Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Better Not Let Him In

The greatest British sketch comedy series of the last thirty years, The Fast Show, has been revived for another series, according to co-creator Charlie Higson. The 1990s show which ran on the BBC between 1994 and 1997, will return on 14 November. Higson wrote on Twitter: 'A lot of you have been asking when we will be bringing The Fast Show back. The answer is yes.' The fifty three-year-old also announced that the show's original cast members will reprise their roles, with the exception of Mark Williams. The Royle Family creator Caroline Aherne, who did not take part in one-off special Last Fast Show Ever in 2000, will appear. The Fast Show also starred co-creator Paul Whitehouse, Arabella Weir, John Thomson and Simon Day. 'We will have all the old team back together, including Caroline, but sadly not Mark Williams. All the popular characters,' Higson added. Well, except the ones Williams played for that's no Jesse, no 'I'll get Me Coat', no 'You ain't seen me, right?' and, presumably, 'Radiant' Ken will have to be telling Johnny Deep it 'suits you, sir' without his old oppo, Kenneth. Pity. It was previously claimed by Bleeding Cool website that The Fast Show's return would be produced by Fosters, where it would sit alongside recent revivals Vic and Bob's Afternoon Delights and Alan Partridge's Mid-Morning Matters. Meanwhile last year, Brand Republic quoted Fosters marketing manager Gayle Harrison as saying that The Fast Show was 'among the brands the company wanted to commission.' Higson, amusingly, warned fans that they may not all be so pleased with the new Fast Show when it airs. 'You might change your mind when you see our Downton Abbey sketch.' Yer actual Keith Telly Topping likes muchly this news. This news pleases Keith Telly Topping greatly. Bring Keith Telly Topping more news of this sort. Or, failing that, more on the phone-hacking scandal.
Former Scum of the World legal manager Tom Crone has told MPs he was 'certain' that he told James Murdoch about an e-mail which indicated that phone hacking at the paper went beyond 'one rogue reporter.' Crone said that the so-called 'For Neville' e-mail was discussed and 'it was the reason that we had to settle the case.' In a previous hearing, News Corp bosses Rupert and James Murdoch both claimed that they were not told about the existence of the e-mail. The paper's former editor, Colin Myler, also told MPs that the e-mail was discussed in the meeting with James Murdoch at which the decision was taken to settle the civil case of PFA chief Gordon Taylor whose phone had been hacked by the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire. The Commons committee also quizzed former News International legal director Jon Chapman and human resources director Daniel Cloke in a second round of questions from MPs examining the whole sorry phone hacking fiasco. The discrepancy in the evidence between Crone and Myler's allegations and those of Rupert and - especially - James Murdoch hinges on a key document from April 2008, known as the 'for Neville' e-mail. The Scum of the World's royal editor Clive Goodman was jailed for hacking into phones of the royal household - a practice that the paper insisted at the time - and continued to publicly insist for the following four years - was not more widely used by other reporters at the Scum of the World. But the 'for Neville' e-mail - which was handed to the newspaper by the people investigating the case in 2008 - is said to have implied that the Scum of the World's chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck at the very least was also implicated in such malpractices and nefarious skulduggery, shenanigans and malarkey. Giving evidence to the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, Crone said: 'It was clear evidence that phone-hacking was taking place beyond Clive Goodman. It was the reason that we had to settle the [Gordon Taylor] case. And in order to settle the case we had to explain the case to Mr Murdoch and get his authority to settle. So certainly it would have been discussed. I cannot remember the detail of the conversation. And there isn't a note of it. The conversation lasted for quite a short period, I would think probably less than fifteen minutes or about fifteen minutes. It was discussed. But exactly what was said I cannot recall.' It was at this meeting that James Murdoch authorised Crone to reach a settlement with Gordon Taylor, the Professional Footballers' Association chief executive, who was eventually paid four hundred and twenty five thousand pounds over the hacking of his phone, the committee heard. But Crone insisted that there was no 'cover-up' by the company, as the e-mail had been provided to them by the Metropolitan Police after it was seized from Mulcaire, who was jailed with Goodman in 2007. The former legal chief said that his priority was to avoid cases being launched by four other individuals whose phones Mulcaire had also admitted to hacking. 'The imperative or the priority at the time was to settle this case, get rid of it, contain the situation as far as four other litigants were concerned and get on with our business,' he said. James Murdoch told the culture committee earlier this year that he was not aware of the e-mail when he approved an out-of-court settlement - and, attached confidentiality clause - with Taylor. Myler and Crone later released a statement saying that they did inform Murdoch of not only the existence but, also, the contents of the e-mail. Culture committee chairman John Whittingdale told the BBC last month that after hearing more from the two men, MPs may well choose to drag Murdoch back to the Commons to explain himself. Labour MP Tommy Watson (power to the people!), who has pursued the issue of phone hacking with great tenacity and become something of public hero for doing so, has already suggested that Murdoch must return to face the fresh allegations that he deliberately misled parliament. But Murdoch himself has said that he 'stands by his testimony' to the committee, in which he said: 'If I knew then what we know now we would have taken more action around that and we would have taken more action to get to the bottom of these matters.' Giving evidence to MPs earlier on Tuesday, both Chapman and Cloke said that they were 'surprised' by claims from jailed former Scum of the World royal correspondent Clive Goodman that phone hacking was widespread at the paper. Goodman, the Scum of the World's former royal editor, sent the letter to Cloke, the then News International group human resources director, saying he had been 'unfairly dismissed' - for gross misconduct - after being jailed for phone hacking in 2007. Goodman alleged that 'other members of staff were carrying out the same illegal procedures' and that 'this practice was widely discussed in the daily editorial conference.' Cloke told the committee that Goodman's claims surprised not only him, but Myler - who had recently taken over as editor from Andy Coulson - and Crone: 'Tom said that this was a surprise to him, as it was to everybody else.' Cloke, added that no one at the News Corp had admitted to wrongdoing in an internal review of phone hacking. He also denied claims that he had said 'good news, there is no smoking gun' after taking receipt of the Harbottle & Lewis report on a number of staff e-mails which were given to the legal firm to establish, News International claimed, whether any wrongdoing could be established. Harbottle & Lewis have since denied that they were asked to establish any such thing. 