Monday, July 11, 2011

They Can't Hurt You Now

One wonders if, in the midst of all his troubles, Rupert Murdoch has been kicking back in his London apartment, grabbing a beer and watching The Simpsons this evening. No doubt by sheer coincidence, Sky One has been showing an episode called Fraudcast News, in which the elderly heartless tycoon Montgomery Burns ('gentlemen, to crime!') establishes a media monopoly to strike back at his enemies. In the episode, reports of Monty Burns' death are 'greatly exaggerated' and when obituaries tell the truth about him, he starts buying up the media in order to brainwash Springfield. Commentators in the past have likened the Australian-American media mogul - who, of course, has actually appeared in The Simpsons twice as himself - to a kind of real-life Mr Burns. He has his own Smithers, he's cruel and mean and ruthless and, whenever anybody gets on the wrong side of him he orders somebody to 'release the hounds.' As a portrait of power unfettered, The Simpsons' character is as much cartoon villain as the show's real-life owner, according to one of the long-running cartoon's writers, though many have scratched their heads that Murdoch ever allowed this left-of-centre show to be made by FOX. And least we forget, when Murdoch himself appeared on the programme, he introduced himself as follows: 'I'm Rupert Murdoch, the billionaire tyrant!' Sadly, that was true.
It has been, as t'were, another quite extraordinary day in the ongoing News of the World phone hacking scandal. The key developments were - the lack of culture secretary has referred News Corporation's bid for one hundred per cent of BSkyB to the Competition Commission, after News Corp withdrew its promise to spin Sky News off into a separate company, a key element in making sure the bid passed media plurality conditions earlier in the year. The decision about News Corp's bid will now not be taken until next year at the earliest. Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband had both called on Rupert Murdoch to drop the bid altogether. News International was revealed to have targeted Gordon Brown, attempting to access his voicemail and obtaining information from his bank account, his legal file as well as his family's medical records. Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall have been warned by police that their voicemail may have been hacked by the News of the World. Separately, it was alleged that the News of the World paid royal protection officers for details of the royal family. Scotland Yard then put out a strong statement implying that News International themselves had been leaking details of police investigation in order to undermine it. David Cameron made his strongest comments about Andy Coulson, the News of the World editor who became his director of communications. He said he would be 'incredibly angry and incredibly let down' if Coulson's assurances that he did not know about phone hacking turn out to have been untrue. In the Commons, Miliband said that Cameron needed to explain why he ignored warnings about Coulson before making him director of communications. For a kick-off there are claims that the police have warned Buckingham Palace they have found evidence that the Prince of Wales and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall may have had their voicemail hacked by the News of the World, according to the Gruniad's Nick Davies. 'The heir to the throne and his wife are among at least ten members of the royal household who have now been warned they were targeted for hacking, according to police records obtained by the Guardian. Only five had previously been identified. The revelation comes as the BBC disclosed that the e-mails which News International handed to Scotland Yard in June include evidence that the paper had paid bribes to a royal protection officer in order to obtain private phone numbers for the royal household.' Earlier, there were allegations that evidence had been found suggesting the News of the World paid a royal protection officer for contact details of senior members of the Royal Family. It was claimed that e-mails recently passed to the police by News International include requests for sums of around one thousand pounds for details of the royals, their friends and family, according to the BBC's business editor Robert Peston. The e-mails were uncovered by News International in 2007 but were not given to police until June of this year. News International, with seemingly no obvious irony, said that it is 'co-operating fully with the police.' Yes, 'fully' to the tune of a thousand smackers per 'co-operation' it would seem. That may be why you're in so much trouble. Soon afterwards Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC's political correspondent, suggested that Rupert Murdoch is 'determined to get the BSkyB deal,' but the pressure to halt this bid, to get it delayed and potentially taken off the table, 'is building by the hour as the twists and turns in the story continue. [There are] rumours whirling around Westminster of more to come this afternoon perhaps with other papers, not just the News of the World. One News of the World e-mail allegedly shows Clive Goodman requesting cash from Coulson, to buy directory of the royal family's phone numbers.' Emily Maitlis - and her 'haunted pussy', no doubt - soon afterwards tweeted: 'Hearing this whole story could change again at 5pm tonight when we're expecting more revelations.' Within moments, Robert Peston had joined Maitlis on the BBC News Channel and was saying that one of the e-mails from News of the World suggests the newspaper's royal editor Clive Goodman asked for cash from then-editor Andy Coulson to 'buy a confidential directory of the royal family's landline telephone numbers,' the "Green Book", a highly confidential - although not Top Secret - document, which had been apparently stolen by a member of the Royal protection force. Peston said that 'while it is not quite the most sensitive information you could get about the Royal family,' people with access to it have to sign various confidentiality agreements, and that his contacts say it is 'shocking' that a police officer would sell it. Shortly afterwards News Corporation threw another spanner into the works by withdrawing its previous offer to spin-off Sky News as part of the undertakings made to get the bid cleared by regulators. On BBC News, Peston said that News Corp's meant that News Corp was, essentially, throwing the decision over the merger to the Competition Commission – which means a long delay, but does keep the bid alive and, as noted by several contributors to Sky news itself, this had the potential to 'take the politics' out of the equation.

