Monday, November 07, 2011

All The Bankers Getting Sweaty, Beneath Their White Collar As The Pound In Our Pocket Turns Into A Dollar

Well-known Crystal Tipps-lookalike Rebekah Brooks, the former Scum of the World editor who resigned as chief executive of News International at the height of the phone-hacking scandal, received £1.7m in cash, the use of a London office and a chauffeur-driven limousine as part of her severance package from the newspaper group it has been revealed. Brooks, 'a favourite of Rupert Murdoch who rose from being a secretary on the features desk of the Sunday newspaper to the very top of the mogul's UK operation,' according to a thoroughly snitchy and full-of-its-own-self-importance report in the Observer, quit in July 'amid claims over the alleged illegal activities carried out by her executives and reporters.' Days after she resigned, she was arrested and bailed in connection with allegations of phone hacking and corruption. Records at Companies House, the newspaper claims, show that she has resigned from twenty three directorships related to the firm. However, the Observer says that it 'has learned,' along with a generous pay-off and continued use of her company limousine and driver for two years, Brooks, forty three, 'has been given an office for the same period of time in an affluent central London area which her spokesman asked the Observer not to reveal for security reasons.' The decision to give Brooks an office will, the Observer reckons, 'inevitably be raised on Thursday when James Murdoch, the thirty eight-year-old son of Rupert and chairman of News International, returns to Westminster to answer questions from the Commons culture, media and sport select committee about his knowledge of illegal activities by his employees.' Well, it will now that you've splashed it all over your front page, anyway. Nice timing. One might also suggest, deliberate. Tommy Watson (people to the people!), the Labour MP who helped to lead the fight to expose the phone-hacking practices carried out by Scum of the World journalists, queried the company's decision. He said: 'It is remarkably curious that such an generous package is given to Ms Brooks when others have been cut loose. It is almost as if she hasn't really left the company. I am sure Mr Murdoch will want to explain the decision to his shareholders.' James Murdoch is set to make his second appearance before the Commons committee this week after discrepancies arose between his previous testimony and that of his key lieutenants. During the session he is also likely to be questioned about previous claims that illegal practices did not take place at the Sun newspaper, where Brooks was editor between 2003 and 2009 before being elevated to the role of chief executive of News International. The investigation into police corruption and newspapers' illegal payments to officers was extended to the Sun last week, as detectives arrested one of its reporters at his home near Windsor. Jamie Pyatt, the first journalist from the title to be arrested by Scotland Yard's Operation Elveden into payments to police officers, has been at the Sun since 1987 and worked under Brooks when she was editor there. Dave Wilson, the chairman of Bell Pottinger, the public relations group hired by Brooks to deal with the fallout from her resignation, declined to comment on the 'confidential' details of her severance package. Which must make him almost unique in public relations history. Maybe you should've gone for Max Clifford instead, Becky. I mean, look what he's done for Kerry Katona. No, on second thoughts ...

Some utterly marvellous, brilliant and fantastic news for all dear blog readers, now. Traitorous Adrian Chiles, curiously-orange Christine Bleakley and horrible Kate Garraway will all, reportedly, soon get the tin-tack from Daybreak. Oh, if only wishing made it so. A tabloid report - so, you know, as ever take all of this with a bag full of salt; an effing big one an'all - suggest that 'bosses' at the ITV breakfast show are alleged to have 'ruled' that the trio are 'too lightweight' for viewers. It's nice to know that it's only taken them fourteen months and at least two multi-million quid deals before they came to the conclusion which viewers reached pretty much on day one. 'Sources' allegedly claim that Chiles and Bleakley, who were both poached from The ONE Show last year, were warned that they may 'fall victim to a line-up change' sparked by the show's new editor David Kermode and producer Karl Newton. Chiles, of course, flounced out of the BBC in high-dudgeon like a big girl when he was asked to drop to four days on The ONE Show despite also being offered his own chat show and a game show format to develop at the Beeb. The fact that it subsequently emerged ITV had been in talks with Chiles for two years prior to his departure lost him much of any public sympathy which he might have got otherwise and, the fact that he's now only doing four days a week at Daybreak without throwing his toys out of his pram is, perhaps, just one more reason why his utter and abject failure at becoming a breakfast TV host has, frankly, been so bloody well deserved. Bleakley, like an obedient poodle, followed him to ITV a couple of months later with her tongue hanging out and has, to be honest, been an utter disgrace on Daybreak. The least-likely 'woman of the people' imaginable, her giggly, inane persona is about as wanted at seven o'clock in the morning as a big fat turd that's been floating all night in the netty. Nobody likes her, least of all Daybreak viewers. BBC Breakfast host Sian Williams is being touted to join the Daybreak sofa in the absence of Chiles and Bleakley, according to The Mirra, while Sky Sports' Helen Fospero will allegedly replace Garraway on Fridays alongside amusingly-named back-up anchorman Dan Lobb. 'Daybreak is still in the process of transitioning into the daytime department,' a spokesperson said. I'm not entirely sure transitioning is a proper word but, hey, never mind. It's not the size of the made-up word that's important, it's what you do with it, that counts. 'We are ­continuing to develop the show. Our line is Adrian and ­Christine are the presenters of Daybreak.' 'Our line is...'? That's hardly unequivocal support and a ringing endorsement, is it? ITV's controller Peter Fincham - a close matey of yer man Chiles - responded to constant speculation about Chiles and Bleakley being axed from Daybreak in August by saying that their 'jobs are safe. No ifs, no buts.' What, if anything, has changed? Certainly not Daybreak's appallingly poor ratings figures and audience appreciation index scores. Maybe that's the problem.

