Thursday, July 28, 2011

This Is For The Questions That Don't Have Any Answers

A group of academics from seven leading UK universities have accused a Times cartoonist of using 'racist caricatures' in what they say was a crude and offensive attempt to deflect attention from the phone-hacking row. The group of twenty one signatories, including twelve academics from seven universities including Cambridge, Sussex and University College London, claim that the 21 July cartoon by award-winning cartoonist Peter Brookes, which showed three emaciated African children under the heading 'I've had a bellyful of phone hacking' was 'cynical and repugnant.' Their letter acknowledged that the drawing drew attention to a legitimate concern that the phone-hacking scandal had knocked other stories such as the east Africa famine off the news pages. But the letter said that Brookes's cartoon was 'a blatant piece of propaganda' and showed that The Times's parent company News International was guilty of 'self–serving irresponsibility' over its coverage of the phone-hacking scandal. The letter added: 'For one of Murdoch's newspapers to use racist caricatures in an attempt to deflect attention from legitimate public scrutiny of its actions is wholly unacceptable. The cartoon is cynical and repugnant, a blatant piece of propaganda that demonstrates precisely the self-serving irresponsibility for which News International is being criticised.' It is understood that the letter was accompanied by a note that acknowledged Brookes's reputation as a cartoonist and said that the signatories would be happy for him to view the letter before publication and to respond to its points publicly. It is understood The Times has so far not responded to this. A senior Times 'source' alleged otld the Gruniad that Brookes's cartoon had been 'misinterpreted', that it was not racist and that he had 'robustly and fairly addressed the hacking scandal' in his work over the past three weeks. Brookes is a popular member of staff at The Times, where he has been leader page cartoonist since 1992. The sixty seven-year-old has won the title of cartoonist of the year at the British Press Awards five times, the first in 2002. He courted controversy in 2009 when a cartoon depicting Pope Benedict with a condom on his head led to a complaint to the paper from Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales. The Times declined to comment on the letter or whether it would be published once they'd received it.

Oily horrorshow, faceache (and drag) Piers Morgan has denied fresh phone-hacking claims after a blogger published clips from an interview which, the blogger claimed, implicated Morgan in just such nefarious skulduggery and naughty shenanigans. Political blogger Guido Fawkes posted audio and a transcript from a June 2009 interview on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, in which Morgan spoke of defending 'all the things I used to get up to.' When host Kirsty Young asked Morgan about practices undertaken by some journalists such as going through rubbish bins, phone tapping and covert photography, he replied: 'Well, to be honest let's put that into perspective. A lot of it was done by third parties, rather than the staff themselves. That's not to defend it, because obviously you were running the results of their work. I'm quite happy to be parked in the corner of "tabloid beast" and to have to sit here and defend all the things I used to get up to and I make no pretence about the stuff we used to do.' Morgan has since released a statement which said: 'There is no contradiction between my comments on Kirsty Young's Desert Island Discs show and my unequivocal statements with regard to phone hacking. Millions of people heard these comments when I first made them in 2009 on one of the BBC's longest-running radio shows, and none deduced that I was admitting to, or condoning illegal reporting activity.' America's Got Talent, CNN talkshow host and twat Morgan continued: 'Kirsty asked me a fairly lengthy question about how I felt dealing with people operating at the sharp end of investigative journalism. My answer was not specific to any of the numerous examples she gave, but a general observation about tabloid newspaper reporters and private investigators. As I have said before, I have never hacked a phone, told anyone to hack a phone, nor to my knowledge published any story obtained from the hacking of a phone.' Morgan, a former News of the World and Daily Mirra editor, has spent the past week categorically denying ever printing material derived from phone hacking. However, he gave a markedly different response four years ago when the scandal led to the imprisonment of Clive Goodman, the News of the World's former royal editor, for hacking the phones of celebrities and royal aides. 'As for Clive Goodman, I feel a lot of sympathy for a man who has been the convenient fall guy for an investigative practice that everyone knows was going on at almost every paper in Fleet Street for years,' Morgan told the Press Gazette in an interview in 2007. Fawkes has printed an excerpt from Morgan's 2009 book God Bless America: Misadventures of a Big Mouth Brit: Diaries of an Englishman in the Land of the Free. The longest and most self-aggrandising title in the history of biographies. In it Morgan makes a remark about a voicemail left for him by Sven Goran Eriksson's girlfriend Nancy Dell'Olio. 'Given that it was the Daily Mirra, under my editorship, which exposed Sven's fling with Ulrika Jonsson after learning of a similar message left by the then-England manager on her phone, I can only hope and pray that the gutter press (ha, ha) aren't hacking into my mobile now,' he said. Fawkes suggests: 'It is over Piers, 'fess up son. It is time for that live on CNN mea culpa.'

