Monday, July 18, 2011

This Dark Facade Ends, We're Independent From Someone

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping has just resigned, dear blog reader. Well, it's what all the cool kids are doing, apparently.
Hackgate: Week Three. As the whole sorry rotten-to-the-core facade of sour and disgraceful doings begins to collapse in on itself and crumble to dust and as high-profile victims pile up like those involved in multiple motorway carnage, one just has to wonder who on Earth is going to be next?
Delicious, but tragically unlikely I'm afraid. Though, he's probably got a big sweat on today and it's nothing whatsoever to do with the balmy African heat. Nevertheless, the arrest of well-known Crystal Tipps-lookalike Rebekah Brooks - who was released from police custody on Sunday night, after twelve hours of questioning by detectives investigating allegations of phone hacking and corrupting of police officers has intensified Hackgate. And, has probably given her friend Cameron a moment of quiet contemplation. Is it really so very wrong to hope that whilst she was banged up in an interview room having to answer lots of tricky questions about who knew what, when and how, that Brooks was sweating just like her pal Cameron? Maybe it is, although, I'm sure many of the people whom the News of the World (and the Sun) have stitched up, shat upon and generally made their lives a misery over the years will have remarkably little sympathy with her. Personally, I'm minded of that famous John Belushi routine at the time of Watergate. 'The important question here is what did the president know. And when did he stop knowing it?' Brooks, who resigned as News International's chief executive on Friday, was arrested at noon - by 'prior appointment' - and held throughout the day by Scotland Yard after being identified as 'a criminal suspect.'
The former News of the World editor, who was bailed and is due to next return to a police station in October, had risen to a position of power which saw her invited by the prime minister, David Cameron, another member of the Chipping Norton Set to stay at Chequers twice in the past year, and she rubbed shoulders with politicians from all political parties. The development increases the likelihood that James Murdoch will also be spoken to by police at some stage, at least as a witness. It also seemed to have placed in jeopardy Brooks's scheduled appearance on Tuesday before MPs on the culture, media and sport committee who are investigating the phone-hacking scandal. 'It has many implications for Tuesday,' Brooks's spokesman said. 'Over the next twenty four to thirty six hours her lawyers will have discussions with the select committee to see if it will still be appropriate [to attend]. She certainly wants to.' According to Keir Simmons of ITV News: 'Rebekah Brooks' lawyer [is] expected to announce that they believe her arrest was "unlawful."' An interesting viewpoint which, one could observe, is not the sort of allegation that the average, say, bank robber can make when they get nicked by the bobbies. Brooks's lawyer made the subsequent statement to Sky News in which he said that Brooks is 'not guilty of any criminal offence.' Now, that is the sort of thing the average, say, bank robber, probably does say. Brooks is the tenth person to be arrested by the two police investigations into alleged criminal activity relating to phone hacking. Operation Weeting is investigating the interception of voicemails, once claimed by News International to be confined to 'one rogue reporter.' Operation Elveden is hunting officers alleged to have received up to one hundred and thirty thousand smackers over several years from the News of the World for information, including contact details of the royal family. In a statement about the arrest of Brooks the Met said: 'At approximately 12pm a forty three-year-old woman - with totally mad hair just like Mick Hucknall out of Simply Red - was arrested by appointment at a London police station by officers from Operation Weeting together with officers from Operation Elveden. She is currently in custody. She was arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications, contrary to Section One of the Criminal Law Act 1977 and on suspicion of corruption allegations contrary to Section One of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906.' Brooks reported to the police station by appointment, but her spokesman said that her arrest came 'as a surprise. She had been told as early as a week ago that she wasn't on the radar, then suddenly on Friday there was a request to meet. She attended today and it was quite a surprise to her on her arrival to be arrested. She was going, anticipating to help with their inquiry. She wasn't anticipating that she was going to be arrested.' Police said they had asked Brooks to attend on Friday, the day she quit News International. Brooks has denied any knowledge of the practice of phone hacking at the News of the World. Inquiries were reopened in January 2011 after News International handed documents to the police which undermined their claims of the previous four years that hacking was limited to the activities of 'a lone rogue reporter.' Then in June they handed further documents and e-mails which suggested that the paper had paid police for information. This led to a second criminal investigation being set up. Mark Lewis, the lawyer for the family of the murdered thirteen-year-old Milly Dowler, whose phone was hacked by an investigator working for the News of the World, said that the timing of the arrest was 'very odd. The police might have thought that for operational reasons it was important that she didn't speak on Tuesday,' he said. The Labour MP Chris Bryant said: 'It is unusual to arrest by appointment on a Sunday and that just makes me wonder whether this is some ruse to avoid answering questions properly on Tuesday in the Commons committee.' The former Met deputy assistant commissioner Brian Paddick said he had never heard of anyone being arrested by appointment over the weekend.

