Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Confronted By An Ugly Politician, And Their Ugly Views

It was inevitable that it was going to happen sooner or later. In fact, the only surprise is that it has taken two weeks. Odious rent-a-quote Tory MP Philip Davies - seldom a man with little to say about the BBC's perceived shortcomings in his eyes. Or, indeed, about all manner of other aspects of life and society which are bog all to do with him and his scummish right-wing views - has 'hit out' at The Voice. And at the BBC in general, describing the show as 'a very expensive advert' for the music label Universal. This, dear blog reader, in case you hadn't come across him before, is the same Philip Davies who on 7 October 2006, after an act of vandalism which was initially alleged to have been perpetrated by Muslims, was quoted by the Sun as saying 'if there's anybody who should fuck off it's the Muslims who do this sort of thing.' It was later exposed by the Independent, among others, that the incident in question did not, actually, involve Muslims. The Sun was subsequently forced to issue a - rather grovelling - apology four months later. Davies himself, however, has never apologised for his disgraceful comments. Unless he did it very quietly whilst no one was looking. This is also the same Philip Davies who called for government to 'scrap the Human Rights Act for foreign nationals and chuck them out of the country.' Who said in parliament that disabled workers are 'by definition less productive' and could work for less than the minimum wage. The Conservative party quickly distanced themselves from his comments. Representatives from mental illness charities Mind and Rethink called his suggestion 'preposterous' and 'seriously misguided.' This is, also, the same Philip Davies who in March 2007 voted against the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations which proposed to allow the Secretary of State to make regulations defining discrimination and harassment on grounds of sexual orientation, create criminal offences, and provide for exceptions. The same Philip Davies who, in March 2011, also claimed, wrongly, that there was 'no basis in evidence' that restricting branding on cigarette packets would reduce smoking levels, saying 'I believe that the introduction of plain packaging for cigarettes is gesture politics of the worst kind. It would not have any basis in evidence and it would simply be a triumph for the nanny state and an absurd one at that.' He also complained, while calling for a Parliamentary debate on 'political correctness', about a school production of Romeo and Julian during LGBT History month. Davies is also an organiser for the economically right-wing Taxpayers' Alliance, a - small but very vocal - pressure group which claims to 'speak for' taxpayers rights. This, despite the fact that there are in excess of forty million taxpayers in this country (including gay people, disabled people, Muslims, 'foreign nationals' and several other sections of society about whom Davies has made controversial comments in the past) and almost none of whom seem to have actually been asked whether they want to be 'spoken for' by this group of people. Certainly, this blogger - a tax-payer ever since he left school at eighteen - never got a memo from them. Just so we're clear about this, you people do not, even remotely, speak for me. Glad we got that straight. Anyway, that Philip Davies. I'll tell you what, dear blog reader, if I was the BBC, I'd be absolutely delighted that Philip Davies doesn't, seemingly, approve of pretty much anything they do. Because I'd hate to have odious pond scum the likes of him for a friend. The rights to the popular Saturday night music series were purchased by the BBC for a large investment, rumoured to be over twenty million pounds. The winner of the talent search will land a deal with Universal. Davies, who is the MP for Shipley, told that bastion of truth and totally accurate reportage, the Daily Lies: 'The BBC has paid a fortune for The Voice. This now looks to be a very expensive advert for the record company, which not only gets a heavily-promoted winner but also a boost for its existing artists. The BBC appears to be using this format as a spoiler to sabotage ITV's success with Britain's Got Talent.' Do you think you could try getting your tongue rammed a bit further up Wee Shughie McFee, the miserable Scottish chef off Crossroads's ringpiece there, Mr Davies? I believe there's still a little bit of room left if you try really hard. Go on, mate, get your tongue in there for a right good lick. And on, and on, and on his odious drivel spewed. Christ, it was like listening to Coldplay, so it was. 'I don't think this is what the BBC should be doing,' he concluded. Seemingly, nine million licence fee payers who've watched the opening two episodes - and, apparently, enjoyed them - disagree with you. But, even if they didn't, your views would still be utterly worthless and irrelevant. As are you, in this blogger's opinion, sir. In a statement, the BBC said: 'In casting the coaches we spoke to the biggest stars in the music industry regardless of the labels they were attached to. Two of three major labels are represented on the panel and throughout the series other labels will continue to be represented.' What they didn't say was, 'if you don't like it, Philip Davies, try watching Wee Shughie McFee, the miserable Scottish chef off Crossroads's show on the other side. That's a thoroughly odious, sour-faced, mean-spirited, sarcastic and staggeringly full-of-its-own-importance conceit. So, it should be right up your street.' The BBC, of course, wouldn't say that - or anything even remotely like it - because they are far too polite. But, I'm not. Thought for today, dear blog reader - never argue with an idiot. They'll only drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience. My God, though, if I lived in Shipley and I'd actually voted for this clown, I'd be  effing well ashamed to show my bloody face in public. This (probably crassly inarticulate) rant was written because we still have 'freedom of speech' in this country, dear blog reader. Cherish it whilst you've still got access to it.

Meanwhile, here's a message in kind, from the very toppermost of the poppermost.
Remember, dear blog reader, it's becoming a cliche but it remains true -
Don't vote for any of them, dear blog reader, it only encourages them.

Despite the massive fanfare, and all of the ludicrously arse-licking reviews its had from most of the broadsheets, Mad Men has so far failed to win over anything like substantial numbers of British viewers, with the third episode of the fifth series on Sky Atlantic attracting an overnight audience of just forty seven thousand punters on Tuesday night. Sky, which snatched Mad Men from BBC4 amid much beating of chests in a mucho-wonga deal with US producer Lionsgate last year, said that the ratings are 'not atypical' for Sky homes. However, popular programmes on the channel such as this week's Game of Thrones season opener attracted in excess of five hundred thousand punters. The fifth series of the US drama set in a 1960s advertising agency launched last week with Sky opting to broadcast the first two episodes back-to-back. The first episode managed to attract ninety eight thousand overnight viewers, while the second episode slumped to forty five thousand. The consolidated audience for the first episode - which includes viewers who recorded it or watched it later on Sky's catch-up TV service over the following week - reached one hundred and ninety one thousand. This is the second time recently that Sky have paid massively over-the-odds to pinch a format from a rival broadcaster only to find audiences failing to live up to expectations. Last year, the same thing happened with Glee which had, previously, achieved notable audiences for both Channel Four and E4 but which, on Sky, has been its ratings figures slump drastically.

And, in further bad news for BSkyB, a business college is planning to sue Sky News for libel over a story which alleged that it was involved in 'an immigration racket.' According to the Gruniad Morning Star, the London College of Business has instructed the media lawyers, Simons Muirhead & Burton, to take legal action. Forthwith. If Not sooner. The Sky News story – broadcast on 29 March and published on the channel's website - claimed that a member of LCB's staff, Dr Javed Ahktar, had helped foreign students to buy qualifications, which enabled them to obtain work visas to stay in the UK. LCB, which is based in Barking, denies that Akhtar has ever been a member of its staff or had any contractual relationship with the college. The college says he introduces potential students to institutions in return for a 'finder's fee.' It has posted a statement to that effect on its website and a college spokesman said that it was taking legal action 'to send a clear message to the government, UK Border Agency and current and future students that they can have complete trust in the college's integrity.' Plus, it'll make Kay Burley's face got all twisty which, let's face it, is never a bad thing. It also claimed that Sky News has now 'amended' its online article and removed a video report.
James Murdoch, the grubby spawn of Uncle Rupert, meanwhile has - as reported yesterday - stepped down as chairman of BSkyB six weeks after giving up a similar role at News International. He said that he 'could become a lightning rod' for criticism of the satellite broadcaster, in the wake of condemnation of his handling of the Scum of the World phone-hacking scandal. I think you'll find, James, that you actually have been exactly such a lightning rod for just such criticism for, ooo, the last year at least. Still nice to see that you've finally noticed, however. The Gruniad claims that the thirty nine-year-old 'felt he needed to give up a position he loved to avoid the risk of being forced to quit should he be severely criticised' by a forthcoming report from MPs into the scandal, or if he were to 'trip up' or 'be reprimanded when he gives evidence to the Leveson inquiry into press standards' later this month. Writing to the board of BSkyB, the man seen as the heir presumptive to his father Rupert until last summer's revelations about the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone and those of many others, said: 'As attention continues to be paid to past events at News International, I am determined that the interests of BSkyB should not be undermined by matters outside the scope of this company.' Although Murdoch will hang on to a non-executive directorship of BSkyB, the move caps a retreat by James to New York where, the newspaper speculated, he 'hopes to rebuild his career as News Corporation's number three, behind his father and Chase Carey.' Without the position at BSkyB his responsibilities at News Corp for 'international television' will be reduced to pay-TV businesses in Italy and across Asia. 'Allies', the Gruniad claims, said that by stepping aside now, it was hoped he would retain 'options' over his future. Murdoch is, the newspaper states, 'almost certain to be criticised by MPs on the culture, media and sport committee' (including the odious Philip Davies, see above) for not being aware that phone-hacking was more widespread at the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World than was originally admitted. But, the Gruniad claims that the committee is 'split on party lines' over whether to accuse him of misleading parliament over what he actually knew or not. One wonders exactly which party thinks he did and which thinks he didn't. But, not for very long, admittedly. Other 'senior colleagues' of Murdoch's, including former chief executive and well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks and former Scum of the World editor Colin Myler are expected, the Gruniad states, 'to be criticised' in the final report. John Whittingdale, the chair of the committee, said that Murdoch's departure would not affect the final wording in the report due at the end of April, but added: 'I think his judgment was correct; as long as he was at Sky, the problems affecting News International would have a read across to Sky.' Whittingdale - who, a few crass anti-BBC comments aside, this blogger has always rather respected as a politician of some integrity (rare to the point of virtual extinction in these dreadful times) also said that he was 'surprised' Murdoch was remaining as a non-executive 'because that does not sever the link between Sky and News International.' Murdoch appeared before the committee twice, once - hilariously - with his father last summer, and a second time to answer 'outstanding questions' about what he knew at the time he authorised a four hundred and twenty five thousand smacker phone-hacking settlement to football boss Gordon Taylor in 2008. Paul Farrelly, one of the Labour MP on the committee (and, another chap I've always had a bit of time for), said that the resignation was 'not a surprise' because 'there are issues that News Corporation and BSkyB has to confront, namely was there a cover-up of what happened on James Murdoch's watch at News International?' By stepping down, it will mean that no Murdoch occupies a top position at the satellite broadcaster for the first time since 1999. James Murdoch, who had been appointed chief executive of BSkyB in 2003, aged thirty one, succeeded his father Rupert as chairman in 2007, in a business that was created in the early 1990s when Rupert Murdoch's Sky merged with rival BSB to leave News Corp as the largest single shareholder. James Murdoch served as BSkyB chairman at the same time as he was executive chairman of News International, during the period when the Scum of the World owner denied, flatly and repeatedly, that it was behind widespread phone-hacking when allegations surfaced in 2009. And continued to deny that there had been any funny business going on, no siree, Bob, from then right up until early 2011 when it suddenly dropped it's 'lone rogue reporter' defence and coughed up to the fact that there had, indeed, been monkey business going on within its Wapping walls. James Murdoch's departure was greeted with what the Gruniad describe as 'an unprecedented joint statement' from his Rupert and from Carey, the chief operating officer. The two said: 'We are grateful for James Murdoch's successful leadership of BSkyB. He has played a major role in propelling the company into the market-leading position it enjoys today – and in the process has been instrumental in creating substantial value for News Corporation shareholders.' The Labour leader, Ed Milimolimandi said that the allegations surrounding Murdoch-owned companies in the UK go 'beyond one person' and News Corp needed to conduct a 'clear-out of those people that did wrong.' His deputy, Harriet Harman used the latest resignation to harden up her party's position on media ownership. Harman said: 'Murdoch owns too many newspapers. Never again must we allow any individual or organisation to acquire such a concentration of power when it comes to media ownership.' Which, for a politician who made such an arse of her own, fleeting brush with power is, frankly, a bit like hearing Jim Davidson lecture on equal opportunities. Murdoch will be replaced as chairman of BSkyB by private equity boss Nicholas Ferguson but, by remaining on the board, he continues to be a focus of a 'fit and proper' test being conducted by Ofcom in response to the Scum of the World phone-hacking scandal. Ofcom is examining whether Murdoch and News Corporation – a thirty nine per cent shareholder in BSkyB – are 'suitable directors and owners' in the wake of phone-hacking and other allegations (all, as yet, entirely unproven, of course) of computer hacking, corrupt and illegal payments to coppers and other officials, and involvement pay-TV hacking made in recent weeks. News International chief executive Tom Mockridge also joined the board of BSkyB as deputy chairman.

The director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, told the Leveson inquiry there was 'a degree of pushback' from Champagne John Yates when he suggested investigating further after hearing about the existence of the 'for Neville' e-mail. The e-mail, of course, as we now know contained a transcript of phone-hacking which may have implicated another Scum of the World journalist, so Starmer immediately got in touch with Yates, the assistant commissioner at the Met at the time. 'There was a degree of pushback against my suggestion that there should be a reinvestigation or further examination of the "for Neville" e-mail,' said Starmer in testimony at the inquiry. 'Yates said that it was "not new", it had been seen before, and thus I took from that that he didn't consider at that stage there was any point for investigating the "for Neville" e-mail,' Starmer added. Earlier, it had emerged that the the legal team prosecuting Scum of the World royal editor Clive Goodman in 2006 over phone-hacking were told by police that there was 'no evidence' criminality was more widespread, and no evidence the then editor of the paper, Andy Coulson, was involved. Giving evidence to the Leveson inquiry on Wednesday David Perry, QC, said he was not made aware 'that some of the junior officers' on the investigation six years ago were 'extremely concerned that there was material that wasn't being looked at.' He told Lord Justice Leveson that he prepared the strategy for the trial on the basis of the documentation and information he had been given. 'We did enquire of the police at the conference whether there was any evidence that the editor of the News of the World was involved. We were told that there was not, and we never saw any such evidence,' he said. Yates told him it 'had been considered before.' Starmer said he was 'inclined' not to leave it there and returned to Perry for further advice. He also had a note prepared by the investigating officer at the Met. He told the inquiry that he felt he had 'exhausted' the possibilities, and it wasn't until 2010 that he went to a new counsel, Mark Heywood, for advice regarding the legal foundations for potential future phone hacking cases. This was an 'exceptional course.' 'All I can say is that the question that I asked at the conference on 21 August 2006 was prompted by a feeling that there was possibly something more to this, but that's a feeling you very often get in criminal cases.' Goodman was subsequently sentenced to four months in jail after pleading guilty to intercepting phone messages in January 2007. His co-conspirator, the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, was sentenced to six months. Coulson, resigned as editor and then went on to become David Cameron's head of communications. It has subsequently emerged that thousands of people may have had their phones hacked by Mulcaire, whose diary of hacking ran to eleven thousand pages. The Leveson inquiry was grilling Perry about the case conferences and exchanges he had had with police and the Crown Prosecution Service after Mulcaire and Goodman were arrested in August 2006. He said that the police were 'skilled, competent and professional' at all times during the case. 'Everyone involved both at the CPS and the police were conscientiously attempting to do their jobs professionally,' he said. Asked why the case had gone to trial on the basis that the only proceeds from Mulcaire's crime were twelve thousand three hundred quid, when it is now known that he was on a contract for a period of years worth more than one hundred thousand smackers a year, Perry told Leveson that he could 'only go on the documentation available to him.' He said the defence response was that Mulcaire had received payments for 'legitimate assignments', and the payments for phone-hacking related to the smaller figure for work carried out under the pseudonym Alexander. The inquiry also heard that police and the DPP decided to pursue a strategy which would mean Prince William and Prince Harry would not be called as witnesses in court.

Former BBC correspondent Michael Cole has called on older female presenters at the corporation to 'stop complaining' about ageism, and has defended the rights of producers to select on-screen talent 'regardless of age, gender, colour or race.' The BBC has faced various allegations of sexism and ageism from female presenters, including a landmark tribunal case last year when former Countryfile presenter Miriam O'Reilly won damages after she was ditched from the show in favour of younger talent. But Cole, who spent twenty seven years as a reporter on Anglia Television and the BBC, said that men were just as likely to suffer discrimination, claiming that he experienced five years of rejection because he looked 'too young.' 'I have to smile every time a middle-aged female television presenter comes out of the shrubbery complaining that her honour has been tarnished by those wicked people at the BBC who have failed to promote her, to renew her contract or, in extreme cases, sacked her,' he wrote in the latest issue of The Press Gazette. 'What do these women expect? It matters how you look on television. The studio lights aren't kind to ageing skin. Without exception, they all got their first jobs on the box when they were young. And they got those jobs, at least in part, because of their looks.' In the combative article, Cole claimed that TV producers should be able to select presenters based on their age, gender, colour or race, because the casting of talent is a key factor in making programmes a success. 'The creative process should not be skewed, and the producer's freedom constrained, because any woman believes she has the right to a permanent place in a visual medium,' he said. 'There aren't any gorgons on television and with the possible exception of Patrick Moore, there aren't any strange-looking presenters either. Gargoyles are for cathedrals.' Cole, who served as a BBC correspondent between 1968 and 1988 and won two Royal Television Awards, went further to say that 'all of us, men and women and children, prefer to see young, good-looking people, unless we are very unusual indeed.' In an article headlined Prejudice and discrimination in television? It's nothing new, Cole claimed that he had suffered discrimination 'every bit as disheartening as anything a TV sofa queen has ever had to suffer.' He said that he had endured five years of rejection at the BBC 'not because I looked too old, but because I looked too young.' He said this meant he struggled to secure a position on the BBC desk in London, but 'unlike the women who complain of unfairness, I said nothing.' Cole, who moved into public relations at the Harrods and House of Fraser group in 1988, said that presenters such as Angela Rippon, Anna Ford, Selina Scott and Julia Somerville are 'all talented broadcasters', but they should feel 'fortunate' that they have 'natural gifts that men can never hope to match. Look at the male news presenters: Mark Austin, Alastair Stewart, James Mates, Chris Eykin, Ben Brown, Nicholas Owen. All of them have been successful on-the-road reporters with a body of great stories to their credit,' he wrote in the article. 'Consider the women news presenters: Natasha Kaplinsky, Julie Etchingham, Fiona Bruce and all the stars of breakfast television. They may do a serviceable studio interview and sometimes have to present a bulletin from abroad. But they are really there, on our screens, because they are attractive women who can read the teleprompter convincingly and they wear some beautiful jackets.' Except the sisterhood to give Cole a right good shoeing in an issue of a broadsheet near you, very soon. Not that I agree with him, of course. Oh no, very hot water. My sister is not my enemy.

And, speaking of newspaper headlines where, you just wonder if they might have wanted to think a little more before publishing ...
Well, it depends ...

The last few years, the fate of whether Bones would get picked up for another season has usually come down to the wire. The last few renewals have come at or near the May deadline for network upfront presentations of their new fall line-ups, but this year, fans of the popular crime drama and of the saga of Tempy, Booth, and the squints can breathe an early sigh of relief. FOX, as reported earlier in the week, has given the series an early pick up for an eighth series just as the show returned from a four month hiatus this week and Temperance gave birth to her sprog (in a stable) in the new episode The Prisoner In The Pipe. This order will see the long-running procedural romcom-dramedy gestalt hit the one hundred and fifty episode mark. Kevin Reilly, President of FOX Entertainment, said: 'Over the past seven seasons, Hart Hanson, Stephen Nathan and the incredible Bones cast and crew have redefined the traditional crime procedural with an irreverent and adventurous sensibility and I'm really happy to have this distinctive, fan-favourite on our schedule for another season.' Strip away the PR bollocks, however and it doesn't take a genius to work out why FOX jumped on these particular Bones faster than usual. The network has had an unusually miserable line-up of new series during the current season, with Terra Nova, I Hate My Teenage Daughter and Allen Gregory all flopping bigger than a big flopping thing and all three have already been cancelled. With another long-running staple, House ending this year, and Alcatraz, Breaking In, Napoleon Dynamite and the - really not very good at all - Bones spin-off The Finder all, according to informed sources, likely to be headed to the graveyard, and Fringe just about hanging on for dear life, it's been a shockingly bad year for FOX. The way things are looking, FOX is going to have a dearth of established returning formats next season. It's not surprising, therefore, that they would be in a hurry to lock in one of their few scripted dramas which actually gets good ratings.

Michelle Dockery has made the front cover of America's Vanity Fair magazine. She's featured alongside Julianna Margulies of The Good Wife, Homeland's Claire Danes and Sofía Vergara of Modern Family. These are some of the strongest actors on television and in the magazine's special TV Issue, Vanity Fair says: 'This quartet represents four of the best shows currently, or ever, on the air.' But, because they're women, clearly they have to be photographed in a bed with strategically placed sheets wrapped around them. It's The Law. Apparently. Vanity Fair calls Downton Abbey 'a sophisticated sensation' and singles out Dockery as being one of the 'most watchable women' on television. In the accompanying article, Michelle reveals that she was a fan of My So-Called Life, the series which made the name of her fellow cover star, the then teenage Claire Danes.

Doctor Who director Graeme Harper became part of a world record when he drove a train full of teddy bears at the North Bay Railway. And, no, this didn't take place of 1 April. Honest. Some two hundred and eighty bears - none of them man-eaters as far as we know - were aboard for the three-quarter mile ride which raised money for Raw Animal Rescue, Hope Animal Rescue and Veteran Horse. The record attempt was arranged by Minty Steade, who said: 'It is just pure harmless fun, people can have a laugh and help set a record. The children also received a certificate to say their bear has been on a train driver by Graeme Harper of Doctor Who fame - you cannot get any better than that can you?' Depends on your fantasy of the perfect day, Minty, to be honest. Personally, mine would involve Holly Aird. Anyway ...

A man is said to be 'in a serious condition' in hospital after being stabbed in the neck at an event attended by singer Jessie J. Police were called to the event hosted by smartphone company BlackBerry at Bankside Vaults nightclub in Southwark, shortly after midnight on Tuesday. A Scotland Yard spokesman said that the victim was in his thirties and being treated at an East London hospital. The spokesman said a twenty five-year-old man had been arrested and was in custody. Police said it was thought the man had been stabbed with a broken bottle. Jessie J had earlier performed at the event to promote Blackberry's instant messaging service.

Edinburgh Zoo's two giant pandas have spent a second day in a 'series of encounters' but have failed to mate. Well, I mean, everybody was watching, you can't expect them to perform at the drop of a hat, can you? Officials at the zoo said Tian Tian and Yang Guang had 'shown interest in each other' but had 'not taken things further.' Maybe if he'd tried slipping on the Barry White and cracking open a bottle of wine it might have helped. Staff said 'one or two more attempts' would be made to 'bring the pair together' but hopes of 'a successful coupling' this year were diminishing. Female pandas ovulate just once a year - a bit like one or two dates that yer actual Keith Telly Topping has been on in his time - with only a thirty six-hour window in which they can get pregnant. Panda pregnancies can last for anything between eighty five and one hundred days. The zoo has confirmed it will not use artificial insemination if the pandas fail to mate successfully this year. Tian Tian and Yang Guang had been kept in separate enclosures since arriving in Scotland in December.

Which brings us to today's Keith Telly Toping's 45 of the Day. From james.
'The scum is really floating to the surface, of the sea/Everything she touches is infected. Including me.' as true now, as it was in 1989.

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