Monday, August 08, 2011

Red Sky At Night

Doctor Who has become the BBC's top earning brand. The franchise has now become the Beeb's most profitable single show, knocking Top Gear from the lofty perch that it's held for the last few years. According to the Communist Gruniad Morning Star, the TARDIS-travelling Time Lord increased the revenue generated from overseas broadcasts, DVDs and merchandising by close to fifty per cent, helping to generate more than three hundred million smackers across the globe for the broadcaster's commercial operation, BBC Worldwide. The BBC now estimates that forty five per cent of its overseas sales come from just twelve brands including Doctor Who, Top Gear, Walking With Dinosaurs, the recently cancelled Waking the Dead, Sherlock, Strictly Come Dancing (mostly in the area of format sales) and The Human Planet. And, with the iPlayer going global at the end of last month, BBC Worldwide chief John Smith has revealed his plans for further international expansion and world domination to the Torygraph. Smith notes that providing exclusive access to tickets to Top Gear's live show through Facebook led to one hundred thousand in first-day sales. Worldwide claims it is the first broadcaster to distribute its shows on Facebook, recently making episodes of Doctor Who available to rent via the social media site. Smith is credited with driving profit at Worldwide from thirty seven million quid in 2004 to over two hundred million smackers in 2010-11. 'Someone said at the time that, if the BBC sold Worldwide and put the money in a building society, they would have got a slightly better return,' says Smith. Of the BBC's two thousand nine hundred and fifty pieces of individual intellectual property, Smith earmarked five power brands: Top Gear, Doctor Who, Lonely Planet, Strictly Come Dancing and BBC Earth, suggesting that, between them, they account for almost thirty per cent, or £308.1m, of total turnover. The most controversial has been the BBC's investment in Lonely Planet. It bought a seventy five per cent stake in the brand from founders Tony and Maureen Wheeler for an undisclosed sum in October 2007, and the remaining twenty five per cent earlier this year. Worldwide launched Lonely Planet magazine soon after the 2007 purchase, and with travel magazines competing for shelf space with a wealth of newspaper travel supplements, rivals complained the BBC was further saturating the market. But Smith has no regrets and says Lonely Planet was an ideal fit for the BBC's brand picture. 'I don't regret it. I think it is a shame it has been turned into a lightning conductor. The thing about Lonely Planet is its brand values are so spot on in terms of the BBC's brand values. Just from a brand-building point of view, bbc.com is essentially a news machine. You just have to look at the adjacency of news and travel and natural history. If you're going anywhere in the world, or if you're curious about the world, you want to know what's in the news and you want to know about the politics.' Worldwide's biggest markets are currently English-speaking – America and Canada, Australia and New Zealand. But Smith has identified a list of countries where he sees significant growth within the next few years. Top of the list are China, Vietnam and India. The other likely revenue drivers are Turkey, Indonesia, South Korea, Russia, Chile, Brazil, Malaysia, Colombia and Argentina.

Robert Lindsay has been signed up for a new sitcom pilot on BBC1, a report claims. The sixty one-year-old actor, who currently plays dentist Ben Harper in My Family, will appear alongside stage and film star Richard Griffiths, according to the Mirra. So this might be bare-faced lies. Depends where they got the information from, of course. Certainly not from a hacked voicemail message. Oh no, very hot water. The BBC, the Mirra claim, is hoping that the 'quirky and warm comedy about a gay couple,' currently with the working title of George and Bernard Shaw, can fill the void left by My Family which will broadcasts its final episode this Christmas. Plus, of course, the double bonus here is that a programme about sodomy is likely to get right up the Daily Scum Mail's hooter. Or, indeed, up their Gary Glitter. Whichever you prefer. 'The BBC have commissioned a pilot and will make the call once it's all wrapped up. But all signs point towards this being a perfect prime time vehicle. The two big names involved show this could be very special,' a namelesss 'source' allegedly claimed. Could this be the same 'source' who told the Sun in 2007 that David Bowie was 'set to star in Doctor Who'? Except, of course, that no 'show insider' claimed this or anything like it, any more than 'a source' corroborated Gareth Roberts throwaway one-liner about Lady Gaga appearing in the same show in 2010. In both cases they were, in fact, completely made-up quotes. Whether this one in the Mirra is too, time will tell. When it comes to claims about casting and TV shows about to go into production, it usually does. Filming, the Mirra claims, will apparently begin in the autumn. The alleged 'insider' allegedly added: 'It's slightly less than conventional in terms of the family set-up but it's the Twenty First Century and things move on.' Perhaps significantly the BBC is yet to confirm or deny the report.
A week after former News of the World managing editor Stuart Kuttner was arrested and, subsequently, bailed by police investigating allegations of phone hacking and the bribery police officers to leak sensitive information, the Gruniad note that it seems timely to revisit an interview the ex-News International man gave to the Press Gazette back in 2005. Kuttner was speaking after the Sunday title, then edited by Andy Coulson, won the Newspaper of the Year prize at the British Press Awards. "Popular journalism is at the very heart of our society," said Kuttner. 'Snooty, sneering editors with circulations they should be ashamed of could learn a great deal from the News of the World,' Kuttner said with something approaching hubris. 'I have spent much of my life in Fleet Street. Of course we are not perfect, but the team which comprises this newspaper is in my view the most skilled, tenacious and professional band in the whole of the industry.' And, now they're all unemployed and several of them may, possibly, be about to go to prison. It's a funny old world, innit?

