Monday, July 04, 2011

My Girl Never Fails To Say If There is Any Work For Me

An investigator working for the News of the World newspaper allegedly hacked into the mobile phone of the murdered teenager Milly Dowler, a lawyer has claimed. Mark Lewis, who represents the Dowler family, said that Milly's parents have been told by police that Glenn Mulcaire hacked into Milly's phone whilst she was missing. The Gruniad has claimed that Mulcaire intercepted messages left by relatives in the days immediately after Milly's disappearance in March 2002 and suggested that someone at the NoW deleted some messages that they had listened to. Lewis claimed that the hacking dated from 2002 when the News of the World was under the editorship of well-known Crystal Tipps-lookalike Rebekah Brooks - now News International's chief executive - whom the corporation have, so far, bent over backwards to shield from any suggestion that phone hacking involving anybody from the News of the World took place during her time as editor. If the Gruniad's allegations prove to be correct - and, it's still a big 'if' - then it would appear to confirm that phone hacking involving the newspaper had been going on significantly earlier than News International has previously admitted. Scotland Yard is said to be investigating the episode, which is likely to put pressure on Brooks - now Rupert Murdoch's chief executive in the UK - and her then deputy editor, Andy Coulson, who resigned in January as the prime minister's media adviser. It will also once again raise questions about the prime minister's judgement in appointing Coulson to such a high profile job in the first place. That is, as noted, if these allegations prove to be true. Which they may not. Time will tell, it usually does. In a statement Lewis said: 'Sally and Bob Dowler have been through so much grief and trauma without further distressing revelations to them regarding the loss of their daughter. It is distress heaped upon tragedy to learn the News of the World have no humanity at such a terrible time. The fact that they were prepared to act in such a heinous way that could have jeopardised the police investigation and gave them false hope is despicable.' Well, quite. Detectives from Scotland Yard's new inquiry into the phone hacking, Operation Weeting, are believed to have found evidence of the targeting of the Dowlers in a collection of eleven thousand pages of notes kept by Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator employed by the News of the World who was jailed for hacking - carried out on behalf of the News of the World - in 2007. In the last four weeks the Met officers have approached Surrey police and taken formal statements from some of those involved in the original inquiry who, the Gruniad claim, were concerned about how News of the World journalists intercepted – and deleted – the voicemail messages during the original inquiry. The Gruniad claims that after Milly's voicemail facility became full, the News of the World 'deleted some messages which it had already listened to.' It quotes one - anonymous - 'source' as saying that this gave 'false hope' to friends and family of Milly, who mistakenly believed that Milly herself had cleared her message inbox and was, therefore, still alive. By that time, she had already been murdered by a nightclub doorman, Levi Bellfield, who was convicted of the truly dreadful crime last month. The Gruniad also alleges that the News of the World employed another private investigator, one Steve Whittamore, to illegally obtain ex-directory numbers for families called Dowler living in the Walton-on-Thames area, where Milly and her family lived. The deletion of the messages also caused difficulties for the police, the newspaper claims. It 'confused the picture' at a time when they had few real leads to pursue. It also 'potentially destroyed valuable evidence.' The News of the World's 'investigation', the Gruniad states, was part of a 'long campaign against paedophiles' championed by the then-editor, Rebekah Brooks. The Labour MP Tom Watson last week told the House of Commons that four months after Milly Dowler's disappearance the News of the World had targeted one of the parents of the two ten-year-old Soham schoolgirls, Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells, who were abducted and murdered on 4 August 2002. Watson did not reveal from where he obtained this information. The behaviour of tabloid newspapers generally became an issue during the trial of Bellfield, who was jailed for life for murdering Milly. A second charge, that he had attempted to abduct another Surrey schoolgirl, Rachel Cowles, had to be left on file after premature publicity by several tabloids was held to have made it impossible for the jury to reach a fair verdict. The tabloids, however, focused their anger after the trial on Bellfield's defence lawyer, complaining that the defence's questioning had caused unnecessary pain to Milly's parents. That, of course, didn't stop any of them from luridly reporting the court exchanges in their newspapers during the trial. Which would appear to show that they're all a bunch of hypocrites as well as pond-scum. Reacting to the story, Watson told the Commons on Monday that it was a 'despicable and evil act' which 'will shock parents up and down the land.' He also said that it strongly suggested parliament was misled in the press standards inquiry which was held by the Department for Culture Media and Sport last year. The claims about Milly are significant in the overall phone hacking inquiry, which has until now focused largely on the intrusion into the private lives of celebrities. In January, the High Court will hear claims from five test cases involving public figures who say their phones were hacked into - the majority of whom News International have now admitted to targeting. They are the former footballer Paul Gascoigne, the actor Jude Law, sports agent Sky Andrew, interior designer Kelly Hoppen and the Labour MP Chris Bryant. The cases arise out of the disclosure of information by the Metropolitan Police relating to material forfeited by Mulcaire. He and the former News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman were jailed in 2007 having be caught red-handed tapping the phones of members of the royal household. Five alleged victims have so far reached out-of-court settlements with the newspaper, including celebrity publicist Max Clifford, who received a reported one million pounds, and the actress Sienna Miller. Five journalists - four of whom have and previously had ties to the News of the World - have so far been arrested by police and bailed over the allegations. All of them deny any wrongdoing. News of the World's parent company News International, part of Murdoch's media empire, said that the revelations related to Milly Dowler and her family were: 'A development of great concern.' It issued a statement saying: 'We have been co-operating fully with Operation Weeting since our voluntary disclosure in January restarted the investigation into illegal voicemail interception. This particular case is clearly a development of great concern and we will be conducting our own inquiries as a result. We will obviously co-operate fully with any police request on this should we be asked.' Which, of course, all sounds very reasonable and noble. Although it's probably worth remembering - and, never for a single second forgetting - that for the five years from parts of this story first breaking, in 2006, right up until January of this year News International denied, furiously, that any of their employees (except for Goodman) and freelancers (except for Mulcaire) knew anything about phone hacking and that any such hacking which might, or might not, have gone on was merely the activities of 'a lone rogue reporter' and nothing whatsoever to do with them. Gradually, as more and more evidence comes to light concerning just how widespread such illegal activities appear to have been, the whole rotten-to-the-core house of cards is starting to collapse around them like so much wet cardboard. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the company to which the government - your government - is about to blindly and with a casual shrug of the shoulders, give their blessing to them buying Sky. Sometimes, dear blog reader, no editorialising or punchlines are necessary, a story just kind of speaks for itself.

