Monday, January 30, 2012

What You Get, Is Just What You See

On Saturday morning, the police arrested four journalists who have worked for Rupert Murdoch's News International. For a while, it looked as though these were yet more arrests of people related to the odious, disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World but then it became clear that this was something much more significant. As the Gruniad's Nick Davies notes: 'This may be the moment when the scandal that closed the News of the World finally started to pose a potential threat to at least one of Murdoch's three other UK newspaper titles: the Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times.' The four men arrested on Saturday are not linked to the Scum of the World at all. They come from the Sun, and from the top echelons of its organisation – the current head of news and his crime editor, the former managing editor and deputy editor. No one has been convicted of anything, of course, as Davies is quick to point out. 'The four who were arrested on Saturday – like the twenty five others before them – have not even been charged with any offence. But behind the scenes, something very significant has changed at News International.' Under enormous legal and political pressure, Murdoch has ordered that the police be given 'everything they need' Davies claims. Whereas Scotland Yard began their inquiry a year ago with nothing much more than 'the heap of scruffy paperwork' seized from the Scum of the World's sordid private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, Murdoch's Management and Standards Committee has now handed the police what Davies suggests 'may be the largest cache of evidence ever gathered by a police operation in this country, including the material that led to Saturday's arrests.' They have access to a mass of internal paperwork – invoices, reporters' expense claims, accounts, bank records, phone records. And technicians have retrieved an enormous reservoir of material from News International's central computer servers, including one particularly vast collection that, Davies adds, 'may yet prove to be the stick that breaks the media mogul's back.' It is known as Data Pool Three. It contains, Davies claims, 'several hundred million e-mails sent and received over the years' by employees of the Scum of the World – and of the three other Murdoch titles. Data Pool Three is said to be so big that the police are not even attempting to read every message. Instead, there are reportedly two teams searching it for key words: a detective sergeant with five detective constables from Scotland Yard working secretly on criminal leads; and thirty two civilians working for the Management and Standards Committee, providing information for the civil actions brought by public figures and for the Leveson inquiry and passing relevant material to police. For News International, Data Pool Three is 'a nightmare' Davies claims. Firstly, 'no one knows what is in there. All they can do is wait and see how bad it gets.' Secondly, the police clearly believe it may yield new evidence of the crimes they set out to investigate – the 'blagging' of confidential data from phone companies, banks, tax offices and the like, the interception of voicemails and e-mails, the corrupt payment of bribes to police officers. Thirdly – and, Davies adds, 'most nightmarish' from the news International point of view – Data Pool Three could yield 'evidence of attempts to destroy evidence the high court and police were seeking.' Data Pool Three itself, Davies claims, was apparently 'deliberately deleted from News International's servers.' If proved, such conduct would be extremely serious - it could see the courts imposing long prison sentences - specifically because its destruction could, Davies suggests, only 'have been sanctioned by senior employees and directors.' The Gruniad Morning Star revealed in July 2011 that police were 'suspicious' that a huge number of e-mails had been 'deliberately destroyed.' Since then, high court hearings have disclosed more detail. Late in 2009, News International decided to delete old e-mail from their servers. This appears to have been a simple piece of electronic housekeeping. However, the plan was not executed. During the summer of 2010, the actor Sienna Miller decided to sue the Scum of the World for, allegedly, hacking into her voicemail. At the same time, according to evidence in the high court civil claim, internal e-mails were being sent 'urging that the deletion plan be executed.' Still, for some reason, it was not. On 6 September 2010, Sienna Miller's solicitor, Mark Thomson of Atkins Thomson, wrote to News International asking them to 'preserve all the documents in your possession relating to our client's private life.' On 9 September, an internal message pressed for the e-mails to be deleted 'urgently.' As Mr Justice Vos explained in a judgment last month: 'Only three days after the solicitors for Sienna Miller had written their letter before action, asking specifically that the company should retain any e-mails concerned with the claim, what happened was that a previously conceived plan to delete e-mails was put into effect at the behest of senior management.' In December 2010, the Scum of the World's Scottish editor, Bob Bird, told the trial of Tommy Sheridan in Glasgow that the e-mail archive had been 'lost' en-route to Mumbai. Also in December, News International's solicitor, Julian Pike from Farrer and Co, provided the high court with a statement claiming they were 'unable to retrieve' e-mails more than six months old. On 7 January 2011, News International gained access to the evidence that had been assembled by Sienna Miller's lawyers. On 12 January, the company issued detailed instructions for the 'secure retention' of all relevant data. Later that month, News International handed three old e-mails to Scotland Yard, triggering the new police inquiry into phone-hacking. In the same month, Davies claims, a second 'significant' deletion is believed to have happened. By this time, the entire contents of Data Pool Three had been deleted. However, under pressure from the lawyers involved in the high court civil actions, News International were compelled to allow 'technical experts' to examine their servers. On 23 March 2011, Pike formally apologised to the high court and acknowledged that News International could retrieve e-mails as far back as 2005 and that none had been 'lost' en route to Mumbai. He claimed that he had been 'misinformed.' In October, technicians started to restore the millions of deleted e-mails. By December, the entire contents of Data Pool Three had been successfully recovered. The implications, Davies suggests, are considerable. On Saturday, as police searched parts of the Sun office, a press release from News Corp referred discreetly to an 'internal investigation into our three remaining titles.' The Times is already under pressure following an allegation that a reporter hacked into a target's e-mail to obtain a story. In an unexplained line in his statement to the Leveson inquiry, The Sunday Times editor, John Witherow, said 'a freelance journalist/researcher who has done occasional work for the paper was arrested on suspicion of breaching the Fraud Act. The police investigation is still continuing.' Whether more of News International's UK titles are about to be dragged into the police inquiry remains to be seen, Davies says. 'The threat is there: it may or may not materialise. Similarly, it is not yet clear whether police will find evidence that senior employees and directors did order the destruction of evidence.' Equally important, the police may find evidence of more victims who may want to launch more legal actions. 'At the outer reaches of possibility, police may find evidence of illegal activity by other private investigators, which could conceivably lead them to other news organisations who also hired them. Since Saturday morning, nothing is certain.'