The next series of Desperate Housewives will be the last, TV network ABC said. Its creator Marc Cherry told a gathering of TV critics in Los Angeles that he wanted the show to go out 'in the classiest way possible.' ABC revealed that the ninth series, which will run in the US from 25 September until May 2012, will be 'a victory lap.' The international hit show, which tells of the lives and loves of a group of neighbours in Wisteria Lane in the fictional suburban town of Fairview, began in 2004. The Golden Globe and Emmy-winning show, which stars actresses including Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, Eva Longoria, Marcia Cross and Nicollette Sheridan, has seen its ratings fall in recent years. 'The only thing harder than creating a hit show is knowing when to end, especially when you have one of most amazing casts in the history of television,' Cherry told reporters. 'I am very aware of people overstaying their welcome. I wanted to got out while the network still saw us as a viable show, while we were still a force to be contended with.' He said that he and ABC had 'made this decision together.' Calling cast members to tell them the news had been 'bittersweet and lovely,' he added. 'I think you are going to find they are smart enough to be grateful,' he said. ABC said that the final series of the show, which is broadcast in the UK on Channel Four, would include 'more love affairs, disintegrating marriages and guilty feelings about a murder.'

Shane Richie reportedly had a six-year affair with a fan he first met when she was thirteen years-old. The EastEnders actor is said to have first 'seduced' Alison Hall when she was twenty, after she was appointed as the head of his online fan-club, according to the Sunday Mirra. Hall alleges that the pair had been having 'a sexual affair' for six years, with Richie often 'texting her for explicit photos' of herself. The newspaper goes on to claim that Richie ended their relationship last year. Hall, they continue, confronted the actor's wife Christie with evidence of the affair but that Richie convinced his wife to forgive him. 'He seduced me in the spare bedroom when I was working on his website,' Hall told the tabloid. 'Like an idiot I went along with him for years. I devoted seventeen years of my life to Shane. He knew I would do anything for him and he used me for sex. I was completely besotted and he took advantage of that. It broke my heart. He was my life and when he dropped me I felt like I had nothing to live for.' Hall revealed that she first became a fan of Richie after watching him perform on stage in Grease in 1994. 'I used to save my dinner money and live on sweets until I saved enough money to buy a ticket for Grease or Boogie Nights, and sometimes our parents would let us travel around the country to watch his shows on tour,' she revealed. 'We'd wait at the stage door and get Shane to sign pictures. At home my room was full of pictures and newspaper cuttings. It was like a shrine. Coleen got to know us and was really nice, and we sometimes played with his children Jake and Shane Jr.' Richie reportedly appointed Hall as his fan-club chief after joining EastEnders in 2002. 'Obviously I thought this was fantastic because it meant we'd be seeing more of each other and we'd be in contact by phone all the time. We'd exchange texts and sometimes he could be a bit flirtatious, but I thought that was just Shane being cheeky, that's what he was like.' Their relationship, the newspaper alleges, turned 'from professional to sexual' in 2004. 'The first time we had sex we were in the spare room and my mum was downstairs,' Hall said. 'I remember my head was banging against the door and I was worried she would hear. I had spent years dreaming about being with Shane and now it was actually happening. It wasn't quite how I had imagined it but it was still incredibly exciting. He started coming over two or three times a week instead of once a fortnight and we would be all over each other as soon as he arrived. I felt guilty because we both had partners but I adored him so there was no way I could say no.' Hall added that she decided to speak out about the affair after she realised Richie would no longer agree to meet her. 'I deserve to be heard and to have my feelings acknowledged. Shane needs to realise how devastating it is to have wasted so much of my life on him. He must have seen I was vulnerable and had no self-confidence but adored him, and he took advantage of that. Now I'm just hoping I can rebuild my life and find someone who will treat me how I deserve to be treated and love me for who I am.' Yeah, cos of course, that's definitely going to happen after you've been on the front page of a tabloid selling your 'my sex affair with soap-star' story. Good luck with that, chuck.

