Friday, March 30, 2012

I Remember How The Darkness Doubled

Let's start off the latest From The North bloggerisationisms with a quick 'get well soon' for yer actual Keith Telly Topping's old mate Abie. Who is, apparently, feeling a bit queer at the moment. That's queer in the old sense. As in ... well, you know what I mean. Anyway, get well soon, Ian. Rock journalism needs you.

Secondly, here's an amusing little tale concerning the new Doctor Who companion, Jenna-Louise Coleman. Last week yer actual Keith Telly Topping was somewhere, doing something, and he got chatting to someone about life in general and the new Doctor Who companion in particular. The details aren't really that important and I'll spare the person involved the potential embarrassment of me naming them. (So, your secret is totally safe with me, Ewan.) Anyway, this person, a Doctor Who fan of some vintage, noted: 'She seems very nice but she said something that made me think she might be a bit ... chavvy.' This blogger was somewhat taken aback by the very suggestion. Personally, yer actual Keith Telly Topping had completely missed said alleged allusions to inherent chavvines so he went back to Jenna's press interviews on the day of her casting announcement to see if he could find 'em. Nope. Not even a smidgen. What he did find, however, was what might well be the single most middle-class moment in Doctor Who companion casting history when the lovely Jenna, twenty six, revealed that she'd been shopping in Marks & Spencer's, buying an avocado when she got the call from Steven Moffat. I mean, come on. There's not very many avocados on yer average council estate. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping knows, dear blog reader, he lives on one. (It's also interesting to note that, since Jenna's character name hasn't yet been announced, some sections of fandom are, apparently, referring to her character as 'Avocado' in speculative postings about what series seven may contain!) So, dear blog reader, there you have it. Never judge a book by its cover. Or, indeed, a fruit by its presence in someone's shopping basket. Let's just say that Jenna-Louise is no ordinary companion. She's a Marks & Spencer companion!

Hang a black flag from the big red balls and pack away the sucker punch, they're not going to be needed no more. BBC1's Saturday night game show Total Wipeout has been cancelled after six series, the corporation has confirmed. The programme, which usually sees full-of-themselves contestants tackle a number of spectacularly silly obstacle course challenges and more often than not, very amusingly, fall flat on their face in the mud, will return for one more - fifth - series (ten episodes) later this year before ending. Hosted by Richard Hammond and Amanda Byram (who are both, actually, rather good on it), around six and a half million viewers tuned in to watch the show at its peak in 2009 and 2010. The spin-off show Winter Wipeout, which ended earlier this month, was still pulling in around four million viewers weekly as recently as last month. There have also been celebrity versions of the show, which have seen actors, athletes and TV personalities take part. I suppose the thinking here is that there's only so many times viewers can watch boastful fitness instructors from Essex or even more boastful young professionals from the home counties getting smacked in the mush by a foam boxing glove and falling in the clarts before it ceases to be funny. But, for what it's worth, it always worked for this blogger! Simple things, I suppose. 'After four very successful series of Total Wipeout, and one series of Winter Wipeout, the BBC has taken the decision that the next series will be the last,' a BBC spokeswoman said. The Wipeout format - which sees contestants flown to Buenos Aires in Argentina to compete for a cash prize - has become a hit internationally, with twenty nine countries using the purpose-built set. It is understood that show producers Endemol are in talks with the Beeb for a new replacement show to fill the Saturday tea time slot. However, they have not ruled out a return for Total Wipeout to UK screens in future in the form of specials and the like.

BBC2 comedy series Rev led the way at this year's Broadcasting Press Guild Awards, winning four prizes. The series scooped the prize for best comedy and entertainment show and best writing, while co-star Olivia Colman picked up two awards. There were also awards for The Choir: Military Wives, Eric & Ernie and Appropriate Adult. The awards, which are being handed out at London's Theatre Royal, were voted for by media journalists. Rev is about a modern day vicar, played by co-writer Tom Hollander, who runs a church in central London. Colman, who plays his wife in the series, picked up the prizes for best actress and the best breakthrough for her role in Rev and Exile. The Choir: Military Wives was hugely successful for BBC2 and was named best factual entertainment programme at Friday's ceremony. The series followed Gareth Malone, who formed a choir with the partners left behind by troops away in Afghanistan. The award for best single drama went to another BBC2 programme, Eric & Ernie, and BBC1 won both the documentary awards. Panorama: Undercover Care - The Abuse Exposed was voted best single documentary and Frozen Planet, narrated by David Attenborough, was named best documentary series. There were two awards for ITV's Appropriate Adult, including best drama series and best actor for Dominic West's portrayal of the serial killer Fred West. Sky1's drama series Mad Dogs - starring Max Beesley, Philip Glenister, John Simm and Marc Warren - won the BPG multi-channel award. BBC Radio 4 won the award for best radio programme - Archive on 4 - and Chris Watson was named radio broadcaster of the year, in special recognition of The Wire. Hartswood Films founder and chairman Beryl Vertue was presented with the Harvey Lee award for outstanding contribution to broadcasting. She was recognised for selling UK comedy formats to the US and working as an independent producer on shows such as Men Behaving Badly, Coupling and Sherlock.
Former News International chief executive and well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks is to appear at the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics in May, a prominent political blogger has claimed. Guido Fawkes suggests that Brooks, who was re-arrested and bailed earlier this month in the police probe into newspaper phone hacking and corruption, has been informed of her 'impending star turn' at the inquiry. There has been no confirmation on this from the Leveson Inquiry, or from other sources. The inquiry was set up by David Cameron - in a complete and total panic which he's probably now regretting - to investigate press ethics and standards in the wake of the public moral outrage at the hacking affair which engulfed and, very satisfyingly closed, the Scum of the World. The disgraced and disgraceful scum Sunday tabloid was published by a subsidiary of News International until it was dropped like hot shit last July after a string of shocking revelations, including that journalists had intercepted the voicemails of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler in 2002 and the families of other victims of crime. Charges which, to date, News International have not denied despite having spent the previous four years claiming that only one lone rouge reporter was involved in any hacking what had gone on, honest guv. It is expected that well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks will be somewhat limited in what evidence she can provide due to 'ongoing police investigations,' but her appearance will provide some awkward moments for the Prime Minister. Cameron is a close personal friend of Brooks and her racehorse trainer husband Charlie (they were at Eton together). It also recently emerged that the Prime Minister rode a horse which was loaned to Brooks by the Metropolitan Police in circumstances that have been described as 'odd.' Fawkes himself was summoned to Leveson himself last year to explain how parts of the witness statement of Alastair Campbell, the former spin doctor to Tony Blair, had leaked out early.

Meanwhile, one of well-known Crystal-Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks's predecessors as Scum of the World editor, Phil Hall, has apologised to Gordon Ramsay for passing on information about the chef which he admitted 'may have been obtained by illegitimate means.' Hall, founder of PR agency Phil Hall Associates, issued the public apology on Thursday after settling out of court with Ramsay and agreeing to make a donation - we're presuming quite a large one - to a charity of Ramsay's choice. The information sold by Hall to the Daily Scum Mail concerned a shark-fishing trip attended by Ramsay shortly before he appeared in a TV programme criticising the trade, the high court was told. In the apology Hall admits that he should not have passed on personal family pictures and medical information provided by the chef's former business partner and father-in-law, Christopher Hutcheson. Hall's lawyers said that the PR man did not know that any e-mails had been unlawfully intercepted. A spokesman said that Hall 'absolutely' did not know the provenance of the e-mails and that Hutcheson is now no longer a client of PHA. 'In late 2010 and early 2011, I was engaged by Chris Hutcheson (Mr Ramsay's father-in-law) and asked to pass certain stories to the newspapers regarding Gordon Ramsay. In particular, Mr Hutcheson provided me with private information about the Ramsays, including personal family pictures and medical information,' Hall said. 'I accept that, given the public breakdown of the relationship between Mr Hutcheson and Mr Ramsay, of which I was fully aware at the time, I should have guessed that Mr Hutcheson was not entitled to this information and in all likelihood may have come by it via illegitimate means. I would like to offer Gordon, Tana and their family a full and unreserved apology for my actions and any distress caused, and, at Mr Ramsay's request, I have made a donation to a charity of his choice.' It had emerged during a previous legal battle between Ramsay and Hutcheson that the chef's former father-in-law had unlawfully accessed his e-mails. The dispute was eventually settled with Ramsay paying Hutcheson two million smackers to buy him out of the chef's catering empire earlier this year. At a high court hearing earlier this month Ramsay's lawyers claimed that Hall had 'conspired' with Hutcheson to publish personal information about the chef while the dispute was ongoing. This was denied by Hall and the hearing was due to resume on Thursday, but was settled the previous night. The Daily Scum Mail's odious report in January included pictures of the trip in which Ramsay appeared to catch a shark which was then drowned. In the documentary Shark Bait, broadcast on Channel Four earlier the same month, Ramsay described the practice of shark fishing as 'cruel', 'sick', 'tragic', 'barbaric', 'wasteful' and 'out of control'. The high court heard that Hall also leaked information to the press about Ramsay's hair transplant. Ramsay has selected Scottish Spina Bifida as the recipient of the charity money. The amount involved was undisclosed. Hall was the editor of the Scum of the World between 1995 and 2000.