A group of senior BBC executives are alleged to be campaigning to introduce a BBC-wide ban on actors, writers and other talent involved in its productions using social networking sites such as Twitter to disclose details of their work. According to 'senior sources,' the need for a ban 'was a widely held view' and 'conversations have started' regarding a change to contracts to forbid talent from using Twitter and other public Internet forums to discuss details of their involvement in BBC productions if the information is 'confidential or sensitive.' This is all according to the Gruniad so, as ever, treat it with the utter contempt it deserves until confirmed by BBC sources that aren't cloaked in the anonymity of The Darkness. The campaign, allegedly, follows a spate of revelations on Twitter which, the Gruniad claims they've been told, have 'disrupted press and marketing campaigns.' They hope that a ban will prevent storyline spoilers, casting news or press announcements from leaking out. Recent examples which are understood to have caused consternation include the singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor's disclosure on Twitter that she was to appear in Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's new comedy Life's Too Short alongside Sting. Her seemingly innocent tweet is understood to have 'undermined a carefully crafted BBC announcement' of the balding ex-milkman turned savior of the planet's appearance. To be honest, yer actual Keith Telly Topping was very glad Sohpie did mention this as it gave this blogger one additional reason not to watch Life's Too Short besides his well-known aversion of Ricky Gervais. Other examples of 'inadvertent indiscretions', the newspaper claims, include the actor Stephen Mangan's revelation on Twitter that the drama Dirk Gently had been recommissioned and Armando Iannucci's announcement of a return of the comedy The Thick of It before the BBC was ready to make it public. There's also the small matter of Alan Davies telling his Twitter followers that Getting On had been cancelled when it, in fact, had not been which is said to have caused 'annoyance' in the upper reaches of the Beeb. One executive, who 'holds a high profile job in BBC Vision,' the department which oversees and produces television content, allegedly told the Gruniad Morning Star that the ban was 'already being discussed.' The executive who, the papers claims, 'asked to remain anonymous,' and therefore probably doesn't exist, allegedly said: 'There's no doubt that Twitter is a popular communications phenomenon but it can also be quite disruptive if artists tweet about an appearance on a show or announce a new commission before the broadcaster is ready to go with the story. Broadcasters can have a number of reasons for wanting to delay press announcements, such as the deal not being done or contracts not being signed or, indeed, the broadcaster wanting to make a big splash with a great story at a particularly opportune moment. A random tweet can rob an artist of his or her potentially much louder fanfare.' When asked for a comment, a BBC spokesperson said that the corporation already had guidelines on the use of Twitter and social media when writing 'in a BBC capacity.' But as most usage is personal, the BBC's position is that the talent must be advised by their agents on 'how to conduct themselves.' or, alternatively, they should just use their common sense and not say anything that isn't, already, in the public domain. Mind you, that's gonna kill Stephen Fry for one. it's also going to have a massive impact on TV news blogs such as this since Twitter's where yer actual Keith Telly Topping gets a good twenty five per cent of his 'exclusives'! The Beeb spokespersonette said: 'Most talent tweeting fall under the personal usage bracket, and are advised by their agents/producers and we encourage them to read our guidelines.' Three years ago, the BBC launched formal guidelines governing what staff could put on their profile pages on social networking websites such as Facebook. BBC News director Helen Boaden introduced the measure in order to protect the corporation's brand. 'The public and private space is complicated. People don't know when they put it [pictures] up that it could be used [in the media],' she said at the time.