Then, it got funny. The vile and odious rascal Hunt came to the house to announce that, given New Corp's announcement he now intended to send their bid back to the Competition's Commission. The vile and odious rascal Hunt's statement came moments after News Corp announced changes to its portfolio in the UK and during an afternoon in which further allegations were levelled at Rupert Murdoch's newspaper stable in the UK. The lack of culture secretary told parliament that he was referring News Corp's proposed takeover of BSkyB to the Competition Commission moments after it emerged News Corp itself had withdrawn a proposal to spin off Sky News. It had planned to do so in order to minimise the share of the media industry it owned in the UK and to persuade the regulatory authorities that it could be allowed to take over BSkyB. After it shelved the Sky News spin-off, it became obvious the deal would be referred to the Competition Commission. In a hastily redrafted statement to the Commons, the vile and odious rascal Hunt said: 'I know that colleagues on all sides of the house and the public at home feel very concerned at the prospect of the organisation which allegedly allowed these terrible things to happen being allowed to take control of what would become Britain's biggest media company. I understand that in the last few minutes News Corporation have withdrawn their undertakings in lieu.' He added: 'As a result of News Corporation's announcement this afternoon, I am now going to refer this to the Competition Commission with immediate effect.' With a barely audible voice, but still with that seemingly perminant smug look on his face even though he was getting a pasteing, the vile and odious rascal Hunt got a decidedly rough ride from the House in the debate which followed. The general concensus afterwards was that the opposition had shish-kebah'd him and served him on a plate of chips. The vile and odious rascal Hunt had been 'left to carry the can by a prime minister who knew there are too many difficult questions for him to answer,' Ed Milimolimadi said in a dramatic, and in places very effect, speech. Albeit in other places, it was rather shrill. And, he really needs to get that minor speech impediment sorted out because, at times he sounds likes a prime minister but, at other times he sounds more like Duffy Duck. Anyway, this was, he continued, 'an insult to the house and to the public.' Would the culture secretary agree that the judge-led inquiry should start immediately so that no evidence could be destroyed, he asked stating that he was worried about evidence in Conservative HQ and No 10 as well as within News International. The trouble the government had found itself in was of its own making, Milimolimandi said - the lack of culture secretary chose not to follow the recommendation of Ofcom to refer this bid to the Competition Commission in the first place. 'The confusion continues,' he added, with Nick Clegg calling on Rupert Murdoch to drop his bid. 'Does the deputy prime minister speak for the government? If so is the culture secretary asking Rupert Murdoch to drop the bid?' Milimolimandi had begun his comments by thanking the lack of culture secretary for attention the house. 'But we all know it should be the Prime Minister talking here today. The Culture Secretary has no responsiblity for the inquiry he is referring to. But he has been left to carry the can for a Prime Minister who knows that there are too many difficult questions for him to answer. Will the Culture Secretary now agree that the judge-led inquiry should be set up immediately, and that if he does not there is a risk that evidence will be destroyed? Let me be clear: the government is in trouble of its own making. And any changes they make are not because they have chosen to, but because they fear defeat in this house on Wednesday. The Culture Secretary has been saying for months that they can rely on the assurances of News International. The Prime Minister said the same. And now they have changed their minds. Will the Culture Secretary say that responsibility must be taken at News International? The appalling hacking of Milly Dowler's phone took place on Rebekah Brooks's watch. The Prime Minister would offer only weasel words: will the Culture Secretary say what the Prime Minister would not and call for her to resign? The Prime Minister claims that he had no specific information about Andy Coulson. But the Guardian newspaper has made it clear that his chief of staff, Ed Llewellyn, was informed about Mr Coulson's hiring of Jonathan Rees, a former convict? Are we expected to believe that Mr Llewellyn never informed the Prime Minister of this? Did the Prime Minister not also receive warnings from the Deputy Prime Minister about the risks of hiring Mr Coulson? Mr Cameron has failed by not coming to the House today, as he has failed at every turn in this crisis. He is running scared. This is a Prime Minister who is failing to show the leadership the country expects.' After the vile and odious Hunt had attempted to bat that little lot away, Alan Johnson pinned him to the wall and ripped out his lungs with the wonderfully dismissive line: 'Mr Speaker, I too am surprised that we have the monkey at the dispatch box instead of the organ grinder!' Top comedy. Then it was another ex-minister, Jack Straw, saying it was 'extraordinary' that the vile and odious Hunt had been sent to the dispatch box 'with no brief whasoever' on the matter of Coulson having hired a known criminal before he started his role at Downing Street. He then asked whether it is now the lack of culture secretary's duty to 'return to the Department and to Downing Street and demand that he be given a full chronology of events by the end of play today.' The vile and odious rascal Hunt, by now looking increasingly frazzled and like a cricketer who's been sent out to bat without a box covering his knackers, said 'I believe the Prime Minister is a man of honour,' to some considerable jeers from the opposition benches - and, one or two from the government side. He added: 'If he says he had no knowledge, then I believe him.' Next up was another Labour grandee, Gerald Kaufman, who brought up Rebekah Brooks's apparent admission to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee in 2003 that her paper had paid money to various police officers. The vile and odious rascal Hunt - for once, not unreasonably - pointed out that the Labour government did nothing about this matter 'for eight years.' Then it was Tom Watson's turn. He said that this not a story of wrongdoing at the News of the World, but of 'institutional criminality' at News International. Chris Bryant and Tom Watson both called upon John Yates, the assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, to quit over the scandal. Bryant said that Yates 'repeatedly lied to parliament.' Then Keith Vaz asked about prosecution for 'blagging.' An increasingly flustered Hunt said: 'I'm slightly above my legal paygrade on that issue.' A comedy highlight of the debate came when good old mad-as-toast Dennis Skinner, the veteran Labour MP, said that the 'absent prime minister' has been able to dodge all the questions about criminality in the Murdoch empire. He suggested that Chris Huhne, the minister currently under investigation over allegations that he got his wife to take his driving penalty points, should personally drive Rupert Murdoch to the airport. That got a big laugh from both sides of the House. Hunt, one of the few that wasn't smiling, said that Skinner can ask David Cameron whatever he wants every Wednesday at PMQs. One is sure that Skinner, indeed, will. Conservative Greg Hands also asked about 'blagging' - obtaining private information illegally, under false pretences. Would the forthcoming inquiry look into that? The vile and odious rascal Hunt said that it 'must be stamped out.' Jo Swinson, Lib Dem, asked what will happen if Ofcom cannot make a decision about whether News Corporation passes the 'fit and proper' test. If this matter has not been resolved when the vile and odious rascal Hunt has to take a decision about the bid, because criminal proceedings are still ongoing, will he put the decision on hold? The vile and odious rascal Hunt said that he is not allowed to order a pause. But, he said, the Competition Commission inquiry will take at least six months, possibly longer. After that there will be a further consultation. The vile and odious rascal Hunt added that he is determined to consider 'all the issues properly.' Just before concluding his damned good kicking from all sides, the vile and odious rascal Hunt was careful to say that David Cameron had not spoken to Andy Coulson 'recently' - correcting an earlier reference to Cameron not having spoken to Coulson since his resignation. He was asked to list details of times they have spoken since then and was unable to do so.

