Saturday, July 30, 2011

Week Thirty Two: Back In The Party Chambers, Laughter Echoes Loud

Hackgate's starting to get interesting now - not that it hasn't been before, of course. But now, it would seem, the conspirators are starting to turn on each other to save their own skins and that's, usually, the point where the whole rotten house of cards starts to collapse in on itself. Which is always worth watching.
Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator at the pure dead centre of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal, has said that he 'only ever acted on instructions from his employers.' The day after revelations that Sara Payne's phone may have been targeted by Mulcaire, who worked for the News of the World for several years before being jailed for intercepting voicemail messages in early 2007, the statement issued by his solicitors firmly pushed the spotlight back on his former News International employers. Mulcaire said he was 'effectively employed' by the News of the World from 2002 until 2007 'to carry out his role as a private investigator. As he accepted when he pleaded guilty in 2007 to charges of phone interception he admits that his role did include phone hacking. As an employee he acted on the instructions of others,' said the statement. 'There were also occasions when he understood his instructions were from those who genuinely wished to assist in solving crimes. Any suggestion that he acted in such matters unilaterally is untrue.' My emphasis added. 'In the light of the ongoing police investigation, he cannot say any more.' Although the implication seems to be because news International are now, finally, after four years talking about stopping paying him legal bills, he might soon be very willing to say a great deal more. His solicitors added that he 'already expressed his sincere regret to those who have been hurt and affected by his activities and he repeats that apology most sincerely.' It is the second statement made by Mulcaire since the most serious News of the World phone-hacking allegations began to emerge in early July. He issued a public apology the day after the Gruniad Morning Star revealed that murdered teenager Milly Dowler's phone had been hacked and voice messages had been deleted. 'I want to apologise to anybody who was hurt or upset by what I have done,' he said on 5 July, adding that he had worked at the News of the World under 'constant demand for results.' News International, let us not forget, from the time that Muclaire and Clive Goodman were first arrested in 2006 right up until January of this year, insisted that the phone hacking had been carried out by one 'lone rogue reporter' and a freelance private investigator whom Goodman had employed. His statement focuses attention back on News International executives, who face another grilling by MPs on the Commons culture select committee. James Murdoch is likely to be summoned to appear before MPs for a second time after Colin Myler, the News of the World's former editor, and Tom Crone, the paper's former head of legal affairs, challenged his evidence to the select committee on 19 July. Crone and Myler accused Murdoch of being 'mistaken' when he told the committee that he had no knowledge of an e-mail which appeared to implicate another senior member of the News of the World staff in Mulcaire's activities. The pair said they had shown Murdoch the so-called 'For Neville' e-mail, which raised the possibility that the paper's former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck knew about phone hacking at the time that the BSkyB chairman approved payments to victims of phone hacking. Murdoch said earlier this month that he did not have a 'complete picture' when he approved the payments. Committee chair John Whittingdale, who said he wanted to hear from the pair and James Murdoch in writing first, is expected to summon them next month. He would also be asking Myler and Crone to explain why they now think the 'For Neville' e-mail is so significant after they played down its significance when they appeared before the committee in July 2009. 'Tom Crone and Colin Myler told us they had discovered no evidence suggesting that anybody else beyond Clive Goodman had been involved,' Whittingdale said. 'We are now told, we understand from the statement they issued to the media, that they had drawn James Murdoch's attention to the significance of the "For Neville" e-mail. It appeared, when they came before us, that they did not regard that it was significant. But clearly they are now suggesting it is.' The committee is also writing to Jon Chapman, a former director of legal affairs at News International, who challenged Rupert Murdoch's claim to the culture committee that Chapman had a copy of a report 'for a number of years' which showed evidence of illegality at the News of the World. Chapman said that he was responsible for corporate and legal matters at News International and did not have responsibility for dealing with allegations about phone hacking. Mulcaire was jailed in 2007 after pleading guilty to charges of phone interception and is currently appealing against a High Court order which would force him to give more information about hacking to his alleged victims. Mulcaire had claimed the privilege of 'self-incrimination' but lost a High Court battle against the comedian Steve Coogan and the football pundit Andy Gray. There is now a prospect that this appeal against the order arising from this case is abandoned after News International announced it was ceasing to cover Mulcaire's legal fees with 'immediate effect.' Mulcaire's solicitors wrote to News International earlier this week warning the publisher they were still legally liable to indemnify him against legal costs until the appeal case was resolved.

BSkyB has announced a seven hundred and fifty million smackers share buyback and a two hundred and fifty three million quid dividend to appease investors after the broadcaster's shares tumbled this month in the wake of Hackgate. Shareholders watched the value of their investment fall 15.7 per cent during July as News Corp's takeover bid collapsed. Which was, of course, very sad and I'm sure we all feel very sorry for them, don't we? The buyback and dividend was announced in BSkyB's full-year results in which pre-tax profits fell 14.8 per cent year-on-year. Embattled major shareholder News Corp, which owns thirty nine per cent of BSkyB, will not use the buyback as an opportunity to expand its stake in BSkyB. Instead it will sell enough shares to retain the same level of ownership, taking a reported two hundred and ninety three million quid payout. BSkyB said that its voting power would also remain static. James Murdoch will remain as chairman of the company - for the moment - after the board unanimously backed him following long discussions, despite some investors calling for his position to be 'reviewed.' Two directors, Allan Leighton and David Evans, will step down later this year. The company reported that the failed News Corp bid cost fifteen million wonga in administration costs but that a 'break fee' of thirty eight and a half million smackers has been received. BSkyB is the leading pay television service in the UK and also provides telephone and broadband service. It has over ten million television subscribers - including yer actual Keith Telly Topping who thinks News Corp are a bunch of scum who want a good hard kick in the knackers but he refuses to cut off his nose to spite his face and thoroughly enjoys most of the Sky services he gets - and added four hundred and twenty six thousand new customers over the year. It also saw broadband subscribers increase seventy four per cent to 3.3m and reported a rise in the average income from each customer of thirty one pounds to five hundred and thirty nine knicker. Jeremy Darroch, chief executive, said on the BBC's Today programme: 'I think James has got strong support in the shareholder base, he's got strong support in the management base and unanimous support in the board. I'm not going to speculate on things in the future, there are a whole set of inquiries that are going on, they will establish the full facts of what's happened, what we will do is focus on our business - Sky - and keep developing that and keep delivering. Today's announcement of a capital returns programme is a reflection of our strong performance and financial position, which flow directly from delivering for customers in the marketplace.' The business also announced a twenty per cent hike in dividends to 23.28p, which would see an additional two hundred and fifty million quid paid to investors. This takes the total dividend for the year to over four hundred million snots - of which News Corp will receive almost one hundred and sixty million notes.

On a marginally related note, the BBC Business Editor Robert Peston - who has been criticised for being seemingly 'too close' to News International - has blogged that BSkyB's board have effectively put James Murdoch 'on probation.' One member of the board allegedly told Pestinfestation that the decision to back Murdoch 'could not be seen as being forever.' If evidence were to emerge that damaged the credibility of Murdoch, Peston continues, then the board 'would have to reconsider' whether he needed to stand down. 'Of course it is likely we will have to revisit the question of whether James is the best chairman,' said one alleged 'insider'. 'In that sense he is on probation.' Whether or not, like Colin from Ideal, he ends up on actual probation, time will tell.

Scotland Yard has reportedly opened an investigation into allegations of computer hacking by the News of the World, according to Channel Four News. The former army intelligence officer Ian Hurst (also known as Martin Ingram) told the programme that the Metropolitan Police is now formally investigating his claim that his computer was hacked by a private investigator working for the tabloid paper. Hurst said: 'Police officers working for Operation Tuleta have informed me that they have identified information of evidential value in regards to my family's computer being illegally accessed over a sustained period of 2006.' The decision by the Metropolitan Police to proceed to a full criminal investigation was announced this week. The Met has issued a statement, saying: 'Since January 2011 the Metropolitan Police Service has received a number of allegations regarding breach of privacy which fall outside the remit of Operation Weeting, including computer hacking. Some aspects of this operation will move forward to a formal investigation. There will be a new team reporting DAC Sue Akers. The formation of that team is yet to take place.' Earlier this year the BBC's Panorama reported that a News of the World investigator had hacked into Hurst's e-mails when he ran IRA informers in Northern Ireland. Last month, the Gruniad's Nick Davies noted: 'The successful hacking of a computer belonging to the former British intelligence officer Ian Hurst was achieved in July 2006 by sending Hurst an e-mail containing a Trojan programme which copied Hurst's e-mails and relayed them back to the hacker. This included messages he had exchanged with at least two agents who informed on the Provisional IRA — Freddie Scappaticci, codenamed Stakeknife; and a second informant known as Kevin Fulton. Both men were regarded as high-risk targets for assassination. Hurst was one of the very few people who knew their whereabouts.' The information was, according to Panorama, passed to Alex Marunchak then then editor of the Irish edition of the News of the World. Marunchak left News International later in 2006 after twenty five years. He said: 'I have never met with a private investigator whom I asked to hack into computers to obtain confidential e-mails or other information. It is absolutely untrue any unlawfully obtained material was ever received by me at the News of the World's offices in Dublin.'

The Conservative MP and author Louise Bagashite Mensch has apologised to Piers Morgan after using parliamentary privilege to link the CNN presenter and former Mirra editor to Hackgate, putting her error down to 'misreading' a newspaper article. Hours after moving to pre-empt an apparent tabloid operation to blacken her name, the former chick lit author and shameless self-publicist admitted - fairly - that she had been wrong to claim last week that Morgan had openly hacked phones. 'I must apologise to Mr Morgan and the committee for this error about his book,' Mensch wrote in a letter to John Whittingdale, chairman of the culture select committee, after quoting incorrectly from the memoirs of the CNN presenter. Bagashite had claimed that the oily Morgan's memoirs showed he had hacked phones when in fact he had written about how he suspected he was a victim of the practice. She didn't apologise for failing to alert the public that Morgan's memoirs do reveal him to be a first rate knobpiece of the highest order. But, since that isn't, actually, illegal, we'll let her off this one time. Mensch's letter of apology was released by the committee at 2.00pm yesterday, three hours after she moved to pre-empt an apparent tabloid operation to embarrass her. The MP released answers she said she sent to a journalist describing himself (in the plural, it would seem) as 'David Jones Investigative Journalists' who had asked her in an e-mail on 22 July to respond to a series of rather pathetic minor allegations about what she did in her early twenties. These were that Mensch had taken drugs with the violinist Nigel Kennedy at Ronnie Scott's nightclub in Birmingham while working at EMI and written a novel 'of a sexual nature' during working hours at EMI which was the reason for her dismissal from the company. Mensch humoured the journalist as she declined to reply to his e-mail. Instead she released a public statement containing the allegations. She noted, in relation to the former: 'Although I do not remember the specific incident, this sounds highly probable. I thoroughly enjoyed working with Nigel Kennedy, whom I remember with affection. Additionally, since I was in my twenties, I'm sure it was not the only incident of the kind; we all do idiotic things when young. I am not a very good dancer and must apologise to any and all journalists who were forced to watch me dance that night at Ronnie Scott's.' Heh. You know, for all her full-of-her-own-importance conceits, I really do rather warm to Louise Bagashite. She's funny. The MP later posted a message on Twitter saying that her actions in taking drugs had been 'idiotic,' adding that it was 'never a good idea to mess with your brain.' Tell that to your party leader, Louie, he's been doing it for a year and a bit. In responce to the other allegations made by the mysterious - and probably entirely fictitious - Jones, she added: 'Writing the first few chapters of Career Girls on my EMI computer is quite correct. However, it was all done after work hours. It was also not why I was fired by EMI. "Leaving work early" and "missing the odd day at work" along with "inappropriate dress" were the reasons quoted to me.' Naughty girl! There was mystery about the identity of the alleged 'journalist' because the Daily Scum Mail is understood to have quickly established that the e-mail had nothing to do with their David Jones, a prominent writer on the paper. He is currently in Norway reporting on the aftermath of the shootings. Mensch, who is herself in Florida (it's all right for some, innit?!) tweeted that she had hired a PR firm to deal with any further questions from David Jones. Tom Steiner, of the financial PR company Capital MSL, released details of the e-mail account used by Jones (davidjones1232@gmail.com) who contacted Mensch at 7.34pm on 22 July. The e-mail was sent to Mensch a day after Trinity Mirra chief executive Sly Bailey challenged her remarks at the culture committee on the day Rupert and James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks gave evidence. Which is probably entirely co-incidental. Mensch had told the committee on 19 July: 'As a former editor of the Daily Mirra [Piers Morgan] said in his book The Insider recently that that "little trick" of entering a "standard four digit code" will allow "anyone" to call a number and "hear all your messages." In that book, he boasted that using that "little trick" enabled him to win scoop of the year on a story about Sven-Goran Eriksson. That is a former editor of the Daily Mirra being very open about his personal use of phone hacking.' In the event, actually the vile and odious Morgan didn't say that. Bailey dismissed Mensch's claims as 'uncaveated statements' which were wrong. She pointed out that Mensch's remarks referred to a section of Morgan's book in which he described himself as a victim of hacking. Morgan wrote: 'Someone suggested today that people might be listening to my mobile phone messages. Apparently if you don't change the standard security code that every phone comes with, then anyone can call your number and, if you don't answer, tap in the standard four digit code to hear all your messages. I'll change mine just in case, but it makes me wonder how many public figures and celebrities are aware of this trick.' In her letter to Whittingdale, Mensch said that she had made her remarks after misreading an article in the Daily Torygraph on 13 July which reported on a few blogs about Morgan, most specifically Guido Fawkes' 13 July posting Britain's Got Hacking. Mensch wrote: 'In my questions to Rupert and James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks, I wrongly stated that Piers Morgan, formerly editor of the Daily Mirra, had been open about personally hacking phones in a book he wrote. This was based on my misreading of an article in the Daily Torygraph published on 13 July, which covered Mr Morgan's description in his book of how to hack a phone and how he won the Scoop of the Year on the story of Sven-Göran Eriksson and Ulrika Johnson. The Torygraph report covers the claim of a blogger that this story was acquired by phone hacking, and I misread that as Mr Morgan himself claiming this to be true. Therefore, I must apologise to Mr Morgan and the committee for this error about his book.' In a statement, Nigel Kennedy said: 'I am a socialist myself but do remember having some great times with my beautiful and very clever right-wing friend when she was at EMI! Louise is pretty scary and I would warn anyone that it's not a good idea to mess with her.' Bagashite denied another allegation made by this Jones character that she had made 'derogatory references' about her former manager at EMI Roger Lewis in one of her books. She wrote: 'Career Girls was my first novel. I used the names of many real people I knew for minor characters, such as journalists, chauffeurs, bankers, and so forth. Roger Lewis was probably amongst them, as were (off the top of my head) Therese Coffey MP, now my colleague on the Select Committee, Jeremy Quin, Damian Hinds MP, Maurice Oberstein, Rod Clayton, James Robertson, and many more. None of them have ever complained about my using their names in this way.' The Conservative chairman of the Commons culture committee, on which Mensch sits, John Whittingdale resisted the temptation to say that he would be taking Bagashite to the woodshed for all this malarkey and, instead, said: 'It seems to me Louise has been admirably up front and honest and I think her reputation and credibility are enhanced by that.' Labour member of the committee, Tommy Watson (power to the people!), said: 'It seems that someone has been digging into the youth of Louise Mensch. I admire her for what she has done. The fact that they would go back twenty years and try to dig up into her private life is frankly disgusting.' Watson told Newsnight that he did not care what Mensch 'did in nightclubs in the 1990s.' He added: 'What she has effectively done today is give a very big finger to a low-life journalist who is trying to dig up dirt on her from many years ago, probably because she is involved in exposing the truth about hacking and what went on on our committee.' Mensch's revelation that she was apparently targeted by Jones, who seemingly threatened to 'expose' her relatively minor incidents of impropriety during her twenties, is attracting much interest online. There is growing speculation over the identity of 'David Jones,' particularly as to why he copied in both Patrick McLoughlin, the Tory Chief Whip, and the chair of the Conservative Party into the accusatory e-mail to the MP. Her Tory colleague Jacob Rees-Mogg, who was at Oxford at the same time as Mensch said he had only ever seen her enjoying 'a small glass of sherry.' Although there was no proof that there was an attempt to target her because of her involvement in the hacking probe 'the timing is suspicious,' Rees-Mogg added. Mensch's profile has greatly increased recently as a result of her involvement in the phone-hacking scandal, questioning News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch as part of the culture committee. Writing on Twitter, the oily Morgan said: 'Apology graciously accepted Louise Mensch - thank you.' Yeah. You're still an oily knobend, mate. Amusingly, there was also another potential Twitter spat involving Morgan marginally avoided. This one was with Channel Four News presenter Jon Snow, after Snow wrongly reported a fake tweet saying that Morgan had been suspended by CNN. Morgan subsequently tweeted: 'Sorry to disappoint you all, but I'm afraid poor old Jon Snow got duped by a fake Twitter account. I've not been suspended by CNN.' Later, Snow replied, rather wittily: 'Jon Snow suspended from Tweeting Piers Morgan henceforth. Dupe was duped alas. Apologies old chap, sorry, I mean young man!'

And so to this week's Top Telly Tips:

Friday 5 August
Someone's Daughter, Someone's Son - 9:00 ITV - is a new series in which murder victims' friends and families talk about how they have adjusted after the loss of their loved ones. Twenty six-year-old hospital nurse Jane Clough was killed by her ex-partner Jonathan Vass in July 2010. He was on bail awaiting trial for nine counts of rape and violence against her. In this film, those who were close to Jane talk poignantly about the tragedy of her death and their fight to change a system they feel let down by, while experts provide professional insights into the crime. Narrated by Sue Johnston.

For the sporty among us, we've got the best part of an entire night of Live Athletics from 6:30 on BBC2 - featuring the London Grand Prix. John Inverdale is joined by Colin Jackson and Denise Lewis to introduce coverage of the first day of the Diamond League meeting at Crystal Palace, as the athletes continue preparations for this month's World Championships. This evening's schedule includes the finals of the men's one hundred metres and four hundred metres, and the women's two hundred metres and four hundred metres hurdles. Not forgetting the pole vault of course. As if we possibly could.

In the latest episode of Castle - 9:00 Channel Five - a woman drowned in motor oil in a hotel bathtub is identified as a suburban housewife. But, when it turns out she was living under a stolen identity, Castle and Beckett identify a link to a ghost writer who was authoring the victim's memoirs and holds the key to a twenty-year-old unsolved bomb attack. Decent American crime drama, starring Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic, with a guest appearance from Dan Castellaneta - better known, of course, as the voice of Homer Simpson.

Saturday 6 August
In the first of a two part series Ronnie Corbett's Comedy Britain - 9:00 ITV - the diminutive entertainer explores the work of some of Britain's best-known comics, and looks back on his own sixty-year career. In this first episode, Miranda Hart reveals the influence of The Two Ronnies and The Morecambe and Wise Show on her comedy, and Matt Lucas explains how Little Britain outgrew its radio roots to become a TV hit. With contributions by John Cleese, David Mitchell and Stephen Merchant.

The big weekend movie event is Watchmen - 10:00 Channel Four. This long-awaited adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's seminal comic-book mini-series is less a faithful rendition than a totally obsessive frame-by-frame effort - a fanboy's love letter to a complex, adult work which deconstructed the American superhero myth on its original publication in 1986. Lifting whole frames from the source material, director Zack Snyder (who made the similarly luscious 300) delivers a dark, violent epic set in an alternative 1980s in which America was victorious in Vietnam, Richard Nixon remains president and masked crime-fighters have been outlawed by legislation. It's here that brutal and obsessive misanthropic Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) investigates the murder of former 'mask' The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and unravels a complex conspiracy involving an attempt to undermine quantum superman Doctor Manhattan (Billy Crudup). Hyper-stylised visuals capture the noir-style seediness of Moore's world brilliantly; less convincing are the latex costumes and a couple of ill-judged deviations from the text (particularly the actual denouement). Those unfamiliar with the work will probably be completely bewildered, while reaction from fans to this bold but flawed take on one of the genre's sacred cows is likely to be divided. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping rather liked it when it came out although a colleague summed it up rather well when he described the movie as 'all of the best bits of the comic strung together without the aid of a plot!' Yeah, it is a bit like that at times, but watch out for a few excellent performances, particularly Patrick Wilson was a wonderfully world-weary Nite Owl and Malin Åkerman as a particularly feisty Laurie Jupiter.

Sunday 7 August
The continuing drama that is Dragons' Den rolls ever onward - 9:00 BBC2. A pair of female DJs from London demonstrate their turntable skills, with the hippin' and the hoppin' and the bippin' and, indeed, the boppin'. But the Dragons doubt whether they actually have anything to sell. Meanwhile, a Kentish entrepreneur claims that he can give anyone the perfect-looking body for just twenty notes - but what he cannot do is come up with a business plan. An Englishman, a Scotsman and a Norwegian walk into the Den - yet their pitch is far from a joke. Sadly. Other ideas include a comfy caravan product, a never-before-seen inflatable device for cars and sunglasses for dogs. Theo Paphitis lies in wait like a hungry Velociraptor.

Or, you may prefer Law & Order: UK - 9:00 ITV. Brooks and Devlin are mystified by the murders of a popular couple who were stabbed to death whilst they slept. Lacking any leads to possible grievances held or enemies made, the detectives suspect a case of mistaken identity, and the previous owner of the house - a banker caught up in a hedge-fund scandal - emerges as the more likely target. Guest starring Samuel West.

Monday 8 August
The latest Horizon documentary - 9:00 BBC2 - is called Do You See What I See? This film explores the impact of colours on people's lives, and how perceptions of them can be influenced by age, gender and mood. The programme examines scientists' claims that different hues have hidden powers, from the winning properties of red to how blue seemingly makes time speed up.

In Hugh's Fish Fight: The Battle Continues - 9:00 Channel Four - full of himself Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall presents an update on his self-appointed campaign to change commercial fishing laws in a bid to reduce the amount of fish discarded in the seas. Huge - seen on the left with a couple of chums - details the Government's study into a possible ban on fishermen throwing back dead fish when they have used up their EU quota, and discusses the European Commission's proposals for a new policy. He also highlights the pressure generated across Europe for better fishing practices, and the response by major brands and retailers to change their methods of acquiring tuna.

If there were any vague sort of natural justice in the world them Robert Mugabe would have been dangling on the end of a pole and then thrown into the sea to die years ago. Sadly, as we all know, life is generally the opposite and the scum usually not only survives, but thrives. Mugabe's Blood Diamonds - 8:30 BBC1 - is a Panorama report from Zimbabwe uncovering evidence of torture camps and killings in the Marange diamond fields, as the international community argues whether these gems should be sold on the open market. Hilary Andersson asks if President Robert Mugabe should face prosecution for these crimes. To which, of course, the answer is 'he might, but he won't because there's no oil in Zimbabwe and, therefore, it's in nobody's interested to go in there and terminate his command with extreme prejudice.'

The seven remaining hopefuls head to North London, where they create a new routine to be broadcast on a hospital radio station, before performing for an audience of doctors, nurses and medical staff in Show Me the Funny - 9:00 ITV. Alan Davies, Kate Copstick and guest judge Jo Brand then decide who to send home. Presented by Jason Manford.

Tuesday 9 August
Once again, the Tuesday night choice is between the sublime and the ridiculous. In The Hour - 9:00 BBC2 - the effects of Tom's death are still being felt in the newsroom and MI6 have become a regular presence. Keeping a particularly close eye on Freddie. Undeterred, the reporter pays a visit to Tom's widow, convinced that she could hold vital information about why her husband died. Meanwhile, Bel and Hector's affair gathers steam (when we say hot we mean steamin') and Isaac has his eye on Sissy. Ben Whishaw, Romola Garai and Dominic West star in the 1950s-set drama, with the added bonus this week of Jessica Hynes.

Alternatively, there's the final episode of Geordie Finishing School for Girls - 9:00 BBC3. Sporty Steph, Spoiled Fi, Dizzy Lucy and Opinionated Fiona learn about relationships and family values, and are taken partying in Newcastle by their guides. Doon the Bigg Market, one suspects. How they're going to have a proper knicker-dropper of a reet gan canny neet out on the pop when they're down to their last few quid of benefit coin we don't know. But, plenty of radgy charvas manage it each weekend of the calendar in Newcastle so, they'll probably find out how that's done as well. Later, as the participants head back to their posh and privileged lives in the South, they reflect on what they have learned. Let's hope it's that seven hundred quid a month pocket money is not normal, life when you've got no money generally isn't very nice and, most importantly, that Hufty should be running the bloody country. Go about your missionary work with zeal, ladies, the North needs you.

It's the second part of Timeshift: When the Circus Comes to Town - 9:00 BBC4. This looks at how circuses became one of the most popular forms of entertainment in Britain during the Twentieth Century. Footage from the University of Sheffield's National Fairground Archive illustrates how ringmasters such as Billy Smart and Gerry Cottle caught the public's imagination. From the sideshows to the freak shows and early hand-powered rides to the arrival of steam and electricity, the story of fairs is the tale of one of our first forms of popular entertainment. Narrated by Julian Rhind-Tutt.

Possibly the most singularly pointless programme on TV is Restoration Home - 8:00 BBC2 - which appears to exist purely to keep Caroline Quentin in gainful employment between her last ITV travelogue show and the next. If this exercise in twee middle-class nastiness were any more of a turkey it would gobble. This week Quentin visits Landshipping in Pembrokeshire to explore Big House, which was once a building of grandeur and influence, and was built on the success of Wales's coal industry. The latest owner is a local who has dreamed of living in Big House since he was a boy, but progress on the renovation project has been slow, and it remains to be seen whether the property can be restored to its former glory. Last in the series. Thankfully.

Wednesday 10 August
Britain's fascinating history is all around us. Up and down the country there are amazing places to visit and incredible ways to uncover the stories of our shared past. Now historian Dan Snow and BBC presenter Sian Williams are to bring this history to life – live to the nation's living rooms. Nation's Treasures Live - 7:30 BBC1 - sees Dan and Sian present live reports from Britain's most striking historical locations, including restorations, digs and heritage sites. They begin at Dover Castle, exploring not only King Henry II's fortress itself, but the huge array of tunnels cut into the White Cliffs underneath it. This underground network was where the Dunkirk rescue mission was masterminded, and housed a fully functioning hospital, barracks and secret telecommunications hub. Dan and Sian will joined by a team of regular reporters. These include BBC presenter Joe Crowley; forensic historian Xanthe Mallett; social historian Ruth Goodman; and Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces. In a lively mix of film reports, these history enthusiasts will reveal some of the country's most mysterious, surprising and compelling stories. Nation's Treasures Live is part of Hands On History, a BBC Learning campaign offering audiences inspiring opportunities to take the next step from watching programmes to discovering history around them.

It's a good night of factual shows on BBC1. Next up there's Village SOS at 8:00. This is a new series in which the perpetually pregnant Sarah Beeny follows six communities aiming to breathe life back into their area, with the aid of a six-figure grant from the Big Lottery Fund and an army of volunteers. She begins in Talgarth near Brecon, following the residents over the course of one year as they restore a crumbling water mill to working order, creating a bakery and cafe on site.

And, finally in a run of three factual shows for the price of one is the one of the BBC's most popular and rewarding factual formats Who Do You Think You Are? which begins a new series at 9:00 BBC1. The actress June Brown - from EastEnders - delves into her family history. She begins in London, exploring one ancestor's role in the shadowy underworld of Nineteenth Century bare-knuckle boxing, before tracing her heritage even farther back. The trail leads to the Netherlands and the story of relatives divided by war, and a document which reveals the impact of an expulsion from North Africa at the time of the Spanish Inquisition.

Timothy Spall: Back at Sea - 8:30 BBC4 - is a sequel to last year's Somewhere at Sea. In which the actor and his wife, Shane, embark on a journey from Cardiff to Clydebank in their barge the Princess Matilda. The first leg of the voyage begins smoothly as they travel to Milford Haven - but a bungled departure leaves them marooned en route to Fishguard. Shane also gets to make an emotional return to Aberystwyth, and the couple receive a pleasant surprise when they visit the coastal village of Porthdinllaen.

Thursday 11 August
In A Renaissance Education: The Schooling of Thomas More's Daughter - 9:00 BBC4 - the historian Helen Castor (author of She Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth) chronicles the eventful life of Margaret More, the daughter of Henry VIII's Lord Chancellor Thomas More. Her passion for acquiring knowledge went against the established ideas of Tudor society, where women were expected to be quiet and obedient - and the principles that shaped her education would go on to have a lasting impact on English cultural life. Castor is one of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite TV historians, her recent magazine show Making History has been a source of constant delight, so this one looks well worth an hour of your time.

Sadly, it's on opposite Torchwood: Miracle Day - 9:00 BBC1. But, hey, that's what recording devices are for is it not? After the really astonishingly good Magic Jane Espenson episode this week, it'll be interesting to see whether the former Buffy writer's second, The Categories of Life, keeps up the momentum. The team goes undercover and learns the terrible truth about the 'miracle' - but the enemy is closing in, and death is about to make a shocking return to Torchwood. Place your bets now. John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Bill Pullman and Mekhi Phifer star in the SF thriller. We only ask for one thing, Russell - more Rhys!