Meanwhile, the Met Police Assistant Commissioner John Yates resigned as the phone-hacking scandal fall-out continues to collect victims the way Manchester City collect millionaire footballers. Yates checked the credentials of Neil Wallis before the Met employed the former-News of the World executive. Yates indicated his intention to resign to the chairman of the Met Police Authority, which was accepted. Yates's decision to quit comes less than twenty four hours after his boss Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson resigned on Sunday. The resignation of Stephenson, the most senior policeman in Britain, came after he faced criticism over the recruitment of Wallis as a PR consultant. Wallis, a former News of the World deputy editor, was arrested and released on bail on Thursday on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications. Yates's resignation reportedly came only after he was informed that he would be suspended pending an inquiry into his relationship with Wallis. The officer had been confronted with 'new information' about the friendship between the two men, sources told the BBC's political editor Nick Robinson. Earlier in the day, Yates has seemed bullish and indicated his utter determination not to resign, telling Sky News: 'I have done nothing wrong.' The London mayor Boris Johnson's spokesman said that Yates's decision to resign was 'regrettable, but the right call.' Johnson subsequently underwent a very uncomfortable press conference in which he was asked some tough questions about his own role in this sorry affair. At one point Johnson appeared to lose his temper over a question from Channel Four News' Jon Snow, answering 'Come on, be fair!' in a raised voice. I mean, I know Jon Snow's a bit annoying and all, but there's absolutely no need for that, Boris. Johnson was starting to look even more flustered than he normally looks and constantly fiddled with his tie as he struggled to answer a series of reasonably straightforward questions. Well, he went to Eton, that's to be expected. He confessed at one point: 'I misunderstood the severity of the allegations.' Earlier, a 'hacked off' Johnson (one assumes no pun intended, although with Boris you can never be certain) had been on the BBC's Today programme. On which he suggested that John Yates would 'be investigated.' 'Clearly, there are now questions about his relationship with Neil Wallis. I am sure the Metropolitan Police Authority will be having a look at it.' Back at his press conference reporters repeatedly challenged Johnson over his previous dismissal of the hacking scandal as 'politically motivated codswallop' in September 2010. He insisted that he had made that statement based on the information which he had seen at that stage. He was asked to apologise for mocking those who had pursued the matter - notably the Gruniad - though he stubbornly refused to do so. Johnson was also asked whether David Cameron should resign and didn't exactly give the prime minister his unequivocal backing. He said that was a matter for Downing Street to answer, but added he does not believe that 'exact parallels' can be drawn between the situations of the Met employing Wallis and Cameron employing Andy Coulson. Johnson also said that, at the time he made his 'codswallop' comment, he was far more interested in what John Yates had to say about counter-terrorism than phone-hacking. Hélène Mulholland of the Gruniad asked if Johnson now regretted his praise for Rupert Murdoch made just a couple of weeks ago when the Milly Dowler revelations first broke. 'Well, clearly what the News of the World did was absolutely loathsome and I condemn it,' fluffed Boris, before adding 'I'm very glad that this gives everybody the opportunity to get to the bottom of practices across Fleet Street.' Many tabloids have used tactics like that, he alleged, although he gave no specific examples. 'All papers should come before Judge Leveson and talk under oath about practices in their newsrooms.' On the subject of Murdoch himself, Johnson added: 'I do think what has happened now has been absolutely disgraceful but he made in the 1980s a substantial contribution to liberating newspapers,' and claimed that satellite broadcasting had 'advanced the media.' Asked again about his comment last year that the phone-hacking allegations were 'codswallop,' he suggested that he was making the comments based on what he knew then, and alleged that he also said at the time that if new facts came up he would change his mind. 'It became obvious the scandal was far worse than previously indicated.' He said that when 'nauseating, loathsome practices' were revealed it proved that 'those who pursued the story have been completely right.' But, he still didn't apologise to them. 'You have to go on the advice you're given. The advice I was given was there was nothing new and you can see the consequences of that bad advice today.' So, essentially it was all John Yates's fault? You heard it here, from Boris Johnson, first dear blog reader. Johnson's position on phone-hacking has undergone a swift change of course as the phone-hacking allegations themselves have widened into a full-blown crisis for News Corporation, the Metropolitan police. Last year, let us remember, he called allegations made in the Gruniad - the vast majority of which have so far turned out to be true - 'a load of codswallop cooked up by the Labour party' and 'a song and dance about nothing' which had been 'whipped up by the Guardian and the Labour party.' Actually, if you're going to be strictly accurate, it was 'by the Gruniad and about half-a-dozen members of the Labour party' since most of the rest didn't seem any more bothered than Boris. Johnson called the proven revelations 'deeply sick.' As the Gruniad themselves were quick to note: 'Of course, it may be argued that the revelations about Milly's phone took the scandal into new and much more serious territory – although that doesn't make Johnson's characterisation of the original revelations as "codswallop" any more accurate.' But, as Dave Hill notes on his London blog, there has been little coverage so far of the question of whether Johnson 'should have made it his business to ensure the Met got to grips with the phone-hacking issue.' It isn't good enough for Boris to simply note with regret that the 'crap' past decisions of the Met and stealthily distance himself from them. He is, after all, a mayor who came to power promising to 'take personal responsibility' for policing, placed himself in the chair of the Metropolitan police authority and wasted little time in forcing Paul Stephenson's predecessor, Sir Ian Blair, to resign. 'The immediate intensification of the anti-street crime initiative Operation Blunt Two showed a service responding to mayoral demands,' writes Hill. 'But while Boris has been prepared to muscle the Met when it suits him, he has been equally quick to duck out of sight when it doesn't.' Hill also suggests that Johnson might be playing the hacking allegations down because, as an alleged phone-hacking victim himself, he has had 'a long-standing reluctance to assist in any prosecution that might entail details about his private life being once more dragged into the limelight.' Moving away from the Mayor for the moment and back to Yates, after the story had been broken - by Laura Kuenssberg on the BBC News Channel, Scotland Yard said in a statement: 'Assistant Commissioner John Yates has this afternoon indicated his intention to resign to the chair of the MPA. This has been accepted. AC Yates will make a statement later this afternoon.'
Later in the afternoon, the independent police complaints commission announced that it is investigating an allegation that John Yates helped the daughter of the former News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis get a job in the Metropolitan police. Seriously, you could not make this up if you tried. The BBC's Dominic Casciani subsequently confirmed that 'Amy Wallis, daughter of Neil Wallis, is a member of the Met Police staff. She works in an operational civilian role.' The IPCC also said that it is investigating Yates's review of the phone hacking case in July 2009, and two other former senior officers involved in the original inquiry. According to the BBC, these are Peter Clarke and Andy Hayman. IPCC Commissioner Deborah Glass said: 'We have today received referrals from the Metropolitan Police Authority about the conduct of four current or former senior Metropolitan Police officers. The matters referred involve: The conduct of the Met Commissioner in carrying overall responsibility for the investigation into phone hacking. The conduct of Assistant Commissioner John Yates: in his review in July 2009 and overall role in relation to the phone hacking investigation; and in his alleged involvement in inappropriately securing employment for the daughter of a friend. The conduct of two former senior officers in their role in the phone hacking investigation.' Both the current home secretary, Teresa May, and the previous one, Alan Johnson, have claimed that neither of them were ever told by either Stephenson or Yates that Wallis had been employed by the Met. 'The first I heard was last Thursday,' May said. Johnson told Sky News: 'I had no idea that Neil Wallis, the former News of the World executive editor, was appointed as advisor to the Met police on one thousand pounds a day.'

