He revealed that the Labour MP Cathy Jamieson was lined up to be made a member of the culture committee but, when the motion to include her went before the Commons last night, it was blocked by Tories (specifically the MP Nick De Bois who shouted 'object' to Jamieson's inclusion according to Tom Watson on Twitter). Jamieson is a former justice minister in the Scottish executive and Prescott suggested that the move to exclude her may have been somehow connected to Tommy Sheridan's libel case against the News of the World in Scotland, which ultimately led to Sheridan being convicted for perjury. Chris Bryant was up next and dropped an intriguing hint about 'more to come' in his interview on BBC News. 'The theatre of [today's appearance] is irrelevant,' he noted. 'In the end we've got to get to the bottom of what is a very murky pool. And I tell you Rebekah Brooks was right. We're only half way into that pool at the moment. There's stuff about Surrey police as well and other things that are still to come out.' Bryant was, it seems, referring to reports saying that Brooks alleged there were worse revelations to come when she told staff at the News of the World that the paper was closing. Soon afterwards, Bloomberg claimed that News Corporation is thinking of replacing Rupert Murdoch as the company's chief executive officer with Chase Carey. Citing 'people with knowledge of the situation,' the suggested: 'A decision hasn't been made and a move depends in part on Murdoch's performance before the UK Parliament today, said the people, who weren't authorised to speak publicly. News Corp executives who watched Murdoch rehearse for his appearance had concerns about how he handled questions, according to three people, who weren't authorised to speak publicly.' But, did anyway! Neil Kinnock, the former Labour leader, gave a - very dignified - interview to the Today programme. Resisting the temptation to say: 'Will the last person to leave News International please turn out the lights?' he suggested that the press should be regulated in such a way as to 'enforce political balance.' John Humphrys - somebody not noted for taking political balance lightly or ill-advisedly - was so horrified that he almost fell of his chair. Because, one suspects, he seemed to think the idea unworkable rather than any other, more sinister reasons. In the Gruniad, Patrick Wintour quoted Tom Watson as saying: 'There is not going to be a killer blow on Tuesday. Expectations are way too high. We will get the symbolism of parliament holding these people to account for the first time. We will look for facts, and not just offer rhetoric. This story has been like slicing a cucumber, you just get a little bit closer to the truth each time.' In Twitter, Watson told his followers how he was preparing for the forthcoming committee session: 'Today in the Watson parliamentary office we are listening to The Doors and eating bacon sandwiches. "The end of our elaborate plans."' Meanwhile, Milimolimandi moved from BBC News over to ITV to undergo something a grilling of his own, from every student's surrogate mum, Lorraine Kelly. Miliband told Kelly that he has been 'very disturbed' by the phone-hacking revelations. People were 'frightened' and 'worried' by Rupert Murdoch's power before the scandal broke. Politicians want good coverage in newspapers but that does not 'justify turning a blind eye' to malpractice, he added. He then put David Cameron on notice. He was not calling for the prime minister's resignation 'at the moment,' he said, because 'I do not want to go over the top.' Kelly then brought the interview back down to the normal level of incisive thought-provoking political debate that ITV's early morning shows have such a quality reputation for. She teased Miliband about the unkind names he has been called ('Robotic' and 'Mr Bean'). Trying hard to maintain his dignity in the face of such inanity, he said that the issues of greatest concern to the public are whether people can get a job and the state of public services. One presumably that whichever eager Labour strategist who thought it was a good idea for Milimolimandi to appear of such a lightweight programme at a time like this is, this morning, feeling the rough end of somebody's size tens up to his ringpiece. What next, send Tommy Watson onto Newsround?

The queues to get in to the Committee rooms for today's showdowns have been building since before breakfast time. The Mirra's Kevin Maguire reports: 'Public started queuing outside Parliament before 7am for Murdoch hearings. No sign yet of anyone knitting.' Pity. The Press Association's Tom Morgan tweeted: 'AA Gill and Polly Toynbee at the front of queue to grab best spots at Portcullis House.' Now there's a double act to be reckoned with.
Seems that Rupert Murdoch just cannot buy a friend the moment. A bizarre development (from AFP via Seven News Australia, under the headline: 'Papua New Guinea sticks the boot into Murdoch'), that the media baron has came under fire from one of the furthest flung corners of his empire, with Papua New Guinea's acting prime minister accusing one of the media baron's papers of trying to oust him. Sam Abal said that he was 'closely watching developments' on the far side of the globe in London. And you thought losing the support of Mumsnet was bad, Rupert? Now you've got the full might of Papua New Guinea lined up against you.