Monty Halls' Great Irish Escape - 8:00 BBC2 - sees the popular presenter return to his roots as a marine biologist, setting up home for the summer in the fishing village of Roundstone on the west coast of Ireland. Whales, dolphins, porpoises and sharks can be found in the waters off Connemara during their migrations, and so can Monty it would seem. His task is to collect information on the numbers passing through the area before the winter storms arrive.

Finally, if you've been reading one of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's other blogs (ahem), then you'll know that he, the king of the keyboard jungle Mark Deeks and the legend in his own breakfast time that is the housewives choice, Alfie Joey will be playing the Edinburgh Festival in a couple of weeks time. Admittedly, for one night only but, hey, it's still Edinburgh! Anyway, The Culture Show at the Edinburgh Festival - 7:00 BBC2 - is presented by Sue Perkins who is still desperately trying to recover her credibility after the Don't Scare The Hare debacle earlier in the year. Sorry Sue, but war crimes like that take a long time to be forgotten. Anyway, this is the first of three programmes featuring highlights from this year's event, which begins with Marc Almond discussing his role in the new musical play Ten Plagues. AS Byatt talks about her latest novel prior to her appearance at the Book Festival and Alastair Sooke assesses an exhibition of work by American artist Robert Rauschenberg.

On to the news, now. Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat has suggested that the series is unlikely to relocate to America. Spin-off show Torchwood is, of course, now co-produced by the BBC and US cable network Starz, but Moffat told reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour that a similar move is unlikely for its parent series. Moffat said: 'It's entirely about story. I don't think in order to make Doctor Who successful in America you have to make stories set in America.' However, the writer admitted that he had enjoyed filming on location in Utah for recent two-part story The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon. 'I'd like to [film more in America], I [just] don't think it's necessary,' he said. 'But absolutely, we like coming here.' Moffat also revealed that future episodes of Doctor Who will continue to explore the dark side of the show's lead character. 'The dark side of a man who could have caused the end of the universe is considerable,' he teased. Moffat also said that The Doctor will never appear in Torchwood. The writer argued that the character would not be an 'appropriate' addition to the more adult spin-off series, but he hinted again that John Barrowman's character could well continue to appear in both programmes. 'The Doctor could never go to Torchwood,' Moffat told TVLine. 'Russell and I both agree on that. Doctor Who has a tremendous relationship with children in Britain. They'd want to watch Torchwood then, and it's not really a children's show.' With episodes like this week's with Captain Jack being sucked off by a chap, it's hard not to agree! Moffat further suggested that he had planned for Captain Jack to cameo in Doctor Who's most recent episode, A Good Man Goes To War. 'I'd have [brought back Captain Jack] for A Good Man Goes To War, but John was busy doing Miracle Day. When we've got a good story, we'll do it. You can't just bring somebody back and say, "That's a story." I won't be thinking, "How do you bring Captain Jack back?" I'll be thinking, "You know what this needs? We need to bring Jack back for it."' Barrowman himself previously declared that he would return to Doctor Who 'at the drop of a hat.' He revealed at Comic-Con last week that he would love a role during the episodes around Doctor Who's fiftieth anniversary in 2013.

Waste-of-space disgraceful old horrorshow (and drag) Sarah Ferguson has become the latest desperate non-entity tipped to appear in Channel Five's first series of Celebrity Big Brother. The fifty one-year-old Duchess of York (she had ten thousand quid) would become the first Royal to enter the Big Brother house if she takes part next month. Ferguson was involved in a News of the World 'Cash for Access' exposé in 2010. And even more scandalously, the wretched and patronising The Duchess on the Estate for ITV for which, frankly, she should have been horsewhipped through the streets till she begged for mercy. She has infamously suffered from 'financial problems' in recent years. 'They are offering big appearance fees this year to try and draft in some massive names,' a 'source' allegedly told the Metro. Other alleged 'stars' (and I use that word in no way literally) linked to the reality show by tabloids include Jedward, Steve Strange, Kerry Katona, Charlie Sheen and Lembit Opik. You just need to add Andy Townsend and the Chuckle Brothers to that lot and you've got the punchline to just about every joke Mad Frankie Boyle has ever told.

James Corden is preparing to run the two hundred and eighty miles from Paris to London in aid of Sport Relief, after being dared by John Bishop. One hopes, in particular, that he tries to do the twenty odd miles from Calais to Dover without the aid of a boat because, to be honest, that I'd watch. The very unfunny man has reportedly begun training, and is about to see a doctor to see whether he is physically up to the task. He wrenched his knee three weeks ago, leaving him in agony. What a shame. Hope it's nothing terminal.

The BBC has defended its decision to renegotiate its Formula One contract and share coverage with Sky in a deal expected to save the corporation at least twenty five million smackers a year, claiming that it would have otherwise been forced to ditch the sport altogether. The BBC has given up the final two years of its exclusive five-year deal, which cost around fifty million knicker a year, and reinvested the proceeds in a new shared deal with Sky that runs until 2018 but will mean it shows only half the races live. The BBC's director of sport, Barbara Slater, would only say that the savings were 'genuinely significant,' but it is understood that the corporation is saving at least twenty five million a year. The decision has already been criticised by some of the BBC's on-air presenters, including Martin Brundle, and some of the gobbier fans who will have to subscribe to Sky Sports to follow every race live. But Slater said: 'This deal strikes a really good balance between continuing to make Formula One available and operating in tough financial times.' Some of the teams gathering for this weekend's Grand Prix in Hungary were quick to point out that their approval for the deal would be needed in the new Concorde agreement which governs the sport, the current one being due to run out in 2012. Given that BSkyB will be paying far more than twenty five million notes per year for full live rights, which it will exploit across all platforms, the expectation is that Bernie Ecclestone has again negotiated a significant increase of the total flowing into the sport. Ecclestone, the Formula One supremo, hailed the deal as 'super,' saying: 'There will be highlights as well as live coverage on two different networks now, so we get the best of both worlds.' The deal is modelled on a similar arrangement with the Masters golf, where the BBC now shows the final two days live and Sky shows the entire event. Slater said: 'Any loss is a shame. But in a very tough financial climate, both of those deals make real sense and deliver real value and continued access for the audience. It may well have been we would have had to have lost these rights simply because of our ability to manage our portfolio going forward. The renegotiation has allowed us to come up with such a good package that we have tried to make this sustainable.' The loss of exclusive Grand Prix rights could help the BBC when it comes to retaining the rights to other flagship sports properties such as Wimbledon, the current deal for which runs until 2014. 'There will always be events we would want to acquire exclusively. In each individual sport, it's possible to take different approaches,' Slater said. The BBC will show the qualifying and the race from around half the Grands Prix, including two of the flagships ones Silverstone and Monaco and well as the final race of the season. Sky will show all the races live, plus extensive coverage of the build up and qualifying, and Slater said there was a possibility that they could share production resources and even on‑screen talent. 'We will seek to share production resources where appropriate, that is something we are working through.' Sky Sports has said it will not run adverts during its coverage and will instead limit them to the pre and post-race show. They proved highly unpopular when the sport was covered on ITV and a Sky Sports spokesman said: 'We won't have adverts while the races are running. We know they were very unpopular in the past and we don't have to go down that route.' It is understood that the deal was signed at 5am in order to enable Sky to unveil it before it announced its results to the City. The new deal will give added impetus to ongoing attempts by News Corp, which owns thirty nine per cent of BSkyB, to put together a consortium to buy Formula One from the venture capital group CVC. Brundle, the former driver who is one of the faces of the BBC's Formula One coverage, said he had not found out about the deal tweeted: 'Found out last night, no idea how it will work yet – I'm out of contract, will calmly work through options. Not impressed.' The popularity of Formula One has blossomed in recent years with the success of the British drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. But it has not been a regular ratings winner for the BBC because many of the races are broadcast outside of peak time. The flagship races remain a big draw, however, and the sport reaches audiences that the BBC otherwise finds it hard to attract. This year's British Grand Prix peaked with 6.6 million viewers on 10 July. The race, won by Fernando Alonso, averaged 4.9 million viewers across three hours of coverage on BBC1. It was substantially up on the 3.6 million average audience who watched the British Grand Prix – on ITV – in 2001. The BBC was the traditional home of Formula One motor racing for many years until the rights were bought by ITV in 1997. Formula One remained on the commercial broadcaster until 2009 when it returned to the BBC and their extensive coverage - presented by Jake Humphrey and including Brundle, David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan - had been widely applauded. ITV exercised a break clause to ditch the sport with two years of its deal remaining to free up cash for Champions League football. The presenter of BBC's Formula One television coverage Humphrey, said on Twitter: 'Feels like the right time to say how proud I am of the whole BBC F1 production team and the programmes we've produced for you guys since 2009.' Jeremy Darroch, the BSkyB chief executive, said that the satellite broadcaster became involved in the negotiations for Formula One very late in the process. Channel Four reportedly expressed an interest in buying the rights, while ITV rejected the idea of making a bid. 'Formula One is in the top tier of sports properties,' Darroch said. 'It is very much a blue riband event.' The BBC has been under pressure to cut costs since last year's hastily agreed licence fee settlement with the government. The level of the licence fee was frozen and the corporation took on a number of new funding responsibilities, including the BBC World Service, prompting the director general, Mark Thompson, to embark on a twenty per cent cost-cutting exercise aimed at saving six hundred million smackers a year by 2014. Formula One had been mooted as one of the sports it was most likely to drop in a bid to save money on rights deals. The future of its Wimbledon coverage was also speculated on, but it was always likely to prioritise tennis over motor racing.

Harry Hill has dragged up for the surreal new Sky Atlantic comedy This Is Jinsy, in which he plays Joon Boolay, who administers punishments on the fictional island. Crikey.
The Daily Mirra has been fined fifty thousand smackers and the Sun eighteen grand for contempt of court for articles published about a man arrested on suspicion of murdering Joanna Yeates. Three senior judges ruled that the tabloid newspapers breached contempt laws with their reporting of the arrest of Christopher Jefferies, Yeates's landlord, who was later released without charge and was entirely innocent of any involvement in the crime. Dominic Grieve, the attorney general, launched the contempt action against the newspapers in May, arguing that reports about Jefferies were 'so exceptional, so memorable' that it presented a 'risk of serious prejudice' to any potential future trial of Yeates's killer. In the same month Vincent Tabak pleaded guilty to manslaughter but not the murder of the twenty five-year-old landscape architect, who was found dead on Christmas Day near Bristol. Tabak is due to face trial at Bristol crown court in October. The attorney general said after Friday's ruling: 'I welcome today's judgment. While there was a great amount of speculation and copy relating to Mr Jefferies across much of the media, these three pieces of newspaper coverage were a different matter. They breached the Contempt of Court Act and the court has found that there was a risk of serious prejudice to any future trial. This prosecution is a reminder to the press that the Contempt of Court Act applies from the time of arrest.' Earlier on Friday, Jefferies accepted substantial libel damages from eight newspapers – including the Mirra and the Scum – over stories relating to his arrest. In the contempt ruling handed down at the High Court on Friday, Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Owen described the Daily Mirra articles as 'extreme' and 'substantial risks to the course of justice.' The judges said the Scum's coverage of Jefferies created a 'very serious risk' that any future court defence would be damaged. 'These articles [in the Sun] would have certainly justified an abuse of process argument, and although their effect is not as grave as that of two series of articles contained in the Mirra, the vilification of Mr Jefferies created a very serious risk that the preparation of his defence would be damaged,' the judges said. 'At the time when this edition of the Sun was published it created substantial risks to the course of justice. It therefore constituted a contempt under the strict liability rule.' Eight national newspapers have made public apologies today to Jefferies for the libellous allegations made against him. In addition to those charged with contempt, the Sunday Mirra, the Daily Record, the Daily Scum Mail, the Daily Lies, the Scotsman and the Daily Scum Express - have also agreed to pay him substantial libel damages, thought to total six figures. The solicitor for Jefferies, Louis Charalambous, told Mr Justice Tugendhat in the high court hearing that the newspapers had acknowledged the falsity of the allegations, which were published in more than forty articles. Yeates, a Bristol architect, was killed in December last year. After her body was discovered, Jefferies, who was her landlord, was arrested by police. In subsequent days, into early January, the newspapers ran a series of articles about Jefferies that were inaccurate and defamatory. Charalambous, of Simons Muirhead and Burton, said after the hearing: 'Christopher Jefferies is the latest victim of the regular witch hunts and character assassination conducted by the worst elements of the British tabloid media. Many of the stories published in these newspapers are designed to "monster" the individual, in flagrant disregard for his reputation, privacy and rights to a fair trial. These newspapers have now apologised to him and paid substantial damages.' Bambos Tsiattalou, the solicitor who advised Jefferies after he was taken into police custody, said that the media were given a fair warning to be careful about what they published. He said: 'We warned the media by letter, immediately following Mr Jefferies' arrest, in the strongest possible terms to desist from publishing stories which were damaging or defamatory. We were dismayed that our warnings went unheeded and are pleased that the newspapers in settling Mr Jefferies' claims have acknowledged the extent of the damage to his reputation.' The papers' publishers - News International, Trinity Mirra, Daily Scum Mail & General Trust, Scum Express Newspapers and Johnston Press - will now have to fork out substantial sums in damages and legal fees amounting to mucho wonga. But Charalambous pointed out that once the rules over conditional fee (no win, no fee) agreements change next year, 'the victims of tabloid witch hunts will no longer have the same access to justice.'

Meanwhile, the Press Complaints Commission has confirmed that its chair, Baroness Buscombe, is to step down following massive and mounting criticism of the press watchdog's handling of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal. Buscombe said that she will not seek to extend her tenure as PCC chair beyond the end of her three-year term when it expires in January, although it is understood that she will leave as soon as a replacement is appointed sometime in the autumn. The Gruniad revealed late on Thursday that Buscombe was expected to leave the PCC. She added that leaving the PCC will allow her to be a 'campaigner for change' and contribute to Lord Justice Leveson's multiple inquiries 'unfettered' by her role at the press watchdog. Leveson's judicial inquiry is expected to begin in October. 'I am pleased that the commission want me to continue in post until my successor has been appointed,' said Buscombe. 'Thereafter, I will be able to be a campaigner for change from outside the organisation. I wish to contribute to the Leveson inquiry and participate fully in the overall debate regarding reform, unfettered by my role as chairman of the PCC.' She added that she was leaving with several points to make, the first being that the 'public rightly demands stronger powers for dealing with the misconduct of the press. They must get them,' she said. The second point was that she believes the existing work of the PCC needs to 'continue and be built upon. In this world of shifting media provision, I am convinced the answer to ethical concerns about the press is not statutory intervention,' Buscombe added. 'What is needed is a greater sense of accountability among editors and proprietors. A PCC with increased powers and reach remains the best way of achieving that.' The PCC said it was grateful that she had made the decision to leave now so that a successor can be found in time to 'assist and support' the Leveson inquiry. 'Peta has made a major contribution to the PCC, and her work has led to many improvements over the last couple of years,' the PCC said. 'She leaves the commission structurally stronger than when she came in, and in a better position to continue its evolution.' However, the Media Standards Trust, a long-time critic of the PCC, welcomed the move, arguing that there has 'clearly been a failure of leadership at a time when the PCC needed firm direction.' The MST said that Buscombe presided over a 'wholly inadequate' investigation into phone hacking, adding that her departure 'should not deflect the need for, and serious discussion about, the comprehensive reform of the self-regulatory system. As we have previously argued, the fundamental problems of the PCC are structural – in terms of its lack of independence from the industry, the opacity of its funding arrangements, and its lack of adequate formal powers,' the organisation said.

NATO says it has disabled three Libyan state TV satellite transmission dishes in the capital, Tripoli, through 'a precision air strike.' It said the operation was intended to stop 'inflammatory broadcasts' by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's regime. And, to knock out their ability to watch reruns of Top Gear on Dave, of course. NATO said that it was in the process of 'assessing the effect of the strike.' Well, if anybody in Libya gets online and says 'did you see that James May in a Lamborghini on Dave yesterday?' then, I'd venture, they weren't as successful as NATO might've liked. Coalition forces began operations in Libya in March, under a UN mandate authorising military action for the protection of civilians. Libyan rebels began an uprising against Gaddafi in February. Despite NATO's intervention, they have struggled to break a military deadlock. A NATO statement said the strike was 'performed by NATO fighter aircraft using state-of-the-art precision guided munitions,' and that there had been 'due consideration and careful planning to minimise the risks of casualties. Our intervention was necessary as TV was being used as an integral component of the regime apparatus designed to systematically oppress and threaten civilians and to incite attacks against them,' it said. It added that the strike would 'reduce the regime's ability to oppress civilians' but also 'preserve television broadcast infrastructure that will be needed after the conflict.' Libyan state TV was still on air following the NATO statement. Reports from Tripoli said a series of loud explosions were heard in the city centre late on Friday evening. Libyan state TV reported that civilian targets had been hit, though this could not be verified. Top Gear remains on Dave, incidentally.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day what's needed for all of those involved in Hackgate, clearly, are the thoughts of former prime minister Paul Weller and his Style Council.
Work that Hammond, secretary of the interior Merton Mick!

1 comment:

The Nth Doctor said...

That is some obscure 45 of the day, Mr T. But muchos kudos to you for unearthing this underrated b-side gem