Anyway, here's one I didn't get from Twitter but, rather, from the BBC Press Office, so we'll assume it's safe to discuss. Matt Smith - popular chap, wears a bow-tie, you might've heard of him - is to star in the previously announced BBC drama Bert and Dickie playing Bert Bushnell, one half of the team which took the rowing double scull Olympic Gold Medal for Britain at the 1948 London Olympics. The film shows how Bushnell, and his partner Dickie Burnell, overcame their class differences to win the event for Britain despite only being paired up six weeks before the games began. Filming will take place in August with Smith thereafter returning to the role of The Doctor, to film this year's Christmas Special, in the Autumn. Bert And Dickie is written by William Ivory and made by BBC Drama Production.

Dermot O'Leary's wretched ITV game show The Marriage Ref sunk to abysmal ratings on Saturday night. With smug Jimmy Carr, unfunny James Corden and big fat cuddly Lorraine Kelly guest-starring, the format - adapted from the US, where it was also a flop - appealed to a mere 1.73m from 9pm, down seven hundred thousand viewers week-on-week. The Marriage Ref's performance is ITV's worst on a Saturday night in prime time since celebrated catastrophe The Prisoner last spring. Topping the night with 4.94m was BBC1's Casualty for an episode titled Rogue, which saw Dr Adam Trueman struggle to deal with a patient sex-offender, while Lee Mack's All Star Cast was watched by 3.16m.

The TV reporter who conducted Thursday's frankly bizarre interview with Ed Milimolimandi, in which the Labour leader responded to every single question with the same statement about his position on public sector strikes, has that said he felt 'ashamed' at the 'professional discourtesy' in being 'used as a recording device for a scripted soundbite.' Get used to it pal, that's politics all over these days. Damon Green, the ITV News correspondent who was interviewing Milimolimandi for a pooled story that also went to the BBC and Sky News, has vented his anger at the Labour leader and his entourage in a one thousand three hundred word piece posted online. Good job he's not working for the BBC, they'd've probably banned it. Green said that the resulting interview was 'so absurd' that it is only 'perfectly proper' that the full un-edited version of it 'has found its way onto YouTube … to be laughed at along with all the clips of cats falling off sofas.' In the two-minute thirty-second version of the interview, Green tried six times to get Milimolimandi to expand on his position about why he believes the strike action is 'wrong.' This from the leader of the British Labour movement, remember, dear blog reader. You know, the people who are supposed be looking after workers rights cos nobody else is. In each case, Green received more-or-less the same stock reply, that the strikes are wrong when negotiations are underway, the government has acted in a 'reckless and provocative manner' and both sides need to 'set aside the rhetoric' (something Milimolimandi himself appears unable to do) and 'get around the negotiating table to stop this happening again.' I'll bet all of those unions that voted in favour of this joker over his brother last year are really regretting that now. Green vented his anger at the Labour leader and his 'handlers,' putting on a 'convincing charade' of pretending to care about his line of questioning when they had a pre-planned PR line that they refused to go beyond. 'If news reporters and cameras are only there to be used by politicians as recording devices for their scripted soundbites, at best that is a professional discourtesy,' he said. 'At worst, if we are not allowed to explore and examine a politician's views, then politicians cease to be accountable in the most obvious way.' Oh, you just noticed. They all scum, mate. We've been saying that on this blog for five years. The whole bastard lot of them, they're all untrustworthy, deceitful, wretched bastards who will tell the public anything to get themselves elected and them do the exact opposite. Welcome to the land of Those Who Know. He also criticised the approach of the three PR 'handlers' Milimolimandi 'sent in first' whom, he claimed, attempted to control the entire interview, down to trying to tell the cameraman about 'framing and depth of field' and demanding that the Labour leader be put in front of a bookcase 'with his family photos over his left shoulder.' Despite knowing Milimolimandi had been pre-briefed to give just one response, Green said that his PRs also tried to control the line of questioning, a tactic he referred to as a convincing charade. 'His PR must have known that was what he was going to do,' Green said. 'And yet he still went through a convincing charade of pressing me on my line of interrogation, urging me to keep my questions brief and even – this was a macabre touch – placing a voice recorder on the table beside me as a kind of warning not to try and misquote his boss.' Green said that as he came to the last question of what was clearly a disastrous interview, he felt 'an urge' to 'ask a flippant question' just to 'get a rise out' of Milimolimandi, like 'What is the world's fastest fish?,' 'Can your dog do tricks?' or 'Which is your favourite dinosaur?' But he didn't. Which was a real pity, frankly, and it would've been a reet good laugh if that had ended up on You Tube.