And, still on the subject of Gordon Ramsay, the Daily Torygraph reports that a lady they describe as 'a professional mistress' who claims to have had an affair with Ramsay claims that hacked voicemail messages between the pair have been discovered by detectives on Operation Weeting. Sarah Symonds says that she was contacted by officers on the case who told her they had discovered voicemail recordings and e-mail transcripts of the messages which were later sent between journalists at the Scum of the World. In 2008 the now defunct, disgraced and disgraceful tabloid claimed that Symonds and Ramsay had been having a seven-year affair, a claim which he has always denied. Symonds this week wrote on Twitter: 'The Metropolitan Police have contacted me. Apparently they've found very sensitive tapes on Gordon Ramsay and I. Gordon's been contacted too. I feel very vulnerable that the Met. Police have found "tapes of Gordon and I" and are listing to our private business.' Contacted by the Torygraph, Symonds confirmed that she had been told by Operation Weeting detectives that the messages relate to the period shortly before their alleged affair was revealed. Previously it has been reported that Ramsay had been contacted by Operation Weeting as a potential victim of hacking. It was not known until this week, however, what officers were said to have discovered. A spokesman for Ramsay refused to comment on Symonds' claim and a spokesman for The Metropolitan Police refused to comment.

Rupert Murdoch has launched a fightback on Twitter against what he described as 'lies and libels' against News Corporation, attacking 'enemies' including 'old toffs and right wingers.' The media mogul tweeted three times in the early hours of Thursday morning London time attacking his critics. In his first tweet he said: 'Seems every competitor and enemy piling on with lies and libels. So bad, easy to hit back hard, which preparing.' Thing is, Rupert, once upon a time, declaring war on your enemies like that would have sent a wave of exploding diarrhoea through the corridors of power, such would've been the terror it brought about. Now, nah, not so much. Fact is, nobody's scared of you anymore. Once you had Prime Ministers eating out of your hand. Now, they won't be seen in public with you, so toxic is News Internationals reputation at present. Murdoch's outburst dovetailed with a statement from Chase Carey, his right-hand man and News Corp's chief operating officer, who accused the BBC of 'gross misrepresentation' over a Panorama documentary which alleged that its former subsidiary NDS was involved in helping computer hackers to undermine ITVdigital. Murdoch followed up with another tweet in which he categorised the different types of 'enemies' News Corporation faces. 'Enemies [have] many different agendas, but worst [are] old toffs and rightwingers who still want last century's status quo with their monoplies,' he tweeted. No, you're quite wrong, mate. Nobody wants The Old Status Quo back - forty years of imaginative use of denim was quite enough thank you very much. But, hang on ... The BBC are right wingers? Jesus, somebody should tell the Daily Scum Mail quick, they'll likely have a stroke when they find that out. He ended his barrage with a tweet exclaiming: 'Let's have it on! Choice, freedom of thought and markets, individual personal responsibility.' And phone-hacking. You forgot about phone-hacking. Nice to see that the 'humblest day' of Rupert's life hasn't lasted very long, isn't it? On Thursday News Corp released a statement claiming that the BBC's Panorama documentary, Murdoch's TV Pirates, had 'presented manipulated and mischaracterised e-mails to produce unfair and baseless accusations.' Earlier this month News Corp and Permira announced the sale of NDS to Cisco in a five billion dollar deal. News Corp also on Thursday published a letter to Panorama from NDS executive chairman, Abe Peled, accusing the BBC current affairs programme of having 'seriously misconstrued legitimate activities' the company undertakes in running its encryption business. Murdoch was also the subject of a fifty-minute PBS programme, Murdoch's Scandal, which broadcast in the US on Tuesday and in the UK on Wednesday. While it did not contain any major new revelations, the fact that such a high profile broadcaster showed such a programme in his adopted home was likely to have caused embarrassment. The BBC said, simply: 'We stand by the Panorama investigation,' which went out after being approved by the director of news, Helen Boaden. The director general, Mark Thompson, was briefed on the contents of the programme, but is not thought to have seen it before transmission in case he would need to rule on a complaint made against it. Peled's letter focused on an e-mail highlighted in the programme sent by Ray Adams, NDS's former head of security, to colleagues, which said: 'I'm sure you must have had the July key' and then attached encryption keys that could be used to crack the ITVdigital system 'in case you don't.' The NDS chairman, attaching a screen shot from the programme, said Panorama had omitted a critical '>' designation 'showing that NDS was merely internally forwarding material that had been sent to it' and was not 'promoting or facilitating piracy.' Panorama, though, disputed that assertion, saying that it had made no such claim. The e-mail described was used, they noted, for a different purpose in the programme, to contradict a claim by Adams - on camera - that he had 'never seen' ONdigital codes. Adams, interviewed covertly, had said: 'I never ever had the ONdigital codes' – but in the next scene Panorama used the e-mail to show that Adams 'did have the codes,' in the words of the programme voiceover. Peled also complained that a second e-mail sent to Adams was shown by Panorama as 'evidence of NDS's encouragement of piracy associated with the website.' Peled said the e-mail was 'sent from an undercover agent' to NDS, and was therefore 'further proof' that NDS was collecting information in the fight against pay-TV piracy. However, Panorama 'sources' allegedly told the Gruniad that the programme 'did not draw the inference Peled described in his letter.' The programme did not represent the e-mail as coming from inside the company; the voiceover simply said that a hacker from the thoic website was sending an e-mail to Ray Adams to keep the NDS executive 'up to date.' The second e-mail, displayed immediately after the first, was intended in the context of the programme to dispute Adams's assertion that he had 'never seen' ONdigital codes. The NDS complaint letter, interestingly, did not refer to or criticise Panorama's star interviewee, Lee Gibling, a former hacker who ran the website, and who alleged that NDS 'delivered the actual software' to his pirate website that could be used to hack the ONdigital code 'with prior instructions that it should go to the widest community.' Gibling later said thoic's goal was to 'keep with ONdigital, flogging it until it broke.'

The Daily Scum Mail spent an estimated one hundred and forty three grand asking a private eye to make seventeen hundred and twenty seven 'potentially illegal' requests to unearth phone numbers and addresses of public figures over a three-year period, including personal details of the Duchess of Cambridge and her sister Pippa Middleton according to the Gruniad Morning Star. It seems that the detente that these two twattish organs of the British media enter into when it comes to criticising Top Gear quickly evaporates when there's point-scoring to be tried. Journalists at the Scum Mail, the Gruniad claim, 'asked for private information on average more than once a day, and occasionally asked for individual criminal record checks.' Its reporters 'demanded roughly twice as many searches as was previously thought,' this according to research by ITV News. The tabloid demanded the private information between 2000 and 2003 from Steve Whittamore – whose targets for a range of newspapers included the union leader Bob Crow, the family of the murder victim Holly Wells, members of the England football team and the singer Charlotte Church. The Daily Scum Mail made the most requests, with its sister title the Scum Mail on Sunday spending an estimated sixty two thousand smackers on five hundred and seventy eight requests for information. The Sunday title's figure was also roughly double the number of requests counted by the information commissioner in a 2006 report. It had previously been thought that the Daily Scum Mail made nine hundred and eighty two such requests, according to the information commissioner, but ITV News's examination of Whittamore's notebooks, which were seized when he was arrested in 2003, suggests that the figures 'were undercounted.' Journalists from the Scum Mail obtained the 'BT friends and family numbers' of people of interest ninety times, at an average cost of about three hundred and thirty six knicker. Reporters obtained twelve hundred and eighty five ex-directory numbers at a cost of sixty five notes a pop. There were twenty requests to establish a person's address from their vehicle registration at an average cost of one hundred and fifty quid. On three occasions, Whittamore's JJ Services was asked for an individual's criminal records to be checked against the police national computer, each at a cost of five hundred notes. The Observer Morning Star, the Gruniad's sister paper, itself made two hundred and one requests for information from Whittamore at a cost of over thirteen grand between 2000 and 2003. This was about double the one hundred and three previously counted by the information commissioner, and the new data says the Sunday paper made one hundred and eighty two requests for ex-directory numbers, asked for eighteen mobile and landline numbers to be linked to people's addresses or other personal details and requested one 'blag.' Obtaining such personal information is a breach of section fifty five of the Data Protection Act, although there can be a 'public interest defence' in some cases. If anybody working in the public sector was paid money to supply information illegally, it could amount to an offence under the much more serious 1906 Prevention of Corruption Act, for which there is no public interest defence, no matter how hard a newspaper might try to argue it. Whittamore himself pleaded guilty to breaches of the Data Protection Act in 2005 and received a two-year conditional discharge. Paul Dacre, the Daily Scum Mail's odious lice of an editor in chief, was questioned about his title's use of Whittamore at the Leveson inquiry in February, and in particular about requests to supply a person's friends and family numbers to the newspaper. Dacre claimed that information obtained from Whittamore 'could all be obtained legally, but it would take time. This was a quick and easy way to get that information.' Oh, so that's all right, then. On Wednesday, the publisher of the Daily Scum Mail and the Scum Mail on Sunday, Associated Newspapers, said that the allegations were 'familiar' from reports published by the information commissioner in 2006 in the wake of the Whittamore case – known as Operation Motorman. In a statement, the publisher said: 'Although the commissioner did not disclose details of the information obtained, it would seem, for the most part, it related to the tracing of individuals' addresses and phone numbers. The report recognised that many of these cases would have been covered by public interest defences. Indeed it is good practice that matters concerning individuals in the news should be put to them before publication to ensure accuracy and give the opportunity to offer comment. To do this it is vital to trace addresses and telephone numbers which in the main could be obtained through legal means.' Church said she had been shown a copy of the information Whittamore had collected on her. She said: 'It was basically just kind of DVLA records, so registration numbers and house numbers and mobile numbers and criminal records if applicable. It was about literally everybody I had ever known. Anybody I had ever come into contact with. That's what took us by surprise about it. Lots of my parents' friends some of my mum's old work colleagues a phenomenal amount of information.' The Daily Mirra was Whittamore's second biggest customer, using the private eye nine hundred and eighty four times between 2000 and 2003 – about three hundred occasions more than previously counted by the information commissioner – and spending about ninety two grand. The bulk of the information sought was ex-directory numbers, but its journalists asked for number plates to be traced to individuals on seventy nine occasions and for criminal record checks nineteen times. Its Sunday sister title, the Sunday People, was also a heavy user of Whittamore, spending an estimated seventy six thousand two hundred and ninety five quid on one thousand and sixteen individual requests. Overall, titles owned by Trinity Mirra, publisher of the Daily Mirra, spent just over two hundred thousand knicker while Associated Newspapers spent two hundred and thirty four thousand seven hundred and seventy three smackers, a figure which also includes the Evening Standard, which the publisher owned at the time, but have subsequently sold. Trinity Mirra said that the detail 'was the subject of a police investigation in 2003 when no action was taken against any journalist.' It added: 'We took our lead from the ICO and did what was asked of us by reaffirming to our national newspaper editors that the company's policy was to comply with the criminal law and the PCC code.' News International was not a heavy user of Whittamore between 2000 and 2003, with the Scum of the World the biggest-spending title in the Murdoch group, spending twenty three grand on two hundred and forty requests for information, according to ITV News. A spokesperson for the Observer said Whittamore's papers were described by the ICO as 'deeply obscure' and that, as a result, it was 'difficult to determine exactly what he was doing. As such, the Observer has always said that it is 'not possible' to be 'absolutely certain' that everything he did for the paper 'would have met' a strict definition of 'the public interest.' Therefore, 'since the publication of the ICO's report in 2006, we have strengthened the process by which the use of private investigators is approved. In fact, none have been approved since then.' Dr Evan Harris of the Hacked Off campaign group said that subjects of press intrusion should have been informed that they were targeted by journalists via Whittamore. He said 'there been a sophisticated but flagrant cover-up of the extent and knowledge of this by several newspaper groups' and that there had been 'no proper investigation by the authorities of the role of elements of the press in driving this industrial scale theft of private information.'

The communications chief at the Metropolitan Police, Dick Fiasco, has resigned after proceedings for gross misconduct were started against him. The Independent Police Complaints Commission launched an inquiry last year after it emerged he had contracted out work to a PR firm run by ex-Scum of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis. Last week it ruled Fiasco should face a hearing for gross misconduct. But, the IPCC said his resignation meant this could not now take place. The IPCC said that it planned to publish the findings of its report into the relationship between Fiasco and Wallis 'in the next few days.' IPCC deputy chairman Deborah Glass said: 'I have today been notified that Dick Fedorcio, the Metropolitan Police Service director of public affairs, has resigned.' She said that in July 2011 the IPCC decided to investigate 'the relationship between Mr Fedorcio and Neil Wallis, a former deputy editor at the News of the World, focusing on the circumstances under which a contract for senior level media advice and support was awarded to Mr Wallis' company, Chamy Media.' That investigation ended late last year and a report was handed to the Met's professional standards unit on 10 January. Glass said: 'Our investigation found that Mr Fedorcio has a case to answer in relation to his procurement of the contract for Chamy Media. Last week the Metropolitan Police Service proposed to initiate proceedings for gross misconduct and I agreed with that proposal.' But, Fiasco's resignation means he cannot now face any internal disciplinary proceedings. Glass said: 'In light of Mr Fedorcio's resignation today, those proceedings cannot now take place and I propose to publish our investigation report detailing our findings, in the next few days.' The Met confirmed that Fiasco would be leaving his post as director of public affairs on 31 March after fourteen years on the job. 'During that period he has made a very significant contribution to the work of the MPS,' they said.

The row over the introduction of VAT on hot snacks - or Pasty-gate as it's rapidly becoming known - seems to be a gift for newspapers' headline writers. The Sun splashed on Thursday morning with a description of David Cameron's "half-baked" idea, with the subhead PM's bid to take heat out of pasty row is hard to swallow. Even to a Sun loather like this blogger, my hat's off to whoever came up with that one. Almost as good as Becks Wears My Keks, frankly.
Inside, there is more fun, with a spread headlined PM pasty 'pork pie' probe. The Mirra opts to put the fuel crisis on the front, but a sidebar inside details Pasty PM's porky pies. The Times saves the puns for its page three sketch, headed Dave tries to play catch-up but it's all pie in the sky as Mr Pasty tells a porky. The Daily Torygraph opts for Oh crumbs. PM's trial by pasty, while the Gruniad Morning Star asks Who ate all the pies? No signs yet of the heat going out of the debate on this one.
Homeland's Damian Lewis and Tony Blair's former director of communications Alastair Campbell will be among the guest hosts in the new series of Have I Got News For You. The popular topical news quiz returns for its forty third series on Friday 13 April at 9pm. Unlucky for some. Paul Merton and Ian Hislop are, of course, back as the regular team captains. Dirk Gently's Stephen Mangan will guest host the first of nine new episodes of the news quiz, which will feature guests Miles Jupp and journalist Grace Dent. Like Lewis, Mangan has previously - and very entertainingly - hosted the show. Campbell will make his first appearance as host in episode eight, whilst other regular hosts Jo Brand, Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson and Alexander Armstrong will all be making returns to present the show. Lewis will make his fourth stint in the host's chair in episode three. Have I Got News For You has used rotating guest presenters since 2002 when original host Angus Deayton left the programme.

The Voice coach Sir Tom Jones has casually brushed off odious jibes from Amanda Holden about his age. When the Digital Spy website asked the Britain's Got Talent judge why viewers should switch over from Tom Jones and his spinning chair on The Voice to watch her reality own series, Holden who, let's remember, has recently had her own - much publicised - health scare, said: 'Because [Tom] will be spinning in his grave next week.' According to the Daily Lies, Jones has dismissed the actress's remarks, claiming that he doesn't even know who she is. 'I had no idea who she was or what she did,' the Welsh pop icon is quoted as saying. Neither does anyone else, Sir Tom and that's a fact.

Meanwhile it has been claimed that ITV 'bosses' have banned its shows from mentioning rival BBC1 series The Voice. Various interviews and features on programmes including notorious breakfast flop Daybreak, Loose Women and This Morning have been cancelled, the Mirra claims. If true, it's just one further example of how petty and sour-faced ITV are being over the BBC daring to produce something that they wanted to do themselves. The Voice's coach Danny O'Donoghue was due to appear on Daybreak on Friday morning, but his interview was, allegedly, cancelled. This Morning host Holly Willoughby has also, the Mirra claim, been told to not discuss her other presenting gig on The Voice. An alleged ITV 'source' allegedly said: 'Instructions have come from the very top at ITV - nothing on the network is allowed to promote The Voice in any way. The bosses have gone ballistic that shows on our channels have been plugging a rival. ITV are doing everything they possibly can to make sure The Voice isn't the huge hit the BBC hopes for.'

ITV2 has announced new supernatural drama Switch. Former EastEnders actress Lacey Turner will star in the series, which will follow four female flatmates who are secretly witches. So, this is Charmed meets The Liver Birds then, yes? She is joined by Nina Toussaint-White, Hannah Tointon and Phoebe Fox. Turner will play 'immaculately dressed' careerist Stella, while Toussaint-White has been cast as 'sexy and stylish' fashionista Jude. The group's moral compass Grace will be played by Fox, with Tointon starring as the 'restless and spontaneous' Hannah. The 'Witches of Camden' must face the challenges of living in contemporary London, as well as their sworn enemies the 'Witches of Kensington', Alexa, India, Romola and Remy. Sounds ghastly. I mean, totally. But, you know, never a judge a book by its cover and all that. It  might turn out to be all right, sometimes the least promising formats do. Not often, but occasionalluy. We shall wait to see. Switch has been written by Chloe Moss and Tim Price whose previous experience has been on Prisoners' Wives and The Secret Diary of a Call Girl respectively. 'Switch is a contemporary series about friendship with a spell-binding twist,' said ITV's Laura Mackie. 'Chloe and Tim have created four fun-loving, free-spirited characters and we're delighted with the direction the series takes.' Produced by Being Human's Philip Trethowan and executive produced by Touchpaper's Rob Pursey, six one hour episodes of Switch will go into production in London, Cardiff and Bristol for eleven weeks from April 2012.

Classic BBC sitcom Yes, Prime Minister is being remade by UKTV's comedy channel G.O.L.D. oh dear. There's bad ideas and then there's really bad ideas. A new six-episode run of the series, written by the original creators, is being produced by BBC Productions and will feature 'modern day twist's as it follows the day-to-day activities of hapless Rt Hon Jim Hacker. The Prime Minister's new challenges will include leading a coalition government, European economic turmoil and a Scottish independence referendum. Hacker's advisors Sir Humphrey Appleby and principal private secretary Bernard Woolley will also return. In the 1980s original, the late Paul Eddington played Hacker, while the late Nigel Hawthorne starred as Appelby and Derek Fowlds as Woolley. UKTV's director of commissioning, Jane Rogerson said: 'The political landscape in Britain today is the perfect setting for Yes, Prime Minister to return.' No it isn't. The clowns we've got in Downing Street are far funnier than anything a sitcom could devise. I mean, you couldn't make up Pasty-gate - no one would believe it! 'I'm thrilled that Gold has enticed Jonathan Lynn and Antony Jay to pen a brand new series, and can't wait to see this constitutional treasure back on screens across the country.' Steve North, Gold general manager, added, 'G.O.L.D is making a great investment into iconic and original British programming and what better place to start than with the timely return of the nation's greatest satire? I'm a huge fan of the original and it's a real treat to be able to bring this utterly brilliant series to a whole new generation.' BBC comedy head Mark Freeland said that the success of Yes, Prime Minister theatre tours had proved that the 'iconic comedy has lost none of its satirical bite.'

Jeremy Piven has been confirmed to star in forthcoming ITV drama Mr Selfridge. The Entourage actor was first linked to the biopic earlier this month. Piven will play Harry Gordon Selfridge, the American entrepreneur who founded the British department store Selfridges. Katherine Kelly will appear as as Lady Mae, an alluring socialite who helps Harry as he builds his empire. Also cast in the project are Spiral's Grégory Fitoussi, Aisling Loftus, Zoe Tapper, Frances O'Connor and Trystan Gravelle. 'It's impossible to read about the real Harry Selfridge and not be enthralled,' said ITV's Kate Lewis. 'Here's a man that had it all and lost it all in the most spectacular fashion. His life and the extraordinary legacy he left behind are dripping with drama.' The 1909-set series will run for ten episodes. The great Andrew Davies is the lead writer, alongside Kate Brooke and Kate O'Riordan. Mr Selfridge will go into production in April in London, for broadcast on ITV during 2013.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos says he has located the long-submerged F-1 engines that blasted the Apollo 11 Moon mission into space. Cor, now that's a job yer actual Keith Telly Topping would rather enjoy, diving for spaceships. In a blog post, Bezos said the five engines were found using advanced sonar scanning some fourteen thousand below the Atlantic Ocean's surface. Bezos, the billionaire bookseller and spaceflight enthusiast, said that he was making plans to raise one or more. Apollo 11 carried astronauts on the first Moon landing mission in 1969. The F-1 engines were used on the giant Saturn V rocket that carried the Apollo landing module out of the Earth's atmosphere and towards the Moon. They burned for just a few minutes before separating from the second stage module and falling to Earth somewhere in the Atlantic. Bezos' announcement comes days after film director James Cameron succeeded in his own deep-sea expedition, reaching the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest point on the planet. What is it with billionaires and submarines? Well, a chap's got to have a hobby, one supposes. Announcing the discovery on his Bezos Expeditions website, Bezos described the F-1 as a 'modern wonder' - which it certainly was - that boasted thirty two million horsepower and burned six thousand pounds of rocket-grade kerosene and liquid oxygen every second. 'I was five years old when I watched Apollo 11 unfold on television, and without any doubt it was a big contributor to my passions for science, engineering, and exploration,' he wrote, confirming that his team had located the engines but without hinting where they might be. 'We don't know yet what condition these engines might be in - they hit the ocean at high velocity and have been in salt water for more than forty years. On the other hand, they're made of tough stuff, so we'll see,' Bezos wrote. His privately funded team was planning to raise one or more engines, he wrote. He said that he planned to ask NASA - which still owns the rockets - for permission to display one in the Museum of Flight in his home city of Seattle. NASA itself said that it looked forward to hearing more about the recovery, the Associated Press reports. Other elements of the Apollo missions - including the Apollo 11 command module - are on display in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. The attempt to raise the F-1 engines is not the first foray into space technology for Bezos. In 2000 he founded a private space flight firm, Blue Origin, which has received NASA funding and is working on making orbital and sub-orbital spaceflight commercially available.

FOX has ordered an eighth of crime drama Bones starring David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel. The eighth season renewal is hardly surprising given Bones' continued strong ratings performance. The season will see the drama reach its one hundred and fiftieth episode. Bones returns to FOX with its first new episode since January on 2 April.

Pioneering bluegrass banjo player Earl Scruggs, who is credited with helping create modern country music, has died aged eighty eight. The musician died of natural causes at a Nashville hospital on Wednesday, his son Gary said. Scruggs was known for his unique banjo playing technique, which involved just three fingers. It later became known as 'the Scruggs pickin' style.' His innovative method can be heard on the theme tune to the 1962 TV series The Beverly Hillbillies. Scruggs rose to prominence when Bill Monroe hired him to play in The Blue Grass Boys, one of the defining groups in the bluegrass musical genre. Hollywood actor and fellow banjo player Steve Martin previously paid tribute to Scruggs in the New Yorker newspaper. 'When the singer came to the end of a phrase, he filled the theatre with sparkling runs of notes that became a signature for all bluegrass music since,' Martin said. 'A grand part of American music owes a debt to Earl Scruggs. Few players have changed the way we hear an instrument the way Earl has, putting him in a category with Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Chet Atkins, and Jimi Hendrix.' Scruggs later teamed up with Lester Flatt to form The Foggy Mountain Boys. One of their most well known records included 'Foggy Mountain Breakdown', which featured in the 1967 movie Bonnie and Clyde. It was their recording of 'The Ballad of Jed Clampett' that was used in The Beverly Hillbillies. They eventually disbanded, and a rift grew between the two musicians, although they were inducted together in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1985. Scruggs went on to form a group with his three sons in The Earl Scruggs Revue, playing alongside rock acts such as Steppenwolf and James Taylor. In 1992, Scruggs was among thirteen recipients of a National Medal of Art. Speaking at the time, he said: 'I never in my wildest dreams thought of rewards and presentations. I appreciate those things, especially this one.' In 2001, he released his first CD in a decade, Earl Scruggs and Friends, featuring collaborations with other artists including Sir Elton John, Dwight Yoakam, Sting and Melissa Etheridge.

After their team had failed to score in the previous five games, fans of FC Magdeburg came up with a novel idea to help them out.
So anyway, dear blog reader, as noted on Thursday, yer actual Keith Telly Topping attended the latest one of Scunny Steve Drayton's Record Player events at the Tyneside Cinema. And it was total mad-brilliant, as usual. Terrific sounds, find company, a couple of bottles of beer and then home for supper. Civilised. So, for yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, here's one of the featured tunes. What's goin' down, Mr Verlaine?

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