'No one when I spoke to them admitted any wrongdoing at all,' Cloke said, although he didn't reveal how touch the questioning was. 'I do not think I would have said "good news." I do not recall saying that.' Both Cloke and Chapman used that exact phrase on several occasions leading Dan Roberts of the Gruniad to tweet: 'Big sigh of relief in Murdoch bunker. Former HR director and lawyer playing the "do not recall" line about how far up the chain hacking went.' Paul Waugh, the editor of the Politcshome.com website added - also on Twitter: '"I don't recall" is today's catchphrase from Messrs Chapman and Cloke.' Chapman defended the e-mail review he had carried out in reaction to the letter as a 'thorough' and a 'careful and diligent exercise' but admitted when pressed that it was 'limited in its scope.' He said there was 'nothing that indicated reasonable evidence' of voicemail interception, and 'no other illegal activity stood out,' insisting that he 'did not recall' at any point thinking there was material which would require the police to be brought in. But, he said it was an 'employment related exercise' - not a criminal case - and that he was looking for evidence of hacking linked to Clive Goodman's unfair dismissal appeal rather than anything more widespread. Chapman admitted that the decision to pay Goodman a year's salary (one hundred and forty thousand pounds plus thirteen thousand quid in legal costs) after his guilty plea 'could appear strange' but claimed it was on 'compassionate grounds.' The committee heard that the company paid out a total of two hundred and thirty thousand pounds to Goodman. Chapman added: 'We did not take the decision to settle. The decision was taken by Mr Hinton following our work. It was a stark choice - settle at a reasonable figure or end up in tribunal. At the tribunal proceedings Mr Goodman would have been able to make several allegations ... in a public domain. It was a pragmatic business decision. Many companies, particularly big ones, pay out on claims that have little or not merit for pragmatic reasons as they do not because they don't want stuff raked up.' Particularly not allegations of illegal activity that, as it turned out, were true. 'There was no basis to think we were undertaking a cover-up,' Chapman claimed. 'My job was to see if we could reach a reasonable settlement. We were stopping the repuational effect of a tribunal claim and we did not want to give currency to those allegations.' Champman went on to say that Rupert Murdoch was wrong to criticise Harbottle & Lewis and blame the outside lawyers for giving News International 'a clean bill of health' over hacking. The legal firm, which in the past has acted for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York, is under fire for failing to tell police or MPs about the scale of the problem. Harbottle & Lewis had previously insisted client confidentiality prevented them from making full disclosure to police. Tommy Watson asked 'Do you accept it was wrong for Murdoch to blame Harbottle & Lewis?' Chapman squirmed: 'I think that Mr Murdoch didn't have his facts right. I don't think he had been briefed properly. I think it was wrong to...' Watson promptly cut him dead with 'Yes, or no, was he wrong?' Chapman responded: 'Yes he was wrong.' Chapman said 'We did what I thought was a careful and diligent exercise back in 2007. We didn't find anything that amounted to reasonable evidence of voicemail interception.' Under questioning from Tory self-publicist and Piers Morgan's former accuser Louise Bagashite Mensch, Chapman said: 'There was nothing that gave me cause for concern that needed to be escalated.' Later, Crone denied that Clive Goodman had ever told him about wider phone hacking at the Scum of the World. Myler added that there was 'never a suggestion' that he would rehire Goodman which is what, he claims, Andy Coulson, his predecessor as editor wanted. Crone told MPs: 'Coulson had conversations with me on two or three occasions in which he said if Clive is guilty and sentenced, when he has served his sentence Mr Coulson was hoping that he could persuade the company that Clive Goodman could come back and work for the company, albeit not in a reporter's capacity. When I spoke to Clive I relayed that to him.' Watson asked about specifics of the Gordon Taylor payment but Crone was rather short on detail. The Labour MP then asked, with impeccable comic timing: 'Are you not familiar with the Taylor case, Mr Crone?' Crone claimed that he had not read anything about the case since since 2009 to which Watson asked what he has been doing, if he has not reviewed the file in two years. Cue much laughter. Watson asked if Crone 'misled us in 2009' over evidence that he gave about the confidentiality clause on the Taylor case. Crone dodged the question and insisted that he gave evidence his correctly. He said that he had never denied confidentiality was 'an important part of the settlement,' which Watson said contradicted previous evidence. Crone argued that the company settled for 'a substantial amount of money' because they wanted to settle the case quickly and without too much fuss. 