Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Woke Up One Morning, Half Asleep, With All My Blankets In A Heap

The private investigator at the centre of the phone-hacking scandal has written to those alleged victims of his who are suing the Scum of the World imploring them to stop 'persecuting' him by suing him as well. You couldn't make it up, could you? In an apparent example of 'fishing for sympathy' which would - potentially - be hilarious if it wasn't so pathetic and misdirected, legal representatives for Glenn Mulcaire argue that he has 'already served time' in jail relating to another phone-hacking offence and that his - alleged - hacking victims have 'nothing to gain' by taking action against him personally. Except, of course, the extreme satisfaction of seeing the person who invaded their privacy and did it, seemingly, for profit and without complaint, standing in a dock and being forced to face the victims of his decidedly not-victimless crimes. Some might argue that this, in and of itself, is karma enough. Others might consider that further - preferably lengthy - jail terms might also be in order if the allegations against Mr Mulcaire are subsequently proven. Either way 'let me off with it, I've already done time, guv' isn't, really, going to cut much ice, I reckon. I could be wrong, of course. It has been known. Payne Hicks Beach, his law firm, acknowledge that the victims who have initiated private proceedings against the defunct, disgraced and disgraceful Sunday tabloid's publisher, News International 'are no doubt extremely angry with Mr Mulcaire for his part in voicemail interception.' You think? Jesus, Mssrs Payne, Hicks and Beach, no wonder you're all lawyers with fantastic insight like that. However, the lawyers then went and spoiled it by adding that hacking victims 'may take comfort from the fact that he has gone to prison for his actions, unlike almost anyone else, and that he continues to pay a heavy price.' Personally, I don't think that will be of much comfort to those whose privacy Mulcaire violated. However, one does, undeniably wonder if, perhaps, the legal advisors of some clueless armed blagger with plenty of previous will be using this sort of line of defence at some stage in the future. 'My client has already served time in jail for one bank job in the past, M'lud, it seems a jolly  unfair to send him down again simply for another string of them.' The statements are contained in a letter which was sent by Mulcaire's law firm to those individuals taking civil action against the former private investigator, who at one point earned one hundred thousand smackers a year from his work for the Scum of the World. A copy of the letter has been seen by the Gruniad Morning Star who, needless to say, were as unimpressed by its content as this blogger is. Mulcaire, a former AFC Wimbledon footballer who became a private investigator, said that he was 'effectively employed' by the Scum of the World on a rolling twelve-month contract to assist in the newspaper's investigations between 2002 and 2007. Police seized eleven thousand pages of notes from his office when he was arrested in 2006, and a year later Mulcaire was sentenced to six months in jail for hacking into phones belonging to members of the staff of Prince William and Prince Harry. According to the Gruniad, Payne Hicks Beach also tell the claimants in the letter that there is 'little point' in suing as Mulcaire 'cannot afford a barrister to defend himself' following Rupert Murdoch's decision in July to stop paying his legal fees with immediate effect. Well, legal aid would seem to be the way to go in such a case, one imagines. Mulcaire is also not, his lawyer claims, 'in a position to pay damages' because the backing of News Group has been removed. 'Because he is unable to pay for representation, we have advised him to do nothing in respect of these proceedings,' says the letter. 'To continue to join our clients to yet more claims, without any proper litigation purpose, looks like persecution, or alternatively (or in addition) an opportunistic move to drive up costs that News Group Newspapers might eventually have to pay.' Oh, so it's all the fault of those who've been hacked, apparently. Yeah, that makes perfect sense. Mulcaire was jailed for six months in 2007 for intercepting messages on royal aides' phones but he has been named in dozens of further suits relating to celebrities, politicians and victims of crime. High Court records indicate that at least forty two of the proceedings initiated against News Group are joint actions against both the publisher and Mulcaire. Those who have issued writs include the father of Josie Russell whose mother and sister Lin were murdered in an horrific hammer attack in 1996. Shaun Russell issued his writ just last week as did Sara Payne, the mother of murdered schoolgirl Sarah who had a close relationship with the Scum of the World. Other victims of alleged phone-hacking suing News Group and Mulcaire include Sheila Henry, the mother of 7/7 bombing victim Christian Small, celebrities such as Sadie Frost, Calum Best, sports stars Gavin Henson and Ashley Cole, politicians including Lord Prescott, Labour MP Chris Bryant and former lack of culture secretary Tessa Jowell. Prince William's friend Guy Pelly has also named Mulcaire in a writ as has James Hewitt. The publisher has created a fund of twenty million smackers to settle claims made by alleged victims of phone-hacking but many believe that the firm could end up facing bills of more than one million million quid in total. Last month, it emerged that the News International was negotiating a three million pound settlement with the parents and sister of Milly Dowler, the thirteen-year-old murdered schoolgirl whose phone was hacked by the Scum of the World. Specifically hacked - allegedly - by Mulcaire. Who, of course, reckons he should be 'let off' with this crime against all human decency simply because he's got no money. The settlement is alleged to be three times larger than the biggest payout to any other victim of phone-hacking and reflects the levels of revulsion felt by the public when the phone-hacking was revealed back in July. Mulcaire, let us recall, rigidly stuck to a 'you ain't seen me, right' defence saying nothing publicly for the best part of five years after his arrest until News International stopped paying his legal fees in July. At which point he became very chatty with the press including - infamously - asking for 'privacy' for himself and his family 'at this difficult time.' A comment which, as Jeremy Paxman noted on Newsnight, in any other circumstances would be considered 'staggeringly hypocritical' but, here, was simply laughable. 'I know I have brought the vilification I am experiencing upon myself, but I do ask the media to leave my family and my children, who are all blameless, alone,' blubbed Mulcaire at the time. What a pity he didn't think about the concept of 'leaving people alone' when he was - seemingly with some relish - hacking into their telephone messages.