Discovery Communications has made its first-ever acquisition of an independent production company by snapping up Betty – the UK firm behind shows such as Dirty Sexy Things, The Joy of Teen Sex and Freaky Eaters. The US factual broadcaster – which runs cable channels including Discovery, TLC, Animal Planet and the Military Channel, and makes co-productions with the BBC such as Planet Earth – is thought to have paid about ten million smackers for Betty as it looks to expand its factual entertainment output. Betty, founded by former BBC and Channel Four commissioning editor Liz Warner in 2001, made about seven hundred and fifty thousand notes in pre-tax profits and seven and half million smackers in revenue in 2010, according to figures filed at Companies House. The company said that last year's financial performance was the best in its ten-year history, with profits up fifty one per cent. 2011 is understood to be on track to be another record year with revenues in line to hit nine million wonga. Neither Discovery or Betty would reveal the value of the deal. For Discovery, which has a total annual programming budget of one billion dollars, the acquisition is part of an strategy of international expansion that includes the roll out of lifestyle network TLC. Known as Real Time in the UK, TLC is a female-targeted channel in one hundred and seventy markets. 'We are the largest buyer of unscripted programming in the world,' said Lee Bartlett, executive vice-president of global production at Discovery. 'The more we expand the greater our appetite for unscripted production. If you marry their creativity and our ability to help produce and distribute programming this deal becomes hugely attractive.' Bartlett, the former managing director of ITV Studios, said that Betty had been at the top of his list of top ten independents in this area worth considering for acquisition. 'I've been following them for a long time,' he said. 'Of all the indies out there [making factual entertainment shows] they create the most compelling, interesting content. When launching networks you have to have cutting edge programming.' Betty is a major supplier of programming to Channel Four – making shows including Wedding House, Country House Rescue and The Big Food Fight – as well as Are You Fitter than A Pensioner? for BBC3 and Promzilla for Sky. Betty has put its toe in the water in the US, via a relationship with All3Media's Studio Lambert, and with Zodiak internationally to try to exploit formats and ideas. But the company hopes the deal with Discovery will help it to crack the world's biggest TV market.

Channel Four held their Upfronts presentation of the network's 2012 programme offerings to media agency executives this week. 'It's like a Sky Atlantic that people might actually watch,' was channel presenter Jimmy Carr's take on the new schedule. A bullish chief creative officer Jay Hunt told advertising types that she had 'worked at the BBC and I can tell you that working at Channel Four knocks that into a cocked hat.' A series about hatted cocking can, therefore, only merely a commissioning meeting away. But, the vile and odious rascal Hunt (no relation) did confess to frustration about the amount of time it takes a programme idea to reach the screen. 'It is a little bit like becoming pregnant. No matter how impatient you become you can't deliver for ten months.' Clearly there's an almost Elephantine gestation period at Horseferry Road.

Lulu and her dancing partner Brendan Cole have become the latest couple to be voted off Strictly Come Dancing. 'Everything about Strictly has been amazing,' Lulu told hosts Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman. 'The people in front of the camera, the people behind the camera, the audience - the judges. I would never have missed it for a minute. It is just a lifetime's very special experience.' Cole echoed Lulu's sentiments, declaring that he had been 'excited' to compete with the sixty three-year-old. 'This is one of those shows, and I think we're all so excited to be a part of the experience that it'll be very sad not being here next week,' he added. 'But - that's the show, somebody goes each week. I'd just like to say well done to everybody, and Lulu as well, she did great.' The two were voted off by the judges on Sunday night on the BBC1 show as their performance of the Tango failed to win over most of the judges or the voting public. While stand-in judge Jennifer Grey, replacing Len Goodman for a week, praised the singer the other judges were not so kind with Craig Revel Horwood and Bruno Tonioli both being critical. Lulu and Cole were in the bottom two with Audley Harrison and Natalie Lowe who made their third appearance in the dance off. Despite having appeared in the bottom two several times the judges opted to send Lulu out of the competition.

Meanwhile former Strictly Come Dancing contestant, faceache, horrorshow (and drag) Ann Widdecombe has described Robbie Savage's crotch-grabbing performance last week as 'unsuitable for children.' Which, coming from somebody with a disgracefully pig-ugly boat-race like that is, frankly, laughable. Something of a pot-kettle-black type situiation it appears we have here, you sour and rotten old loser.

Happy Mondays frontman Shaun Ryder has landed a new TV job fronting a show which searches for UFOs. The singer is best known for his drug-fuelled wild days in the band, but has been hiding a secret obsession with extra-terrestrials all his life. He will now attempt to prove the existence of alien life in his eight-part TV series Shaun Ryder On UFOs, which will be broadcast on The History Channel, according to the Sun. The newspaper claims that Ryder will travel to Peru (where the local acid is, reportedly, industrial strength), Chile and Australia to investigate a variety of infamous UFO sightings. A 'source' allegedly told the alleged newspaper: 'He'll try to separate fact from fiction and meet odd characters, some of whom make him look sane. It will be revelatory but funny.' Expect a series of Youth Hosteling With Bez to be picked up by Channel Five as direct competition.

The goddamn Modfather his very self former Jam singer, guitarist and songwriter and Britpop icon Paul Weller is expecting his first child with second wife Hannah Andrews, according to reports. Dadrock, indeed. Weller is said to be celebrating after learning that Andrews is four months pregnant with twins, just a year after the couple married in Capri. A 'source' allegedly told the Sun, 'They are made up. It's great news.' Weller has five other children from three previous relationships.

It was only slightly unfortunate. Midway through BBC digital radio station 6Music's inaugural John Peel Lecture, Pete Townshend revealed that he was unable to listen to DAB radio at home. 'I live on top of a hill. I just can't get it,' said the legendary Who guitarist – live on 6Music – before doing a passable impression of the sort of interference familiar to DAB listeners everywhere. 'That was me folks, not your radio.' Another rock star turned (excellent) DJ, Rockin' Ronnie Wood, was similarly unhelpful about his award-winning Absolute Radio show. 'My little show, I can never find it,' the Rolling Stone told the Radio Festival in Salford last week. 'It's on digital and on FM one night of the week.'
Wood should possibly ask for some advice from a friend, perhaps the one who once told him: 'You're the same person sober as you were when you were stoned. What a waste of twenty million quid!'

There's further bad news for hardline Daily Scum Mail readers who see its new-fanged 'Corrections' column as a lily-livered concession to pinko pressure – another worrying instance of weediness and moral decay at Paul Dacre's paper which reflects how terrible it is that we no longer run the world. Mind you, this is the paper that was very enthusiastic about Herr Hitler and Oswald Mosley, it might be an idea to use the corrections column for that. Albeit, you know, eighty years too late. More recently, in fact as recently as June, the Scum Mail ran a story essentially holding up to ridicule as 'more PC nonsense' Stephen Fry's decision to change Guy Gibson's dog's name from Nigger to Digger in the forthcoming remake of The Dam Busters. A couple of selected historians, and later readers, duly snorted and tut-tutted. You may remember From The North brought you the story at the time. And commented thus: 'What, however, is genuinely hilarious about this whole malarkey is that the Daily Scum Mail, themselves will not use the word "nigger" in their piece. If you read it, you'll note that they use "n****r" and "n*gger" throughout. How utterly cowardly and wretched. The word is either offensive - which it is - and shouldn't be used in the context of this subject - which it probably shouldn't - or it isn't. If the Scum Mail's argument is that it isn't - as the tone of this piece appears to suggest - then why are they not prepared to use it themselves? Like I say, disgraceful lice-cowards and hypocrites the lot of them.' So, you may wonder, how did the Scum Mail handle another report on the same mutt (which some sad, crushed victims of society claim spectrally guards the late Guy Gibson's grave) last week? With the only use of its name coyly buried away in the eleventh paragraph, after countless references to 'the long-dead dog' and 'the ghostly labrador.' This, despite the fact that the dog was, after all, the subject of the story. Surely not political correctness gone mad in, of all places, the Daily Scum Mail?

Former International Cricket Council anti-corruption chief Lord Condon believes that 'countries who fail to control their players' should be banned from international cricket. So, that'll be Pakistan then, basically. Just so we're actually clear about what Condon is saying here, in the vent of any misunderstandings. Condon was speaking in the wake of the jailing of three Pakistani players found guilty of conspiracy to cheat and conspiracy to accept corrupt payments. He told BBC Sport: 'The ICC has to give out the harshest sentences it can. The nuclear option is banning boards from international cricket.' Lord Condon, the former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, was the first head of the ICC's anti-corruption and security unit when it was set up in 2000 following the match-fixing scandal surrounding the then South Africa captain Hansie Cronje. He added: 'The ICC must get tougher. This is a big wake-up call. Cricket is at a credibility crossroads. The ICC and national boards have to be tough and, if they are not, they have to face the consequences.' Condon was succeeded by Sir Ronnie Flanagan in June 2010, two months before Pakistan trio Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir conspired to bowl deliberate no-balls in a Test match against England at Lord's. The trio were given prison terms last Tuesday. 'They deserved the sentences they got,' Condon continued. 'I have mixed reactions - sadness but I'm not surprised. They betrayed their country and millions of people around the world who love cricket.' The sixty four-year-old went on to praise the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World newspaper for their involvement in catching Butt, Asif and Amir, who were also banned from cricket for a mere five years by the ICC in February. He said: 'I've congratulated the News of The World because this was a sting that was done very well and I think they have done cricket a great service. If the ICC had done this it probably would not have got to court because rules around entrapment are complex. The News of The World had the freedom and courage to take this on and, although this was a huge embarrassment, it was necessary.'

Footage of a man attacking an eighty three-year-old in a bout of so-called 'scooter rage' has been released by police. Authorities in the West Midlands are attempting to track down the individual who 'unseated' an unnamed pensioner from his mobility scooter in the Holbrooks area of Coventry in September. Police have appealed for help by making public an image of the man leaving a nearby supermarket shortly before the clash. Investigating officer PC Steve Haynes asked for witnesses to come forward with information about the 'particularly unsavoury incident. It's not clear what led to the assault - whether something was said in the supermarket or if the offender took exception to the scooter being ridden in the road - or whether it was totally unprovoked,' he said. 'Either way, there can be no justification for dragging a man from a disability scooter.' The eighty three-year-old, who also had his crutches thrown into the road during the incident, was not seriously hurt.

A Nigerian comedian is to be released from police custody after passing a reported eighteen bowel movements with no evidence of him having smuggled drugs. Babatunde Omidina, known on stage as Baba Suwe, was arrested last month while attempting to board a flight to Paris after an airport scanner allegedly showed bags of white powder in his stomach. However, following exhaustive searches of his excretion over the past few weeks, police are scheduled to release Omidina on bail this weekend. 'We have perfected the bail bond and if nothing incriminating is found on him, he will be going home a free man,' Omidina's lawyer confirmed to Reuters.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day, a few weeks ago From The North featured The The's glorious 'Slow Train To Dawn' on this slot and yer actual Keith telly Topping noted that it was, merely, but one of four shimmering beasts of singles which were released from that, particular, LP. And, that he really oughta get his shit together and feature the other three from Matt Johnson's finest hour. Or, finest forty minutes and fifty seven seconds, if you're playing the vinyl version. So, dear blog reader ... time, it be, for a state of the nation rant from 1986 (or three). Some things, it would seem, simply never change. Like the pernicious financial influence of America on British society.
Or the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases.
Or, 'is it just me or does getting militarily mixed up in the Middle East sound like a really sodding bad idea?'
'Should I cry like a baby, or die like a man when all the planets little wars start joining hands.' Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

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