And from that crass and pointless example of what passes for 'news' in the Twenty First Century, dear blog reader, to something just a touch more serious. A torture camp run by Zimbabwe's security forces is operating in the country's rich Marange diamond fields, BBC Panorama has found. In an episode which will be shown this evening, the programme heard from recent victims who told of 'severe beatings and sexual assault.' The claims come as the European Union pushes to let some banned diamonds from the country led by the vile and odious genocidal maniac dictator Robert Mugabe back onto world markets. Surprisingly, the Zimbabwean government has not responded to the BBC's findings. In an internal document seen by the BBC, the EU said that it was 'confident' that two mines in the area now 'meet international standards' and it wants diamonds from those areas 'to be immediately approved for export,' which would partially lift a trade ban dating back to 2009. The ban was imposed by the Kimberley Process, the international organisation which polices diamonds, following reports of large-scale killings and abuse by Zimbabwe's security forces in the Marange diamond fields. The main torture camp uncovered by the programme is known locally as Diamond Base. Witnesses said that it is a remote collection of military tents, with an outdoor razor wire enclosure where the prisoners are kept. It is near an area known as Zengeni near Marange, said to be one of the world's most significant diamond fields. The camp is about one mile from the main Mbada mine that the EU wants to approve exports from. The company which runs the mine is headed by someone whom the programme describes as 'a personal friend' of Mugabe. A second camp is located in nearby Muchena. 'It is the place of torture where sometimes miners are unable to walk on account of the beatings,' a victim who was released from the main camp in February told the BBC. All the released prisoners the BBC spoke to requested anonymity. 'They beat us forty whips in the morning, forty in the afternoon and forty in the evening,' said the man, who still could not use one of his arms after the beatings and could barely walk. 'They used logs to beat me here, under my feet, as I lay on the ground. They also used stones to beat my ankles.' He and other former captives said men are held in the camp for several days at a time, before new prisoners come in. Women are released more quickly, often after being raped, witnesses said. 'Even if someone dies there, the soldiers do not disclose, because they do not want it known,' an officer in Zimbabwe's military told the BBC, again on the condition of anonymity. Witnesses said that the camps have been operating for at least three years. In Marange, the police and military recruit civilians to illegally dig for diamonds for them. Those workers are taken to the camps for punishment if they demand too large a share of the profits. Civilians caught mining for themselves are also punished in the camps. A former member of a paramilitary police unit who worked in the main camp in late 2008 told the BBC that at the time he tortured prisoners by mock-drowning them and whipping them on their genitals. He also said that dogs were methodically ordered by a handler to maul prisoners. 'They would handcuff the prisoner, they would unleash the dogs so that he can bite,' he said. 'There was a lot of screaming.' He claimed that one woman was bitten on the breast by the dogs whilst he was working in the camp. 'I do not think she survived,' he said. Another witness the BBC spoke to said he was locked up in Muchena camp in 2008 after police set dogs on him. He was recaptured in November 2010. 'Nothing has changed between 2008 and 2010. A lot of people are still being beaten or bitten by dogs.' Marange diamonds were banned in 2009 by the KP, the international initiative of the diamond industry, national governments and non-governmental organisations that attempts to keep conflict or so-called 'blood' diamonds out of the lucrative market. Representatives of the KP visited the area briefly in August 2010 and concluded that the situation in the diamond areas was 'still problematic' but there had been 'significant progress.' The KP had previously requested that the Zimbabwean police 'secure' the diamond area. Witnesses told the BBC that it is Zimbabwe's police and military which run the torture camps. Nick Westcott, spokesman for the Working Group on Monitoring of the KP, said of the BBC's discovery of the torture camps: 'It is not something that has been notified to the Kimberley Process.' Well, it has now. So what are you going to do about it? The EU's proposal to allow diamond sales from two key mines in Marange to resume is part of an attempt to broker a deal within the KP, which is 'in turmoil' over the issue. In June, KP chairman Matieu Yamba formally announced that the export ban on the two key Marange mines was lifted with immediate effect. The EU, among others, did not accept his decision. Now the EU's proposal, designed to break the deadlock, agrees with the partial lifting of the ban, but insists that international monitoring should continue throughout Marange. Panorama asked the Foreign Office to comment on the EU's position. It responded: 'It is only from these locations that we support exports, subject to ongoing monitoring. From all other Marange mines, the UK and the EU continue to strongly oppose the resumption of exports until independent, international experts deem them to comply with the KP.' Critics have said it is a weak proposal. Annie Dunneback of the advocacy group Global Witness said of the EU proposal: 'It is the latest in a series of deals that have cast aside the principle of exports for progress and pandered to the demands of the Zimbabwean government.'

After a story like that, it's really hard to any showbusiness nonsense seriously. But, From The North will do our best since that's, at least in theory, what we do. Report was passes for 'news' these days. So, let's kick off with what was on Jeremy and James' Scrabble®™ board last Sunday night.
That's one 'outrage' that the Daily Torygraph missed in their sick, agenda-ridden excuse for an article last week.