At the ongoing Leveson inquiry into the culture and ethics of the press, Paul Dacre, the editor-in-chief of the Daily Scum Mail, announced that the paper will introduce a 'corrections and clarifications' column on page two next week. Its sister titles the Scum Mail on Sunday and the Metro will also introduce similar columns, Dacre told a seminar arranged by the Leveson inquiry to discuss press standards. Rumours that these columns would potentially be so vast as to take up most of the rest of the paper (or, indeed, blot out the sun) cannot, at this time, be confirmed or denied. No other tabloid title runs a regular column of that kind, although many upmarket papers do so. In a rare and remarkably candid speech, Dacre attacked David Cameron, high court judges, the Labour party, the Gruniad Morning Star, the Russian owners of the Independent and Rupert Murdoch. But curiously not the BBC. You're losing your touch, Paul. He said that he 'unequivocally condemned phone-hacking and payments to police,' and described them as 'a disgrace.' But he criticised the government for responding to the scandal at the Scum of the World by setting up 'a judicial inquiry with more powers' than The Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war. 'Let's keep this all in perspective,' Dacre said. 'The banks didn't collapse because of the News of the World.' Neither did the paper cause August's riots or prompt MPs to steal from the constituents they represent in the form of expenses fraud, he argued. He criticised the panel of experts – or 'assessors' – who are advising Lord Justice Leveson, none of whom, he said, 'have the faintest clue about how newsrooms operate.' They include former Daily Torygraph political editor George Jones and Elinor Goodman, who held the same job at Channel Four News. Dacre, who chairs the discredited PCC editors' code of practice committee, insisted the PCC 'did good work' and said that introducing fines would be counterproductive. 'I profoundly regret that a prime minister who had become too close to News International made a cynical act of political expediency [by saying] the PCC was a failed organisation,' he said. Dacre added that the PCC has raised standards in the industry. He conceded it had been 'naive' when it failed to hold the Scum of the World to account over phone-hacking but claimed that the police should have investigated properly. He said a Press Ombudsman – possibly chaired by a retired judge or civil servant and advised by 'former editors from both sides of the newspaper spectrum' – could be created to sit alongside the PCC. He added it 'would have the power to summon editors, name offenders and, in cases of the most extreme malfeasance, impose fines.' So, in other words, 'one of the chaps' advised by 'some more of the chaps.' Yeahm, cos that's worked so well in the past, hasn't it? He also lashed out variously at 'the political class,' judges and lawyers (and their use of the Human Rights Act), Richard Desmond, the 'anarchic Internet' and those who have dared to support the idea of licensing journalists. The Daily Scum Mail editor added that the major problem facing the press today is the acute commercial crisis it is currently grappling with, noting: 'The depressing fact that the newspaper industry is in a sick financial state.' The consequence of that, particularly at a local level, he added is that: 'Courts aren't covered. Councils aren't held to account.' Dacre said that caused a 'democratic deficit which itself warrants an inquiry.' He said that 'the most virulent criticism of self-regulation comes from newspapers that lose eye-watering amounts of money [owned by] trusts or Russian oligarchs. They are free from the [need] to connect with enough readers to be financially viable.' Mounting a passionate defence of tabloid newspapers, Dacre added popular papers could be 'vulgar, irreverent, outrageous and even malign. They also represent the views of millions of Britains.' Also speaking at there event were Sly Bailey, the chief executive of Trinity Mirra and former Sun editor and loathsome hate figure of Merseyside Kelvin MacKenzie. Justice for the ninety six, Kelvin with disgraceful non-entity. The seminars are designed to 'help' Leveson and his advisers 'understand the press' before the inquiry starts properly, probably in November. And they, hopefully, start savaging them all like wild dog. Starting with Darce's own filthy, odious, shit-stirring crime of a newspaper which should have first been shovelled into the gutter along with all the other excrement as far back as the 1930s when they were such big fans of Hitler. And many, many times since.