John Barrowman has discussed the perception of being gay in the acting industry and how it can be changed with more openness: 'We still have a whole lot of people out there who are not openly gay because they think it’s going to affect their jobs and stuff,' he told the After Elton website. 'Now I'm not out there to out people, and if that's what you choose to do, that's your choice, and I don't see anything wrong with that. But I must say, if you're doing it because you think it's detrimental to your career, the more of us who come out and do things openly – I guarantee you, there's a lot of us in Hollywood. And if we all just come out and don't worry about it – in fact, not even come out, just live. If we could just be ourselves and live and not pretend and not lie and not have beards, things would be a lot different. And the public, in a way, has to accept that stuff. If a big Hollywood A-lister came out, do you really think it's going to affect the films? People are not that stupid. And I think we need to give the people more power in that sense. There might be an area of society that will never believe it, will never want to believe it, but that's their choice. I don't have a choice, they do.'

Sky Sports News has begun broadcasting from their brand new studio based in Sky Studios (Harlequin One). Sky Studios is Sky's new two hundred and thirty three million smackers broadcast and production facility which will become home to thirteen hundred of Sky's production and playout staff. It has eight HD Studios with the biggest studio twice the size of its current largest studio. Good Morning Sports Fans with Mike Wedderburn and pouty Kirsty Gallacher kicked off the new era on Sky Sports News.
Richard T Jones has signed up to play a recurring role in the second season of Hawaii Five-0. The Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles actor will play the new Governor of Honolulu, according to TV Guide. The as-yet-unnamed character will fill the position following the death of the traitorous Pat Jameson (Jean Smart) in the CBS drama's apocalyptic series finale. The new Governor will, according to the article, be keen to distance himself from the corruption of the previous administration, and is eager to keep Steve McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin) and his team under tight control. Jones recently starred in the JJ Abrams film Super 8 and has featured in episodes of Grey's Anatomy and Bones. The actor also appeared in recent FOX comedy pilot Council of Dads, but the project was not picked up to series. Previously, it had been announced that former Lost star Terry O'Quinn and Black Hawk Down actor Tom Sizemore will also play recurring roles in the new season of Hawaii Five-0.

ITV is weighing up cutting drama repeats from ITV's daytime schedule to clear space for experimenting with in-house formats. The channel currently broadcasts archive dramas such as Midsomer Murders and A Touch Of Frost ad nausea at 4pm on weekdays for the majority of the year. This slot is understood to have been earmarked for the strategy next year. The slot would become a dedicated space where new ITV Studios formats could be tested and established. While the strategy has not been finalised, daytime development teams at ITVS have been alerted to the likelihood of increased opportunities in 2012. A number of projects are already being worked up by the production arm, one alleged 'insider' claimed. The move would provide a boost to ITVS in its goal of creating more internationally attractive formats, particularly in the areas of factual entertainment and pure entertainment. Opening up 4pm would enable it to build on the success of shows such as May The Best House Win. Produced by ITVS-owned Shiver Productions, it was trialled for a week on ITV in February 2010, before going to a full series and being picked up by Spanish broadcaster Antena 3. The Chase is another example of an ITVS format that was tested in a 5pm slot for two weeks in 2009 and has now grown into a regular ratings winner for the channel. As a result, ITV ordered one hundred and twenty new episodes of the Bradley Walsh-fronted game show last month. Drama repeats will not be cut altogether though, and director of factual and daytime Alison Sharman and head of off-peak scheduling Priya Singh are understood to be assessing when during the year is most suitable for the 4pm experiment. It is not thought that the plan to open up space in the daytime schedule has been communicated to the independent sector at this stage. While the move to reduce drama repeats is a strategic one, it could also save ITV money. The cost of broadcasting them is thought to sometimes top the broadcaster's daytime tariff of around thirty thousand pounds an hour because of ITV's repeat fee agreement with Equity. A similar deal between the BBC and the union effectively derailed the corporation's Delivering Quality First idea of saving money by showing drama repeats instead of daytime shows on BBC2. The ITV/Equity deal is set to undergo a standard three-year review later this year, a spokesman for the trade union said. And the real loser here, of course, will be John Nettles. Ah well, stuff happens ...