Sarah Michelle Gellar has said that she has no regrets about starring on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and is enjoying her return to television for new CW series Ringer. The actress revealed that both of the twin characters she plays on Ringer are 'completely different' to Buffy Summers. 'She's not saving the world, she's just trying to save herself,' Gellar told IGN, regarding her main character Bridget. 'I do get to hold a gun a lot on this show. Which is cool because Buffy never got to hold a gun.' No. Plenty of knives, stakes and one big scythe, I seem to remember, but no guns! 'I never had any time,' she explained, when asked why she stayed off television after Buffy. 'After it was over, I sort of needed to explore and live that gypsy lifestyle and travel the world.' And make some really very bad films indeed. Despite feeling 'burnt out' by the time the popular show came to an end, Gellar also said that she is still happy to be so closely associated with the character. 'I'm proud of the show. I'm proud of the work we did and I'm proud of the legacy,' she added. 'And if people think I can save the world and kick butt then I'm okay with that.'

Showtime announced the premiere dates for veteran comedy Californication, sophomore drama Shameless, and newcomer House of Lies - they will all premiere the same night, 8 January 2012. Shameless will begin its second season at 9/8c. After that comes the new comedy House of Lies starting at 10/9c. This stars Don Cheadle as cut-throat management consultant Marty, with Dawn Olivieri as his biggest competition (who is also his drug addicted ex-wife) and Kristen Bell as a sharp co-worker of Marty's. The first season has a twelve episode run. Finally, half-an-hour later, we can catch up on Hank Moody on Californication and see what adventures a jump into the future has for the alcoholic author (played by David Duchovney).

What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given, the BBC's business editor Robert PestonPestinfestation's answer? 'Get a move on,' by Huw Edwards on the Ten O'Clock News.

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping is indebted to his several lovely chums (and, especially diamond geezer RZT) over on the Gallifrey Base 'Rating thread' for the following, absolutely fascinating list concerning how dramas have rated on BBC1 and ITV so far in 2011. All of the figures in the following list are consolidated final averages and include HD broadcasts. The ITV programmes also include (bracketed) the ITV+1 audience figures.
BBC1
1 – 9.23m – New Tricks*
2 – 7.97m – Silent Witness
3 – 7.65m – Doctor Who
4 – 7.30m – South Riding
5 – 7.15m – Lark Rise to Candleford
6 – 7.02m – Waking The Dead
7 – 6.79m – Hustle
8 – 6.43m – Luther
9 – 5.94m – Torchwood*
10 – 5.85m – Silk
11 – 5.70m – Zen
12 – 5.35m – Exile
13 – 5.30m – Case Histories
14 – 5.15m – Candy Cabs
15 – 5.11m – Atlantis
16 – 4.19m – Stolen
17 – 3.79m – Rock & Chips
18 – 3.29m – Outcasts
19 – 2.42m – Sugartown*
ITV
1 – 7.92m (inc +1: 8.09m) – Wild at Heart
2 – 7.36m (7.74m) – Scott & Bailey
3 – 7.22m (7.60m) – Benidorm
4 – 7.15m (7.41m) – The Suspicions of Mr Whicher
5 – 6.98m (7.35m) – Marchlands
6 – 6.67m (6.95m) – Lewis
7 – 6.63m (6.63m) – Above Suspicion
8 – 6.43m (6.71m) – Midsomer Murders
9 – 6.35m (6.60m) – Vera
10 – 5.78m (5.98m) – Kidnap & Ransom
11 – 5.66m (5.95m) – Injustice
12 – 5.65m (6.02m) – Case Sensitive
13 – 5.45m (5.66m) – Monroe
14 – 5.20m (5.51m) – The Reckoning
15 – 5.12m (5.40m) – Law & Order: UK*
16 – 4.70m (4.89m) – The Royal*
17 – 4.58m (4.67m) – Primeval
18 – 4.54m (4.72m) – Agatha Christie's Marple
19 – 3.64m (3.87m) – Single-Handed*
20 – 3.45m (3.79m) – Taggart
Shows with an asterisk are series which are currently still airing, or that the BARB consolidated ratings have yet to come in for certain episodes, so there will be changes to the average once all episodes are broadcast. Some ITV dramas did not air in Scotland so bear that in mind if directly comparing a non-Scotland drama with another drama as the non-Scotland drama would be at an minus eight per cent automatic deficit. Examples are: Benidorm, Lewis, Atlantis, Law & Order UK, Marple, Taggart and a few episodes of Midsomer Murders and Case Sensitive. Waking The Dead also experienced small regional opt-outs for a few episodes which would've depressed its average a little bit.

