Friday, January 20, 2012

Someone Told Me It Was Over

A high court judge said the Rupert Murdoch-owned company behind the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World had made 'an admission of sorts' that it engaged in a deliberate cover-up of evidence relating to phone-hacking. This, on the day that the publisher paid an estimated seven figures in damages to settle thirty seven phone-hacking claims brought by public figures ranging from Jude Law to John Prescott. Mr Justice Vos, the judge presiding over the hacking cases, told News Group Newspapers that he had seen evidence which 'raised compelling questions about whether you concealed, told lies, actively tried to get off scot free.' The judge ordered the company to search a number of computers which, he said, could contain evidence that its executives deliberately tried to destroy evidence of phone-hacking, saying that he had seen e-mails which showed a 'startling approach to the e-mail record of NGN.' He said that he had seen e-mails which appeared to show how, days after the actress Sienna Miller wrote to the company asking it to retain e-mails which might relate to hacking her phone, 'a previously conceived plan to conceal evidence was put in train by NGN managers.' The judge read out a section from the confidential court papers detailing the cover-up allegations made by hacking victims against the company's executives and directors. It included the charge that the company 'put out public statements that it knew to be false,' that it had 'deliberately deceived the police' and had destroyed evidence of wrongdoing including 'a very substantial number of e-mails' as well as computers. NGN refused to admit these allegations but did agree that damages paid to the victims could be assessed 'on the basis of the facts alleged.' Earlier, it emerged that while the company refused to admit its former directors and senior executives had presided over a cover-up, it agreed that 'aggravated damages' could be calculated 'as if' the allegations that they lied, obstructed police and destroyed evidence were true. The Murdoch subsidiary said that it had made the concessions solely for the purpose of 'the interest of the prompt and efficient determination' of the claims against it. Tamsin Allen, a lawyer at Bindmans, who acted for John Prescott and Labour MPs Chris Bryant and Denis MacShane, said that it was 'surprising' News Corporation had agreed to the admissions on this basis. 'You'd expect an organisation with the resources of the Murdoch empire to fight these sorts of allegations.' The actor Jude Law received the highest disclosed payout of one hundred and thirty thousand snots damages plus costs as payments totalling six hundred and forty thousand smackers were made in fifteen cases where the amounts were made public. Prescott received forty grand, Bryant received thirty big ones; Sadie Frost, Law's former wife, received fifty thousand smackers and Gavin Henson, the Welsh rugby international forty thousand knicker. However, with damages from the other settlements and costs factored in, lawyers estimated that News International's bill could hit ten million wonga. Law, whose former partner Miller had previously accepted a a hundred grand settlement from the Scum of the World publisher last year, said that he was 'truly appalled' and 'it is clear that I, along with many others, was kept under constant surveillance for a number of years.' He added: 'No aspect of my private life was safe from intrusion by News Group Newspapers, including the lives of my children and the people who work for me. It was not just that my phone messages were listened to: News Group also paid people to watch me and my house for days at a time and to follow me and those close to me.' Until a year ago, News Corporation had continued to maintain that any and all phone-hacking which may, or may not, have occurred was the work of a single 'rogue reporter', namely Clive Goodman, who was jailed in 2007 alongside private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, during inquiries held by both parliament and the Press Complaints Commission. That defence gradually unravelled and finally came to pieces in their hands like so much wet cardboard as a group of public figures – including Thursday's litigants – brought a series of civil actions against the newspaper, unearthing evidence indicating that the practice was more widespread. Mark Thomson, of law firm Atkins Thomson, said: 'After years of denials and cover-up, News Group Newspapers has finally admitted the depth and scale of the unlawful activities of many of their journalists at the News of the World and the culture of illegal conduct at their paper.' Phone-hacking dated back to at least 2002, when the Scum of the World targeted Prince Harry's friend Guy Pelly, and ran on until at least 2006 with targets such as 7/7 victim Paul Dadge and Sara Payne, whose daughter Sarah was murdered. At the heart of the hacking lay Mulcaire, who was employed by the newspaper on a one hundred thousand knicker-a-year contract, and who was a co-defendant in many of the civil actions. Mulcaire was allegedly asked by 'several' Scum of the World journalists to target public figures and victims of crime – and he also 'provided information that allowed a number of reporters to conduct hacking of their own,' according to the Gruniad Morning Star. Mulcaire's lawyer Gavin Millar, told the high court that he was 'not involved' in the admissions that led to the settlements and he was 'not a party to them.' Many of the settlements go back to the time when Andy Coulson, David Cameron's former communications director, edited the Scum of the World - between 2003 and his resignation in 2007, after the former royal reporter Goodman was jailed for hacking phones belonging to members of the Windsors' household. A smaller number include events dating back to the editorship of Rebekah Brooks, who was Coulson's immediate predecessor, and who subsequently became chief executive of News International before her resignation last summer in the wake of revelations about the hacking of a phone belonging to murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler. Another victim was Christopher Shipman, son of the serial killer Harold Shipman, who was told by police that the Scum of the World had been privy to his e-mails in August 2004 – less than a year after his father's death. News Corporation said: 'NGN agreed settlements in respect of a number of claims against the company. NGN made no admission as part of these settlements that directors or senior employees knew about the wrongdoing by NGN or sought to conceal it. However, for the purpose of reaching these settlements only, NGN agreed that the damages to be paid to claimants should be assessed as if this was the case.' In court, as each of eighteen settlements were read out, Michael Silverleaf, QC for the company, said he was there to offer 'sincere apologies to the claimant for the damages as well as the distress caused' by the 'unlawful access of messages.'

As noted, NGN has been ordered to allow a search of computers alleged to contain evidence that Scum of the World executives deliberately destroyed damning phone-hacking evidence. During legal discussions on Thursday before a civil trial scheduled for 13 February, the company failed to convince Mr Justice Vos that the search of three laptops assigned to senior employees and six desktop computers was 'disproportionate.' Dinah Rose QC, for NGN, said the search was unnecessary because there had been 'no policy of deliberate destruction' at the paper. But Vos said that if he had 'acceded to [NGN] suggestions back in early 2011 that disclosure was not necessary because admissions had been made, the phone-hacking history might be very different.' He said the material that might be found on the three laptops belonging to an unidentified senior employee of NGN 'may well, on the evidence of the e-mails I have already been shown, contain documents or even e-mails which may bear on the policy of deletion. It seems to be a distinct possibility [that information on the laptops] could contain information relevant to the deliberate deletion of e-mail and go beyond just "colour" but indicate precisely what the deletion was taking place for, which may go far beyond scope of present admissions by NGN,' he said. 'I'm entirely satisfied that these laptops should be searched for purpose of relevant disclosure.' He said that there were 'compelling' questions about whether the paper had engaged in 'a campaign of deliberate destruction of evidence,' had lied, deliberately concealed evidence, made payments to police, or had 'actively tried to get off scot-free,' including by destroying a 'very substantial number of e-mails' and computers of journalists. 'The court has had an admission of sorts to the effect that NGN is content that aggravated damages should be paid on the basis of the somewhat startling admissions I have read out, but not that future claims should be assessed on that basis. I have been shown a number of e-mails which show a rather startling approach to the e-mail record of NGN,' he said. Three days after the solicitor for Sienna Miller had asked that NGN retained any e-mails in relation to phone-hacking, 'a previously conceived plan to conceal evidence was put in train by NGN managers.' Rose claimed that so much had been disclosed and admitted by NGN that it was 'disproportionate' to order the company to search the computers for further evidence. 'There comes a point when we say we're three weeks away from trial and we can say enough is enough.' Her claim was robustly rebutted by Judge Fudge who was havin' none of it, like. 'The day you can say "that's enough" is the day I give judgment – although you can't even say it then because of the number of other cases waiting in the wings.' Burn! That's put you right firmly in your place, lady. The trial, set to last three weeks, is intended to give guidance on damages for current and future lawsuits and out-of-court settlements in the five-year-old scandal. But nine out of ten of the claimants were still waiting for full disclosure from NGN, said their lawyer, Jeremy Reed. In the cases of three, including Tracey Temple, John Prescott's former lover, NGN had yet to even admit liability, he said. 'I want to submit that evidence of deliberate destruction is relevant,' he said, pointing out that, since Vos ordered NGN to make a full disclosure of material on 20 December 2011, the company had released just thirty more pages of information. 'This is like a jigsaw. The claimants are trying to piece it together but we're not sure we've even got all the pieces. Much has been lost or deliberately destroyed.'

And, still it gets worse for Rupert Murdoch as his company is now reportedly facing an FBI investigation into phone-hacking in America after News International admitted intercepting voicemails of Jude Law, the actor, while it is thought he was in the United States. On Thursday, the company paid the actor one hundred and thirty grand after accepting that it had published stories gleaned from the hacking of his phone. One of the articles News International accepted had come from phone-hacking was a 2003 story in the Scum of the World which referred to telephone calls Law's assistant Ben Jackson had made to him when he arrived at an airport. It is believed the airport in question was John F Kennedy airport in New York. News International's admission has led the US authorities to investigate whether a crime took place on American soil. It is thought the possibility that Law's phone was using an American network at the time could lead to offences having been committed under US law. The FBI has confirmed that it is looking into the allegations. An FBI spokesman said: 'We are aware of the allegations of surrounding this matter and are looking into it.' The spokesman refused to confirm whether Law has already been interviewed over the matter. Law's agent, Sara Keene, also refused to comment. An FBI investigation would be further embarrassment for Rupert Murdoch. The phone-hacking scandal has so far been largely confined to the UK. A separate investigation in the US would be extremely damaging to Murdoch given that his News Corporation media empire is based there. Law's solicitor, Mark Thomson, refused to disclose where the airport was, or whether Law had been on US soil when his phone was hacked. However a statement read to the court references a Scum of the World article, published in 2003 which 'even referred to phone calls that the claimant's assistant had made to the claimant on arrival at an airport.' An article published on 7 September 2003 in the Scum of the World refers to calls made by Jackson to Law shortly after he arrived at New York's JFK airport.

The Commons culture, media and sport committee has delayed publication of a report from Surrey police into the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone by the Scum of the World. Lawyers representing the hacking victims are understood to have objected on the grounds that the Dowler family ought to be consulted first. As a result, Friday morning's planned publication was postponed. The document, responding to questions posed to Surrey police by the committee before Christmas, is understood to detail for the first time how senior journalists from the Scum of the World not only obtained Dowler's phone messages in 2002 but also boasted in writing to police that they had done so, and played them a tape of calls. Dowler went missing on 21 March 2002, prompting a search by Surrey police; she was later found murdered. On 14 April 2002 the Scum of the World published a story claiming police were 'intrigued' by an alleged new lead derived from voicemails they had obtained from her phone. The subsequently disgraced and disgraceful Sunday tabloid quoted verbatim from three voicemails, and gave the impression they had been retrieved by the police themselves. After protests from Surrey police, the story was modified in later editions to suggest that the lead was merely a hoax. The delay in publishing the report, understood to be based on contemporaneous police files, comes as the news editor of the Scum of the World at the time, Neville Thurlbeck, publicly claimed that it was the police themselves who could have been the source of the voicemails. He also claimed to have been 'not aware' that Dowler's voicemails had been hacked by the paper's own hired private detective, Glenn Mulcaire. Thurlbeck told Channel Four News: 'There are a variety of sources where this information could have come from. I'm not about to reveal where they came from. But they could have come from the police themselves. They could have come from a police "source."' Whatever the hell, that means. 'It's a mistake to jump to the conclusion that the people on the News of the World knew that these voicemails had been hacked.'

The Daily Scum Mail publisher, Associated Newspapers, has lost its high court challenge to the Leveson inquiry over anonymous evidence from journalists. On Friday the high court ruled that it would not grant a judicial review to Associated Newspapers in a bid to stop the Leveson inquiry accepting anonymous submissions from journalists. The application was supported by the Torygraph Media Group. Associated Newspapers wanted the high court to overturn a ruling made my Lord Justice Leveson in November, claiming that it was unlawful and that all tabloid newspapers risked being 'reputationally damaged' by 'untested' claims from journalists. The inquiry was set to hear more evidence from rank-and-file journalists next week, including a number of anonymous submissions through the National Union of Journalists, but that has been postponed due to the high court challenge. About twenty journalists have submitted anonymous evidence to the inquiry. In a written judgment handed down at the high court on Friday, Lord Justice Toulson said: 'Judicial review is a means of correcting unlawfulness. It is not for the court to micromanage the conduct of the inquiry by the chairman, least of all in relation to hypothetical situations the likelihood of which appears to the chairman to be remote. I would refuse the application for judicial review. For the future, how the chairman deals with individual anonymity requests in the context of his general ruling and protocol will be matters of detailed consideration for him, which should not foreseeably give rise to further requests for judicial interference.' The high court ruled that Lord Justice Leveson had not acted unlawfully by allowing anonymous submissions, which would leave 'a gap in the inquiry's work' if they were disallowed. 'I am not persuaded that there is in principle something wrong in allowing a witness to give evidence anonymously through fear of career blight, rather than fear of something worse. Fear for a person's future livelihood can be a powerful gag. Nor am I persuaded that the chairman acted unfairly and therefore erred in law in deciding that on balance he should admit such evidence, subject to his considering it of sufficient relevance and being satisfied that the journalist would not give it otherwise than anonymously.' Evidence submitted anonymously by journalists will not name any person or company, Leveson said in his ruling last year. Friday's judgment said: 'Above all, it is of the greatest importance that the inquiry should be, and seen by the public to be, as thorough and balanced as it is practically possible. If the chairman is prohibited from admitting the evidence of journalists wanting to give evidence anonymously, there will be a gap in the inquiry's work, although the material (or similar material) is already in a real sense in the public domain.'

A tabloid report on Friday morning suggests that a troubled teenager will kill Heather Trott (Cheryl Fergison) in a storyline for EastEnders later this year. Which is, technically, a spoiler but since it's been splashed all over the from page of the Sun, it's probably old news by the time you read this, dear blog reader. The newspaper claims that Ben Mitchell (Joshua Pascoe) will murder Heather after an argument and will seek help from his father Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) to cover-up the dreadful deed. 'Heather's exit stuns the Square. Everyone is looking over their shoulder wondering who is responsible,' a 'show source' alleged told the Sun using that risible 'nobody really talks like that' language so beloved by newspapers whose reads dislike anything with more than two syllables. It had certainly been rumoured for a number of weeks that Heather could be killed off after Fergison's contract was not renewed late last year. At the moment Ben is currently in the process of framing his father for the death of Stella Crawford (Sophie Thompson) in 2007.

Sky1's star-studded drama Mad Dogs returned for a second run around the park with nearly one million overnight viewers on Thursday. Mad Dogs, which stars John Simm, Philip Glenister, Marc Warren and Max Beesley had eight hundred and fifty seven thousand punters between 9pm and 10pm. The first of a four-part series, it had more than triple Sky1's average audience in the slot over the last three months. BBC1's MasterChef had the better of ITV's Samuel West drama Eternal Law which is sinking faster than the Costa Concordia at the moment. The cookery show had four and a half million viewers, up three hundred thousand on the previous night's episode between 9pm and 10pm, beating the three million who watched Eternal Law. This figure rose to 3.3 million with ITV+1 viewers taken into account. At the same time on BBC2, Norma Percy's latest landmark modern history documentary series Putin, Russia and the West began a four-part run with 1.4 million viewers, including fifty seven thousand on the BBC HD channel. BBC1's natural history series Earthflight was watched by 3.9 million viewers between 8pm and 9pm.

BBC1 Controller Danny Cohen has spoken about the year ahead for BBC1 in one of the most important years in living memory for the UK. This year will see the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics take centre stage across the BBC. 'The Channel is often at its most powerful when it draws the nation together and delivers high-quality coverage of the Nation's biggest moments. We will be working hard in the coming weeks and months to deliver this for audiences, whether it be outstanding Olympics' coverage or the grand occasions of State during the Diamond Jubilee,' Cohen said. As well as the big two events and sports, Cohen wants BBC1 to have an 'outstanding year' with a variety of key programming from different departments. He confirms that over twenty new drama commissions will be broadcast this year. Trailers have been running for a few weeks promoting Original British Drama on the BBC. One of those, Call The Midwife, attracting nearly eight million viewers last Sunday. 'In Natural History, we will launch a major new innovative project - Planet Earth Live - that will tell the global story of animals around the world at a key moment in the breeding season. In History, Jeremy Paxman returns to BBC1 with a major new landmark series - Paxman's Empire, and we will tell the story of Bomber Command with the help of Ewan and Colin McGregor.'

Sky's commitment to British comedy continues as they announce their latest commission. Parents will be a new six-part family sitcom from Objective Productions and commissioned by Sky's Head of Comedy Lucy Lumsden. Described as a 'sharp, quick-witted family sitcom', it will star Smack The Pony's Sally Phillips and Darren Strange as a married couple with two teenaged children, forced to move in with their parents played by Coronation Street's Susie Blake and Tom Conti. 'We've been on the hunt for smart comedies about family life for Sky 1 HD and feel we have found it with Parents. We're very excited about the cast we've managed to attract and can't wait to start production,' said Lumsden.

Simon Cowell has admitted that his own arrogance may have led to the disappointing performance of The X Factor and Britain's Got Talent last year. The odious narcissist and megalomaniac agreed that the ratings dips recorded by both shows, plus the underwhelming debut of risible flop Red or Black? and a less than spectacular first series for The X Factor USA had been 'a massive wake-up call. We all got a bit smug last year, I certainly got a bit too cocky,' he told the Sun. Got? Hang on, this is Simon Cowell talking? Simon smug-is-my-middle-name Cowell? 'I ended 2010 on a real high, it was the Matt Cardle year - my favourite year - and the figures for X Factor were huge. I did get too arrogant, everyone does. When you have a very good year like I did in 2010 you get a bit cocky. You think you are great, then you get a bit of a smack. We went into 2011 thinking, "It's all going to be easy," and of course it wasn't. It was a massive wake-up call. From BGT, to Red or Black? - me making these massive predictions in America. Last year was the year my ego was put in check. It wasn't a terrible year, but 2010 was spectacular,' he said. 'It feels like I'm back at the beginning again. I am optimistic - but not so arrogant, I'd say.'

Forget all the speculation about how Sherlock faked his own death on the acclaimed BBC1 drama. What the Daily Torygraph really wants to know is where did he get his lovely coat from? Turns out it's made by Belstaff who – sadly – are not producing any more for the foreseeable future and only have one left in store. 'Are they insane?' asks the Torygraph's Lisa Armstrong. 'Zillions of men and women would kill for one, especially now the weather's finally on the turn.' Zillions isn't a real number, Lisa m'love, you're a journalist, you should know that.
Steven Moffat has claimed told the Guardian that some of Sherlock's next series has already been filmed. Last Sunday's series finale The Reichenbach Fall saw the detective seemingly plummet to his death, only for the character to reappear unharmed in the last scene. 'We've worked out how Sherlock survives,' Moffat revealed. 'And, actually shot part of what really happened. It all makes sense.' The Doctor Who showrunner also joked that he and co-creator Mark Gatiss have come up with a better ending than author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Referring to the plot of Doyle's The Final Problem, Moffat added: 'He cheated outrageously. He has Watson deduce that Holmes fell off a waterfall. But there was no body. And it only means one thing in a detective show when there's no body. We had to have Holmes dying in Watson's arms - and get away with that, which we have.'

With the success of Downton Abbey still causing shock-waves both sides of the pond, the path has been set for a new generation of period dramas, and the next one to watch out could be is Whittington Manor. Written and adapted to screenplay by Claire Voet, this tells a story of love and heartbreak during the second world war; of class division, corruption, deceit and betrayal, as it follows the life of sixteen year old Sarah. The only daughter of Lord and Lady Whittington, and residing at the famous Whittington Manor, this story is set in one of Britain's most historic cities, Portsmouth. Sarah finds love at the top of Portsmouth landmark, Portsdown Hill, with an unlikely suitor, Joe Lambert. Divided by social class, and knowing their relationship could never be accepted, the pair meet in secret until war breaks out and Joe is sent off to fight the Bosch. Sarah works at the local hospital, Queen Alexandra, and sets about making her contribution to the war efforts. However, overhearing a conversation between two soldiers sent back from Dunkirk, her life changes direction entirely, and a new path follows. Whittington Manor was written by Portsmouth author Voet and focuses not just on the love story between Sarah and Joe, but embarks on key moments during the second world war, including the battle of Dunkirk. Whittington Manor is Voet's debut novel and has impressed the BBC so much, they commissioned the production of a TV adaptation. Voet told imediamonkey that an eight-part dramatisation is currently in the works. 'I can confirm that Whittington Manor is being developed into a TV series. And at the moment is being produced by the BBC,' she said. 'The first series will be made into eight episodes, and will cover the book in its entirety, with the following series being written by myself and a professional screenwriter from the BBC.'

Richard Desmond's Channel Five is to launch its own in-house production division and is developing formats including a cookery show fronted by Marco Pierre White. The new department, called Channel Five Productions, will be the first time in the broadcaster's near fifteen-year history that it has made its own programmes. Channel Five's cookery format presented by Pierre White, who previously fronted ITV's Hell's Kitchen, is one of a number of shows in development, including a documentary with John Barrowman about the return of Dallas and a show with former The X Factor contestants Jedward. Like rival commercial broadcaster Channel Four, Channel Five has previously only transmitted programmes made by independent production companies. About twenty staff are believed to be working in the new department. Desmond's company, Northern & Shell, already owns production facilities at Portland TV near Canary Wharf. Portland's existing output is unlikely to make it onto Channel Five or any other mainstream channel, however, as it is responsible for adult channels including Television X and Red Hot TV - something to remember the next the the Daily Scum Express does one of its shitehawk puritanical 'exclusives' on some tame BBC3 documentary about sex. Yes, that's from a newspaper owned by a soft-core pornagrapher, dear blog reader. Hypocrisy very much in action. All of the shows currently being made by Channel Five Productions are intended to be broadcast on the Desmond company's digital terrestrial networks, although it may begin pitching to other broadcasters when more firmly established. The broadcaster's in-house production drive will be watched closely by the independent television production sector, for whom Channel Five is one of the biggest customers. There are no restrictions in the broadcaster's licence preventing it setting up its own programme-making division.

Ofcom has revoked the UK broadcasting licence of Press TV, forcing Iran's English-language channel off the air for multiple breaches of the broadcasting code. The controversial broadcaster was at risk of being banned in the UK last year after being criticised by Ofcom for broadcasting an interview with imprisoned Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari which was alleged to have been conducted under duress. But media regulator Ofcom instead opted to impose a one hundred grand fine on Press TV, which is the English-language outlet of the Iranian state. However, Ofcom said that during the course of imposing the sanction on Press TV, the broadcaster revealed that its editorial control actually rested with Press TV International, based in Tehran. Broadcasting rules state that UK licence holders must be in 'general control' of their TV service, including all programmes shown on the network. Ofcom gave Press TV the opportunity to have its operations in Tehran 'correctly licenced' as part of a 'minded to revoke' letter. Press TV was offered the chance to either switch editorial control for its programming to the UK or transfer the entire broadcasting licence to Iran. However, Press TV has failed to make any necessary applications for the licence, and so Ofcom has opted to revoke it entirely. The channel, which counts odious former MP George Galloway among its presenters, is expected to be removed from the Sky platform by the end of January 2012. According to Ofcom, Press TV is also 'unwilling and unable' to pay the one hundred thousand smackers fine levelled against it. The watchdog said that it is pursuing this as 'a separate matter.' I dunno about you, but this really troubles me, dear blog reader. I'm trying to work out exactly what the difference is between this action, and the Iranian state blocking BBC radio broadcasts in Iran. Surely the whole point of a democracy is that we allow freedom of speech even if that freedom of speech is balmy as a bag full of angry badgers. So Press TV is a mouthpiece for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his knobless twattish murderous cronies? Big deal. FOX News and Sky News are mouthpieces for Rupert Murdoch and Channel Five for Richard Desmond. Viewers know this in advance and chose, therefore, whether to watch them or not. That's called democracy - the right to hear all viewpoints on offer (even the loopy ones) and then make ones own decision whether or not you want to listen to more. Personally, there's about as much chance of this blogger watching Press TV as there is of him watching ITV2 when Kerry Katona's on (and Peaches Geldof is following), but I'm really offended that Ofcom seem to consider me unable to make that choice for myself without their help. Just as offended as I am that Iran and China stop their citizens from hearing the BBC World Service. We can't complain about one form of state censorship and be in favour of a back-door version of the same thing. Of course, Press TV went and proved exactly how risible and ridiculous they are as soon as the announcement was made. In a statement issued to the BBC, Press TV's newsroom director Mr Hamid Emadi said: 'We asked Ofcom if Press TV Limited did not have control over the broadcast, why was it getting fined, if it did have control, why would the licence be revoked? Ofcom contradictions are nothing new for Press TV. The British government's tool to control the media has, on several occasions, changed its decisions regarding Press TV in its two-year campaign against the alternative news channel.' The statement also claimed that Ofcom, which it called 'the media arm of the Royal family,' had failed to respond to a letter sent by its Chief Executive earlier this month. To comedy, guys. The media arms of the British Royal family? Only if they make the BBC produce another It's A Royal Knockout, I'd venture. In which case, a revolution might be on the cards.

Endemol has reportedly reached an agreement with its lenders over the restructure of its €2.8bn debt burden. Endemol, which makes Channel Five's Big Brother and Deal or No Deal for Channel Four, said that it had reached a 'milestone' deal with more than two-thirds of its lenders to push through the financial restructure. Media reports suggest that the deal will reduce Endemol's debt to about five hundred million Euros. Endemol's three shareholders - Goldman Sach's Capital Partners, the Silvio Berlusconi-owned Mediaset and Endemol founder John de Mol's Cyrte investment vehicle - are expected to reduce their stake to around fifty per cent and also relinquish control of the production firm. The three major shareholders will retain seats on the Endemol board, but will also be joined by representatives of some of the firm's lenders, which include Apollo Management, Centrebridge, Providence Equity Partners and RBS. In a statement, Endemol global president Marco Bassetti said: 'We are delighted that the majority of our lenders have in principle agreed to the proposed commercial restructuring terms and we can now enter into the final part of the process. A solution that puts Endemol on a strong financial footing for the future is now imminent.' Endemol was the subject of a one billion Euro cash takeover bid from Time Warner last year. ITV was also rumoured to be interested in teaming up with Mediaset to acquire the firm, while European broadcasting giant RTL has kept a close eye on the situation. However, the Endemol board has instead opted to pursue a strategy of restructuring the debt mountain and remaining independent, despite some disagreement among the shareholders over whether this was the right way forward. The company said that talks will continue over coming weeks to finalise the agreement, but there are thought to be enough parties behind the deal for it to go ahead. Endemol management said that freeing up the 'onerous' constraints of the current capital structure will enable the firm to 'pursue exciting growth initiatives and build upon the solid progress that the group has made in 2011 as we focus on and develop the creative strategy which lies at the heart of our business.' It is understood that Endemol's earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation were one hundred and fifty million Euros last year.

Beer must be sold at all venues hosting matches in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, football's world governing body FIFA has insisted. General Secretary Jerome Valcke said that the right to sell beer must be 'enshrined in a World Cup law' the Brazilian Congress is considering. Alcoholic drinks are currently banned at Brazilian stadiums and the country's health minister has urged Congress to maintain the ban in the new law. Brewer Budweiser is, of course, a big FIFA sponsor. What was that Bob Dylan said: 'Money doesn't talk, it swears' wasn't it? Valcke is currently visiting Brazil to press for progress on the much-delayed World Cup law. The profile of World Cup supporters is likely to be radically different from that of domestic Brazilian football, where violence is fuelled by club rivalries. But this is not about violence, or even about beer per se. It is about sovereignty. FIFA, those odious appeasers of fascists and corrupt governments, makes all sorts of demands on a World Cup host nation, from tax waivers to the necessity to provide stadiums, transport and hotel infra-structure - controversial issues in the developing world, where there are so many claims on the public purse. Largely because of poor domestic organisation, the costs of staging the tournament is spiralling (which is one reason why many football fans in the UK are secretly glad that Russian and not England got the 2018 tournament). But one area where Brazil's government can flex its muscles is that of sovereignty - which is why beer sales and ticket prices, governed by local law, are now the front line in the tension between Brazil and FIFA. In remarks to journalists in Rio de Janeiro, Valcke sounded frustrated with Brazilian officials. 'Alcoholic drinks are part of the FIFA World Cup, so we're going to have them. Excuse me if I sound a bit arrogant but that's something we won't negotiate,' he said. This, remember, is an executive of a sporting organisation, taking about telling an elected government what it can and cannot pass into law. 'Arrogant' doesn't even begin to cover it. 'The fact that we have the right to sell beer has to be a part of the law.' Alcohol was banned at Brazilian football matches in 2003 as part of attempts to tackle violence between rival football fans. The measures have had limited impact, according to the BBC's South American football correspondent Tim Vickery. In order to drink, supporters tend to stay longer outside stadiums, areas that are harder to police than inside. Much of the football violence in Brazil stems from club rivalries. Fans who follow the national side tend to be wealthier and include more women and families. Health Minister Alexandre Padilha and other members of Congress have called for the ban to be maintained. Valcke said negotiations with Brazil over details of the World Cup had been slow. 'We lost a lot of time and we were not able to discuss with people in charge that are willing to make a decision,' he said, adding that it was the first time a country was still in talks five years after winning the right to host the tournament. During his visit to Brazil, Valcke has been touring the stadiums in twelve cities where the 2014 World Cup will be played. He criticised the pace of construction and said Brazil had not yet improved its infrastructure to the level needed to welcome visitors.

A bank error has given an Indian teacher a bank balance of four hundred and ninety billion rupees (that's around six billion quid). Upon discovering the abnormally high balance, Parijat Saha from Balughat in the South Dinajpur district called his bank to report it. After all, he noted, he'd been doing a bit of overtime recently but that was ridiculous. He told BBC News: 'On Sunday evening when I was checking my savings account balance on the Internet, I was expecting an amount of a little more than ten thousand rupees [a hundred and thirty quid]. I called up a friend in the bank and joked, "Maybe money is overflowing in your bank - that's why your system has remitted so much money into my account."' The government-run State Bank of India is currently investigating the root of the error, but sources claim that Saha would not have been able to withdraw the extra money as the funds were 'uncleared.' The chief manager of the Balurghat branch said: 'I have been specifically asked not to comment on this issue.'

Johnny Otis, dubbed the 'Godfather of rhythm and blues', has died aged ninety. The bandleader, who had been unwell for several years, died at his home in the Los Angeles, his manager said. Best known for the song 'Willie and the Hand Jive', he also wrote 'Every Beat of My Heart', a hit for Gladys Knight and the Pips in 1961. 'He is one of the greatest talents of American music and he was a great American,' said music historian Tom Reed, adding 'He could do it all.' Otis, who was born to Greek-American parents, grew up in a predominately black community in Berkeley in California, listening to blues, gospel and swing. 'As a kid, I decided that if our society dictated that one had to be black or white, I would be black,' said Otis, who changed his birth name from John Veliotes. In 1945 he formed his own band - The Johnny Otis Show - and went on to have his first big hit with 'Harlem Nocturne.' Meanwhile, his reputation as a drummer was also growing. But it was R&B which was to thrust him into the limelight. 'Double Crossing Blues', 'Mistrustin' Blues' and 'Cupid's Boogie' all took the number one spot in 1949, with 'Mambo Boogie' and 'Sunset to Dawn' among his later hits. Otis also unearthed talents such as Jackie Wilson and Etta James, for whom he composed 'The Wallflower' in 1955 and produced early recordings for the likes of Little Richard, Big Mama Thornton and Johnny Ace. His 1958 hit 'Willie and the Hand Jive' saw him take the role of lead singer and employ Bo Diddley's famous chugging riff, introducing the sound to a white audience. The record sold more than one and a half million copies in the US alone. It was later covered by Cliff Richard and The Shadows and Eric Clapton among many others. With the British Invasion in the early 1960s, 'the white boys from England came over with a recycled version of what we created. We were out of business, man,' Otis said in 1994. He saw a brief revival of interest in original R&B in the late 1960s and 1970s, when he performed with a band that included his teenage son, Shuggie, on guitar. Otis also worked as a radio DJ and a journalist and became heavily involved in the civil rights movement. His acclaimed 1968 book Listen to the Lambs was a sociological critique in the wake of the Watts riots. He chronicled the music scene he knew so well in the 1994 book Upside Your Head! Rhythm and Blues on Central Avenue. Otis even found his way into politics, serving as deputy chief of staff for Mervyn M Dymally as the Democrat rose in state politics and served in the US House of Representatives. While cultivating his interest in painting and sculpture, Otis tended homegrown crops in Altadena and in Sebastopol in Northern California's wine country. He also opened a short-lived grocery store and for a time marketed Johnny Otis Apple Juice. 'Today's musicians are better technically,' Otis said in 1979, 'but that's not a virtue in itself. What's important is the emotional impact. Most rock or disco today doesn't stir up anything in my heart — not the way a Picasso does, not the way the blues or gospel does.' He continued tour well into his seventies, while also becoming an ordained minister and organic farmer. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. Otis and his wife of sixty years, Phyllis, had several children and grandchildren.

US soul singer Etta James, best known for the songs 'At Last', 'Tell Mama', 'I Just Wanna Make Love to You' and the epic 'I'd Rather Go Blind', has died aged seventy three. It was announced last year that the singer had been diagnosed with leukaemia and was undergoing treatment. Etta began singing in a group aged fourteen, before she embarked upon a solo career where she signed to the legendary Chess Records label. She went on to win six Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. Legendary producer Jerry Wexler once called her 'the greatest of all modern blues singers' whilst the great rock journalist Charles Shaar Murray appearing on Channel Four News called her 'a defining rhythm and blues singer. if you're thinking of the classic R&B voice, it's probably Etta James.' James' manager said that she had died in California from complications of leukaemia. Born Jamesetta Hawkins in 1938 in Los Angeles, her mother was only fourteen-years-old, and she never knew her father. Raised mainly by friends and relatives, she began singing when her grandparents took her to a Baptist Church, where she joined the choir as a soloist. Later, in San Francisco, she formed a singing group called the Creolettes, who were discovered by bandleader Johnny Otis. The band recorded together for a number of years but it was not until 1960, when James signed to the legendary Chicago Chess Records label as a solo artist, that she began to achieve musical recognition. It was for this label that she released her two most acclaimed LPs, At Last! and The Second Time Around. However an addiction to heroin began to hinder her success and she was forced to rebuild her career after quitting the drug in the early 1970s. She wrote in her autobiography Rage To Survive that she heard 'I'd Rather Go Blind' outlined by her friend Ellington Fugi Jordan when she visited him in prison. According to her account, she wrote the rest of the song with Jordan, but for tax reasons gave her songwriting credit to her partner at the time, Billy Foster. Although she was popular on the R&B and blues scene throughout her career, mainstream success eluded her grasp for many years - as Murray noted she was better known in the US than in Europe. She did not receive her first Grammy Award until 1994, for the LP Mystery Lady, which consisted of covers of Billie Holiday songs. By the mid-1990s, James' earlier classic music was often being included in commercials including, most notably, 'I Just Wanna Make Love to You' in a diet coke advert. Due to exposure of the song, it reached the top ten of the UK charts in 1996. In 2003, she was given the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. James died at Riverside Community Hospital, with her husband and sons - Donto and Sametto - at her side, manager Lupe De Leon said. 'It's a tremendous loss for her fans around the world. She'll be missed. A great American singer. Her music defied category.'

So thus, for today's Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day in tribute to the departed, here's a couple of genuine twenty-four carat modern American classics. One from Johnny ...
And one from Etta.

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