Whilst all of this was going on, another big story was being broken. That journalists from across News International repeatedly targeted the former prime minister Gordon Brown, attempting to access his voicemail and obtaining information from his bank account, his legal files as well as his family's medical records. There is also said to be evidence that a private investigator used a serving police officer to trawl the police national computer for information about him. The Gruinad also claimed that the investigator in question also targeted 'another Labour MP who was the subject of hostile inquiries by the News of the World, but it has not confirmed whether News International was specifically involved in trawling police computers for information on Brown.' Separately, there are claims that Brown's tax paperwork was 'taken' from his accountant's office apparently by hacking into the firm's computer. This was then, allegedly, passed to 'another newspaper.' Brown was targeted during a period of more than ten years, both as chancellor of the exchequer and as prime minister. Some of the activity, the Gruniad notes, was clearly was illegal. Other incidents breached his privacy but not, necessarily, the law. An investigation by the Gruniad has, they state, found that Scotland Yard has discovered references to both Brown and his wife, Sarah, in paperwork seized from Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator who specialised in phone hacking for the News of the World; Abbey National bank found suggestion that a 'blagger' acting for The Sunday Times on six occasions posed as Brown and gained details from his account; Brown's London lawyers, Allen & Overy, were tricked into handing over details from his file by 'a conman' allegedly working for The Sunday Times; details from Brown's infant son's medical records were obtained by the Sun, who published a story about the child's serious illness. Brown joins a long list of Labour politicians who are known to have been targeted by private investigators working for News International, including the former prime minister Tony Blair and his media adviser Alastair Campbell, the former deputy prime minister John Prescott and his political adviser Joan Hammell, Peter Mandelson as trade secretary, Jack Straw and David Blunkett as home secretaries, Tessa Jowell as media secretary and her special adviser Bill Bush and Chris Bryant as minister for Europe and, subsequently, constant, and massive pain in New International's behind. 'The sheer scale of the data assault on Brown is unusual, with evidence of attempts to obtain his legal, financial, tax, medical and police records as well as to listen to his voicemail,' the Gruniad states. 'All of these incidents are linked to media organisations. In many cases, there is evidence of a link to News International.' Scotland Yard recently wrote separately to both Brown and to his wife, Sarah, to tell them that their details had been found in evidence collected by Operation Weeting, the inquiry into phone hacking at the News of the World. 'It is believed that this refers to handwritten notes kept by Mulcaire, which were seized by police in August 2006 and never previously investigated,' the Gruniad notes. Brown last year reportedly asked Scotland Yard if there was evidence that he had been targeted by the private investigator and was told there was none. Journalists who have worked at News International say that they believe Brown's personal bank account was accessed 'on several occasions' when he was chancellor of the exchequer. An internal inquiry by Abbey National's fraud department found that during January 2000, somebody acting on behalf of The Sunday Times contacted their Bradford call centre six times, posing as Brown, and succeeded in extracting details from his account. Abbey National's senior lawyer sent a summary of their findings to the editor of The Sunday Times, John Witherow, concluding: 'On the basis of these facts and inquiries, I am drawn to the conclusion that someone from The Sunday Times or acting on its behalf has masqueraded as Mr Brown for the purpose of obtaining information from Abbey National by deception.' Abbey National were not able to identify the bogus caller who tricked their staff. 