And still on the subject of ratings, Dragons' Den stayed above four million on Sunday night overnight audience data has revealed. The business reality show averaged 3.74m on BBC2 in the 9pm hour with an additional three hundred and sixty thousand viewers watching on the BBC HD channel, only slightly down on the previous Sunday's series debut last week. And, if you've never seen Hilary's shoulder-pads in HD, dear blog reader, trust me you've never lived. Also in the 9pm hour, Law & Order: UK pulled in 3.83m on ITV and two hundred and fifteen thousand on ITV+1. Highlights coverage of the exciting Community Shield clash between The Scum and Sheikh Yer Manchester City FC was seen by 2.15m on ITV in the 6pm hour and one hundred and fifty thousand on timeshift. Earlier in the day, live coverage of the game scored with 1.73m viewers on Sky Sports 1 from 2.15pm. It was an absolute horrorshow of a night for ITV with their much-hyped Born To Shine pulling in a pathetic 1.94m in the eight o'clock hour where it was soundly beaten by not only a Top Gear repeat on BBC2 (3.32m) but also Channel Five's showing of the movie Men in Black. ITV's prime time share was just ten per cent - one of the smallest they've ever had, beaten into third place by BBC2 with half-a-percentage point higher and only just scraping above fourth placed Channel Five's 8.2 per cent. BBC1 won the night comfortably. Antiques Roadshow appealed to 5.08m from 6.30pm, before Countryfile was the night's most watched programme - 6.51m from 7.30pm. A repeat of The Inspector Lynley Mysteries had an audience of 4.22m on BBC1 between 8.30pm and 10pm. There was one black spot for the Beeb, though, desperately underperforming Sugartown concluded with 1.45m from 10.30pm. On Saturday night John Bishop's Britain showed its resilience against what looked to be tough ITV competition. Tarby the Second's stand-up show, airing between 9.20pm and 9.50pm, climbed three hundred thousand viewers week-on-week to an average of 4.09m for BBC1 and for the cheeky Scouse japester. Ronnie Corbett's Comedy Britain, despite being heavily publicised all week, was watched by a mere 3.09m in the 9pm hour, adding a further two hundred and eighteen thousand on ITV +1. With the likes of John Cleese, Matt Lucas, Miranda Hart and Stephen Merchant all making desperately sycophantic and lightweight contributions, what renders the two-part show's low ratings all the more surprising is the strong lead-in from the channel's screening of the fourth Harry Potter film. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire pulled in a more-than-respectable respectable 5.33m between 6.10pm and 9pm (and with a further five hundred and forty thousand viewers on +1), ahead of Tonight's The Night's 3.56m at 6.40pm, The National Lottery: In It To Win It's 4.85m (23.6%) and Casualty's 5.23m for BBC1.

The influential early sixties SF series Pathfinders is to be released on DVD for the first time after the one missing episode was discovered in the ITV archives. Until recently it was long thought that episode one of Pathfinders to Venus, SOS From Venus, had been junked, despite the survival of its soundtrack. But earlier this year the entire eight-part 1961 serial was found complete within the archives and will be released this December by Network DVD along with earlier series Pathfinders in Space and Pathfinders to Mars. One of ITV's earliest dramas written specifically for children, Sydney Newman's Pathfinders series has been described as 'the missing link' between seminal the BBC radio show Journey Into Space and Newman's subsequent creation Doctor Who. Over three series broadcast during 1960 and 1961 the Pathfinders journeyed to the moon and other worlds, facing drama at every turn – from space hazards to Venusian dinosaurs. With intelligent and engaging scripts by Malcolm Hulke and Eric Paice, and a strong cast including actors Gerald Flood and George Coulouris, the series proved tremendously successful with the viewing public and even got into the regional top ten – unheard of for a children's programme of that era. In addition to all twenty one episodes, The Pathfinders in Space Omnibus DVD also features an image gallery and production booklet by noted archive television historian Andrew Pixley. It is released on 31 December 2011.

ABC's reboot of Charlie's Angels may feature guest appearances by the stars of the original series, according to one of the show's creators. Alfred Gough has revealed that he would love for Jaclyn Smith and Cheryl Ladd to have a guest spot somewhere down the line. 'Once we've established our show in terms of what our series is, there is definitely room down the line for those appearances by characters from other iterations,' Gough told Entertainment Weekly. 'We did the same thing on Smallville as a way to honour what has come before, and to find a new twist on the characters.' Smallville featured several notable appearances by actors with links to the Superman franchise, including Christopher Reeve, Teri Hatcher and Margot Kidder. The new Charlie's Angels series stars Annie Iloneh, Minka Kelly, Rachel Taylor, and Ramón Rodríguez. The show's producers are currently searching for an actor to play the voice-only role of Charlie, following Robert Wagner's exit last month.

Current rumoured to be in production: a hidden camera show for BBC1 based on Belgian TV hit Benidorm Bastards. Bearing an uncanny resemblance to Dom Joly's Trigger Happy TV, the original version of the prank show featured a group of 'foul-mouthed, smelly, randy pensioners getting up to all sorts of larks and high jinks.' Yer actual Keith Telly Topping is reliably informed that among the highlights of the Belgian edition are a giant placard which reads 'We fuck on the first date' (in Flemish, obviously), a scene in which several of the pensioners yell 'faggot' at complete strangers before running away, a sequence where they pretend to scatter ashes at a bus stop and the, allegedly hilarious emergence, of a 'buttcruncher' out of someone's shopping trolley. One imagines that sort of thing will go down in the Don't Scare The Hare slot, no doubt. Well, the Daily Scum Mail is, after all, always telling us that old people are under-represented on TV.