There's a cunning deconstruction of the possible meaning behind some of the comments in Paul Stephenson's resignation speech on Sunday evening in the Gruniad. Most notable is their assessment of the - apparently bland - statement: 'Unlike Mr Coulson, Mr Wallis had not resigned from the News of the World or, to the best of my knowledge, been in any way associated with the original phone-hacking investigation.' The Gruniad notes, helpfully: 'Stephenson is effectively saying to Cameron: "Your guy is smellier than my guy." It leaves Cameron vulnerable to the question: "If the Met chief is willing to take responsibility and resign, why don't you?"' There's an additional background piece by Patrick Wintour, Nicholas Watt and Vikram Dodd which further explores the relationship - such as it was - between Cameron and Stephenson.

Just when you thought Tuesday's stellar select committee line-up couldn't get any busier, Christopher Hope notes there have been two more interesting appearances scheduled: 'Former and current DPPs (Ken Macdonald and Keir Starmer) to give evidence to MPs on home affairs select committee tomorrow.'

In other developments Cameron has said that the Commons will be recalled on Wednesday to debate the latest developments in the phone hacking scandal. MPs were due to begin a six-week recess at the end of business of Tuesday. But Labour have demanded an extra day's sitting to enable MPs to consider what is said by Rupert Murdoch and Sir Paul Stephenson at respective committees on Tuesday. The prime minister said that it would be 'right' to make a statement on Wednesday and answer questions 'arising' from the hearings. So, once again - and not for the first time in this whole sorry fiasco - Ed Miliband appears to be ahead of the curve and the prime minister follows tamely behind, doing more or less everything the Labour leader suggests. Meanwhile, the Torygraph asks the question 'Does it matter that once again the Prime Minister is overseas when so much is going on at home?' The opinion they express should be rather chilling for Cameron: 'Not for the first time, Mr Cameron is in the wrong place today, giving us the spectacle of a British prime minister at a press conference with a foreign leader answering questions about wholly domestic matters. Today it was Pretoria and questions about Sir Paul Stephenson. Two weeks ago, it was Kabul and questions about Milly Dowler.' Cameron has faced a raft criticism - much of it from his own party - for the timing of his trip to Africa, one Conservative backbencher allegedly telling BBC News it appeared the PM was 'fleeing the country.' But the prime minister defended his decision saying: 'It is important for the prime minister to get out there with British business at a time when we need investment and growth and jobs back at home.'

Sean Hoare, the former News of the World showbiz reporter who was the first named journalist to allege Andy Coulson was aware of phone hacking by his staff, has been found dead, the Gruniad reported. Hoare, who worked on both the Sun and the News of the World with Coulson before being dismissed for drink and drugs problems, is said to have been found dead at his Watford home. Hertfordshire police would not confirm his identity, but the force said in a statement: 'At 10.40am today police were called to Langley Road, Watford, following the concerns for 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.' Hoare first made his claims in a New York Times investigation into the phone-hacking allegations at the News of the World that, in many ways, kick-started renewed interest in the affair in September 2010. Hoare told the New York Times that not only did Coulson know of the phone-hacking, but that he actively encouraged his staff to intercept the phone calls of celebrities in the pursuit of exclusives. In a subsequent interview with the BBC he alleged that he was personally asked by his then-editor, Coulson, to tap into phones. In an interview with the PM programme he said Coulson's insistence that he didn't know about the practice was 'a lie, it is simply a lie.' At the time a Downing Street spokeswoman said Coulson totally and utterly denied the allegations and said he had 'never condoned the use of phone-hacking and nor do I have any recollection of incidences where phone-hacking took place.' At the News of the World, Hoare said he informed Coulson of his activities. Coulson 'actively encouraged me to do it,' Hoare claimed. Channel Four News's Jon Snow tweeted: 'Sean Hoare brave unsung hero of the hacking scandal found dead. He was key to New York Times/Guardian running renewed hacking story.'

The television event of the year will take place this Tuesday when News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch, his son James, and former News International CEO Rebekah Brooks attend the DCMS select committee into phone hacking. As Kent Brockman notes in The Simpsons Movie, he is 'reporting on a crisis so serious it has its own name and theme music.'
Sky News are already playing promos plugging 'Live and Uninterrupted' coverage from 2:30pm. It's worth pointing out that if you prefer to watch it without overtones of WWF wrestling then BBC News Channel will also have live and uninterrupted coverage. And, The Daily Politics will also be on the air from 2pm till 4:30pm on BBC2 and will, likely, take a live feed from the Commons. Michael Wolff, Rupert Murdoch's biographer, had told ITV that he doesn't think Murdoch will perform well at the DMCS committee. Wolff said: 'He will handle it very poorly. This is something that Rupert doesn't know how to do, has never done, has resisted doing and frankly can't do. Rupert is – on top of everything else - an incredibly shy man and he is also a very inarticulate man and he is also a man who, 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.'

