Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Together, More Or Less In Line

Stephen Fry's new Channel Four technology show Gadget Man defeated Channel Five's now very tired-looking The Gadget Show in the overnight ratings on Monday. Some 2.03m watched Fry's new three-part series at 8.30pm, while The All New Gadget Show interested a mere seven hundred and sixty six thousand punters on Five. Stephen Fry: Gadget Man also beat BBC1's Panorama (1.88m), but fell short of matching MasterChef: The Professionals impressive 2.87m on BBC2. I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want)'s run of success continued to its second week, with 9.32m viewers for the hour-long visit to the jungle. Currently, the twelfth series of the reality show is averaging nearly three hundred thousand viewers and almost three share points more than 2011's run. Elsewhere in the 9pm hour, Richard Hammond's Miracles of Nature aired on BBC1 to an audience of 2.39m, while The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler managed 2.08m. Meanwhile, 8pm's University Challenge (3.09m) was BBC2's best-rated broadcast of the night, only losing out marginally to ITV's Little England which had 3.38m.

BBC1's new six-part romantic reunion drama serial, Last Tango in Halifax, premiered with an impressive 6.16m and topped the 9pm hour on Tuesday. MasterChef: The Professionals continued with a very impressive to 2.94m for BBC2 in the 8pm hour, then Dara O'Briain's Science Club was watched by 1.16m at 9pm. It was a pure dead rotten night, so it was, for ITV with I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want) replaced by their - crappy as always - Champions League football coverage. Moscow Chelski FC's calamitous 3-0 hiding off the Juve failed to bring in the punters, being watched by a mere 3.75m between 7.30pm and 10pm. Against such competition, Rolf's Animal Clinic (1.32m) and Body of Proof (nine hundred and eighty nine thousand) held up well on Channel Five. The penultimate episode of the wretched Fresh Meat drew nine hundred and seventy seven thousand on Channel Four at 10pm, prior to which 1.44m watched Heston's Fantastical Food. George Clarke's Amazing Species had 1.89m in the 8pm slot. Overall, BBC1 led primetime with 23.4 per cent of the audience share, way ahead of ITV's 15.7 per cent.
As reported in yesterday's blog update, but worth mentioning again - because it's funny, basically - ex-Downing Street communications chief Andy Coulson and ex-News International chief executive and well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks have been charged in connection with illegal payments to police and public officials. Journalists Clive Goodman and John Kay and MoD employee Bettina Jordan-Barber also face charges, the CPS says. Brooks and Coulson, both former confidants of the prime minister, now face three separate sets of criminal charges, and the news of the fresh charges and the allegations against the Sun, which joins the defunct Scum of the World as having its journalists face trial, comes just before Lord Leveson's report on standards and regulation of the press is expected to be published next week. Coulson, who was editor of the Scum of the World before moving to Downing Street, says that he denies the allegations. As, indeed, he does over allegations of phone-hacking and perjury which he is also facing. Coulson, Goodman, Brooks and Jordan-Barber are to be charged with 'conspiring to commit misconduct in public office.' Kay, who was the chief reporter of the Sun, has already been charged with the same offence. Coulson and Goodman, a former royal correspondent at the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World, are charged with two additional conspiracies relating to the request and authorisation of alleged payments to public officials in exchange for information - including a royal phone directory known as 'The Green Book.' It is said to have contained contact details for the Royal Family and members of the royal household. The two counts of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office involve one between 31 August 2002 and 31 January 2003 and another between 31 January and 3 June 2005. In a statement, Coulson said he was 'extremely disappointed' by the CPS's decision. 'I deny the allegations made against me and will fight the charges in court,' he added. Jordan-Barber, Kay and well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks face one count of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office between 1 January 2004 and 31 January 2012. Brooks was editor of the Sun between 14 January 2003 and 1 September 2009. The MoD said that it would not comment on the charges related to one of its employees. Alison Levitt, principal legal adviser to the Director of Public Prosecutions, said: 'All of these matters were considered carefully in accordance with the DPP's guidelines on the public interest in cases affecting the media. This guidance asks prosecutors to consider whether the public interest served by the conduct in question outweighs the overall criminality before bringing criminal proceedings.' Kay has been bailed to appear at Westminster Magistrates Court on 29 November 2012. The other four are set to appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on a date to be fixed. There is one remaining suspect who is still being investigated in relation to the charges faced by Brooks, Kay and Jordan-Barber. So far fifty two people have been arrested as part of Operation Elveden. Two of them, a retired police officer and a former journalist, have been informed that they will face no further action. A counter-terrorism detective had already been charged and is due to face trial in January. Detective Chief Inspector April Casburn is accused of leaking information to the Scum of the World about the police inquiry into whether to reopen the investigation into phone-hacking. Operation Elveden is being run alongside two other inquiries - Operation Weeting, which is looking at allegations of phone hacking, and Operation Tuleta, an inquiry into accusations of computer hacking and other privacy breaches. Eight people - including Coulson and Brooks - already face charges linked to an alleged conspiracy to hack phones. The others are private investigator Glenn Mulcaire and five former Scum of the World journalists - ex-managing editor Stuart Kuttner, former news editor Greg Miskiw, former head of news Ian Edmondson, ex-chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck and former reporter James Weatherup. They are all due to face trial in September next year. Additionally Brooks, along with her husband, millionaire Old Etonian Charlie, and four others, have been charged with conspiring to pervert the course of justice. Coulson also faces charges of having committed perjury in 2010 during the Tommy Sheridan trial. The investigations into possible media and police misconduct followed allegations of phone-hacking at the Scum of the World, which led to the closure of the paper after one hundred and sixty eight years.

The new round of criminal charges brought in the UK against former senior News International editors has - once again - raised the (delicious) prospect that billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch's New York-based parent company may be prosecuted under US anti-bribery laws. And, it also complicates the rehabilitation of his son James Murdoch the small as a possible successor to lead the global media empire. The charges brought against well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks, who ran Murdoch's newspaper holdings in Britain, Andy Coulson, former editor of the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World, and two other former News International employees exposes the parent News Corporation to possible action under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The FCPA exists to prosecute US-domiciled companies for acts of bribery and corruption that they might commit abroad. An official of the British ministry of defence, Bettina Jordan Barber, also faces trial for allegedly receiving one hundred thousand smackers from Murdoch's tabloid newspapers for information which led to a series of published stories. The allegation that money passed hands clearly falls within the legal remit of the FCPA. Mike Koehler, professor of law at Southern Illinois school of law said that the fresh round of charges 'would be hard for the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission to ignore. We have been hearing allegations for a year and a half now, now we clearly have charges against high ranking officials at a foreign subsidiary,' he said. The new charges, and the allegation of bribery of an MoD official, come at a very sensitive time for the company. The media giant is preparing to split itself in two, separating the TV and broadcasting arm from the scandal-hit newspaper and publishing division. The developments also bring to a crashing halt the recent perception in America that News Corporation had begun to recover its confidence after months on the defensive as a result of the phone-hacking scandal. Only on Monday, the New York Times ran an article headlined Clouds Lifting Over Murdoch, He's Out to Buy Again. News Corp has largely shrugged off the scandal in the US, where its shares have risen over thirty four per cent in the last year. At News Corp's recent annual shareholder meeting in October, billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch comfortably saw off attempts to appoint an independent chairman to the company. James Murdoch the small has recently been tipped to head FOX Networks, the News Corp television division which includes its flagship FOX channel, home to The Simpsons and American Idol. But the new charges will increase pressure on the company. Koehler said US authorities would be looking to see 'how high up the chain of command' the bribery scandal reached. 'The question will be what did James know and when did he know it,' he said. Ultimately, he predicted News Corp would 'reach a settlement' with the Justice Department rather than go to trial, but he suggested that News Corp 'faced some uncomfortable investigations' in the coming months. The FCPA has two main components, one which relates to the bribing of foreign officials and another that focuses on record keeping. It is often the latter that causes companies the biggest headaches. Characterising a bribe as 'miscellaneous expense' is a serious offence. 'This latest news is an escalation of the FCPA case,' said Koehler. But, he said he expected the case could still take 'some years' to be resolved. The latest legal difficulties to hit News Corporation could also potentially have ramifications on its twenty seven TV licences within the FOX network – the real financial heart of the operation. Three of the licences are up for renewal, and in August the ethics watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a petition with the US broadcasting regulator, the Federal Communications Commission, that called for them to be denied on the grounds that the company did 'not have the requisite character' to run a public service. Melanie Sloan, CREW's director, said the charges of the four former News International employees played into its petition. 'News Corp argues that the conduct in Britain shouldn't matter here in the US, but the Atlantic ocean doesn't have cleansing properties – if Murdoch is seen to be unfit to run a global company in the UK, then he's unfit in this country, too.' In May, the commons culture committee censured Murdoch in their report into the phone-hacking scandal, saying that he was 'not a fit person' to exercise stewardship of a major international company, albeit, by a majority of six to four split along part lines. Something which the voters in Corby seemed to remember in relation to their former MP last week and which, hopefully, come the next election, the voters of Shipley and Suffolk will also recall. So far there have been no confirmed cases of News Corporation employees engaging in illegal activities within the US. This week The Daily Beast website alleged that the Murdoch tabloids the Sun and the New York Post may have made payments to a US official on American soil in order to obtain a photo of a captive Saddam Hussein, the deposed Iraqi leader, in his underwear. News Corporation has denied the claims. Mark Lewis, the lawyer who has represented many of the victims of Scum of the World hacking, has been investigating possible cases of data breaches within the US but has yet to issue legal proceedings.

This Is Spinal Tap writer and star Christopher Guest has confirmed details of his new BBC/HBO sitcom Family Tree. The IT Crowd actor Chris O'Dowd will lead the show's cast, which has been filming in LA and the UK. The show is scheduled to be broadcast in the US and Britain during the spring of 2013. Family Tree will centre on O'Dowd's character Tom Chadwick, a thirty-year-old who has just lost his job and girlfriend. After discovering a mysterious box left by a great-aunt, Tom sets off on an adventure around the world as he investigates the unusual stories and characters from his family's past. The show will be filmed in a single-camera documentary style - a technique which Guest pioneered and is most famous for. Also among the cast are Nina Conti, Tom Bennett, Ed Begley Jr, Maria Blasucci, Matt Griesser, Don Lake, Michael McKean, Lisa Palfrey, Amy Seimetz and Fred Willard, as well as Guest and his co-creator Jim Piddock. Guest said: 'I am delighted to welcome myself to BBC Television. I am very lucky to be working with an incredibly talented cast. Chris O'Dowd has been on my radar ever since he was a child actor in Wales.' O'Dowd added: 'I'm terribly excited and monumentally under-qualified to work on an improvised show with Chris Guest. I call him Chris cos we are friends. He calls me George. I don't know why.' BBC2's Janice Hadlow said: 'I am delighted to welcome Christopher Guest to BBC Television. It will be his first television series for British audiences and one I am proud to have here on the BBC. It has a stellar cast led by the fantastic Chris O'Dowd and is an exciting collaboration with NBCU International and HBO. Family Tree will form a key part of the channel's comedy next year.'

Channels Three and Five have had their licences renewed for a further ten years, the lack of culture secretary has said. The Channel Three licences are held by ITV in England, Wales and the Channel Islands, STV in Scotland and UTV in Northern Ireland. The Channel Five licence is held by Northern & Shell, the company of soft-core pornographer Richard Desmond. But the government wants ITV to 'do more in Scotland' to address the concerns of viewers in the Border region. And Channel Five will have to provide more children's programmes. The licences for both channels expire on 31 December 2014. The lack of culture secretary the vile and odious rascal Miller has written to the regulator Ofcom asking it to negotiate the renewed licences. But she highlighted particular issues she wanted Ofcom to look at. 'Under proposals put forward by ITV, viewers in the south of Scotland would not receive the same level of programming about Scotland as those in the northern and central parts of the country,' the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said in a statement. 'The lack of culture secretary said she wanted to see a way forward that addressed the concerns of viewers in the Border region.' Northern & Shell has also committed to investing in children's programmes on Channel Five. 'The channel has said it will broadcast at least six hundred hours of UK-originated children's programmes a year and this would comprise at least half of children's programmes on the channel,' the DCMS claimed. It said the decision to renew the licences offered 'significant value to the creative industries as Channels Three and Five invest around eight hundred million smackers a year in original content.' The vile and odious rascal Miller also agreed that Ofcom should proceed on the potential separation of the Wales and West Channel Three licence region.

Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash has resigned from Sesame Street after claims that he had sex with an under-age boy. Last week a man accused Clash of having sex with him when he was a teenager, which Clash denied. The next day the man recanted the charge. A lawsuit by a second accuser has subsequently been filed, according to US lawyer Cecil Singleton. Sesame Street says the controversy surrounding Clash's personal life was 'a distraction that none of us want.' Particularly, one would imagine, Mr Clash himself. Kevin Clash created the voice and persona for Elmo in the 1980s. The character has since become one of Sesame Street's most popular. Clash was given a leave of absence from the children's show last week. A Sesame Street statement said: 'Kevin Clash has helped us achieve a mission for twenty eight years and none of us, especially Kevin, want anything to divert our attention from our focus on serving as a leading educational organisation. The controversy surrounding Kevin's personal life has become a distraction that no-one wants, and he has concluded that he can no longer be effective in his job and has resigned from Sesame Street. This is a sad day for Sesame Street.' Clash did not deny having a relationship with his accuser, but said that it happened after the young man was an adult. 'I am relieved that this painful allegation has been put to rest,' he said in a statement. 'I will not discuss it further.' Sesame Street producers defended Clash last week but said that he had shown 'poor judgement' in breaking company policy on using the Internet. Clash was the subject of a documentary Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey last year and has also won several Daytime EMMY awards for his work on Sesame Street.

Lord McAlpine is to donate the compensation he receives from those who posted defamatory comments about him on Twitter to the BBC's Children In Need appeal. The Tory peer has asked those who falsely linked him to child abuse allegations to apologise formally and pay a 'sensible and modest amount' to the charity. A statement from Lord McAlpine's lawyers said: 'The fixed donation amount is yet to be assessed. However, this will be to Lord McAlpine's charity of choice, BBC Children In Need, and will be in addition to "an administration fee."' The statement said that the donation was intended for tweeters with fewer than five hundred followers. 'Those with larger numbers of followers are still encouraged to identify themselves and offer their formal apologies at this stage.' The deal does not cover a one hundred and eighty five thousand smackers payout from the BBC over the Newsnight programme on 2 November, which did not name McAlpine, but which sparked the wave of online speculation about the identity of the 'senior Conservative politician' whom Steven Messham - mistakenly - claimed has abused him. McAlpine's lawyers are said to be 'still negotiating' with ITV over what is expected to be a significant six-figure settlement after the This Morning presenter Phillip Schofield thus a list of people allegedly linked to child sex abuse, the result of a 'three-minute' Internet search into the hands of the prime minister, live on air. McAlpine's solicitor, Andrew Reid, said last Thursday that ITV headed a 'very long list' of those who faced legal action over the false allegations. Separately, the Metropolitan police is to assess whether any criminal prosecutions can be brought over Twitter messages which linked McAlpine with the allegations. Lawyers for the Tory peer will meet Scotland Yard detectives on Wednesday to begin 'a scoping exercise' into the allegations, the Met confirmed. Scotland Yard said in a statement: 'We have not received an allegation of crime at this time, however, we can confirm we will be meeting with interested parties to start the process of scoping whether any offence has taken place. It is far too early to say whether any criminal investigation will follow.' Twitter users could be prosecuted under the Malicious Communications Act if their messages are found to be 'grossly offensive.' The prospect of criminal convictions for allegedly defamatory Twitter messages is likely to raise the temperature on the current debate over free speech online. Several users of Twitter and Facebook have previously been prosecuted – and some jailed – over posting offensive messages.

Darcey Bussell has reportedly signed up for 'at least' another year of Strictly Come Dancing. The ballerina has extended her current one-year contract after impressing producers of the BBC show, reports the Sun. Bussell apparently signed up for two years in the summer, as she was moving her family to the UK from Australia. However, producers had a clause in the contract where she could have been dropped, but it would, allegedly, have cost them an extra one hundred thousand smackers for the second year. An alleged 'insider' allegedly claimed that Bussell will allegedly 'definitely' return on the judging panel next year with Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli and Craig Revel Horwood, saying: 'Her first outing divided people, but she has grown into the role tremendously.'

Louie Spence has confirmed his departure from Twatting About on Ice. The choreographer announced on Twitter that he will leave the judging panel for the risible, obnoxious ITV show's upcoming eighth series. Jason Gardiner will replace him on the panel, having previously left after the 2011 series. Spence tweeted: 'To all asking no I won't be judging Twatting About On Ice this year, Jason is back.' He added: 'Can't wait to watch Jason G ... he will spice up the ice.' Gardiner was linked with a return to the show earlier this month. However, alleged 'sources' allegedly previously claimed that it wouldn't necessarily lead to Spence's departure. Gardiner will join Robin Cousins on the panel, while a new female judge will also replace the outgoing Katarina Witt, according to the Sun. Gardiner's return may cause friction with Twatting About on Ice coach Karen Barber, with the pair reportedly not speaking since falling out last year.

Online money lender Wonga has apologised to MP and anti-payday loans campaigner Stella Creasy after a Gruniad Morning Star investigation uncovered evidence that an employee of the firm has been using an anonymous Twitter account to publicly attack her, calling her 'mentally unstable.' This, dear blog reader, is just one more reason why Twitter is more trouble than it's worth. Because, unfortunately, morons use it. The investigation found that at least one Wonga employee had been using so-called 'sock puppet' accounts to attack critics of the firm and post favourable comments underneath articles about it. One Twitter account, traced to someone operating within Wonga's London office, called Creasy 'mental', 'nuts', and a 'self-serving egomaniac' seemingly because of her stance against the controversial firm and the wider payday loans market. When shown the evidence, Creasy said: 'Wonga have been less than positive about the arguments I've made about cost-capping [of short-term loans] and have been the most virulent and aggressive about defending the industry as a whole. They will obviously stoop to many levels, and this is just one of them. I would expect an apology.' Creasy has asked Wonga, as a gesture of goodwill, to promote an event she is organising in her Walthamstow constituency on Saturday 24 November to help families struggling financially. She is yet to hear back from the company as to whether they are willing to do so. Writing on the OpenWonga website on 21 November, editor Luke Manning said: 'Wonga has made an immediate and unreserved apology to Dr Creasy, which we hope she will accept.' He added: 'I want to make it absolutely clear that the actions of the individual responsible were inexcusable, and completely unacceptable. I also want to underline the fact that OpenWonga was unaware of, had nothing to do with, and disassociates itself entirely from the comments directed at Dr Creasy – which were made anonymously and without authorisation by another Wonga employee. A disciplinary process is ongoing and the matter is being taken extremely seriously by the company. Dr Creasy has every right to campaign for the things she believes in, and although we may disagree with her view of Wonga, both Dr Creasy and her viewpoint deserve absolute respect.' The Gruniad claims 'that a computer in the Wonga offices appears to have been used' to remove from the company's Wikipedia page a reference to the controversy over its sponsorship of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Newcastle United and to delete the category of 'usury' under the 'See Also' section. Wikipedia users have since re-added the category of 'usury' and the reference to the controversy surrounding the Newcastle deal. Wonga maintains 'an unauthorised junior employee' is responsible for the attacks on Creasy and all of the sock-puppetry.

The son of The Hollywood Reporter founder Billy Wilkerson has apologised for the trade paper's role in the 1940s Communist witch-hunts that saw many in the industry ostracised for having alleged left-wing ties. The actors, writers and directors on the so-called 'blacklist' suffered huge damage to their careers and reputation as a result, many being unable to find work in the US for a decade or more afterwards. Willie Wilkerson's apology for what he called 'Hollywood's Holocaust' was published in the Hollywood Reporter this week. He said that his father had wanted to take revenge against 'studio titans.' According to his son, Billy Wilkerson tried to establish his own movie studio in the late 1920s before founding The Hollywood Reporter in 1930. 'For whatever reason, the movie brass refused him entry into their "club" and squashed his dream,' Wilkerson Junior claims. 'So he found another one: exacting revenge.' After World War II, Wilkinson Senior supported the blacklist by using his paper to publish a series of editorials which attacked alleged 'Communist sympathisers' and their supposed influence in the Hollywood studio system. 'In his maniacal quest to annihilate the studio owners, he realised that the most effective retaliation was to destroy their talent,' wrote Willie Wilkerson of his father. 'In the wake of this emerging hysteria surrounding Communism, the easiest way to crush the studio owners was to simply call their actors, writers and directors Communists. Unfortunately, they would become the collateral damage of history.' The first Hollywood 'blacklist' was published on 25 November 1947. Wilkerson said that he felt it was necessary to apologise 'on the eve of this dark sixty fifth anniversary.' Studios denied work to those named on the blacklist, forcing some writers to work under pseudonyms and others to work overseas - particularly in Britain at the fledgling ITV. Orchestrated by the vile and odious Senator Joseph McCarthy, the investigations of the notorious House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s led to an anti-Communist witch-hunt. 'Calling someone a Communist today is almost laughable,' wrote Willie Wilkerson. 'But in 1950 it was a professional death sentence. Instantaneously people lost their jobs, and future employment was, in too many cases, denied. The blacklist silenced the careers of some of the studios' greatest talent and ruined countless others merely standing on the sidelines,' Wilkerson wrote. 'On behalf of my family, and particularly my late father, I wish to convey my sincerest apologies and deepest regrets to those who were victimised by this unfortunate incident.' Edward Dmytryk, Dalton Trumbo and Ring Lardner Jr were among the members of the so-called 'Hollywood Ten' who were cited for contempt of Congress and jailed for refusing to cooperate with HUAC. William R Wilkerson died in 1962, two years after the blacklist was broken.

Newcastle City Council is planning to cut all funding to major arts venues in the city, including the Theatre Royal, Northern Stage and the Live Theatre. Seven Stories, which has recently been awarded the title National Centre For Children's Books, will also lose its grant. The council said some venues may shut or merge with Seven Stories and the Theatre Royal being 'particularly vulnerable.' The move would save one and a half million quid and comes as the council is reducing services and cutting thirteen hundred jobs to save ninety million smackers a year. The council is also proposing to shut ten libraries under its plans, which would be phased in over three years. It will stop funding the Great North Museum and halve its subsidy for Tyne & Wear Museums and Archives, raising the prospect of entry fees at attractions like the Laing Art Gallery and the Discovery Museum. That is on top of cuts to the social work budget, a reduction in the number of looked-after children and the abolition of its youth service. Council leader Nick Forbes described it as 'one of the darkest days for public service in Newcastle.' Well, I'll tell you what, Nick, maybe it might be an idea to start looking for alternative ways of cutting council spending. Like, for instance, sending out your spies to check on the state of people's gardens. That'd be much appreciated. The Theatre Royal chief executive Philip Bernays said that the venue would lose more than six hundred grand per year, roughly six per cent of its turnover, but denied that the venue would be at risk of closure. 'On the one hand, it doesn't sound like an enormous proportion, but six hundred thousand pounds is one hell of a lot of money to have whipped out of the organisation,' he said. 'The council is between a rock and a hard place and we all recognise that. Newcastle has rebuilt itself on a cultural renaissance over the past fifteen or twenty years. It's reinvented itself as a city following the heavy industrial decline, and to throw all that away overnight is madness. Which just shows what an incredible decision the council are facing at the moment because they know it's madness.' The Theatre Royal reopened last year following a five million quid renovation and celebrated its one hundred and seventy fifth birthday in February. Its recent highlights include the world premiere of the Susan Boyle musical I Dreamed A Dream. Of the other venues, Northern Stage is a highly respected producing theatre and the Live Theatre specialises in new writing. It hosted the world premiere of The Pitmen Painters by Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall, which subsequently transferred to the West End and Broadway. Two weeks ago, Seven Stories was granted permission to use the National Centre For Children's Books title in recognition of its exhibitions about leading authors and illustrators and its extensive archive. The council's grant accounts for thirteen per cent of the organisation's income, Seven Stories chief executive Kate Edwards said. 'We recognise that the local authority is taking difficult decisions and many services that it believes in will be affected by government imposed cuts,' she said. 'There are difficult times ahead, but we will work hard to find solutions and will work with our partners and supporters to build our fundraising and earn income.' Dance City, the Tyneside Cinema and the Globe Gallery are among the other venues that will have council funding stopped. Announcing the full budget plans, Forbes said the government's funding settlement had put the council 'in an impossible position from which there is no escape. We will not abandon the residents of this city, but as we cease to provide some services they will have to do more for themselves and expect less from the council,' he said.

A woman in Sweden has been accused of having sex with a skeleton. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase 'being boned', does it not? The charged thirty seven-year-old is being tried for necrophilia and 'violating the peace of the dead.' One hundred skeleton bones were, reportedly, found in the woman's apartment. The prosecutor in the case told The Local that a number of CDs containing documents and pictures were also discovered. 'Some of the photos show a woman licking a skull,' the prosecutor said. 'We claim it is her [doing the licking], but she claims it's someone else and that she found the pictures on the Internet. She has a lot of photos of morgues and chapels, and documents about how to have sex with recently deceased and otherwise dead people.' The woman has pleaded not guilty to the charges. She could face up to two years in jail if convicted .

Which brings us to today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Would it be inappropriate to play The Grateful Dead at this point? Probably. Still, what's the point of being alive if you can't be inappropriate once in a while?

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