The Sunday Times has quietly banned its reporters from employing subterfuge in the pursuit of stories, sources on the paper have told the Gruniad. The ban is understood is understood to have 'come from the very top' of News International according to 'insiders' and to have been ordered in the past month following the outcry over revelations that the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler was hacked and messages deleted. As a result, it is understood that the paper's editor, John Witherow, told his reporting staff not to use pseudonyms or alter egos despite the fact that such practices are allowed under law and in the Press Complaints Commission editors' code of practice for stories which are 'in the public interest.' 'We have been forced to do it,' a 'source' allegedly said. The Sunday Times was dragged into the row over newspaper ethics when it was revealed that in January 2000 it employed the services of a conman named Barry Beardall to pretend that he was engaged in a conveyancing job to trick staff at solicitors Allen & Overy into handing over information about the sale price of Gordon Brown's flat. Stings have helped the paper to some of their best exclusives over the past few years, as Witherow disclosed in a piece written for the paper last month. At the time, he defended the use of subterfuge and even 'blagging' when pursuing stories in the public interest, citing Jon Swain's revelations about the Libyan government's support for miners' union the NUM in 1984. The editor wrote: 'No two investigations are ever the same, but Swain's story bore certain hallmarks. To get to the truth he had to lie and deceive. He had to access confidential information by blagging: by pretending to be someone else and extracting the details from a hapless victim. If he had not done so, the story might never have appeared and the public would have been none the wiser. In other words, the ends justified the means.' Other scoops include its disclosures last October about alleged bribery among FIFA officials in the run up to the decision over the hosting of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. The paper's Insight team – led by Jonathan Calvert and his colleague Claire Newell — obtained a series of revelations by posing as American lobbyists and prompting a series of officials to allegedly offer up their votes for sale. Calvert and Newell used similar undercover tactics to expose a group of MPs who were touting for paid consultancy work when they left parliament just prior to the May 2010 general election. The sting caught former transport secretary Stephen Byers saying that he was 'like a cab for hire' and would ask for up to five thousand smackers a day to provide 'advisory services' to companies. Clause 10.2 of the Press Complaints Commission's code of practice demonstrations that clandestine operations or the use of deception can be legitimate. It states: 'Engaging in misrepresentation or subterfuge, including by agents or intermediaries, can generally be justified only in the public interest and then only when the material cannot be obtained by other means.' Those close to the newspaper believe that the new ban is understood to make the employment of the former News of the World reporter Mazher Mahmood less likely. Mahmood — famous for his stings posing as 'the fake sheikh' — is understood to have visited the offices of The Sunday Times two weeks ago where he was interviewed by the paper's managing editor of news, Charles Hymas. Internal sources, the Gruniad claim, have said that the ban makes Mahmood's hiring almost impossible. 'Without stings Mazher Mahmood is nothing,' said a 'source.' Another 'source' on the paper said that if Mahmood were to be hired he would not be working for the paper's Insight team. However a number of sources suggest that Mahmood's methods would be unlikely to find a fit at the paper and that he might also prove too expensive. It is thought that budget cuts are expected later this year and that Mahmood's terms may be too much. 'It's not just the large six-figure salary, it's his support staff and bodyguards. We just couldn't afford him,' said 'a senior source.' Another source - how many un-named sources are we up to now, Gruniad? Six? Seven? - allegedly added: 'They have interviewed Mazher Mahmood but they are desperate to move away from anything to do with the News of the World.' A News Corporation spokesman declined to comment on the claims. When asked to deny the existence of a subterfuge ban, the spokeswoman's only comment was that the company's reporters 'always work within the PCC code of conduct.' Which, dear blog readers might remember, is exactly what Andy Coulson told the Commons culture committee about the News of the World in 2003.

Mark Wright, who apparently is on some wretched ITV2 show, is reportedly planning to quit The Only Way Is Essex in order to launch a Hollywood career. The reality TV regular is said to have signed with the prestigious William Morris agency, who also represent celebrities such as Ryan Seacrest, Piers ­Morgan, Amanda Holden and Cat ­Deeley. 'Mark doesn't want to be seen as some reality show boy,' a 'source' allegedly told the Sunday Mirra. 'He wants to forge a proper career for himself and prove people wrong. He studied at Sylvia Young stage school when he was younger and is by no means thick. He wants to be an actor and be taken seriously - and right now he's not sure whether going back for ­another series of The Only Way Is Essex is the right move. He wants to be taken seriously and have longevity. He just doesn't know what to do right now. There are two other offers on the table and the E! network in the States is interested in ­working with him.' Wright allegedly threatened to quit The Only Way Is Essex earlier this week in a row over pay.