Time Team star Tony ­Robinson says that his new wife – who is, the Mirra note with some considerable glee, less than half his age – is 'the love of my life.' The sixty four-year-old actor, writer and presenter, who married ­public sector worker Louise Hobbs, thirty, in Italy recently, said: 'I ­always want to be with her and she always wants to be with me.' Robinson, still after these years best known as Baldrick in The Black Adder, and its several sequels, talked about the wedding for the first time on Radio 4's Desert Island Discs. Asked why he chose a piece of music by the composer Chopin, Tony told Kirsty Young: 'Because I'm in love. To find somebody who is always interested in what I do, just as I'm always ­interested in what she does – it's just ­absolutely ­brilliant.' Robinson, who once said that 'marriage is a nonsense,' added: 'I don't care about my age, I like being excited about the new day, new people and new events.' Good on ya, Tone.

The vile and odious rascal Hunt was yesterday accused of 'conducting slippery deals after waving through Rupert ­Murdoch's takeover of BSkyB,' according to the Mirra. Err ... yeah. And? As we asked earlier in relation to Damon Green's shock-horror surprise that some politicians are deceitful gits with thoroughly sick agenda we're forced to ask 'and you've only just realised this?' The lack of culture secretary gave the go-ahead for the media mogul's eight billion smackers bid for the broadcaster on the condition Sky News is spun off as a separate company. But 'critics' - whoever they are, the Mirra doesn't specify - 'reacted with fury' at the way it was allowed without being referred to the Competition Commission. They see the move as a reward for Murdoch's election support of the Tories. The Mirra quotes Labour MP Tom Watson as saying: 'This seedy deal would shame a banana republic.' Is that a republic that exports bananas? Because, to be honest, I think that includes us, Tom, mate. Former Tory minister Lord Fowler added: 'Too much market power over the media is being exercised by one company.' Oh, so they're the critics, a Thatcherite has-been and a non-entity. Shame, I thought it was somebody, you know, important and actually able to make a few people give a damn. Seems not. 'An alliance of media groups opposed to the deal,' including the Mirra's owners Trinity Mirror so no obvious self-interest there then, 'told of their disappointment.' A 'spokesman' said: 'We continue to believe this matter should have gone before the Competition Commission for a full inquiry.' The Government received more than forty thousand submissions to its consultation over the deal. But the vile and odious rascal Hunt still ruled the takeover acceptable after tweaking the details of the deal, which will now go to a week-long consultation. If agreed, it gives the green light for ­Murdoch's NewsCorp, which is - the Mirra notes with considerable force - 'embroiled in a phone-hacking scandal,' to buy the sixty one per cent stake in BSkyB it doesn't already own.

And speaking of Tories, the BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten has said moves will be announced in the next few days to tackle the issue of salaries paid to executives at the corporation. Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, he said it is 'one of the most toxic reasons for the public's lack of sympathy for the BBC.' He said pay of 'top bosses' and staff on one hundred and fifty thousand pounds or more would be 'addressed.' Lord Patten added that closing a service to deal with funding cuts had 'not been ruled out.' The peer, who took up his post in May, heads the body which oversees the workings of the BBC on behalf of licence fee payers. An ongoing review which is looking at ways to save money at the BBC included 'looking at the main relationships between the TV channels,' he said. 'I think we can see symmetries that we can perhaps organise better.' But Lord Patten added that the review is 'looking at everything' and any proposals are unlikely to be firmed up until at least September. Speaking about the issue of executive pay, the BBC Trust chairman said he hoped the corporation could become the first organisation to implement some of Will Hutton's proposals for 'fair pay' published in March. Among Hutton's proposals is that an executive would not receive pay of more than twenty times the 'median salary' of an organisation. Last year he was asked to lead a review of public sector pay and examine the disparities between those on the highest salaries and workers who are paid the least. Lord Patten also said there was an issue of 'fairness across the board' to be addressed, with some staff benefits only applicable to senior managers. Measures to curb pay have already been taken, including a freeze on executive pay, cuts from the top twenty five per cent of the wage bill, while the BBC executive board surrendered a month's pay both this year and in 2010. Lord Patten said that he wants the BBC to become 'flexible, lean, more confident and self-challenging,' adding that it would have to 'learn to live with a flat budget.' But, he said the broadcaster would still be capable of 'delivering high quality programming.' The former Conservative cabinet minister also praised BBC3 for two recent documentaries, calling them 'brilliant programmes.'

