Saturday, July 09, 2011

Week Twenty Nine: I'll Try My Best To Make Everything Succeed

They say that a week is a long time in politics - as this particular week has shown, in terms of the media, five days is a lifetime. So, if there's anybody who hasn't been hacked by Glenn Mulcaire yet, please form an orderly queue at the Old Bailey whilst we get on with the latest twists and turns in this breathtakingly gripping - and yet, ultimately rather sad and depressing - cascade of power, corruption and lies. We've come a long long way together, dear blog reader, and we've many a mile to go before we sleep yet.
We'll start off with a proper - bona-fide - media story (which is, after all, what this blog is supposed to be all about), albeit, one inextricably linked to Hackgate. Newsnight, it has been reported, has pulled in its best audience of 2011 so far for its coverage of the News of the World's phone hacking scandal. On Wednesday night, the Jeremy Paxman-fronted current affairs review picked up 1.32m between 10.30pm and 11.20pm on BBC2. Paxman's bulletins on Monday and Tuesday showed the first signs of increased interest in the programme. Newsnight, which featured Labour's John Prescott for Thursday's analysis and debate of the scandal, has been losing audience share in the last three years. While ITV and Channel Four only saw a marginal ratings boost for their coverage of the malarkey, BBC1's Question Time was watched by 3.6m this week, a million more than the previous episode which didn't have any hacking or buggery therein. Ordinary BBC News bulletins have also soared in popularity, staying close to five million viewers for the whole week. And, speaking of Newsnight, Steve Coogan has declared himself 'delighted' with the News of the World's upcoming closure. The comedian, actor and writer - an alleged early target of phone hacking by the mud-slinging Sunday tabloid - praised the outcome as 'a victory for decency and humanity. I have to say that [this week] is a momentous event. A lot of people have been saying it's a bad day for the press. I think it's a wonderful day for the press. People knew this was going on but accepted it because they thought it was part of the landscape to tolerate this kind of behaviour,' he told Newsnight presenter horrible Emily Maitlis. 'Let's not forget that the News of the World is, as far as I'm concerned - and always has been - misogynistic, xenophobic, single parent-hating, asylum seeker-hating and it's gone to the wall, and I'm delighted!' So, yar-boo sucks to you, Rupert! Finger-on-nose and all that. Coogan said that he had been warned as early as 2002 that his phone had been hacked. But, he claimed, he was also warned - although he didn't say by whom - that he could not 'go after' Andy Coulson - who became deputy editor of the newspaper in 2000 and editor in 2003 - because Coulson was 'untouchable.' Coogan credited the 'tenacity of the Guardian and a few individuals who had the guts to take on an intimidating organisation.' Backed by fellow guest, from BBC director general Greg Dyke, Coogan then attacked ex-News of the World reporter Paul McMullan in a fiery exchange in which Steve Coogan described McMullan as 'a risible individual' and 'morally bankrupt.' 'I think you are a walking PR disaster for the tabloids because you don't come across in a sympathetic way,' Coogan told him. Although, to be completely fair to McMullan, he did get one ruddy good dig back at Coogan with 'how many Murdoch movies have you been in?' Touché! Musician Billy Bragg Tweeter following the episode: 'After an unmissable week, Newsnight really excelled itself tonight with Steve Coogan and Will Self. Great public service broadcasting.'

Following confirmation that the News of the World is to close this Sunday, which brought rejoicing and unlimited happiness throughout the land it would seem, a number of celebrities have been tweeting their reaction to the news. Which - perhaps inevitably - fascinated everyone and gained loads of column inches in newspapers - tabloid, and otherwise. And, indeed, here. A case of Oh, the irony? Don't ask me, mate, I just report the news. Or what passes for news these days. Allegedly. Anyway, George Michael - remember him, he used to be in Wham? - said: 'Today is a fantastic day for Britain. These beliefs are in no way an excuse for any of my behaviour in recent times. I was happy to do my time, because I was so ashamed. But I believe every individual, whether privileged or the average citizen, deserves the law. And many of us rich or poor have been denied it by News International. You gotta have faith in Karma. Today it's very real. And I hope [sic] the families of Milly Dowler and all the others who died.' I think you missed a word or two out there, George, but we get the general drift. And, probably, share most of the sentiments. Meanwhile, critic and scourge of hypocrisy Charlie Brooker added: 'Starting to wonder if Rebekah Brooks literally owns some kind of nuclear bomb. Feels like the tatters of [her] reputation are being scooped up and tattered again. Soon they'll be down to an atomic level.' Actor Simon Pegg put it all into a Star Trek context (which was novel): 'To put the NotW thing in bastardised geek speak "Sometimes the needs of the many [are outweighed] by the needs of the few, or the one."' On the other hand, slimy ITV presenter Phillip Schofield felt moved to say: 'I feel sorry for the majority of good, honest people who will loose their jobs on the paper. Is it the sacrifice of a pawn to save a king? One things [sic] pretty sure, tonight is probably the safest night in years to leave an incriminating voicemail! Will we see the Sunday Sun in it's place? No, it isn't because the Sunday Sun is a well-established, family friendly and entirely reputable local newspaper in the North East of England and has been since 1919. You might see the Scum on Sunday which, one imagines, will continue to give worthless arse-licking individuals like yourself plenty of column inches. So, you'll be happy about that, no doubt. Oh, and very tasteless voicemail comment there by the way. Discussing rumours about a Sun on Sunday, although also seeming confused about the title, presenter Richard Madeley wrote: 'I don't think a Sunday Sun would succeed as things stand - people aren't stupid. But I'm sure this is all about protecting the BSkyB buyout.' Channel Four News presenter Jon Snow said: 'Watch for the Sunday Sun the Sunday after the News of the World dies this weekend? At the rising of the Sun a going down of the scandal?' Music producer Mark Ronson compared News International's chief executive to the creative director of Vogue, tweeting: 'Rebekah Brooks comes off a bit like Grace Coddington's amoral bizarro twin.' A reference that, frankly, is likely to sail so far over the heads of most dear blog readers it might as well be flying with the Space Shuttle. Ex-Oasis songwriter Noel Gallagher added: 'It's probably the most gross an infringement of people's civil liberties as there is ever likely to be, particularly in the case of that young girl who died. It's the dark side of the media.' Word, Mr G. Meanwhile, the - ahem - 'rapper, yer honour' Mr For Example added one very pertinent thought: 'The News of the World is being shut down? How is Kerry Katona gonna feed her kids?' Do you know, I don't think anybody else had considered that particular ramification. Well, let's call the whole thing off, immediately. We cannot let poor Kerry starve. Comedian Rufus Hound said: 'No-one who bought NotW did so because it appealed to them intellectually, no? Don't worry. The Star's still going.' And, then, he got of mouthful of impertinence from soon-to-be-unemployed News of the World hack full-of-his-own-importance Ian Hyland for his trouble. As noted yesterday, you're going to have to be a bit nicer to people when you're queuing up at the Department of Work, Health and Pensions in a couple of months time, matey. Seriously, it'd hard not to feel some sympathy for those staff what are to lose their jobs but, on the other hand, now that they're on benefits, they'll qualify for a two hundred pound a week council flat, a flat screen telly and other sundry luxury items. At least, that's what several stories that particular newspaper has run over the last few years has claimed. Finally, comic John Bishop, from Liverpool and therefore used to the concept of mass unemployment, noted: 'News Of The World - glad to see you gone but you have to feel sorry for Ryan Giggs - if he could have held on a few a more weeks!' Yeah, yeah, all right, we've all had our bit of fun with this but, let's remember, there is a very serious story at the core of all this malarkey.