And, speaking of British 'talent' in Los of Angeles, Cheryl Cole has been described as 'the most boring woman in the world' by paparazzi in Hollywood. The singer has been staying at the Sunset Marquis hotel off the Sunset Strip for the past month, but has reportedly been living a somewhat reclusive lifestyle. Cole is rumoured to have been crafting her third CD at the hotel, which houses a recording studio in the basement that has previously been used by Justin Timberlake, Mr Bonio out of U2 and Robbie Williams. However, she has kept a very low profile since arriving, leading photographers and journalists in the US to describe her as dull. 'It's a waste of time,' a photographer told the Disgraceful Scum Mail on Sunday. 'She never does anything. She is the most boring woman in the world.' A hotel 'source' allegedly added: 'It's become a joke among the staff that, of all the celebrities who stay here, she is the most privacy obsessed, even though she has no profile at all.' 'She is as dull as ditchwater,' another photographer said. 'She never does anything except go to the gym, lie by the pool and work.' Despite purchasing a two million pound apartment in Century City earlier this year, Cole has opted to pay three thousand five hundred smackers a night for one of the hotel's villas. 'Most of the time she orders food from room service,' the hotel 'source' added. 'She gets oatmeal, fruit and salads and he'll go for a burger and beer. She always over-tips so the room-service guys fight over who gets to serve her. [Cheryl and her brother, Garry Tweedy] occasionally eat in the restaurant. The pool is private and she spends a lot of time there although, again, it is odd as she will cover her tummy with a towel, almost like she's embarrassed or hiding her figure, which is nuts as she's super-skinny. She chain-smokes Marlboros and goes to the spa. She always wears dark sunglasses, even in the morning when it's cloudy.'

Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane will serve as executive producer on a new series of Carl Sagan's Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. The classic space documentary first broadcast in 1980 on PBS and is to be brought back to television on FOX for a new thirteen-episode run. 'We are obsessed with angels and vampires and whatnot when there are many more exciting and very real and much more spectacular things to be excited about that are right in our own planetary backyard,' MacFarlane told the New York Times. MacFarlane, best known for his animated comedy series, will serve as producer on the new series alongside Sagan's widow Ann Druyan. 'This is obviously a complete departure from anything that I've done professionally, but it's very comfortable territory for me personally,' MacFarlane added.

More than forty people have been arrested after fierce rioting saw police attacked, buildings looted and vehicles set alight in Tottenham. Twenty-six officers and three others were hurt in the violence which erupted after a protest over the fatal shooting by police of Mark Duggan on Thursday. Residents surveyed the damage after homes were looted and shops burned down. The Metropolitan Police warned over 'ill-informed speculation' on social networking sites of further problems. So, as with just about everything else in the world, it would seem, it's all Twitter's fault. All of the injured officers have now left hospital, the force said. The BBC's Andy Moore had to report from behind police lines after a BBC satellite truck came under attack from youths throwing missiles in the early hours of Sunday morning. The people arrested remain in custody for a variety of offences including violent disorder, burglary and theft. Because, of course, the best way of protesting about what you consider to be an injustice is to go an knock-over the local Dixon's, isn't it? Meanwhile, the family of Duggan said they were 'not condoning' the violence which erupted. 'Please don't make this about my brother's life, he was a good man,' his brother Shaun Hall said. BBC crime reporter Ben Ando said that there were rumours in the community that a teenage girl who was part of the peaceful protest had been in a confrontation with police. He said: 'That appears to be the flashpoint. That was the moment at around about just after eight o'clock when it seemed that elements in the crowd decided to pick on two police cars. They were then set on fire.' Luckily, they were unoccupied at the time. The Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating Thursday's shooting. A police officer was also shot in the incident, which happened in what was called 'a pre-planned event,' under Operation Trident, which investigates gun crime in the African and Caribbean communities. Police had stopped a minicab which Duggan had been travelling in. Met Commander Adrian Hanstock warned people not to believe rumours. He said: 'Throughout the day we have been monitoring social networking sites and I'd like to say right from the outset, we're conscious of some really ill-informed speculation on those sites relating to potential further problems.' On Saturday night, shops and homes were looted and cash machines ripped out in Tottenham. There were also thefts from shops in nearby Wood Green. London Fire Brigade said it had attended forty nine fires in the area. Some smoking buildings were still being dampened on Sunday, while residents surveyed the damage from behind a police cordon. During the riot, which erupted at about eight o'clock, people threw petrol bombs, reducing many buildings and vehicles to charred wrecks. A double-decker bus, two police cars and a carpet shop were among the vehicles and buildings destroyed. Them carpet shops, eh, symbols of the oppression of state on ... floorboards. Crowds of looters smashed shop windows in a retail park near Tottenham Hale tube station. The front window of Currys electrical store was smashed and the door of Argos was shattered after looters raided the stock room. Fortunately, 'the laminated book of dreams' survived the ensuing kerfuffle. Every handset was stolen from a mobile phone store nearby. Teenagers and adults were said to have turned up in cars to Tottenham's retail park and filled their boots with stolen items, unimpeded by the police. Others arrived on foot and piled shopping trolleys high with looted electronic goods, a local woman, who did not want to be named, said. Another local resident told the BBC that looting had continued beyond daybreak on Sunday. Meanwhile, shops including Vision Express, the Body Shop and Boots, in nearby Wood Green's High Street were also raided. Two cars there were also burnt out. The BBC's Andy Moore said that since Broadwater Farm riots in 1985, relations between the local community and police had been generally good, but last week's shooting of Duggan raised tensions. A friend of Duggan, who gave her name as Niki, said that those who had joined Saturday's protest, which began with a march from Broadwater Farm area, wanted 'justice for the family.' Home Secretary Theresa May condemned the violence saying: 'Such disregard for public safety and property will not be tolerated and the Metropolitan Police have my full support in restoring order.' Labour MP for the area David Lammy said the community which 'was already hurting has had its heart ripped out.' He added: 'This is an attack on Tottenham, on people, shopkeepers, women, children, now standing homeless.' A Downing Street spokesman called the rioting 'utterly unacceptable.' London's deputy mayor Kit Malthouse said: 'It's absolutely outrageous to see it on the streets of London. We'll do as much as we can to ensure there's no recurrence tonight.' An eighteen-year-old youth, who did not want to give his name, said: 'Police know what they should have done, they should have come to speak to the community themselves. They don't care.' The Reverend Nims Obunge, Pastor at the Freedom's Ark Church, in Tottenham, said: 'It is right that this community should have questions they have answered. Until those questions are answered I don't think we can effectively rebuild the community.'