Micky Flanagan has 'stumbled into a plagiarism row' after telling more or less the same gag on Mock The Week which is already at the centre of a notorious joke-stealing controversy according to the Chortle website. On Thursday's show, the best in a couple of years at least as a matter of pure disinterest, the London comic told of his frustration at going to a U2 concert and seeing Mr Bonio invite his audience to sing along. Flanagan said: 'Bono keeps on saying "Come on, join in, you know this one,"' he said. 'I paid twenty five quid to get in here and you're getting about quarter of a million pounds - you sing it.' It is the same idea which caused Jordan Paris to be vilified after he repeated word-for-word a Lee Mack routine when he appeared on Australia's Got Talent. The line didn't go unnoticed when Flanagan told it on BBC2, with a few viewers drawing attention to the similarities on Twitter. The row over Jordan Paris was a major news story in Australia and was covered by Chortle, the Sun and, indeed, this blog in Britain. But Flanagan's agent, Christian Knowles, told the comedy website that his client was 'not aware' of the dispute. He added: 'Micky's not a plagiarist, it's a gag that he stopped doing about ten years ago but went back to it because it worked with the topics on that episode of Mock The Week. Comedians do independently come up with similar ideas and jokes but because of the coverage regarding the contestant on Australia's Got Talent it made [sic] appear that Micky has nicked the gag, this simply isn't true.' Although Mack's version of the joke has become famous, the idea has been around for a long time. American comic Steve Harvey said a similar thing about rap artists in the 2000 concert film Kings Of Comedy, and other versions of the line have also been attributed to Sheffield comic Toby Foster and Australia's Dave Thornton. Ironically, Flanagan once accused directory inquiry company 118-118 of stealing his routine about going 'out, out' for their advertising campaigns.

And, now some properly joyous news: A tabloid report claims that Popstar to Operastar may be axed (again) because of low ratings. The second series of the ITV series launched a month ago with an impressive 6.3 million viewers but, crucially, the first edition went out on a Saturday evening slot immediately after an episode of Britain's Got Talent. Subsequent episodes have been broadcast on Sunday evenings and ratings have since plummeted faster than a tarts draws when a Premier league team are in town. Fewer than three million viewers watching the latest episode. The Mirra claims that the big decline in ratings has prompted ITV bosses to consider axing the series. 'Things have gone rapidly downhill ... it may be that the end of this series becomes a natural end for the format,' a 'source' allegedly told the Mirra. A spokesperson for ITV denied that any decisions had been taken over the future of the singing competition. If it is cancelled it won't be the first time that Popstar to Operastar has been culled by ITV. The first series was broadcast last year on ITV in a Friday evening slot but failed to take off with viewers. Celebrity contestants that time around included Bernie Nolan, Kym Marsh and Darius Campbell who won the series. Following its poor performance ITV announced that it had dropped the show but, subsequently, revived it several months later when, in light of other spectacular ratings failures in the same slot, its terrible ratings didn't appear quite as bad as at first thought. Evidence of the second series would suggest that their first instincts were right all along. Although it does have the additional comedy value of well-known faceache (and drag) Myleene Klass getting sacked not once but twice, admittedly.

Doctor Who's Steven Moffat spoke to Wired about making the shows, and commented on writing for the character: 'When the new Doctor has worked, he's been in-tune with the times. I look at Tom Baker's Doctor and that's the seventies to me. It's nostalgic and wonderful. But because Doctor Who is an old show, it must never look old. It must always feel new. I'm not trying to make Doctor Who for the old fans. '’m trying to get the next generation of children to fall in love with the show.' And on the audience: 'It's a big fat mainstream hit in Britain, and if you’ve got a big hit, you have to keep romancing the casual viewer. Keeping people happy who watch it now and then—that’s the hard part.'

Meanwhile, his predecessor Russell Davies used an interview with BBC Radio's Front Row to put forward his view on why cuts in things like the BBC licence fee affect culture: 'That is truly something of great cultural value - it's very easy to say that a school is more important than a play, that a hospital is more important than a drama, and that's because we're talking a totally false language in which these things are comparable and one reduces the other - that's the language of economics that simply does not fit cultural life,' he noted. Reflecting on recent comments made by prime minister David Cameron on 'cleaning up the watershed,' Davies said: 'I'm delivering Torchwood to BBC1, we're delivering these episodes with weekly edits, it has sex, it has violence in it - (the watershed) does seem more stringent than ever, I have to say. I've always thought if your drama depends on a sex scene or a swear word that it's possibly a very slightly odd drama: I think that's true of some dramas, something like Queer as Folk, that's actually quite rare so I don't think we should automatically take a stand of saying these things are automatically good, because you've got to take it as it comes. It does seem more diligent than ever, that's why I'm surprised he is saying it needs policing - it seems to be policed ever since as we all know, with Jonathan Ross and the whole of the BBC came tumbling around our ears, compliance has been mad; but no matter how mad compliance gets, with diligence with hard work and with a very very close eye on the guidelines you can get strong material transmitted, I do believe that.'