'It is a matter of public record that a Sunday Times reporter frequently used the services of a former actor, John Ford, who specialised in "blagging" confidential data from banks, phone companies and the Inland Revenue (now HM Revenue & Customs),' the Gruniad writes. Also in January 2000, the Gruniad claim, one of the paper's reporters used 'a conman' named Barry Beardall, who was subsequently jailed for fraud, to trick staff at Brown's solicitors, Allen & Overy, into handing over details from his personal file. A tape made by Beardall at the time reveals that he claimed to be an accountant from the 'Dealson group of companies' and that they were interested in buying Brown's flat. Beardall also practised trickery in an attempt to provide Sunday Times stories about Tony Blair, the then prime minister, and Labour's candidate for the mayor of London, Frank Dobson. Confidential health records for Brown's family have reached the media on two different occasions. In October 2006, the then editor of the Sun, well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks, contacted the Browns to tell them that they had obtained details from the medical file of their four-month-old son, Fraser, which revealed that the boy was suffering from cystic fibrosis. This appears to have been a clear breach of the Data Protection Act, which would allow such a disclosure only if it was 'in the public interest.' Friends of the Browns, the Gruniad claim, say the call caused them 'immense distress,' since they were only just coming to terms with the diagnosis, which had not been confirmed. The Sun subsequently published the story. Indeed, they appear to be proud of it - on the newspaper's website you can still see its rather sickening trumpeting the story under the headline The Sun online - we break news. Five years earlier, when the Brown's first child, Jennifer, was born on 28 December 2001, a small group of specialist doctors and nurses was aware that she had suffered a brain haemorrhage and was dying. By some means which has not been discovered, this highly sensitive information was obtained by news organisations, who published it over the weekend before Jennifer died, on Monday 6 January 2002. In 2003, Devon and Cornwall police discovered that one of their junior officers was providing information from the police national computer to a network of private investigators. The Gruniad says it 'has established that one of these investigators, Glen Lawson of Abbey Investigations in Newcastle, used this contact to commission a search of police records for information about Brown on 16 November 2000. Lawson also commissioned searches related to two other Labour MPs – Nick Brown and Martin Salter.' Lawson, they state, made these searches on behalf of journalists, a previously unreported court hearing was told. Transcripts obtained by the Gruniad show that the search on Martin Salter was made at a time when the News of the World, then edited by Rebekah Brooks, was attacking him for refusing to support the paper's notorious 'Sarah's law' campaign to 'name and shame' paedophiles. Lawson, the Gruniad states, currently refuses to name the journalists who commissioned him. An attempt to prosecute this network was blocked by a West Country judge, Paul Darlow, who 'shocked police' by ruling that it would be 'a misuse of public money' to pursue the case. However, Devon and Cornwall police contacted the office of the then chancellor to warn him that he had been a victim, as they also did with his two Labour colleagues. Brown's tax paperwork was obtained from the offices of his accountants, Auerbach Hope, in late 1998. The first sign that the records had been taken, the Gruniad states, came when a journalist from the now defunct Sunday Business called the accountants to say that they had been passed a copy of the records, including a schedule of Brown's income for the most recent year. The journalist acknowledged that the paperwork showed' no sign of any kind of wrongdoing on Brown's part' but wanted to do a story about the fact that it had been stolen. Police came and found no sign of any break-in. The originals of the documents were still in Brown's file, which ruled out the possibility that they had been taken from the firm's dustbins. Auerbach Hope discounted theft by 'an insider' on the grounds that they would have stolen paperwork which showed wrongdoing and thus had greater media value. They concluded, the Gruniad claim, that the most likely explanation was that 'somebody had hacked into their computer systems, specifically targeting Gordon Brown.' Senior Labour figures also strongly suspect that a news organisation broke the law to obtain the e-mails that led to the resignation in April 2009 of Brown's close aide Damian McBride. The e-mails, which disclosed a scheme to smear Tory MPs, had been exchanged between McBride and a Labour party activist, Derek Draper. The Labour figures believe that the e-mails were 'hacked' from Draper's computer and that their contents were then sent to the political blogger Guido Fawkes, whose stories were then followed by Fleet Street. Subsequently, News International said in a statement that it is 'comfortable' that stories obtained about Gordon Brown's children came from 'legitimate sources,' Sky News has reported. The broadcaster, which is of course partially-owned by News Corporation, credited 'Sky sources' for its report. Whether they're 'legitimate' too is a question best left for another day.