So, from disgraceful odious tabloid scum, to Sunday's overnight ratings: It was, once again, BBC's night with Call The Midwife increasing its overnight audience for the second week running to 8.76m. It is now, officially, a monster! Birdsong finished with 5.29m whilst Top Gear returned for a new season on BBC2 with 5.1m (including a whopping eight hundred thousand on BBC HD). Call The Midwife peaked at 9.3m - the highest viewing figure of the day across all channels. Although it should be noted that at least one reader of the Sunday Post complained that it was 'unrealistic' as it looked like the 1930s, not the 1950s and claimed that she 'wouldn't be watching again.' So, that'll be one less viewer next week, presumably. ITV's Twatting About On Ice was soundly beaten for the third week running by its BBC opposition, pulling in 7.55m for the main show and 5.88m for the skate-off. Time for a career rethink, Ms Bleakley? In between, Wild at Heart was watched by 6.21m. Overall, BBC1's average for the night of 24.5 per cent was enough to earn it a primetime victory over ITV, which had 22.7 per cent.

It was a similar story on Saturday. ITV's risible, odious, oafish dating show Take Me Out had an audience of 4.32m viewers, a two hundred and forty thousand viewer decline from the previous week and over five hundred thousand lower than the season premiere. The Paddy McGuinness-fronted tripe pulled in an extra two hundred and twenty five thousand punters on timeshift. Mark Wright's Take Me Out: The Gossip interested a miserable five hundred and five seven thousand lonely souls on ITV2. Elsewhere on ITV, The Talent Show Story had an audience of 2.26m and The Jonathan Ross Show could only manage 2.47m at 9.30pm (with an additional one hundred and eighty thousand on ITV+1). BBC1's The Magicians, meanwhile, was watched by 4.19m at 6.35pm, and The National Lottery: Who Dares Wins followed with 5.12m, easily beating Take Me Out. The latest episode of Casualty was watched by 5.29m at 8.40pm. On BBC2, Keira Knightley film The Duchesss had an audience of 2.24m. On BBC4 the two episodes of Borgen again pulled in strong figures for the channel of six hundred and ten thousand and four hundred and eighty thousand respectively. BBC1 took the primetime honours with a 19.6 per cent average share, with ITV a somewhat distance second on 14.5 per cent.

