Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Twenty Two Days Of Christmas: OneTwoThreeFour

The BBC has been accused of 'stifling the debate' over controversial local radio cuts by curbing the number of times presenters can mention the issue on air. Station controllers are 'understood' to have been told not to trail the proposals, part of BBC director general Mark Thompson's Delivering Quality First initiative to cut seven hundred million smackers from the corporation's budget, more than twice a week. Mind you, this is according to the Gruniad Morning Star and, frankly, if they told me black was darker than white I'd want a second opinion. The cuts to local radio are by far the most controversial part of DQF and are believed to have generated thousands of responses to the BBC Trust, which is coming to the end of a dual consultation into DQF and the future of local radio. But 'critics' say the BBC Trust would have had a far greater response if the BBC had trailed the proposals more heavily on-air. Who these critics are and where they've said this, the Gruniad fails to mention. Not that this blogger, necessarily, disagrees with the general thrust of the article - indeed, this blog has been outspoken in its disgust at the proposals and opposition to them. But, the next line kind of gives the game away as to, exactly, what their agenda is in all this malarkey. 'There has been very strict monitoring [by management] of how much coverage BBC local stations have given to the issue,' said one BBC 'source'. Anonymous, of course and, therefore, probably non-existent. 'While controllers are aware that they cannot give it disproportionate coverage they want their listeners to be aware of it and to be in a position to comment.' The alleged 'source' allegedly added: 'The radio police have been all over this one. It is a highly political and highly sensitive situation.' The cuts, which will see the budget for the BBC's forty local stations in England shrink by about fifteen million notes with the loss of two hundred and eighty jobs, have been fiercely criticised by MPs. The Trust's public consultations, on DQF and local radio, comes to an close today. The BBC Local Radio Forum, a campaigning group seeking to promote greater awareness of the local radio proposals, accused the BBC of a failure to inform its listeners. 'We do not accept that BBC management or the BBC Trust have done their best in this matter, perhaps they have done what is best for themselves but certainly not licence fee-paying listeners to local radio,' the forum said in a letter to David Holdsworth, the BBC's controller of English regions. Holdsworth, in a reply to forum organisers, said: '[He was] satisfied that we have run the right level of trails to give our audience a chance to find out about the consultations. And it has, of course, also attracted publicity both in local and national papers as an extra stimulus. I do accept that it is always hard to get these messages heard,' he said. 'I am afraid that would be true of any consultation but I am assured by the Trust unit that there has been a significant response already.' A series of pre-recorded trails has run across local radio inviting listeners to contribute to the BBC Trust's review of local radio. But the trail did not highlight the proposed local radio cuts. When this was raised by BBC local radio controllers, management later gave stations a scripted on-air announcement for presenters to read out referencing DQF. A BBC spokeswoman said there was a period when the trail was running only twice a week, but said there was also a period when it aired more often. 'It's our view that audiences had an opportunity to understand and debate DQF as it impacts on local radio across our airwaves through phone-ins that they have set up, as well as through consultation trails that they have been running,' she said. So, for one final time, if you have any comments to make on the BBC's proposals - or, even if you don't know what they are - then you have just a few hours to get yourselves over to the BBC Trust website and make your voice heard. Remember, as a licence fee payer, the BBC belongs to you. You've been given the opportunity to take part in the debate, it seems rude not to take them up on the offer. The Gruniad states that 'BBC management is expected to scale back the level of local radio cuts when it meets with the BBC Trust in the new year. Lord Patten, the chairman of the BBC Trust, used an appearance before MPs last week to give the clearest indication yet the trust would ask management to change some of the proposals for local radio.'

A rare David Bowie Top of the Pops performance will be shown on television for the first time since it was originally broadcast in 1973. It was believed that every BBC recording of the singer's performing his hit single 'The Jean Genie' had been destroyed. It emerged last week that one had been found - and it will feature in a Top of The Pops Christmas Special on BBC 2. The footage was found when retired TV cameraman BBC John Henshall realised he had his own copy of the performance. The film emerged earlier this month when it was shown at the Missing Believed Wiped event at the British Film Institute in London which celebrates the discovery of long-lost TV shows. Henshall, from Oxfordshire, worked on the show and kept a copy of Bowie's appearance. The four-minute clip of Bowie performing alongside his then-band The Spiders From Mars will be screened in full on the Top of The Pops special. The performance has not been screened on TV since it originally broadcast on 4 January 1973, the day after it was recorded. It was lost when hundreds of shows were wiped to allow video tape to be reused by the BBC, because of its high cost. Henshall was unaware until recently that the BBC had not kept a copy. 'I just couldn't believe that I was the only one with it. I just thought you wouldn't be mad enough to wipe a tape like that,' he said earlier this month. Mark Cooper, executive producer of Top Of The Pops 2, said: 'Bowie singing 'The Jean Genie' is electric and the kind of piece of archive that not only brings back how brilliant Top Of The Pops could be, but also how a piece of archive can speak to us down the years. I can't imagine what other piece of TOTP from the early Seventies would be as extraordinary a find.' BBC2's ninety-minute Top of the Pops Christmas Special will be screened at seven thirty tonight.

From real music to the shite dribbling out of Simon Cowell's factory. Cowell has reportedly 'confessed' that he was 'overly cocky' at the launch of X Factor USA, admitting he 'made mistakes' on the FOX talent show. You think? Cowell made a prediction before the series aired that it would reach twenty million viewers, but it has fallen well short of that number or anything even remotely like it. Despite strong weekly ratings, his talent show hasn't scored near the numbers of Simon Fuller's American Idol. Speaking at a press conference ahead of this week's season finale, Cowell said that he had overestimated how successful the programme would be after a single run. 'I'm cocky by nature,' he said. 'But I'd come off a massive final in the UK, I had adrenaline, I couldn't wait to put the show on here and it's gonna take a little bit longer than I thought.' The record label boss also made the admission that he had made errors with song choices on the show because of his Britishness. 'I learned that I'm not American - that was a big factor of where I got things right and where I got things wrong,' said Cowell. Commenting on his act Melanie Amaro's final song choice, he revealed that he had made last-minute changes. '[The song] was too British and too old for her - I'm trying to think American,' he said.

Channel Four News has announced that Tom Clarke is to become the programme's first Science Editor. The newly created role sees Clarke move from this current position of Science Correspondent. Channel Four News has gone under a revamp this year which has seen an updated studio, graphics and on-air presenting team. The programme now also features a full time weather presenter for the first time. 'Tom is an exceptional science journalist, whose knowledge and expertise gives viewers and online users of Channel Four News a superb insight into everything from nuclear meltdown in Japan to the search for the Higgs-Boson. In this new role, he will have greater freedom to shape our overall science coverage and deploy his engaging style to bring original stories and scientific revelations to light,' said Jim Gray, the Editor of Channel Four News.

Doctor Who's executive producer Steven Moffat has, shock horror, 'revealed' that he is 'beginning to think about' his eventual departure from the show. As if that, apparently, qualifies as 'news.' The fifty-year-old showrunner said that he hasn't been able to 'relax' since taking charge of the popular long-running BBC family SF drama in 2009, and is 'starting to struggle' with the 'relentless' scrutiny placed upon the programme. 'I never find any time to relax,' the Mirra quotes Moffat as saying. 'All the stuff that surrounds it can be relentless. I haven't got a plan but I am definitely going to be handing it to someone else.' And, this relentlessness is rather neatly demonstrated in this complete and utter non-story about a producer of a long-running TV show mentioning, in passing, that eventually he'll be handing on to someone else (just as Rusty Davies did to him three years ago). And, suddenly, it's a 'Doctor Who Producer Quits' tabloid story for a day or two until it becomes fish and chip papers. Queue much pointless Internet speculation on the whys and wherefores and a follow up story, wholly ill-informed of course, about who is likely to be taking over when it happens. Whenever that is. Which we don't know. Jesus, the shite some people chose to care about. To quote a line for one of The Moffster's finest scripts, 'why can't people just think, eh? Doesn't it make you made?' Asked by one of his Twitter followers whether there was the slightest bit of truth in this 'exclusive', Moffat's reply was suitably to-the-point: 'Nope.' Bless 'em, though, they're trying their best.

Now, here's something which is almost certain to make The Moffster's stress levels leap through the roof. It may be the festive season but the gloves appear to be well and truly off in the never-ending tussle between the scum tabloids and the BBC and Doctor Who appears to, once again, about to find itself used as some tabloid hack's political punchbag. The Gruniad claims that a freedom of information request has been lodged by a newspaper into the cost of a recent Doctor Who Christmas special screening. Which was held at a studio in BBC Television Centre, incidentally. What may have prompted the FoI request, they argue, is the fact that as well as press, there were some MPs there with their children, including the chancellor George Osborne, the shadow chancellor Ed Balls, Tom Watson (power to the people!) and Charles Kennedy. Nice and balanced, no obvious political bias in evidence there - all of the major parties are represented - so, you might wonder, which newspaper is it that has taken such a purely ladgeful interest in the cost of the BBC entertaining a bunch of tabloid telly reviewers and a few MPs? Is it the filthy goose-stepping bully-thug lice at the BBC-loathing Daily Scum Mail? No, for once it's not. Is it, then, the Top Gear-loathing hippy Communist waste-of-spaces at Gruniad Morning Star itself? Nope, not them either. According to the Gruniad, it's actually Uncle Rupert's last surviving - for the moment - tabloid which hasn't been closed down in shame and disgrace, the Sun. The article goes on to suggest that one is sure the Sun 'will show the same alacrity the next time politicians attend a Sky event.' I wouldn't bank on it, matey.
Sky have hired Michele Kurland, the Talkback Thames executive responsible for taking The Apprentice onto primetime BBC1, as its new head of factual entertainment. Kurland, who is currently head of factual entertainment at the Fremantle Media-owned production company, will oversee all factual entertainment commissioning across Sky's portfolio of channels - Sky1, Sky Living, Sky Atlantic and Sky Arts. Her brief will include a wide range of shows, including Britain and Ireland's Next Top Model on Sky Living, Fame in the Frame on Sky Arts, the Winners strand on Sky1 and Sky Atlantic's upcoming Morgan Spurlock's New Britain. She replaces the outgoing Mark Sammon. Sky's director commissioning Stuart Murphy said: 'I am so delighted Michele is joining Sky as head of factual entertainment. We worked together at the BBC and I have been trying for years to work with her again. Her attention to detail, love of talent, and ability to make funny, dramatic TV out of people selling lamps shaped like kettles are second to none. We are very lucky to have her join to work across the Sky Entertainment portfolio with the existing and brilliant commissioning team. I'd like to once again thank Mark Sammon, the outgoing head, for all his work, and for the commissioning execs, Sadia Butt and Bernadette Morley, for taking on additional workload during the transition.' Kurland joined Talkback Thames in July 2006 to executive produce the third series of BBC2's The Apprentice. She was then responsible for the show's successful move to BBC1, leading to her being appointed head of factual entertainment in June 2007. Her production credits also include The Apprentice spin-off You're Fired, along with the launch of Junior Apprentice. Prior to Talkback Thames, she worked at the BBC for thirteen years, where she helped develop Can Gerry Robinson Save the NHS?, I'll Show Them Who's Boss, Living The Dream and Trouble at the Top. 'I've had an amazing time working at Talkback Thames and with everyone there, but the challenge of moving from production into commissioning was an opportunity I couldn't resist,' said Kurland. 'I'm looking forward to working with Stuart again and I feel it is a really exciting time to be moving to Sky.' Kurland's arrival follows the appointment of Phil Edgar Jones, a production industry heavyweight and former creative director of Big Brother, as Sky's new head of rubbish. Murphy's team also includes Celia Taylor as head of factual, Anne Mensah as head of drama and Lucy Lumsden as head of comedy.

Harry Hill's TV Burp could continue with a new host, it has been reported. Tabloid reports claim that ITV 'bosses' are still hoping to 'lure' the comedian back (with a bag of sweets and sickly smile, perhaps?) after he rejected a one million smackers payrise to make another series. But, the Mirra claims that production company Avalon has 'planned to carry on' with the lucrative show regardless. This is the same Mirra, please remember, who've just printed that arsewipe of a story about Steven Moffat's future plans. So, you know, pinch of salt and all that. 'They're desperate to keep the show on air as it earns them a fortune from ITV,' an alleged anonymous 'source' who probably doesn't exist allegedly said. 'But the debacle surrounding Harry has left everyone bruised.' Inevitably, the newspaper -if you can call the Mirra that these days - dives feet first into speculation of Hazza's likely replacement in such an eventuality. With no supporting evidence what-so-ever the claimed that Lee Mack, Al Murray and Russell Kane (very popular with students) 'have apparently been suggested as replacements' for Hill. Suggested by whom, they do not say. The forty seven-year-old Hill is said to have been 'approached' by the BBC and Sky as well as ITV after parting ways with manager and Avalon boss Jon Thoday. Hill claimed in October that there was still 'no decision' made on TV Burp's future.

Full of his own importance and nowhere near as funny as he seems to think he, Ricky Gervais is reportedly set to move to Channel Four after allegedly 'impressing' the broadcaster with a new comedy pilot. The comedian is said to have 'thrilled' controller Jay Hunt - who, as we know from her time at the BBC is pretty easily pleased - with his retirement home sitcom Derek, where he is joined by Karl Pilkington in his first acting role. That's if you believe Pilkington isn't acting in An Idiot Abroad. Which, personally, this blogger doesn't. The claim follows the conclusion of Gervais's latest BBC show, the wretched and obliquely unfunny Life's Too Short on Tuesday (December 20), which according to the Mirra, has left 'bosses somewhat underwhelmed.' And viewers too if the ratings figures are anything to go by. 'There have been many meetings in a bid to discover why it missed the mark,' an alleged 'insider' who probably doesn't exist allegedly said. 'No-one really knows. Some you win, some you lose.' Writing about Derek on his official blog last month, Gervais declared that he was 'so excited' about the project and claimed: '[I] haven't felt this way [about a show] since The Office if I'm being honest.'
And, speaking of odious, full of themselves tossers, the former Daily Mirra editor and oily obnoxious twat Piers Morgan has told the Leveson Inquiry that he does not believe phone-hacking took place at the paper while he was in charge. Denying suggestions that hacking was 'endemic' at the Mirra, he said: 'I have no reason to believe it was going on.' Morgan said he had not been 'directly involved' in the use of private investigators. Former Scum of the World TV editor Sharron Marshall and journalists' union boss Steve Turner appeared earlier at the hearings. Morgan told the inquiry that he does not believe phone hacking occurred at the Daily Mirra while he was editor, but he did admit to using 'Benji the Binman' for some stories. He told the inquiry into media ethics that he did 'not believe to the best of my recollection' that hacking took place during that time. He also edited the Scum of the World between January 1994 and November 1995. Speaking via video link from the US, where he is a TV presenter for CNN, he told the inquiry: 'Not a single person has made a formal or legal complaint against the Daily Mirra for phone-hacking.' He was asked about an investigation by the Information Commissioner's Office which found that forty five Mirra journalists were mentioned in the files of private investigator Steve Whittamore. Morgan said the use of private investigators was organised through the news or features desk and that he would not have been directly involved. 'But certainly all journalists knew they had to operate within the law. That was enshrined in their contracts of employment,' he said. 'The average editor is probably aware of about five per cent of what his journalists are up to at any given time on every newspaper.' Morgan also claimed he had never been aware of police officers being paid for information while he was at the paper. Morgan said that he first became aware of hacking in 26 January 2001 when he was warned that his own voicemails may have been intercepted. Morgan said that someone warned him of 'a little trick' that could give access to a mobile phone, but said that he could not recall the person's identity. He also pointed to 'widely prevalent' rumours in the newspaper industry that hacking was widespread following the jailing of Scum of the World royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire in 2007. Asked about his previous comments in a Press Gazette interview that Goodman had been made the 'fall guy' for what was a widespread practice, Morgan insisted that he was merely passing on 'rumours' and also said that he 'felt sorry' for Goodman, with whom he had previously worked. Morgan, who at one stage likened the questioning to 'like being a rock star being presented with an album containing his worst ever hits,' was also asked about comments he made to Kristy Young on Desert Island Discs, in which he appeared to admit to knowledge of the 'dark arts' of journalism. He said that he was merely 'responding in a general way' to the questions, but accepted that discussing the practices did sound 'quite unedifying.' Morgan was further quizzed over statements he made previously about hearing a message that was allegedly taken from the phone of Heather Mills McCartney while she was married to the former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney. In August, Mills claimed that she was informed by a journalist working for Mirra Group Newspapers that her voicemails from McCartney were hacked. Mills said that the journalist who contacted her was not Morgan, who was editor of the Daily Mirra at the time of the alleged hacking, but the facts she revealed appeared at least to match up with statements made by Morgan in a 2006 article in the Daily Scum Mail. Admitting to have heard a recorded message which McCartney had left for Mills, Morgan said in the article: '[The message] was heartbreaking. The couple had clearly had a tiff, Heather had fled to India, and Paul was pleading with her to come back. He sounded lonely, miserable and desperate, and even sang 'We Can Work It Out' into the answer phone.' Discussing the tape later on the BBC's Newsnight, Mills said: 'There was absolutely no honest way that Piers Morgan could have obtained that tape that he has so proudly bragged about unless they had gone into my voice messages.' Morgan said he had listened to a tape of Mills' message but repeatedly refused to give details of how he came to listen to it. He said: 'I can't discuss where was played that tape or who played it - it would compromise a source.' Inquiry chairman Lord Justice Leveson said he was happy to call Mills to see whether she had 'granted permission' for the message to be listened to. When asked if it was unethical to listen to phone messages, Morgan said: 'It doesn't necessarily follow that listening to someone else talking to someone else is unethical.' Morgan was also asked about his book The Insider: The Private Diaries of a Scandalous Decade, in which he says he became aware of phone hacking in 2001. He told the inquiry: 'The Fleet Street rumour mill, which is always extremely noisy and not entirely accurate, was buzzing with rumours that it spread a lot further than Clive Goodman. I do think he was made a scapegoat and, having known him at the News of The World, I felt sorry for him.' Despite refusing to admit to ever being involved in phone hacking, Morgan did say that he used Benjamin Pell - also known as 'Benji the Binman' - on 'several occasions' for stories. He admitted using Benji for a story about Sir Elton John, after the eccentric man had presented the paper with 'sackfuls' of bank statements belonging to the singer. Asked whether this was an unethical practice, Morgan said that it was 'on the cusp of being unethical. Clearly, it is a strange thing to be doing. Benji the Binman used to live in a house with hundreds of rubbish bins. Did I think he was doing anything illegal? No. Did I think it was on the cusp of unethical? Yes,' said Morgan. However, he added: 'If you throw rubbish into the street, I wonder how unethical it is if that then appears in a newspaper; it's rubbish, isn't it?' Morgan said that he regretted digitally altering a photo from 8 August 1997, of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed to make it appear as though they were kissing. 'It was a stupid thing to do. We didn't actually con the public because it was exactly the same as the picture that was going to appear in a rival paper the next day,' he said. 'It was to do with the introduction of digital photography. We all woke up and thought, "This is not a good idea."' Nevertheless, he insisted that celebrities and public figures do not automatically have a right to privacy if they are simultaneously using the media for commercial gains. 'How much privacy are you entitled to if you are a famous public figure and you yourself use publicity for commercial gain?' he said. 'I have very little sympathy with celebrities who sell their weddings for one million pounds, one of the most private days of their lives, and then have affairs.' He finished by adding: 'I do think there has to be a better balance here, because of a lot of the good things that papers were doing at the time [haven't been talked about].' Tuesday's hearing began with Julian Pike, partner at a law firm used by the Scum of the World's owner News International, being recalled to the inquiry to explain how he knew actress Sienna Miller was going to make a claim against the now-defunct, disgraced and disgraceful newspaper before it became public. He supplied the inquiry with e-mails from various parties involved and a letter from the Metropolitan Police relating to the matter. Turner, general secretary of the British Association of Journalists, then described a culture of 'bullying' at some newspapers. If people turned up at News International accompanied by a union rep they would have had their 'card marked', he said. He told the inquiry: 'I'm ashamed to be telling you this because we are supposed to be living in a free, democratic country but we are not. We are living in a society where people are wage slaves and treated very badly and that's the circumstance I found at the News of the World.' Turner said the Scum of the World was 'unique' in using 'phoney' disciplinary issues to force staff out of the paper. 'The individual quickly got the message that they wanted him out' and would seek a payout for leaving, he said. Marshall told the inquiry there were some managers who were 'not ideal' and there could be dispute over the way a story was handled. But she added: 'I wouldn't say there's a culture of bullying. Maybe you have a disagreement about how story is (done).'

