Sunday, November 20, 2011

Esta Bem!

A private detective employed by News International to put hundreds of people under surveillance has said that he was commissioned by 'as many as thirty journalists' working on the Scum of the World. Derek Webb, who was paid to follow a string of people – including Princes William and Harry, Angelina Jolie and Tom Watson, the Labour MP spearheading parliament's investigations into phone-hacking – has said that he is willing to act as a witness if any of them opt to take legal action against News International. While surveillance is not, in an of itself, illegal, Webb's pledge suggests that News International could find itself facing legal action from people who feel that their privacy has been invaded – in addition to the scores of claims brought against it by victims of phone-hacking. Webb's claims, which suggest that there was a widespread culture of surveillance that permeated the Scum of the World newsroom, are contained in a dossier detailing the work which the former undercover police officer carried out for News International from 2003. The dossier, containing the names of around one hundred and fifty celebrities and scores of non-famous targets, will be submitted to the Leveson inquiry investigating journalistic practices later this week. They will also include details of one surveillance operation which Webb undertook on behalf of the Scum of the World's scummish sister title, the Sun. Webb said that he had decided to 'go public' with his claims after it emerged that video footage he took of two solicitors acting for people whose phones had been hacked by the Scum of the World was leaked to the media. He said that he feared his name would become embroiled in the phone-hacking allegations and insisted that he had never done anything illegal for News International. The footage of the two solicitors was apparently contained in a file found in the office of Tom Crone, News International's former legal executive. In September, Crone told a parliamentary inquiry into phone-hacking only that he 'may' have commissioned private investigators 'a long time ago maybe.' Webb said that he sent News International a dossier detailing his work for the Scum of the World after it refused to give him the twelve weeks' severance pay offered to other freelances when the paper closed. 'I thought, I'm not having this, so I sent a dossier on every single person I've worked for since 2003 to News International, and they told me to send my dossier back to the police. They're denying all knowledge of me, I think, because of the secret file I was involved with, the dossier about the solicitors.' Webb's decision to speak out has further muddied the waters swirling around News International, the police and the role of private investigators. Webb was arrested in 2007 on the strength of false allegations claiming that he was linked to police corruption. The case against Webb and a serving police officer from Hertfordshire was eventually dropped. But Webb claims that much of the material seized by police, including his diaries, were not returned to him and that a computer hard drive was wiped. Files apparently throwing doubt on the conviction of Kevin Lane, who was jailed for a gangland murder, were also not returned. The exact whereabouts of the files, which are believed to be stored by Hertfordshire police at the request of Thames Valley police who investigated Webb, are currently unknown according to the Gruniad Morning Star. Webb claimed that their contents could provide the Leveson inquiry with 'valuable information' if they could be retrieved. Webb was just one of several former police officers turned private investigators employed by the Scum of the World. 'I never met any of the others, I think that may have been deliberate,' he said. His submission to Leveson is likely to shine a light on surveillance that appears to have taken place on an industrial scale at the newspaper. 'It was mainly surveillance, following people,' Webb said. 'They didn't even employ me to photograph anyone, although I had a video camera: they'd always send a photographer. They had a copyright and, if they saw that some work was looking good, immediately they'd send down a photographer to me. I'd get a phone call from the news desk – there must have been twenty or thirty people who used to work there [whom I worked for]. I could do various jobs in a day and there might be three different journalists phoning up saying, "We want you to go this address."' The Leveson inquiry has sent Webb a detailed set of questions asking him to outline his covert surveillance for News International. He said that he would be prepared to 'act as a witness' in any legal action the people he had tailed brought against News International. Presumably, so long as they leave him alone. 'If we get to a situation when they are saying, "Are you willing to give evidence?" I'm definitely not going to say no. Why should I?' He is planning to take News International to an employment tribunal. He said that News International had requested he sign a confidentiality contract after he was arrested.