The extraordinary access that cabinet ministers granted Rupert Murdoch and his grubby spawn was revealed for the first time this week, with more than two dozen private meetings between the Murdoch family and senior members of the Government in the fifteen months since David Cameron entered Downing Street. In total, Cabinet ministers have had private meetings with Murdoch executives more than sixty times and, if social events such as receptions at party conferences are included, the figure is at least one hundred and seven. On two occasions, James Murdoch and former News International chief executive and well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks were given 'confidential defence briefings' on Afghanistan and Britain's strategic defence review by the Defence Secretary, Liam Fox. A further briefing was held with Brooks, Rupert Murdoch and The Sunday Times editor John Witherow. Ed Llewellyn, David Cameron's chief of staff, found himself in the spotlight over phone hacking for the second time in a week after No 10 announced that he had attended a Scotland Yard dinner also attended by Neil Wallis, the former deputy editor of the News of the World. Llewellyn and Andy Coulson, then communications director at No 10, attended a dinner hosted by Sir Paul Stephenson when he was Metropolitan police commissioner on 17 June last year. Wallis, once Coulson's deputy at the News of the World, had been hired as a media adviser by the Met and was present at the dinner. Earlier this month Wallis was arrested by the Met as part of Operation Weeting, the main investigation into allegations of phone hacking. Downing Street 'sources' attempted to play down the significance of the dinner. Last week Llewellyn was forced to release e-mails to show that, last September, he rebuffed an offer from the outgoing Met assistant commissioner, John Yates, to discuss the phone-hacking scandal with the prime minister. Yates made the offer after an article in the New York Times put new pressure on Coulson. A Downing Street 'source' allegedly said: 'Ed was late for the dinner because he was dealing with an urgent party matter that night. He was in and out of the dinner as he took calls. Is it odd for the prime minister's chief of staff to meet the Met commissioner? No, it is not.' But Labour, which was informed of the dinner in a letter to the frontbencher Kevin Brennan, is likely to ask questions about Llewellyn's decision to meet the Met commissioner in the company of Wallis at a time when questions were being asked about the links between the Yard and News International. One 'source' allegedly said: 'The first Ed remembered of the dinner was when he saw Neil Wallis's picture on television.' The disclosure of the Yard dinner came as the Cabinet Office released information showing that George Osborne has held sixteen meetings with News International executives since the election and education secretary Michael Gove has met Rupert Murdoch six times. Ministers' contacts with News International executives continued until recent weeks after police had arrested senior News of the World journalists. Osborne met Rebekah Brooks on five occasions in the year following the 2010 general election. The chancellor met James Murdoch on four occasions and Rupert Murdoch twice. In total, he attended sixteen meetings at which News International executives were present. Gove, a former senior Times journalist, met Rupert Murdoch on three occasions between 19 May and 26 June this year. A dinner on 26 June came just ten days after Gove met Murdoch for dinner on 16 June. A spokesman for the education secretary said: 'Michael worked for the BBC and News International, and his wife works for News International now. He's known Rupert Murdoch for over a decade. He did not discuss the BSkyB deal with the Murdochs and isn't at all embarrassed about his meetings, most of which have been about education, which is his job.' The vile and odious rascal Hunt, the lack of culture secretary, met James Murdoch on two occasions in January this year to discuss the News Corp bid to take full control of BSkyB. The vile and odious rascal Hunt was handed control of media takeovers in December after Vince Cable was stripped of his powers in the wake of the disclosure of a recording in which he told undercover journalists from the Daily Torygraph that he had 'declared war' on Murdoch. The culture department has already published details of the meetings. In the first meeting the vile and odious rascal Hunt told Murdoch that he had a duty to inform Murdoch that he had received the Ofcom report on the BSkyB bid. The vile and odious rascal Hunt told Murdoch that he had the right to reply. In the second meeting the vile and odious rascal Hunt told Murdoch that he was 'minded' to refer the bid to the Competition Commission, though he would consider any undertakings from News Corp. Curiously when News Corp did make 'undertakings', the vile and odious rascal Hunt did a triple back-flip (with pike) in a manner not dissimilar to young Tom Daley. Osborne's News International charm offensive, following his appointment as shadow chancellor by Michael Howard in 2005, paid off when the Conservatives came to power as part of the coalition government. Osborne, who became particularly close to James Murdoch because they have children of a similar age, first met Murdoch after the election at a meeting also attended by Brooks. Murdoch and Brooks had another joint meeting in April this year. Osborne met Rupert Murdoch in May last year, the first of two meetings during the year. They also met for dinner in New York on 17 December last year, four days before Cable was stripped of his responsibility for media takeovers. Which is, obviously, a complete coincidence. The chancellor invited Elisabeth Murdoch, the tycoon's daughter, and James Harding, the editor of The Times who was a few years above Osborne at St Paul's School, to his fortieth birthday party at Dorneywood last month. A Treasury 'source' allegedly said that Osborne did not discuss the BSkyB bid with any of the News International executives after making clear shortly after the election that Cable was in charge of media takeovers. A Treasury spokesman said: 'Early on in the process George explained this was a matter for Vince Cable alone and he could not get involved. It was not raised at any other discussion.' The 'source' also said that Osborne has 'no recollection' of having discussed phone hacking with the executives. Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, told LBC News: 'There have been shenanigans going on here, and until we know what actually was said in the meetings, the fact of the meetings doesn't prove it one way or the other. It just does raise rather a lot of questions about whether politics was being played over commercially sensitive matters like this.' The Yard dinner is likely to raise questions for Stephenson, who played down the significance of Wallis when he appeared before MPs last week after his resignation as commissioner. He told the home affairs select committee: 'Mr Wallis was never employed to be my personal assistant or to provide personal advice to me. He had a very part-time, minor role.'

