Monday, January 23, 2012

Take Me Up To The Top Of The World, I Want To See My Crime

There is 'no evidence whatsoever' that any BBC journalist has hacked into a telephone, the BBC's Director General has said. Mark Thompson - whose full witness statement can be read online - was giving evidence before the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics being held in London on Monday. He also said that he had not heard any 'rumour or whisper or suggestion' that BBC journalists had ever hacked phones or anything even remotely like it. Thompson said he had ordered a review into whether staff at the BBC had engaged in phone hacking when the news emerged of the practice at the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World newspaper. He described this review as 'necessary and appropriate.' He added: 'The BBC is not a business and it might well be that someone running a media business might take a different view from the view that I took as Director General of the BBC. The BBC is a public service broadcaster. It is committed to be the most trusted, trustworthy source of news in the world and we want to maintain the highest possible standards in all matters, including matters relating to privacy. It being undetermined how widespread some of these issues have been in the media, I think it was prudent to look at whether the BBC could, in its journalism and journalistic practice, hold its head up and say actually, we don't do these things.' Thompson also said that the BBC has not made any improper payments to police officers. He explained that when police officers appear on the Crimewatch programme, they are sometimes given a 'very small payment' as contributors. The Director General also said private investigators were sometimes used by BBC for 'security and surveillance services as a whole.' Investigators have also occasionally been used to find people, so that journalists can send them a 'right of reply' letter in relation to investigations, he added. During the hearing, Thompson was asked about an occasion when the BBC had hired a private investigator to discover the owner of a car through its number plate. He said that at the time of the investigation 'many organisations had access to DVLA information,' including private investigators, and that the inquiries made were 'in the public interest.' He went on to say that delivering online news was 'no less demanding and in some ways more so' than for TV and radio outlets. 'One of the issues for the BBC and other news organisations is that once you put something on the web it's there forever,' he said. Thompson said that the BBC would be 'generally reluctant' to broadcast an investigative story with only one source - particularly if it was an unattributed one. 'We would expect them to refer the proposal to do this to a more senior editorial figure,' he said, adding that it is a 'universal preference' to have multiple sources. 'It would require a very particular circumstance and high bar to proceed on the basis of one source if we're talking about an investigation.' The core of the BBC's mission is trust and accuracy, Thompson told Judge Leveson. He said that the director of news, Helen Boaden, would be involved in discussions on sourcing in contentious cases. Questioned about the truth and accuracy of its journalism, Thompson said that the BBC put those ahead of speed in its editorial guidelines. 'We would rather be right than first,' he said. 'Frankly, where we can, we would like to be right and first. But [if] we have to choose, we would rather be right than first.' He added: 'Research with the British public suggests the public have got uniquely high expectations of the BBC. In other words, the standard to which the BBC is held by the public is higher than for any other medium.' Inquiry QC David Barr asked Thompson about the subject of privacy. 'We should respect privacy unless there are strong public interest reasons for not doing so,' said Thompson adding that the BBC would need prima facie evidence of wrongdoing before undercover filming could be approved. The BBC has a policy against blanket approvals of subterfuge and 'fishing expeditions,' he went on. He noted that every request for secret filming is logged and that the BBC has two layers of approval: one for whether the secret filming should go ahead, and another for whether it should be broadcast. 'Simply carrying it out is obviously an intrusion into privacy. But obviously there is a second and potentially much greater level of intrusion when said footage is broadcast to millions of people.' Thompson added that secret filming is never done to make a programme 'more exciting, more attractive' – it is always done to get evidence of potential wrongdoing. Leveson asked Thompson if the BBC's undercover 'audit trail' is 'bureaucratic.' Thompson replied: 'Essentially it adds a certain amount of delay to the process,' but added that the 'greater importance' is around deliberation and care. 'Even when the end has got a strong public interest defence, the means that you are proposing to use have to be considered very carefully,' adding that the red tape is justified because of the potential for intrusion. Thompson was asked whether the BBC has not run stories because of these policies. 'I don't believe we have missed important stories because of these policies,' he replied. However, he referred to a Panorama documentary about Primark's working practices about which the BBC Trust concluded it was 'more likely than not' that a section of the film was not genuine. Barr asked Thompson about phone-hacking. A recent BBC review found no evidence that phone-hacking had ever been employed by corporation staff. 'There was no evidence whatsoever. I have not ever heard a rumour or a whisper or a suggestion that they had [hacked phones],' said Thompson. He added that it seemed 'prudent' following the Scum of the World hacking scandal to conduct a review of the BBC's practices. Barr mentioned that Sly Bailey, the Trinity Mirra chief executive, told the inquiry last week that there was no need to investigate phone-hacking allegations at her business. 'I would maintain that it was necessary and appropriate. I would draw your attention to the fact that the BBC is not a business, it is a public service broadcaster,' said Thompson. 'Given, in a sense, that moment which arguably we're still in that it being undetermined how widespread these issues had been in the media I thought it was prudent to see whether the BBC could say [there is no evidence of hacking by corporation staff].' Lord Leveson pointed out that the BBC review went further than hacking, and examined whether staff undertook 'blagging', as well as whether staff paid police or public officials, paid private investigators, or made improper payments to mobile phone companies. There were two references to the BBC in the information commissioner's Operation Motorman report into private investigators, one of which the BBC was referred to as a target. Thompson said that it was described as 'BBC wine blag' in the notes which appeared to be linked to a newspaper trying to find out how much the corporation spent on alcohol. The BBC hired a private investigator in 2001 to track a 'known paedophile' on an inward flight to London, Thompson said, adding that there was a 'strong public interest defence justification' for it. The private investigator they used was Steve Whittamore who was later convicted of illegally accessing personal data. In 2001 a current affairs journalist commissioned Whittamore to supply information about whether a paedophile was on a flight into Heathrow Airport. The programme, which for other reasons was never broadcast, was looking at whether people with UK convictions for child sex offences could get jobs giving them access to children in other countries. Thompson said that a small payment will be made to police officers who appear on Crimewatch. He said it would be 'wrong and improper' to pay a police officer for confidential information. Police and politicians will sometimes receive a fee when appearing on BBC entertainment shows. 'But, in no way are public officials and politicians treated differently [to other on-air guests regarding payments],' said Thompson. Private investigators are used by the BBC 'generally for surveillance and security and sometimes for serving right of reply letters,' Thompson told the inquiry. Consumer programmes such as Watchdog will occasionally employ a firm of private investigators to track down the subject of an investigation to serve them with a right of reply letter, because it would be too time-consuming for a journalist, he added. Barr asked whether the BBC would broadcast a programme if it could not track down the subject beforehand. Thompson said it would only if the corporation had made 'extensive efforts' to reach the person in question and also that there was a strong public interest defence. Thompson said that the subjects of complex investigations by the BBC, for example Panorama inquiries, are given between five and ten days to reply to allegations before a programme is broadcast. Leveson asked Thompson to explain how the BBC would use private investigators for surveillance. Thompson gave the example of an investigation into a bail hostel that involved the subjects being monitored by private investigators. The BBC would only broadcast something if it believed that the secret recording 'showed something that demanded a reply,' Thompson said. He mentioned the Panorama broadcast last year about abuse in a care home, which was put to the owner of the home before it was broadcast. Thompson was then asked about privacy injunctions. He said that injunctions against the BBC mostly come from the family courts. 'The BBC simply doesn't do many kinds of story that have been problematic elsewhere.' Barr returned to the topic of private investigators and asked whether Thompson was aware that attempting to discover the owner of a car through its number plate must include private information from the DVLA. Thompson said that at the time the investigation took place, 'many organisations had access to DVLA information,' including private investigators. Barr said there is no specific BBC prohibition on use of phone-hacking. Thompson replied that the BBC did not previously explicitly prohibit phone-hacking in its guidelines because it never thought it would happen. He added that phone-hacking is illegal and, therefore, not something that any journalist should be doing and that they should not need to be told not to do it. 'Our view would be that any proposal to do such a thing would clearly take you into the areas which are covered,' Thompson says, adding: 'The guidelines of the BBC are clearly against it.' He adds: 'Given what's happened elsewhere, laying it on very clearly and saying specifically that phone-hacking and computer-hacking are not allowed would be very sensible.' Thompson was asked about truth and accuracy. He agreed that the BBC puts this ahead of speed in its editorial guidelines. Blogs from the likes of Robert Peston and other senior BBC journalists will be checked by a senior editor before being published online, Thompson said. 'One of the issues for the BBC and other news organisations is that once you put something on the web it's there forever.' He described the Internet as 'no less demanding and in some ways more so' in terms of the need for accuracy as TV and radio news. Thompson said that the BBC is still 'grappling with some new issues' with online publishing, referring to user-generated content from readers and the importance of attribution and provenance. 'That's something which we and other broadcasters and newspapers are still working through,' he said. Thompson told the inquiry that every programme-maker in the BBC – including himself – had to take seminars on editorial decision making. He said the corporation has a 'chain of command' for editorial decisions. Thompson added that journalists will 'come up to me and argue about policy decisions' as an example of the BBC not needing to change its journalistic culture. The BBC is trying to achieve an 'error rate which is vanishingly small,' Thompson said. He added that the corporation would rather 'err on the side of slightly too much training and standards' because the BBC has a high barrier of trust. Thompson was asked about the BBC's complaints procedure. Barr pointed out that the present system has been criticised for being 'too complicated and too slow.' Thompson confirmed that the BBC intends to simplify the complaints system. The 'overwhelming majority' of complaints are dealt with swiftly, he added. He told Leveson that the BBC receives 'well over one million' contacts from the public each year, of which about two hundred and forty thousand are complaints. He said that it responds to ninety three or ninety four per cent within ten days. The BBC Trust ultimately upholds six to seven of the two hundred and forty thousand complaints the corporation receives. Thompson says that these complaints rarely land the BBC in court, adding that between four and six defamation proceedings are launched against the corporation each year and that it has been over a decade since the BBC last lost such a case, although one or two had been settled. He also drew a distinction between the majority of complaints the BBC receives - such as 'why have you cancelled Programme X because the tennis overran?' - and those to do with personal privacy, inaccuracy, bias etc. He said that they took all complaints - including those caused by Andy Murray's game going to a fifth set meaning that EastEnders had to go onto BBC2 - seriously. Thompson was asked about the BBC's internal Neil Report, which came in the aftermath of the Hutton inquiry in 2004. The director general at the time was Greg Dyke. 'The Neil report is the foundation of high journalistic standards,' Thompson said. The report included new recommendations on sourcing, attribution and right of reply. Barr pointed out that there compliance issues remained at the BBC post-Neil Report, for example the 2008 row over phone-in competitions and the misrepresentation of the Queen in a 2007 documentary. Thompson said that the BBC let the public down by not running some of the competitions in a fair way. He added that the effect of some of this was to deceive the public, but distanced that from the Hutton case, which was about journalism not entertainment. Thompson was asked about the corporation's lapses in standards. 'I believe that as quickly as possible you should tell the public directly that you recognise that the BBC has made mistakes, that we are sorry for letting them down and we will do everything in our power to make sure it doesn't happen again,' he said. 'Sadly, that wasn't what happened in the instances of phone-ins and the Queen documentary.' He added that the Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand Sachsgate scandal was a 'very serious lapse of editorial judgment' that was 'far, far, far beyond the line.' Thompson told Leveson that the BBC introduced new rules about 'conflict of interest' regarding independent producers following the Sachsgate malarkey. 'We also added a new guideline about intimidation and humiliation,' he said. Thompson was then asked about the BBC's relationship with the tabloids. He agreed that it sometimes follows up tabloid scoops. David Barr asked Thompson about his relationship with the police. He said he will occasionally meet top police officers, but not often. 'These are not frequent or extensive contacts,' he said, adding that he has had lunch once or twice with the Met police commissioner. Thompson said he has never 'been put under what I would describe as unreasonable or improper pressure' in his time as director general. He mentioned that a politician phoned him before the broadcast of the explosive Panorama programme exposing alleged corruption at the highest levels of football body FIFA. 'My response to them was that I believed that we were right to pursue the investigation and it would be wrong to adjust the scheduling or character of the programme,' he said. Sadly he didn't add that the majority of the allegations made by the Panorama programme in question have, subsequently, proved to be broadly correct. Thompson was asked about the future of investigative journalism. He said Fleet Street 'has done some outstanding investigative work' recently, and that 'shouldn't get lost in this broader debate.' He added that it is not clear why economic pressures faced by newspapers would affect ethical standards, but he noted that he has never worked in the newspaper industry. David Barr asked Thompson if he believes there is a need to regulate Internet bloggers. 'One has to be realistic about the practicalities of what's going on on the Internet. It seems to me to apply the same level of control over the global Internet as you would to a public-service broadcaster is simply impossible,' he said. Thompson added there might be 'a line' that can be drawn online. Thompson said he cannot understand the argument that economic pressures have led to short cuts being taken, which might damage the ethics of newspapers' news-gathering methods. The BBC director-general said he holds Channel Four's news operation in high esteem. 'I believe that Channel Four has done much distinguished investigative work over the years. It's a well run and tightly editorially managed organisation.' Thompson and Lord Justice Leveson then discussed models of statutory or self-regulation. Leveson said that he is not proposing to impose the same regulatory model for TV news on the press. Thompson said that its 'important for the plurality of media in this country that the press is not constrained' in the same way as the BBC, Channel Four and other broadcasters. 'I think this country has benefited from having a range of media that are funded differently, constituted differently, have different objectives,' he said. Leveson asked Thompson for his thoughts on the vexed question of public interest. Thompson said a public-service broadcaster like the BBC should have a greater focus on public interest than a glossy magazine like Hello. The exposure of any crime met Thompson's idea of public interest. Leveson asked whether Thompson feels the BBC's 'growing reach' of its news coverage has eaten away the business of regional newspapers and other local media. Thompson claimed that he has not seen any 'tangible' evidence of this and added that the BBC's regional services have not grown over the last thirty years at least - certainly in terms of TV and radio. He also noted that, in total the BBC had approximately twenty five per cent of the news space in the British media but accounted for around seventy per cent of the consumption which, he said, was proof that the public, by and large, trust the BBC more than many other media outlets. Thompson said that a regulator like Ofcom being imposed on newspapers would be 'very constraining.' The objection to statutory regulation for the press is based on fears that the independence of the press could not be sustained for much longer, he told Leveson. Thompson said that he worries that tighter regulation of the media could be imposed by the Government at a politically sensitive moment. Lord Justice Leveson replied: 'I don't want you to feel I'm fighting for a solution I haven't already got.' Thompson warned of a danger that the phone-hacking scandal might result in a perception that all tabloid journalism was 'bad or dishonest. That simply isn't the case, and I think that trying to keep objectivity about the range of journalism and about the quality of much of our newspaper journalism is an important part of the story as well,' he said. The BBC's director general echoed comments to the inquiry last week by The Times editor James Harding, who expressed fears that any new law underpinning press regulation could later be tightened to suppress newspapers. 'I think that this country in the end has benefited from having a range of media which are funded differently, constituted differently and have different objectives,' Thompson said. 'Historically the BBC has argued against a statutory foundation, preferring instead the idea of royal charters given over ten-year periods, precisely to stop the risk of political change to its constitution in mid-flight.'