Rowdy revellers heading to Newcastle from Scotland for stag and hen parties have been causing trouble on trains, according to British Transport Police. Officers issued a warning to party goers after complaints from passengers on the East Coast Main Line. Police said they believed the popularity of Geordie Shore had led to an influx in groups going to Newcastle for the night life. Officers have been put on services to reassure passengers and staff. Sergeant Stephanie Reynolds, from British Transport Police, said: 'Passengers have reported problems from large groups travelling on the trains for their anti-social behaviour, often swearing, playing loud music and shouting - disturbing other passengers from their journey. We have had officers on these services and at stations warning revellers of their behaviour which has seen a reduction of incidents. However, we are not complacent and will continue have officers on board to reduce this issue.' The force said that officers had noticed an increase in revellers heading to Newcastle following the success of MTV reality show Geordie Shore. The show, a British version of the hit US series Jersey Shore, follows the antics of eight sex-obsessed friends as they drink, vomit, fight and strip off. Sergeant Reynolds added: 'We aren't out to spoil your party. Newcastle is a beautiful city full of culture and fantastic night life. We want everyone to enjoy themselves, but would warn visitors not to spoil the party for anyone else. Anti-social behaviour and over indulging in alcohol will not be tolerated on the rail network and we will continue to put officers on services to reassure passengers and staff.'

Digital channel Dave has ordered a full series of Alexander Armstrong's Big Ask following a successful pilot episode last month. Another six half-hour episodes of the panel show have been commissioned, to be recorded this autumn and airing early in 2012. The try-out show featured Griff Rhys Jones, Katy Brand and Robert Webb as well as Come Dine With Me voice-over man Dave Lamb as the fact checker. Dave's channel head, Steve North, says, 'Commissioning a winning comedy format is hard to do straight off the bat, but this new series really hits the mark because it sits so comfortably alongside our big banker titles like Qi while also reinforcing Dave as a home of new comedy content.' He added that along with live shows the channel was now organising, 'it really feels like we’re establishing ourselves as a major player in the UK comedy market, both on and off screen.' The show, made by Graham Norton's So Television, has the twist that the panellists must not only answer questions, but make them up, too, with the aim being to devise a question that only they know the answer to. The pilot attracted an audience of three hundred and eleven thousand on its first screening on 31 May, with a high proportion of the sought-after upmarket 'ABC1' viewers tuning in. Other shows recently commissioned for Dave include Al Murray's Compete for the Meat, Jo Brand's Big Splash and a second series of Dave's One Night Stand. The channel is expected to announce another two new shows soon.

Tony Curran and Gary Lewis are amongst the cast for BBC1's new drama Young James, a dramatisation of the younger years of vet James Herriot. The vet was previously the subject of the fondly remembered BBC drama All Creatures Great And Small. Iain de Caestecker, Outcast's Amy Manson and Ben Lloyd-Hughes have also been cast in the drama produced by Koco Drama (a Shed Media company). Shooting began in Glasgow this week. 'The Glasgow Veterinary College of 1933 is an inspired setting for this compelling new drama series. The fact that the central character is one of the most loved television characters of all time will ensure enduring audience appeal. Whilst portraying the reality of the era, stories will be delivered with charm and humour taking James Herriot and his fellow student vets from the rural dairy farm to inner city slums, and to an aristocratic family seat. Coupling the authentic period detail of a time of huge social and political change with an outstanding ensemble cast, Young James will be essential viewing' said Cameron Roach, the executive producer for Koco Drama. Written by Ann McManus, Eileen Gallagher and Damian Wayling, and directed by Michael Keillor, the drama is inspired by the James Herriot books which tell the story of the Young James character while he was a student at the Glasgow Veterinary College in the 1930s. Young James focuses on his formative years as a bright, idealistic young man and follows his student exploits with close university friends Whirly Tyson and Rob McAloon. The drama draws on unprecedented exclusive access to an astonishing archive from veterinary surgeon Alf Wight, who wrote under the pseudonym James Herriot. This includes the diaries and case notes he kept during his student years, together with the authorised biography written by his son, Jim Wight. Herriot would become one of Britain's best-loved authors and an inspiration for films and the long-running TV series, All Creatures Great And Small, which encouraged many others to follow in his footsteps.

Hackers have taken over a Twitter account belonging to US broadcaster FOX News and declared that President Obama dead. The Fox News Politics feed stated: 'BREAKING NEWS: @BarackObama assassinated, two gunshot wounds have proved too much.' More than two hours after the malicious postings appeared, they had still not been removed. A group or individual, calling themselves The Script Kiddies appeared to claim responsibility. FOX News Politics began posting bizarre messages around 07.00 BST on 4 July.
The first read: 'Just regained full access to our Twitter and e-mail. Happy 4th.' The next posting stated: '@BarackObama has just passed. The President is dead.' FOX News Politics is one of the Twitter accounts associated with the cable news network. Its Twitter account carries the 'verified' tick icon, indicating that the feed belongs to the organisation it claims to be. In among the messages about President Obama, a couple of tweets appeared from a user called The Script Kiddies. However, that account was quickly suspended. The phrase 'Script Kiddie' is Internet slang for an inexperienced person who uses off-the-shelf hacking technology, developed by other people. It is unclear why FOX News has been attacked in this instance although, the broadcaster's thuggish right-wing stance has made it unpopular with many Americans.

The actress Anna Massey, who starred in a string of screen dramas, has died at the age of seventy three, her agent has confirmed. Massey won many awards during her acting career which spanned six decades, including a BAFTA for her portrayal of a lonely spinster in a 1986 TV adaptation of Hotel du Lac. She also appeared in the film adaptation of AS Byatt's Possession, opposite Gwyneth Paltrow and was one of Barry Foster's murder victims in Alfred Hitchcock's 1972 movie Frenzy. 'Lovely!' Anna was awarded a CBE for services to acting in 2004. She was born in Thakeham, West Sussex, in 1937 the daughter of British actress Adrianne Allen and Canadian-born Hollywood actor Raymond Massey, best known for his role as Dr Gillespie in the TV series Dr Kildare. Her late brother, Daniel Massey, was also an actor. She was the niece of Vincent Massey, a Governor General of Canada. Massey was brought up in London but saw little of her father after her parents divorced when she was a year old. She began her career on the stage, making her professional debut at the age of seventeen in The Reluctant Debutante. Her film debut was in 1958 in Gideon's Day, directed by her Godfather, John Ford. Her TV roles included notable costume drama turns as Mrs Danvers in Rebecca (1979), while she also appeared in an 1983 adaptation of Mansfield Park. She found a niche in period dramas such as The Pallisers (1974), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1978), The Cherry Orchard (1980) and Anna Karenina (1985). By contrast Anna also had roles in the British comedy series The Darling Buds of May (1991) and The Robinsons (2005). She has also appeared in a number of mysteries and thrillers on British television, including episodes of Inspector Morse, The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries, Midsomer Murders, Strange, Lewis and Agatha Christie's Poirot. Her film credits include the female lead in Michael Powell's cult 1960 thriller Peeping Tom, the Amicus chiller The Vault of Horror (in which she played a vampire), comedy The Tall Guy in 1989 and The Importance of Being Earnest in 2002. She also starred in a 2004 BBC adaptation of Anthony Trollope's He Knew He Was Right. Two years later Massey portrayed Margaret Thatcher in television film Pinochet in Suburbia. Most recently, she appeared in one of Jimmy McGovern's Moving On dramas on BBC1, credited as her last screen appearance. 'I find acting incredibly difficult - it demands much more of my time than it does for some people. I'm not instinctive. It takes enormous discipline and bravery to get me there,' the actress told the Independent in 1996. Massey was married to Sherlock Holmes actor Jeremy Brett for four years until 1962, and spent twenty seven years alone until she met her second husband. She published an autobiography in 2006, Telling Some Tales revealing a difficult early life, with her father fleeing the family for the United States when Anna was still a toddler whilst her mother, Adrianne, is remembered as a marvellous hostess who filled the house with an exotic mixture of guests. But it was Anna's Nanny who supplied the crucial emotional support and who remained with Anna until her death. Massey writes of her psychotherapy which she says helped get her through her troubles like the peaks and valleys of her failed marriage to actor Brett (who struggled with bipolar disorder). The couple had a son, the writer David Huggins. Anna subsequently married Uri Andres. In spite of the vicissitudes of Massey's life, Telling Some Tales becomes a story of personal happiness, achieved 'without make-up, lighting or script.' Her agent said: 'She will be remembered as a loving wife and mother, a cherished grandmother, a generous colleague and, always, a consummate professional. She will be greatly missed.'

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, we're back in black-and-white for a classic piece of pointed socio-political observation from The Silhouettes.

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