And then, when we've remembered that, let's get back to more jokes.

It's also worth noting that most of Saturday's papers continued to lead with this story, often with very portentous and grave headlines. Like, for instance, the good old reliable Gruniad who've done so much to keep this story in the public eye when nobody else wanted to touch it.
Although not everyone did. As Rufus Hound wisely notes, at least those two million depressing bonehead numskulls who will miss the News of the World's patented brand of celebrity-sex-football-royalty-and-more-sex obsessed bollocks will still have the Daily Lies to fall back on.
Sometimes, dear blog reader, no punchline is necessary.

The News of the World film critic Robbie Collin has described the moment when staff were told the paper would close. 'This is the way the News of the World ends,' he said paraphrasing TS Eliot - or, possibly, because he's a film critic, Apocalypse, Now - 'not with a bang but a whimper.' Dan Wootton meanwhile, the showbusiness editor of the News of the World, who has probably never even heard of TS Eliot (or Apocalypse, Now because it hasn't got Simon Cowell and a public voting element in it) will be among today's bleary-eyed staff who worked late into Friday night on the last edition of the newspaper. 'About to leave the News of the World newsroom for the second to last time,' he wrote online. 'A very late night. One more day to go. We're all very emotional.' But, tragically, not so emotional that he won't be able to file one more horseshite column about 'The X Factor, Cheryl and Ashley, Kate Moss, TOWIE and all of that good stuff.' Good riddance to bad rubbish. Although one imagines that, after his puke-inducing endorsement of Saint Rebekah of Wapping and all her works on the BBC News Channel on Thursday, he's probably expecting a job on the Scum on Sunday. I'm sure they'll appreciate 'The X Factor, Cheryl and Ashley, Kate Moss, TOWIE and all that good stuff' mate.

Rupert Murdoch is expected to arrive in London later to 'take charge' of dealing with the phone-hacking crisis that has engulfed his News International group. If, indeed, it can be taken charge of. This comes as staff at the News of the World prepare the final edition of the paper, axed after a week of some astonishing hacking claims. Labour is writing to the prime minister to urge the immediate appointment of a judge to lead an inquiry into the scandal. Late on Friday, an unnamed sixty three-year-old became the third man arrested during the day as part of the police probe into both hacking and payments to police officers. He was arrested at an address in Surrey 'on suspicion of corruption.' Police carried out a search of the property. Meanwhile, former News of the World editor Andy Coulson and former royal editor Clive Goodman were released on police bail after being arrested earlier on Friday. Coulson, forty three, had attended Lewisham police station in south London by prior appointment, and was arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications and alleged corruption. Goodman, fifty three, who was jailed in 2007 for phone hacking, was arrested on suspicion of corruption. In a letter to the prime minister on Saturday, the shadow lack of culture secretary Ivan Lewis asks for 'immediate discussions so that by the end of the day we are in a position to agree the appointment of the judge' to head one of the two independent inquiries into the scandal. According to BBC political correspondent Ben Geoghegan, 'Labour say their letter has been prompted by reports that millions of e-mails had been deleted at News International in an attempt to obstruct Scotland Yard's investigations into phone hacking. 'That claim has been denied by the company,' he adds. Lewis writes: 'In view of the fact that the News of the World is shutting down, it is a matter of great urgency that any documentary evidence, including files and e-mails, is [sic] preserved to enable a proper inquiry into these serious allegations to take place.' On Friday, David Cameron - with a massive sweat-on - revealed details of two new inquiries relating to the scandal. He said that a judge-led inquiry would look into 'why did the first police investigation fail so abysmally; what exactly was going on at the News of the World and what was going on at other newspapers.' So, they're after a judge and they don't want any fudge. Sound. A second inquiry would examine the 'ethics and culture of the press,' he added. Well, you don't need an enquiry to sort those two questions out. They haven't got either. Next ... Defending his decision to employ Coulson as his director of communications in 2007, Cameron also said: 'I decided to give him a second chance but the second chance didn't work. The decision to hire him was mine and mine alone.' Coulson denied all knowledge of any alleged phone hacking when he was News of the World editor from 2003 until 2007. The prime minister also questioned the tenability of his friend well-known Crystal Tipps-lookalike Rebekah Brooks as News International chief executive considering that she was editor of the News of the World at the time murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's phone was allegedly being hacked. It has been revealed that Brooks is no longer heading the firm's own inquiry into the scandal. She told News International staff in an e-mail that those carrying out the investigation would now report to Joel Klein, a US-based senior executive at the company's owner, News Corp. On Friday, Brooks held a meeting with soon-to-be-departing News of the World staff at its headquarters in Wapping. A 'source' present at the meeting told the BBC that she had implied even worse revelations were to follow and informed staff they would eventually understand why the Sunday tabloid had to close. She also denied closing the News of the World was a 'cynical ploy,' claimed that she, too, was a victim, talked about there being a Grunaid-led a 'witch hunt' and apologised for the decision to close the paper. So, you know, nowt like covering all the bases. Her comments were secretly recorded by one of the staff present and leaked to the media. Sky news (who, let's remember, Rebekah Brooks is - ultimately - the boss of) have been playing it relentlessly and, seemingly, with some enjoyment at watching her squirm. Oh, and there's also the supreme irony of somebody secretly recording a News International executive to provide the media with a story since that's what News International newspapers have been doing for years. Laugh? I did, actually. The one hundred and sixty eight-year-old tabloid is accused of hacking into phones of crime victims, their families, numerous celebrities, footballers and politicians. The police have so far identified around four thousand possible targets and the number appears to be rising every day. The controversy has raised questions about the proposed takeover of satellite broadcaster BSkyB by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, ultimate owner of the News of the World. Broadcasting regulator Ofcom has now written to the chairman of the Commons culture committee - John Whittingdale - highlighting the watchdog's duty to ensure that anyone holding a broadcasting licence is a 'fit and proper person' to do so. The letter says 'in considering whether any licensee remains a fit and proper person to hold broadcasting licences Ofcom will consider any relevant conduct of those who manage and control such a licence.' Which is, of course, long overdue but still welcome. Although it must be asked why is it only now that people are asking is Rupert Murdoch a 'fit and proper person' to own a broadcaster when he's been after doing so for var nigh twenty years?