And, speaking of leaking, the Metropolitan Police issued a strongly worded statement in response to the Evening Standard's front page story about the alleged hacking of the Royal family. he statement cites the Standard as the source of this, even though it was, apparently, written about earlier in the day by Robert Peston: 'It is our belief that information that has appeared in the media today is part of a deliberate campaign to undermine the investigation into the alleged payments by corrupt journalists to corrupt police officers and divert attention from elsewhere. At various meetings over the last few weeks information was shared with us by News International and their legal representatives and it was agreed by all parties that this information would be kept confidential so that we could pursue various lines of inquiry, identify those responsible without alerting them and secure best evidence. However we are extremely concerned and disappointed that the continuous release of selected information - that is only known by a small number of people - could have a significant impact on the corruption investigation.' Con Coughlin, the Torygraph's foreign editor, writes that News International is 'committing commercial suicide' by undermining the police: 'I know things must be tense over at News International, but it seems the company's management have taken leave of their senses. As if they're not in enough trouble already, it seems certain executives are actively seeking to undermine the police's anti-corruption investigation by continuing to brief their favourite media lackeys – notably the BBC's Robert Peston – on their latest discoveries.'

Meanwhile, the pop singer George Michael has been giving an extraordinary account on Twitter of his experience of the News of the World's methods: 'Ed Miliband doing a great job at the moment on TV, he can see that Cameron's relationship with Coulson and Brooks could actually threaten his position as Prime Minister. And in doing so he keeps mentioning JONATHAN REES! Finally! Rees is the ex-jailbird hired after his release by Andy Coulson when he was still working at the News of the World. Paid hundreds of thousands of pounds in return for private information, and perhaps most importantly HACKED INTO COMPUTERS all the time. The two photographers who sat outside my house in their cars night after night for several years were regularly seen with computers open on their laps. I presumed for years that I was under surveillance. In fact, one night in particular, I strolled over the road to one of them and tapped on his window and said "I hope you like my taste in men."' Later he added: 'Just spoke to my lawyer. Apparently they want to interview me about my comments on Rebekah Brooks here on Twitter. I have way more to tell the police than I can tweet to you here. Believe it or not, I've been careful so far!' George has, in fact, been - rather entertaingly - tweeting almost non-stop about the News of the World and phone-hacking in general since Thursday, when he marked the closure of the paper with a tweet saying 'today is a fantastic day for Britain.' Among the singer's other gems were 'nice to see there are people telling me off, that always means the press are here, which is fine by me' and, 'check out Hugh Grant on Question Time. My new hero! Not my type, you understand, but still my hero!' Heh.