'The imperative or the priority at the time was to settle this case, get rid of it, contain the situation as far as four other litigants were concerned and get on with our business.' Crone told the committee that he had engaged in no 'cover-up' and that it was not 'a bad thing' that Goodman's legal fees were paid for by News International: 'Let me make something clear, the production of this document [the "for Neville" e-mail] was the Metropolitan Police. It was a Metropolitan Police document coming out of their investigation. How can we be accused of a cover up on something that reached us from the police? It is not as if it has not been looked at, considered by experts.If we had to pay way over the odds with Mr Taylor, especially with a confidentiality clause which he asked for, then that is a good course of action. We did not underestimate or mislead you in any way whatsoever about the importance of that e-mail.' Crone also attempted to dismiss a range of allegations put to him, in a rapid series of back-and-forths with Watson as 'nonsense.' These included the claim that he viewed hacking into voicemail not as gross misconduct but 'a reporter's job' and that the only 'problem was he [Goodman] got caught.' Crone also denied that 'hacking was widespread' and said that he, himself, has not yet received a pay-out from News International since losing his own job when the Sunday tabloid was closed down in disgrace two months ago. But, Crone said, he was 'hopeful' that he'd get what was due to him. He denied having conversations with other News International lawyers about his previous evidence to the committee. The hearing was told of claims that the Sun had commissioned Glenn Mulcaire - a claim which Crone said he was unaware of. He denied ever meeting Mulcaire himself but admitted to meeting - once - with Jonathan Rees, another rather shadowy private investigator who has figured in the case. Rees worked as an investigator for the Scum of the World and for other publications between 1993 and 2000, and was reportedly re-hired by Andy Coulson, the former editor of the Sunday tabloid, in 2007 after serving a seven stretch for conspiring to plant cocaine on an innocent woman in order to discredit her in a child custody battle. Crone also said that he was unaware well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks 'may have' contacted civil claimants to ask them to stop their legal actions. He admitted that he 'probably did' commission private investigators or surveillance at various times during his employment at the Scum of the World because it was 'not unusual for lawyers' to use such means. This rather blase answer brought further questions from several of the Committee about exactly when in in what circumstances he had done so. Myler told MPs about why he and Crone had issued their statement contradicting James Murdoch's evidence: 'It was alleged wrongly, that as a result of what Mr Murdoch said, that we were guilty of covering up a sequence of events, which had to be clarified because that was not factually correct.' Asked if he was 'remiss' in not being more thorough in trying to solve problems at the company in his early days he replied: 'I will take personal responsibility for my actions.' Myler added that Clive Goodman's appeal against dismissal was 'surreal.' Myler said he was 'happy' with his time as editor, because 'there are no gray areas, you keep your job as a national newspaper editor when things are going well and are sacked if they go bad.' He said it was similar to the life of a football manager, that editors were left in no doubt if their performance was not regarded as up to standard. Myler said that he had 'investigated' Goodman's claims and said he found 'no smoking gun.' He added: 'I was not aware of any financial payment was made in relation with Mr Goodman.' He stated that he was not involved in any negotiations of this nature. MPs questioned how such a meeting with James Murdoch could last only fifteen minutes to discuss such important information. Crone replied: 'That is my recollection of it.' He added, about Murdoch: 'I am absolutely [and] perfectly prepared to accept that he's got his recollection wrong.' Mensch asked Crone about a story published concerning the murder victim Milly Dowler in April 2002 which allegedly made reference to three voicemail messages left on Miss Dowler's phone. Mensch noted that it has since been alleged that details of the voicemails which appeared in early editions of the Scum of the World on 14 April 2002 were later removed and replaced by a completely different story in the second edition. Crone said that he could not remember the story and asked to see the reports to which she refers. Having studied the two different texts, he said that he had 'no recollection' of giving advice that the details should be removed on legal grounds. Crone repeats he has 'no recollection of advising on that story' and said that he believed he had not been consulted on this matter as, if he had been, he was likely to have remembered such a discussion. Asked whether a lawyer would have advised those sentences should be removed, Crone said not necessarily. He suggested that the detail could have appeared to have come from 'police sources' - and it was possible the police themselves had complained after the first edition was published and it was then removed. John Whittingdale asks Crone about his comment that he had explained what the 'for Neville' e-mail 'meant' to James Murdoch - did he mention that the document had the name 'Neville' on the top - the same first name as the paper's then-chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck? Crone said that he could not recall. Crone said that what the 'for Neville' e-mail showed above all else was that a transcript of Gordon Taylor's voicemails had 'passed through' the Scum of the World office. 'That is what was relayed to Mr Murdoch,' he added. Mensch asked if this did not prove beyond doubt that 'many reporters' were involved? No, argued Crone, it merely showed that it had gone through the computer system of one junior reporter. He did concede, however, that the implication was more people knew because the junior reporter had been asked to transcribe it. Ben Geoghegan, the BBC's political correspondent, noted: 'At times, the exchanges between Tom Watson and Tom Crone sounded like a cross-examination you would hear in a Crown Court. Watson, for the "prosecution," put it to Mr Crone that News International was "desperate to conceal the crime" and that "the only problem was he [Goodman] got caught." He also alleged that "hacking was standard practice at the News of the World." Crone, for the "defence," replied with "nonsense", or "that is not true."' Oliver Wright, the Whitehall editor at the Independent tweeted: 'Tom Crone [is] being made to look enormously "shifty" by Tom Watson on the Taylor payment.' At the very end of the session Watson asked Crone if he had seen any dossiers on the private lives of lawyers acting for people suing the Scum of the World over phone hacking. After a moment's hesitation, Crone replied 'I saw one thing about two of the lawyers.' He added that the material in it was gathered by 'a freelance journalist' working for News International. Asked by Watson if he knows who 'commissioned' that freelancer, Crone said that he did, but when pressed to name names, he added: 'I don't think we should do that because of the police investigation.' He was also asked whether he knew of any surveillance being carried out on members of the Committee itself after their previous hearings with News International employees in 2007 and 2009. Crone claimed that he did not.

Steve Coogan recalls clearly the moment he decided to sue the Scum of the World. 'What motivated me was seeing Andy Coulson gaining a modicum of respectability standing next to David Cameron,' the actor and comedian told the Gruniad. 'I remember thinking "Andy Coulson should not be at the heart of power." That was my gut instinct. That man shouldn't be there.' In the interview which took place in New York where Coogan is filming an adaptation of a Henry James novel, he said: 'Two years ago I rang my publicist and said "Look, there's some information that my phone may have been hacked." I was told: "That story's gone away, it's not going to come back and Coulson's at the heart of Downing Street now, he's surrounded by a ring of steel. "' Despite the warning, Coogan started legal action against the newspaper, becoming one of a handful of celebrities to do so at that time. His legal battle has played a pivotal part in the fight to uncover how widespread the practice was at the Scum of the World, giving him a leading part in the revolt against tabloid excess. As Coogan developed his own case, he obtained some crucial evidence about related hacking activities undertaken by Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator employed by the tabloid to do the dirty deeds. Mulcaire was forced by the high court to write to Coogan's legal team revealing who, exactly, at the disgraced and disgraceful tabloid had ordered him to hack into mobile phones belonging to a group of public figures in the middle part of the last decade, including Coogan himself, the fashion model Elle Macpherson, the politician Simon Hughes, the publicist Max Clifford and the football agent, Sky Andrew. Coogan is barred by the terms of the court order from discussing the contents of the letter publicly, but the Gruniad states that it is 'widely expected' to reveal that Mulcaire took instructions from 'more than one person' at the Scum of the World. If so, it will provide the most compelling evidence yet that the Scum of the World's 'one rogue reporter' defence - which to stuck to from the moment of Goodman and Mulcaire's arrest in 2006 right up until January of this year - was 'nothing but a ruse designed to disguise the true extent of phone hacking at the paper.' Coogan told the Gruniad that News Corp's senior executives 'must be held to account' for that. 'The culture of the people on the shopfloor is reflection of management,' he said. 'It always is. So it may be that certain people haven't committed crimes, but there's a cultural culpability.' He believes that the hacking affair is symptomatic of a wider malaise afflicting the tabloid press, and that now is the time to tackle a culture of what he described as 'irresponsible journalism.' He continued: 'We all know it's not one rogue reporter but it's not even an aberration. Hacking into a victim of crime's phone is a sort of poetically elegant manifestation of a modus operandi the tabloids have.' He conceded, reasonably, that such a view is coloured by his own despicable treatment at the hands of the Scum of the World and some of its rivals, which have written numerous stories in the past about his recreational drug use and private sex life. 'I got my arse kicked,' he said. 'Is it part of a sort of personal vendetta? That's certainly what motivated me in the first place, I won't deny that.' He added that Coulson personally orchestrated an unsuccessful attempt to trick him into admitting that he had slept with a woman, which was foiled after Coogan was tipped off by the Scum of the World's former showbusiness editor Rav Singh. '[Coulson] had this dancer in his office that I'd once spent the night in a hotel with. [She was] calling me to try and get me to admit to various things. This is not illegal, but it shows you the character of the man. The point is that this is the kind of thing he does. That's not to say he knew about hacking. We don't know this yet. We'll learn about all the details of that in the inquiry.' Critics might argue that the story about the dancer also reveals much about Coogan's own character, but Coogan insists that tabloids have no right to delve into his personal affairs. 'What happens in my private life is none of your fucking business,' he said, not unreasonably. 'I'm an entertainer. I don't go round saying I'm a paragon of virtue, so that is clearly not in the public interest.' Nor does he accept the argument that curtailing the media's freedom to write about the peccadilloes of the rich and famous is tantamount to censorship. 'It serves certain people's commercial interests to characterise what's happening as an attack on the freedom of the press and it's not,' he argued. 'It's about responsible journalism. The tabloids operate in an amoral parallel universe where the bottom line is selling newspapers. It's like blaming a scorpion for not being moral. They just sting people. That's what they do. Sometimes they might sting someone who deserves it. But it's not through any moral imperative. And this idea that for every twenty stories they do about a pile of shit, they do one story that has some sort of nobility to it – I don't buy it.' Coogan says News Group, the News Corp subsidiary which owned the paper until it closed in disgraced in July, has offered to settle his case. 'It wouldn't have covered the costs but it would have taken the sting out of what I'd spent,' he says. The action has so far cost Coogan more than one hundred grand. But he refused to speculate about whether James Murdoch should stand down. And he also will not talk about Coulson's future, although he is clearly not losing much sleep over either of the men's ultimate fate. 'If my conduct is fair game for them then their conduct is fair game for people like me to comment on,' he said. 'It's a democracy and I'll have my say.' According to the Gruniad Coogan 'wants to ensure that the hacking story remains centre stage,' and that he plans to use his profile to ensure News Corp does not escape further scrutiny by spinning out the civil actions in the hope the public will lose interest. '[They're hoping] there will be some big disaster or something that'll knock it off the front pages and hopefully no one will care anymore. And I will do everything in my power [to prevent that]. Because I'm a more populist person and I reach a more generalised audience that goes beyond broadsheets I can help keep it in the popular imagination and I will do everything in my power to keep it in there.' Coogan recalls a conversation with Martin Sixsmith, the former civil servant and journalist, with whom he worked on the film In the Loop. 'He said to me: "You could walk away from this but you won't – you'll probably want to have a fight because you're a bloody-minded northerner." And I thought "Yeah, he's right."' Coogan was also quoted by the paper as saying: 'The Daily Mail is worse than the redtops because it has this semblance of respectability. To me the Daily Mail is like a used car salesman in a cheap suit because it masquerades as having this respectability about it and yet it peddles the same kind of hate-mongering [as] the redtops. I was very pleased that when I slagged off Paul Dacre on Newsnight he ran a story the next day about me and Hugh Grant, trying to dredge up all the old shit. I thought: "Oh good, I've annoyed him." Paul Dacre can have my fucking hard drive off my computer. He won't find anything there other than very orthodox pornography that consenting couples used recreationally. He'll be familiar with the stuff. David Cameron himself said this inquiry is going to look at the whole way. As far as I'm concerned that includes Paul Dacre. That's going to be under oath. That's a big deal. I'd like to see Paul Dacre say a few things under oath. That'd be fun.' Steve Coogan, ladies and gentlemen. Good-damn working class hero!

The former News International chief executive and well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks is reportedly to give evidence alongside several victims of phone hacking as part of the judicial inquiry into press intrusion. A lawyer representing Rupert Murdoch's UK newspaper publishing group told a sitting of the High Court today that Brooks and 'some or many' current and former News International executives could appear as 'core participants' before Lord Justice Leveson's public inquiry into phone hacking. Lawyers representing one hundred alleged victims of illegal voicemail interception, including Steve Coogan and Sienna Miller, said that they have also offered to give evidence at the inquiry. Brooks appeared in front of the Commons' Culture, Media, and Sport Select Committee in July to answer questions about the phone hacking scandal at the Scum of the World. Lord Leveson has said that he would decide in the next few days who should be deemed 'core participants' in the judicial inquiry - these people will be able to be cross-examined by other witnesses in the inquiry. There has been suggestions that News Corporation executives Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch may also be called to appear before the court. High profile victims of press intrusion, such as the parents of missing Madeleine McCann and former Formula One boss Max Mosley, are likely to be among the first to give oral evidence to the inquiry. Several victims of phone hacking, including actors Jude Law and Hugh Grant, are thought to have declined the opportunity to be core participants, but will give evidence before the court. Opening the inquiry at the High Court, Leveson said that 'although I will be conducting this inquiry with a degree of formality, I won't be conducting it as a trial.' The judge said that the inquiry would initially look into the 'culture, practice and ethics' of the press. It is expected to last several months, with a report expected within a year. Various newspaper groups, including Express Newspapers, Guardian News & Media, and News International, the publisher of the now-defunct, disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World, have applied for core participant status at the inquiry. Mirra Group Newspapers, publisher of the Daily Mirra and the Sunday Mirra has opted against applying for similar status, but an MGN spokesman said the company remains 'fully committed to engaging with the inquiry.' Meanwhile, News International has confirmed plans to cut one hundred and ten jobs across its workforce, with almost half of the former Scum of the World staff having opted to take voluntary redundancy. Tom Mockridge, who succeeded Brooks as chief executive of News International, sent an internal e-mail outlining some changes introduced after the Sunday tabloid was shut down in July. Mockridge revealed that eighty nine of the estimated two hundred Scum of the World employees have chosen to take up an enhanced redundancy package, while just twenty three have found new positions within News International.

The BBC's Delivery Quality First cost-cutting programme is entering its final stages with senior BBC managers attending workshops on how to prepare staff for 'the DQF journey ahead.' Or, the sack, in other words. However, it is understood that the timetable to announce some of the biggest changes to the corporation's output in recent years has slipped and although staff have been told they will hear the results of DQF on 22 September, it could be put back to early October. One 'source' allegedly told the Gruniad Morning Star - who could hardly contain their glee: 'The top BBC management team are due to meet on 15 September to finalise proposals and then the BBC Trust meets on 22 September. Lord Patten does not want the process to drag on so is looking to get the trustees to buy in to whatever is agreed before an announcement is made in early October.' Another source claimed that 6 October has been pencilled in to make public the results of DQF. Managers have attended a series of lengthy briefings, including one on Tuesday at Broadcasting House, to teach them 'how to tell the DQF story,' according to a BBC memo. It is understood that the briefings are being spearheaded by the BBC's director of business operations, Lucy Adams. BBC management has completed a lengthy staff consultation process and there has been intense speculation about how the corporation is going to make a sixteen per cent cut in operating costs as a result of last year's licence fee settlement with the government. 'Sources' allegedly say that executives are still looking to cut back BBC4 and bring it closer to BBC2, reduce BBC3's budget, increase the number of repeats and replace some of BBC2's daytime output, perhaps with some BBC4 programmes. It is understood that the changes to BBC2 daytime have been analysed and could lead to up to a two per cent fall in ratings. Overall, around half the savings will come from cutting budgets for programmes and other content. Other savings proposals include capping redundancy pay and getting rid of an 'unpredictability allowance' paid to staff to compensate them for having shifts altered – moves that will prove unpopular with BBC News staff. Around one hundred and thirty one of them are facing redundancy as a result of the move of BBC Breakfast, children's, sport, BBC Learning and parts of 5Live and technology from London to Salford. Cutting back on sports rights is also on the agenda, but it is thought that sport has already made a significant saving by cutting the amount it pays for Formula One rights by about half to some thirty million smackers after renegotiating its contract and sharing coverage with Sky. There is also an internal row brewing over planned cuts to BBC Birmingham. The regional centre is thought to have fought to keep production of popular soap Doctors at BBC Birmingham but could lose other shows such as Countryfile to other BBC production bases. It remains to be seen what the effect of an online petition signed by about forty one thousand people to save BBC4 from cutbacks will have. Probably the same as every online petetion, absolutely not a single one of which has ever achieved anything. One 'source' allegedly said that if the BBC Trust decides to 'flex its muscles' it will be over 'the future of the channels.' While the chairman of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten, has not officially ruled out closing a service, the director general, Mark Thompson, is apparently still keen to avoid any closures. It is not the first time the two have had a difference of opinion. Earlier this week it emerged that Thompson had signed a proposal drafted by Adams to bring back bonuses for senior executives. However it was vetoed by Patten. 'It's standard practice for management to hold discussions about how best to communicate changes to staff,' said a spokeswoman for the BBC.

The ban on filming in law courts in Britain is to be overturned to 'improve public understanding of the justice system,' Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke has said. Broadcasters will be allowed to film judgements in England and Wales. Broadcasting will initially be allowed from the Court of Appeal, and will be expanded to the Crown Court in future. The permitted filming will only be of judges' summary remarks - victims, witnesses, offenders and jurors will not be filmed. The judges' remarks are made at the end of a trial. Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said the public's understanding and confidence of the legal system would improve if cameras were allowed. Critics have said prisoners could be at risk if personal information and previous convictions were revealed. Clarke said: 'The government and judiciary are determined to improve transparency and public understanding of court through allowing court broadcasting. We believe television has a role in increasing public confidence in the justice system.' Filming and broadcasting in court is currently banned under two Acts of Parliament and new legislation will need to be passed to allow cameras into the courts. The BBC News legal correspondent Clive Coleman said that the director of public prosecutions, many judges and some lawyers were cautiously enthusiastic about the proposals. Some had argued that not seeing the trials themselves would hamper viewers' understanding of sentencing. Khan said: 'I believe that public understanding of and confidence in our legal system would improve if judges' verdicts were televised. However, it will be extremely important to ensure that careful controls are in place to protect jurors, victims and witnesses, particularly in complex and high-profile cases.' In March, the top civil judge in England and Wales suggested televising hearings to increase confidence in justice. Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger said broadcasting some cases could boost public engagement in the court process. But Julian Young, a solicitor advocate - a solicitor qualified to represent clients in the higher courts - said prisoners could be put at risk if all the judge's remarks, including personal information and previous convictions, were televised. 'The general prison population can be very cruel towards other prisoners they may see as being weak,' he said. Young said there could be difficulties in that the public would not be hearing what the prosecutor or defence lawyer had said. He told BBC News that problems could arise if, for example, 'the public gallery decided to erupt' halfway through the judge's speech or if people misbehaved in court in order to gain publicity. 'There are all sorts of dangers which have to be carefully examined and a balance obtained, and that balance is not an easy one because all you're concentrating on is the judge,' he added. Filming in English courts has been banned since 1925. Cameras have been allowed in Scotland's courts since 1992 but only if all parties involved have given their consent. This is not the first time such plans have been considered. In 2000 there were reports that a committee headed by the then Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine of Lairg, was looking at something similar. But the government of the time denied this was the case. In addition to allowing broadcasting, Clarke announced that an unprecedented level of information about the performance of courts will be published in future to allow the public to see how their local courts are working. This will include: Court-by-court statistics for the time taken for cases to be processed, from offence to conviction, allowing people to compare the performance of their local courts; details on how many trials were ineffective and why they were ineffective. Anonymised data on each case heard at local courts and the sentences given. Also, details of how many people have been convicted or released from prisons in each area and how often they re-offended afterwards and, from next May, justice outcomes will be placed alongside crime data on police.uk so that people can see what happens next after crimes are committed in their areas. The shift towards the televising of court proceedings has always been hampered by the spectre of crass overblown circuses like OJ Simpson's trial in the US which degenerated into prime-time entertainment. Television companies have been pressing for greater access to the highlights of court cases and a consultation on the shift was undertaken by the previous Labour government but was eventually discarded. Now the present government has revived the plans, believing a judicial pronouncement should become more of a moment of public reckoning. Officials believe transparency would aid public understanding of the court process and the idea has gained momentum in the aftermath of the riots. Number 10 has decided to strengthen its law and order agenda in the wake of the riots, but televising verdicts is something Cameron has been minded to do for some time. A Downing Street spokesman told the Gruniad: 'this is something we're looking at.' The director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, suggested in May when the consultation was announced that he would lend the move his support. He called for greater openness and transparency in the justice system. Starmer told a Society of Editors meeting: 'In principle I would support a proposal that judgments, judges' closing remarks and judicial sentencing in criminal cases could be televised. There may be a case for going further, although I would obviously not want to promote anything that adversely affected the ability of victims or witnesses to give their best evidence to the court. Therefore there would need to be appropriate safeguards, particularly in cases involving vulnerable individuals, and any requests to televise any part of the court process should be subject to the judge's individual discretion.' When the country's most senior court – the supreme court in Westminster – was opened in September 2009 it was fitted with cameras. As things stand it is the only court where footage is routinely available for broadcasters on request and has been televised live. It allows visitors to watch appeals and judgments on televisions around the building without sitting in the courtrooms, but it is seen to be a different case since supreme court hearings do not involve witnesses being cross-examined or juries. Cameras have been allowed in some Scottish courts - albeit under tight restrictions - since 1992. The appeal of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi against his conviction for the Lockerbie bombing was televised in 2002. Writing in the Gruniad in December, the head of Sky News, John Ryley, suggested that the trials of six MPs who were accused of misusing their parliamentary expenses were prime examples of public interest trials which would have benefited from being televised.

Even before the very gratifying successful return of Inspector George Gently on Sunday night, the BBC had already recommissioned two further ninety minute episodes to be shot in 2012. Inspector George Gently is, of course, filmed on location in Durham and the North East of England and is a particular favourite of yer actual Keith Telly Topping. On a similar note, following the final episode of the latest series of New Tricks, the BBC confirmed - via their continuity announcer - that the drama would return next year. Mind you, you can't always trust what BBC continuity announcers say. In 1972 one of them told us that Marine Boy would return 'after the summer holidays.' And, nearly forty years later, we're still waiting. Soon, however, came confirmation that New Tricks had, indeed, been renewed - and for two more series. The popular police cold case drama, which picked up a peak audience of 9.7m during its latest run, will return in both 2012 and 2013. The series stars the great Alun Armstrong, the great James Bolam and Dennis Waterman as a trio of former police officers who are brought out of retirement to help out with cases and the great Amanda Redman as their boss. Waterman, tragically, sings the theme song but don't let that put you off, in places it's actually quite good. 'New Tricks continues to grow and is a huge favourite with the audience, making it the highest-rating drama on TV so far this year,' said the BBC's controller of drama commissioning Ben Stephenson. 'Amanda, Dennis, Alun and James are a dream team that BBC1 viewers have taken to their hearts, and I'm thrilled the show will be back on our screens for two more years.' New Tricks executive producer Richard Burrell added: 'The show's ability to be warm and humorous and tackle darker issues simultaneously makes it distinctive from other crime dramas. The audience's response to the current series of New Tricks has been phenomenal and I'm delighted we are able to repay their loyalty with another two brand new ten-part series.'

Tara Fitzgerald has insisted that her new show The Body Farm is separate from parent series Waking The Dead. The actress will reprise her role as Eve Lockhart in the new BBC1 drama, which also stars Keith Allen. 'There's no mention of the older show or winks to it,' she told TV Choice. 'This is a new show and at no stage does Eve talk about what she was doing before.' She added that her character will be 'in charge of a young team of geniuses' in the titular body farm. '[Eve]'s certainly moved out of the lab and she runs the shop,' explained the actress. 'There's a sense of family. Eve is slightly parental and we don't see them at home. Home appears to be the body farm.' Fitzgerald insisted that Lockhart will be the only Waking The Dead character to appear in the new show. 'Waking The Dead was created by Barbara Machin and owned by her,' she explained. 'My character joined the show later, so we could use her.' She also admitted that some viewers were 'really unhappy' when Waking The Dead ended in April. 'There was still a taste for it,' she suggested. There was indeed. And, if only Trevor Eve had lowered his fee a bit, there's a perfectly decent chance that the BBC would still be making it now. But, it was not to be. 'I was sad not to be working with the guys, but at the same time I knew I had this [spin-off], so I was quite excited. I hadn't been in the show for a whole decade, like the others, so it was probably more painful for them.'

Little Britain comedian David Walliams has finished the first stage of his swim along the River Thames in 'a lot of pain.' Eh? I thought swimming was supposed to be good for you. Well, mark that up as yet another thing yer actual Keith Telly Topping won't be doing any time soon. Walliams stopped just over two miles short of his first scheduled stopping point shortly after 7pm. He started at the river's source near Lechlade in Gloucestershire and plans to finish at Big Ben next week. The Sport Relief Twitter feed said that Walliams had managed to swim seventeen miles. Walliams had intended to swim to Northmoor Lock in Oxfordshire on the first day. To avoid disappointing fans who had gathered at the stopping point, he travelled by boat to greet them. The one hundred and forty-mile swim is for the Big Splash Challenge for Sport Relief. Hundreds of people cheered the comedian on as he began his challenge in the Gloucestershire town - where the water's temperature was fifteen degrees, currently colder than the English Channel. Earlier, Walliams said: 'People often think of the Thames as just central London but there's one hundred miles of it before you get to Teddington Lock. The great thing about the Thames is that people who live around it can hopefully come out and see me,' he added. Walliams said that when the swim got tough he would focus on 'happy things. I think about songs and I have been on some trips with Comic Relief and Sport Relief and I think about the people the money raised will help. I must be a masochist. I wanted to do something else and I'd just turned forty and I thought I haven't got much time left because my body is falling apart. I thought I better get on and do something because one day it's going to be too late.' He said the challenge, some one hundred and twenty miles longer than his 2006 charity swim across the English Channel, would have its advantages. 'The nice thing about this, as opposed to the Channel, is the people can come out and see you. And seeing this part of the country.' During the swim, Walliams will battle powerful and unpredictable currents and undertows and will burn the equivalent of four thousand four hundred calories every day. He will also have to avoid the thirty nine million cubic metres of raw sewage which finds its way into the Thames every year after heavy rainfall. And, also swans. 'When I got here last night there were about thirty swans and I have been attacked by swans in the training, so I am actually quite nervous about them,' the comedian said. 'When they're coming towards you fluffing their wings and hissing when you're in the water, it's quite scary.'

George Takei has hinted that he may appear in an upcoming episode of Hawaii Five-0. The Star Trek actor appeared in the original version of the cop drama in 1975, playing Nathaniel Blake in the episode Death's Name Is Sam. He told the Gruniad: 'I appeared in the original Hawaii Five-O, and there's even the possibility of me appearing again.' Takei added that he is a fan of the CBS revamp and praised series lead Alex O'Loughlin. 'If that [guest role] happens, I'm really looking forward to meeting Alex,' he said. 'I only know him as Steve McGarrett, so I can't wait to meet Alex O'Loughlin, the actor behind the character.' He continued: 'I'll definitely tell him I'm a fan. Why would I not? I always enjoy it when someone comes up and says they're a fan of mine.'

Jason Manford has staged a free gig in a pub to thank the landlady for helping him when his car broke down. Licensee Sue Landale sent for help when the comic got a flat tyre near her bar, Jack's House in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, and as they chatted he agreed to perform a preview of his forthcoming tour later that night. She told the Halifax Courier: 'He was asking what I did and I told him about the pub and he said, "Do you do any comedy nights?" I said it was open mic that night and he said he would do it as a thank you. It was unbelievable – but he was true to his word.' Around two hundred people filled the pub after news of the gig last Thursday spread on Twitter, thanks largely to Jimmy Carr posting the news. Sue added: 'People were coming from far and wide, it was brilliant. It was just a totally surreal day. It was so nice of him to do something like that for us. I can’t thank him enough.'

A lock of Napoleon Bonaparte's hair has been discovered in the brand new series of BBC2 show Antiques Road Trip, the corporation has announced. The historical treasure was found during a visit to Sir Walter Scott's home, Abbotsford, at Melrose in the Scottish Borders, by antiques expert Anita Manning and The Abbotsford Trust's Jason Dyer. While examining a blotter book belonging to Bonaparte, they found a handwritten note dated 8 November 1827, sent to Scott by a Mister Dalton and containing a lock of Napoleon's hair. In the note, Dalton explains that the lock of hair was given to him by Lt Col. Elphinstone, who served under Wellington. He felt that the hair would be of great interest to Scott, who was renowned for his passion for weird and wonderful objects. Antiques Road Trip features antiques experts travelling around Britain in classic cars, hunting down rare and valuable antiques to sell at a profit. Made for the BBC by STV Productions, the show's new thirty-episode series is due to start on BBC2 on 12 September, and the Abbotsford episode will be broadcast on 14 September. 'We're obviously very pleased and excited by this latest rediscovery at Abbotsford,' said Dyer, the chief executive of The Abbotsford Trust. 'As part of a fourteen million pound regeneration of this important historic house and its contents, we have recently begun the process of cataloguing and conserving Sir Walter Scott's incredible collections. We hope to uncover even more fascinating treasures in the coming months.' STV executive producer Wendy Rattray added: 'We're delighted to kick-off the new series of Antiques Road Trip with a truly breathtaking find at Abbotsford. Our experts are always on the lookout for hidden treasures as they drive across the UK but never did we imagine we'd find something of such historical importance. It just goes to show that there are still hidden gems waiting to be discovered and our experts are still managing to thrill and excite the audience with their finds.' In August, a brooch that was going to be sold at a market for 'perhaps ten pounds' fetched thirty one thousand smackers at a Leicestershire auction after the owner realised its true value on Antiques Roadshow. The previous month, Antiques Roadshow host Fiona Bruce - the hardest working bum on TV - was sprayed with a can of aerosol string by two 'pranksters' while filming the BBC programme in Devon.