Following Thompson, next on the witness list was Lord Patten who said that the BBC's charter works 'in a practicable way.' he stated that he 'would never, ever, seek to interfere with the director general's editorial decisions.' Lord Patten told the inquiry that he is 'rather impatient' over the endless debates about institutional architecture, especially having spent five years at the European Commission. Patten suggested that the BBC 'should learn to say sorry quicker' when asked about its complaints process. He said it was very important that the BBC set 'a gold standard' for accuracy and impartiality in its journalism. He also noted that the BBC was in the unusual position of often getting as many complaints from, for example, Ohio as it does from Darlington when its runs a story about, say, Israel. Lord Patten echoed Mark Thompson's earlier evidence and said that the BBC undertook an internal review into phone-hacking 'given the surprise' about how widespread the practice appeared to be, and to check 'that it hadn't polluted [the BBC].' The internal review found no evidence at all that BBC journalists had been involved in phone-hacking. Patten said the 'sheer intrusivesness' of television sets it apart from print media. He gave as an example the difficult decisions to be made over showing footage of Muammar Gaddafi's dead body in Libya. Patten said that the BBC would sometimes follow up on tabloids' stories, but it is not true that the corporation will wait for newspapers to break stories and then follow them. 'I agree with you we occasionally find ourselves following up on tabloid stories that we certainly wouldn't have broke ourselves,' he said, but this wasn't always the case. David Barr asked Patten about the peer's 'well publicised' dispute with Rupert Murdoch in 1997-98. Murdoch halted the publication by HarperCollins of Patten's book about his governorship of Hong Kong because it was critical of the Chinese government. 'Yes, it's completely true,' confirmed Patten. 'Plainly, Mr Murdoch took the view that publishing a book that was critical of the Chinese leadership would do [harm to his prospects in the country].' Murdoch allegedly told HarperCollins not to publish the book using the excuse that it 'wasn't good enough.' Stuart Profitt, a senior editor at HarperCollins, refused to back down and lost his job as a result. Lord Patten subsequently secured an apology and a fifty thousand pound payout from News Corp. The memoir was then published in America with a sticker on the front reading 'The book that Rupert Murdoch refused to publish,' which added tens of thousands to sales, the hearing was told. Asked why Murdoch intervened, Patten said: 'To curry favour with the Chinese leadership. It was a commercial leadership which rebounded to my advantage.' Patten was asked about his own dealings with politicians. 'Not much. I'm a member of the House of Lords but when I became chairman of the Trust, I agreed to resign the Conservative whip and become a cross-bencher. I don't vote on controversial issues. I see ex-politicians in the House of Lords from time to time.' He said that he has seen Jeremy Hunt two or three times, spoken to him on the phone or texted him a couple of times. He has met the prime minister once since he became Trust chairman. 'I'd have expected to meet the prime minister and other party leaders more times if I was a News International executive,' he said with a little smile of the sort that sharks usually give just before they bite you in two. Major political parties and their leaders have 'demeaned themselves' over the way they have 'paid court' to newspapers in the last twenty five years, Lord Patten claimed. He added that he is not a fan of 'grovelling' to the press. Politicians have allowed themselves to be fooled by editors that they hold greater sway with the public than is the reality. Lord Patten said that he declined to phone up editors when they said something unpleasant by the government when he was Chairman of the Conservative Party. 'I think it's demeaning and I don't think politicians should do it,' he said, adding this made him unpopular with his political colleagues. Patten said that he has no vendetta against Murdoch and said the mogul has brought benefits to the UK's media landscape. 'I wouldn't want anybody to think I have a vendetta about Mr Murdoch. I think it is probably the case that certain papers exist in this country because of him,' he told Leveson. He described Sky News as 'a terrific success.' Seeing too much of journalists or executives from the same media group 'isn't a very healthy democratic development,' Patten said. He claimed that was 'not sure' about the claim that Margaret Thatcher ushered in this closer relationship between journalists and politicians, pointing out that she would meet certain journalists – naming Hugo Young – 'a surprising amount' because she thought they were intelligent and 'liked arguing with them.' Patten said that the Times has covered the phone-hacking saga in an 'extremely fair' and 'admirable' way. Patten tells Leveson that broadcasting regulation is not applicable to the press. He said in an interview published in The Times on Monday that newspapers should not be subject to statutory regulation: 'It would be preferable not to have any statutory backup because we should be able to exercise self-discipline in our plural society, which doesn't involve politicians getting involved in determining matters of free speech. [That] is always going to raise suspicions that politicians or governments are trying to protect their own position.' He told the inquiry that no one seemed to have proposed an entirely credible alternative regulatory structure for newspapers, something which Lord Justice Leveson, sadly, agreed with him on. Barr suggested that the press has turned a drink in what David Mellor described two decades ago as the 'last chance saloon' into a 'veritable pub crawl.' Patten appeared unfamiliar with his former cabinet colleagues infamous statement asking 'who came up with that cliche?' He said that Tony Blair's equally infamous 'feral beasts' comment about the press was, perhaps, an overstatement. He added that it is 'far preferable' for the written media to 'clear out their own stables.' Lord Patten said he doesn't believe there is a 'pluralism problem' within the British media. He pointed out that Sky News has 'probably devoted more time to the hacking story than the BBC has, proportionally,' which he said shows the 'spirited independence' of the partially Murdoch-owned broadcaster. Patten made two points about the BBC's own position in the market, firstly that the BBC is 'a declining part of the broadcasting economy' and secondly that the BBC often gets a dominant position in the provision of news to some sectors because of 'market failure.' He gave the example in local radio news and, in passing alluded to the BBC's current DQF proposals and gave his strongest indication yet that the future of local radio and local television within the BBC was something which viewers and listeners, clearly, care deeply about. Echoing Mark Thompson's early comments about twenty five per cent of the output but seventy per cent of the consumption, he said that the overwhelming point about the BBC's dominance of news reflects the quality of its output. He cited a recent interview with 'Mrs Dave Bowie' (Iman, in case you were wondering, not The Great Dame Dave her-very-self) who apparently told The Times that Dave 'didn't believe anything unless he'd heard it on the BBC.' Quite right, Mrs Dave Bowie. The first task is for the media to behave better, said Patten, but when illicit newsgathering methods are used the police should investigate 'rather than develop and unhealthily close relationship with some journalists, editors or proprietors.' He twice alluded to Ian Hislop's previous evidence to the inquiry which he described as 'admirable.' So, that's Have I Got News For You commissioned for the foreseeable future. In his final exchanges with Lord Justice Leveson, Patten said that while the inquiry is working towards a new model for press regulation, 'wheels are whirring in Wapping and elsewhere in order to find some way that independent regulation may be effective.' Leveson said that he hopes to have a dialogue with the press through the inquiry and that this will result in newspapers coming up with ideas for change. But he said the public need to be carried along with the press. Patten said the inquiry is a good example of 'tutorial government' by helping to shape the debate around press reform.
The chairman of the Commons culture, media and sport select committee, John Whittingdale, has told Sky News that 'several News of the World reporters appeared to have hacked Milly Dowler's phone.' Odious lice Scum of the World journalists who hacked the murdered schoolgirls phone told 'a string of lies' and 'interfered with the investigation into her disappearance in 2002', according to a Surrey police report released by the parliamentary committee. In a month that has already seen the Scum of the World apologise for hacking three dozen celebrities and crime victims whilst other parts of the News International empire - notably the Sun - have brazenly tried to minimise the enormity of the Scum of the World's disgraceful activities with a campaign of whispers against the Gruniad Morning Star who broke the story - the Surrey report released on Monday paints an even more graphic picture of disgraced and disgraceful Sunday tabloid methods. In a detailed sixteen-page letter published by MPs, the force sets out a series of conversations at the height of the hunt for Milly, between Surrey Police and the Scum of the World. It parallels the evidence revealed at the current Leveson inquiry into press behaviour. However, the Surrey police do not shed any further light on the still unresolved question of how voicemails came to be deleted from Dowler's phone. They say that the Metropolitan police in London, who are investigating the Scum of the World's vile and despicable phone-hacking reign of terror, have 'still not reached' a final conclusion on this matter. 'When, and the extent to, which Milly's mobile phone voicemail was unlawfully accessed (and whether any messages were deleted) are matters which form part of the MPS's ongoing investigation.' Last July, the Gruniad reported that the Scum of the World had hacked Dowler's phone and deleted messages in the first few days after her disappearance in March 2002. After further inquiries, the Metropolitan police suggested in December that whilst the tabloid did indeed hack Dowler's phone, it was unlikely to have been responsible for specific deletions which caused her parents to have false hopes that she was alive. Monday's published Surrey timeline, based on police logs from 2002, depicts a news organisation which tried to bully detectives into backing its own misguided theories, as police searched desperately for clues about the schoolgirl who went missing on 21 March 2002. According to the file, the reporters were 'so confident' of their own power that they openly admitted the paper had 'obtained tapes' of the voicemails on Dowler's phone. Their misinterpretation of the messages then made them mistakenly believe she was still alive. Rather than tell her family and police of this important information, however, it appears they concentrated on getting a scoop. Reporters made calls to an employment agency with which they thought Milly had registered, and sent what the agency called 'hordes' of reporters to 'harass' them. Only on the Saturday immediately before the publication of their story, did they contact the authorities. The Surrey files have been edited to withhold the names of the specific journalists, two of whom are currently under criminal investigation by the Metropolitan police's Operation Weeting. What Surrey police do describe, however, is the way they first learned of interference in their investigation. In mid-April 2002, an employment agency in the North of England, which had no involvement whatever with Dowler, rang West Mercia police to complain. Staff arrived for work 'to find hordes of reporters from the News of the World waiting.' The firm said: 'We have had a News of the World reporter harassing us today. He says that our agency has recruited Milly as an employee, demanding to know what we know and saying he is working in full co-operation with the police.' However, the Surrey report says 'The News of the World reporter's assertion that he was working with the police was untrue.' The previous day, someone also had rung the agency pretending to be Milly's mother. The files show that a Scum of the World reporter subsequently claimed to police that the agency had 'admitted' the thirteen-year-old Dowler was registered for employment with them. This claim also proved to be wholly untrue. On 13 April, the police heard from the Scum of the World directly. A journalist demanded 'to be put in touch with a senior police officer.' He claimed 'he had what could be significant information.' The journalist disclosed that 'the recruitment agency had telephoned the mobile phone number of Milly Dowler [and left a voicemail message] with an offer of work.' The journalist said they knew it was a recording from Milly's phone because some of her friends had confirmed both her number and pin. The reporter also told the police that other voicemail messages on Milly's phone included a 'tearful relative', a young boy and someone saying 'It's America, take it or leave it.' Police at first thought this story of a voicemail must be the work of a hoaxer. They eventually discovered that it was 'a pure coincidence, of no evidential value.' The agency had merely rung the wrong number by mistake, and left a message for someone called 'Nana', which the reporters had persuaded themselves sounded like 'Amanda', Milly's birth name. But the Scum of the World refused to accept their story had been knocked down. One reporter insisted that it could not be a hoax because 'the News of the World had got Milly's mobile phone number and pin from school children.' In fact, the Scum of the World had paid the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire to do so. The Scum of the World had five reporters working on the story, it told police, and it printed a story in its first edition on 14 April 2002 claiming police were 'intrigued' by the, alleged, new lead. It 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 of the paper to suggest that the employment agency message was 'merely a hoax.' The paper wrote detailing further voicemail messages they possessed, and demanding police supply more information. One reporter said 'what the Surrey police press officer was telling him was not true and was inconceivable. The News of the World was moving its investigation to the North of England, that Milly had been there in person and that she had applied for a job in a factory. The unidentified reporter whose name has been redacted from the document then said that the Scum of the World 'know this one hundred and ten per cent – we are absolutely certain.' But, according to the newly-released report, the Scum of the World's one hundred and ten per cent certainty was simply based on illegal voicemail interceptions, a misunderstanding of the facts, and an apparent confidence that police would not dare take action against it for phone-hacking. Former Scum of the World journalist Neville Thurlbeck told Channel Four News last week that he had been acting as news editor at the time of the hunt for Dowler. But he said he had 'not been aware' that her voicemails had been hacked by the paper. The Surrey police flatly contradict the suggestion that they could have been the original source of the Dowler voicemails which were published in the Scum of the World at the time, a claim made both by Thurlbeck and by Tom Crone, the Scum of the World's former lawyer, in his evidence to the committee. They say: 'The News of the World obtained that information by accessing Milly Dowler's voicemail.' No one at Surrey police was aware of its existence until told by the Scum of the World journalists. 'What it appears to tell is that several journalists at the News of the World were involved in hacking the voicemails left on Milly Dowler's phone,' John Whittingdale told Sky News. 'They did so in pursuit of a story rather than wanting to help the police with their inquiries. It appears as if they may have actually interfered or impeded the police in their investigations into what turned into a murder inquiry because they went on claiming they had evidence Milly Dowler was still alive,' he added. The Torygraph's Gordon Rayner noted: 'Surrey Police knew in April 2002 that the tabloid had illegally accessed the schoolgirl’s mobile phone messages, but instead of pressing charges a senior officer from the force invited two News of the World staff to a private meeting at the force's headquarters to discuss the case. Up to three other police forces were also aware of the hacking by the News of the World, but they did nothing until newspapers reported it last July.' Officers from Sussex Police, who reviewed the case in 2002, failed to do anything about the hacking. The report also implies that West Mercia police would also have been told about it, but it does not say whether the Metropolitan Police, which worked closely with Surrey force on the case, was told.

The Times could be subject to a police inquiry after Scotland Yard received a complaint from the Labour MP Tom Watson ('power to the people!')calling on the force to investigate the newspaper over e-mail hacking allegations. Watson has sent a letter to the Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers urging Scotland Yard to launch an investigation into The Times amid allegations that one of its reporters admitted hacking into the e-mail account of a police officer. Both James Harding, the editor of The Times, and Tom Mockridge, the News International chief executive, recently gave evidence to the Leveson inquiry acknowledging that a reporter at the paper had admitted to hacking but not naming the reporter as Patrick Foster. The newspaper later admitted Foster, had hacked the account of Richard Horton, a police officer who blogged anonymously under the name Nightjack. In an article published on Thursday, Harding admitted it was the NightJack case but did not disclose whether he knew before the court case that the e-mails had been hacked, or if he knew about it before the story was published. The Times last week said that Foster, twenty eight, had 'informed his managers before the story was published that he had, on his own initiative, hacked into Mr Horton's email account.' Horton was 'outed' in 2009 after The Times fought an injunction in an effort to reveal his identity. Foster, who has contributed articles to the Daily Torygraph, was later dismissed from the newspaper over 'an unrelated incident.' Watson's letter to the Metropolitan Police, which was also sent to the Attorney General, said: 'It is clear that a crime has been committed - illicit hacking of personal e-mails. A journalist and unnamed managers failed to report the crime to their proprietor or the police. I must ask that you investigate computer hacking at The Times. In so doing you will also be able to establish whether perjury and a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice have also occurred.' The force has set up Operation Tuleta to look at allegations of e-mail hacking. This weekend, it emerged Watson would write to Lord Justice Leveson this week formally requesting he recall Harding following fresh revelations surrounding the NightJack blogger case. Watson said: 'James Harding has questions to answer. "Who at the company was aware the High Court and the blogger's lawyers were not told about this?"' Watson added that it raised further questions as to whether James Murdoch, the chairman of News International, knew. In the wake of the Scum of the World phone-hacking scandal, Murdoch told MPs last year that he was 'unaware' of any computer hacking taking place within News International. A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: 'We can confirm that a letter was received today, Monday 23 January, from Tom Watson MP. Officers from Operation Tuleta are in contact with Mr Watson in relation to specific issues he wishes to raise. We are not prepared to discuss the matter further.'

