Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I'm Not Sure What Happiness Means

The BBC has, according to the Gruniad Morning Star 'drawn up plans' for how it will deal with a major news story during the corporation's coverage of the London Olympic Games, prompted by recent events including the Duke of Edinburgh's heart surgery. 'Concerns' have,. the newspaper alleges, been raised by senior executives about how BBC News will cope, and what channels will broadcast a significant story if it breaks during the Olympics, which begins on July 27. At a meeting of senior BBC executives in January there was a discussion on the matter, resulting a strategy paper that covers various potential scenarios. The BBC has a number of procedures which are automatically set in motion in the event of a major news story, such as a natural disaster, terror attack or a member of the royal family dying. There is a special code word for each senior member of the royal family in the event of their death. Strategies are devised to ensure BBC News staff know exactly what to do and follow the correct protocols, with regard to considerations such as national security and the sensibilities of viewers. The Gruinad claims that BBC News' resources were 'tested' just before Christmas when the Duke of Edinburgh was treated for a blocked coronary artery after being flown to hospital with chest pains. According to 'sources', they suggest, the nearest fully equipped and manned BBC broadcasting truck to Sandringham was near Leeds, over two hours drive away. Because of ongoing cost-cutting at the BBC the corporation had fewer crewed news trucks on standby than it used to. This summer will be one of the busiest ever for the BBC and its news operation. In addition to the Olympics and the Queen's diamond jubilee, there is the Euro 2012 football tournament. The BBC and its journalists will be at full stretch covering the first London Games for more than sixty years, and the corporation has said it may shorten some editions of BBC1's 6pm and 10pm news bulletins to accommodate Olympic coverage. BBC1 will have comprehensive live coverage, airing almost eighteen hours a day, while BBC3 will also air rolling coverage throughout the day, extending its normal 7pm-7am transmission hours. A BBC spokesman said: 'We never comment in detail on our news planning preparations. We do, however, have contingency plans to ensure that our audiences are kept fully informed in the event of any major breaking news story during the Olympic Games.' It is not the first time BBC News has found itself having to prioritise during key news events. Two years ago it spent so heavily reporting on the rescue of the Chilean miners that it had to reduce its coverage of other major foreign events, including the G20 summit in Seoul and the Oscars. 2011 was also an exceptionally busy year for BBC News, with major domestic and foreign stories including the royal wedding, the Arab spring, the Japanese tsunami, the Christchurch earthquake and the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi. In 2002 the BBC was criticised by the Daily Scum Mail for what the odious pox-ridden right-wing lice newspaper claimed was its 'disrespectful' coverage of the death of the Queen Mother, after newscaster Peter Sissons wore a burgundy tie when announcing the death. Well, how very dare he? Nobody of any consequence took a blind bit of notice of this ludicrous claim, of course. Because it was the Daily Scum Mail doing just exactly what the Daily Scum Mail always does. Talking utter rank bollocks.
The News Corporation team responsible for investigating alleged illegal payments by Sun journalists has defended its activities, dismissing the claim that it is passing information to the police about expenses claims for lunch or drinks with contacts as a 'complete red herring.' A spokesman for News Corp's management and standards committee said that it will not be disclosing the names of police officers or any other public servants whose names appear on expense claims for lunches, amid fears that journalists' relationships with 'sources' are becoming criminalised. 'The information handed to police is [relating to] unlawful material. The information is redacted to ensure that lawful journalistic inquiries are not threatened,' the spokesman added. Information supplied by the MSC to the Metropolitan police has led to the arrest of nine current and former Sun journalists, two police officers, an MoD employee and a member of the armed forces in relation to alleged illegal payments to public officials in the past three weeks. More arrests are expected to follow. The MSC spokesman said: 'The work of the MSC is focused on payments that look unlawful on the advice of lawyers who are expert in these matters, where there is evidence which looks to be payments to public officials, policemen or others, that is deemed to be relevant to the Elveden inquiry. It is not about lunches or drinks. That is a complete red herring. This is about significant payments to a number of state officials that appear to be in breach of the law.' However, he could not give reassurances that names would not be disclosed, even if stories that resulted from a public official being paid were in the public interest. Because paying public officials is illegal and you get put in jail for that shit, why is it so difficult for these people to understand? 'There is no public interest in law for public officials accepting bribes,' he said. Thank you. At last someone seems to have grasped the fundamentals of this case. If - and it's still unproven - police officers, MoD officials or civil servants (all of whom have signed the Official Secrets Act) have been paid by journalists for a story, even if it was in the public interest, then both they and the journalists who've paid them have broken the law. The MSC spokesman added that the release of information that led to the recent arrests of Sun staff 'did not breach the newspaper industry's code of conduct,' which requires 'sources' to be protected, adding that it has 'a legitimate obligation' to co-operate with the police. The comments come amid fears from Sun staff that the release of material by the MSC, set up by News Corp in July last year to conduct an internal inquiry into phone-hacking and other allegations of illegal practices by News International journalists, will put whistleblowers at risk. On Tuesday The Times reported that the MSC had disclosed the identity of police officers, a civil servant and an army officer to Scotland Yard because it did not believe they were 'legitimate sources.' The National Union of Journalists said that it was now considering writing to the MSC to 'seek reassurances' that journalists' 'sources' are being protected. The NUJ plans to get in touch with journalists from the Sun and appealed for staff on the paper to contact it to discuss their concerns. The union, of course, is not recognised by News International - who've always been such a big fan of unions in general, haven't they? - but the NUJ said that this would not prevent staff joining or talking to its officers. Michelle Stanistreet, the NUJ general secretary, said it believed that newspapers should co-operate with the police where there is evidence of illegal activity, 'but making this material available without consultation with the journalists involved is unacceptable.' Stanistreet added: 'We are receiving calls from whistleblowers who had been assured that they would be protected, and who now fear for their jobs and worse. Journalists at the Sun are offered no protection from a union independent from the News International management, which is now sacrificing them to appease America.' Some newspaper industry insiders, according to the Gruniad, allegedly predict that 'legitimate sources with stories in key public sectors' such as government, police and customs may now start to dry up amid a fear, however misplaced, that they may no longer have full protection. Journalists across News International's three titles – the Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times – fear there are more arrests to come. 'How do we know the names of people in e-mails written five or six years ago are not being handed to police? Or a lunch or drinks you might have had with a police officer now constitutes bribery?' said one senior News International journalist. Well, it's very simple, mate. Having a drink with a police officer is not illegal. Paying him money to give you a story, is. So, don't do it. Then you won't get arrested. The MSC protests that there is 'a misunderstanding' about how its relationship with police officers who are effectively in-residence in the building it occupies in Wapping. It is not trawling through internal e-mail correspondence and other documentation and saying to police 'We have a good one for you,' according to one alleged 'source' - albeit anonymous - whom the Gruniad claims is 'familiar' with the MSC operation. 'The police already have identified the areas' they are investigating and 'only things that show prima facie evidence of criminality' are being shared with detectives, the source said.

Odious George Osborne has claimed that the BBC helps to fuel an anti-business culture which makes people feel they are being 'ripped off by every company in Britain.' The chancellor made the accusation while speaking on BBC Radio 4's flagship Today programme, following a warning that the UK's credit rating could be downgraded by a key ratings agency. While defending the pro-business stance of his government, Osborne compared the BBC to the women who gathered in the front row of executions during the French Revolution to watch the demise of aristocrats. 'The BBC is often in the front row of the tumbrils, doing its knitting,' he said. 'We have got to celebrate business in this country.' Osborne - once alleged to have snorted cocaine with a prostitute, which he denied - claimed that the 'only story' which was usually reported about business was the 'relentless diet' of pieces about how 'we are being ripped off by every company in Britain.' The cabinet minister added: 'We are a pro-business government, we are cutting business taxes in order to make Britain an attractive place to start a business, run a business and employ people.' Following the row that resulted in Royal Bank Of Scotland chief executive Stephen Hester giving up his bonus, Osborne cautioned against the 'relentless attack' on people who want to create successful businesses. He accepted that there 'shouldn't be rewards for failure,' but said that the current 'anti-business culture' was potentially damaging for Britain. 'We draw a distinction between sorting out the mess in the banking system and this relentless attack on anyone who makes any money out of a successful business and out of successfully employing people,' he said. 'That is dangerous for Britain because it will mean people are put off coming here and setting up businesses.' Politicians have previously complained about an alleged (and, entirely fictitious) left-wing 'bias' in the BBC's coverage of prominent political stories, but this is the first time that such a high profile minister has directly taken the corporation to task. The Daily Torygraph - of course - reports that 'some ministers' (anonymous, surprisingly) are 'so concerned' about the issue of bias that they have 'launched an unofficial boycott' of Radio 4's Today programme. Good. The less we heard from those odious wastes of space, the better, frankly.

And now, the least surprisingly TV industry rumour of recent months; that the BBC is set to axe the David Jason comedy vehicle - and sensational flop - The Royal Bodyguard after it lost over five million viewers in just six weeks and was ritually slaughtered by the critics. And this blog. See, From The North does count for something, it would appear. The Royal Bodyguard launched on Boxing Day with impressive ratings. Overnight figures placed viewers at over seven million viewers while final consolidated figures including timeshifts gave the episode over eight million viewers. The critics, though, were not impressed by the new BBC1 comedy and soon ratings plunged; by the its finale ratings had dropped below three million viewers. It is hardly surprising, then, that the BBC looks set to cancel the show with one, alleged, 'insider' telling TV Biz: 'Unfortunately the show just did not work out. Ratings fell and it got a mauling in the Press. It is highly unlikely that it will return.' Jason has already admitted the comedy didn't work as expected telling the Radio Times: 'We tried, we had a good go, we enjoyed doing it and, yeah, perhaps I think we didn't quite bring it off.' The BBC are still insisting that 'no decision' has been taken about The Royal Bodyguard's future, yet, but on all sorts of levels it seems highly unlikely it'll be back. Few will mourn its passing.

Sky1 have announced that Kiefer Sutherland's new US drama series Touch will launch on the channel next month. The first episode will be broadcast at 8pm on Tuesday 13 March. Created by Tim Kring, Touch follows Martin Bohm (Sutherland), a widower and single father, haunted by an inability to connect to his mute eleven-year-old son, Jake, played by David Mazouz. Discussing his new role role, Sutherland commented: 'There was something interesting because obviously this is very different to 24. Yet there is a real similar through line in the kind of character of the man. Jack Bauer would be faced with unbelievable circumstances in the course of a day and he would never win completely.' The actor continued: 'This guy is never going to win either. He's never going to have the quintessential relationship of a father and a son. And yet he perseveres and that's a great kind of character statement and I identified with him greatly on that.' The cast of Touch also includes Lethal Weapon star Danny Glover as a professor and British actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw as a social worker.

Jonny Lee Miller has been cast in the lead role of CBS's upcoming Sherlock Holmes pilot Elementary. The modern-day retelling of the classic detective was announced last month, much to the irritation of the BBC who've already got one, and will take place in New York. The former Trainspotting and Eli Stone actor is the first confirmed casting for the project, reports Deadline. Robert Doherty has written the pilot's script, and will also executive produce alongside Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly, with Michael Cuesta directing. Miller recently appeared on stage in Danny Boyle's Frankenstein opposite Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's detective in the BBC's present-day, London-based Sherlock. Sherlock executive Sue Vertue recently stated that the BBC was 'extremely worried' about the prospect of an American adaptation. Not to mention 'irked', 'incandescent with rage' and 'wathcing this space very closely for anything they can sue over.' If picked up to a full series, Elementary will most likely be part of the CBS 2012 fall schedule.

A sixty-year-old grandmother and 'retired dogsbody' has appeared on three BBC quiz shows in the space of two weeks. However, Pat Barker's trio of appearances did not prove fruitful and she failed to win a prize on any of them. Ah well, it's not the winning that's important, it's the taking part. Although the winning is nice, if you can manage it. Her first appearance was on Alexander Armstrong;s daytime quiz Pointless, on which she appeared with her son. The pair lost in the final round. She later starred on Mastermind, with the specialist subject of EastEnders, and Nick Knowles' BBC2 series Perfection. She lost on both shows. Speaking about her glut of TV appearances, Pat told the Mirra: 'It is just unfortunate. They were all recorded at different times last year. People might think there are some underhand dealings going on, but this is just one hell of a coincidence. I was absolutely assured that there was no chance in the world that they would all be on at the same time. I think it's hilarious.' Joking about her lack of prizes on the shows, she added: 'I didn't think I did that well. The brain is going a bit. You know the answer but you can't get it out fast enough. I'm getting old.'

Glasgow Rangers Football Club has entered administration - meaning that the club will be docked ten points, effectively ending its Scottish Premier League challenge and handing the title to their rivals, Celtic. The club appointed the London firm Duff and Phelps as administrators on Tuesday afternoon. The move followed an unsuccessful legal bid by HM Revenue and Customs at the Court of Session in Edinburgh to appoint its own administrator. It has now emerged that Rangers' game against Kilmarnock on Saturday may not go ahead unless police can be paid. Rangers owner Craig Whyte confirmed on Monday that the club had filed legal papers to appoint administrators. It was initially thought that the club had ten days to make a decision on whether to proceed, but the HMRC action on Tuesday changed the dynamic of the situation. Duff and Phelps were later appointed as administrators and will now take over the day-to-day running of Rangers while addressing its massive debt problems. Following the case a spokesman for HMRC said: 'We can't discuss specific cases for legal reasons but tax that has been deducted at source from the wages of players and support staff such as ground keepers and physios, must be paid over to HMRC. Any business that fails to meet that basic legal requirement puts the survival of the business at risk.' That doesn't sound like not being able to discuss a specific case at all, really, does it? Former Rangers owner Sir David Murray said he was 'hugely disappointed' at the club's decision to appoint administrators and expressed surprise at the timing of the decision. Scottish Sport Minister Shona Robison said Rangers' current dreadful plight was 'a concerning situation for everyone involved in Scottish football.' She added: 'Football is our national game and it is now for the administrators to take forward the process of assessing the business and securing an outcome in the best interests of the club, its staff, supporters and the game of football as a whole in Scotland.' In a statement about Saturday's game, Strathclyde Police said that it had a duty to make sure public resources were used appropriately. 'We are seeking an urgent meeting with the administrators to ensure that any payment for policing costs at future Rangers games is guaranteed,' said the force. 'Until we have such a guarantee we would not be in a position to commit public resources to policing an event unless we had a reassurance that our costs would be met.' The financial storm engulfing Rangers has several fronts. Whyte has acknowledged that the club has a ten million quid deficit in its annual running costs. It was reported last week that the chairman had also borrowed up to twenty four million smackers against four years of future season ticket revenue from Ticketus. Most serious of all, Rangers awaits a tax tribunal decision over a disputed bill, plus penalties, totalling forty nine million notes. Whyte was reported on Monday as saying this potential liability to HMRC could reach up to seventy five million knicker if the club losses the tribunal. HMRC believes the Ibrox club owes cash over its use of Employment Benefit Trusts to pay staff over a ten-year period. It alleges that the club did not administer the scheme properly and underpaid tax. Rangers disputes this and has contested the claim in a first tier tax tribunal, which is due to report within weeks. After the club signalled its intention to go into administration on Monday, Whyte said the 'best outcome' would be to reach a creditors agreement which would allow the club to continue trading. Whyte is believed to be a secured creditor of Rangers and would have to be paid first ahead of others such as HMRC. However, if HMRC holds twenty five per cent or more of the club's debt it can block a creditors agreement which is necessary for Rangers to exit administration. If a creditors agreement cannot be reached - and if the club cannot be sold - it is possible that Rangers could be wound up. The ramifications for the Scottish game, if that happened, would be grave and far-reaching. It is likely that all existing TV deals, which provide significant revenue streams for Scottish clubs, would be scaled back or in extreme cases cancelled altogether. The absence of Rangers fans at other grounds in the SPL would also reduce revenue to competitor clubs.

Ed Stoppard has criticised the press for trying to create rivalry between ITV's Downton Abbey and the BBC's Upstairs Downstairs. Given ITV's wrecthed sneering over any negative reaction to their clear and obvious attempt to derail Upstairs Downstairs' second series opener by shifting Corrie to Sunday nights for a week, I think Ed's ire might be better directed elsewhere, frankly.

Two UK newspaper adverts for budget airline Ryanair have been banned after complaints from readers that they were sexist and objectified women. The Advertising Standards Authority, which received seventeen complaints, said they were 'likely to cause offence.' The adverts showed women posing in bra and pants with the headline Red Hot Fares & Crew! One way from £9.99. Ryanair said that since crew members 'volunteered' to take part, it could not be seen to objectify women. The airline said the adverts 'promoted its cabin crew charity calendar' and used images taken directly from it. The adverts featured in the good old feminist-friendly Gruniad, the Independent and the Daily Torygraph. Ryanair said 'because similar images of women and men often featured in the same media, the ads could not be deemed offensive or unsuitable for public display.' However, the ASA found the women's appearance, stance and gaze - together with the headline - would be seen as linking female cabin crew with sexually suggestive behaviour and breached the advertising practice code. 'We considered that the ads were likely to cause widespread offence, when displayed in a national newspaper,' it said. The advertising watchdog said the adverts must not appear again. Ryanair has been reprimanded by the ASA on a number of occasions over the years.

The latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day is a Northern kitchen sink drama of lost innocence and unrequited love. And, it's beautiful. Here's Stephen, Johnny, Andy and Mike.

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