Well-known Crystal Tipps-lookalike Rebekah Brooks, the embattled chief executive of News International, insisted yesterday that the company had no choice but to close the News of the World because 'worse revelations' about the paper's activities were yet to emerge. Brooks's admission, in an address to staff, followed a week in which the paper had been accused of hacking the mobile telephones of murder victims and the families of murder victims, those killed in terrorist atrocities and soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. You have to wonder how much worse can it possibly get if there's still worse to come? Speaking to staff a day after they were told that they would be made redundant following the publication of the final News of the World on Sunday, Brooks was repeatedly challenged by angry journalists to provide them with explanations as to just what the fuck had been going on on her watch. She declined to do so. Staff were reportedly furious about losing their jobs when the vast majority of them had nothing whatsoever to do with the scandal - understandably - while Brooks, who was editor when much of the wrongdoing took place, will remain in her post. The Murdoch family was said to have twice rejected Brooks's offer of resignation on Thursday — offers which David Cameron said yesterday he would have accepted. And he's one of her best friends so, you know, you've really got to start asking 'with friends like that who needs enemies'? Then again, as noted above, he did have a big sweat-on at the time. James Murdoch, News International's chairman - from henceforth known as Daddy's Boy The Deadly Assassin - only stripped Brooks of her role leading the company's internal investigation into the scandal, it emerged. He rejected calls from ... well, just about everybody, frankly, that Brooks be sack, dragged through the streets, given a public hiding and then surrendered to the authorities to do with her as they please. Brooks said that she felt 'betrayed' by the 'individuals responsible' - always assuming that one of those individuals wasn't herself which is, at this time, still a question to be answered - for the phone hacking. She also reportedly told staff that she was staying on because she was 'like a conductor,' absorbing the criticism of the company. Rather than 'like a conductor', collecting tickets and hoying those who haven't paid off the bus. Apparently. She also said that she would be making a 'quick decision' about the Sun appearing seven days a week. She added that she would try to find the two hundred staff other jobs within the organisation. News of the World journalists accused Brooks of 'contaminating' them. 'Can you see that by your actions yesterday, your calling our newspaper toxic, we have all been contaminated by that toxicity by the way we've been treated,' one employee was heard to tell her in a memorable exchange in the secret recording taken of the meeting. He added: 'Can't you see the bigger picture? You're making the whole of News International toxic, and there's an arrogance there that you think we'd want to work for you again.' Brooks seemed somewhat taken aback by this but replied that there was 'no arrogance coming from this standpoint.' Well, that's one viewpoint. She added: 'I don't see there's anyone of you in this room here looking at me now that we wouldn't want to work [with] because we know there's no toxicity attached to you guys in the room.' That's the most uses of the word 'toxic' in one place at one time since, well, since Britney recorded 'Toxic', frankly. She admitted that the company was in 'a very bad moment' - Brooks this is, not Britney Spears - but declared that it would continue to 'invest in journalism.' And bent policemen which it has been accused of investing heavily in? Probably not, I'm guessing. Journalists said that they were being treated like 'criminals' yesterday after security guards appeared at the doors of the newsroom and the company barred them from using the Internet. That's not so much the way criminals are treated, guys. More like unruly teenagers who can't be trusted to do what they're told. 'We turned up for work with a lot of enthusiasm, determined to make the last News of the World a great success. But when we got here we found security guards to keep an eye on us and our Internet access blocked,' said one 'source'. 'We can't get on Facebook, personal e-mail accounts have been totally blocked and lots of people are struggling to even get on the Internet, which makes researching stories incredibly hard.' Another member of staff added: 'We are being treated like criminals. The staff here now have done nothing wrong, we are innocent in all of this, as the people responsible for this mess no longer work here. It's an absolute insult after they took our jobs away.'

'It was a strategy of cover-up, quarter-admission, and foot dragging that took years to unravel,' notes the Gruniad, beginning with the first court case brought in the wake of jailing of the News of the World's then royal editor Clive Goodman and the newspaper's one hundred thousand pounds-per-year private investigator Glenn Mulcaire. At the trial it emerged that five other people – none of whom were members of the Royal household, the subjects of Goodman's work. Rather, they were prominent individuals; the MP Simon Hughes, the model Elle Macpherson, PR man Max Clifford, football agent Sky Andrew and Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballer's Association. Nevertheless, News International chose to gloss over the glaring contradiction of a court case which prompted the resignation of Andy Coulson as editor, taking the 'ultimate sacrifice' for activities which, he claimed, he was unaware of. In March 2007, the company's then executive chairman Les Hinton was clear that the hacking scandal was very narrow in scope. Giving evidence to MPs on the culture media and sport select committee Hinton said, when asked if Goodman was the only person of staff who knew about phone hacking, he replied: 'I believe he was the only person' who was aware of the practice and 'I believe, absolutely, that Andy did not have knowledge of what was going on.' Despite that, Gordon Taylor's legal team pursued a court case on his behalf. News International offered Taylor two hundred and fifty thousand pounds to - quietly - settle the case. But, he fought on and, as his lawyers obtained evidence from Mulcaire's notebooks and tapes seized by the Metropolitan Police, there was early evidence that hacking practice may have far wider spread than news International has admittedly. Mark Lewis, who was Taylor's solicitor, recalls that it was shortly after the legal team obtained a tape of Mulcaire talking to another journalist (a tape later leaked to the New York Times), that the company's lawyer, Tom Crone, offered to settle at a higher price. Taylor won a massive seven hundred thousand pound out-of-court settlement. Crucially, though, News International wanted it to remain confidential – which Taylor had little choice but to agree to, given the amount of money on offer. Documents relating to the case were sealed, and the matter would never have become public until the existence of the settlement – signed off by James Murdoch on the recommendation of News of the World editor Colin Myler and Crone – was revealed in July 2009 by the Gruniad. That report was accompanied by the revelation that private investigators - chiefly, but not exclusively Mulcaire - had hacked into 'two or three thousand' mobile phones – and the suggestion that MPs from all three parties and cabinet ministers, including former deputy prime minister John Prescott and ex-culture secretary Tessa Jowell, were among the targets. Two days later, News International responded late on a Friday afternoon with an aggressive denial of all of these charges, 'authored - it is believed - by Crone, with some help from Myler, and corporate communications head Matthew Anderson' according to the Gruniad. News International concluded that there was 'no evidence' to support the contention that 'News of the World or its journalists have instructed private investigators or other third parties to access the voicemails of any individuals' or that 'there was systemic corporate illegality by News International to suppress evidence.' In reaching this conclusion, News International had two seemingly impressive allies. John Yates, the assistant commissioner at the Metropolitan Police, refused to reopen the original - limited - investigation into phone hacking, saying that 'potential targets may have run into hundreds of people, but our inquiries showed that they only used the tactic against a far smaller number of individuals.' Meanwhile, the press regulator - the PPC - also chose to take News International's evidence at face value, concluding in its own enquiry, in November 2009, that it had 'seen no new evidence to suggest that the practice of phone message tapping was undertaken by others beyond Goodman and Mulcaire, or evidence that any News of the World executives knew about Goodman and Mulcaire's activities.' as has been suggested by more than one observer this week, it seems that neither Yates nor the PCC looked very hard. Not everybody was so convinced. A growing number of angry celebrities and politicians began to initiate their own lawsuits in the belief their phones had been hacked. A number of legal actions gathered momentum in 2010 - snowballing as the year went on - but News International fought every step of the way, denying at every given opportunity that any wrongdoing (other than what had already been admitted by Goodman and Mulcaire) had gone on. Meanwhile, the Met was slow to share the evidence it had held since 2006 with the claimants and key witnesses, specifically Glenn Mulcaire, refused to testify. It was not until December 2010 that Sienna Miller's legal action alleged that hacking was almost certainly initiated by at least one other journalist – the assistant news editor Ian Edmondson, at that time still employed by the Sunday tabloid. Even then, News International appeared in denial. In October 2010, Rupert Murdoch, speaking at News Corp's annual meeting, said 'there was one incident more than five years ago' before taking aim at the Gruniad. 'If anything was to come to light, and we have challenged those people who have made allegations to provide evidence we would take immediate action.' News International didn't take immediate action. Or anything even remotely like it. Andy Coulson, by now working in for David Cameron, said as recently as December of last year in the Tommy Sheridan perjury trial that: 'I don't accept there was a culture of phone hacking at the News of the World.' It was not until January 2011 – some say at the urging of former Daily Torygraph editor and News International's group general manager Will Lewis – that News International began, gradually, to soften its stance. Edmondson was dismissed, as it appeared that some of the newspaper's upper-middle ranks could also be under threat. The company stopped contesting some of the civil cases in April, reaching a one hundred thousand pound settlement with Sienna Miller. That meant News International would avoid the embarrassment of a court case, in which all sorts of additional evidence could have emerged. However, it was not until the Met chose to reopen the criminal enquiry after five years of arms-folded refusal to do so, handing the job to deputy assistant commissioner Sue Akers rather than John Yates, that News Corp had to admit more. With the police trawling over eleven thousand pages of notes, suddenly officers found allegations that the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler had been targeted by the newspaper, prompting James Murdoch to concede on Thursday that unnamed 'wrongdoers turned a good newsroom bad' and that 'this was not fully understood or adequately pursued' by those in charge. What a pity it took them so long to realise it. Allegedly.

As alluded to earlier, Ofcom the media regulator is to consider whether News Corporation would make a 'fit and proper' owner of satellite broadcaster BSkyB. In a statement, Ofcom's chief executive Ed Richards, emphasised that he would not act while the police and courts carried out their work. But he has written to the authorities asking to be 'kept abreast' of information that would help Ofcom. It follows allegations of illegal activities at the News of the World. News Corp wants to buy the sixty per cent of BSkyB that it does not already own. Ofcom is required to ensure that any company - and its directors - holding a broadcast licence are 'fit and proper' to do so. In a letter to John Whittingdale, the chairman of the Commons culture, media and sport committee, Richards said: 'We are monitoring the situation closely and in particular the investigations by the relevant authorities into alleged unlawful activities.' He said that Ofcom would not do anything at this moment in time to prejudice investigations by the police. However, 'we are writing to the relevant authorities to highlight our duties in relation to Fit and Proper' and would like to know of 'any further information which may assist us in the discharge of our own duties.' Richards added that Ofcom is 'very conscious of the level of concern about these matters in Parliament and in the country more widely.' The BBC's business editor Robert Peston said that he understands Ofcom is 'deeply concerned' by suggestions the News of the World's newsroom was 'a law unto itself' and that this had put a 'big obstacle' in the way of a News Corp takeover. 'They regards evidence that the News of the World's newsroom was out of control for many years as relevant to a judgement on whether News Corporation would be a fit-and-proper owner of BSkyB,' Pestinfestation said. The regulator's move could further delay News Corp's ten billion pound-plus bid for BSkyB, as the police investigation could take many months. Separately, the Office of Fair Trading may also want to review the bid following the News of the World affair. News Corp has said it will spin-off Sky News into a separate company in order to get clearance for a BSkyB takeover. The undertaking had been intended to secure Sky News' editorial independence. However, the OFT is likely to reconsider those undertakings. Peston added: 'Undertakings from the board of News Corp are only valuable if the regulators can be confident that the board of News Corp has sufficient control over the organisation for the undertakings to be followed.' In a statement, News Corp said its 'priority is to continue to co-operate' with the vile and odious rascal Hunt and the 'existing regulatory process.' After Ofcom's statement BSkyB shares extended their fall, and closed down almost eight per cent amid worries that News Corp's bid could be blocked. On Wall Street, New Corp shares were down by almost four per cent at the close. Alex DeGroote, analyst at Panmure Gordon, said in a research note published early on Friday: 'Probability of deal collapse much higher now.' Greg Dyke, the former director-general of the BBC, said: 'I cannot see any way how News International will be allowed to take over the whole of BSkyB. It's just a case of how the government can get out of it.' Campaigners against the BSkyB takeover believe that more than two hundred thousand submissions will have been lodged by Friday's deadline. The vile and odious rascal Hunt, who has previously said that he was 'minded' to approve the takeover, because his tongue has always enjoyed a very close relationship with Rupert Murdoch's slice, may also want to consider how the closure of the News of the World will affect the deal and UK media plurality. More likely, he'll be considering how his previously openly laissez-faire attitude towards Murdoch and his doings will be playing with voters horrified that this ogre's staff hacked the phones of murdered children and the families of dead soldiers. Or, something like that. The European Commission has already cleared the proposed takeover on competition grounds, as broadcasting and newspaper ownership are considered two distinct markets. However, the UK Competition Commission could consider the deal's impact on the plurality of the media, and whether it reduced the number of independent voices.

Remarkable as in my seem, dear blog reader, some other stuff has been going on in the world besides Hackgate. For instance, there's Big Gay John Barrowman. He's been in the News of the World plenty over the years. Next time you see him there, it'll be at some stage next week when all spare copies are being used as fish and chip paper. Anyway, John - back on TV on Saturday, of course, in Tonight's the Night - has claimed to US viewers that Torchwood: Miracle Day is 'worth paying for.' I already have paid for it, John. With my TV licence. In the US, the ten-part SF drama will be broadcast exclusively on the premium cable channel Starz, home to such series as Spartacus: Blood and Snots and the recently-axed Camelot. Barrowman told Blastr: 'This is an amazing series that you're about to see. So you will be happy spending the money that you have to [spend] when you get Starz.' He added: 'We've got a great cast. It's massive [and] It's spectacular.' Barrowman also claimed that Captain Jack Harkness is on 'a journey of discovery' throughout Miracle Day. 'You'll get the answer about the event, but certain things in Jack's life you won't get the answer to,' he revealed. 'And that's great, because it'll open up the can of worms for a future [season] if we get the go-ahead.'

Meanwhile, his Torchwood co-star Eve Myles has insisted that her character Gwen 'loves' Captain Jack. The actress told TV Guide that the pair share 'an unspoken love' in new series Miracle Day. except, of course, that she's now speaking about it so it's no longer unspoken. Do you see how that works? Anyway, Eve said: 'It's the sort of love that will never be explained. It's a respect, it's old roots, it's a partnership so special and wonderful and, most important, [it] completely works.' She added: 'They fix each other, and because of that, they need each other.' Myles also revealed that viewers will initially see Gwen in a 'strange, lost, quiet and suppressed state' prior to Jack's return. 'As soon as Mr Big turns up with his swishy coat and his vehicles and guns and helicopter, she couldn't be happier,' she added. Myles also claimed that Gwen has a 'wonderful' relationship with CIA agent Rex Matheson, played by new cast addition Mekhi Phifer. 'They're like raging bulls against each other,' she said. '[Rex] does something to Gwen in the very first episode [and] it's unforgivable. And then they are forced to work together!'

Benidorm creator Derren Litten has revealed that he is developing a new television show. Litten announced on his Twitter page that work on his new project had started but refused to reveal too many details. 'Yesterday I had a brand new TV show commissioned!' he said. 'Can't say what it's about, can't say which channel, can't say anything yet. Just celebrating with a pint of Ribena! What a crazy bitch I am.' However, Litten did joke that the new show will differ from Benidorm in one important way. He said: 'One thing I will say about my new comedy. It's not set in Spain!' Benidorm was renewed for a fifth series by ITV in April. Litten had previously suggested that he would leave the show but has agreed to return to write some of the new episodes.

And now, it's Top Telly Tips time:

Friday 15 July
Double Lesson - 7:30 Channel Four - is the fictional story of a secondary school teacher facing trial for attacking a pupil in his class. Told in a monologue performed straight to camera by the great Phil Davis, the film joins David at his home on the morning of his court appearance as he re-lives the months of mounting pressure which led to the alleged assault, the incident itself and his isolation in the weeks that followed. Part of the First Cut strand.

In the latest episode of Coronation Street - 8:30 ITV - Stella leaves Peter ranting in the pub and heads to his flat, where she finds Leanne unconscious at the bottom of the stairs. Has she just heard about the News of the World closing? Perhaps we'll never care. Meanwhile, Sean is frustrated by the outcome of Dylan's audition and Ken walks in on Tracy as she confronts James. About The Thing. Roy, meanwhile, begins to bond with Sylvia as the Croppers care for Hope, and a wild-looking Becky announces that she is going away with her new man.

Castle - 9:00 Channel Five - has been rather good of late. Tonight episode is called A Chill Goes Through Her Veins. A frozen corpse discovered at a building site is identified as a woman who was reported missing more than five years previously. Beckett and Castle learn that the woman's ex-boyfriend could have orchestrated her murder when evidence emerges that a freezer was delivered to their flat on the night that she disappeared, raising concerns about how the initial investigation was handled. Rather decent crime drama, starring Stana Katic and the always excellent Nathan Fillion.

Saturday 16 July
It's the final episode of Secrets of the Pop Song - 9:45 BBC2 - which, I must admit, I was a bit suspicious about when it began but which has turned into a fine little series. The insider's guide to writing a modern pop hit concludes with the anthem - something of which Guy Chambers has more than a little experience of himself having co-written Robbie Williams' 'Let Me Entertain You'. He is joined by indie-rock trio Noisettes, and their efforts are followed from initial idea through into the recording studio and on to the first public performance. Contributors include Big-Haired Brian May, Joan Jett and Neil Tennant. Narrated by Stephen Mangan.

The appallingly dreadful Marriage Ref continued - 10:00 ITV. One imagines that this is exactly the sort of crass, celebrity-led nonsense that Dan Wootten would consider to be part of 'all the good stuff.' Comedian Jack Dee - Jack, what are you thinking?! - fellow stand-up Jimmy Carr and Coronation Street's Katherine Kelly tackle a trio of domestic disputes, which involve a Hampshire man whose girlfriend constantly leaves their bedroom untidy, a London woman fed up with her taxi-driver husband's parking-space obsession and a Manchester man who refuses to stop practising magic tricks on his wife. Dermot O'Dreary keeps the peace. Or what pace there is, anyway. Already a massive flop in the US, dear blog reader, if you want to watch it tonight you're advised to because, like the News of the World, it's not going to be here much longer.

Sunday 17 July
The Apprentice: The Final - 9:00 BBC1. After, as John Barnes might say, eleven weeks of sheer hell, of buying and selling, biscuit-making, beauty treatments and boardroom backstabbing, bullying and bellyaching the remaining candidates gather for a four-way battle to determine who will set up in business with Lord Alan Sugar-Sweetie, and receive a quarter of a million smackers, in cash, to get their new company off the ground. Their final task is an old favourite - the interview stage - in which the hopefuls are grilled about their CVs and their business plans by the peer's trusted associates, including former assistant Margaret Mountford. Once the winner is announced, it is over to The Apprentice: You're Hired! studio, where Dara O Briain talks to all the main players about this year's series, with the help of a panel including comedian Michael McIntyre and columnist Jane Moore. Last in the current series which, you regular readers will know, has been hugely popular - getting a constant eight million viewers plus. To be honest, yer Keith Telly Topping's a bit bored with it now but, I get which so many people seem to like it.

Born to Shine - 8:00 ITV - is a new series in which Natasha Kaplinsky - once memorably (by Charlie Brooker) described as 'a skeleton covered by a skin on ambition' - hosts an entertainment show. One in which celebrities, mentored by talented children, learn new skills in a bid to impress viewers and a panel of judges, headed by Denise Van Outen and Jason Gardiner. Each week three 'stars' take to the stage for a live performance as they raise money for Save the Children and compete for a place in the final. Husband-and-wife TV presenters Michael Underwood and Angellica Bell learn tap-dancing, and actor Nick Moran plays the piano. Sounds like exactly the sort of slushy shite conceit that the News of the World would have been right behind. Sadly, for all concerned, they're no longer a factor in the game.

Whilst the Gruniad and the Daily Scum Mail have always been fearfully anti-Top Gear - 8:00 BBC2 - it always got something of a cushy rid from the News of the Screws. Probably because yer man Clarkson's a columnist for their sister paper, the Scum. Anyway, this series has been rather good and - miraculously so far - free from much controversy. Will that change tonight when the trio finally find a good use for caravans - well, one that doesn't involve playing darts with them, anyway - when they try to make train travel cheaper, faster and more interesting by replacing the locomotive with a specially modified car and the carriages with a series of mobile homes. How hard can it be? Comedy legend Rowan Atkinson - a noted petrolhead - gets behind the wheel of the Reasonably Priced Car and Jezza drives the Jaguar XKR-S and the recently updated Nissan GT-R round the track to compare both models. And shouts 'POWER!' a lot.

In the final episode of Coast - 9:00 BBC2 - the team explores British connections to the Swedish coast. Nick Crane views a mountain range still rising at the rate of one centimetre a year - and discovers a similar phenomenon is also occurring in the Highlands. Doctor Alice Roberts reveals how merchant seamen from Hull helped save the Second World War military effort by sneaking a vital shipment of Swedish ball bearings past the German Navy. And Mark Horton visits the wreck of the Vasa, a ship commissioned four hundred years ago to spearhead the Swedish navy, only to sink on its maiden voyage.

Monday 18 July
Show Me the Funny: Stand-Up Showdown - 9:00 ITV - is a new series in which Jason Manford - remember him? - hosts a contest. Ten comedians with varying levels of experience compete for one hundred thousand smackers, their own DVD (not a copy of the last Harry Potter film, I mean one featuring them) and the chance to headline a nationwide tour. The competition begins in Liverpool, where the hopefuls are sent out to get to know the city and its people so they can write five minutes of material to perform in front of an all-female audience. The first person in include 'do dey doo doh, don't dey doh' will be eliminated. The stand-ups then face a panel comprising Qi's Alan Davies, critic Kate Copstick and guest judge Jimmy Tarbuck, who probably will say 'do dey doo, doh, don't dey doh?' Ey up, la, who nicked yer car, la. They will decide which contenders go through and who will be sent home.

In the latest EastEnders - 8:00 BBC1 - Janine's arrogant behaviour alienates Ricky and Pat still further, as well as the rest of Albert Square. And her lavish party at R&R does not improve matters - particularly when she decides to settle some old scores. Tanya, meanwhile, fears she may be pregnant, Julie angrily confronts Lola, and Lauren makes a drunken attempt to seduce Ryan.

The latest episode of Dispatches is called How to Buy a Football Club - 8:00 Channel Four. Which, in the case the owner of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though still unsellable) Magpies, would appear to be 'make loads of money selling cheap trainers to charvas, stick a pin in a map to find a club you have no prior allegiance too, acquire it and then spend four years of PR disasters making one bad decision after another.' That seems to be the general principle, anyway. This is an undercover investigation into the people who want to control football and how business figures and former players are prepared to sidestep the rules to make money from the sport's financial struggles at a time of evaluation by a Select Committee and calls for reform.

Fake Britain - 7:30 BBC1 - seems to be picking up something of an audience which, I must admit, rather does yer actual Keith Telly Topping's soul a bit of good to know that not every TV viewer in this country is in the Dan Wootten camp. In tonight's documentary, a private investigator works with the police ... oh, hang on, we're getting into dangerous territory here already. I thought we'd decided that sort of thing was morally questionable? Anyway, in this particular case, trading standards are also involved as they attempt to track down one of the largest hauls of fake gold and jewellery discovered in the UK. The gnome-like Dominic Littlewood also learns how the Border Agency is stopping international forgers using air cargo to transport counterfeit IDs.