The BBC's foreign editor, Jon Williams, has demanded that two Syrian TV stations apologise for their attacks on the corporation's integrity. In a tweet earlier today, he claimed that the stations, Al Dunya and Al Ikhbaria, had falsely accused the BBC of 'inciting sectarianism' and 'fabricating stories.' He told the Gruniad: 'It's taken long enough for Syria to allow foreign correspondents into the country, and we welcome that change of mind. But the Damascus authorities must allow our staff to do their job without them being intimidated.' It is known that a BBC producer has been verbally abused several times while working with reporters. In a second tweet, Williams wrote about that colleague being attacked by President Assad's supporters, reiterating that the BBC is 'committed to reporting all sides of the story. Intimidation of local staff must stop.'

Ofcom has ruled that ITV 'misled' viewers by broadcasting footage claimed to have been shot by the IRA, which was actually material taken from a video game. A total of twenty six people alerted the regulator, raising concerns over the footage broadcast in Exposure: Gaddafi and the IRA, in September. ITV apologised after the issue came to light, saying it was 'an unfortunate case of human error' and that the human who erred has since been given a jolly good talking to. Or, something. Ofcom said it was a 'significant breach of audience trust.' The current affairs programme was investigating the financial and military links between the former Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi, and the IRA. During the documentary, footage labelled 'IRA Film 1988' was shown, described as film shot by the IRA of its members attempting to shoot down a British Army helicopter in June 1988. However, the pictures were actually taken from a video game called ArmA 2. ITV said the programme had intended to use footage of 'a genuine incident' which had been included in an episode of The Cook Report years earlier. While trying to source 'a better version' of the footage, the programme director viewed footage from the Internet which 'he mistakenly believed to be a fuller version.' ITV said that 'regrettably' the Internet footage was not cross-checked and verified by the production staff as being The Cook Report footage. In another instance, footage of police clashing with rioters in Northern Ireland was described as having taken place in July 2011. But viewers complained to Ofcom that due to the type of police riot vehicles shown, the footage must have been of an earlier riot. ITV said although the incident referred to did happen, it admitted the footage was not from July 2011. It said the programme's director had requested the film from a local historian who had supplied footage to broadcasters in the past and was considered a 'trustworthy' source. However, due to a 'miscommunication' between the two parties, 'the discrepancy was not discovered.' ITV said the documentary had included footage intended to portray two real events and apologised that in each case 'the wrong footage' was used, adding 'mistakes were the result of human error and not an intention to mislead viewers.' Finding ITV in breach of the broadcasting code, Ofcom said it was 'greatly concerned' the broadcaster failed to authenticate the two pieces of footage. It said there were 'significant and easily identifiable differences' between The Cook Report footage and the footage taken from the video game and was therefore 'very surprised that the programme makers believed the footage of the helicopter attack was authentic.' The regulator added it was also 'not sufficient for a broadcaster or programme maker to rely on footage provided by a third party source, on the basis that that source had previously supplied other broadcasters with archive footage. We take into account that ITV apologised, removed the programme from its catch-up video-on-demand service and has now put in place various changes to its compliance procedures to ensure such incidents do not happen in future,' Ofcom said. 'However, the viewers of this serious current affairs programme were misled as to the nature of the material they were watching.' Meanwhile, Ofcom has said it will not investigate complaints about the BBC programme Frozen Planet, after it broadcast footage of newborn polar bear cubs filmed in an animal park, rather than in the wild. Ofcom said five people complained - all coming after the Daily Mirra had run a troublemaking story about the issue - the show was 'misleading' as they had assumed the cubs were born and filmed in the Arctic. The BBC said that such filming was 'standard practice' for natural history shows so as not to endanger the welfare of their the cameraman or, indeed, the cubs. The regulator said 'after careful assessment', it decided not to pursue the programme as it 'did not raise issues warranting investigation.'

The X Factor has been cleared over claims that Tulisa Contostavlos's The Female Boss arm gesture on the show promoted her perfume, but the spin-off programme The Xtra Factor was found to have given 'undue prominence' to the fragrance. Ofcom launched an investigation last November after noting that the N-Dubz singer started each episode of The X Factor by holding her arm up sideways revealing a tattoo saying, The Female Boss, which was claimed to refer to her new fragrance. The media regulator received eleven complaints that showing the tattoo was in breach of rules governing the promotion and reference of commercial products by on-screen talent. Channel TV, which complied The X Factor on behalf of ITV, said that the references to Tulisa's perfume had not been broadcast in return for payment. The broadcaster argued that Tulisa has several tattoos, and the one on her forearm was 'several years old.' It also said that The Female Boss was the singer's nickname, while her fragrance was actually called 'TFB by Tulisa', not The Female Boss. Ofcom said that the gesture on The X Factor 'did not promote, or give undue prominence' to Tulisa's perfume, after it acknowledged that the fragrance actually went under a different name. It therefore did not find any breach of the broadcasting code. However, Ofcom has decided to uphold one complaint against a feature in ITV2 spin off programme The Xtra Factor, which was found to give 'undue prominence' to the fragrance. on 29 October, the feature included Tulisa discussing the launch of her TFB by Tulisa perfume and her arm gesture on the show. The Xtra Factor presenter Caroline Flack said that she had been wearing the new fragrance, to which her co-presenter Olly Murs commented: 'I wondered why you were smelling so nice.' The duo said that 'everybody, and I mean everyone, has been getting involved with the Tulisa Female Boss salute!' and then showed a selection of viewers and celebrities mimicking Tulisa's greeting, as well as more images of the gesture of The X Factor. Channel TV attempted to argue that The Xtra Factor feature 'was lighthearted, a bagatelle designed to lighten the mood of the judges and the studio audience.' It also noted that it is common for the show to refer to the latest ventures by a celebrity judge or guest, such as an autobiography or new single. Ofcom noted that such commercial references can be editorially justified, but it found that Flack and Murs had unfairly endorsed Tulisa's perfume on The Xtra Factor. 'We noted that Tulisa's perfume is called TFB by Tulisa, but that one of the presenters wrongly referred to the perfume as, 'your perfume, The Female Boss,' said Ofcom. 'After this, the other presenter not only endorsed the product (ie 'I wondered why you were smelling so nice') but then observed that both Tulisa's perfume and her salute were 'catching on.' Ofcom considers that this gave undue prominence to her perfume - a commercial product. 'Ofcom considered that, in light of the undue prominence given to the product by the sequence as a whole and, in particular, Olly Murs's endorsement of it, the sequence appeared to promote Tulisa's perfume.'

