Sunday, April 01, 2012

We Don't Care What Your Name Is, Boy, We'll Never Turn You Away

The second episode of The Voice saw an increase in the BBC show's audience of over half a million new punters. The Voice pulled in an average audience of just under nine million across the slot (7pm to 8:20pm) and a 10.2m peak around 7:55pm. Crucially, during the twenty minute head-to-head with Britain's Got Talent, the BBC show again came out ahead by almost two million viewers. So, if for no other reason than it makes odious smug shitbag Kevin O'Sullivan of the Mirra look very silly indeed when he claimed, earlier in the week on 5Live, that The Voice's ratings 'go off a cliff' with episode two and never recover, this is a good thing. You're seldom right, Kevin. And, by seldom, of course, I mean, never. Nevertheless, the champagne corks would've also been popping over at ITV as Britain's Got Talent also saw an audience increase over last week's series opener with an average of 9.9m and a peak of over twelve million punters. So basically, it appears than many people in the UK are quite enjoying Saturday night TV at the moment. Well, that's novel. Odious, risible Take Me Out dipped to 4.39m from 9.05pm despite its huge audience inheritance from Got Talent. The stinking, rotten, wretched Paddy McGuinness dating show added two hundred and fifteen thousand further sad and crushed victims of society on ITV+1. BBC1's Casualty (4.92m) satisfyingly outperformed Take Me Out in the later slot, prior to which Dale Winton's In It To Win It held 4.09m. All Star Family Fortunes managed 3.53m versus The Voice. Across primetime, BBC1 enjoyed an even clearer victory than last Saturday, commanding a share of twenty seven per cent over ITV's 23.4 per cent.

Oh, by the way, look what's coming.
All right, now I'm excited.
A computer piracy website, secretly supported by one of Rupert Murdoch's companies, 'openly promoted advice on how to hack BSkyB's rivals,' according to documents obtained by the Observer. E-mails obtained by the newspaper also, they claim, 'reveal' that a senior employee of NDS, the Murdoch company, 'insisted he was personally responsible for setting up The House of Ill Compute (Thoic) site.' NDS says that it paid Thoic's chief hacker, Lee Gibling, for information allowing it to 'monitor and prosecute' software pirates legitimately. But the documents, the Observer argues, 'provide a new perspective on potentially toxic allegations' that resurfaced in a BBC Panorama programme broadcast last week and which triggered a ferocious rebuttal from Murdoch and his News Corp empire. The allegations come as the media regulator Ofcom assesses News Corp's near-forty per cent holding in BSkyB following the phone-hacking scandal that saw the closure, in disgrace, of Murdoch's Scum of the World newspaper. At its peak in 2000, Thoic claimed it was receiving as many as three million hits a day. The website's first 'e-zine', a downloadable magazine, was published in 2001 and was 'shared with the Observer by one of its members.' It features two articles about how to hack Sky rival OnDigital's SECA software system, which was developed by a French broadcaster, Canal Plus, as a rival to NDS's technology. OnDigital, later rebranded as ITVDigital, was set up by terrestrial broadcasters Granada and Carlton in 1998 and went into administration in 2002. The articles, by a hacker known as 'Barrell', describe the programming necessary to facilitate the hack and explain the need to phone OnDigital so that the company could send a signal to the hacker's set-top box. Barrell advised: 'The way to guarantee this is to phone OD [OnDigital] while logging and say any of the following, your card is not working, swap a channel, upgrade your package etc. PLEASE, PLEASE do not all phone OD as soon as this guide is released, stagger it over a few days, weeks, otherwise OD will think something is up when a few thousand people start phoning up.' Another article, Installing a chip in a CFT2100 box, explains how to 'decrypt' the pay TV networks of cable operators NTL and Telewest, so that viewers could watch them for free. An e-mail, dated 5 February 2001, sent to Gibling, and copied to Ray Adams, NDS's head of security, shows - the Observer claims - Thoic's members discussed 'how hackers could learn in its online forums to program software allowing them to hack into cable television.' NDS, which built the software for Murdoch's pay TV platforms around the world, admits to paying Gibling 'tens of thousands of pounds' and 'providing him with computer equipment,' but insists this was for his 'help in tracking computer hackers so that it could protect its own security systems.' The company's supporters argue the focus on Thoic is 'disproportionate' because pirated OnDigital cards were being offered for sale on other Internet forums and online sites. They also argue claims that the collapse of OnDigital was due to software piracy are wrong because a multitude of factors - not least the disastrously high price ITV paid for live football rights - were really to blame. Both arguments have a degree of merit to them (particularly the latter). But, NDS's critics are likely to ask how the company could possibly be ignorant of the fact that technical guidance on how to hack Sky's rivals was being openly promoted on the site or, if it was aware, what steps it took to inform its rivals about this malarkey and shenanigans. NDS points out that 'numerous' courts have rejected allegations it was responsible for TV piracy. Adams told Panorama that 'Gibling developed it [Thoic] and developed it himself' and he 'would have arrested' Gibling if he had known OnDigital's code had been published on the site. But, the Observer claims, in one e-mail, sent on 9 February 2000 to his NDS colleagues, Adams insisted: 'I created Thoic and still consider it my baby.' Gary Walker, a moderator in the Thoic forums who went under the handle BigBird, confirmed to the Observer that the site 'regularly' released OnDigital codes, allowing the system to be hacked. 'I think there is a case for a public inquiry into what happened,' Walker said. NDS said: 'It is simply not true that NDS used the Thoic website to sabotage the commercial interests of OnDigital or indeed any rival.' It added: 'Like most companies in the conditional access industry – and many law enforcement agencies – NDS uses industry contacts to track and catch both hackers and pirates. This is neither illegal nor unethical. The information NDS has gained has often been shared with our competitors and non-pay-TV customers and law enforcement agencies.' Last month News Corp and a venture capital firm announced the sale of NDS to Cisco in a five billion dollar deal.

The government will be able to monitor the telephone calls, e-mails, texts and website visits of everyone in the UK under new legislation set to be announced soon. Internet firms will be required to give intelligence agency GCHQ access to communications on demand, in real time. The Home Office says the move is 'key to tackling crime and terrorism,' but civil liberties groups have criticised it. Attempts by the last government to take similar steps failed after huge opposition, including from the Tories themselves. A new law - which may be announced in the forthcoming Queen's Speech in May - would not allow GCHQ to access the content of e-mails, calls or messages without a warrant. But it would enable intelligence officers to identify who an individual or group is in contact with, how often and for how long. In a statement, the Home Office said that action was needed to 'maintain the continued availability of communications data as technology changes. It is vital that police and security services are able to obtain communications data in certain circumstances to investigate serious crime and terrorism and to protect the public,' a spokesman said. 'As set out in the Strategic Defence and Security Review we will legislate as soon as parliamentary time allows to ensure that the use of communications data is compatible with the government's approach to civil liberties.' But Nick Pickles, director of the Big Brother Watch campaign group, called the move 'an unprecedented step that will see Britain adopt the same kind of surveillance seen in China and Iran. This is an absolute attack on privacy online and it is far from clear this will actually improve public safety, while adding significant costs to Internet businesses,' he said. 'If this was such a serious security issue why has the Home Office not ensured these powers were in place before the Olympics?' Even if it is announced in the Queen's Speech, any new law would still have to make it through Parliament, potentially in the face of opposition in both the Commons and the Lords. The Labour government attempted to introduce a central, government-run database of everyone's phone calls and e-mails, but eventually dropped the bid after widespread anger for special interest groups and, you know, normal people. The then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith did pursue efforts similar to those being revisited now, but the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats continued to voice their concerns. The shadow Home Secretary at the time, Chris Grayling, said that the government had 'built a culture of surveillance which goes far beyond counter terrorism and serious crime.' Lib Dem home affairs spokesman, Chris Huhne (remember him?), said any legislation requiring communications providers to keep records of contact would need 'strong safeguards on access,' and 'a careful balance' would have to be struck 'between investigative powers and the right to privacy.'

Friday's Broadcasting Press Guild awards swiftly turned into a I'm-more-fraudulent-than-you contest for the winners. Gareth Malone, collecting the best factual entertainment prize for The Choir: Military Wives, affected puzzlement because, he noted, in his shows everyone knows exactly what's going to happen: 'Nobody sings. Everyone laughs at me. I get very cross. Everyone sings.' Well, the lad's got a point. Also backing, grudgingly, into the limelight Rev's writers Tom Hollander and James Wood, winners of the writer's award as well as best comedy. Hollander, also star of the series and credited with having the idea, insisted that he was 'not really a writer.' But Wood, referring to a clip just shown of the Rev Smallbone having a pre-Christmas breakdown, countered by saying the scene was improvised – 'Tom went mad, and I just typed it.' Their modesty, however, was topped by Hollander's screen wife the delightful Olivia Colman, who walked away with both the best actress and the breakthrough awards. Colman not only queried whether she really had breakthrough credentials ('I've been slogging away for twenty years!') but also whether any actor should be honoured at all – 'I just turn up and read the lines that a writer's written.' Even this seemed too immodest as soon as she said it: 'I don't even have to turn up, I'm driven there.' Ah, bless 'er.

Scottish actor Alex Norton is to join the cast of BBC1 drama Waterloo Road. Norton is probably best known for his role of Matthew Burke in Taggart. The future of Taggart is currently undecided; while ITV have axed it STV are keen to continue the series and are seeking co-producers to fund further seasons. With Taggart remaining on indefinite hiatus Norton has been cast in Waterloo Road according to the Scum Mail on Sunday. The actor will play the headmaster of a rival private school and will clash with Alec Newman's character.

The great Armando Iannucci is writing his debut novel, a satirical fantasy about a for-profit language. Iannucci, who is currently filming the fourth series of The Thick of It, began writing Tongue International in the Nineties, but abandoned it several years later. But now publishers Little, Brown have confirmed that the book is approaching completion, though 'this year seems unlikely.' In the novel, people are charged for the privilege of speaking and writing the fictional language, which becomes the lingua franca of business and government after skillful marketing by its creators. In a recent profile in The New Yorker, Iannucci explained that 'you can't quite express as much as you normally express, but it's popular, so everyone can understand. But it does mean that people's thought processes become a little constricted.' Iannucci has previously published compilations of his newspaper columns, and he co-wrote tie-in books for The Thick Of It and I'm Alan Partridge, including last year's acclaimed spoof autobiography I, Partridge. On Fry's Planet Word on BBC2 last year, Iannicci discussed shifts in language with Stephen Fry. He said: 'Over the last twenty years, maybe from Major and Blair onwards, there's been a withdrawal of the active in political language. If for example, a politician says something offensive, he or she won't say "I apologise for causing offence." They will say "I apologise if offence was caused." Because then that shifts the blame onto you for being bloody offended in the first place, rather than the politician.' Elsewhere in the programme, Iannucci addressed reactions to The Thick of It's baroque swearing: 'I got letters from eighty four-year-old-ladies saying that they found Malcolm Tucker's language positively Shakespearean. For the new series, I was told if I wanted up to three "cunts", I would have to get the "fuck" rate under one hundred per episode. And I remember saying we’ve only got plans for one "cunt" this episode, so am I allowed to go beyond a hundred "fucks" per episode?'

A man arrested for being drunk and disorderly appealed to officers with an impromptu performance of 'Bohemian Rhapsody' in the back of the police car. Robert Williams has become something of an Internet hit after CCTV footage of him singing the turgid Queen anthem was uploaded to YouTube, accumulating almost four million hits. 'I have done nothing wrong and even the situation where you grabbed me has nothing to do with having been sort of intoxicated as you proclaim,' Williams states prior to his sudden musical outburst. 'What it has to do with is the brotherhood of mankind on the planet Earth.' The twenty nine-year-old Canadian had been arrested by the Royal Mounted Police at around 4am in Edson, Alberta on 27 November last year. He hopefully received a very long sentence for crimes against music. And, indeed, again humanity.

And now, dear blog reader, the first in a new, irregular, series on From The North, records you're really glad you haven't got in your collection. Number one.
The world used to be such a simpler place, didn't it?

Scowling, sour-faced, dour and miserable Scotsman yer actual Kenny Dalglish had reason to be especially scowling sour-faced dour and miserable as his Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws side were outplayed, outclassed and outfought by yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (thought still unsellable) Magpies at the artist formerly known as St James' Park. And, truly, this was glorious in yer actual Keith Telly Topping's sight, so it was. On the other hand it was all smiles for the locals among a sell-out crowd of fifty two thousand three hundred and sixty three punters as Alan Pardew celebrated a repeat of his first game in charge of United with another win over Liverpool. A thoroughly entertaining, drama-packed game ended in a victory for Newcastle over The Scowling Reds 2-0, with two quality strikes from Papiss Demba Cissé either side of half-time - the Senegalese striker's sixth and seventh goals in just seven appearances in English football for the Black and Whites. Liverpool also had their goalkeeper, Pepe Reina, sent to the stands after the Spaniard tried to stick the nut on James Perch late in the game. And totally failed. Which, actually, made it even funnier. The game ended with delirious United fans chanting 'you're getting sacked in the morning' to the hapless former Toon manager scowling sour-faced, dour and miserable Dalglish whose side have now lost six of their last seven games. Trust me when I tell you, dear blog reader, they've loved it. Loved it. It also was a thoroughly rotten day for Liverpool's three former Magpies. Firstly there was José Enrique Sánchez - still unforgiven on Tyneside where he had previously been something of a cult figure, for a series of rather unwise comments which he made on Twitter after he left United in the summer. (In case you missed them, they were: 'The club is allowing all the major players of the team to go. Seriously, do you think it is the fault of the players? This club will never again fight to be among the top six again with this policy.' The fact that, as the game started United were, actually, sixth, and Liverpool weren't, merely added to the irony.) Enrique was, therefore, booed all afternoon, subjected to chants of 'Jose Enrique/we're in the Top Six!' and 'we're in the Top Six, we're in the Top Six/you're not, you're not!' and ended the game playing in goal after Reina's thigh-slippingly funny dismissal. Andy Carroll - whom Liverpool, remember, had paid The Toon thirty five million quid for just over a year ago and now looks incapable of hitting a barn door at six feet - was also booed all afternoon, booked for a ludicrous dive in the first half in an attempt to win a penalty and get Tim Krul sent off when it would have been easier for him to score, subjected to very amusing chants of 'what a waste of money' and appeared angry and frustrated when he was withdrawn by scowling, sour-faced Dalglish fifteen minutes from time - also had a time rotten time of it. Carroll, reportedly, left 'looking close to tears [and] mouthing obscenities towards Dalglish.' Well, according to the Torygraph, anyway. One would suggest anybody who's likely to be oot on the razz doon The Bigg Market tonight should beware in case any glasses, you know, 'accidentally slip out of someone's hand.' It appeared an agonising experience for the two players who had left Newcastle to join an, allegedly, 'bigger club' in 2011. Enrique was tortured all afternoon by Hatem Ben Arfa whilst Carroll just looked like he was being tortured by the whole experience, failing to take two good chances in the first half, his every touch booed and jeered by 'his people.' Finally, Craig Bellamy was also booed all afternoon. Because he's a nasty, mouthy little bugger and nobody likes him very much. So, no change there then. To the - much - more important stuff, Cissé headed in Hatem Ben Arfa's pinpoint cross in a first-half in which Liverpool had plenty of the ball but where Tim Krul hardly had a shot to save, before the same player tapped in from Demba Ba's centre shortly after the break. A piss poor afternoon for the visitors in the Tyneside sunshine was made just that little bit worse when Reina saw red. Although James Perch - who had a superb afternoon otherwise, helping to shackle Carroll along with Man of the Match Mike Williamson - will probably have had harder impacts on his face from his pillow than from Reina's bald heed. Perch had impeded the Spaniard as he collected a Williamson header from a corner and was booked for this, rightly. But when Reina squared up to the Newcastle defender, leading with his head, referee Martin The Card Atkinson had little choice but to send the keeper off. Well, no, that's wrong. He clearly did have a choice, but he chose not to exercise it. The crowd laughed. And laughed. And laughed until they stopped. And then, they laughed some more. It was that sort of afternoon, frankly. Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws have now lost six of their last seven league games, their worst run in many, many years and cause for much celebration around the rest of the country. For, such is the totally high regard with which scowling, sour-faced, dour and miserable Dalglish and his team are held by other football fans. As they trooped off at the end, well beaten and with their tails between their legs, it was a moment befitting the recent woeful run for Dalglish's side whilst for the hosts, the victory was a tangible reward during a season of remarkable revolution for Pardew's side who have punched hugely above their weight all year. It just goes to show, Jose, does it not? A little bit of hard work and developing a team-spirit stripped of mouthy primadonas can, actually, go a very long way. The win leaves United in sixth place in the Premiership, level on points (fifty three) with fifth place Moscow Chelski FC. And ten points ahead of eighth placed Everton. Liverpool - 'a top four club' in their own heads, at least according to their ludicrous managing director, Ian Ayre - are in ninth place on forty two points, one behind their local rivals, the Toffeemen, whilst Blunderland are breathing down their necks in tenth with forty points.

So, for today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, here's something from Liverpool. Life goes on, Kenny. Day after day, apparently.

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