Strictly Come Dancing's Wembley special was Saturday night's most-watched programme, bringing in 11.36m viewers to BBC1. In what was a good night for the broadcaster, Children in Need 2011 - The Best Bits had an audience of 4.68m from 5.45pm, and later Merlin was watched by 5.65m from 8.15pm. Casualty followed this with 3.98m. On ITV, Harry Hill's TV Burp did pretty well up against Strictly with 5.04m from 7.15pm, with an additional one hundred and sixty one thousand punters watching on ITV+1. The X Factor had 10.4m viewers for a movie-themed night, and two hundred and eighty one thousand caught up with the talent show an hour later on timeshift. The latest trials and tribulations of the stars on I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want) saw its audience finally stabalise after five successive nights of declining numbers - 7.96m watched, with a solid timeshift audience of three hundred and seventy two thousand on ITV+1. On ITV2, The Xtra Factor held the attention (or otherwise) of four hundred and three thousand punters. The largest multichannel audience of the night - very satisfyingly - belonged to BBC4's The Killing, which was watched by eight hundred and fifteen thousand viewers from 9pm. On BBC2, Double Agent: The Eddie Chapman Story had an audience of 1.05m and Qi XL scored 1.66m. Interestingly, Sunday morning saw a highly amusing Twitter spat between San Hodges - the BBC's Head of Vision and ITV's hilariously ginger James MacLeod, their Head of Press. Haven't you chaps got anything better to do with your time? MacLeod, of course, is already a figure of almost Comical Ali-style risibility in ratings-watchers circles due to his ludicrous attempts earlier in the year to portray Red or Black? as a hit when it was clearly not that or anything even remotely like it. 'Averaging 11.4m viewers (43.7 per cent share), last night's Strictly Come Dancing was the most watched show across all channels,' noted Hodges. 'Strictly's peak audience of 12.5m was a million higher than the peak for any other show (excluding +1 channels).' A few moments later, MacLeod tweeted: 'Sam Hodges. Not true. You know well that the commercial world measure peak ratings from 1900-2230. ITV (excl +1) 7.5m; BBC1 7.1m.' Hodges noted, fairly, that the BBC has always defined peak as 18.00 - 22.29 (which is true). Meanwhile MacLeod was up to one of his regular tricks of quoting peak audiences for X Factor and I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want) rather than audience average across the entire slot (11.5m and 9.1m respectively). Big fight, little people!

Simon Cowell's company is reportedly to have agreed to make a donation to a music charity that successfully forced an X Factor act to change its name. Syco was in a dispute with the charity Rhythmix over naming rights after one of the girl groups took the same title. The Brighton-based charity, which has been operating in Kent, Surrey and Sussex for more than ten years, claimed the trademark row had cost it eight thousand smackers. The Artists Formerly Known As Rhythmix agreed to change their name to Little Mix. A statement on behalf of Syco and Rhythmix said that the matter had been 'positively resolved.' By getting Cowell to put his hand in his pocket. Which is always a good thing. It added that Syco had been 'happy to make a donation to the charity.'

Some news to cheer everyone up, now. Adrian Chiles has confirmed that he and Christine Bleakley have been sacked from Daybreak. Good word that, sacked. Axed. Cut adrift. Directed towards the Job Centre. Asked to leave the premises and never to darken their door again. Told to sling their hook. The presenter, who traitorously moved to ITV from the BBC last year with his giggling airhead former ONE Show partner for mucho disgraceful wonga to front their flop breakfast format, told the People that he is 'angry, upset and acutely embarrassed' by the way the news was leaked. Not that anybody else is, of course. In fact, there's  been celebration throughout the land, to be honest. Street parties have been organised. Do you hear the bells? People are dancing in the streets and lovin' each other, Adie baby, and it's all down to you and your risible orange pal. Chiles is quoted as saying: 'We were assured we could go with our dignity intact. That's obviously not happened.' Obviously. But, hang on. Dignity? In relation to Daybreak? ... I mean, recognise the words, and all that, but the context is beyond me. 'We were enjoying the show,' he continued. Not that anybody else was, of course - hence the termination of your contracts. 'We thought things were going well.' They weren't, mate. And, if you really did think they were then you were either in denial, very silly indeed or not reading your ratings and AI figures very closely. 'We didn't want to go,' Yeah. But everybody else wanted you to go. So, you know, the people have spoken, matey. The forty four-year-old added: 'It was a bolt out of the blue and has come as a big blow to our careers that we've been dumped at this time.' Well, maybe you shouldn't have been cowardly greedy bastards and left the BBC when you had a hit show on your hands. Of course, as subsequent events have ably proved, you two were never the reason for The ONE Show's success in the first place, it was all down to the format. A gibbering chimp could've presented that and not messed it up (as, you know, Alex Jones kind of proves on a daily basis). 'Dark forces have leaked it [the news of the sacking] for their own ends and I am mightily unhappy about it,' he concluded. Whom these 'dark forces' are and what their secret agenda is, Chiles didn't elaborate although speculation will inevitably rear its ugly head that the dark forces are ITV executives and their secret agenda is they really don't like paying reported seven figure salaries to a pair of jumped-up, full-of-their-own-importance glakes who can't even pull in an audience of eight hundred thousand on a regular basis. I'm just speculating you understand, it might be completely different 'dark forces' with a completely different secret agenda. The new Dancing on Ice host Bleakley tweeted: 'Morning, what a lovely headline to wake up to.' That's the least credible 'woman of the people' imaginable speaking there, dear blog reader. One can just imagine her flouncing around in high dudgeon at, for instance, the Mirra's front page on Saturday. Everybody else just thought it was howlingly funny. During this incompetent duo's time on the sofa, Daybreak has struggled to attract ratings of an average of seven thousand thousand punters per day – less than half of what their BBC Breakfast rival pulls in and advertisers were said to be deserting the sinking ship 'in their droves.' The sacked pair will now, according to press reports, 'be expecting substantial compensation' for the abrupt ending of their contracts. Because, of course, that's how failure is always recognised in TV. Although Chiles will continue to host ITV's Champions League football coverage - badly, as usual - and his not particularly successful Sunday night chat show, he is likely to be asked to take an 'uge wage cut. Well, that's what happens when you get your greed on, Ade, my son. You get burned.

There's a great piece by Charlie Brooker in the Gruniad on the subject of this year's motley collection of Christmas adverts. One which pretty much exactly chimes with yer actual Keith Telly Topping's own views on these abominations: 'Take the John Lewis commercial. I heard it coming before I saw it: reports reached me of people blubbing in front of their televisions, so moved were they by this simple tale of a fictional boy counting the hours until he can give his parents a gift for Christmas. Given the fuss they were making, the tears they shed, you'd think they were watching footage of shoeless orphans being kicked face-first into a propeller. But no. They were looking at an advert for a shop. Failing to cry at an advert for a shop does not make me cold, incidentally. I have cried at films from ET to Waltz With Bashir, at news coverage of disasters, at sad songs, and at the final paragraph of Graham Greene's The End of the Affair. I cried at these things because they were heartbreaking. And because none of them was an advert for a shop. An advert for a shop. That's all the John Lewis thing is, and as such it's no more moving than the 'So Near, So Spar' campaign of the mid-1980s. Anyone who cries at this creepy bullshit is literally sobbing IQ points out of their body. Is this really what we've become – a species that weeps at adverts for shops? A commercial has only made me feel genuinely sad on one occasion – 25 January 1990, when a falling billboard nearly killed 'Allo 'Allo star Gorden Kaye.'

The BBC's classified football results on Final Score, once part of Grandstand, now soldiering on alone since the demise of the corporation's flagship television sports production, have provided a calm, soothing counterpoint to the dramatic tappity‑tap-taps of the teleprinter in its various guises since the feature was inaugurated in 1958. During fifty three years regular announcing duties have been shared by just two men in a fine half-century stand; Len Martin for the first thirty seven years and Tim Gudgin, who read his final classified check on Saturday evening a week short of his eighty second birthday, for the sixteen years since Martin's death. It was a rather low-key send-off for Gudgin, some minor badinage when he asked to be called 'Gudgers' to match the religiously nurtured 'Chappers' of the host, Mark Chapman. A couple of teams must have noted the occasion, too, giving the veteran the chance to savour 'Northampton Two, Shrewsbury Town Seven' and 'Airdrie United Eleven, Gala Fairydean Nil' with notable gusto. Five minutes and thirty five seconds after beginning, Gudgin ended his stint with 'Glentoran Two, Glenavon Nil' and was joined by Chapman to mark his retirement with a career retrospective of clips from his regular weekend workplace and from his other varied strands such as Top of the Form. He was affability itself, rather bashful in the spotlight and bore the praise with an unpretentious, 'It's been a pleasure.' Next week BBC Radio Lancashire's Sony Award-winning host Mike West takes the mic in the sports department's new Salford base, the move north and the aversion to commuting there from Hampshire at his age in midwinter having persuaded Gudgin to take his leave mid-season. West has a rather forbidding standard of longevity and professionalism to emulate. Gudgin's harmonic voice, a staple for many years reading the news and presenting on the Light Programme and Radio 2 shows such as Housewives' Choice and Friday Night Is Music Night, joined Grandstand in 1965. For thirty years he was the voice of the racing results that used to zip in and out of shot on bookmaker-style, blackboard, hand-drawn graphics and the magnificently arbitrary pre‑national league rugby union club results as well as the cricket scoreboard during the summer. Where Martin, the man he shared a desk with for thirty years, had a rich, treacly burr to his voice common among his generation of native Queenslanders, Gudgin was more mellifluous. Both shared, though, a mastery of intonation, the ability to convey the outcome of a game before finishing the line by modulating the tone of their voices according to the fate of the teams whose names they were enunciating. Something which a number of comedy shows parodied with great glee. It is a method of expression full of cheery, congratulatory ascents and forlorn, sympathetic swoops. It derived from the days when the treble-chance route to enrichment promised by Littlewoods and Vernons was the preferred recreation of millions. 'The object is to enable people to have their noses down in their coupons without having to glance up at the screen all the time,' Martin explained. 'By the various rises or falls in tone, they know when it's an away win or a draw. It works very well but it really wasn't my idea.' The model, Gudgin says, came from the BBC's rival radio service, from the man who cleared his throat seconds before Out of the Blue was faded down. 'Any learning that I did was done at the feet, or mic, of John Webster, who used to do the results on Sports Report when Eamonn Andrews was the host. He was the past master and such things that one needs to learn, about style and rhythm, I learned from him.' Gudgin's regular stint in Martin's role began just days before his predecessor's death at the age of seventy six in August 1995. The infamous 'Aston Villa three, Manchester United One,' the eventual champions' 'you'll never win anything with kids' defeat providing an illustrious first scoreline. He prepared then as he did for his final Saturday. 'Nothing special,' he confessed to the Gruniad. 'Not like an opera singer limbering. I like to get in at lunchtime although I'm not needed for a few hours. I've got access to all the various live screens and keep an eye on the football, rugby and racing. I get my thrill from being well aware of what's been going on in the afternoon. There's always a certain adrenaline rush before I start.' His face may be anonymous to most but his voice is instantly recognisable and Gudgin is happy to oblige supporters requesting bespoke scorelines involving their teams' victories over rivals, his trademark elongated 'nillllllllls' received with particular relish. Several fans have appeared alongside him, reading the results on the BBC's interactive service, most memorably The Fall's Mark E Smith. 'He knew the teams because he was keen on soccer,' Gudgin says. 'It was an idiosyncratic performance, partly because he'd had more than a little alcohol beforehand. I think we just about got away with it.' Nothing fazed him, not even the prospect of the dreaded lip-mangling East Fife Five, Forfar Four result, and the closest he came to adversity was when his computer crashed halfway through a division's scores and he had to flannel for a few seconds. No one noticed. Gudgin finds the loyalty of the audience to their 4.55pm appointment touching, given the proliferation of options to receive the information he divulges over the past sixteen years. He is, said his colleague Gary Lineker, 'a quintessential part of Saturday afternoons in this country. They will never be the same again.' 'Most of all for me,' Gudgin adds modestly, as he looks forward to a retirement trip to Australia before resuming his work on community radio in Havant and voicing talking newspapers for the blind.

BBC Worldwide have responded to criticism of some of the charges associated with the official Doctor Who Convention being held next march in Cardiff. The event costs ninety nine smackers per day and originally attendees were also asked to book a separate twenty five quid ticket for a picture or autograph with either Matt Smith or Steven Moffat. After consultation with Moffat - who's been to a fair few 'proper' (if 'non-official') conventions in his time line Los Angeles' legendary Gallifrey One - the convention has now agreed that the guaranteed autograph signing and photography opportunities with him will now be offered 'on a complimentary basis.' Anyone who has already purchased a ticket for a session with Moffat via the website will be immediately refunded. Instead the event will be holding a competition in the next few weeks offering Doctor Who Convention attendees the chance to be selected for a photograph or autograph with Steven Moffat. The charges for a photograph or autograph with Matt Smith, however, will remain. BBC Worldwide justify this by saying that the photographs will be taken by a professional photographer and will be 'studio quality prints.' They confirm that conference attendees will have other opportunities to see Matt Smith in person but the ticket will guarantee the opportunity to have a photograph or autograph with him. BBC Worldwide have also answered criticism that the event is 'not child friendly.' They say: 'The event programme is being put together with an adult audience in mind. For several years we have had requests from our adult fans for a full-scale Doctor Who Convention and with this in mind we are aiming to stage a top-quality event that brings the script to screen process to life for attendees. We have a wide-ranging programme in place with live demonstrations; Q&A sessions and talks from the cast and crew of Doctor Who. Whilst none of the material covered will be unsuitable for children we are mindful that the presentation style and informative nature of some of the events may not suit a child's idea of a "Doctor Who day out." The Doctor Who convention is just one element of a series of live events we have staged from the Doctor Who Live tour in 2010 to the Doctor Who Experience which were more tailored to families and we will have many more Doctor Who events to look forward to in 2012 and 2013 to cater for all age-ranges.'

Tim Brooke-Taylor has received an OBE for his services to entertainment, following in the footsteps of fellow Goodies Bill Oddie and Graeme Garden. 'We can now all three sit on our bike together with our OBEs,' he said, referring to the three-seater bicycle they rode in the 1970s comedy show. I'm minded of a line in the Royal Command episode of The Goodies from 1977. To wit:-
       Timbo: 'I'd be happy to be an OBE. Best of all, an Earl and an OBE.'
       Graeme: 'Then, you'd be an earlobe!'
The artist Gillian Wearing was also at Buckingham Palace to collect her OBE. The 1997 Turner Prize winner said: 'It's rare for an artist to be recognised so it's a real honour.' Known for her work as a conceptual video artist, Wearing's most recent film was the feature-length piece Self Made, which merges the real and imaginary lives of seven members of the public. Her work typically combines art and film to highlight the conflict between established behaviour and what people do on impulse. One of the artist's Turner Prize-winning pieces was Sixty Minutes Silence - in which twenty six police officers are shown trying to remain still for an hour. For a laugh. Brooke-Taylor, a regular panellist on the classic radio comedy show I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, has a career in entertainment spanning forty seven years. He remains best-known for The Goodies, an anarchic, visually-inventive comedy show which ran for more than a decade and used to be yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite programme when he was twelve. And Bill Oddie used to be funny. Tim, a Cambridge contemporary of Cleese and Chapman, he also a regular on the TV series' At Last the 1948 Show, Broaden Your Mind, Marty and the animated children's series Bananaman, among others. Speaking to reporters after receiving the honour from the Prince of Wales, he admitted 'one had to bite one's tongue,' having often poked fun at the ease with which honours were handed out in the 1970s.

German comedian Henning Wehn - has landed his own Radio 2 stand-up series. The self-styled 'German Comedy Ambassador to Great Britain' will front a six-part series of comedy lectures in the series Henning Knows How To ... The commission comes despite Radio 2 scaling back its comedy output in the recent round of BBC cuts. Wehn, who has lived in Britain since 2003, is a regular on radio panel shows including The Now Show and Fighting Talk and has recently graduated to television with a much-admired guest appearance in the latest series of Qi. Each episode of Henning Knows How To ... will focus on a different theme, with topics including class, sport, languages and humour. The shows will be recorded at The Drill Hall in Central London in January 2012. Meanwhile, Stephen K Amos is reported to be working on a new Radio 4 show, Life: An Idiots Guide, in which he will be joined by fellow stand-ups as they build a 'guide through life's existential maze.'

A man in China is suing a dating agency for sending him 'ugly girls' as potential brides. Li Zing, twenty seven, claims that the company digitally altered the women's pictures on the website so much that he barely recognised them in real life. He wants his eighty pound fee refunded and five hundred pounds in compensation from the website in Hubei province, the Mirra reports. The dating agency told a court: 'We sent women that we thought would be ­suitable. He's no film star himself and we are still trying to find a bride for him.' The case continues.

An accident or totally deliberate? Here's the great Reginald D Hunter 'making a slip' on BBC2's morning cookery show Something for the Weekend. But you do have to admire the composure of presenter Louise Redknapp and chef Simon Rimmer in ploughing on regardless.

The latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day comes from the Tamba Trio. And, it's a sizzling samba. Should've probably had this one last July but, it'll do for a cold Sunday night in November, I reckon. A Luta Contínua!

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