Not that this is something everybody wants. Darce found a surprising ally in the editor of Private Eye who told peers on Tuesday that the sex lives of well-known figures 'can be a legitimate subject of journalistic investigation.' Speaking before the House of Lords lack of culture committee Ian Hislop said that UK publications should not be subject to the same restrictions as their counterparts in France, where stringent privacy laws are in place. 'There are situations where sex does influence how people behave,' Hislop said. 'It does sometimes have a bearing. It's not so easy as to say "we can't be interested in anyone's private life at all."' Hislop was giving evidence as part of the committee's inquiry into investigative journalism, noting that the decision on where the balance lies between the right to a private life and freedom of expression would continue to be decided by courts. 'I think that is the right way,' he said. The magazine editor also defended the use of subterfuge by media organisations. He argued that while many industry observers were quick to condemn the methods employed by Mazher Mahmood – the 'fake sheikh' at the now-defunct, disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World – they applauded the actions of a reporter at Channel Four's Dispatches, who posed as a lobbyist to expose MPs who agreed to be paid sleaze money for working for a fictional firm. 'It's not always the case that form of journalistic grubbiness is inexcusable,' Hislop said. Also appearing at the same hearing was Gruniad editor-in-chief oily gnome Alan Rusbridger, who warned that the financial pressures on journalism were making it more challenging to produce expensive, investigative reporting. 'The economic factor is easily the biggest factor,' he said. 'The next five years are going to be extremely sticky for newspapers.' He added there is 'a big existential question' about newspapers' survival, the answer to which depended in large part on their response to the technological and economic threats posed by the Internet. He said: 'As the economics of newspapers become more [demanding] that's going to become more difficult,' and added: 'The Guardian is competing against the BBC, which is free; the Telegraph, which is free, The Huffington Post. There are numerous sports that are free. That's the reality of the situation we are in.' However, Rusbridger added that in an age when news has become commodotisied 'there is value and opportunity in doing things that others don't.' He said investigative journalism was a way of ensuring distinctiveness and added that the Internet enables journalists to do things they couldn't previously do. They include harnessing the knowledge of readers in order to uncover information that may otherwise stay hidden, and building an online presence in specialisms, such as environmental journalism, that would otherwise be limited by space. 'I am optimistic about the potential for the future but I think there's going to be an intermediate period when the sums don't add up,' he said. Gruniad Morning Star journalist Nick Davies told the committee: 'The world is full of people who would like to control the flow of information.' He said that the rise of the PR industry means: 'They are winning the information war. The liars are winning.' Davies also said commercial pressures and the rise of the Internet meant journalists don't have the time required. 'If you take time away from reporters you can't do your job properly.'

Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood has accused Nancy Dell'Olio of 'dancing like a lobster.' Which, given her astonishing performance of Saturday night's show is being rather unkind. To lobsters. Horwood said that Dell'Olio was 'a lost cause' for professional dancer Anton Du Beke, after they hit the bottom of the Judges' Leaderboard on Saturday for their - alleged - salsa. Asked for his advice ahead of Dell'Olio and Du Beke's tango this weekend, Horwood told It Takes Two: 'Not a lot. I have no advice other than pray, darling. She's been going at him like a lobster. I have no idea what I would do facing that.' Dell'Olio only picked up fourteen points for her salsa and was accused of 'dancing like a drunk' by judge Bruno Tonioli. 'Have you had some champagne today? It looks like you'd had two gallons,' he said. 'You had no idea. I think you broke records for how many times someone can go wrong in this competition.' According to the ever-reliable Daily Scum Mail, Dell'Olio 'took great exception' to being described by Tonioli as looking as though she had 'inhaled two gallons of Veuve Clicquot' during her latest Strictly performance. The newspaper claims that 'she was so furious that she told friends she was considering legal action' against her fellow Italian. Which, one images, would go down fantastically well with the BBC. That's, of course, if this isn't a prime candidate for the Scum Mail's forthcoming 'corrections and clarifications' column. 'Miss Dell'Olio, fifty, claimed that although her penchant for champagne is well known, she did not drink at all before the live broadcast. And she insisted she does not keep ten to fifteen bottles in her dressing room at any one time, as has been rumoured.' A BBC spokesman said: 'The judges always look to give constructive criticism to all of our dancers and this is often delivered with humour, given that Strictly is an entertainment show. Bruno's comments were tongue in cheek and not meant to cause offence.' Earlier this week, former rival contestant and embittered old faceache (and drag) Edwina Currie insisted that Dell'Olio hadn't been drinking before the show went on air. 'I did not see Nancy drinking before the show, I can say that definitely,' she told This Morning. 'But I suspect Nancy's performance would've been much the same anyway!'

Robert Lindsay, the star of Citizen Smith, GBH, Hornblower, My Family et al, has retold the story of the reaction of his parents when he told them he wanted to be an actor. The Daily Torygraph reports that Lindsay, who comes from a working class family in the Derbyshire mining town of Ilkston, was greeted with the unequivocal response from his father, Norman: 'Why not go right over the bloody top and be a hairdresser?!'

Graham Norton has described the new series of Downton Abbey as 'terrible.' The television host told What's On TV that he had been a 'huge fan' of the ITV period drama's first season. 'I loved the first series of Downton,' he explained, with much use of hand gestures. 'I loved it. I got depressed during the final episode, knowing it was going to end.' However, he added: 'I watched the first episode of the second series and it was terrible.' Recent tabloid reports - probably with an agenda - suggested that Downton Abbey's ratings are 'in decline,' with viewers citing 'excessive' advertising breaks. As usual when a tabloid runs a story about TV ratings, it has about as much relevance to reality as an episode of Lost. Sunday's Downton episode, incidentally, had an overnight audience of nine million viewers so if its ratings really are 'in decline', I think they've got at least two or three million to decline-by further before ITV start getting remotely worried. An ITV spokesman dismissed the ratings claims and insisted that the channel is 'pleased' with the show's performance. 'We're delighted that more viewers than ever are enjoying events from Downton with audience figures for the first three episodes this autumn up twenty per cent on the first series,' said the spokesman.

Lord Snotty Julian Fellowes - well known for his significant loathing of all things prole - has suggested that Downton Abbey will end in 2012. Before the common oiks the likes of this blogger get into it, not doubt. Speaking to the Radio Times, the creator of the ITV show suggested that he had always planned to write just three series of the show. Which rather flies in the face of a variety of comments made by ITV executives earlier in the year that they intended to milk Downton's popularity for at least five years. The writer explained: 'The original concept in my optimistic head was for the first series to start towards the end of the Edwardian era, the second to be set during World War I and the third in the 1920s. In the '20s there are big changes, new inventions, different expectations I can't wait to explore.' Fellowes also revealed that he is 'confident' ITV will recommission the drama for another series, adding: 'I would like to think that we will be back next year.'

Meanwhile, Downton Abbey's executive producer Gareth Neame has spoken about Aviva's allegedly 'controversial' sponsorship adverts. Also speaking to the Radio Times, he admitted that he gave ITV some 'feedback' about the specially extended idents. Neame explained: 'It would be ideal to watch Downton without the adverts, but without them it wouldn't exist. It's not great that the narrative is broken up by ads but it has become part of the phenomenon. We have no control of them, or the Aviva deal. I have to be careful about what I say here, but we gave them some feedback and I noticed a change in them last week.' Neame added of the show's continued high ratings: 'We obviously depend on the loyal costume drama viewers but I like the fact that we are attracting new viewers. I am not in the least ashamed of our big ambitions. We were expecting most of The X Factor audience to turn off and the fact that they haven't is fantastic.'

And now some really very good news indeed. Jeremy Kyle's new ITV game show, High Stakes, got off to a wretchedly dismal start on ITV on Tuesday night according to overnight figures. If ITV had high hopes for High Stakes then they've been dashed pretty much from the outset because the overnight ratings for its opening episode are anything but good. High Stakes is the vile and odious Kyle's first major venture outside of daytime and perhaps he might just wish he had stayed there. Last night's episode was seen by just 2.2 million viewers at 8pm. Ouch. I mean, even one episode of Don't Scare The Hare got more than that.

Strictly Come Dancing presenter Sir Bruce Forsyth is to receive his knighthood from the Queen this week for services to entertainment and bad jokes. The eighty three-year-old will be recognised during an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace after years of campaigning by fans. Forsyth began his showbusiness career as a teenager . In June he told the BBC receiving a knighthood 'means everything' to him. 'When I got the CBE there'd been speculation every year and I think there's been too much talk about it, so I'm thrilled at last it has happened,' he said. 'I feel very proud that my career hasn't been in vain. I just love getting out there and performing and this is a reward that I never expected and hope I'm worthy of.' Brucie spent years travelling the country before he got his big break in 1958 when he was asked to host TV series Sunday Night at the London Palladium. At that stage he had been on the point of quitting showbusiness, but he was so popular the original two week stint ended up lasting for five years. He went on to present game shows The Generation Game and Play Your Cards Right. Whether the Queen will say it's nice to see him, to see him, nice, is - at this stage - unclear. We're pretty certain however, that he's under instructions not to order her to 'give us a twirl.' Oh no, very hot water.

Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem has confirmed that he will play a villain in the next James Bond film. The forty two-year-old, who is married to fellow Spanish star Penelope Cruz, revealed his casting while appearing on US news programme Nightline. 'I'm very excited because my parents took me to watch the movies and I saw all of them, so to play that is going to be fun,' he said. 'They chose me to play this man, but I cannot give you many details.' The latest Bond film is still officially known as Bond 23, although it is widely rumoured that it will be called Skyfall. It will be directed by Sam Mendes, who won an Oscar for 1999's American Beauty - and may be the first 007 film not to be shot on film. Daniel Craig will play the part of James Bond for the third time. He is the sixth actor to play the British secret agent in the official film franchise. His first outing, in Casino Royale, was the most successful instalment in the series' forty eight-year history, taking almost six hundred million dollars around the world. Earlier this year, Pirates of the Caribbean actress Naomie Harris revealed she had also auditioned for the new film. Work on Bond 23 was suspended in April 2010 because of uncertainty over the future of film studio MGM, which had filed for bankruptcy protection. A rescue deal and restructuring plan put Spyglass Entertainment in charge of the company. The last movie in the series, Quantum of Solace, was released in 2008. Javier Bardem last played a villain in 2007's No Country for Old Men. His portrayal of a hitman won him a best supporting actor Oscar. The actor has also appeared in films such as Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Eat Pray Love, also starring Julia Roberts.

A film about the effects of overfishing has won a new award set up to honour films that have made a significant impact on society. The End of the Line received the first Puma Creative Impact award, worth five thousand Euros, at a London ceremony hosted by newsreader Jon Snow. Director Rupert Murray said he hoped the prize would 'inspire more people to make films that make a difference.' Another contender, Burma VJ, received a special commendation from the jury. The Oscar-nominated film, about video journalists who go undercover to report on human rights abuses in the country, received twenty five thousand Euros. US film-maker Morgan Spurlock, Christian Aid director Loretta Minghella and Queen Noor of Jordan sat on the panel that selected the winners. Environmental documentary The Age of Stupid, starring the late Pete Postlethwaite, was among the five finalists. Speaking after the presentation, Snow said he was 'not surprised' The End of the Line had been named the overall winner. The documentary had 'completely transformed the way a very large number of people think about fish,' he added. 'You can see restaurants and supermarkets changing their ways because of what their customers now know,' Snow told BBC News. Filmed over two years and released in UK cinemas in 2009, Murray's film followed British journalist Charles Clover as he investigated the steep decline in global fish stocks. Pret A Manger co-founder Julian Metcalfe was reportedly so incensed when he saw the film he made his High Street sandwich chain change its policy on tuna. The Creative Impact award was set up in partnership with the Channel Four Britdoc Foundation, which part-funded The End of the Line.

A spokesperson for Liverpool football club has suggested that it will challenge the arrangement which sees Premier League clubs share equally the billions earned each season from overseas TV rights deals. 

Ian Ayre, Liverpool's managing director, said that change to the established broadcast deal, worth around £3.2bn to all twenty Premier League clubs from 2010 to 2013, is a 'debate that has to happen.
' The Anfield club would prefer to move to the Spanish La Liga model, which enables Spain's top teams - Real Madrid and Barcelona - to negotiate their own, extremely lucrative contracts with foreign broadcasters. 

The Premier League has focused on collective selling of TV rights since its inception in 1992, involving each club getting an equal share but with bonus amounts awarded for finishing in higher positions. Any change to this system would most likely anger smaller clubs worried at the potentially widening gulf between them and the top teams. In the last round of negotiations, the Premier League was able to more than double international revenue from TV rights, from six hundred and twenty five million smackers in 2007 to 2010 to £1.4bn for 2010 to 2013. Action from the league is now shown in two hundred and twelve countries - which is pretty good considering there are, according to the United Nations, only two hundred and four countries in the world - via ninety eight broadcast partners. It is widely expected that the next deal will be even bigger. But Ayre believes that the 'big four' clubs - by which apparently he means Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal - should be able to tap into their own popularity overseas to sell TV rights. The arrogance of which would be staggering were it not for the fact that it's pretty much what we've come to expect from these jokers. And, by the way, if we're talking about a 'big four' in England then why are either Liverpool or Arsenal in there when Manchester City aren't? I'm just saying. 'Personally I think the game-changer is going out and recognising our brand globally,' the Liverpool managing director swaggeringly told BBC Radio Merseyside using that dreadful 'global market bollocks-speak so loathed by the vast majority of football supporters. You know the people who - in theory, at least, pay your sodding wages, Ian. Of course, as the vast majority of the pimps, the liars and the thieves who run our football clubs will be delighted to tell us, gone are the days when fans coming through the turnstiles can dictate pretty much anything to the - frequently absentee - chairmen and directors who have wormed their way into the heart of the game. But, as we've noted on this blog many times in the past, you can bet your bottom quid that if next Saturday nobody turns up at any Premier League match all of them, collectively, would shit in their own pants and run a mile looking for a way out. 'Maybe the path will be individual TV rights like they do in Spain. There are so many things moving in that particular area,' he continued. Sadly, ladies and gentlemen, this is exactly what's killing football. The measure of a club's success or failure is no longer anything to do with how they perform on the field but, rather, how many cheap and nasty replica shirts they sell in Malaysia. That's why Premier League clubs attract the owners they do - the floggers of mucky mags, dodgy sports gear that falls to pieces when you get it home or shady foreign wide boys out to make a quick killing. Either that or, in the case of two or three, a play thing for a man with more money than sense until they get bored with it and want to play with something else. Greed is what runs English football now, dear blog reader. Greed mixed with fear of failure. Everybody's scrambling to get to the big table for their lick from the trough but, a few of those who've been there for a while don't want to share their  moolah with Norwich and Swansea, with Blackpool and Hull. They want it all to themselves. And, what's more, they don't want Sunderland to have much either. Or Newcastle. Or Everton. Or Stoke. And, certainly not Fulham, Wigan or Bolton. Because they're nothing. Little squirts whom the big boys kindly allow to tread the same field as them. But, heaven help them if they start getting all uppity with ideas above their stations and actually go to Anfield and give the Thieving Scouse Schleps a beating. That's just not part of the plan. In the playground we call such filthy, full-of-their-own-importance bastards what they actually are, bullies. Ayre added: 'What is absolutely certain is that, with the greatest of respect to our colleagues in the Premier League, but if you're a Bolton fan in Bolton, then you subscribe to Sky because you want to watch Bolton. Everyone gets that. Likewise, if you're a Liverpool fan from Liverpool, you subscribe. But if you're in Kuala Lumpur there isn't anyone subscribing to Astro, or ESPN to watch Bolton, or if they are it's a very small number. Whereas the large majority are subscribing because they want to watch Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal.' Have you ever noticed, dear blog reader, how whenever anybody uses the phrase 'with the greatest respect too...' they're about to say something staggeringly disrespectful to someone? T'was always thus. So, well add rude to arrogant and greedy, then. 'So, is it right that the international rights are shared equally between all the clubs? Some people will say: "Well you've got to all be in it to make it happen." But isn't it really about where the revenue is coming from, which is the broadcaster, and isn't it really about who people want to watch on that channel? We know it is us. And others. At some point we definitely feel there has to be some rebalance on that, because what we are actually doing is disadvantaging ourselves against other big European clubs.' Oh boo-hoo. My heart sodding bleeds for you. This, remember, is from a club that could afford to spend thirty five million smackers on Andy Carroll just eight months ago. I don't see you being too 'disadvantaged,' you disgraceful Scouse chancers. For the breakaway to go ahead, it would require fourteen of the Premier League's twenty clubs to back the move - so that means it's never going to happen. Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson recently claimed that clubs should get more from overseas rights, but also said that the collective bargaining system was 'fair.' It it also the case that La Liga's individual system has attracted much criticism within Spain and elsewhere due to the ease with which Real Madrid and Barcelona have gained a massive financial advantage over their rivals. But Ayre believes that the current situation in the Premier League risks the so-called 'top clubs' (and, once again, let us marvel at the fact that he's including his own in that bracket) from 'losing ground' on their overseas rivals. Which, coming from a club that haven't been in the Champions League for either of the last two seasons because they finished seventh and then sixth and behind the likes of Tottenham Hotshot, Sheikh Yer Manchester City and, on one occasion Aston Villains, in the Premier League might suggest that they should be thinking about getting their priorities right before they worry about 'the top clubs in Europe.' They could start by winning their next couple of matches and getting past yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though still unsellable) Magpies and into fourth place in the Premiership. Cart before the horse, guys, cart before the horse. 'If Real Madrid or Barcelona or other big European clubs have the opportunity to truly realise their international media value potential, where does that leave Liverpool and Manchester United?' Love the way this clown has suddenly started speaking for another club. One that actually has been in the Champions League for the last two years. As have Real Madrid and Barcelona. Which, just to repeat, Liverpool have not. Because - in the words of Andy Cameron - they 'didne qualify.' Which was funny, frankly. 'We'll just share ours because we'll all be nice to each other?' he said, sarcastically. 'The whole phenomenon of the Premier League could be threatened. If they just get bigger and bigger and they generate more and more, then all the players will start drifting that way and will the Premier League bubble burst because we are sticking to this equal-sharing model? It's a real debate that has to happen.' Greedy effing Scouse whingers. Some things, it seems, never change.