Downing Street has added to the list of David Cameron's previously announced contacts with senior media figures. It says that the list now includes a sixth meeting with Rebekah Brooks and a lunch with the BBC. The social engagement with Rebekah Brooks 'inadvertently' left off the list released by Downing Street last week was, apparently, Cameron's birthday party on 9 October. This is added to the list which also includes the infamous party at Brooks' home on 23 December, attended by James Murdoch, Cameron and Jeremy Clarkson which took place just days after Cameron stripped the Business Secretary Vince Cable, an avowed enemy of Rupert Murdoch, of his power to decide on Murdoch's attempt to take full control of BSkyB. Clarkson has denied that any impropriety took place at the dinner, suggesting that Cameron and Brooks spent most of their time 'talking about sausage rolls.'

Robert Pestinfestation reports that the board of BSkyB is 'expected to decide by the end of this week' whether James Murdoch should stand down as chairman. According to 'a well-placed source,' Peston states 'there is a growing view among the company's non-executives that the burden for James Murdoch of "fighting the fires" at News Corporation - where he is in charge of European operations and is deputy chief operating officer - means that he will find it hard to devote enough time to chairing BSkyB, the largest media and entertainment company in the UK.' This was almost immediately denied by BSkyB 'sources.' A spokesman for BSkyB said they had no specific comment on Peston's report but there were no plans to shake up the boardroom: 'The company has a strong governance framework and there are no changes to the existing plans.'

On Friday Morning, Labour MP Tom Watson was live on Sky News discussing the breaking news story that Rebekah Brooks had resigned as CEO of News International. Towards the end of the interview, conducted by Colin Brazier, Tom said: 'I realise you might be under a bit of pressure with this interview because Rupert Murdoch is a very powerful media mogul.' Brazier defended himself and the news channel saying: 'No such pressure being applied to anybody working on this news channel.' One or two people even believed him.
The Serious Fraud Office confirms it is considering calls for it to launch an investigation into News Corporation. In the latest twist in the phone hacking legal saga, Channel Four News revealed that SFO investigators were looking at dozens of cases involving News International to establish whether a full formal investigation is required. Tom Watson wrote to the SFO director Richard Alderman recently asking it to carry out an inquiry into out-of-court settlements made with victims of News of the World phone hacking. Watson asked Alderman to investigate possible breaches of company law by News Corp's UK newspapers division, News International, over the payments to victims made after the original phone-hacking scandal broke in 2006. An SFO spokeswoman said: 'The SFO can confirm it has today received a letter from Tom Watson MP calling on the SFO to investigate certain allegations relating to News Corp. The SFO director, Richard Alderman, will give full consideration to Mr Watson's letter. The SFO is aware that the Metropolitan Police Service is conducting an investigation into alleged improper payments to police officers. The SFO is routinely in contact with the US authorities and is ready to assist them if they open an investigation in their jurisdiction into News Corp-related matters.'

A former BBC Crimewatch presenter and police officer, has told Channel Four News about her experience of being put 'under surveillance' by private investigators with alleged links to News International. Jacqui Hames, who Channel Four News said was preparing to sue News International, said that she believed a range of her person details were sold to the News of the World by a police officer. She said that she was called two months ago by Scotland Yard to inform her that her details had appeared in papers belonging to Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator working for the News of the World. 'I sat there and read the extent to which he had delved into my private life. It was a body blow,' Hames told the broadcaster's home affairs correspondent Andy Davies. She believes that the details - which included her homes address, mobile phone number, police warrant number and payroll number - could only have been passed on by another police officer. The surveillance dates back to 2002 after her then husband, a senior murder squad officer, Detective Chief Superintendent David Cook appeared on BBC Crimewatch on 26 June 2002, when he appealed for information to solve the murder of Daniel Morgan, who had been found dead in south London five years earlier. A Gruniad investigation has previously suggested that the surveillance of Cook involved the News of the World in physically following him and his young children, 'blagging' his personal details from confidential police databases, attempting to access his voicemail and that of his wife, and possibly sending a 'Trojan horse' e-mail in an attempt to steal information from his computer. Hames told Channel Four News that a Scotland Yard counter-surveillance unit was deployed, but that she and her family had been 'living in fear.' Channel Four News also had another nugget - their discovery that Alex Marunchak worked as an interpreter for the Met between 1980 and 2000 while he was still a reporter at the News of the World. Marunchak, formerly head of the News of the World in Ireland, was on on a list of interpreters for the Met and was providing Ukrainian interpretation for victims and suspects. Such interpreters are supposedly strictly vetted and have to sign the official secrets act. The Met said in a statement: 'We recognise that this may cause concern and that some professions may be incompatible with the role of an interpreter.' Marunchak was named in March in a BBC Panorama investigation as a senior News of the World executive who had obtained e-mails hacked in to by a private detective. While serving as Irish edition editor, Panorama said that Marunchak was sent ex-British intelligence officer Ian Hurst's private e-mails in 2006.

Current affairs producers and investigative journalists have given TV newsgathering practices a clean bill of health in light of the News Of The World phone-hacking scandal. A range of 'sources' including Hardcash Productions' David Henshaw and Blakeway's Fiona Stourton told Broadcast magazine that 'clear regulation' by Ofcom and 'a different culture to print journalism' meant TV would continue to carry out successful investigations. Nicole Kleeman from Firecrest Films, which specialises in investigative productions including for Channel Four News, said: 'The Daily Telegraph, which did the sting on the MPs expenses, went on a "fishing trip." TV journalists would never do that because we are expected to have prima facie evidence before we can carry out secret filming.' The BBC has admitted to using private investigators on occasions for Panorama programmes, leading to David Jordan, BBC director of editorial policy and standards, blogging on its guidelines. But in light of recent events, some producers say THAT they would think twice before using private investigators again and one producer with Panorama experience said that there had been concerns among executives about private investigators even before the phone-hacking scandal broke. They are normally hired to track people down, one source explained. 'Broadcasters do not rely on private investigators, but sometimes they're used because you're desperate to get hold of somebody and they can't be found,' he added. One practice which could potentially end because of data protection issues would be using a car number plate to track down a person's address. Sky News head of home news Mark Evans explained the News International fall out 'will not have any impact on the way we go about things. Sky has never had a "dark arts" operation in our culture and there will be no diminishing our appetite for investigative news.'