Morgan's claims were contradicted on Wednesday at the Leveson inquiry. Phone-hacking appeared to be 'a bog-standard journalistic tool' for gathering information, a former Mirra financial reporter claimed. James Hipwell, who was jailed in 2006 for writing about firms whose shares he owned, said that he witnessed 'repeated privacy infringements' at the paper. He told the inquiry that he 'overheard' showbiz journalists 'openly talking about it.' Publisher Trinity Mirra has insisted - and continues to insist - that all its journalists work within the law and the PCC code of conduct. Except Hipwell who, clearly, didn't. But Hipwell told the inquiry that he had never been given a copy of the code during his time at the paper, under the editorship of Piers Morgan. He said that he never heard reference to the code, and said there were no visible signs of ethical leadership. In a statement read to the inquiry, he stated: 'I witnessed journalists carrying out repeated privacy infringements using what has now become a well-known technique - to hack into the voicemail systems of celebrities, their friends, publicists and public relations executives. The openness and frequency of their hacking activities gave me the impression that hacking was considered a bog-standard journalistic tool for gathering information.' Hipwell said he sat next to the showbiz team, where hacking took place daily. 'Showbiz hacks discussed techniques and products of hacking openly,' his statement said. 'I would go as far as to say it happened every day. It became apparent that a great number of stories would come from that source.' He described Morgan as 'very hands-on' and the 'beating heart' of the newspaper, and said the editor spent half an hour every day discussing the showbiz reporters' stories. 'Showbusiness is very close to his heart and a lot of people who had worked on the showbusiness desk had come from the Sun and they were old friends,' he said. 'Nothing really happened on that desk without Piers knowing about it.' Hipwell said that he did not report that he had witnessed hacking to Morgan because 'senior editors accepted it.' He added that it was 'very unlikely' Morgan did not know that Mirra journalists were hacking. Hipwell was jailed for purchasing low-priced stocks and then recommending them to readers in the paper's City Slickers column, selling them as their values soared. He received a six-month prison sentence in February 2006 for pocketing nearly forty one thousand quid.

Seven public figures have reportedly settled legal claims over phone hacking with Scum of the World publisher News Group. They include former Lib Dem MP Mark Oaten, TV presenter Ulrika Jonsson and alleged 'celebrities' Abi Titmuss and Calum Best. The others were the theatrical agent Michelle Milburn, Paul Dadge, who helped survivors of the 7/7 bombings, and former Army officer James Hewitt. The defunct, disgraced and disgraceful tabloid's owner News International said it had agreed 'appropriate sums' in compensation. The settlements followed civil action against both News Group and Glenn Mulcaire, the former private investigator jailed in January 2007 for phone hacking. In a statement, NI said it had agreed to pay 'appropriate sums by way of compensation and costs' and had 'expressed regret for the distress caused.' The settlement followed discussions with News Corp's management and the standards committee acting on behalf of News Group, NI said. Reacting to the settlement, Oaten said 'substantial' compensation had been agreed. 'I'm glad, after a long period, this issue is finally resolved and I'm able to understand better the actions taken against me by the media,' he said. 'I'm grateful to the current team at News International for trying to put wrongs right and settle this honourably.' He then asked to be excused so that he could find a quiet place to sit on the floor and throw bundles of lover-lee wonga up in the air whilst shouting 'I'm rich!' Probably. Several high-profile figures have already settled claims, including actress Sienna Miller who accepted one hundred thousand smackers in damages and costs. Celebrity publicist Max Clifford sued the Scum of the World for breach of privacy and received a settlement worth a reported one million knicker. The publishers agreed to pay two million pounds to the family of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, whose voicemail messages were accessed while she was missing, as well as giving a further million notes to charities chosen by the family. The terms of the latest payments were not disclosed. Yet. Until somebody starts talking to the Gruniad at which point, they probably will be.

Meanwhile, self-confessed hacker, Glenn Mulcaire has won his high court bid to force News Group Newspapers to continue to fund his legal fees in cases of alleged phone-hacking. The high court on Wednesday ruled that NGN, parent company of the Scum of the World and former employer of the private investigator, had 'no right' to cancel his legal fees. In a written judgment, the chancellor of the high court said the contract of indemnity is still valid. The judge said: 'A valid contract of indemnity was concluded between NGN and Mr Mulcaire on the terms of the indemnity letter; such contract has not been determined and is still subsisting. Such contract was not determinable at will by NGN whether or not on notice.' He added in oral judgment that NGN had no right to terminate the contract. Mulcaire, who was jailed for six months in 2007 for intercepting messages on royal aides' phones, had sued News International subsidiary NGN for breach of contract. He claimed that he could not fund his legal defence or pay costs or damages incurred in the civil hacking litigation – due to start in February – and asked for a declaration that NGN had no right to cancel an alleged June 2010 indemnity. NGN argued that Mulcaire's demand for seven hundred and fifty thousand knicker in return for his co-operation over the proceedings negated the offer. The result is a blow to NGN, which told Mulcaire through its solicitors in July that it would cancel the private investigator's legal funds after James Murdoch was put under pressure by MPs on the Commons culture, media and sport select committee. Rupert Murdoch told the committee in July that News International would stop paying Mulcaire's legal fees 'provided we are not in breach of a legal contract.' NGN agreed to fund Mulcaire's legal costs in 2008 following a key phone hacking claim brought by PFA boss Gordon Taylor. The court heard how it tried to terminate the bid at the height of the phone-hacking scandal when the Murdochs were called before parliament. Counsel for NGN argued that Mulcaire invalidated the contract last year when he asked for three quarters of a million quid to 'continue co-operating' with the newspaper group in the various claims made against NI by several celebrities and politicians. However, the judge said that NGN had no right to pull out of the contract at will and must continue to indemnify the private investigator. NGN is facing several civil claims over phone-hacking to be tried in February.

The Metropolitan police have arrested a fifty two-year-old female serving police officer over payments from journalists, Scotland Yard has said. The woman, believed to be a royal protection officer, is being held at an Essex police station after detectives arrested her at her home during a dawn swoop. She is the first police officer arrested under Operation Elveden, an inquiry into alleged illegal payments to officers which is running alongside the Operation Weeting phone-hacking inquiry. A police statement said: 'At approximately 06:00hrs this morning, Wednesday 21 December, officers from Operation Elveden arrested a serving Metropolitan Police officer on suspicion of misconduct in a public office and offences contrary to the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906. The fifty two-year-old woman was arrested at a residential address in Essex and is currently in custody at an Essex police station. This is the eighth arrest under Operation Elveden. In linked investigations; sixteen people have been arrested under Operation Weeting and one person arrested under Operation Tuleta.' Operation Tuleta is investigating a number of allegations regarding breach of privacy received by the Met since January 2011, which fell outside the remit of Operation Weeting, including computer hacking and general naughty badness.

The advertising regulator has clear the most complained about advert of the year - a horror-themed campaign for mobile phone retailer Phones 4U featuring a wraith-like little girl. Despite receiving more than six hundred complaints from upset viewers with more time on their hands than they comfortably know what to do with – the most made about any advert in 2011 – and admitting the adverts were likely to cause 'unease', the Advertising Standards Authority said they were 'unlikely' to cause serious or widespread offence. The £5.2m advertising campaign by Phones 4U is a parody of classic horror and zombie films using the strapline 'missing our deals will haunt you.' The series of TV adverts, and one video-on-demand advert that ran on Channel Four's 4oD catch up service, featured a ghost-like little girl in 'spooky' settings and in one advert, scaring a woman driving a car. The ASA received six hundred and one complaints - from glakes - claiming the adverts were 'offensive', 'irresponsible', 'unduly distressing' and 'inappropriately scheduled on TV when children might see them.' Prior to broadcast the campaign was given a restriction barring it from being shown around programmes 'directed at or likely to appeal' to viewers below the age of sixteen. Phones 4U went one step further and chose to run the adverts around programming that ran after 9pm. The ASA admitted that the adverts were 'likely' to cause 'unease' in some viewers but that they were 'unlikely' to cause 'serious or widespread offence' or to be 'unduly distressing for most adults.' The advertising regulator noted that the 'horror movie' theme had distressed some children who had seen it. The ASA dismissed the complaints because the restriction put on when the campaign could broadcast 'minimised the risk' of children, and in particular very young children, seeing the advertising. 'We see the ASA's ruling as an absolute triumph to creative and impactful advertising,' said Caspar Nelson, head of brand communications at Phones 4U. 'The campaign has been extremely well received by a large audience who recognise the classic horror themes, get the Phones 4U sense of humour, and understand what our ads are trying to communicate.'

Astronomers have detected the first Earth-sized planets, which are orbiting a star similar to our own Sun. In the distant past they may have been able to support life and one of them may have had conditions similar to our own planet - a so-called Earth-twin - according to the research team. They have described their findings as the most important planets ever discovered outside our Solar System. Details of the discovery are outlined in the Nature journal. Doctor Francois Fressin, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics in Cambridge, who led the research, said that the discovery was 'the beginning of a new era' of discovery of many more planets similar to our own. Both planets are now thought to be too hot to be capable of supporting life. But according to Fressin, the planets were once further from their star and cool enough for liquid water to exist on their surface, which is a necessary condition for life. 'We know that these two planets may have migrated closer to their Sun,' he told BBC News. '[The larger of the two] might have been an Earth twin in the past. It has the same size as Earth and in the past it could have had the same temperature.' One of the planets, named Kepler 20f, is almost exactly the size of the Earth. Kepler 20e is slightly smaller - approximately 0.87 times the radius of Earth - and is closer to its star than 20f. They are both much closer to their star than the Earth is to the Sun and so they complete an orbit much more quickly: 20e circles its star in just six days, 20f completes an orbit in twenty days whereas the Earth takes three hundred and sixty five days. The researchers say that these planets are rocky and similar in composition to our own planet. Fressin says that the planets' composition may be similar to Earth's with a third of it consisting of iron core. The remainder probably consists of a silicate mantle. He also believes that the outer planet (Kepler 20f) may have developed a thick, water vapour atmosphere. The discovery is important because it is the first confirmation that planets the size of Earth and smaller exist outside our Solar System. It also shows that the Kepler Space Telescope is capable of detecting relatively small planets around stars which are thousands of light-years away. The telescope has discovered thirty five planets so far. Apart from 20e and 20f, they have all been much larger than the Earth. Up until now, the most significant discovery, also by a group including Fressin, was of a planet nearly two-and-a-half times the size of Earth which lay in the so-called 'Goldilocks zone.' This is the region around a star where it is neither too hot, nor too cold, but, indeed, 'just right' for liquid water to be present and therefore life to exist on the planet. But Fressin believes that the two new planets are a much more important discovery. The telescope is scanning one hundred and fifty thousand stars and Professor Andrew Coates of the Mullard Space Science Laboratory in Surrey believes that they will soon find a planet the size of Earth in the Goldilocks Zone. 'With every new discovery we're getting closer to the "holy grail" of an Earth-like planet around a Sun-like star,' he said.

David Tennant has loaned his voice to a new audio download of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again. The actor was asked by the family of James Bond author Ian Fleming, who wrote the original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang story, to voice the audio book. Frank Cottrell Boyce's sequel about the magical flying car, was first published in October. Fleming's niece said that Tennant's voice brought the story to life with a 'wry humour and great characterisation.' Lucy Fleming - herself a fine actress best known for her role as Jenny Richards in the 1970s BBC drama Survivors - said: 'We are thrilled that David agreed to read the audio book. He is such a talented actor and his voice brings Frank Cottrell Boyce's story to life. Chitty could not have been in safer hands with him behind the wheel.' An interview between Lucy and Tennant has also been released, along with the download. Tennant described the story as 'very clever, slightly surreal and hugely readable.' During the interview, the pair also discuss the James Bond connections that Boyce wrote into the story in tribute to Fleming. The writer created Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - which was adapted into a much-loved film in 1968, four years after his death - as a bedtime story for his son. It has since become a hit on the West End stage. The famous flying car is the only original character in the sequel, which is the first of three books that have been commissioned.

Old mutton-dressed-as-lamb-casserole Nancy Dell'Olio has had her libel action against the Daily Scum Mail over an article she claimed portrayed her as a 'man-eater' and a 'serial gold-digger' struck out by the high court. Dell'Olio's counsel, William Bennett, told the court that 'the key message' from the article, published in April, was that she is 'a woman who hunts men but, rather than kill them and eat them, uses them for her own selfish ends.' The Strictly Come Dancing contestant said that the article, headlined Return of the man-eater, was defamatory in its description of her relationship with seventy one-year-old theatre director Sir Trevor Nunn. Bennett told the court that Dell'Olio was presented as a 'predator' and that the article questioned what could attract an 'alluring very well-dressed younger woman' to be romantically attracted to a man 'who looks like a scruffy geography teacher' who is two decades older than her and 'wears battered plimsolls.' As a regular wearer of battered pilmsolls, yer actual Keith Telly Topping is outraged - outraged - he tells you, on Sir Trevor's behalf. Or, at least, on behalf of his plimsolls anyway. 'The use of the word "man-eater" excludes the possibility of romantic love or the possibility of a genuine emotional draw to another human being,' Bennett said. Going on to argue that the article suggests 'just as the lion hunts the deer for food, Nancy Dell'Olio hunts the millionaire for his money.' Either that or she's the subject of a Halls and Oates song with a very fine bassline. One or t'other. He added that Dell'Olio was 'not presented' as having a 'mutual interest in the theatre' with Nunn and 'is not presented as the sort of intellectual with whom he normally associates.' However Associated Newspapers, the publisher of the Daily Scum Mail, said that while the article might not be wholly flattering - which is a bit like saying The Empire State Building might not be a small one block tenement - it 'did not convey' the defamatory meaning Dell'Olio had complained about. Mark Warby QC, counsel for Associated Newspapers, told the court that Dell'Olio was nowhere called 'a gold-digger' and the article could 'not reasonably be read' as implying that her sole motivation was money. Associated Newspapers said in its skeleton argument put before the court that the article made clear Nunn was the initiator of the relationship and explicitly reflected the genuine emotional commitment involved on both sides. The references to Nunn's generosity and healthy bank balance and Dell'Olio's expensive lifestyle and 'lack of any obvious income source' were 'clearly' depicted as 'fringe benefits' for a woman 'of expensive tastes,' and not as her aim and object when entering into the relationship, Warby claimed. Warby also said that the term 'man-eater' was certainly capable of suggesting predatory behaviour but that was not the same as being a 'serial gold-digger,' and no reasonable reader of the whole article could be left with that impression. Whether there's any such thing as a 'reasonable' reader of an article in the Daily Scum Mail, he didn't speculate. Which is probably just as well. Mr Justice Tugendhat struck out the claim and denied Dell'Olio permission to appeal. He said: 'The words complained of are not capable of bearing the meaning attributed to them by the claimant in her particulars of claim or any other defamatory meaning of which she might complain.' News on whether Dell'Olio intends to carry on with her threatened legal action against some or all of the Strictly judges for being mean about her thoroughly useless attempts at strutting her funky stuff is awaited with considerable eagerness. Because, let's face it, you just can't write comedy like this.

The U2 Group's 360° show was the highest earning tour of 2011, according to Billboard Boxscore. Mr Bonio, Mr The Edge and the other two out of The U2 Group said they liked this news a great deal.

The latest Keith Telly Topping's Twenty Two Days of Christmas surprise comes from Da Bruddas.

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