And speaking of limp-wristed pansy-fop superstars yer man the actual Jarvis Cocker celebrated the closure of the News of the World by using its final edition as toilet paper onstage at the T in the Park festival. The forty seven-year-old pop legend was performing with the recently reformed Pulp at the Scottish festival when he shared with the crowd his thoughts on the notorious Sunday tabloid, which was dropped like a piece of hot coal this week following a spate of hacking allegations. After opening his set with the band's 1994 hit 'Do You Remember The First Time?', Cocker urged the gathered crowd to remember the News of the World's demise and lifted the final instalment of the paper above his head. He then mimed using the copy to wipe his arse, stating: 'That's the only thing that piece of shit has been good for in one hundred and sixty eight years.' This gained Jarvis the biggest cheer of his career since invaded the stage at the Brits when Jacko was getting all Messianic. Pulp's T in the Park set included performances of numerous favourites including 'Common People', 'Sorted For E's And Wizz' and 'This Is Hardcore'. Style.

The fall-out from the hacking scandal at the News of the World is having an impact on other areas where Rupert Murdoch's News International is under pressure - namely a legal action over his acquisition of his daughter Elisabeth's production company. The US plaintiffs who initiated that class action have amended their lawsuit to reflect the events of the past week, according to Forbes. Shareholders at News Corp, News International's parent company, launched their action earlier this year, alleging that News Corp's agreement to buy Elisabeth Murdoch's Shine Group for about six hundred and seventy five million smackers was 'an act of nepotism,' according to reports in March. The plaintiffs who launched the class action in a Delaware court included the Amalgamated Bank of New York and the Central Laborers Pension Fund.

Torchwood's Mekhi Phifer has admitted that his character Rex is initially unpleasant. The actor told TV Guide that the CIA agent 'comes off like an asshole' in the SF drama's early episodes. Phifer said: 'Rex is misunderstood in the beginning. But he's a confident, courageous guy with good intentions.' The former Lie to Me actor also revealed that Rex will betray Gwen [Eve Myles] in next week's episode, but argued that the character's actions only 'seem bad. In actuality, with all the stuff the world is going through, it actually works out in her favour,' he said. Phifer added that Rex's chest wound, which was sustained in the premiere episode, will continue to trouble the character. 'I'll be nursing it through the entire series,' he confirmed.