The BBC's licence fee settlement is unlikely to be reviewed in the wake of revelations about News Corp's influence on the government's media policy, the shadow lack of culture secretary Ivan Lewis has said. Lewis pledged to 'support' the corporation - in a way that his predecessor Ben Bradshaw never did - from future attacks on its existence but said that the BBC should be prepared for reform. Lewis, who has in the past been extremely critical of the 'dodgy deal' which the government imposed on the BBC for its speed and lack of transparency, was among several MPs to outline the extent to which similarities appeared between the Murdoch's anti-BBC agenda and the Conservative government's own media policy during a debate in the House of Commons. At the same time, former prime minister Gordon Brown called for the judge-led enquiry into phone-hacking to 'examine not just the promises of the then opposition, but the many early decisions of this government on these matters.' Earlier in the week, the NUJ had called for the deal to be cancelled, replacing it with a deal based 'on proper transparent and open debate with staff and stakeholders.' However, Lewis told Broadcast: 'Being realistic, that is just not going to happen. The BBC is not immune from the need to get the deficit down. But I have expressed extreme concern about the way in which the settlement was conducted. I'm also concerned about the prime minister and secretary of state, whose instincts are anti-BBC.' News Corp's aim to 'neuter and neutralise' the BBC had been at least implicitly supported by the government. It is now down to the opposition to ensure the corporation remained intact, Lewis said. He added: 'We believe the BBC needs reform on a number of levels – pay at the top, more efficiency and transparency towards the licence fee payer, for example. It is a force for good, but that doesn't remove the need for change.' Lewis argued that the forthcoming consultation over proposals for Delivering Quality First, in which twenty per cent cuts to the annual budget must be made, should be 'genuinely' open to the public, offering options rather than just the top line suggestions.

Adrian Chiles's Daybreak presenting duties have been 'cut down' to four days a week according to tabloid reports. Dear blog readers with memories slightly longer than the average goldfish may remember that exactly such a one-day-reduction in his job description caused Chiles to flounce out of the BBC in high dudgeon like a stroppy drama queen and run straight into the arms of ITV in early 2010. Will he be doing something similar again, one wonders? And, if he does, where will he go this time since the chances of the BBC wanting him back are less than zero? The forty four-year-old will no longer host the Friday edition of ITV's flop breakfast programme alongside his former ONE Show colleague the strangely orange Christine Bleakley, a spokesperson confirmed. 'When we signed Adrian in 2010 it was always planned as part of the contract that he would move to four days a week on Daybreak in the second year of the show,' an ITV representative allegedly 'clarified.' And, again, one or two people even believed him. Although a replacement presenter has not yet been announced, it was widely reported in June that BBC Breakfast alleged favourite - although I've yet to meet anybody that actually likes him - Chris Hollins was being 'sought' to fill Chiles's role. Another BBC reject. That's gonna end well, isn't it? Incidentally, with the day of the NUJ on strike last Friday, BBC Breakfast still pulled in an audience of 1.43m viewers. Not too different from their normal viewing figures - the day before, for instance, it was 1.56m, the day before that 1.66m. The previous Friday (8 Jul) the audience was 1.71m and the Friday before that (1 Jul) 1.53m. So, slightly below average but not too much. Dayberk, on the other hand, still couldn't break eight hundred thousand viewers even when the BBC was on strike (seven hundred and ninety thousand viewers, with an AI score of a truly pathetic sixty six). Here's a shocking little figure for you - the last time Daybreak did top eight hundred thousand viewers was on 13 June. In the month since then they've never once got higher than seven hundred and ninety thousand. They've been as low as six hundred and ninety thousand twice.

Channel Four is said to be looking at its weekend line-up and is 'seeking to offer audiences better alternatives' to the line-up of entertainment programmes on BBC1 and ITV. The weekend ratings are traditionally dominated by the two big channels through entertainment programmes such as Strictly Come Dancing, The X Factor, Britain's Got Talent and Dancing On Ice. Also, family dramas such as Doctor Who and Merlin and others dramas such as Casualty, Downton Abbey and Scott & Bailey have also commanded big audiences for BBC1 and ITV - leaving Channel Four trailing far behind. Though so far this year both main channels have had a few notable Saturday evening flops such as Don't Scare The Hare (on BBC1) and The Marriage Ref (on ITV) perhaps signalling a small shift in what audiences want. Jay Hunt - Channel Four's new Chief Creative Officer - in an interview with the Gruniad has revealed that the broadcaster is seeking to offer better alternatives for viewers at the weekend. 'We are spending a lot of time building that right now for the autumn. We are not running up the white flag. The strategy that will emerge as we go forward includes history, science, documentaries and acquired drama' Hunt told in the paper. At the moment Channel Four's weekend line-up usually consists of acquired programmes such as Camelot, The Pillars of the Earth and Desperate Housewives alongside movies and factual programmes such as the long-running but still very popular Time Team.