Abi Morgan's BBC2 newsroom drama The Hour lost over a million viewers week-on-week on Tuesday, overnight audience data has revealed. The Dominic West and Romola Garai series slipped to an average audience of 1.79m, a significant fall from last week's 2.8m. Elsewhere on BBC2, Restoration Home was watched by 2.63m in the 8pm slot. Richard Hammond's Journey To The Bottom Of The Ocean continued to be a strong performer on BBC1 in the 9pm slot, with 4.97m viewers, a slight increase week-on-week. ITV's biggest performer of the night was Cops With Cameras, which had an audience of 2.42m at 8pm, with a further one hundred and seven thousand viewers on ITV+1. Geordie Finishing School For Girls was a significant success for BBC3 with seven hundred and thirty thousand viewers watching at 9pm.

ITV has said that catch-up services on its ITV Player platform will remain free to use. The company's chief executive Adam Crozier revealed plans to introduce a 'pay mechanism' for the service at the turn of the year on Wednesday morning. Crozier said: 'We plan to have a pay mechanism in place around the turn of the year so that we can test what viewers are willing to pay for, and we continue to work with our partners on YouView, which is on track for launch early next year.' The ITV Press Centre, howeverm quickly added on Twitter: 'To clarify. Catch up on ITV Player will remain free. ITV will be introducing a pay mechanism next year to trial other pay content.' ITV claimed that it will technically be possible to introduce a micropayments system in the fourth quarter of this year but added that it will delay the launch for consumer reasons, the Gruniad reports. 'We originally said there was a possibility of doing it then' Crozier said. 'From a technical point of view we could do it but we want the consumer proposition right. We want a softer launch.' The broadcaster has been advised against the introduction of an online paywall by Time Warner chief executive Jeff Bewke, who urged faith in the long-term recovery of the advertising market.

Karen Gillan will be making her West End theatre debut this Autumn in a revival of John Osbourne's 1964 play Inadmissible Evidence. The play is to be performed at the Donmar Warehouse Theatre and will be directed by Jamie Lloyd. Gillan will play the character of Shirley, the hard-done-by secretary to middle-aged laywer Bill Maitland, to be played by Douglas Hodge; other cast members include Esther Hall, Amy Morgan, Daniel Ryan, and Al Weaver. The Daily Scum Mail reported that Lloyd had been very impressed with the Doctor Who actress: 'Karen read twice for him at auditions and he was impressed with her charisma and her natural instincts. "More importantly, she can do the text convincingly and she feels as if she comes from that Sixties British Mad Men world," Lloyd added.' Originally performed in 1965 on Broadway, the play featured Nicol Williamson as Maitland and Jeanne Hepple as Shirley. It was subsequently made into a film with Williamson reprising the role alongside Eileen Atkins in 1968. Gillan has also told the website Zap2it that she is staying with Doctor Who 'for the foreseeable future' and will be returning as Amy Pond for the next series of the show which goes into production at the end of the year. Doctor Who has been commissioned for a further fourteen episodes including this year's Christmas Special. Previously it was only confirmed that Matt Smith was contracted for the run. Gillan was interviewed at Comic-Con and when asked if she would be returning she said, 'I am going to come back, yes. That's the first time I've said that today.'

Torchwood star John Barrowman has said that he agrees with the BBC's decision to trim one of the show's sex scenes. It was widely reported earlier this month that the corporation had taken the decision to cut out certain elements of the scene, which featured Barrowman's character Captain Jack Harkness enjoying a damned good shag with another chap. The actor told reporters at this year's Comic-Con: 'I do agree with the decision that was made. Some younger kids are going to watch Torchwood. If they're sitting watching it with their parents, it might make it a little uncomfortable [and] the parents might click off.' He continued: 'In order to stop that from happening, we've just taken a snippet off the end of it.' The scene, that is, not anything attached to John himself. 'You still get a good chunk of it.' I'll bet you do, matey. Barrowman also denied that the scene was trimmed because it featured two male actors. 'It's not that it was "Oh my God, we can't show sex between two men," because they also cut down Mekhi and Arlene's [sex] scene, so it was done from both ends,' he said. Stop sniggering at the back, that's not a reference to what you think it is ... In addition, Barrowman dismissed reports in a tabloid newspaper which claimed that he had 'clashed' with BBC executives over the cut scene. 'The controversy was raised by a newspaper that didn't know what it was talking about,' he said. 'They took an interview I did four or five months ago, talking about putting sex into the programme and how it fits in. They took quotes and made it sound like I was disagreeing with the BBC, and they have put forward an apology because they basically stirred it up, trying to make it look like I didn't agree with Russell.' You mean, the Sun lied about something? Well, that's just shocking. Something should clearly be done about it.

The Gok Wan fronted fashion show How To Look Good Naked has been axed by Channel Four. Well, at least according to the Sun - see above - which claims that the makeover show has been cancelledby the broadcaster after five years. In the show Gok Wan helps women rebuild their self-esteem by giving them a make-over and fashion advice - the never relies on cosmetic surgery or other procedures to achieve its goals. The show gives women makeovers through more natural means and has been a hit for Channel Four and made a star of its presenter. 'Gok is fully booked for this year and there are no plans for a new series of Naked,' a Channel Four spokesman told the scum tabloid. 'It may come back next year or it might not. No decision has been made.' The presenter will make another series of his other Channel Four series, Gok's Fashion Fix, as well as a new series on troubled teenagers. In the latter series Wan will travel across the country to talk to teens who are suffering from bullying, self-image issues and homophobia.

An author has won sixty five thousand smackers in libel damages over a 'spiteful' book review that was written by a journalist for a broadsheet newspaper. Sarah Thornton took legal action over Lynn Barber's 2008 review of her book Seven Days in the Art World. Ruling in London's High Court, Mr Justice Tugendhat said the Daily Torygraph review was spiteful and contained 'serious factual errors.' The newspaper said it would appeal 'at the earliest opportunity.' Thornton's libel and malicious falsehood complaint related to Barber's claim that she had not been interviewed by the author for the book, despite being quoted in it. However, the court found the claim to be false and rejected Barber's further allegation that Thornton granted interviewees copy approval for their contributions to the book. The Torygraph Media Group must pay Thornton fifty thousand quid in relation to the libel, and an additional fifteen grand for the 'malicious falsehood,' as well her legal fees. Speaking afterwards Thornton said: 'This case, at its heart, is about journalistic integrity. At a time when the ethics of the tabloids are under scrutiny, here is an example of a "quality" journalist's abuse of power.' A Torygraph spokesperson said: 'We are dismayed by this judgment. We believe the findings that Lynn Barber was reckless and motivated by malice are erroneous, and have adverse implications for freedom of expression.'

L'Oréal has been forced to pull advertising campaigns featuring Pretty Woman star Julia Roberts and supermodel Christy Turlington, after the advertising watchdog upheld complaints by Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson that the images of both were airbrushed. Swinson, who has waged a long-running campaign against 'overly perfected and unrealistic images' of women in adverts, lodged complaints with the Advertising Standards Authority about the magazine campaigns for L'Oréal-owned brands Lancôme and Maybelline. The ASA ruled that both adverts breached the advertising standards code for exaggeration and being misleading and banned them from future publication. L'Oréal's two-page advert featuring Roberts, who is the face of Lancôme, promoted a foundation called Teint Miracle, which it claims creates a 'natural light' that emanates from beautiful skin. It was shot by renowned fashion photographer Mario Testino. The advert for Maybelline featured Turlington promoting a foundation called The Eraser, which is claimed to be an 'anti-ageing' product. In the advert, parts of Turlington's face are shown covered by the foundation while other parts are not, in order to show the effects of the product. Swinson complained that images of both celebrities had been digitally manipulated and were 'not representative of the results the product could achieve.' L'Oréal UK admitted that Turlington's image had been 'digitally retouched to lighten the skin, clean up make-up, reduce dark shadows and shading around the eyes, smooth the lips and darken the eyebrows.' However, it claimed there were still signs of ageing, such as crow's feet, and that the image 'accurately illustrated' the achieveable results. The company, which provided the ASA with pictures of both women 'on the red carpet' to show that they were naturally beautiful, admitted that digital post-production techniques had been used on Roberts but maintained that the changes were not 'directly relevant' and that the advert was an 'aspirational picture.' Swinson said it was 'shocking' that the ASA was not allowed to see the pre-production pictures of Roberts due to contractual agreements with the actor. 'It shows just how ridiculous things have become when there is such fear over an unairbrushed photo that even the advertising regulator isn't permitted to see it,' she added. In the case of both the Roberts and Turlington adverts the ASA said it was not provided with enough information to evaluate what impact the digital enhancements had on the final image. 'On the basis of the evidence we had received we could not conclude that the ad image accurately illustrated what effect the product could achieve, and that the image had not been exaggerated by digital post-production techniques,' the ASA said. 'Pictures of flawless skin and super-slim bodies are all around, but they don't reflect reality,' said Swinson. 'Excessive airbrushing and digital manipulation techniques have become the norm, but both Christy Turlington and Julia Roberts are naturally beautiful women who don't need retouching to look great. This ban sends a powerful message to advertisers – let's get back to reality.'

Katie Price has revealed that she could be interviewing Britain's 'worst criminals' for a TV series. She could start with the glake who thought such a conceit was a good idea. And then continue with her former husband Peter Andre whose musical career could certainly be classed as criminal.

For the latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, his name is Kiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiid Rock. Apparently.

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