Hilariously, Dermot O'Dreary's The Marriage Ref will finish its first - and probably only - series 'in a later timeslot,' ITV has confirmed. The flop Saturday night show, based on a US version hosted by comedian Tom Papa, debuted to a disappointing 2.25m last month. In recent weeks, the ratings have fallen below the two million mark. The most recent episode attracted a meagre 1.88m. The remaining three episodes will now be broadcast at 10pm, with both Odd One In and Penn & Teller: Fool Us also shifting an hour later to make way for screenings of five Harry Potter films. An ITV spokesperson told Broadcast that the schedule change 'had always been planned.' One or two people even believed them. 'ITV will be broadcasting a run of five Harry Potter films over the coming Saturday early evenings and, as a result, the peaktime schedule of Odd One In, Penn & Teller: Fool Us and The Marriage Ref will move by one hour over the next three weekends,' the broadcaster said. So, nothing whatsoever to do with shunting a dreadful, embarrassing flop out of sight in the hope that everyone will just forget some clown commissioned it in the first place, then? Okay.

The Popstar to Operastar finale pulled in over four million tragic viewers on Sunday evening, while a new series of Law & Order: UK launched with almost six million, overnight audience data has revealed. The main Popstar to Operastar was watched by 3.45m crushed victims of society in the 8pm hour on ITV and, but it lost out - big style - to Countryfile's 5.43m on BBC1. The ITV programme's results show had an audience of 4.16m from 10pm and one hundrecd and nineteen thousand on ITV+1, as former X Factor winner and chart failure Joe McElderry was crowned the champion. Which, in TV terms is a bit like winning ... Bullseye, or something. Also on ITV, series five of Law & Order: UK launched with a healthy 5.85m in the 9pm hour and one hundred and eighty six thousand viewers on ITV+1, outperforming The World's Most Expensive Paintings's 2.62m on BBC1. Fake Or Fortune? concluded with 3.66m on BBC1 in the 7pm hour, losing out to ITV's The Royal with 4.13m . On BBC2, coverage of the athletics British Grand Prix was watched by 1.7m between 6pm and 8pm, while series seventeen of Top Gear climbed to 4.57m in the 8pm hour, up almost four hundred thousand on overnights week-on-week, with a further eight hundred and ninety two thousand watching in HD. Coast then amassed 2.19m from 9pm and two hundred and twenty thousand on BBC HD, before a repeat of Thursday's Mock The Week had an audience of 1.4m from 10pm.

And speaking of ratings, dear blog reader, here's the Top Twenty programme for week ending 3 July 2011:-
1 The Apprentice - BBC1 WedD - 8.98
2 Coronation Street - ITV Mon - 8.86
3 EastEnders - BBC1 Mon - 8.63
4 Emmerdale - ITV Thurs - 7.01
5 Scott & Bailey - ITV Sun - 6.44
6 Luther - BBC1 Tues - 6.36
7 Wimbledon 2011 - BBC1 Fri - 6.10
8 Waterloo Road - BBC1 Wed - 5.92
9 Top Gear - BBC2 Sun - 5.72 (4.84 BBC2, 0.88 BBC HD)
10 Casualty - BBC1 Sat - 5.64
11 Countryfile - BBC1 Sun - 5.56
12 Hobly City - BBC1 Tues - 5.41
13 Ten O'Clock News - BBC1 Wed - 5.07
14 The National Lottery: In It To Win It - BBC1 Sat - 4.78
15 My Family - BBC1 Fri - 4.42
16 Six O'Clock News - BBC1 Thurs - 4.39
17 The Royal - ITV Sun - 4.20
18 Stolen - BBC1 Sun - 4.19
19 Fake Or Fortune? - BBC1 Sun - 4.10
20 The ONE Show - BBC1 Tues - 4.04
This is, I believe, the first time since 2008 that a BBC show which isn't EastEnders has topped the weekly ratings chart. (The Doctor Who episode Journey's End was the last example.)