The BBC have announced the appointment of two new presenters for its BBC3 news bulletin, Sixty Seconds. This first is Sam Naz. She joined the BBC in 2003, when she won a place on the Student Sponsorship Scheme run by BBC News. She has worked on Newwsround, Breakfast, Radio 5Live and as an entertainment reporter for the BBC News channel between 2008 and 2010. She's also got weird purple hair that makes her look like one of the girls from Moonbase on UFO. Ah, Gabrielle Drake. Be still my shorts. Sam said: 'I'm really excited to be taking over as the main presenter of Sixty Seconds on its tenth birthday! I'll be keeping everyone updated with all the day's top stories. The bulletins have gone from strength to strength over the past decade and I hope to build on that success.' Claudia-Liza Armah, also joins the Sixty Seconds team from BBC Look East where she spent the last two years as a presenter. She began her presenting career in 2007, following a Masters degree in Broadcast Journalism. Claudia said: 'I've been an avid viewer of Sixty Seconds since its launch in 2001 so it's very exciting to now be part of the team who bring the BBC3 audience their news, entertainment and sports fix. My challenge now is to tell each story, in a way that will grab the audience, in just ten seconds. I can't wait!'

BBC1 totally dominated Sunday night's primetime viewing figures with with 29.2 per cent of the audience against ITV's 13.7 per cent. BBC2 - largely thanks to Top Gear - was third with 10.3 per cent. Tom Pellereau's victory in The Apprentice entertained over nine million viewers. The Apprentice final averaged 9.06m for BBC1 between 9pm and 11pm, peaking at 10.46m as Lord Sugar-Sweetie chose Pellereau to become his new business partner following a gruelling interview process. The two-hour programme also included spin-off show The Apprentice: You're Hired!, hosted by Dara O Briain. Series five of Law & Order: UK suffered due to The Apprentice, slumping to 4.28m on ITV in the 9pm hour, down by more than one and a half million on last week's series opener. An additional one hundred and sixty seven thousand watched the show on ITV. It's a Trap!, a spoof of Return of the Jedi by the US animated comedy Family Guy, premiered with one million viewers on BBC3 from 10.50pm. Antiques Roadshow returned to BBC1 with 5.04m in the 7pm hour, outperforming The Royal's 4.7m on ITV. Countryfile had an audience of 5.65m at 8pm, soundly beating Born To Shine's 2.8m on ITV. And, there's a headline for all of you chaps - Fiona Bruce Spanks Natasha Kaplinsky. Oh, if only they'd film that and show it every Christmas. On BBC2, a repeat of the excellent Murray Walker: Life In The Fast Lane was watched by 1.05m in the 7pm hour, before series seventeen of Top Gear continued with 5.11m watching Rowen Atkinson as the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car and James May doing - really funny - Chipping Norton Set jokes(!) in the 8pm hour. An additional eight hundred and thirty seven thousand watched on BBC HD giving the programme a total audience of just a shade under six million, over eight hundred thousand up week-on-week. For those taking notes, Top Gear's consolidated audience this series had been around the six million mark, with last week's episode the most watched so far with 6.55m. So, even a modest timeshift should give this one poll position. Coast was watched by 2.25m from 9pm and a further one hundred and thirty three thousand on BBC HD, and Julia Bradbury's Icelandic Walks had an audience of 1.5m from 9pm. The repeat of Thursday's Mock The Week - itself a clip show of the best bits of the series so far - was watched by nine hundred and thirty thousand viewers from 10pm.

And, speaking of ratings: Top Twenty programmes of week ending 10 July:
1 The Apprentice (BBC1 Wed) - 9.42m
2 New Tricks (BBC1 Mon) - 9.20m
3 Coronation Street (ITV Mon) - 9.00m
4 EastEnders (BBC1 Tues) - 8.76m
5 Emmerdale (ITV Tues) - 7.14m
6= Luther (BBC1 Tues) - 6.77m
6= Law & Order: UK (ITV Sun) - 6.77m
8 Top Gear (BBC2 Sun) - 6.55m
9 Waterloo Road (BBC1 Wed) - 6.04m
10 Casualty (BBC1 Sat) - 5.78m
11 Ten O'Clock News (BBC1 Mon) - 5.75m
12 In It To Win It (BBC1 Sat) - 5.35m
13 The Apprentice: The Final Five (BBC1 Thurs) - 5.29m
14 Holby City (BBC1 Tues) - 5.24m
15 The British Grand Prix (BBC1 Sun) - 4.94m
16 Countryfile (BBC1 Sun) - 4.83m
17 Six O'Clock News (BBC1 Thurs) - 4.40m
18 The Royal (ITV Sun) - 4.27m*
19 Popstar To Operastar (ITV Sun) - 4.22m*
20 The Apprentice: You're Fired! (BBC2 Wed) - 4.16m
Those programmes with asterisks do not include HD figures.

Channel Four is reported to be 'talking' to Caitlin Moran about bringing the award winning Times columnist and author to TV. Which would seem like a good idea because, a) she's a fantastic writer and critic and b) it's quite possible her current employers might not exist for too much longer. In an interview with the Gruniad, Channel Four chief creative officer Jay Hunt, confirmed that she was talking to Moran about fronting a TV show, but declined to disclose further details. 'I discovered someone the other day who talks as fast as me, Caitlin Moran. It's funny hearing someone else who does it,' Hunt said. Channel Four also recently appointed a new sports commissioner, Jamie Aitchison and Hunt said it has had approaches and talks with five or six sporting bodies. Formula One is thought to be among them, though Hunt would not confirm this. It is possible Channel Four might take over the rights, or some rights, to Formula One from the BBC in 2013, if the corporation drops the motor racing sport as part of its cost cutting drive. Hunt said that Channel Four had been approached by minority sports eager to gain a spot on terrestrial TV. In the past Channel Four has broadcast cricket, Italian football, American football, cycling and sumo wrestling, and has bought rights for next year's Paralympics. It also wants to attract more male viewers and younger people through a variety of programmes, including more sport and edgy dramas at 10pm. Hunt is also lining up a Homeless and Housing season built around a Kevin McCloud series she inherited about his experience of building well designed but economical housing, a five year project. This will be combined with campaigning programmes, looking at the issue of Britain's one million-plus empty homes and the near two million families trapped without access to economical or social housing and rented accommodation. These programmes, which will directly challenge the government to act, are being made by the architect George Clarke, an ambassador for the charity Shelter. One of Clarke's key themes is why Britain is still demolishing houses, instead of renovating them. 'We are doing a big season around housing and homeless, what it means to be homeless, it is rather scandalous, we have a million empty homes and near to two million families who are homeless,' Hunt said. 'Accompanying that Kevin McCloud has done something rather remarkable, I have never seen Kevin McCloud this way before. He's put his own money on the line and asked how can we make social housing affordable, well designed, so it works for British families today.' McCloud found a site in Swindon on which to build forty of his new houses. 'I want us to have a view on the big issues that are occupying people today, for us to have a special stake on housing in these straitened times, at a time of economic downturn,' Hunt said. 'It is just the sort of social issue we should be tackling. We need to give a voice to people who otherwise wouldn't have one.'