Former Doctor Who writer Russell Davies is returning to children's TV with an action adventure drama for the BBC. Aliens Vs Wizards will be filmed for CBBC at the new BBC Wales drama studios in Cardiff Bay. The Swansea-born dramatist said: 'Writing for children is the biggest challenge of all.' It will be the first new series from Davies since he returned to the UK from Hollywood last year after his partner was diagnosed with brain cancer. The new series has been created with Phil Ford, who worked with Davies on Doctor Who and children's spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures. Aliens Vs Wizards tells the story of two sixteen-year-old boys - a secret wizard and his scientist friend - who challenge the attempts of aliens to destroy the earth. 'Writing for children is the biggest challenge of all and I think CBBC stands right at the heart of broadcasting,' said Davies. 'So I'm delighted to launch this show, a true nationwide collaboration - a Salford commission from a BBC Wales team. We're joining genres too - the show's a wild, funny, thrilling and sometimes scary collision of magic and science fiction.' Faith Penhale, head of drama at BBC Cymru Wales, said: 'We're so excited to be working with Russell again on this ground-breaking and hugely ambitious drama for CBBC.' Davies began his career in children's TV, writing and producing acclaimed children's dramas such as Dark Season and Century Falls for BBC1 and Children's Ward for ITV, before moving onto a series of adult award-winning dramas including Queer as Folk and Casanova. In 2005 he revived Doctor Who after a sixteen-year hiatus and, as executive producer, oversaw the production of spin-off series Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures. The success of those series prompted Davies to move to Hollywood in 2009 to develop new projects. But he returned to the UK in 2011 saying he was putting his career on hold after his partner, Andrew Smith, was diagnosed with brain cancer. Aliens Vs Wizards will be a series of twelve half-hour programmes produced by BBC Wales in association with FremantleMedia Enterprises for broadcast on CBBC in autumn 2012.

Harry Hill has indicated that TV Burp will end in March. In a new blog post, the comedian revealed that the new series' last episode will culminate in a 'huge finale.' 'The New (and it seems last) series of TV Burp starts up on the 4 Feb and finishes eight shows later at the end of March in a huge finale - SO MAKE THE MOST OF IT!' Hill said. It is Hill's strongest hint that he is quitting the programme, after insisting in October that 'no decision' had been made about its future. The forty seven-year-old has previously admitted that working on the show, which has broadcast over twenty episodes a year since 2008, has left him feeling exhausted. After splitting with his agent and boss of production company Avalon, speculation has arisen over whether Hill will move TV Burp to the BBC or Sky.

The BBC has, perhaps unsurprisingly given the audiences for the first two episodes, announced that new drama Call The Midwife will return for a second series. The show stars Miranda Hart as one of a community of nursing nuns. The first episode pulled in a total of 9.8m viewers on 15 January, making it BBC1's highest launch episode of a new drama since the new version of Doctor Who began in 2005 with eleven million viewers. The second episode on Sunday also drew impressive figures, with overnight figures averaging 8.6 million. 'Call The Midwife has had a huge impact with audiences,' said a thoroughly delighted BBC1 controller Danny Cohen. 'It's a very high-quality drama series from a brilliant team. It manages to be both hard-hitting and emotional, gritty and warm. I am already looking forward to the second series.' Ben Stephenson, controller of BBC Drama Commissioning, added: 'Call The Midwife is a totally original mix of comedy, tears, babies and nuns and it is fantastic to see this distinctive piece of British drama win such high praise and ratings. We can't wait for the team to return next year and are very grateful to the vision of [original author] Jennifer Worth and [adaptation writer] Heidi Thomas.' The show has been popular with the critic too, Caitlin Moran in The Times noting the show is: 'Frankly, off-the-scale ballsy. In a nutshell, Call The Midwife brought the full, visceral nature of human reproduction and sexuality to the screen in all its agonising, bloody, disturbing, exhausting, life-threatening glory, in a tea-time slot more usually occupied by pampered Pomeranians with a cough, or Last Of The Summer Wine.' Nicola Methven in the Daily Mirror added: 'New ratings champion is born at the BBC. Call The Midwife has pushed harder than Downton Abbey when it comes to winning the ratings war.' And, even the notoriously sniffy and hard-to-please AA Gill in The Sunday Times: 'Call The Midwife was utterly winning; it is proper;y family watching.'

And speaking of ratings, here's Top Twenty programmes week-ending 15 January:-
1 EastEnders - BBC1 Fri - 9.99m
2 Call The Midwife - BBC1 Sun - 9.83m
3 Sherlock - BBC1 Sun - 9.78m
4 Coronation Street - ITV Mon - 9.31m [+ 670k HD]
5 Emmerdale - ITV Mon - 7.94m*
6 Twatting About On Ice - ITV Sun - 7.60m [+ 651k HD]
7 Above Suspicion - IT V Mon - 6.95m [+ 570k HD]
8 Casualty - BBC1 Sat - 6.81m
9 Match of the Day Live: Sheikh Yer Man City FC vs Liverpool Yee-Haws - BBC1 Wed - 6.81m
10 Wild At Heart - ITV Sun - 6.75m [+ 539k HD]
11 Hustle - BBC1 Fri - 6.51m
12 Mrs Brown's Boys - BBC1 Mon - 6.29m
13 Countryfile - BBC1 Sun - 6.16m
14 The National Lottery: Who Dares Wins - BBC1 Sat - 5.83m
15 Midsomer Murders - ITV Wed - 5.82m*
16 BBC News - BBC1 Sun - 5.62m
17 New Tricks - BBC1 Thurs - 5.43m
18 Holby City - BBC1 Tues - 5.23m
19 Six O'Clock News - BBC1 Tues - 5.18m
20 The ONE Show - BBC1 Mon - 5.01m
* = ITV HD figures not included. BBC2's highest rated shows of the week were The Great Sport Relief Bake-Off (3.53m) and The Mystery Of Edwin Drood (3.49m). Channel Four's highest rated programme was One Born Every Minutes (3.57m).

Mario Balotelli could be hit with a four-game suspension after Harry Redknapp urged the Football Association to take action against the Sheikh Yer Man City FC centre forward for 'kicking Scott Parker in the head' during Stottingtot Hotshots 3-2 defeat. One would, perhaps, have thought that at a time like this, Mr Redknapp might have had more immediate things on his mind. Like, you know, mounting a defence to keep himself out of jail on - as yet wholly unproven - tax evasion charges, for instance. Still, never short of a few words on any subject is old Happy Harry. As Newcastle fans will know after Redknapp crassly interfered in the affairs of another club by talking in a press conference about supposed get-out clauses in Demba Ba's contact. And this, dear blog reader, is the man whom most of the thoroughly odious arse-licking London-based press want as the next England manager. Words fail me. Though, they seldom seem to fail him, sadly. None of this, of course, excuses in the slightest the actions of Balotelli, a second-half replacement for Edin Dzeko, who claimed victory for City at the Etihad Stadium by scoring a penalty three minutes into stoppage time after being fouled by Tottenham captain Ledley King. But having escaped punishment from referee Howard Webb for appearing to stamp on Spurs midfielder Parker's head on eighty four minutes, Redknapp's anger centred on the fact that Balotelli was still on the pitch to play such a central role in his team's defeat, which leaves the Hotshots eight points adrift of leaders City. 'I'm sure they [FA] will look at it,' Redknapp whinged. 'They must do, mustn't they? It's not the first time he's done that is it and I'm sure it won't be the last. The first [stamp] could be an accident, but the second one? He's back-heeled him straight in the head. I don't like talking about people kicking players in the head, but when you see that, it's wrong. It's blatantly obvious. Whether he gets sent off or whatever, it's wrong and I don't like seeing people react like that to a challenge. Scott made a good block. [Balotelli] reacts like that at times to challenges, but Scott now has a lovely cut on his head. I don't see any reason. What reason did he have to kick Scott in the head with his studs while he is lying on the floor? It's not something I understand. How you can back-heel somebody in the head when they are lying on the floor? It's not a nice thing to do and it has no place in football.' Having failed to take action at the time, World Cup final referee Webb will be asked for his observations by the FA on Monday and Balotelli could be charged with violent conduct if the referee admits that he would have dismissed the Italian had he seen the incident. With Balotelli having already served a suspension for a dismissal at Liverpool earlier this season, the twenty one year-old could have an additional game added to any suspension — typically three matches — for violent conduct if charged and found guilty. City continue to harbour grievances against the FA after losing captain Vincent Kompany to a four-game ban earlier this month following an unsuccessful appeal against a red card against Manchester United. And assistant manager David Platt, speaking in place of Roberto Mancini due to the manager allegedly 'losing his voice' during the game, claimed that television replays could yet spare Balotelli. Platt said: 'I haven't seen any replays, so I can't really comment. I never saw anything live and there was nothing from the players either. What we are aware of, from the last month, is that different TV angles can show different things.' Okay. here;'s you are then, Platty, have a butchers at this. With City awaiting the FA's verdict on Balotelli, concerns will also be raised by the possibility of Joleon Lescott facing a similar probe after appearing to elbow Spurs defender Younes Kaboul in the mush in the seventy fifth minute. The Balotelli incident, the latest controversy surrounding the former Inter Milan forward, overshadowed a pulsating game which saw Spurs fight back from two goals down to equalise before almost scoring a winner through Jermain Defoe in stoppage time. Balotelli's penalty secured City's victory and consolidated top spot, leaving Redknapp admitting that the Spurs now face a battle to win their first title since 1961. He said: 'It's going to be hard to win the title.' It'll be even harder if their manager goes down for avoiding paying tax on what the BBC describes as 'bungs or offshore bonuses', of course. That's if this happens, of course. Which it might not. 'All I've ever said is that we have got a chance and I think you saw today that we are genuine contenders. There's not much between the teams, we are not a million miles behind City or anyone else. We are a good team in our own right. That's all I ever said. It's difficult now, there are lots of points between us, but we just have to keep going and see where it takes us.' Platt, a title winner with Arsenal in 1998, attempted to play down the significance of City's victory, however. He said: 'It is open. One game doesn't win it and I don't think we have put any extra pressure on Manchester United. The pressure was on them to take maximum points [at Arsenal] anyway, as it is with all the teams at the top. If you slip up, then things tighten up on you. People will talk about Tottenham being out of the title race now but that is not the case. There are plenty of games and plenty of head-to-heads that can still swing it. It was a great victory for us but it is three points, no more.'

The Met Office has issued a severe weather warning for large parts of Scotland and England on Tuesday. Forecasters said rain moving east across the UK was likely to turn to sleet and snow in northern and eastern areas during the day. So, that's directly over Stately Telly Topping Manor, basically. They also said that ice could form where rain falls onto surfaces with temperatures below zero. The yellow 'be aware' warning covers an area stretching from the Highlands to the east and west Midlands. The Met Office said: 'The public should be aware of the risk of disruption to travel, chiefly to routes over higher ground.' The warning comes as police deal with a spate of crashes on a motorway and other minor routes throughout Dumfries and Galloway in icy conditions. Two separate accidents were reported on the stretch of the A74(M) within the region. One lane was blocked on the southbound section at Annandale Services with two northbound lanes closed near Moffat.

The aurora borealis has been sighted over the North of England for the first time in eighteen months. If you check out the BBC Tyne website, you'll find a truly spectacular array of photos of the phenomena from across Northumberland, Durham and North Yorkshire.
Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day now, dear blog reader. This one is for all of the scum of the world that hacked. The net's closing boys and girls. I'm told that slopping out first thing in the morning is something everybody should experience at least once in their lives. Tell 'em all about it, Liam.

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