Jeremy Clarkson has revealed that he would quit Top Gear if the BBC were ever to move its production from London to Manchester. The BBC is currently moving some key departments to its new base in MediaCity, and is committed to ensuring that at least fifty per cent of its output is produced outside London by 2016. There are, however, currently no plans to move Top Gear to BBC North. Jezza, though, said that he would be against any move to do so. The presenter described Salford as 'a small suburb with little to offer beyond a Starbucks and a canal with ducks on it,' in his Sunday Times column. He added: '[Salford] is nowhere near any court that matters and nowhere near a single politician.' Well, there's a few MPs in Manchester, Jez. Furthermore, he noted, 'if we ran the show from Salford, we'd be employing people from Salford. People who were born there and thought, "Yes, I like this. I see no reason to go anywhere else." And in the world of television, that could be a genuine handicap. Every year we'd end up making a Christmas special from the Dog and Duck or the nearest Arndale Centre.' BBC bosses last month denied reports that EastEnders would also be moving to MediaCity.'

Now here's a remarakble thing, dear blog reader. We're three weeks into the current series of Top Gear and, so far, neither the Gruniad nor the Daily Scum Mail had printed a wholly manufcatured 'outrage' story concerning anything in any of the episodes. Anybody would think they've had something else on their minds, of late.

A man has been convicted of armed robbery after police found his diary. Jonathan Ochola and his friend Rashad Delawala, both twenty one, and by the sound of it thick as a barrel of lard, were arrested for robbing five hundred thousand quid from a bookmakers in Portsmouth. Delawala had dropped his balaclava at the scene, from which police found his DNA. Ochola, from Essex, claimed that he was 'at home watching television' at the time of the crime, but one of his diary entries ultimately incriminated him, the Mirra reports. He wrote: 'Go Portsmouth. Robbery happens.' What a cretin. It's 'go to Portsmouth,' didn't you learn anything at school? Detective Mel Sinclair said: 'When we found the diary we thought it was unusual. You don't normally get such a good piece of evidence like that. But he was foolish enough to put it in, and he said in his interview that it was stupid.' Ochola then tried to pin the crime on Delawala, who had already admitted to imitating a firearm at the bookmakers. Ochola told police in questioning that the pair got lost in Portsmouth when they tried to get to Bournemouth. He claimed that he went into a store to buy cigarettes, but returning to his car, he found that Delawala had left to commit armed robbery by himself. Delawala pleaded guilty in court, while Ochola denied the charges before a Portsmouth jury found him extremely guilty. Sinclair added: 'These two have shown absolutely no remorse. They did not care about the effect on their victims. The staff in the shop thought it was a real gun and were shaken up.'

As reported in the last blog, it has been claimed that Rebekah Brooks once allegedly asked a News of the World journalist to dress up as Harry Potter on 11 September 2001 for a news conference the next day. Charles Begley, the newspaper's 'Harry Potter Correspondent' at the time, was informed of the request hours after the collapse of New York's World Trade Center. He chose not to turn up to the conference on 12 September before taking time off due to 'stress.' And extreme embarrassment, probably. Begley resigned from his position not long afterwards. Phone conversations between the journalist and senior executives of the now-dead Sunday tabloid were recorded on tape, which were then transcribed by the Daily Torygraph in 2002. Begley, speaking to newsdesk editor Neville Thurlbeck, asked on 12 September before the news conference: 'Given the enormity of events in America, will the editor still need me dressed up as Harry Potter for conference?' Thurlbeck responded: 'She knew exactly what was [happening on 11 September] and she still wanted you to dress up then. I think you should just assume she wants you to do it now.' On 26 September, Begley explained to managing editor Stuart Kuttner on the phone why he didn't go through with dressing in Harry Potter attire. He said: 'It was hardly appropriate. At that time, [when] we were working on the assumption that up to fifty thousand people had been killed, I was required to parade myself around morning conference dressed as Harry Potter. What person with any journalistic integrity can be humiliated like that or told to perform like that?' Begley then told assistant news editor Greg Miskiw: 'I don't want to criticise [Rebekah] in a phone call, but I can't see how the editor of the - as we're always reminded - best paper in the country could expect a reporter to do that. That was just too much.' When Miskiw asked Begley to return to work, Begley refused, stating: 'I haven't toed the line for the editor's pet project. I didn't prance around while the World Trade Center was being bombed for her personal amusement. I can't just stroll in.' Miskiw responded: 'Why not? Charles, that is what we do. We go out and destroy other people's lives.' You don't say? I hadn't noticed.

For the latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, we've got a twenty four carat classic from The Patti Smith Group.
Co-written, of course, with Bruce Springsteen - the E-Street Band used to do a rather nice version of this one too.

No comments: