Friday, June 15, 2012

So You're Alive, I Thought You Was Done

First up today, dear blog reader, something of an apology from yer actual Keith Telly Topping for the rather haphazard schedule of blog updates over the last few days. Sadly, yer actual Mama Telly Topping was taken ill at the back end of last week, necessitating a five-day-stay in hospital. On Wednesday evening she was released but, within just a few hours, she had suffered a relapse and was rushed back in on Thursday morning. At the moment she's being held in for observation and various tests - which inevitably means a lot of shuttling backwards and forwards for yer actual Keith Telly Topping and his brothers and other family members and friends (for, she had many). Not ideal for anyone, of course - least of all Mama Telly Topping her very self - but, bless her, she's ninety one, these things do tend to become inevitable after a while. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping would, however, like to extend a very sincere thanks to many close chums and even more casual acquaintances alike on Facebook and via e-mail who have been sending best wishes for both her and myself. You're all brilliant and it is hugely appreciated. And, yer actual Keith Telly Topping would really like to thank Steve, Christian, Vicky, Geoff, Chris, Billy, Ewen and Vicky for taking him out on Thursday night and getting him drunk! I feel a whole hell of a lot better about life this morning. Albeit, a bit hungover.

Right, the beat goes on and we, however reluctantly, have to go on with it: Doctor Who big cheese The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods A'fore He) has revealed that he has created a new monster for the series which he suggest will 'scare' viewers. Which is nice. The writer assured fans of the long-running popular BBC family drama on Twitter that the latest nemesis for Matt Smith's Time Lord will 'be a good one.' Good meaning in this case, you know, bad. 'See this new monster I've invented? This is a GOOD one,' The Moffster (seen right, with one of his many BAFTAs) wrote. 'This will SCARE you. Oh yes.' And, he must be telling the truth because he wrote it in capital letters. That's usually a key sign. Among the villains already confirmed for Doctor Who's upcoming seventh series are the Doctor's oldest enemies of all, The Daleks, who were last seen on the show in 2010, and The Weeping Angels, who will somehow be involved with the departures of Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill). The first pictures of Smith with the Doctor's new companion, played by Jenna-Louise Coleman, emerged earlier this month. Moffat recently insisted that there is 'no chance' of the BBC 'giving up' on Doctor Who, describing the show as 'a huge money-spinner.' Which, to be fair, anybody with half-a-brain in their head could have already worked out. Nothing is ever a 'sure thing' in TV but the fact that Doctor Who will remain a regular feature on BBC1 for the immediate, medium and - probably - long-term is as close as you'll get to such a 'sure thing'. But, you try telling that to The Special People and they won't believe you. Doctor Who will return to BBC1 in the autumn, with the series seven premiere debuting at this year's Edinburgh International Television Festival.

Benedict Cumberbatch has insisted that he has no plans to quit Sherlock. The actor has recently won a number of Hollywood roles, including parts in Star Trek 2 and Peter Jackson's Hobbit movies, but insisted that he will 'always' find time to star in the BBC's hit detective drama as long as the BBC want to carry on making it. 'It's something I'm not going to give up on,' he told TVLine. 'I love it too much. It's hard work, but it's so rewarding and such a lovely bunch of people who do it. We love our fans and we love what it's created. It's an incredible thing to be part of [and] it doesn't happen that often. Don't worry, it's not going to disappear. We only do three at a time, so I think the normal fear of over-stretching the mark and just doing too many [doesn't apply],' he explained. He continued: 'I'd like to see [Sherlock] getting older. We're starting quite young. It's rare to see Holmes and Watson at the beginning of their relationship; we usually join them in their mid-to-late forties or fifties. I've got a way to go. I mean, I'm only thirty five.'

Classic British comedy series The Comic Strip Presents ... will return for a new film on UKTV's Gold. Adrian Edmondson, Dawn French, Rik Mayall, Nigel Planer and Jennifer Saunders were among the regular cast members, while Peter Richardson has been the show's key writer during its thirty-year stretch. The show has previously be broadcast on both the BBC and Channel Four. Gold's thirtieth anniversary special, The Comic Strip Presents ... Five Go To Rehab, will return to the show's characters and setting from its debut episode in 1982 - Five Go Mad In Dorset. According to industry magazine Broadcast, the channel is 'in talks' with original cast members French, Edmondson and Saunders about the special. UKTV will also broadcast a two-hour Thirty Years Of The Comic Strip tribute. Both shows are scheduled to be broadcast in November. Commissioning executive Sarah Fraser said that the show 'underlined the scale of ambition' at Gold. Earlier this year, the broadcaster announced plans to reboot classic BBC comedy series Yes, Prime Minister. The most recent revival of The Comic Strip, last year's The Hunt for Tony Blair, starred Robbie Coltrane, Stephen Mangan and regulars Mayall, Saunders and Planer.

BBC2 has confirmed a broadcast-date for new police drama Line of Duty. Described as 'a hard-hitting thriller' this stars Lennie James as charismatic but controversial police officer Tony Gates and will debut on Tuesday 26 June at 9pm. The terrific Vicky McClure (This Is England), Martin Compston (The Damned United) and good old Neil Morrissey will also star along with two of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite actors, Gina McKee and Lennie James. Line of Duty has been created by Jed Mercurio, known for his work on Bodies and Strike Back. 'I've always been a fan of thrillers that twist and turn and pull the rug from under your feet,' said Mercurio. 'I love dramas that rush headlong and then lurch off in some totally unexpected direction. For a long time, I've also been interested in creating a police series. We agreed that, in keeping with my medical dramas - Bodies and Cardiac Arrest - whatever we did would have to break the mould. It would have to be full of moral grey areas and populated by antiheroes.' The writer added: 'Line Of Duty is first and foremost a thriller. But it's also a revisionist commentary on Twenty First Century policing.' Sounds good and, from the trailers, lookers proper decent.

David Dimbleby is to front a new BBC series looking at Britain's maritime art and culture, while The Culture Show is to be cut to thirty minutes and spread across the year, as the corporation announces a shake-up of its arts programming schedule. Dimbleby will helm the BBC1 series, with the working title Britain and the Sea, where he will sail on his cutter Rocket to explore maritime art, culture, music and literature. BBC2's flagship arts programme, The Culture Show, will undergo a major change to scheduling and format. The one-hour show currently airs on Friday nights at 7pm for about half the year, with a long break in summer. However, the BBC is to cut the show to thirty minutes but extend its run to forty five of the fifty two weeks, and start broadcasting at 10pm on Wednesday nights. Due to the large number of cultural events on this year the show is to return for the summer, starting next Wednesday, with ten hour-long specials also planned, the first of which will be broadcast next Friday. A spokeswoman for the BBC said that the overall number of hours that The Culture Show will be broadcast per year will remain unchanged. Other commissions in the BBC's autumn arts schedule include a three-part series, Treasures of Ancient Rome, on BBC4 fronted by Alastair Sooke and Dr James Fox with a new BBC4 series called A History of the World in Three Colours. BBC1's flagship arts strand Imagine will return in the autumn with an exclusive interview with Salman Rushdie, access to Ian Rankin to talk about bringing back his crime character Rebus and a look at British choreographer Matthew Bourne.

Ex-News International executive and well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks told the prime minister she was 'rooting for him' both professionally and personally after the Sun switched allegiance to his party, the Leveson Inquiry has heard. The text was discussed during David Cameron's evidence about the relationship between MPs and the press. Well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks sent an effusive text message to Cameron on the eve of his 2009 party conference speech, telling him: 'Professionally, we're definitely in this together!' and signing off: 'Yes he Cam!' Brooks sent the text on 7 October 2009 during the Conservative party conference, a week after the Sun had switched allegiance to the Tories on the eve of then prime minister Gordon Brown's party conference speech. At the time, well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks was chief executive of the Sun's parent company, News International, and Cameron was still leader of the opposition. 'I am so rooting for you tomorrow not just as a proud friend but because professionally we're definitely in this together!' wrote Brooks. 'Speech of your life! Yes he Cam!' Brooks's sign-off was repeated the following day in the headline on the Sun's leader comment, heaping sycophantic brown-tongued praise on Cameron's speech. Cameron, appearing at the Leveson inquiry on Thursday, said that the text referred to the fact his party and Brooks's newspapers would be 'pushing the same agenda. I think that is about the Sun had made this decision to back the Conservatives, to part company with Labour, and so the Sun wanted to make sure it was helping the Conservative party put its best foot forward, with the policies we were announcing, the speech I was going to make and all the rest of it, and I think that's what that means,' he added. 'I think what it means was that we were, as she put it, friends, but professionally we – as leader of the Conservative party and her in newspapers – we were going to be pushing the same political agenda.' Robert Jay QC, lead counsel to the inquiry, said the first part of the text had been redacted because it was not relevant. Jay added that it probably included a joke, as Brooks's message continued: 'But seriously I do understand the issue with The Times. Let's discuss over country supper soon. On the party it was because I had asked a number of NI people to Manchester post-endorsement and they were disappointed not to see you. But as always Sam was wonderful – (and I thought it was OE's that were charm personified!).' OE is thought to refer to 'Old Etonian.' Asked about the text by Jay, Cameron said: 'The issue with The Times was that at the party conference I had not been to The Times party. The major newspaper groups tend to have big parties at the party conference and they expect party leaders, cabinet ministers, shadow cabinet ministers to go, and that would be the normal thing to do, the Telegraph, The Times, others would do this.' Jay asked if the 'country supper' reference was 'the sort of interaction you often had with her?' The prime minister replied: 'Yes, we were neighbours.' Earlier, Jay asked Cameron at what point he had begun to count well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks as among his 'good friends.' Cameron said he was 'reluctant to be specific' because he could not remember and did not want to get it wrong. 'We got to know each other because of her role in the media, my role in politics, but we struck up a friendship. Our relationship got stronger when she married Charlie Brooks, who I've known for some time and who's a neighbour,' he added. Asked if the two were in contact on a weekly basis by 2008 and 2009, as Brooks's evidence to the inquiry suggested, Cameron said: 'It's very difficult because I don't have a record and I don't want to give you an answer that isn't right. Sometimes I expect we would have been talking to each other quite a bit, particularly around the time perhaps of the wedding or when we were both in Oxfordshire, we would have had more frequent contact.' He added: 'Particularly once she started going out with Charlie Brooks, living a couple of miles down the road, I was definitely seeing her more often because of my friendship with Charlie as a neighbour and Charlie and I played tennis together and all sorts of other things.' Cameron also said ex-PM Gordon Brown's claims about a Tory deal with NI were 'complete nonsense.' And, he said his own hiring of an ex-Scum of the World editor had 'haunted' him. Andy Coulson became Cameron's communications chief after resigning from the paper. Cameron said Brown's claims that the Tories agreed to cut funding for the BBC and media regulator Ofcom in return for political support from News International had been made because he was 'very angry and disappointed' at the Sun's decision to switch support from Labour ahead of the 2010 general election. Cameron claimed the text of support from Brooks, dated October 2009, was a reflection of the fact that the Sun had the previous week switched its support to the Conservatives. Despite the friendship with Brooks and his own employment of Coulson, he claimed there had been 'no overt deals, no covert deals' and 'no nods and winks' with the company. He said he did have some conversations with editors in which he told them 'we'd love a bit more support from your paper,' but 'not very often.' Policies relating to Ofcom and the BBC were 'born out of proper Conservative thinking about the media,' he insisted, not any kind of deal. The prime minister's witness statement reveals he had fourteen hundred and four meetings with 'media figures' - twenty six a month on average - while in opposition between 2005 and 2010. Once in government, that fell to an average of about thirteen a month. 'Most of these meetings were about me trying to promote Conservative policy,' he said. In 2008 he took a trip to the Greek island of Santorini for a dinner with News International boss billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch because it was a chance to 'build a relationship' with him, Cameron claimed. When asked by Robert Jay QC, counsel for the inquiry, how frequently Cameron saw well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks in the period from 2008 to 2009, the prime minister replied: 'It's very difficult because I don't have a record and I don't want to give you an answer that isn't right, so sometimes I would expect we would have been talking to each other quite a bit particularly around the time of [her] wedding or when we were both in Oxfordshire.' He went on to say he did not see Brooks 'every weekend in 2008-09. I'd have to check, I might be able to go back and check but I don't think every weekend, I don't think most weekends, but it would depend.' Brooks and her husband Charlie - who went to school with Cameron - have both been charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in relation to the phone-hacking scandal surrounding the Scum of the World. Both deny wrongdoing. The prime minister told the inquiry he accepted hiring Coulson was 'a controversial appointment,' but he had been 'given assurances' at the time by Coulson that he had 'no knowledge' of phone-hacking at the paper. Earlier Cameron said politicians 'have to take care when you have personal friendships [with individuals in the media] but that can be done and I have done that.' Cameron said the relationship between politicians and the media had deteriorated. 'It's become a bad relationship. How we get it to a better place, I think part of it will be about transparency, better regulation, having a bit more distance, that will be part of respect. But respect has to come from high standards in both places. Respect has to be earned on both sides.' He continued: 'When I say distance, partly what I mean is that the politicians have got to get out of the twenty four-hour news cycle, not try and fight every hourly battle, focus on long-term issues and be prepared to take a hit on a story they don't immediately respond to.' He said the inquiry was 'a cathartic moment' and a chance to 'reset' relations. Cameron also defended handing the lack of culture secretary, the vile and odious rascal Hunt, the task of overseeing News Corporation's controversial bid for BSkyB, saying it was 'not some rushed, botched political decision.' The prime minister told the inquiry that he had been presented 'with a situation I didn't want' after the business secretary, Vince Cable, was stripped of responsibility for the bid on 21 December 2010. Cable was recorded by undercover Daily Torygraph reporters saying he had 'declared war' on Rupert Murdoch. Cameron said it was 'suggested' by Sir Jeremy Heywood, the permanent secretary at No 10 at the time, that the decision be transferred to the vile and odious rascal Hunt. He added it that this was endorsed by the then cabinet secretary, Gus O'Donnell, and backed by legal advice. 'So I accept there is controversy, but I think the backing of, as it were, two permanent secretaries and a lawyer is quite a strong state of affairs,' said Cameron. The prime minister added that he was 'aware' of what the lack of culture secretary had said in public about the BSkyB bid, but 'did not recall' a private memo sent to him by the vile and odious rascal Hunt on 19 November 2010 in which he further outlined his support for the bid. 'It wasn't received on my e-mail system,' Cameron said. 'The issue here is I don't particularly remember this note, and crucially, I didn't recall its existence on the day of 21 December when we were making this decision [to put the vile and odious rascal Hunt in charge of the bid].' Cameron said the decision had to be made 'relatively rapidly,' partly because of the pressures of the twenty four-hour news environment. But he denied a suggestion by Robert Jay that the decision had to be made 'on the hoof' because Treasury solicitor Paul Jenkins was on holiday at the time and had to give advice over the phone. 'It was not some rushed, botched political decision,' said Cameron. 'If anyone had told me that Jeremy Hunt couldn't do the job, I wouldn't have given him the job.' Well I could have told him that if he'd asked for this blogger's opinion. But, he didn't. The prime minister added that he had 'no inappropriate conversations' about the bid with anyone from News Corporation, but did discuss it briefly with James Murdoch the small at a social event on 23 December 2010, also attended by well-known Cyrtsal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks and her husband, millionaire Old Etonian Charlie. 'While I cannot remember the exact words I believe I said what Vince Cable had said about News Corporation was wrong and I am sure that I would have said that while I recused myself from the decision it would now be dealt with impartially, properly and in the correct way,' Cameron said. Jay suggested that following the Milly Dowler phone hacking revelations in July 2011, Cameron was very keen 'for political reasons to derail the BSkyB bid.' 'I wouldn't quite put it like that,' replied the prime minister. 'The point was, with all that was emerging in terms of the dreadful news about the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone, that the public was rightly very angry about what had happened. While there was, quite rightly, a quasi-judicial procedure taking place, there was a broader issue of the views of the House of Commons, the views of the country, and the need to reflect those. And this obviously was difficult.' Cameron, who was in Afghanistan when the Gruniad's Milly Dowler story broke, said that his public statements were along the lines of: 'If I was running this company, I wouldn't be considering a corporate move. I would be cleaning up the mess that there is. I thought that was just about consistent with there being a quasi-judicial process, but the House of Commons can vote on these issues, and rightly so.'

So, the prime minister emerged largely unscathed as he brought down the curtain on the most politically significant week of the Leveson inquiry with a performance which showed that, for the moment, there are no obvious smoking guns. While the day may have lacked the sense of history of 2003, when anti-war protesters jeered Tony Blair outside the same venue, Downing Street will know that the prime minister's appearance may eventually be remembered as an equally significant moment. Cameron, who normally exudes confidence, signalled that he knew he was in for a potentially uncomfortable ride when he looked uncharacteristically nervous. It was shortly after midday when the inquiry's counsel Robert Jay, read out the text sent by well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks to Cameron on 7 October 2009 on the eve of his party conference speech. The text, sent days after the Sun had abandoned its support for Labour, is embarrassing for the prime minister for one simple reason. It goes to the heart of the case against him: that he was too close to News International. The prime minister's defence – to use his phrase pinched by Brooks – is that all political leaders have been 'in it together' because successive prime ministers were 'too close' to media proprietors and particularly to billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch. But the Brooks text shows that Cameron's links with the former News International chief executive went way beyond Blair's and Gordon Brown's contacts with the media empire. Downing Street says that Brown's wife, Sarah, had 'an equally close relationship' with Brooks after organising a sleepover of female friends at Chequers. Even if that is true, No 10 knows there is one immutable fact. The music has stopped on Cameron's watch, which means that any embarrassing evidence will rebound on him first. The memo showed that the greatest threat to Cameron for the moment is an unpleasant lingering odour rather than a specific smoking gun. He struggled to handle questions about his close friendship with well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks and how often he sought assurances from Andy Coulson about his knowledge of phone-hacking. The prime minister had difficulty remembering how often he had met Brooks in Oxfordshire in the years leading up to the 2010 general election and was forced to discuss the meaning of a fawning, sycophantic 'we're definitely in this together!' text sent to him by the then News International chief executive in October 2009. When asked by Robert Jay if he saw Brooks, also a former Sun and Scum of the World editor, 'every weekend,' Cameron found it difficult to give a precise answer. In the most halting period of his morning's testimony, the prime minister said: 'I might be able to go back and check, but I don't think every weekend. I don't think most weekends. But it would depend.' Clearly concerned about the vagueness of his answer, immediately after lunch when the inquiry resumed, the prime minister said that he had talked to his wife, Samantha, who had checked his personal diaries for 2008 and 2009. Cameron said that because he was not in his constituency every weekend, he saw Brooks 'every six weeks' during this period. As the evidence moved towards lunch and into the afternoon session he navigated the tricky waters around his appointment of Andy Coulson and the decision to hand the quasi-judicial powers over the News Corp bid to take full control of BSkyB to the vile and odious rascal Hunt in December 2010. The prime minister, whose only difficulty was a difference of opinion with Coulson about when they first discussed phone-hacking, acknowledged that the appointment has 'come back to haunt both him and me.' On the subject of the vile and odious rascal Hunt, he was helped when his handling of the appointment was endorsed by Paul Jenkins, the Treasury solicitor. Jenkins said it would 'still have been right' to make the appointment even if there had been full disclosure of the memo by the vile and odious rascal Hunt, sent to the prime minister a month earlier, strongly backing the BSkyB bid. Which the prime minister, perhaps conveniently, could not recall seeing. As Downing Street aides congratulated the prime minister on a credible - if hardly Blair-style bravura - performance, they will know that there is one other area where Cameron's evidence may be seen as highly significant. This came in the closing minutes of his five-hour session. Lord Justice Leveson started to question the prime minister about his thoughts on the future regulation of the media. Cameron trotted out a familiar script about the need for a change to the current system of self-regulation, embodied in the Press Complaints Commission of 2009 which glossed over phone-hacking. But then he said that the new system would have to pass what he called 'a McCann and a Dowler test' – that 'ordinary families' who feel they have a grievance against the press are treated properly. 'The point is it doesn't work for the Dowlers, or the McCanns,' he said. 'That's the test.' Leveson challenged this as he indicated that he wanted to go further and draw up rules to block intrusion when there is no public interest. The judge asked: 'Could I suggest that it's not just the Dowlers, but really encompasses all those whose privacy or rights have been intruded upon without any sufficient public interest? Would that be fair?' The prime minister, who has some sympathy for his education secretary and chief Murdoch apologist Michael Gove's view that there is a danger of limiting free speech, said that he agreed. But then he questioned the judge's thinking when he said it was important that the press should be able to investigate those in the public eye. The roles momentarily reversed as Leveson became slightly deferential to his witness when Cameron mentioned media interest in him, personally, as he laughed about leaving his daughter in a pub. This illustrated a fundamental point – and possibly a weakness about the inquiry – that Leveson needs the support of the prime minister and other political leaders to introduce his recommendations. Leveson does not want his report to gather dust on the shelves of journalism colleges. That means that Cameron, who wonders whether it was wise to establish the inquiry, and Ed Miliband, who seems to see an opportunity to highlight the prime minister as 'out of touch', will have to reach a consensus.

A former prison officer is among three people arrested by Metropolitan Police officers investigating alleged corrupt payments to public officials. The arrests, made at 0600 (those arrested, presumably, being dragged from their beds in the process), are part of Operation Elveden, which is running alongside a probe into phone hacking. The forty-year-old ex-prison officer was arrested in Corby, Northamptonshire on suspicion of corruption. Meanwhile, Gruniad journalist David Leigh will not be prosecuted over his admission that he once hacked a phone. The Crown Prosecution Service said that although the police investigation was not complete, its view was that Leigh should not be charged. Leigh, the newspaper's investigations executive editor, claimed that he hacked the voicemail of an arms company executive. He made the admission in an article after former Scum of the World royal reporter Clive Goodman pleaded guilty in December 2006 to intercepting voicemail messages left on royal aides' phones. Among the three people arrested on Thursday was a thirty seven-year-old woman arrested in Corby, and a thirty one-year-old man arrested in Croydon. The arrests bring the total made by Operation Elveden to thirty three. The Met said in a statement that the arrests came after News Corporation's management standards committee provided them with information. News Corporation set up its committee to conduct internal investigations relating to allegations of wrongdoing at its newspapers. The former prison officer was also arrested on suspicion of misconduct in a public office and money laundering offences. The woman is accused of aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office and money laundering. Both are being questioned at a police station in Northamptonshire. The thirty one-year-old man is being held on suspicion of conspiracy to corrupt and conspiracy to cause misconduct in a public office. He is being questioned at a south London police station. Scotland Yard's Operation Elveden investigation was set up to look into allegations of inappropriate payments to police and other public officials. It is linked to Operation Weeting, the investigation into mobile phone-hacking by journalists.

A high street rejuvenation project will go ahead in Margate whether or not traders take part in a Mary Portas reality TV show, an MP has promised. The Kent resort is among twelve towns chosen by Portas to share £1.2m of government cash and her expertise. However, she reportedly told hundreds at a meeting on Tuesday: 'You either let the cameras in with me or I go back on the train and some other town gets it.' Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale said there was 'no question' of money being withdrawn. 'It is entirely up to individual companies and tradespeople in the town whether or not they take part in the programme,' the Conservative MP said. 'The Margate Town Team Regeneration Project, backed with one hundred thousand pounds of government money, will go ahead whatever.' Margate is the first of three towns to be chosen by TV production company Optomen Television to feature in a Channel Four programme, Mary Queen of the High Street, about the regeneration process. Portas received applause as she addressed the meeting, but acknowledged that some people saw the documentary as a downside. 'If we put this on prime TV people will come,' she said. 'That is a decision you have got to make. It's going to be warts and all but at the end, from my heart, I want this to be wonderful and I want Margate to be wonderful.' Robin Vaughn-Lyons, leader of the regeneration bid, said that he was 'unaware' anything had been done 'to offend Mary. It wasn't until after the event that someone pointed it out to me what she said,' he claimed. 'It was bit of a shock of course but we have got an awful lot to do and we are just getting on with it.' Sir Roger, a former TV producer, said that contracts local people had been asked to sign with the production company were 'restrictive. I wouldn't have issued a contract like that and I understand Mary Portas herself has insisted that what she describes as the restrictive parts of the contract will be redrawn,' he said. 'I want to see the project succeed and if there is a documentary that shows how and why it has been approached and succeeded that would be very good news for the town.' Portas declined to comment, but Channel Four said in a statement: 'Optomen is in early talks with a number of local shopkeepers and town representatives. Some businesses have been given standard TV agreements. As usual, these agreements will evolve once we have received everyone's initial feedback. Mary is passionate about her work to help reinvigorate the high street and the programme will be made in that spirit, so we're keen to work closely with everyone involved.'

Hugh Laurie is said to be trading the quirky antics of medical drama House and buffoonery of Blackadder to step into the bad guy shoes for a remake of classic 1987 film RoboCop. The Daily Mirra alleges that the lure of a £3.2m paycheck and the chance to act opposite Gary Oldman appears to have done the trick, with Laurie set to play the evil chief of Omnicorp – the company which builds RoboCop – in what the Mirra claims will be Laurie's 'first big film role.' What, Stuart Little doesn't count?

Sky has seen its share price fall sharply on Thursday over fears that the pay-TV giant may have overpaid in its new two billion quid-plus deal for Premier League television rights. The Premier League yesterday closed the auction for the UK television and digital rights to one hundred and fifty four live games a season running from 2013-14 to 2015-16 - sixteen more per season than currently broadcast. Sky has held its position as the leading broadcaster of the league, after agreeing to pay seven hundred and sixty million smackers per annum for five packs totalling one hundred and sixteen live matches, up from the current deal level of five hundred and forty one million wonga per season. Stiff competition for the rights has meant that Sky will now have to fork out a staggering £6.6m for each live game, up from £4.7m previously. BT has picked up the remaining thirty eight games per season after beating current rights holder ESPN to the deal. Sky will have to shell out a total of £2.28bn on the three-season Premier League deal, while BT will find its wallet lighter to the tune of seven hundred and thirty eight million knicker. Overall, the Premier League sold its TV rights for £3.084bn, a staggering seventy per cent increase over the current deal value of £1.7bn, and providing a massive windfall for clubs in the league. Shares in Sky fell around eight per cent in early trading to six hundred and thirty nine pence, effectively wiping more than eight hundred million quid off its market value, as investors express concern that Sky may have overpaid for the rights. Sky has also recently spent big on snapping up other high profile sports rights, such as Formula One from 2012 to 2018 (in a joint deal with the BBC), UEFA Champions League until 2015, and Scottish Premier League until 2017. But Jeremy Darroch, the chief executive of Sky, feels that the coverage will allow Sky Sports to offer 'unprecedented live action right across the schedule.' Alongside driving up satellite TV subscriptions, Sky also intends to unlock more revenues from the Premier League rights by making the coverage available on a pay-as-you-view basis via its new NOW TV service. The Internet-delivered offering will launch later in the year, as part of Sky's strategy to monetise its expensively acquired content among people who do not want pay-TV. 'We're pushing ahead with more original British content, extending our leadership as the UK's favourite triple play provider, and launching our new Internet TV service, NOW TV, which will give us even more ways to distribute our content,' said Darroch. 'In what was a very competitive tender process, we are pleased to have secured the combination of rights that we wanted, providing certainty for us and our customers. Whilst the cost is higher, we have capacity for this increase through the combination of excellent work on cost-efficiency across the business and choices over other future spending. As a result, we remain confident of delivering our financial plans, in line with our expectations, unchanged, in each year of the new deal.' Sky Sports managing director Barney Francis added: 'The Premier League has never been more popular with our customers so it's excellent news that Sky Sports viewers will continue to enjoy the biggest and best games, including Super Sunday and Monday Night Football. Sky Sports viewers have never had so much choice of high quality action. Alongside the Premier League, we have long-term agreements in place to show the best in live sport, including UEFA Champions League football, European, Ryder Cup and US tour golf, Test and one-day cricket and Formula One. At the same time, we'll continue to innovate in providing the best coverage possible.'

A touch of magic could have been sprinkled on the Olympic flame as it visited to Alnwick Castle, the Northumberland location for the Harry Potter films. Day twenty seven of the relay started in Edinburgh and travelled through the Borders and crossing into England north of Berwick-upon-Tweed. Among the torchbearers was Scottish Olympian Allan Wells, who won gold in the hundred metres at the 1980 Moscow Olympics. The day ended with an evening celebration on Alnwick Castle Pastures. The first of one hundred and thirty torchbearers was swimmer Raquel Matos, sixteen, from Edinburgh, who started the relay in Festival Square. World Irish Dancing Champion Lauren Wales, thirteen, from Blaydon, carried the flame through Loanhead in Midlothian. Wells, sixty, from Edinburgh - who became the oldest Olympic hundred metres gold medallist when he won in the then USSR - carried the flame in Selkirk, as did Britain's international handball captain Lynn McCafferty from Cumbernauld. Chris Paterson, thirty four, Scotland's most-capped rugby player with one hundred and nine appearances, ran in Galashiels. The flame also went to the Forest Pitch - a full-size football pitch hidden deep within a forest in the Scottish Borders, created for Festival 2012. The relay route for the day took in Duddingston, Musselburgh, Dalkeith, Lasswade, Loanhead, Bilston, Milton Bridge, Penicuik and Eddleston. From there it went to Peebles, Innerleithen, Walkerburn, Selkirk, Galashiels, Earlston, Gordon, Greenlaw, Duns and Chirnside. The convoy stopped in Earlston and Brian Christie was the first torchbearer of the afternoon. The sixty three-year-old is the local TV repairman and a volunteer with the Boys Brigade, local youth clubs and Beeslack Thistle football team. He was nominated by his son, who said: 'He isn't a glory-seeking man, he's far from it. He never expects anything in return. He's my hero!' Towards the end of the day the flame visited Foulden, Berwick-Upon-Tweed and, crossing into Northumberland, the beautiful Bamburgh Castle, ending in Alnwick. Performances for the evening event came from Little Comets - an indie band from Jarrow. Meanwhile, on Friday, TV adventurer Bear Grylls will carry the Olympic flame down a zip wire from the Tyne Bridge. Grylls, a chief scout and TV presenter, will slide down the wire over the River Tyne and into the parade ground of HMS Calliope - the Royal Navy's riverside training centre. The ex-SAS man will be one of one hundred and forty one Torchbearers carrying the flame on Friday from Northumberland to Tyneside. Grylls is due to complete the ride at 19:00, the end of the relay day. There will be an evening celebration on the Quayside afterwards. Grylls has built a reputation for daredevil adventures - in 1998, at the age of twenty three, he became the youngest Briton to conquer Mount Everest. He has since gone on to star in the TV series Man vs Wild and Born Survivor, in which he showed viewers how to survive in dangerous and inhospitable parts of the world. The ride will be one of the most unusual methods of travel for the torch during the seventy-day relay. Other North East landmarks the flame will visit over the next couple of days include a section of Hadrian's Wall, St Mary's Lighthouse in Whitley Bay, St James' Park football ground in Newcastle and the Penshaw Monument and the Angel of the North in Gateshead. On Friday, the flame will also visit Warkworth, Amble, Ashington, Newbiggin-By-The-Sea, Morpeth, Bedlington, Blyth, Cullercoats, Tynemouth, North Shields and Wallsend.

Disgraced tycoon Allen Stanford has been sentenced to one hundred and ten years in jail for operating a Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors of more than seven billion dollars. The scheme was described as one of the largest in US history. In court, Stanford denied any guilt, telling the judge at his sentencing hearing: 'I did not defraud anybody.' The court did not believe him. A Texan banker, Stanford rose to prominence outside the US when he bankrolled international cricket competitions in the UK and Caribbean. But after the collapse of his agreement to stage Twenty20 cricket in England, his financial empire began to crumble amid investigations by US regulators. Forbes Magazine listed him as the six hundred and fifth richest man in the world in 2006. However, since his arrest in 2009 he has spent three years in detention after being denied bail. Stanford's Ponzi scheme centred on his banking operation based in the Caribbean island nation of Antigua. Some thirty thousand individual investors were swindled, it was alleged. Prosecutors failed to find as much as ninety two per cent of the assets Stanford International Bank claimed to have. In his statement in court on Thursday, which ran for some forty minutes, he told the judge: 'I'm not here to ask for sympathy or forgiveness or to throw myself at your mercy. I did not run a Ponzi scheme. I didn't defraud anybody.' US District Judge David Hittner, who presided over Stanford's trial, called Stanford's actions 'egregious criminal frauds' during the hearing. Two victims of the scheme spoke during the hearing, including Angela Shaw, who told the court Stanford was worse than convicted Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff because he preyed on middle-class investors. 'He stole more than millions,"' Shaw said. 'He stole our lives as we knew them.' His sentence is forty years shorter than the jail term handed down to Madoff, who pleaded guilty in 2009 to a Ponzi scheme targeting wealthy investors. Stanford was convicted in March on thirteen of fourteen charges against him, despite his lawyers attempting to shift most of the blame on his chief financial officer. Prosecutors had asked for a two hundred and thirty-year sentence, with defence lawyers arguing for a lenient term of forty four months. Three other former executives at Stanford's company are awaiting trial, while a former Antiguan financial regulator is expected to be extradited to the US for related charges. While a jury has cleared the way for access to about three hundred and thirty million dollars in stolen funds sitting in Stanford's frozen bank accounts across Canada, England and Switzerland, legal wrangling could make it years before investors recover any of that money.

Mario Mandzukic's second-half equaliser earned Croatia a vital draw against Italy to leave Group C wide open at Euro 2012. Croatia knew three points in Poznan would clinch their last-eight spot following an impressive opening 3-1 win against Republic of Ireland. The Italians appeared in total control after taking the lead through Andrea Pirlo's delightful first-half free-kick. But Mandzukic's third Euro 2012 goal means the Italians will now need a big win over Ireland to progress. And, as we all know, 'Italy' and 'big win' aren't words you normally see in the same sentence. For their part, Croatia appeared happy with a point after struggling to match a slick Italian side who dominated the first half thanks to a midfield masterclass from the evergreen Pirlo. Much of the pre-match talk had centred on the midfield battle between veteran Juventus Hunchbacks' star Pirlo and his Croatia counterpart Luka Modric. But the Stottingtot Hotshots playmaker failed to match Pirlo, who dictated the game and set up waves of Italian counter-attacks. Italy coach Cesare Prandelli had stuck with the three-five-two formation used against Spain, which meant there was no room in his starting XI for Sunday's goalscoring substitute Antonio Di Natale. Instead Mario Balotelli retained his place, and he was heavily involved in the early stages as Italy settled quickly. The Sheikh Yer Man City striker had a trio of golden opportunities before the quarter-hour mark but failed to beat Stipe Pletikosa in the Croatia goal after slightly hesitating on each occasion. Fittingly, it was the thirty three-year-old Pirlo who opened the scoring, his free-kick dipping over the Croatian wall and past a helpless Pletikosa from twenty yards. But Italy seemed to run out of energy in the final third of the match as Slavan Bilic's men upped the tempo in search of an equaliser. Croatia are the tallest squad in Euro 2012, with an average height of six foot one inch, and they looked to use their aerial advantage, full-backs Ivan Strinic and Darijo Srna pressing forward to supply crosses for strikers Nikica Jelavic and Mandzukic. And it was a pinpoint Strinic delivery that enabled Mandzukic to control before firing into the roof of Gianluigi Buffon's net off the post. Ultimately Italy, who had failed to win their second group match in each of their last five tournaments, paid the price for not making their early dominance count.

Fernando Torres scored twice as Spain knocked Republic of Ireland out of Euro 2012 with a dominant display. Yes, I'll repeat that, Fernando Torres scored twice. Well, that's what it says here. Don't blame me. Torres' powerful finish from ten yards opened the scoring inside four minutes. David Silva's composed effort just after the restart doubled the advantage, Torres poked in a third after a quick break and substitute Cesc Fabregas drove in a fourth. The victory was enough to move Spain above Croatia, who they face on Monday, at the top of Group C. The Republic's previous successes in major competitions had been based on organisation and discipline. But their performance in their first major tournament in a decade can be summed up by the fact that, including their 3-1 defeat to Croatia, they have conceded a goal inside four minutes at the start of each half they have played. Before their sobering loss to Croatia, the Irish had never conceded three goals in a major competition but they have now done so twice in five days on the way to losing consecutive matches in a major tournament for the first time. For Spain, who drew their opening game 1-1 with Italy, this was a ruthless reminder of their ambition to become the first team to win three consecutive major tournaments, twenty four hours after Germany drew the focus with a 2-1 victory over the Netherlands. Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque was also boosted by the performance of Torres, who replaced Fabregas in the starting line-up and scored his first competitive international goals since September 2010. For all the pre-match rhetoric, and a history of battling performances by the Republic, the concession of a yet another early goal left Giovanni Trapattoni's game-plan looking redundant. Simon Cox, drafted in to replace Kevin Doyle up front only to be withdrawn for Jonathan Walters at the interval, forced an early save from Iker Casillas but the defending champions took just three minutes to move in front. Richard Dunne did well to block Silva after Andres Iniesta had guided in an intelligent pass, but Torres drifted around Stephen Ward before thumping a shot over Shay Given. From that point on, Spain were able to strangle the game, controlling possession deep inside the opposition half. When the Irish did manage to win the ball back, wingers Damien Duff and Aidan McGeady were generally too deep to contribute in attack and Robbie Keane was invariably too isolated to be picked out. Silva had a low shot held by Given and Torres prodded wide at the near post before Keith Andrews had a shot deflected wide and Dunne missed with a header at the other end. Iniesta had a powerful effort pushed away by Given, Silva headed over and Gerard Pique failed to make the most of a free header from Silva's corner. When Cox finally picked out Keane in a dangerous area, the Irish captain's effort was easily blocked by Pique. The pattern was never likely to change and after Given palmed away an Iniesta shot three minutes after half-time, Silva calmly waited for the room to guide a shot into the bottom corner. With just over twenty minutes remaining, Silva clipped a ball in behind the defence for Torres and the Chelsea striker prodded past Given. And there was still time for substitute Fabregas, who had come on for Torres, to drive in a powerful cross-shot to add a fourth and further underline Spanish superiority.

Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk has criticised his team's woeful performance after their 2-1 defeat against Germany left them struggling to qualify for the Euro 2012 quarter-finals. 'We defended moderately and the co-operation between our midfielders and defence was poor,' confessed van Marwijk. '[But] we cannot imagine that it is ever when we are at this level.' The Dutch now need to beat Portugal by two goals, while hoping Germany defeat Denmark, to progress further in the competition. Van Marwijk's side spurned a host of chances in the first half, and were rocked by Mario Gomez's clinical double. Robin van Persie offered hope of a comeback with a fantastic strike in the seventy third minute, but impressive Germany held on to leave their opponents bottom of Group B with no points. Van Marwijk admitted the threat from his wingers was 'too little' - partly a reference to Arjen Robben, who stomped off petulantly after being replaced by Dirt Kuyt in the eighty third minute. But it was his side's wastefulness in front of goal which bothered him most. 'I thought we played very well in the first twenty minutes and had a few decent chances, but you have to take them against Germany,' he said. 'In the final minutes we tried to force things but you have to be daring to get the second goal.' Germany are favourites to win the tournament following another impressive performance and their manager Joachim Loew believes victory over Denmark is important in their final match of the group. 'The group winner would be important because we can stay in Gdansk and that would probably be to our advantage in the quarter-finals,' he said. '[Against Netherlands] the temperatures were extreme and the game was competitive and intense. There were times when both teams lacked momentum. But we were determined to take the step towards the quarter-finals.'

Nicklas Bendtner could be punished by UEFA after celebrating a goal by revealing the logo of a betting company on his underpants. The Denmark striker scored twice against Portugal, but could not prevent his team slipping to a 3-2 defeat. After his second goal, Bendtner lowered his shorts to reveal the logo. UEFA is investigating the matter, while the Danish Football Association could also take action because it had an exclusive deal with another company. One that doesn't kick cats into trees. Allegedly. Sponsors pay millions to be associated with the European Championship and governing body UEFA has strict rules preventing ambush marketing. The company which Arsenal striker Bendtner was advertising on the waistband of his underwear said no money had exchanged hands and the underpants have been sent to several other unnamed players. Denmark, who will play Germany in their final Group B, need at least a point, probably all three, to reach the quarter-finals.

Hapless Harry Redknapp believes he would have been sacked by the Stottingtot Hotshots even if they earned Champions League qualification. The sixty five-year-old former manager was dismissed on Wednesday evening after almost four years at White Hart Lane. Despite finishing one point behind The Arse in fourth last term, Moscow Chelski FC's Champions League win denied Spurs a place in next season's competition. 'I think the same outcome would have happened, the chairman would have gone down the same road,' said Redknapp. Chairman Daniel Levy is said to be 'in no rush' to replace Redknapp with Tottenham privately expressing a determination to conduct a 'properly run process' to find their next manger. David Moyes has been installed as an early favourite to succeed Redknapp by bookmakers but it is understood no approach has been made for the Everton manager. 'Sources' allegedly close to Andre Villas-Boas allegedly claim that he is not being considered, while Rafael Benitez, Roberto Martinez and ex-Spurs striker Jurgen Klinsmann have also been linked with the role. Redknapp, meanwhile, has stressed he will be looking for another job in management after previous stints with Portsmouth, Southampton, West Ham and Bournemouth. 'You cannot sit around moping. That's not my game,' he said. 'I love football. I would suit any job. I don't think I am coming to the end of my career. Alex Ferguson is in his seventies and is still the best manager in the world. I am as fit as a fiddle.' Redknapp had a year left on his contract but insists there are no hard feelings towards Levy or Tottenham. 'What has happened is that I met with the chairman and the club decided to go in a different direction,' he said. 'That's their decision. I have had four fantastic years at Tottenham and have absolutely loved every minute. It couldn't have gone better for me. It is disappointing in some ways but that's football,' Redknapp added. 'The people who own the club make their decisions. That is their right. I don't hold grudges. I don't worry what could have been. I have left behind fantastic players. It is tough because it is a team that could have gone on to win the Premier League. I just wish I had been part of that.' Redknapp led Tottenham to a fourth-place finish in 2009-10 to seal their first ever appearance in the Champions League, reaching the quarter-finals in 2010-11. Spurs were briefly in contention for the Premier League title last season but slipped to fourth after Redknapp was installed as the favourite to replace Fabio Capello as England manager. At least, installed as favourite by lots of his chums in Fleet Street and at Sky Sports, if not by anyone that actually mattered. When Capello resigned on 8 February, Spurs were third in the league and ten points clear of a faltering The Arse, but they eventually finished a point behind the Gunners while the FA appointed Roy Hodgson. However, Redknapp believes speculation about him succeeding Capello had no bearing on Levy's decision. 'I have kept my counsel all the way through and that was nothing at all to do with anything,' he said. Redknapp added: 'It was nothing to do with contracts or me asking for anything. I had a year left and that was fine. The club decided to have a change. It is a decision the chairman decided to make.'

A spokesman for Glasgow Rangers' administrators has insisted that Ally McCoist remains manager of the club. McCoist, forty nine, succeeded Walter Smith at Ibrox in February 2011 and his tenure has coincided with the most turbulent spell in the club's history. Rangers will re-form as a new company after a creditors' deal was rejected by Revenue and Customs. McCoist scored three hundred and fifty five goals in five hundred and eighty one appearances for Rangers and is the club's thirteenth manager. Unlucky for some. Well, for him, anyway. An alleged 'source' allegedly close to the former striker has allegedly 'poured cold water' on talk of McCoist's departure, telling BBC Scotland that the report claiming he is on the verge of leaving the club is 'paper talk.' When he was appointed, McCoist said: 'I was lucky enough to play for the club for fifteen years, but this is an absolute dream and a privilege.' Recently, McCoist praised the Rangers supporters for sticking by the club given their off-field problems. John MacMillan, general secretary of the Rangers Supporters Association, told BBC Scotland that fans should not buy tickets while McCoist's future was uncertain. 'I think, for what he's been through, he's held his dignity very well, and for Ally McCoist to even contemplate doing that, then something must be seriously wrong. The very fact that he's not making any comment and Rangers aren't making any comment tells me there's truth in it. In my view there's been a distinct lack of transparency with Charles Green. It's hanging on a cliff edge, I think fans would be ill-advised to renew season tickets at this time,' he said. Clubs will have to vote on whether to re-admit Rangers to the Scottish Premier League. HMRC rejected prospective owner Charles Green's bid to exit administration via a company voluntary arrangement giving creditors nine pence in the pound.

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. And it's a cracker. Here's Hawkwind.

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