Michael Bukht, who has died aged sixty nine after a period of ill health, successfully led a double life. Some knew that his worlds of Classic FM and the 'crafty cook' overlapped, but many did not. He would not have minded either way: what mattered was his nose for detecting the popular and a keen ability to deliver entertainment, which led to significant success in his different endeavours. While television made him a household name as Michael Barry from Food and Drink, his greater impact on broadcasting came through spotting a gap in the provision of classical music: he was one of the founders of the national commercial radio station Classic FM in 1992, and its programme controller for five years. Bukht was not a musician, but was determined to apply the formula of popular music stations to the classical world, giving the audience what he reckoned were the essentials of companionship. He considered radio stations to be disseminators of information, entertainment, ideas and wit. He thought that an audience did not like to be challenged all the time, just some of it, and there was a time in the day for this: the evening. Commuters needed the time, the weather, the news – all interspersed with movements of music, though not usually whole works. Mozart, he said, understood this piecemeal approach to performance of his works, with not all the movements all of the time, and so what was good enough for Mozart was good enough for him. When commercial stations had come to London in 1973, he was programme director of Capital Radio, and he applied the popular principles he had honed there to the more sober presentation of classical music, delivered until then primarily on Radio 3. Bukht was born to a Pakistani diplomat father and a domestic science teacher mother whose family came from south Wales. After Haberdashers' Aske's school in North London, he went to study history at King's College London. In 1963, he became a BBC trainee, starting in drama, and moving to the Light Programme soap Mrs Dale's Diary. He worked on the pilot for The World at One before switching to television, where he was part of the original team on the Tonight programme, working with Cliff Michelmore, Alan Whicker and Brian Redhead. At the age of twenty five, he became programme controller of both radio and television for the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation, returning to the BBC after two years, in 1969, to edit Twenty four Hours and then special projects, including the supervising of the following year's election coverage. In 1972 came the start-up of Capital Radio, and he went on to be programme controller for the GWR group. With the chief executive of this network of independent local radio stations, Ralph Bernard, Bukht thought up the idea of Classic FM. It was the era of the Three Tenors, and commercials with memorable music – Hamlet cigars, British Airways – so the pair decided there was mileage in making classical music more accessible in a popular format. The BBC was worried about this impostor in the middle-listening marketplace, not just in the more academic halls of Radio 3, but at Radio 4 and Radio 2 as well. Indeed, Bukht always maintained that Classic FM and Radio 3 were not rivals, and that his audience would largely come from elsewhere, not least because he needed a larger listening public than could be taken from Radio 3. Bukht enjoyed needling these bastions of culture but wished them no ill. He thought straightforwardly that there was room for another station, and one that he and others would like. His format of chat and short but complete bits of music was initially successful until there was a disastrous attempt to export the format, and the station tried to recoup its losses through extra advertising, which in turn alienated listeners. Bukht remained as programme controller until a stress-related illness caused him to step down to a consultancy role in 1997. However, while his successful formula has inevitably been modified, his basic vision for Classic FM has remained constant. Buhkt's popular touch was underpinned robustly by a completely professional approach to business, slightly at odds with his avuncular and homespun alter ego of Michael Barry. In the late 1980s and early 90s, he was one of the key elements in the presentation of BBC2's Food and Drink, the easy-viewing programme of cookery and wine-tasting. His cooking veered away from the flash, and he provided a relaxed, homely presence, enjoying puns and interacting with his fellow presenters Chris Kelly and Jilly Goolden. In 1996, he was appointed OBE. He married the actor and dancer Jennie Jones in 1964, and is survived by her, a son and three daughters.

The latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day comes from Arrows. Once they had their own TV series which ran for two years during which they released a grand total of no records. Probably just as well.

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