YouGov has published a survey showing how people feel about seeing others kissing on TV. Interviewees were asked to picture this scenario: 'A British soap opera recently included a scene where two gay men were shown lying in bed together, with no tops on, and bedclothes pulled up to their chests. The two characters also shared a brief kiss.' The pollsters then asked people whether they thought this was 'acceptable' before the 9pm watershed, only after the watershed, or 'not acceptable at any time.' People were also asked how they felt about exactly the same televisual scenario, but featuring a man and a woman (perhaps unmarried?), a married (heterosexual) couple and two 'gay women.' Nationwide, thirty seven per cent thought two men kissing was acceptable before the watershed, thirty nine per cent only after the watershed, and sixteen per cent thought it was always – always! – unacceptable. So, there you go - sixteen per cent of the country are sick homophobic bigots, we now have official data on that. Compare and contrast this with results for the married couple kissing: fifty eight per cent thought that was okay pre-watershed, thirty one per cent post watershed and five per cent never. Why?! This wasn't a scenario that YouGov had plucked from the ether. Their question was a direct lift of a line from an article in the Daily Scum Mail back in June, headlined: EastEnders sparks uproar with gay bedroom scene before the watershed. Of course there hadn't really been any great uproar or anything even remotely like it. But then, this is the Daily Scum Mail and their bigoted homophobic prejudices we're talking about so perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised. Such 'outrage' is almost always manufactured by the press, particularly those sections of the press with a specific agenda to push. In this case, homophobic bigotry and general anti-BBC bias. Two agendas for the price of one. perhaps the best value on offer in the press this week. In actual fact, a mere one hundred and twenty five people had complained to the BBC about a programme which attracted over nine million viewers – hardly a sign that many are really all that bothered about 'this sort of thing' any more. More interestingly though, the YouGov survey broke down its findings by political affiliation, gender, age, class and region, which gave a fascinating insight into the contours of bigoted homophobia in Britain today. As one might be expected, people are more tolerant of homosexuality the younger they are. More than half of all people under forty thought it was all fine before the watershed, while twenty nine per cent of people over sixty thought that a gay male kiss was never acceptable. Which suggests that the least controversial place to show any gay same-sex snogging would probably be the children's CBBC channel. Not that this is likely to happen, of course, and quite right too. The Daily Scum Mail will, no doubt, be pleased about that as it'll save them from having to produce a won't somebody think of the children type piece. Tory voters were - again, unsurprisingly - the most uncomfortable with the whole gay kiss thing (eighteen per cent), but then five per cent of Conservatives didn't even approve of straight kissing outside marriage. There's something for David Cameron to consider the next time he's banging on about how tolerant he wants his party to be of those with alternative sexualities. The most accepting and least hypocritical voters were Lib Dems: a level-headed sixty per cent were comfortable with any gender-variant of kissing before the watershed. Curiously, Labour voters were the only ones out of all the categories who found gay male kissing more acceptable than lesbian kissing. And yes, not entirely unexpectedly, ladies were generally more relaxed about seeing a man-on-man kiss than men were – but only slightly. Just as predictably, men seemed rather more enthusiastic about the thought of lesbians, ahem, getting it on. Can't blame a chap for dreaming, after all. Dreaming, as Blondie once noted, is free. The great same-sex kissing-on-TV debate was kicked off last May with another story in - of course - the Daily Scum Mail: 'Indecent' lesbian kiss scenes face watershed crackdown. Naturally, the Scum Mail illustrated this non-story with a photo of two lesbians kissing. The Scum Mail claimed: 'A review launched with the backing of David Cameron is expected to recommend that sexually suggestive scenes currently allowed before the 9pm watershed – such as the famous lesbian embrace on soap opera Brookside – should not be shown until later in the evening.' Of course, when the subsequent Bailey Review was published a month later it made no such recommendations and its authors admirably emphasised that all sexualities should be treated equally. This non-existent, unproposed gay/lesbian TV kiss ban became one of the tabloids' recurring riffs over this summer's silly season, despite everyone involved pointing out that the story was complete and utter nonsense. Not that that's ever stopped the Daily Scum Mail from publishing ... well, pretty much anything over the years. In the YouGov survey, the 'gay women' kissing question threw up some surprising statistics. Most brilliantly, among those aged eighteen to twenty four it appears lesbian kisses are the most acceptable of all (sixty eight per cent), while married couples kissing are the least acceptable (forty nine per cent). The kids if today, eh? They don't mind watching a bit of lesbian antics but show then their dad give mum a peck on the cheek and it's all 'urgh!' Scotland appeared to be the least tolerant region surveyed – only twenty eight per cent approved of showing a gay male kiss before the watershed, against a British average of thirty seven per cent. But Scottish people were the least likely to disapprove of gay kissing full-stop. And – take note rest of Britain – fancy Frappucino drinking cosmopolitan London was the second least accepting of pre-watershed gay kissing, while that supposed bastion of unreconstructed masculinity, 'the north', was the most accepting of manly gayishness by far. (Forty six per cent considered it okay before the watershed. Or, indeed, up the arse.) So, there you go, dear blog reader, it's 2011 and still sixteen about of every hundred people you meet is likely to be a homophone.

The latest Keith Telly Topping 45 of the Day is Warren Zevon's finest three minutes and twenty seven seconds.

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