And, speaking of ratings, here's the Top Twenty shows week-ending 22 January:-
1 Call The Midwife - BBC1 Sun - 10.47m
2 EastEnders - BBC1 Mon - 9.96m
3 Coronation Street - ITV Mon - 9.63m [+ 638k HD]
4 Emmerdale - ITV Thurs - 7.76m*
5 Twatting About On Ice - ITV Sun - 7.09m [+ 513k HD]
6 Birdsong - BBC1 Sun - 7.01m
7 Wild At Heart - ITV Sun - 6.68m [+ 537k HD]
8 Casualty - BBC1 Sat - 6.61m
9 Countryfile - BBC1 Sun - 6.48m
10 Mrs Brown's Boys - BBC1 Mon - 6.37m
11 Above Suspicion - ITV Mon - 6.32m [+ 6333k HD]
12 The National Lottery: Who Dares Wins - BBC1 Sat - 5.92m
13 Hustle - BBC1 Fri - 5.88m
14 Six O'Clock News - BBC1 Mon - 5.55m
15 DIY SOS: The Big Build _ BBC1 Wed - 5.42m
16 Holby City - BBC1 Tues - 5.38m
16 MasterChef - BBC1 Tues - 5.31m
18 Ten O'Clock News - BBC1 Tues - 5.16m
19 BBC News - BBC1 Sun - 5.07m
20 The ONE Show - BBC1 Tues - 5.02m
* = ITV HD figure not known. BBC2's highest performing shows were, of course, Stargazing Live (which gained audiences of 4.16m, 3.94m and 3.36m for its three episodes, including BBC HD figures) and University Challenge (3m). Channel Four's highest performer was One Born Every Minute (3.80m)

The BBC and Sky this week announced a landmark partnership deal that will bring the BBC's popular video-on-demand service iPlayer to up to five million Sky homes in 2012. The announcement means that later this year BBC iPlayer will be available to Sky subscribers directly on the living room TV. Using iPlayer, audiences will be able to enjoy the full complement of BBC programmes in a familiar, easy-to-use BBC iPlayer experience that helps audiences catch up on what they missed and discover new programmes to enjoy. A core BBC value is to reach all audiences on a universal basis, so Sky's plan to make Anytime+ available to customers regardless of their Internet provider is an important development in helping to bring BBC iPlayer to around five million new homes in 2012 – at no extra charge. BBC iPlayer has proven to be hugely popular with UK audiences since launching in 2007, delivering a record two billion TV and radio programmes in 2011. In addition to enjoying BBC iPlayer on the PC, audiences will soon have total freedom to catch up on BBC programmes on the TV. This deal builds on a substantial history of industry partnerships that have brought BBC iPlayer to platforms like Virgin Media, BT Vision, FreeSat, Freeview, Sony PlayStation, Nintendo Wii, and hundreds of mobile phones, tablets, and Internet-connected TVs. Launching on Sky Anytime+ completes a picture in which BBC iPlayer is available on every major UK television platform. BBC Director-General Mark Thompson said: 'Having the BBC and Sky work together to further build on the BBC iPlayer success story can only be fantastic news for audiences. Making BBC iPlayer available on all platforms is key to our commitment to universal access and this agreement takes us one step further towards that goal. I'm delighted to take this first step on a story of innovation for both organisations.' Jeremy Darroch, Sky's Chief Executive, added: 'Sky Anytime+ will go from strength to strength in 2012 and we are delighted that the addition of BBC iPlayer will allow Sky customers to enjoy the best of the BBC whenever they want.' Launching on December 2007 as a simple catch-up website, BBC iPlayer has helped pioneer TV on demand by offering audiences the opportunity to watch selected TV programmes for up to seven days after broadcast. BBC iPlayer has since evolved, adding more TV programmes; including entire series and films, radio programmes, live TV channels and radio station, programme downloads for offline viewing and personalisation features such as Favourites and recommendations. Variants of BBC iPlayer optimised for smartphones, tablets and connected TVs are also available, allowing audiences to catch-up or watch live wherever they are and on whatever device – offering access on the move over 3G and WiFi, or simple access via broadband on the living room TV.