Tuesday 19 July
You've probably already seen the rather stylised trailers for The Hour - 9:00 BBC2 - dear blog reader. It looks proper decent, actually. This is a drama set in a TV newsroom in 1950s London. BBC reporters Bel and Freddie are offered the chance to escape their boring jobs producing newsreels and work on a new weekly topical show instead. However, only one of them can be the producer, and with Bel earmarked for that role, Freddie is none too happy about the manifest unfairness of it all. But, when a debutante and childhood friend asks for his help investigating a murder, he knows the only way he can do it is to join the staff of The Hour as a reporter. And so the team is assembled and Freddie's investigation begins. Romola Garai, Ben Whishaw and Dominic West star. Six-part series and I'm really rather looking forward to this, if only because it'll be an interesting reminder of a time when journalists actually reported the frigging news instead of who's shagging whom on The X Factor.

On opposite that, there's Richard Hammond's Journey to the Centre of the Planet - 9:00 BBC1. In which the Top Gear presenter - almost, but not quite, getting to the point of TV omnipresence that one normally associates with John Barrowman - embarks on a quest to explore Earth's core. Making use of satellite pictures, exotic location reports and virtual 3D imagery of the planet and then peeling back the layers to reveal its complexities with. Richard begins in Ripon, North Yorkshire, where twenty five years ago he witnessed his first geological phenomenon - a sinkhole - and goes on to explore where volcanos come from, why earthquakes happen and how sea turtles use Earth's magnetic field to navigate their way home.

There's some very good stuff on tonight. Britain Through a Lens: The Documentary Film Mob - 9:00 BBC4 - is the story of a band of documentary filmmakers who believed that they could improve British society during the 1930s and 40s by capturing the 'real lives' of 'ordinary people' on film. Using footage from the original documentaries, the programme explores how directors used cinema in an attempt to foster greater social understanding, as well as depicting life during the Second World War and the economic crisis of the 1930s. BBC4 - best channel in the world at the moment, frankly. Something for everyone.

The Sex Education Show - 8:00 Channel Four - appears to disappoint a portion of its audience by not containing much of yer actual sex. Instead, Anna Richardson hits the road again to explore 'the sexual landscape of Britain.' She begins by giving the pupils of Redbourne School in Bedfordshire a chance to examine living STIs close-up. Ugh. One hopes they've done that during the afternoon because, frankly, that's enough to put anyone off their dinner. She also arms parents with the knowledge they will need to discuss the tricky subject of pornography with their children, and meets twenty one-year-old paralympic athlete David Smith, who has cerebral palsy, to discuss how he manages to pursue a fulfilling sex life with his fiancé.

In Cops with Cameras - 8:00 ITV - officers from South Wales, there's lovely, isn't it?, conduct raids as part of an operation to reduce burglary, drug-related crime and car theft in the Neath area. Meanwhile, in Woolwich, the community support team receives a briefing before heading out on a job. Two officers in Lewisham apprehend a suspect in a street robbery case, but cannot make an arrest until the weapon is found - or the until victim comes forward.

Wednesday 20 July
The Corrie Years - 7:30 ITV - is a new documentary series chronicling fifty years of Coronation Street storylines that have become national talking points, featuring interviews with cast members past and present, previously unseen footage and classic clips. The first edition - The Headline Makers - recalls the plots that made front-page news, including Deirdre's imprisonment in 1998 and Sarah-Louise's pregnancy in 2000, as well as a 1960s storyline so controversial that it was never screened. Narrated by David Morrissey. A Scouser, not a Manc. One imagines there'll be some complaints about that. They should've gone for his namesake out of The Smiths instead, he's a fan!

Botham: The Legend of '81 - 9:00 BBC2 - is a look back at Sir Ian Botham's cricketing career, marking thirty years since the 1981 Ashes series which saw the former all-rounder recovering from a slump of form to reach at the peak of his powers. The famous Mr Iron Bottom started the series against Australia in 1981 as England captain (not to mention Scunthorpe's centre-half ... though, the least said about that, the better). But he resigned following a string of poor performances and media criticism culminating in his scoring a duck at Lord's. What followed over the subsequent tests - at Headingley, Edgbaston and Old Trafford - led to the series becoming remembered forever more as Botham's Ashes. This programme charts the player's highs and lows on and off the pitch, as well as focusing on his epic fundraising achievements - for which he was recently knighted - and subsequent broadcasting career. With contributions from David Gower, Viv Richards, Mick Jagger and Stephen Fry.

Wonderfully, there's another chance to see the first episode of the BAFTA-winning drama Sherlock - 8:30 BBC1 - which brought Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories kicking and screaming into the Twenty First Century. With critically acclaimed performances by Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role and Martin Freeman as Doctor Watson, Sherlock is, quite simply, the best new drama that the BBC - and, therefore, all of British television - has produced in ... five years at least. Probably more. And, if you haven't already got the DVD then, frankly, you've got no excuse not to watch tonight's repeat of A Study In Pink - Ian Botham or no Ian Botham on the other side. In the London of 2010, a chance encounter with a mutual friend brings John Watson, fresh home from military service in Afghanistan, into contact with a loner and genius who earns his living as an consulting detective. Wounded in battle, far from being scarred by his experiences, John is bored with a life away from the stress of war. In Sherlock, he finds a soulmate. The duo's first case together sees them investigating the fourth in a spate of impossible apparent suicides. And, it seems that even Inspector Lestrade - the best Scotland Yard has to offer - cannot compete with Mister Holmes. With Una Stubbs, Rupert Graves, Mark Gatiss and Phil Davis. if you haven't already seen this then, frankly, you don't deserve to have a TV set.

In The Great British Weather - 7:30 BBC1 - Alexander Armstrong presents from Ullswater in the Lake District, as the programme looks into why Britain is the rainiest country in Western Europe. Chris Hollins visits Rain Gauge Cottage, the wettest home in the country, and Larry Lamb explores the history of the umbrella. Meanwhile, Carol Kirkwood hang-glides into the heart of an enormous cumulus cloud. Why? No has the courage to ask.

Thursday 21 July
Following Captain Jack and Gwen's emotional reunion, the former Torchwood leader realises that the loss of his indestructability has made him the most vulnerable man on the planet. And, a flight to the US after being extradited by the CIA, turns into a desperate battle for survival in Torchwood: Miracle Day - 9:00 BBC1. SF thriller, starring John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Mekhi Phifer and Bill Pullman.