Meanwhile, the two senior police officers who resigned after links emerged between the Metropolitan Police and the News of the World will also be questioned by MPs later. Former Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson and John Yates, who quit as assistant commissioner on Monday, will be asked about their links to Neil Wallis. The former News International executive was hired as an adviser to the Met. The home affairs committee hearing comes ahead of another group of MPs questioning Rupert Murdoch. From noon, MPs will question Sir Paul and the Met's public affairs director Dick Fedorcio. Just over an hour later, Yates is expected to be asked by MPs to 'clarify' the testimony which he gave last week, when he expressed regret at his 2009 decision not to reopen the original phone-hacking investigation, despite reports of new evidence. Yates announced his resignation after the Metropolitan Police Authority warned he was facing suspension and an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. The police watchdog has been asked to look at complaints that Yates 'inappropriately' secured a job for Wallis' daughter. Yates has insisted his conscience is clear. Stephenson's resignation and his recall to committee was triggered by the disclosure that Wallis, who was Andy Coulson's deputy at the News of the World - had been employed by the Met as a part-time PR consultant something which neither the current home secretary Teresa May nor her predecessor, Alan Johnson say they knew anything about until it was revealed last week. There has been further criticism of Yates for serving on the committee that vetted Wallis in 2009 for the position.

The lawyers for senior members of the Royal family face an official inquiry into their role in an alleged cover-up of the News of the World phone hacking scandal according to a newspaper report. Harbottle & Lewis took possession of hundreds of internal e-mails from the News of the World in 2007 after being hired by News International. The firm indicated in a short letter to News International that the e-mails did not show any wider evidence of criminality. This document, News International insiders allegedly claim, was 'relied upon' by the publisher during parliamentary inquiries in 2009. The Daily Torygraph says that it understands the e-mails did, in fact, show evidence of at least potentially criminal behaviour and all have now been passed to the police. It is unclear whether anyone at News International read the e-mails before they were given to the lawyers. A former director of public prosecutions who later reviewed some of the e-mails is said by News Corp 'sources' to have been 'extremely suprised' by the conclusions of Harbottle & Lewis. Tom Watson, the senior Labour MP, has reported the firm to the Solicitors Regulation Authority, the legal watchdog, and asked them to investigate. Lawrence Abramson, who was managing partner at the firm at the time, is to be called to give evidence to a parliamentary committee. The disclosure is a major embarrassment for Harbottle & Lewis, which has represented senior members of the Royal family including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York. The Torygraph goes on to claim that the scale of the scandal became clear when News International executives requested the return of the cache of e-mails from Harbottle & Lewis earlier this year. They had been given to the lawyers in 2007 after Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire were jailed. At the time, News International said that phone-hacking was restricted to 'a single rogue reporter' a story which they doggedly stuck to for the next four years although this defence has since been abandoned in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The e-mails were requested to be returned by William Lewis, who had recently been appointed as News International’s general manager. Lewis is said to have been surprised by the contents of the legal file and passed it to another firm, Hickman and Rose Solicitors, for advice. Hickman Rose hired Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, the former head of the Crown Prosecution Service, to provide a report for the News Corp board. Macdonald declined to comment on whether he had described the file as 'a major scandal.' But he did confirm that he found evidence in it of 'indirect hacking,' potential breaches of national security and evidence of serious crime. He said: 'The advice by Harbottle & Lewis was incomprehensible.' Lord Macdonald presented his findings to the board of News Corp last month. He said: 'My advice was to go to the police and they did.'