Horrorshow, faceache (and drag) Tory fright-features the awful Ann Widdecombe has reportedly signed up to host a new quiz show. The politician has agreed to present Sky Atlantic's programme Cleverdicks. No jokes please.

Sony is to offer free safety checks on several of its TV models after a number of sets started smoking. The company warned that a component used in eight different versions of its Bravia televisions may be faulty and could, in rare cases, overheat. However, it stopped short of issuing a full recall. Instead Sony said that anyone who was concerned about the smoke pouring from the back of their new widescreen telly is probably best advised to turn it off before it exploded in their faces and request that an engineer come to their home - for free - to inspect their TV. The models affected are all LCDs, sold in Europe since June 2007. Some 1.6 million of the TVs have been sold worldwide - over six hundred thousand of them in Europe. Reports of overheating sets have so far all come from Japan. The company said that the televisions were 'not at risk while they were switched off.' Which is good to know. Albeit, a bit 'stating the bleeding obvious' one would have imagined. It warned owners to 'be aware' of 'any unusual noises, smells or smoking' coming from their Bravia. Yeah, I think most of them probably would have been without you telling them too, guys. Anyone noticing those symptoms should 'unplug the power cable and stop using the set immediately,' said a Sony statement. Again, sensible advice although, to be honest, if you've just dropped up to a thousand notes to buy a device that is, in theory at least, supposed to be a visual medium, 'stop using it' might seem to be a rather inadequate response.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day was, famously, the first record ever to be played on Radio 1. Ah, Sensational Tony Blackburn, Arnold and Daily Disc Delivery those were the days. Sing, Carl.

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