In Coronation Street - 8:30 ITV - James is desperate to make his escape, but Ken grows suspicious and discovers a letter in his grandson's bag approving a fifty thousand pound loan against the house. Gary gets a job at the factory to be closer to Izzy, and Peter is adamant he has made the right decision about Leanne. And, Tracy uses Amy to win over Steve.

Over the course of eight months, director Penny Woolcock explores the world of homeless people, as detailed in On the Streets - 9:45 BBC4. She discovers that the problems they face sometimes have little to do with a lack of shelter, but stem more from their past lives. She discovers that despite the best efforts of different charities to move individuals into accommodation, the streets are often where they feel safest.

And finally, in Rick Stein's Spain - 8:00 BBC2 - the chef continues his culinary tour of Spain by travelling east from the Basque region toward the Mediterranean coast, sampling a selection of great dishes and enjoying local hospitality along the way. It's dirty job, ladies and gentlemen but, hey, somebody's got to do it. And get paid lots of money to do it, at that.

And, so to the news: Full of his own importance chebend Ricky Gervais has 'revealed' that he always tried to make his co-stars laugh while filming The Office. Gervais suggested that Martin Freeman, who played Tim, was the easiest to crack. 'I saw [making them laugh] as my job,' Gervais told Shortlist. 'I remember Steve [Merchant] saying to me, "It's not enough for you to just have your own show - you have to try to ruin it as well."' Didn't need any ruining for this viewers, I always thought it was arse. 'The record for a number of takes in one scene was seventy four. It was in the second scene, where Brent was giving Tim his assessment. I changed the way that I did it for every take and Martin just couldn't cope with it. He is such an "actor," too - he loves his craft. He was probably sat there thinking, "Who's this fucking fat buffoon who's never acted before? Why's he in charge?"' That's certainly what this blogger was thinking. Mind you, I thought that in just about every scene. However, Gervais explained that he found it very difficult to distract Mackenzie Crook, describing him as 'fucking unbelievably professional. I had to revert to touching his knee under the table,' he said. 'And when I discovered that he had knees like a gosling, I couldn't believe my luck. He wouldn't exactly laugh - he'd just go, "Hmm, can we stop? Ricky's touching my knee again, it's not right."' Gervais also revealed that he does not regret ending The Office after two series. I cheered, personally. 'I miss it and I couldn't be prouder of it, but that third series. It might have been good. But it might not,' he said.

David Suchet has joined the cast of BBC1's new adaptation of Great Expectations. The Dickens drama adaptation, which is being written by Oliver Twist's Sarah Phelps, is due to be broadcast at Christmas. The BBC has now announced that Suchet has signed up to play Jaggers, the lawyer who represents Pip's benefactor and Miss Havisham. The BBC also confirmed earlier reports that Gillian Anderson has joined the cast as Miss Havisham. Douglas Booth and Ray Winstone have already signed up to star in the drama, while other cast members include Game of Thrones' Mark Addy and Harry Lloyd, Ashes To Ashes actress Claire Rushbrook and Paul Rhys, who previously appeared in Being Human. Friday Night Dinner's Paul Ritter will also appear, alongside Vanessa Kirby, Jack Roth and Frances Barber.

28 Days Later star Naomie Harris is reported to be 'in final negotiations' to play Miss Moneypenny in Daniel Craig's new James Bond movie. Harris, whose credits also include Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and The First Grader, will be the sixth actress to play the secretary of MI6 chief M. If you include the first Casino Royale and Never Say Never Again as canonical. Most people, of course, don't! Harris recently discussed her potential James Bond casting with the Digital Spy website, admitting that she thought Craig's portrayal of the secret agent was 'fantastic.'

The BBC is 'discussing banning bonuses' for the corporation's senior managers as well as its executive board, according to BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten. It is also 'looking very carefully' at the relationships between BBC1, BBC2, BBC3 and BBC4 as it considers service cuts. Speaking after his first public speech as BBC chairman on Wednesday evening, Patten told journalists: 'I don't think bonuses have a part in a public service organisation.' Earlier he had announced that 'no executive board member will get a bonus in future.' But he also said talks are taking place 'with HR at the moment' about banning bonuses for senior managers. When asked if BBC3 is safe from impending cuts due to last year's stringent licence fee settlement, Patten would only say he had watched some 'pretty good programmes' on the channel. However, he added: 'There are questions of the relationships between the channels which we need to look at very carefully.' The new BBC Trust chairman – who is conducting a review of the governance of the corporation — also said he would prefer it if the BBC Trust was based in the Broadcasting House in central London rather than in expensive offices nearby in Great Portland Street. The trust is currently housed in a building it reportedly spent three million pounds on. However, Patten said because of the length and terms of the lease it is 'very unlikely' the BBC Trust would save money by moving, but added: 'I wish we were in Broadcasting House.'

The UK's largest arts university is facing demands from academics and students to withdraw an honorary award it bestowed upon well-known Crystal Tipps-lookalike Rebekah Brooks for her 'considerable contribution to journalism.' Brooks received an honorary fellowship from the University of the Arts London last year. The institution posted photos on its Flickr account of Brooks at the ceremony. But these were taken down on Friday after enquiries were made by the Gruniad. A letter, signed by some academics and the head of the university's student union, has been sent to the university's registrar, Steve Marshall, insisting that the fellowship be revoked. They include Gary Horne, a governor of the university and director of the journalism masters course at the London College of Communication, which Brooks is a graduate from. The letter describes giving Brooks the fellowship as 'offensive and indefensible.' Horne said that staff, and the general public, felt the actions of some News of the World journalists had been 'reprehensible' and 'repugnant' adding: 'This was a culture that was presided over by Rebekah Brooks when she was editor. She should take responsibility for this.'

Metro's The Green Room gossip column reports that 'Kerry Katona is mighty annoyed. Her "best pal" Peter Andre is refusing to take her phone calls now that they're no longer with the same PR agency a mole tells me.' Never mind, Kerry, you can always sell the News of the World another one of those shitehawk 'exclusives' about what you're going to do next with your career ... D'oh.

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. In which dear old George Harrison asks a question that many a News of the World journalist must be contemplating this weekend as they look forward to a future of P45s and UB40s.

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