At Wednesday's Oxford media convention, the culture minister, Ed Vaizey, promised to 'broker a meeting' between the soon-to-be-outgoing BBC Director General, Mark Thompson, and the maverick Tory MP Nadine Dorries to discuss the issue of gender balance in broadcasting. Two days earlier, he had replied for the government in a debate on this theme, initiated by Dorries, that was not without its bizarre moments. One was Vaizey's response to Dorries' lengthy Commons tirade against Andrew Neil, whom she accused not only of being 'sexist' and 'aggressive' on This Week (which 'almost every week features three ageing men and a token woman'), but also of 'looking peculiar.' Vaizey could not approve of her description of Neil as 'an orange, overweight, toupee-wearing has-been,' he said, largely because 'almost all those adjectives probably apply to me.'

Top Gear, as Jeremy Clarkson acknowledged in his opening monologue on last night's show, hasn't had a great time recently. There was all of that pointless, Gruniad-generated kerfuffle over Christmas's India special and, before that, another suspiciously concerted media campaign of desperately feigned 'outrage' over some comments Clarkson made on The ONE Show. So, perhaps mindful of causing more alleged offence to professional offence-takers, in this first episode of the new series they kicked off with a witty little 'wrong film' montage of highlights from the forthcoming series featuring a cute bunny rabbit. Then, the boys went to Italy to drive supercars - the closest thing to 'a sure thing' in motoring journalism. The premise was to find the best choice of car if you don't want a Ferrari. Not a question most people will be tossing in their beds over but that shouldn't be seen as a criticism as Top Gear has proved conclusively over the years that testing ridiculously expensive cars is far more entertaining telly than trying to be all sensible and doing 'proper' consumer pieces on Fiestas and Fiat Pandas. You can go to Channel Five for that. Or, actually, now, you can't. James May was in a Maclaren MP4, Jezza in a Lamborghini Aventador, The Hamster in a Noble M600. They learned some obvious lessons. All three cars were very fast. All were rather impractical on Rome's cobbled streets. All were fun to drive. Though one imagines that the Noble PR people will be a bit cheesed off that the model they gave Hammond broke down halfway through and had to be replaced. There were a couple of bright moments – such as when Clarkson was pulled over by the Italian police, not for speeding, but for 'working' on Sunday and he responded that this demonstrated why Italy was nearly bankrupt. One imagines some shit-scum louse in the Gruniad is currently scanning Twitter to see if any Italians were 'offended' by this comment so they can run another one of their shite-scum 'exclusives' on it. The trio ended up at Imola, to test each car against a lap time set by The Stig's Italian cousin in a Ferrari 458. Before the racing, there was a stunning montage of the track's history of horrendous Formula 1 crashes, which reached their tragic nadir with the death of Ayrton Senna in 1994. It was well done, and gave a richness to the driving that followed. History, risk, speed, beautiful machinery: all the joys of motoring, and a reminder that Top Gear, when it sticks to its purpose, can do it better than any other series.
Amy Childs has reportedly 'begged' to compete in next year's series of Twatting About on Ice. The former Only Way Is Essex wannabe, whose piteous reality show It's All About Amy has recently been given the boot by Channel Five, was told by producers that the 2013 run has 'yet to be discussed.' So, that'll be a 'no' then.