Hunt also said in the same interview that she would 'happily' work with the controversial comic Mad Frankie Boyle. Boyle's Tramadol Nights series was heavily criticised last year after it included a joke at the expense of Katie Price's disabled son Harvey. The comic refused to apologise for the remarks and Channel Four chief executive David Abraham and chairman Lord Burns were questioned on the matter by MPs on the Commons culture, media and sport select committee. However, Hunt claimed that the saga hadn't put her off working with Boyle, who she described as a 'talented comedian.' '[Tramadol Nights] hasn't been recommissioned, no, but he's a talented comedian,' she told the Gruniad. 'If we were to find the right kind of show for him then we would have him back.' Hunt also revealed that she was working with Gordon Ramsay on a prisons project and that Jimmy Doherty, Jamie Oliver and Mary Portas were all key to the broadcaster's plans moving forward.

Claire Danes and Damian Lewis's much-anticipated Showtime political thriller Homeland will air on Channel Four. Loosely based on Gideon Raff's Israeli television series Prisoners of War, it centres on a US soldier (played by Lewis) who is taken prisoner in Iraq in 2003. Danes plays CIA officer Carrie Anderson, who is convinced that the soldiers' return is set up and that the new national hero is actually working with Al-Qaeda to launch an attack on US soil. Mandy Patinkin (Criminal Minds) and David Harewood will also star. Jay Hunt described Homeland as a 'compelling contemporary thriller.' The broadcaster also revealed today that it has picked up the rights to comedy series Napoleon Dynamite, Zooey Deschanel's New Girl, the animation Allen Gregory and James Van Der Beek's Apartment Twenty Three.

Norman Smith, the BBC Radio 4 reporter, is to replace Laura Kuenssberg as the corporation's chief political correspondent. Smith, fifty, will front the BBC's political coverage alongside Nick Robinson, the political editor and James Landale, the deputy political editor from next month. Kevin Bakhurst, controller of the BBC News channel and deputy head of the BBC newsroom, confirmed Smith's appointment on Monday afternoon on Twitter. A long-time radio correspondent, Smith was a surprise candidate to replace Kuenssberg, who joins ITV News as business editor next month. Kuenssberg was a rising BBC News star and tipped to be a successor to Robinson. Smith has reported for the BBC from Westminster since 1999. For the last eighteen months he has been chief political correspondent for Radio 4 appearing regularly on the Today programme and PM. He joined the BBC as a local radio reporter in 1986 and became a parliamentary correspondent in 1993 presenting Today and Yesterday in Parliament on Radio 4. Contenders for the post are understood to have included the BBC political correspondents Ross Hawkins, Iain Watson, Ben Wright, Carole Walker, and education correspondent Reeta Chakrabarti. Kuenssberg's surprise move follows the departure of Matt Frei, anchor of BBC World News America, and Newsnight's Jackie Long, who joined Channel Four News as Washington correspondent and social affairs editor respectively in May.

Kevin Keegan's is set to make an emotional return as Newcastle United manager – for a one-off reunion of his famous Entertainers. Keegan has agreed to manage his old players for a charity game against Liverpool at Darlington's Northern Echo Arena on Sunday 9 October. The match will be a re-run of the infamous 4-3 defeat at Anfield in April 1996 which has been hailed by many as the Premier League's greatest-ever match. Former Newcastle players Robert Lee, Pavel Srnicek and John Beresford have already confirmed their participation, while ex-Liverpool trio Ian Rush, Mark Wright and Jason McAteer have also signed up for Roy Evans's side. Organiser Steve Wraith, of Players Inc, is confident that more names will announced shortly for the match, which will be raising money for the NSPCC, the Children's Heart Unit Fund, the Alan Shearer Centre, the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and Pathways. Keegan left United after a ill-fated second spell in September 2008. Keegan said: 'I'm really looking forward to seeing all the lads again, and helping to raise a lot of money for the five charities. It's win-win all round. Let's see if the entertainers have got it within themselves to entertain.' Lee, a mainstay of Keegan's Newcastle midfield, added: 'I played in the original game at Anfield. We were going through a bad patch and really needed a win, and we were confident that we would get the result. Typical Newcastle, though, we scored three and conceded four. It has been voted the best live game in the last twenty years. I'm delighted that Kevin is involved. They were the best years of my career under his guidance. The lads I've spoken to are all up for the game. I think it's time we put the record straight.'

Back to phone-hacking now and one of my favourite quotes of the day. It comes from an interview the former home secretary Alan Johnson gave Channel Four News regarding whether it was dishonesty, evasion or lethargy that the police displayed in not investigating the News of the World more fully. Johnson suggests, plausibly that it was more likely to have been lethargy than either of the other two. I particularly enjoyed his closing remarks on the subject of the speed with which John Yates decided there was no need for reopening the investigation in 2009 when John was home secretary. Did Johnson raise an eyebrow at this? He replied 'You have to think of the atmospherics at the time,' he told Jon Snow. 'If you'd been questioning me on this programme at that time, if it had been much wider than one newspaper and if we'd begun to get any understanding of the scale of this thing then I think an eyebrow might have been raised. I think if we'd said we were going to have an independent inquiry, actually, I'd've been castigated. You've got to remember Andy Haymen [I'm presuming he means Coulson unless Alan knows something we don't] was working for Cameron and anything I did may have looked, in the run up to a general election, as if I was using high political office for low political motives. And I think that was something which didn't help the situation.' Or, in other words, everybody's a clever bastard after the event. I must say, I've always had something of a soft spot for Alan Johnson - if a few more politicians were as honest (occasionally to the point of masochism) about their motives and their limitations as he is, parliament might not be in quite the mess it is at the moment.

My other lasting impression of this day will be a comment from the BBC's hastily put-together Panorama episode Breaking The Murdoch Spell. It concerns the MP Chris Bryant who, after his having asked one too many awkward questions about News International was, it is suggested, effectively 'targetted' by them. Bryant, who is openly gay, was the subject of some especially nasty attention for a couple of years in the middle of the last decade. (They weren't alone, it should be noted, the Scum Mail on Sunday joined in with the kicking on at least one occasion when Bryant was pictured posing in his underwear on an online site.) 'On one occasion at a Labour Party Conference,' Bryant noted, 'Andrew Pierce who was at the time writing for The Times, took me into one party and there as I came in was Rebekah Brooks. She said to me "Oh, Mr Bryant, it's after dark. Shouldn't you be on Clapham Common?" At which point her then husband, Ross Kemp, said "shut up you homophobic cow!"' All of a sudden, all them truly terrible 'hard men' programmes Kemp has made over the years don't seem quite so bad. Mind you, it's still hilarious that Rebekah is alleged to have beaten him up shortly before their divorce. One bets he doesn't mention that when he's standing within shooting distance of the Taliban.

Meanwhile, the snot thickens. According to the Gruniad, detectives are 'examining a computer, paperwork and a phone found in a bin near the riverside London home of Rebekah Brooks.' The newspaper says that it has learned the bag containing the items was found in an underground car park in the Design Centre at the exclusive Chelsea Harbour development on Monday afternoon. The car park, under a shopping centre, is yards from the gated apartment block where Brooks lives with her husband, a former racehorse trainer and close friend of the prime minister David Cameron. It is understood that the bag was handed into security at around 3pm and that shortly afterwards, Brooks's husband, Charlie, arrived and tried to reclaim it. He was unable to prove the bag was his and the security guard refused to release it. Instead, it is understood that the guard called the police. In less than half an hour, two marked police cars and an unmarked forensics car are said to have arrived at the scene. Police are now examining CCTV footage taken in the car park to uncover who dropped the bag. Initial suspicions that there had been a break in at the Brooks' flat have been dismissed. David Wilson, Charlie Brooks's official spokesman, told the Gruniad that Charlie Brooks denies the bag belonged to his wife. 'Charlie has a bag which contains a laptop and papers which were private to him,' said Wilson. 'They were nothing to do with Rebekah or the case.' Wilson said that Charlie Brooks had left the bag with a friend who was returning it, but dropped it in the wrong part of the garage. When asked how the bag ended up in a bin he replied: 'The suggestion is that a cleaner thought it was rubbish and put it in the bin.' Wilson added: 'Charlie was looking for it together with a couple of the building staff. Charlie was told it had gone to security, by which stage they [security] had already called the police to say they had found something. The police took it away. Charlie's lawyers got in touch with the police to say they could take a look at the computer but they'd see there was nothing relevant to them on it. He's expecting the stuff back forthwith.'

The New York Times is claiming that Rebekah Brooks ordered News International to continue paying Ian Edmondson, a former news editor, even after he was sacked in January and arrested in April. After Edmondson was fired and arrested, Brooks pressed to pay him a monthly stipend, according to 'a person with knowledge of the transaction.' After an internal disagreement, the payments were moved from the newsroom budget to News International's. The company put other journalists on 'paid leave' after their arrests, reasoning that they were innocent until proven guilty, a company spokesperson confirmed. By the middle of last year, News International's lawyers and some executives were urging that the company accept 'some responsibility,' according to two officials with 'direct knowledge.' Brooks disagreed, according to 'three people who described' the internal debate. 'Her behavior all along has been resist, resist, resist,' one company official allegedly said. The two thousand four hundred word article also includes allegations of an attempt by Rebekah Brooks to drag the Daily Scum Mail into the phone hacking scandal. Other highlights of the report - by Jo Becker and Ravi Somaiya - include claims that: Over the last several months, Brooks spearheaded a strategy that appeared to be designed to spread the blame across Fleet Street. Several former News of the World journalists said that she asked them to dig up evidence of hacking. One said her target was not her own newspapers, but her rivals. Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Scum Mail, told his senior managers that he had 'received several reports from businesspeople, footballers and public relations agencies' that News International executives Will Lewis and Simon Greenberg had encouraged them to investigate whether their phones had been hacked by Daily Scum Mail newspapers. At a private meeting, Rupert Murdoch warned Dacre that 'we are not going to be only bad dog on the street,' according to an account Dacre allegedly gave to his management team. The paper also alleges that Dacre confronted Brooks, telling her: 'You are trying to tear down the entire industry.' Lady Claudia Rothermere, the wife of the owner of the Daily Scum Mail, also allegedly overheard Brooks saying at a dinner party that the Scum Mail was 'just as culpable' as the News of the World. 'We didn't break the law,' Lady Rothermere said, according to 'two sources who spoke to the New York Times.' Brooks was said to have then asked who Lady Rothermere thought she was, 'Mother Teresa?'

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. I'm surprised I've managed to get ten months into this daily slot and never featured this one - a particular favourite of this blogger. Here's Gary Numan.

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