David Cameron invited Rebekah Brooks to his birthday party, Downing Street has admitted. Just seventy two hours after No 10 officials said they had released all the details of Cameron's numerous meetings with media executives, they were forced to disclose some additional dates. The updated list included details of Cameron’s forty fourth birthday party at Chequers in October, which Brooks, the former News International chief executive, attended. It has led to further questions about the prime minister links with the newspaper group. On Sunday, Brooks was arrested and questioned for nine hours by detectives investigating phone hacking and illegal payments at the News of the World. She was editor from 2000 to 2003. Cameron - seen left with his best 'I've never met this woman before in my life' face on - was struggling yesterday to explain the difference between him taking Andy Coulson, his press adviser and another former editor of the News of the World, into Downing Street and Sir Paul Stephenson, who resigned as Met Commissioner on Sunday, hiring Neil Wallis, Coulson's former deputy editor of the tabloid. Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, added to the pressure by giving the Prime Minister lukewarm backing. When asked - during a press conference at which he was given a very hard time himself by the press - whether Cameron should consider his own position, Johnson simply said: 'I'm not here to discuss government appointments. This is a matter you must address to No 10 Downing Street.' With friends like that, Dave, who needs enemies? In the Commons, Cameron faced the first serious calls for him to resign. Sir Gerald Kaufman, the veteran Labour MP, said: 'Ought not the Prime Minister to be considering his position?' Good old mad-as-toast Dennis Skinner added: 'The "firestorm" the Prime Minister referred to a few days ago has turned into a raging inferno around the Government’s head. When is Dodgy Dave going to do the decent thing and resign?' Cameron, who was on a visit to Africa, was asked whether he should consider his own position. He said he had been 'fully answering the questions' and was very clear about what needed to be done — 'making sure Britain gets to the bottom of what has been a terrible episode.' He said that his hiring of Coulson could not be compared to Sir Paul's employment of Wallis's public relations firm. Because they were 'totally different.' 'There is a contrast I would say with the situation at the Metropolitan Police where clearly the issues have been around whether or not the investigation is being pursued properly, and that is why I think Sir Paul reached a different conclusion. So I don’t believe the two situations are the same in any shape or form,' he said. Nobody really knew what he was talking about. Cameron said that Parliament would postpone its summer recess and sit tomorrow so that he could update MPs on the unfolding scandal. A Labour 'source' allegedly said the failure of Downing Street to include the fact that Brooks was a guest at Cameron's birthday party in his list of meetings with media executives and editors was 'a staggering omission.' Ed Milimolimandi, the Labour leader, said of Cameron's failure to disclose fully his meetings with Brooks: 'He has got to get a grip on all this and come clean.' Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, continued to press the Prime Minister over his closeness to Coulson. 'The truth is the Met Commissioner and the head of counter-terrorism have now gone because of questions about this crisis and about the appointment of the former deputy editor of the News of the World. Yet the Prime Minister is still refusing to answer questions or apologise for his appointment of the editor of the News of the World,' she said. 'People will look at this and think it is one rule for the police and one rule for the Prime Minister.' And, it doesn't get any better for the PM. Cameron has also been reported to the country's most senior civil servant for allegedly breaching the ministerial code. John Mann, a backbench Labour MP, wrote to Sir Gus O'Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, to accuse the Prime Minister of breaking rules over an alleged conflict of interest in relation to the bid by News Corporation for the remaining shares it did not own in BSkyB. If he is found to have breached the code, Cameron could be referred to Sir Philip Mawer, the Prime Minister's independent adviser on ministers' interests, who would investigate further. And, presumably, administer a severe talking-to if required. However, it is not clear how the complaint would be handled because the rules state that the Prime Minister himself has to decide if there is a case to answer in any such situation. Tricky. David and Samantha Cameron shared a family dinner with James Murdoch, the deputy chief operating officer of News Corporation, and his wife Kathryn, and Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of News International, and her husband Charlie on 23 December last year. Jeremy Clarkson and his wife were there as well, giving the potential scandal a little showbiz flourish. Two days previously, Cameron had removed decision-making powers - or, since Jezza was in attendance, POWERS! - over the BSkyB bid from Vince Cable after the Business Secretary made unguarded comments that he had 'gone to war' with Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of News Corp to a couple of Daily Torygraph journalists posing as constituents. Mann's letter to Sir Gus said: 'I write to urge you to consider investigating whether David Cameron MP has breached section one of the Ministerial Code,' he wrote. 'Section 1.2.f of the code states: ministers must ensure that no conflict arises, or appears to arise, between their public duties and their private interests. It is therefore incumbent on the Prime Minister to avoid both actual or the appearance of a conflict of interest between decisions he should make as Prime Minister and his close personal relationship with Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch. A breach of the code appears to have arisen, please investigate.' The code states that 'if there is an allegation about a breach of the code, and the Prime Minister, having consulted the Cabinet Secretary, believes it warrants further investigation, he will refer the matter to the independent adviser on ministers' interests.' Mann said: 'This is an insult to the general public's intelligence and it shows an extraordinary inter-connectivity between News International and the Prime Minister. The ministerial code is very straightforward and he, indeed, signed the foreword of the most recent version. He has clearly broken the code and I am sure that we can expect appropriate action to be taken by the Cabinet Secretary and a grovelling apology on Wednesday.' Like the use of the word 'grovelling' there. There's nowhere near enough uses of grovelling in politics these days. However, I've usually found that it is very dangerous to use the words 'public' and 'intelligence' in the same sentence. Because, you get laughed at, basically. 'Not only is the Prime Minister responsible for ensuring that all ministers abide by the code, but he is expected to uphold the highest of propriety,' Mann concluded. In the foreword to the code, Cameron wrote last May of how the Government had a responsibility 'to rebuild confidence in our political system. After the scandals of recent years, people have lost faith in politics and politicians,' he wrote. 'It is our duty to restore their trust.' He said it was important that ministers were 'transparent about what we do and how we do it.' A spokesman for the Cabinet Office said that Sir Gus had not yet received the letter and 'will respond in due course.'

The Conservative Party deputy chairman Michael Fallon was on the BBC claiming that the government has been 'in front of events' regarding phone hacking. it took several minutes for the viewers to stop laughing. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the sort of comedy we need on British telly.

Sean Hoare, the former News of the World showbusiness reporter who was the first named former news International journalist to break ranks and allege that Andy Coulson was aware of phone hacking by his staff, has been found dead. Hoare, who worked on the Sun and the News of the World with Coulson before being dismissed over continued drink and drugs problems, was said to have been found at his Watford home. Hertfordshire police would not confirm his identity, but said in a statement: 'At 10.40am today police were called to Langley Road, Watford, following the concerns for the welfare of a man who lives at an address on the street. Upon police and ambulance arrival at a property, the body of a man was found. The man was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after. The death is currently being treated as unexplained but not thought to be suspicious. Police investigations into this incident are ongoing.' There was, according to the Gruniad, an unexplained delay in the arrival of forensics officers at the scene. Neighbours said three police cars and three police cars and two ambulances arrived at the property shortly before 11am. They left around four hours later, around 3pm, shortly after a man and a woman, believed to be grieving relatives, arrived at the premises. There was no police presence at the scene at all for several hours. At about 9.15pm, three hours after the Gruniad revealed that Hoare had been found dead a police van marked 'Scientific Services Unit' pulled up at the address, where a police car was already parked. The papers reported that 'Two officers emerged carrying evidence bags, clipboards, torches and laptop-style bags and entered the building. Three officers carrying cameras and wearing white forensic suits went into the flat at around 9.30pm.' Hoare first made his claims in a New York Times investigation into the phone-hacking allegations at the News of the World in 2010. He told the newspaper that not only did Coulson know about the hacking, but that he actively encouraged his staff to intercept the calls of celebrities in the pursuit of exclusives. In a subsequent interview with the BBC - broadcast last night just hours after his death on Panorama - he alleged that he was personally asked by his editor at the time, Coulson, to tap into phones. In an interview with the PM programme he said Coulson's insistence he did not know of the practice was 'a lie, it is simply a lie.' At the time a Downing Street spokeswoman said that Coulson totally and utterly denied the allegations; he had 'never condoned the use of phone hacking and nor do I have any recollection of incidences where hacking took place.' Hoare said that he was once a close friend of Coulson's, and told the New York Times the two first worked together at the Sun where, Hoare said, he played recordings of hacked messages for Coulson. At the News of the World, Hoare claimed, he continued to inform Coulson of his activities. He 'actively encouraged me to do it,' Hoare said. In September last year he was interviewed under caution by police over his claim the former Tory communications chief asked him to hack into phones when editor of the paper, but declined to make any comment. Hoare returned to the spotlight last week, after he told the New York Times that reporters at the News of the World were able to use police technology to locate people using their mobile phone signals, in exchange for payments to police officers. He said journalists were able to use 'pinging,' which measured the distance between a mobile handset and a number of phone masts to pinpoint its location. Hoare gave further details about 'pinging' to the Gruniad. He described how reporters would ask a news desk executive to obtain the location of a target: 'Within fifteen to thirty minutes someone on the news desk would come back and say "Right, that's where they are."' He said: 'You don't ask any questions. You'd consider it a job done. The chain of command is one of absolute discipline, and that's why I never bought into it, like with Andy saying he wasn't aware of it and all that. That's bollocks.' Hoare said that he stood by everything he told the New York Times about 'pinging.' He admitted that he'd had problems with drink and drugs, and had been in rehab. 'But that's irrelevant,' he said. 'There's more to come. This is not going to go away.' Hoare named a particular private investigator who, he said, had links with the News of the World, adding: 'He may want to talk now, because I think what you'll find now is a lot of people are going to want to cover their arse.' Speaking to another Gruniad journalist last week, Hoare repeatedly expressed the hope that the hacking scandal would lead to journalism in general being cleaned up, and said that he had decided to blow the whistle on the activities of some of his former colleagues with that aim in mind. He also said that he had been injured the previous weekend while taking down a marquee erected for a children's party. He broke his nose and badly injured his foot when a relative accidentally struck him with a pole from the marquee. Hoare also emphasised that he was not making any money from newspapers for telling his story. Having been treated for drug and alcohol problems, Hoare reminisced about his partying with former pop stars and said that he missed the days when he was able to go out on the town.

The Gruniad's Simon Ricketts, has recalled how Sean Hoare helped him out years ago while he was on work experience at the Watford Observer: 'A little story to tell you of Sean Hoare and what kind of guy he could be. I was a work experience reporter on the local free paper. Sean took me under his wing immediately. He handed me a story on a plate. I went out to investigate, got all my notes and got back to the office and started to write it. I finished and Sean had a look. He got my notebook, extracted the best quotes, the ones I'd left in the notebook. He tickled, edited and expanded my story. By the time he'd finished, it was one hundred times better. It got put on the front page of the paper. Sean insisted that my name go on the story. When the paper came out, he walked over with a copy. He gave me it with a flourish. "Congratulations on your first-ever splash," he said. So, I remember a lovely generous man and a hard-working journalist. And I shall raise a glass or twelve tonight to him.'

Bill Pullman has said that he has tremendous respect for Torchwood: Miracle Day creator Russell Davies's writing talent. Pullman explained that Davies helped him understand the motivations of his Torchwood character, the convicted child murderer Oswald Danes. 'There were some very good writers on the show – and I'm sure Russell gives a lot of credit to the other writers. But when it came to Oswald, it was maybe more something he knew about - in terms of how he saw the character developing - than other people,' the actor told SFX. He continued: 'We were shaping scenes, and working out conditions in rough drafts and first drafts, and then later drafts. For me, Russell is one of the most satisfying people to work with. He's very intelligent. He's very confident. He's very collaborative. Whatever you say, he can process it, and then he puts it in Russell T Davies speak.'

Miranda Hart has reportedly been stopped from taking on a role in Doctor Who. The actress, comedienne and writer has been prevented from signing up for the popular family drama SF because BBC1 controller Danny Cohen wants her to focus on her sitcom Miranda, the Sun claims. So, this is probably all bollocks. Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat allegedly offered Hart a 'significant role' that she was hoping to accept. 'Miranda was thrilled to be asked to be on Doctor Who,' a 'source' allegedly claimed. 'Steven offered her a decent role and she felt, as it was on the BBC, there would be no problem. But the BBC1 controller let it be known that he wants her focused on her show, which he has nabbed from BBC2. Miranda's gutted as she feels she could do both.' Miranda was promoted from BBC2 to BBC1 earlier this year but the third series will not be broadcast until 2012. Hart recently signed up to appear alongside Jenny Agutter in the new BBC1 drama Call The Midwife, which will also air next year.

Some EastEnders viewers have complained of motion sickness following a particular scene in the soap which featured 'shaky' camera-work. The episode in question was broadcast on 14 July and featured Christian Clarke (John Partridge) and Zainab Masood (Nina Wadia), in a discussion about Christian's relationship with Zainab's son Syed (Marc Elliott). During the short scene, the camera appeared to wobble, with strange camera angles in comparison to normal EastEnders scenes. Several viewers took to BBC's Points of View online forums to comment about the odd scene, with one viewer writing: 'What was with the wobbly camera? Surely, BBC isn't so bad off that it can't afford to buy EastEnders a tripod.' Another viewer added: 'Am I the only one who thought the camera angles were bad during the Christian and Zainab scene? The camera was shaking and the angles were just all over the place.' A spokesperson for the soap said that they were aware of complaints made about the scene, but have yet to offer an explanation for what happened, according to the Torygraph.

Sky Living's Psychic Sally: On the Road has been criticised by Ofcom for dispensing potentially 'life-changing advice' during a psychic reading. The factual entertainment show follows the self-proclaimed psychic Sally Morgan's tour of the UK, giving live performances and private psychic readings. Ofcom expressed concern about an episode broadcast on 17 April which featured Morgan giving a private reading to a young woman named Mandy, who was said to be 'desperate for answers from her dead mother.' Discussing Mandy's mother's health problems, Morgan told the woman: 'There is nothing within you, genetically, that you need to panic about health-wise.' To this, Mandy replied: 'I can go on now without any worries that anything's going to be passed on.' Ofcom's broadcasting guidelines make clear that programming featuring 'exorcism, the occult or paranormal practices' must protect participants and viewers from 'potentially harmful material.' Sky, which acquired the Living bouquet of channels from Virgin Media last summer, said that it applies a 'consistent and strict editorial policy' to Psychic Sally: On the Road. The broadcaster claimed that Morgan only mentions medical conditions in her readings if 'the participant confirms that they are aware of any condition and are seeking independent medical advice.' The fact that she is not a qualified doctor and, therefore, has no goddamn business telling people whether they are sick or not does not seem to have entered their thinking. Despite viewing the programme as a 'borderline case,' Sky said that it has edited out the section from future transmissions. In its ruling, Ofcom found a clear breach of Rule 2.8 stipulating that 'programmes containing demonstrations of psychic practices must not contain life-changing advice directed at individuals. Ofcom noted that during the private reading, having discussed Mandy's mother's illness and subsequent death, Sally made a direct and categorical statement about Mandy's genetic health,' said the regulator. 'Ofcom acknowledged that Mandy did not indicate that she was going to cease medical care or change her behaviour. However, Ofcom considered that Mandy had interpreted Sally's comment as a statement of fact, given that, responding to it in her interview, she said, "I can go on now without any worries that anything's going to be passed on." In Ofcom's view, the direct and certain nature of the advice and its delivery could have resulted in her reasonably acting or relying on Sally's assertion. Ofcom therefore considered this to constitute "life-changing advice" directed at an individual.' The regulator noted Sky's assurances regarding a compliance review of Psychic Sally: On the Road, and said that it does not 'expect any recurrence of this issue.' Personally, yer actual Keith Telly Topping's rage in this instance is more focused on Living's commissioning editor Sophie Wurzer-Williams who, when announcing that the series had been commissioned said: 'Whether you're a believer or not, Sally delivers the most moving and jaw-dropping psychic shows in the UK today.' As I noted at the time, I was rather confused by this. 'Whether you're a believer or not...' Surely if you aren't a believer then the next, obvious, assumption to make is that Sally is making the whole thing up and that she is guilty of - at best - self-delusion bordering on mental illness or - at worst - wicked, mendacious deception of quite wilful and disgusting proportions. There is, quite simply, no middle ground concerning psychic ability - it either exists or it doesn't. And, if it doesn't, then television programmes like this are, in essence, condoning emotional fraud. I'll leave it entirely up to you, dear blog reader, as to where you stand on this matter.

Ofcom has also dismissed a complaint from well known nonce Gary Glitter about a 2009 TV drama which imagined the glam rocker being executed for child rape. Glitter - real name Paul Gadd - said Channel Four's The Execution of Gary Glitter had treated him unfairly. Viewers might have concluded he had committed 'terrible' crimes that had gone unpunished, he complained. Ofcom said that it was clear the drama was fictional and Glitter had a well-known history of child sex offences - which, to be fair to him, he has been punished for. In November 1999 the glam rocker was sentenced to four months in prison for possessing images of child sex abuse. In March 2006 he was convicted for the sexual abuse of two Vietnamese girls and served almost three years in prison in Vietnam before being deported back to Britain. In his complaint Glitter said that he had never been prosecuted in Vietnam for child rape. But Ofcom concluded that in view of Glitter's 'well-known reputation in relation to child sex offences,' there was 'little scope for additional damage to his reputation.' The regulator noted that the drama did include real facts and said it might not have been clear where fact and fiction overlapped. But it found the programme as a whole was clearly fictional, including the scenes where the charge of child rape was first raised. Channel Four, it added, had signposted the fact the drama was set in 'a fictional Britain that had the death penalty' in several ways. The committee concluded that, as there was no unfairness to Glitter in the programme, the complaint of unfair treatment would not be upheld.

The full lineup for the second series ITV's Arctic reality show Seventy One Degrees North has been revealed. Sean Maguire, John Thompson and Martin Kemp lead the names of - mostly - famous faces heading to Scandinavia for the competition. Brooke Kinsella, hairdresser Nicky Clarke ('famous faces'?), Ground Force star Charlie Dimmock, Rav Wilding, Angellica Bell, Lisa Maxwell and Olympic athlete Amy Williams complete the list of stars taking part. The ten celebrities - well, nine celebrities and a hairdresser, anyway - will face harsh sub-zero conditions as they take on various dangerous survival challenges. It has already been revealed that one of the contestants was forced to withdraw through injury and was replaced by former Liverpool footballer John Barnes. Paddy McGuinness and Charlotte Jackson have replaced Gethin Jones and Kate Thornton as the hosts.

The vile and odious rascal Hunt, the lack of culture secretary, has confirmed that he is ditching a proposed new national TV network to provide a 'spine' for a new generation of local services. Publishing his final proposals for establishing a new generation of local TV services on Monday, the vile and odious rascal Hunt said that instead he intended to provide bidders with digital terrestrial TV spectrum, to be allocated and managed by a new licensed multiplex company. The vile and odious rascal Hunt's Department for Culture, Media and Sport also said it planned to secure 'appropriate prominence' for local TV services on electronic programme guides, 'with high numbers on DTT and front page access on cable and satellite platforms.' The DCMS also confirmed as previously announced that twenty five million smackers in local TV infrastructure costs will be met from the BBC licence fee, with a further five million quid of licence fee money to be spent annually for three years on local content. 'The proposals include three statutory instruments: the first, to reserve sufficient local, low-cost spectrum for carrying the local TV services; the second to create a proportionate and targeted licensing regime for the spectrum and local TV service operators; and the third, to secure appropriate prominence for the licensed local services in television electronic programme guides,' the vile and odious rascal Hunt said in a written ministerial statement. 'Local TV will provide news and other content for local audiences helping to hold local institutions to account and providing proper local perspectives. This framework offers the right incentives to the market to develop innovative business models; provides greater certainty and reduced risk for investors; and encourages new market opportunities and growth,' he added. 'It is expected the first local television licences will be awarded by Ofcom from summer 2012.' Ivan Lewis, the Labour shadow lack of culture secretary, said the announcement had been 'rushed out to deflect attention from Jeremy Hunt's discomfort at the News Corp/BSkyB debacle.' Which is probably true. 'We now know he has ditched the idea of a national TV spine and is still unable to provide satisfactory answers about the viability of local TV and whether it represents good value for money,' Lewis added. Which is also probably true. 'In the period ahead I will be asking searching questions to ensure local TV is being developed in the public interest and is a good use of BBC licence fee payers' money.' That's probably not true and Ivan Lewis wouldn't know a 'searching question' if it came up behind him and bit him, hard, on the arse. The DCMS said a further update would be published in the summer giving an assessment of the potential number of local TV licences likely to be up for grabs. EPG providers such as Freeview, Sky and Virgin Media will be required to give 'appropriate prominence' to licensed local digital TV services, enforced through Ofcom statutory code, which will require secondary legislation. The vile and odious rascal Hunt had already backed away from the idea of a new national TV 'spine' network after the proposal met with widespread opposition from potential local TV bidders fearful that they would be dominated by the operator of the new channel. However, the DCMS said that local TV operators might come together to form a new network if it made commercial sense. It suggested bidders interested in pursuing this option should make their case to media regulator Ofcom in the contract applications. The DCMS said amendments would be required to the Communications Act 2003 and Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006 to implement the new local TV framework. After implementing the necessary secondary legislation, Ofcom will run a competition for a licence for a new multiplex company that will be awarded a package of eight MHz interleaved DTT spectrum.

Young women in Russia have been encouraged to strip off their clothes to show their support for Vladimir Putin to become the country's next president. Good job it's July, frankly. It gets a bit nippy in Moscow come November. The campaign in support of the current Russian Prime Minister was started by a website called Putin's Army, Reuters reports. Girls who strip on video in time for the March 2012 presidential vote are automatically entered in a competition to win an Apple iPad 2, according to the Russian website. Putin's Army currently contains a video of blonde student called Diana on the streets of Moscow writing 'I will tear my clothes off for Putin' with red lipstick on her top before starting to take off her kit. Putin's Army said on a social networking website: 'The goal: for Putin to be president!' And, lots of chilly Muscovites, too. Putin - the butcher of Grozny - was president of Russia from 2000 to 2008. And played Dobby the House Elf in several of the Harry Potter films. He then became the Russian Prime Minister when he was ineligible to run for a third consecutive term as president.

Recently retired Australian test umpire Daryl Harper has accused India of 'bullying,' just days before the start of their Test series against England. Harper pulled out of his farewell Test earlier this month after criticism from India players and 'a lack of support' from the International Cricket Council. 'I thought someone had to make a stand, so I did,' Harper told BBC Sport. India said they had 'no comment to offer' in reply to Harper's claims but he has been - sort of - backed, albeit not in a very convincing way, by the ICC. 'I never tolerated bullying when I was a teacher,' Harper said, 'and I don't think bullying should be allowed to continue here.' ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat told BBC Sport: 'We've supported Daryl over many years. He has been a very good umpire and his statistics speak for themselves. It is unfortunate that it has ended in the way that it has in the West Indies but we support Daryl and it is fitting that he was on the elite panel.' Following the first Test between India and West Indies in June, which India won by sixty three runs, Indian captain Mahendra Dhoni condemned Harper's performance. Dhoni said: 'If the correct decisions were made the game would have finished much earlier and I would have been in the hotel by now.' His comments, disgraceful, went unpunished by the match referee Jeff Crowe. Indian newspapers also reported that 'a very senior member of the side' had claimed that the entire team did not want Harper to officiate in the final Test. 'We don't want him - you can quote it as the reaction of the entire Indian team,' was the alleged remark. Harper had been due to officiate in the third Test a few days later but pulled out. The fifty nine-year-old Harper said: 'There were a number of factors but the main one was what I deemed was a lack of support from the ICC. I wanted some action to be taken when there was some unwarranted criticism of me. But no action was taken after the Test match and I felt that if the ICC were not going to take action then I thought I would. So I packed up and went home. There were five or six articles that were very derogatory that were not good for me and not good for cricket.' Harper also feels that the behaviour of India's players is not in the spirit of the game. 'Cricket umpires have to have thick skin these days,' he said. 'I don't think I'm easily intimidated but you must respect the officials and I don't think that was the case. It's just the Indian way at the moment. It doesn't matter if it is Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Australia, England or India. The same conditions should apply and when I look back at before that third Test match I was starting to think "maybe I should wait and see who is playing" then I thought "this is a bad day, this is not a game I want to be involved with at the moment." India begin their four-Test series against England on Thursday at Lord's.

For the latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day a confession that we are all simple recidivists at heart.

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