Alan Davies has announced his first UK tour in twelve years. The Qi regular will take to the road with his Life Is Pain stand-up show this autumn, following a stint at the Edinburgh festival. It follows a series of well-received gigs in Australia, which revived his interest in live performance. He told Graham Norton on his BBC1 show on Friday: 'I'm going on tour later this year. I haven't done a stand-up tour for twelve years. We went out to Australia and we did Qi Live, and while I was there I did a stand-up tour. It was great, I really loved it. I used to tire of touring and all the hotels but, actually, now I've got small children and I'm always exhausted I like being on my own. Plus, they provide half the material for this show.' Davies is playing the EICC while at the Edinburgh Fringe. The venue's programme will also include Jimmy Carr and Jason Byrne. Davies last appeared at the festival in 2005 alongside Bill Bailey in an adaptation of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple at The Assembly Hall. He performed stand-up at the festival in 2001, but didn't take that particular show on the road.

Former Doctor Who star and national heart-throb David Tennant has been named best actor at the inaugural BBC Audio Drama Awards. The awards, which were also hosted by Tennant, aim 'to celebrate and recognise the cultural importance of audio drama, on-air and online.' Tennant won for his role as Kafka in Kafka: The Musical. Rosie Cavaliero was named best actress as Ruthie, in Lost Property: A Telegram from the Queen. Lost Property: The Year My Mother Went Missing won best audio drama. It is the second in a trilogy of radio plays from acclaimed writer Katie Hims. The trilogy began with The Wrong Label, spanned sixty years, and charted 'one family's tragi-comic history of heartbreak and redemption.' The series was directed by Jessica Dromgoole. Cavaliero narrated the first two plays, before taking on the role of Ruthie in the final part. All three were originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in May 2011 and will be repeated next week.

Celebrity Big Brother twins Kristina Shannon and Karissa Shannon are reportedly developing their own reality show. The twins, twenty two (and, that appears to be their collective IQ age well as their age), are 'in talks' about filming a fly-on-the-wall series following their day-to-day lives in the UK, according to the Daily Lies. Yeah, why the Hell not? It's not like we don't have enough of our own, odious, pompous, full-of-their-own-importance desperate talentless wannabes swanning around in their own little celebrity-by-non-entity world with cameras trailing behind them like they were actually somebody without importing a few more.

When Harry Redknapp said 'I write like a two-year-old' at his trial for tax evasion last week, the Sun (for which he still, ostensibly, writes a football column) duly made it a page lead, though it adopted a less gleefully mocking tone than some of the other red-tops. Oddly missing from the paper's report, however, was the most telling example the Spurs manager gave of his being 'the most disorganised man in the world.' It was his recollection of a call from his accountant asking 'Harry, where are your payments from the Sun?' Redknapp claimed that he had vaguely assumed the payments had been banked. But, he said, that on contacting the paper he discovered 'they hadn't paid me for eighteen months.'

Coronation Street actor Anthony Cotton has reportedly exchanged heated words with two co-stars on Twitter. The Mirra reports the actor, who plays factory worker Sean Tully, exchanged 'words' with co-stars who criticised him for his constant name-dropping. Actors Jack P Shepherd, who plays David Platt, and Ryan Thomas, who plays Jason Grimshaw, were the other Coronation Street regulars involved. The Mirra reports that Cotton responded by claiming that Shepherd was a 'little irritant' who 'needs the money more than me.' Tweeting about Thomas, Cotton wrote his I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity ... friend Mark Wright had 'hoovered up' of all of Thomas's personal appearances. Shepherd tweeted, about Cotton's comments: 'That's not banter, it's an insult.' During Cotton's recent stint on I'm A Celebrity Z-List Former ... the actor was criticised, via Twitter, by former co-star John Thomson who described Cotton as 'trouble with a capital T' to work with.

Some nice news now. Frank Skinner has told his radio listeners that is to become a father for the first time at the age of fifty five. On Absolute Radio today, Skinner cleared his throat and said sombrely: 'I have something of an announcement to make. I'm going to be a father.' Co-presenter Alun Cochrane congratulated him, but asked: 'Are you paranoid of any jokes you've made about ageing fathers in the past?' Skinner, who has just became the host of BBC2's Room 101, replied: 'The way I'm seeing it is that I probably won't have to deal with those difficult teenage years.' He added: 'I've already made certain pledges. It means I'll be up for the show a lot earlier and things like that and what I'm saying to the listeners is - get knitting.' Skinner is expecting the child with long-term partner Cath Mason. From The North sends our congratulations to the expectant couple.

If tweets from their former Newsnight colleague Michael Crick are to be believed, then last week's showcasing of Paul Mason's erotic writing led to Jeremy Paxman talking of putting Mason forward for the annual Bad Sex award. In which case, he may need a passage as back-up, as ancient Mongolian-style sex on horseback could well strike the judges as trying too hard. Luckily, Mason provides several similar passages in his raunchy thriller Rare Earth, including one that begins: 'He plunged three rough fingers down the front of her jeans, making her squeak.' Yeah, well, it's happened to us all. I tend to suggest using some form a lubrication, personally. Some time later, after an encounter involving a 'white sheepskin rug', 'two thousand milligrammes of Man's Treasure' and the ecstatic exclamation 'Your chrysanthemum will change shape permanently!' the chapter ends with Chun-li, the female party in this particular knee-trembler, departing after simultaneously seducing, drugging and extracting information from her coital partner. Has anybody told the Leveson inquiry about this? Surely, a public interest defence here would be sketchy at best.

The Happy Mondays will re-form for a month-long tour in May, singer Rowetta Satchell has confirmed. Rave! On! (Err ... I imagine, they'll be opening with that!) Rowetta told BBC Radio Manchester the group had been in talks 'for a long time', but made the final decision to reform last week. Although the Manchester band have reformed previously, this will be the first time that the original line-up has played together since 1992. 'We want to put on a really good show,' Rowetta told Darryl Morris. All seven of the band's classic, late-80s-early-90s line-up met last week to 'see if they could sit in a room together', Rowetta said, referring to several incidents in the band's acrimonious past. She said that the drive to bring the band back together had come from lead singer Shaun Ryder and his manager. Which, one assumed, means that his money from appearing in I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity ... has finally run out. 'We decided it would only be special and work if it was the total, original line-up,' she said. Which is, of course, ironic as Rowetta wasn't in the original line up, she only joined in 1989! 'We're all really excited. They are my family, these boys; I've really missed them. And I'm sure they've missed each other.' The band, who were at the forefront of the baggy Madchester scene, formed in 1980, with Ryder as their frontman. The original band also included Ryder's brother Paul on bass, guitarist Mark Day, keyboard player Paul Davis and drummer Gary Whelan. They were subsequently joined by dancer Bez Berry and, later, Rowetta. Discovered by music impresario Tony Wilson, they went on to release the CDs Squirrel And G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out), Bummed, and their masterpiece Pills 'N' Thrills And Bellyaches, before disbanding after 1992's disastrous Yes Please! They have previously reformed twice, most notably in 1999, but split again in 2001, with Paul Ryder vowing never to perform with his brother again. A further incarnation of the band followed in 2004, but with only Shaun Ryder, Bez and Whelan from the original line-up. Rowetta said the band would be rehearsing throughout April, but denied there were currently any plans for them to support the reunited Stone Roses at Heaton Park. 'It's up to The Roses. As long as we've not killed each other by then, we'd be up for it.'

Which, nicely, brings us to today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. And, on a thoroughly miserable Monday like this one, it's time to get some Happy in the house. Happy Mondays' in the area. One Louder. Yippie, yippie, aye-aye-ay.
Aw, bugger it, let's have 'WFL' as well!

No comments: