Friday, February 10, 2012

The Kiss of Death

The BBC has strongly denied newspaper claims that it shelved a Newsnight report into allegations that Sir Jimmy Savile sexually abused girls at Television Centre over fears that it would damage the corporation's reputation. Newsnight editor Peter Rippon said that the claims, which appeared in the Daily Torygraph and Daily Scum Mail today, are 'absolutely untrue.' Mendacious smears, one might suggest if one was in a particularly mischievous mood. He said that the investigation was dropped for 'editorial reasons,' and described the suggestion that the BBC may have withheld evidence from police as 'malicious' and 'damaging.' Newsnight had run an investigation into allegations that Sir Jimmy, one of the BBC's most colourful characters, may have sexually abused teenage girls in his dressing room at the BBC's West London base. The programme had tracked down several women who claimed that Savile, who died last October, used his position on the Clunk Click and Jim'll Fix It shows in the 1970s to 'groom' young girls. According to the newspaper reports, Newsnight dropped its plans to run the report last December. It was claimed that 'BBC management' expressed concerns that the report would clash with two planned tribute programmes to Savile's lengthy career at the corporation. The reports also claimed that the BBC may have 'covered up' the allegations, which were published in The Oldie magazine. An alleged - and anonymous - BBC 'source' was allegedly quoted as saying: 'The extreme nature of the claims about Savile meant that the Newsnight report was going to seriously compromise the lavish BBC tributes scheduled to run later the same month. And second, the allegations directly involved the BBC, in that the woman who gave the interview said that she and others were abused by Savile on BBC premises.' However, Newsnight editor Peter Rippon has said that the report was dropped from the programme because it could not be substantiated. 'It is absolutely untrue that the Newsnight investigation was dropped for anything other than editorial reasons,' said Rippon. 'We have been very clear from the start that the piece was not broadcast because the story we were pursuing could not be substantiated. To say otherwise is false and very damaging to the BBC and individuals. To allege that we are withholding evidence from the police is also damaging and false. The notion that internal pressure was applied appears to be a malicious rumour.' A BBC spokesperson added: 'Any suggestion that a story was dropped for anything other than editorial reasons is completely untrue. The BBC gathers information on hundreds of stories and not all make it to air. In this case the angle we were pursuing could not be substantiated.'

Odious big-mouthed Alex Salmond has been told that he can complain to the BBC over the decision not to include him in last Saturday's rugby coverage, despite him causing controversy by using a term linked to Nazi Germany to object to the move. Lord Patten, the chairman of the BBC Trust, held talks with Salmond at Holyrood, in which he advised that a formal complaint is probably the best way to resolve the dispute one way or the other. Earlier in the week, Scotland's First Minister criticised the corporation after his planned appearance on a sport programme ahead of the Calcutta Cup game was dropped on political grounds. He likened the BBC to 'tin-pot dictatorships,' but caused most controversy by comparing one of the corporation's advisers to a Gauleiter, a - hugely loaded - term given to provincial governors in Germany and its environs under Hitler. The word has more recently come to mean someone in authority who behaves in an overbearing manner, similarly to 'a little Hitler.' The BBC chairman said: 'The First Minister has a specific complaint about the Calcutta Cup, and the way his non-interview was handled. I've suggested that he should make a proper, formal complaint, or rather the government perhaps should on his behalf. It will eventually come to us at the Trust to adjudicate on. I think that is the way in which we can deal with that.' However, a BBC statement has revealed fresh details about what actually happened. The corporation said that it was 'duty bound' to ensure 'due impartiality' in its output, but also suggested that the First Minister had made 'repeated attempts' to get on BBC channels. The statement said: 'On this occasion, having been approached by the First Minister's office, BBC Sport asked for advice and with the full agreement of both the Head of TV Sport and the Director of BBC Scotland, the judgment was made that the Scotland vs England match was not an appropriate setting in which to give one single political leader that level of prominence. A similar suggestion that the First Minister might take part in BBC Radio Scotland's rugby coverage had already been declined. Radio 5Live also turned down the offer of an interview with the First Minister following advice from the CPA.' Opposition politicians in Scotland have been quick to pounce on the controversy, particularly Salmond's use of the word Gauleiters and his attempts to get on the BBC's coverage. Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory leader, told the Daily Telegraph: 'So, now it appears that the BBC is a "tinpot dictatorship" populated by "Gauleiters" simply for saying no to the First Minister as he shamelessly hawks himself from programme to programme demanding unfettered access to the nation's airwaves.' And, yes, the spectre of some odious Tory rent-a-quote suddenly coming to the BBC is almost - almost, but not quite - as offensive as Salmond's original comments, frankly. Labour MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife John Park added: 'The SNP had us believe that an invitation from the BBC had been withdrawn. Now it transpires that it was actually Alex Salmond who demanded to get his face on the TV in the first place. Our national broadcaster is not there to give him free publicity.' Remember, dear blog reader, all politicians are - without exception - scum. In 2010, Salmond also submitted a complaint to the BBC Trust over his party's exclusion from the TV prime ministerial debates ahead of the general election, although it was ultimately rejected. Lord Patten also said that Salmond has raised 'some serious concerns' about the balance of the BBC's reporting of the recent referendum issue in Scotland, and the BBC chairman intends to 'look at' these with BBC management.

Foyle's War could return with a new series next year, a report has claimed. The popular ITV historical drama stars Michael Kitchen as a detective working in Hastings before, during, and after the Second World War. Writer Anthony Horowitz recently said on his website that the show 'could' return in 2013, though he explained that nothing is 'definite.' Cast member Julian Ovenden has now also revealed that talks to bring the show back for an eighth series are taking place, the Sun claims. 'It's a possibility,' he said. 'And it will be interesting to see what happens as the war ended in the last series. So it's an interesting conundrum.'

As alluded to earlier in the week, both Mick Aston and Mary-Ann Ochota have announced that they have left Channel Four's long-running archaeology series Time Team within the space of two days. In what is fast becoming Special K-gate Aston's exit was, he claimed, due to his annoyance at what he perceived to be a 'dumbing down' of the programme. The archaeology expert, who has worked on the show for nearly two decades, allegedly did not approve of the appointment of Cambridge graduate Ochota. Speaking to the magazine British Archaeology, Aston, the show's former site director, said: 'The time had come to leave. I never made any money out of it, but a lot of my soul went into it. I feel really, really angry about it.' Ochota confirmed that there were 'issues' between her and Aston on Time Team's Facebook page yesterday as she announced that she would also be departing the programme. 'I always loved Time Team, and was very excited to be working with Mick - he wasn't so keen!' she wrote. Channel Four denied that Ochota has quit, claiming that her contract was 'not renewed' for the show's twentieth anniversary series which will be filmed this summer and broadcast early next year. 'Mary-Ann will not be returning for the next series of Time Team, which will be aired in 2013,' said a rep for the broadcaster. Ochota expressed disappointment in her Facebook post at the way the press had portrayed her role on the show, arguing that her former career as a model was not important. 'I'm sad about how this story has been told in the press. I was brought in to be a co-presenter, not an archaeologist, so that I could ask the questions that viewers might be asking,' she said. 'The series didn't work out quite how I wanted it to either. Needless to say I'm not coming back for the next series either!' I must admit, as a long-term viewer of the show, I've lost a hell of a lot of respect for Mick Aston over this whole malarkey. A case of throwing toys out of prams and lumping all the blame onto a twenty nine year old lass is, frankly, disgusting. She might well be a crap presenter and have once been a model but nobody deserves the kind of bollocks she's been getting thrown at her recently, seemingly directly because of Professor Aston shooting his mouth off in public. Shame on you.

Animal rights group PETA has called for TV and film safety rules to be tightened after two horses were put down during filming for HBO drama Luck. The animals were injured in the making of the show starring Dustin Hoffman. PETA said that it 'repeatedly reached out' to HBO before filming to offer safety advice but was 'rebuffed.' HBO, which worked with the American Humane Association, said both were 'committed to ensuring all necessary safety procedures' were in place. Luck, conceived by NYPD Blue creator David Milch, is billed as 'a provocative look at the world of horse racing - the owners, gamblers, jockeys and diverse gaming industry players.' The first episode - shown in the US on 29 January - will be broadcast in the UK on Sky Atlantic on 18 February. The AHA said in a statement that the fatal accidents had taken place several months apart - one during the filming of a pilot episode and another during the filming of the seventh show. The organisation's standard 'no animals were harmed' statement was removed from the credits of both episodes. Is anybody else recalling that Steve Coogan character from The Day Today talking about his safety record? 'In 1981, no one died. In 1982, no one died. In 1983, no one died. In 1984 no one died. In 1985, one person died. In 1986, no one died...' One supposes that for those two episodes the caption will read 'Some animals were hurts - really quite a lot - during the making of this episode.' Which would be novel. The AHA said both racehorses 'stumbled and fell during short racing sequences. The horses were checked immediately afterwards by the on-site veterinarians and in each case a severe fracture deemed the condition inoperable,' it added. 'The decision was that the most humane course of action was euthanasia.' Humane, you'll note, not equine. Interesting choice of words, that. It listed a series of precautions taken including that each horse was 'limited to three runs per day and was rested in between those runs.' In a statement released to the New York Observer, HBO said filming was suspended after the second accident 'while the production worked with AHA and racing industry experts to adopt additional protocols specifically for horse racing sequences.' They included 'the hiring of an additional veterinarian and radiography of the legs of all horses being used by the production. HBO fully adopted all of AHA's rigorous safety guidelines before production resumed.' But, in a blog on its website, PETA said: 'Perhaps if producers had considered the proved safety protocols that we would have suggested, these horses would still be alive.' It added that 'two dead horses in a handful of episodes exemplify the dark side of using animals in television, movies, and ads.' It said it was now in discussions with HBO 'about how to prevent even more deaths on the show.'
Public relations guru Max Clifford has described the phone-hacking scandal as a 'cancer' within journalism, and suggested that some reporters were forced to take part. Speaking at the Leveson investigation into press ethics and standards on Thursday, Clifford said that he was aware of several stories which had been held back by tabloid editors in the past few months because they were 'frightened' of the inquiry. He also contradicted claims made by Heather Mills about whether she allowed Piers Morgan to listen to a voicemail left for her by ex-husband Sir Paul McCartney while she was on holiday. Clifford, who claims to have become 'aware' of mobile phone-hacking in early 2000, discussed the details of a one million smackers settlement that he reached with former News International boss, well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks after he discovered that the Scum of the World had hacked his phone. Clifford said that some of the journalists involved in phone-hacking at the now defunct, disgraced and disgraceful Sunday tabloid were 'pushed' into the criminal behaviour. 'It involved a tiny minority and some of them were forced,' he said. 'If you don't you're out, you're sacked, you're finished. It was a cancer which is now hopefully being cut out.' Clifford told the inquiry that the public only really became incensed about phone-hacking after it was revealed that people like murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler had been targeted. 'What really got the British public angry was Milly Dowler and the McCanns. They didn't care about the stars, or me, having their phones-hacked,' he said. 'Most people didn't care. But when they read about Milly Dowler and the McCanns they were shocked and horrified and that had an effect.' Clifford said that the process of journalists listening into phone calls (via bugging or other methods) went back years, since the days of Muhammad Ali and Marlon Brando. He insisted that freedom of the press is of paramount importance, and pointed to countries such as China and Russia where journalists are 'slaves to the system.' However, he said that an effective press watchdog is required to block papers from publishing stories that could be damaging, particularly to 'ordinary people.' Clifford was also asked about the infamous Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster story, which was published in the Sun in 1986, alleging that the comedian had consumed someone's pet. He said that he - as Starr's media consultant - had given the go-ahead for the then-Sun editor Kelvin McKenzie to publish the story (along with a denial from Starr and his manager that there was any truth in it) as Starr had an upcoming tour at the time and Clifford thought it would be good publicity. Earlier, Heather Mills appeared at the inquiry to discuss a dispute over a message left for her in 2001 by then-husband Sir Paul McCartney. Mills repeated claims she made last August that a journalist had contacted her to say that he knew about the couple's marital problems, and also mentioned the song sung by Sir Paul in the voicemail. The controversy came after former Daily Mirra editor odious slime bucket Piers Morgan confirmed to the inquiry last year that he had listened to the voicemail message left for Mills by Sir Paul, but refused to say when or where over fears that it would compromise his alleged 'source.' Mills has suggested that Morgan could only have heard the voicemail after it had been accessed by the journalist via phone-hacking, as she had never given him to access to her voicemails. But as the statement from Mills was read to Clifford today at the Royal Court of Jusitce, he said that her claims were 'totally untrue; one hundred per cent untrue; without any truth or foundation at all.' Then he added: 'There's an awful lot of things I could say about Heather Mills but I won't.' Oh, go on Max. You know you want to.

The editor of the Daily Scum Mail, the odious Paul Dacre, refused to retract his accusations that the actor Hugh Grant had lied, during sometimes angry exchanges at the Leveson inquiry on Thursday. Asked to apologise and withdraw his claim that Grant had made a 'mendacious smear' against the Scum Mail, the odious Dacre said that he would only do so if Grant withdrew his own statements attacking his papers. He claimed: 'Hugh Grant was obsessed by trying to drag the Daily Mail into another newspaper's scandal.' The veteran editor, asked to answer allegations that an article about Grant's love life might have been obtained by phone-hacking, made plain his resentment that he was being subjected to further cross-examination. He repeatedly interrupted David Sherborne, counsel for Grant and other hacking victims, and talked across him. The odious Dacre described questions as 'irrelevant' and at one point said loudly: 'I'm not going to answer any more questions on that particular point.' He had not studied one witness statement immediately before testifying, he claimed, because he had been busy 'trying to edit my paper.' Despite the jousting, the editor-in-chief of Associated Newspapers shed no more light on the question of how one of his papers, the Scum Mail on Sunday, came to publish an article in 2007 containing allegations of a non-existent affair involving telephone messages between Grant and a 'plummy-voiced woman.' Dacre accused Grant of 'bad faith,' asserting that he had subsequently produced evidence 'out of a hat' suggesting the story must have been based on a misunderstanding of 'flirtatious' late-night phone messages left by a film industry contact. Dacre said: 'Hey presto! He conveniently remembers it!' Dacre claimed that he had been 'assured' the tabloid's story had been obtained by 'legitimate methods.' The paper's editor had told him that a reporter had explained the story had come from a freelance, Sharon Feinstein, who in turn claimed to have got it 'from a source in the Grant camp.' Lord Justice Leveson, who said that he was determined to allow Grant's counsel to have a fair chance to put points to the odious Dacre, told the editor that he would not make a finding of fact about what actually happened over the 'plummy-voiced woman.' His only concern was that the odious Dacre had called Grant's testimony on oath a mendacious smear. 'He's deliberately lying! That's what it means!' The odious Dacre claimed that the opening testimony in the Leveson inquiry had made it 'an extraordinary day. A unique occasion.' Grant was the 'poster boy for the Hacked Off campaign' who had deliberately brought out his allegations. 'He knew the damage it would cause.' Dacre had heard of Grant's testimony on the 4pm radio news while he was in a car and became angry because Grant had been previously 'put on notice' by the Scum Mail group's legal department that his repeated allegations of their involvement in phone hacking were not true. 'We felt we had to respond even more robustly,' the odious Dacre said. 'We needed to fight fire with fire.' He told Leveson: 'I don't think you understand the speed of twenty four-hour instant news.'

'Sources' who worked at the Scum of the World have confirmed an allegation, made at the Leveson inquiry by maverick blogger Paul Staines, that the paper paid him twenty thousand smackers to buy up a photograph of a special adviser to the foreign secretary, William Hague, which they subsequently never published. Staines's claim is potentially explosive because the now-disgraced and disgraceful former Scum of the World editor, Andy Coulson, was acting at the time as the Cameron government's press adviser, and is likely to have been involved in what proved to be a successful battle to save Hague's job. The photograph was bought at the height of a controversy about Hague sharing a hotel room during campaigns with a twenty five-year-old special adviser. Hague was forced to issue a detailed statement denying he had had a gay relationship, and the recently appointed adviser, Chris Myers, resigned. Staines, who runs the political gossip site Order Order under the name Guido Fawkes (check it out, it's very good), told Lord Justice Leveson in sworn testimony: 'We also had pictures of the special adviser in a gay bar. We took the photos to the News of the World. They bought them for twenty thousand pounds and never published them. I don't know very much but I know you don't pay twenty thousand pounds for photos not to publish.' He went on: 'The News of the World was in regular contact with Downing Street, and perhaps to curry favour or for whatever reasons, they chose to buy up those pictures and take them off the market.' News International, the owners of the defunct, disgraced and disgraceful tabloid, declined to comment on the allegations, saying they were 'not prepared' to disclose details of payments made. But two former executives at the paper confirmed the deal to the Gruniad Morning Star, 'on condition of anonymity.' Quite right too. I wouldn't want anyone to know I'd worked for the Scum of the World. Think of the shame. They claimed that the purchase was negotiated via the paper's political staff, and authorised by the then-editor, Colin Myler. One source claimed that Myler bought the picture in order to 'keep it off the market for a week' because he was planning to expose allegations of spot-fixing at Pakistan cricket matches, and wanted it to dominate the headlines that week. But, according to Staines's testimony, he sold the photograph the week after the cricket story, which ran on Sunday 29 August 2010, along with printouts of on-line chat from a website. The following week, after a statement by Hague describing his happy marriage and denying any gay relationships, every Sunday paper bar one carried news stories about the issue, with speculation about the foreign secretary's future. The sole exception was, of course, the Scum of the World.

Cheryl Cole has launched legal proceedings against the publishers of Now magazine, a spokesperson for the singer has confirmed. The action comes after the magazine ran an interview with So Solid Crew rapper MC Harvey, in which he spoke about an alleged relationship with Cole. Cole strongly denied the claims on Twitter, asking the rapper: 'Was this "relationship" happening in your head?! Are you smoking something? I think I've met you once maybe twice at public events and with your wife!' However, in a radio interview, Harvey insisted that he never suggested he had had a sexual relationship with Cole, instead describing it as a 'communication relationship' due to the e-mails he had received from her. A statement from Cole's representatives said: 'Cheryl Cole has today commenced legal proceedings in London against the publishers of Now magazine as a result of its two articles about her alleged "secret romance" with Michael Harvey. Cheryl's lawyers have asked to see Mr Harvey's alleged e-mails which the magazine says are "proof" of the "romance" but it claims not to have them in its possession. Mr Harvey's claims are denied by Cheryl and she looks forward to seeing both him and the magazine in court at the very earliest opportunity.' Now has continued to defend the interview, with Tim Parish - a media lawyer and legal advisor to the magazine - verifying the existence of e-mails between Cole and Harvey. 'I concluded that the messages were real, had not been doctored in any way and confirm he was in a romantic relationship with the sender,' he said in a statement. Big fight, little people!

From the ridiculous to Channel Four, which is to attempt to Escape from Colditz. The broadcaster has commissioned a ninety-minute documentary to investigate whether the never-to-happen plan to escape the famous prison camp would have worked. 'I love ideas that put visual spectacle and real engineering challenge centre stage - and that's certainly what Windfall and Hugh are doing here,' said Commissioning Editor Julia Harrington. Windfall Films has been commissioned to make Escape from Colditz which will be broadcast on Channel Four in the summer and will focus on the most audacious plan ever devised to escape from a prison camp. In 1945, two British prisoners-of-war were to be catapulted from the roof of notorious Colditz Castle in a homemade glider, fly it to a meadow one hundred and eighty metres below, where they would continue their escape on foot. The Colditz Cock, as the glider was called, represents an incredible feat of aeronautical engineering - particularly since it had to be built in secret in a tiny attic using homemade tools and improvised materials like bed boards, sleeping bags, gramophone springs and porridge. The war ended before the Cock ever had the chance to stretch its wings and no one knows if the master plan would have actually worked. Led by engineer extraordinaire Dr Hugh Hunt a team of daredevil engineers attempts to rebuild the glider in the very same loft in Colditz, using similar materials to the wartime POWs and comparable homemade tools. Luckily for the Channel Four project quite a bit is already known about the glider and how it was built; there are the original plans and there's even a photograph of it. Executive producer, Ian Duncan says, 'I'm already practicing the German for "I'm sorry our glider hit your house." Hopefully it won't come to that, but that's why this is exciting - no one knows whether this is actually going to work.' Precious little information remains about how the Colditz Cock was to be launched from the roof. Officials from the State of Saxony who own the castle have granted Windfall Films permission to restage the glider launch from the roof of Colditz to find out whether the plan would have ever actually worked. Dr Hugh Hunt has a compelling personal reason for taking part in the project. His uncle William Anderson was imprisoned in the castle from 1941-1945.

Bath City Football Club has invited fans to enter a draw to rename its stadium. Named Twerton Park since 1932, chairman Manda Rigby is allowing supporters the opportunity if they each pay a fifty pound fee. The winner will be picked out of a hat. 'We pride ourselves on being innovative at Bath City, and the stadium name draw is just the most recent example,' Rigby is quoted in the Gruniad as saying. Because, seemingly, they didn't have any proer news to report. 'We hope that businesses locally and nationally will recognise the tremendous value of acquiring the naming rights to our ground for just fifty pounds but we also want our fans and the general public to get involved as well.' The Romans, who currently sit at the foot of the Blue Square Conference, are hoping the idea helps them financially. Captain Jim Rollo, who has made over four hundred and fifty appearances for the club, believes the draw is 'a brilliant idea.'

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day we have an eighties masterpiece. Here are The News. (incidentally, there are - literally - several brilliant live clips of 'Perfect Kiss' available on YouTube, including one that's about ten minutes long. But I've gone for the video for the simple reason that Gillian looks 'kin stunning in it! ... And, Hooky doesn't look bad either.)

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