Wednesday, February 29, 2012

MasterChef: Five Becomes Four

If it's Wednesday night it must, therefore, be yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved MasterChef again. The pressure is, of course, mounting faster than, well, than a ... big sort-of mounting thing, dear blog reader. As the five amateur cooks still left in the competition - Big Hard Jay, Big Sweaty Eamonn, Little Steve Diggle lookalike Andrew, was-it-him-what-turned-down-the-oven-on-Aki Tom and bossy-if-very-talented Shelina - enter the seventh week of the cooking competition of their lives. Yep, ramp up the hyperbole to eleven, we're down to just the five of them now that Aki's got the tin-tack. Breathless India Fisher was even more breathless than usual in telling us about what a right rough-tough-bee-atch of a episode this was going to be. With the stress, and the nerves and the wailing and kicking of teeth. It was almost biblical, so it was. Yer actual John Torode and Gregg Wallace had set the contestants the challenge of cooking for three leading restaurant critics - always a particularly sarky and discombobulated point of any MasterChef series. The five would have to pull out all the stops as they were charged with making their own finest three courses to try and impress the hyper-critically palates of their guests. These were the sour-faced dragon's from the bowels of Hell its very self; lard-bucket Peter Griffin-lookalike Charles Campion ('The Godfather of British food critics', said India which, hopefully, doesn't mean he leaves horses heads in the bed's of people who give-a him a-no respect), 'hasn't got a good word to say about just about anybody or anything' Tracey MacLeod of the Independent and ... the, admittedly, quite funny when he puts his mind to it Jay Rayner from the Observer and The ONE Show. With one contestant due to leave at the end of the episode, the pressure was intense - up to, if you will, pressure-cooker levels in the MasterChef kitchen as timings were about to go awry, emotions take over, and dishes either exploded with flavour or crashed and burn. And not in a remotely good way. Skill. Of course, the  BBC continuity announcer promptly went and spoiled some of the ensuing tension by boldly announcing that Shelina has done well. Well, she didn't say that exactly but who else was going to be cooking 'Mauritian street food'?! Anyway ... the episode kicked-off with one of those little round-ups MasterChef often do of the contestants being filmed in their home and work environments. Shelina, we were told, has recently left her job as 'a diversity manager', whatever the hell one of those is. (How do you actually 'manage' diversity? I always thought that was a state of  being that just sort of happens organically.) Eamonn was, we were told, moving from working with timber to working with food. Andrew, a financial analyst (which, one would have thought these days consists of telling his clients 'you haven't got any finances, my analysis is, you're a bit cattled') was, he said, 'totally, unexplainably' taken with the possibilities of his progression in the competition. Tom is, apparently, still juggling the demands of plastering with the bish and bosh and slap-it-on-all-over and being in this here cookery show whilst Jay, the big Lancastrian security firm director, said that 'food is, like, me love,' and noted that he'd even started to get some of the bouncers who work for him interested in the cookery books he's buying. It was all very pleasant and amiable stuff. Shelina's occasional stroppiness when someone has the nerve to criticise her cooking aside, they all seem pleasant, thoroughly likeable gents - and lady - all of whom have clear, demonstrable talent. Now, it was time to show off what they could do.

Shelina's dishes were, for starters a Mauritian street-food platter. And, we knew from what that plank the continuity announcer had said, this was going to go down well. It, basically, consisted of chilli crab fishcake fritters with a coriander and mint chutney and dry shrimp. God, it sounded good. And it looked good. And, by the way everybody wolfed it down, it seemed to have tasted good too. Tracey MacLeod called it 'nice girl food.' Ice formed on the upper-reaches of Charles Campion at this point but he still seemed to quite enjoy the dish once he'd tasted it. Gregg described it as 'a ferocious rocket of taste in my mouth.' Job well done. Shelina's main was spiced monkfish on a red lentil dahl and tomato and coriander sauce. The critics liked it, although Jay felt is a 'a little restrained.' Gregg loved it but John wanted more chilli in the dahl and seemed disappointed. For dessert, Shelina cooked molasses ginger cake with vanilla tea ice cream and a rum and cardamom sauce. Again, this got everybody really excited with Campion virtually licking the plate at the end. Gregg even did a little happy dance after eating it. He'd already demonstrated his total Yo-boy hipness by giving Shelina a lengthy quotation from Lamont Dozier's 'Going Back to My Roots' (hey there, soul man!) Which Shelina didn't seem to recognise but congratulated him on his 'rap' apparently believing that he'd come up with it himself. He's a greengrocer, love, not an award-winning lyricist! There seemed little doubt at this stage that, whatever happened thereafter, Shelina was going straight through. Jay (Tinkler that is, not Rayner) was next. His starter was pan-fried cod with crushed minted peas, broad beans and pancetta. He slightly undercooked Tracey MacLeod's fish which, sort of, set the tone for much of what was to follow. Almost, almost, but not quite. When he's told Gregg that his main course was to be loin of venison with spiced pears, Brussels sprouts and chestnut purée, Gregg said this was 'bothering me more than a dodgy Christmas present from my nan.' I think that meant he was concerned this seemed a little left-field. In the end, like the fish, the meat was, ever so slightly, rare. 'I suspect if I put a few volts of electricity through it, I might get it to twitch,' said Jay Rayner, adapting a - rather good - joke from an episode of Spender, circa 1988 if you're interested in such minutia. (When Stick is presented to a plate of - very bloody - meat at a restaurant and told, by the waiter that it is, perhaps, 'a little rare', he replies: 'A little rare? A decent vet could have that bugger back up on its feet!' Ah, the late Sammy Johnson. A great miss.) Anyway, for Jay's dessert, there was vanilla panna cotta with pink grapefruit, stem ginger and crushed praline. Which didn't go down with pretty much anyone, the general consensus being that including the sharp grapefruit was a mistake (although Campion made various disparaging remarks about the presentation too). So, very much an 'almost but not quite' set of dishes for Jay. He seemed positive at the end but, you sensed, someone else was going to need to have a bad day for Jay to remain in the competition which he has so enhanced with his good old fashioned down-to-earth Northern blokery so far.

Next up was Tom, who started off with a seared tuna salad with wasabi, salmon roe, pickled ginger and beetroot jelly and anchovy toast. 'If I was to look up the word "concern" in the dictionary it'd have a picture of Tom,' said Gregg when he heard that. And, to be fair, it looked horrible when plated. 'It will either be magnificent or it will be ghastly' opined lard-bucket Campion. Neither John or Gregg seemed over impressed but, John said, he was willing to bet that the critics would enjoy it. And they did. Even Campion, much to his obvious sour-faced disapproval. The critics, clearly, thought Tom was a bit of a star, something confirmed by his next dish, spiced rack of lamb with an almond and apricot crust, crushed roasted potatoes, paprika and a pomegranate glaze. By this stage Tom could, quite simply, do no wrong even if he'd served them with a plate full of diarrhoea. His dessert, thankfully, wasn't that or anything remotely like it. It was, instead, a mango millefeuille and chocolate cheesecake with vanilla mousse and chocolate ganache and it almost got a round of applause. So, that was Tom through without any further debate! Then we came to Andrew. His opener was described as 'a new England Raviolo' which got Jay Rayner all cross and bolshy because he wanted to know what was in it. Actually it was a sort of scallop and potato ravioli with a chowder of clams and a sweetcorn velouté. Jay liked it. Tracey liked it. Campion tutted and said it 'too clever for its own good.' Jay disagreed. Which was funny. John and Gregg disagreed too. Which was even funnier. Next Andrew delivered a main of rack of lamb (another one) with a mint and nut crust, caleriac purée and rainbow chard. The critics, again, got a bit sniffy about it (lots of comments about it being, essentially, style-over-substance) but John and Gregg both thought it was great which was what really mattered. Andrew's dessert was black treacle tart with spiced ice cream and roasted crab apples. Having been very late with his first course, Andrew pulled it back on the next two dishes although he did almost cause John Torode to have an aneurysm by constantly on stopping to explain what was in his dish when he should have been plating up. It was clear from John and Gregg's comment that Andrew had also done easily enough to stay in the competition.

That left Eamonn, whose cooking and confidence have visibly grown through the various rounds. His starter was horseradish marinated mackerel with soda bread and garlic aioli. Lots of garlic in the aioli. That didn't go down well with the critics and even less well with John and Gregg, the former pulling faces like he'd just been forced to eat a dirty nappy full of cabbage water and tripe. He hated it. I mean loathed it with a vengeance. The main course was partridge breast with porcini mushrooms, bread sauce and game chips. None of which, quite, came off. The partridge was, everyone said, a bit dry, the bread sauce a bit thick (like wallpaper paste suggested MacLeod, unkindly and, you sensed, not that accurately). Campion, strangely, was the kindest judge. 'A near miss,' was his opinion. The dessert was banana sponge with ginger and thyme custard and a butterscotch sauce. Campion made noises about how he was the world's greatest custard lover but he would kill, with his bare hands, anybody that defiled it by putting thyme in it. Both MacLeod and Rayner were as snooty as they'd been all episode, the former describing the dish as being like something she'd give her children to hide an ingredient they didn't like eating and the latter, on a similar theme, noting 'if I was about nine I'd be really pleased to get this!' And, what's wrong with being nine, eh? The critics then left and it was down to John and Gregg to make the big decision.
With Shelina and Tom having floated, and Andrew walked, through it was between yer actual Keith Telly Topping's two favourites Big Blokey Jay and Big Blokey Eamonn for the final place. Both hadn't had very good days at the office. Both, one sensed, were capable of more. Both looked knackered. John and Gregg lined them up, milked the tension for a few minutes, and then announced that Eamonn was going home and Jay was through with the other three. The former was, obviously, very disappointed but was philosophical and gracious about the others and said that his journey to this point has been 'a ball.' Jay simply looked like he couldn't believe it. So, next up the final four are going to Thailand. Let's hope they don't try to carry any spices through Bangkok airport just in case.

Davy Jones - Good Stuff Comes In Small Bundles

Sixties pop icon Davy Jones died this morning from a heart-attack. He was sixty six. The circumstances surrounding The Monkees' frontman's death are currently unclear but a spokesman for the singer and actor confirmed to the TMZ website that he had died this morning. An official from the medical examiner's office in Florida also confirmed to the website they had received a call from the Martin Memorial Hospital informing them Jones had died. Davy was born in Openshaw, Manchester on 30 December 1945. At the age of eleven he began his acting career, making his screen debut at thirteen in a BBC Sunday night drama June Evening (1960). He went on to win a coverted role in Coronation Street as Ena Sharples's teenage grandson, Colin Lomax and also appeared three times in the legendary BBC police series Z-Cars during this period. However, after the death of his mother from emphysema when he was fourteen, he left acting and began training as a jockey with Basil Foster's stables in Newmarket. Events soon conspired to bring Davy back to the stage however when Foster was reportedly approached by a friend who worked in a theatre in the West End during casting for the second London production of Oliver! Jones appeared to great acclaim in the Lionel Bart musical as the Artful Dodger - replacing Tony Robinson in the role, fact fans! After playing the part in London, Davy accompanied the show to Broadway and he was nominated for a Tony Award. On 9 February 1964, he appeared along with the Broadway cast of Oliver! on The Ed Sullivan Show - singing 'I'd Do Anything' with Georgia Brown - the same episode on which The Beatles made their first appearance in the US. Jones said of that night: 'I watched The Beatles from the side of the stage, I saw the girls going crazy, and I said to myself, this is it, I want a piece of that.' Following his Ed Sullivan appearance, Ward Sylvester of Screen Gems (then the television division of Columbia Pictures) signed Jones to a long-term contract. A pair of American television appearances followed, as Jones received screen time in episodes of Ben Casey and The Farmer's Daughter. He also recorded three singles and an LP for Colpix Records. From late 1965 to 1971, Jones was a member of The Monkees, the pop group formed expressly for the television show of the same name. With Screen Gems producing the series, Jones was shortlisted for auditions, as he was the only Monkee who was already signed to a deal with the studio, but he still had to meet producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider's standards (part of his audition can be seen at the end of the first Monkees episode, Royal Flush). As a Monkee, Davy sang lead vocals on many of the group's best known songs, including 'I'm A Believer', 'I Wanna Be Free', 'Valleri' and 'Daydream Believer.' He also gets a second footnote in pop history as his success when The Monkees became in transatlantic hit in late 1966 forced another David Jones, a promising singer/songwriter from Bromley, to change his surname to Bowie to avoid confusion. Along with his bandmates, Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith, Davy was the cute one in the Pre-Fab Four who made some of the most catchy and memorable records of the era - 'Pleasant Valley Sunday', 'Last Train To Clarksville', '(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone', 'Take A Giant Step' et al - and, once they had wrestled control of their music from Screen Gems supremo Don Kirshner, they made two of the best LPs of the period as well, Headquarters and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricon, Jones Ltd (both 1967). After The Monkees TV series was cancelled following its second season in 1968 (fifty eight episodes), the group continued for a further three years, making the fantastically weird movie Head, co-written by Jack Nicholson, directed by Rafelson and with a cast that included Teri Garr, Frank Zappa (in a scene with a talking cow!), Dernnis Hopper (in a blink-and-you'll-miss-him cameo) and Victor Mature. (It's one of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's favourite movies and now has a genuine cult following. And, it produced another great soundtrack LP including possibly the two best Monkees performances, 'The Porpoise Song' and 'As We Go Along'.) They also did one more TV special, Thirty-Three & A Third Revolutions Per Monkee (1969). Tork left later that year and Nesmith in early 1970. Jones and Dolenz finally ended the band in 1971. Davy continued to perform solo, while later joining with Dolenz and songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart (who'd written many of The Monkees early songs) as a short-lived group called Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart. He also toured throughout the years with other members of the group as various incarnations of The Monkees, notably a full-scale revival (the only one Mike Nesmith has been involved in) and new TV special in 1996. This blogger saw them on that particular tour (and also Jones, Dolenz and Tork on another tour a few years previously, both in Newcastle) and always found them to be a thoroughly entertaining night out. Hearing them do lesser known, but brilliant, songs like 'Star Collector' and 'Circle Sky' was a particular joy of yer average Monkees show. In February 2011, Jones mentioned rumours of another Monkees reunion. 'There's even talk of putting The Monkees back together again in the next year or so for a US and UK tour,' he told Disney's Backstage Pass newsletter. 'You're always hearing all those great songs on the radio, in commercials, movies, almost everywhere.' The tour came to fruition entitled, An Evening with The Monkees: The Forty Fifth Anniversary Tour.' Davy is survived by his third wife, Jessica, and four daughters - Talia, Jessica, Sarah and Annabel - from his previous marriages to Linda Haines and Anita Pollinger.

Ah, bless you, Davy. 2011-12 has been a really rotten year and a bit for icons from yer actual Keith Telly Topping's formative years. So, there's only one thing to do about that. Sing! Yer actual Keith Telly Topping is going to be playing this one most of tonight in tribute. Thanks Davy, for a childhood that was far more enjoyable than I often let on.

It's Sheep We're Up Against

Wednesday morning's episode of the notorious ITV breakfast flop Daybreak featured an interview with yer actual Matt Smith. The actor discussed topics as diverse as the departure of his Doctor Who co-star Karen Gillan, rumours that he may himself step down as his own role next year, ridiculous tabloid nonsense that Benedict Cumberbatch is to play The Master and his forthcoming appearance at the official Doctor Who convention in March. On the subject of Kazza's exit from the series, Smudger said: 'It is sad for me, she's a great friend, and creatively I have a really interesting relationship with her and Arthur [Darvill], but the show is bigger than any of us. It's been going in 2013 for fifty years and it will continue way after me and so much of it is about change, and also you have to celebrate that and it's about reinvention. And how wonderful that someone invented a concept where a show can change so much.' But what of Smith's own future in the role? 'It's a thrill playing the part I don't want to give it up anytime soon. We have a whole season to make and a Christmas special as well, so I won't be leaving anytime soon. We'll get this season out the way and see where I'm at. I take it season-by-season and I take the job day-by-day because there's no other way you can do it.' Of course, next year sees the show's fiftieth anniversary and this week reports surfaced, firstly on the Internet and then in the Daily Scum Express, that Sherlock's Benedict Cumberbatch was supposedly going to play The Doctor's arch-enemy The Master. 'I know Ben and I've not heard anything about it,' admitted Matt. 'But he's a wonderful actor and a mate. I think he's a bit busy being a Star Trek villain, and he's Sherlock Holmes of course, so he's a busy man.' As well as filming this latest series of Doctor Who, Smudger is also set to attend the - hugely overpriced - official Doctor Who convention in March at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff. Is it an experience that he's looking forward to? 'It's going to be exciting, it's really important as the fans are so passionate, so it's a nice day out. Their detail is actually more detailed that my detail! The fans have very clear opinions. I drove past a line of fans and I wound the window down and waved, and there was a little guy dressed as me in the tweed and bow-tie. It's bizarre, but they're not dressed as me, they're dressed as The Doctor. He's the one they like, I'm just his vessel.'

Doctor Who and Luther are among the shows nominated in this year's RTS Programme Awards. The second series of Idris Elba crime drama Luther will compete against ITV's Scott & Bailey and BBC3's The Fades in the Drama Series category. Meanwhile, Doctor Who's showrunner Steven Moffat will face Eric & Ernie's Peter Bowker and Appropriate Adult's Neil McKay for the Drama Writer award. Doctor Who spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures and CBBC's Tracy Beaker have also been nominated as best Children's Drama, while Eric & Ernie is up against Channel Four's Random and BBC2's David Tennant-fronted United for the title of best Single Drama. The Crimson Petal & The White, The Promise and Top Boy will fight it out for the Drama Serial award, while acting nominations include Daniel Rigby (Eric & Ernie), John Simm (Exile) and Dominic West (Appropriate Adult) and Vicky McClure (This Is England '88), Ruth Negga (Shirley) and Emily Watson (Appropriate Adult) respectively. Him & Her's Russell Tovey and Sarah Solemani have been jointly nominated in the Comedy Performance category, alongside Spy's Darren Boyd and Rev's Tom Hollander. Rev has also received a, deserved, RTS nod for best Scripted Comedy, competing against Channel Four's Fresh Meat and E4's Phoneshop. Fresh Meat and Rev will also compete for the Comedy Writer award, with the former's Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong and the latter's James Wood and Tom Hollander facing Friday Night Dinner creator Robert Popper. In the entertainment categories, Ant and Dec have been recognised for their work on I'm a Z-List Former Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!, flop Red or Black?, another flop Push The Button and Britain's Got Talent. The Entertainment Performance nominees also include odious James Corden for Sky1's risible A League Of Their Own and Celebrity Juice host Leigh Francis. Derren Brown's The Experiments will compete against Million Pound Drop and The Graham Norton Show for best Entertainment Programme. Frozen Planet, Stargazing Live and Channel Four's Mummifying Alan: Egypt's Last Secret compete for the Science & Nature award.

Famous People in Unexpected Roles on US TV This Week: Number one. Billy Connolly playing Hugh Laurie's new stepfather in the latest episode of House. And, playing him as Billy Connolly as well - not even a slight concession to an American accent! That's the way to do it, none of this poncey 'acting' lark for Big Bill!
The Wire's Dominic West has admitted to reading about himself online and joining discussions about his work on Internet forums. Oh, no. Dom, baby, that way lies madness and sweaty palms. West, who is currently working on the second series of the BBC2 drama The Hour, claimed that no-one ever believes it is him when he confronts them online about derogatory remarks. 'I like to have chats about myself with people - mainly putting forward the case for the defence in forums. I use my own name but nobody ever believes me,' he told the Radio Times. West also confessed to watching back his own work when it is shown on TV. 'I don't particularly like watching myself on the TV but I do like to check that none of my lines have been cut,' he said. 'One or two ended up on the cutting-room floor [in The Hour] but that was mostly due to my occasional bad acting.' The six new episodes of The Hour will feature the broadcast team 'deeply embroiled in cover-ups, sexual intrigues and the resurgence of Mosley's fascism' and will have the 'looming spectre of the Cold War' as its backdrop. The Thick of It's Peter Capaldi, Hannah Tointon and Tom Burke have joined the cast for the second series.

Famous People in Unexpected Roles on US TV This Week: Number two. James Caan turning up as a guest star opposite his son, Scott, on the latest Hawaii Five-0.
Pfft. Nepotism!

ITV has reported a fourteen per cent increase in pre-tax profits to three hundred and twenty seven million quid in 2011 as chief executive Adam Crozier hailed a turnaround in its TV production business but admitted that The X Factor and I'm a Z-List Former Celebrity … had 'underperformed.' ITV, which reported adjusted pre-tax profits up twenty four per cent said that total revenues increased four per cent to £2.1bn in 2011. The broadcaster said that it managed to increase TV advertising revenue by one per cent to £1.5bn while online income, from digital advertising and services provided via the ITV Player, grew twenty one per cent. Crozier said that ITV's strategy of moving away from its almost complete dependence on TV advertising is 'starting to pay dividends.' He pointed to a ninety three million smackers year-on-year increase in non-advertising revenue – an eleven per cent year-on-year boost – which he attributed mainly to growth from its UK and international studio businesses. 'The increase in non-advertising revenues of ninety three million pounds, driven by our studios and online businesses, is clear evidence of progress in rebalancing the company and our ability to grow new revenue streams,' said Crozier. Total revenues at ITV Studios grew ten per cent, fuelled by international production which included forty five new commissions and twenty six recommissions. External revenues were up up nine per cent. ITV Studios' work in 2011 included the UK-Hungarian-Canadian co-production of Downton Abbey writer Lord Snooty's mini-series about the sinking of the Titanic. UK commissions for ITV include SWAGS, a six-part drama series about service wives and girlfriends, and historical drama Mr Selfridge. Crozier said that 'in time' ITV might look to grow its studio operation by making acquisitions. However he made it clear organic growth is the focus and he scotched any suggestion of a move for Big Brother producer Endemol, or that ITV might have received any potential takeover approach. Crozier admitted that key shows such as The X Factor and I'm a Z-List Former Celebrity … 'did not perform as well' as they had in 2010, despite the Simon Cowell show being the biggest entertainment ratings performer of 2011. 'They remain very important brands for us as they still drive large, diverse audiences, which appeal greatly to advertisers,' said Crozier. 'We remain committed to these programmes and continually look at ways of refreshing them to improve their on-screen performance.'

And, speaking of ITV shows which didn't perform Simon Cowell's flop Red or Black? could return in a scaled-down, pre-recorded format as ITV looks to overhaul the game show and strike a deal to bring back the gambling series for a second run. According to one alleged 'source' quoted in the Gruniad a decision could be due on the show's recommission as early as this week, but it looks as though it will return, depending on 'how the talks go over budgets.' When it launched last year on ITV Red or Black? was billed as one of the most expensive entertainment shows on television featuring a one million smackers nightly prize, live filming at Wembley Arena, big-budget challenges for contestants and plenty of celebrity firepower. ITV hoped it might have the Cowell magic and be a massive hit and successful international format, but the ITV ratings did not live up anywhere near to expectations. Protracted discussions have taken place between Cowell's company, Syco, and ITV about changes to make the format viable for a second series. Proposals understood to have been discussed include changing the end of the programme to require more of a skill-based finish rather than contestants simply choosing red or black, potentially reducing the amount of prize money on offer, making it a weekly show, and scaling back the stunts. One alleged 'source' with alleged 'knowledge of the discussions' allegedly said that the aim, at least from ITV's perspective, is to make the show more entertaining by giving it 'much more of a Noel's House Party' atmosphere. 'No decisions have yet been taken about a second series of Red or Black?,' said a spokesman for ITV. The first series of the show, fronted by Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly, attracted about four million viewers a night on average when it ran last summer. Roughly half of what ITV had confidently expected before the series began. Red or Black? also hit the headlines for the wrong reasons after former criminal Nathan Hageman scooped the first jackpot. After his win caused a tabloid storm, two other contestants were removed from the show following further criminal checks on their backgrounds and contestant selection was tightened up. Two weeks ago the Gaming Commission held talks with ITV about the show and proposed changes. It is understood that the commission does not have any outstanding issues with the programme. One of the biggest changes understood to be under discussion between ITV and Cowell's company Syco is to record the show before transmission, rather than broadcast it live. Pre-recording multiple shows could help reduce costs, but more importantly avoid some of the problems encountered with Hageman's win. The first series was broadcast live strip-scheduled across a week, which made it difficult for the producers to do extensive background checks on contestants who made it though to the final stages of the competition. The alleged 'source' allegedly added that by making Red or Black? weekly, ITV will also give itself more commercial opportunities around the show. The expensive stunts, which included transporting contestants to a castle to guess if a red or black parachutist would land closer to a target, and elaborate arena sets for challenges such as Twinball – a giant pinball-style game – look set to be scaled back to reduce the budget. The prize money may also be reduced. To some people's surprise there were four one million quid winners, which alleged 'insiders' allegedly claim may have made it more difficult or expensive for the series to be underwritten again. The ending of Red or Black?, where in some instances people could not choose the colour they wanted, also raised eyebrows and ITV and Syco are looking at how it could be changed. 'It was something like the price of a Champion's League match for each show,' said another alleged source. 'Incredibly expensive. Don't forget this was central to ITV's rights growth strategy and it bombed.' Speaking at an ITV event last year, when asked if Red or Black? would return, ITV director of television Peter Fincham said 'I haven't made that decision yet. It is a big show. The sort of thing ITV should be doing on a Saturday night. [It's a show I] want to make some changes to. I'm nearly there, but not quite ready yet,' he added.

New research has shown that BBC Persian TV's audience in Iran almost doubled between 2009 and 2011. The figures show the channel's audience had grown to six million, up from just over three million. The BBC says the channel is subject to 'persistent and repeated blocking' in Iran. Earlier this month, the BBC accused Iranian authorities of intimidating its journalists. The research is published as the BBC World Service celebrates its eightieth anniversary. The research indicated that the number of Iranians using the BBC's international news services as a whole (including TV and radio) had risen by eighty five per cent from 3.9m in 2009 to 7.2m. The research was carried out in February 2011 as part of the US Broadcasting Board of Governors' International Audience Research Program. The research excludes those using the Internet in Iran to access BBC Persian because those figures are difficult to measure owing to censorship. 'These figures are a tremendous tribute to the courage and dedication of BBC Persian journalists in the face of appalling bullying and intimidation by the Iranian authorities,' the BBC's Director of Global News Peter Horrocks said. Earlier this month, the BBC's Director General Mark Thompson wrote in a blog that the BBC had seen 'disturbing new tactics' in intimidating journalists, including the targeting of family members of those working outside Iran. Iran accused the BBC of 'inciting unrest' after the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009. BBC Persian broadcast online videos and interviewed protesters, who described deaths, injuries and arbitrary arrests carried out by security forces.
Six journalists at the very Scum of the World its very self were 'involved in instructing private investigator Glenn Mulcaire to hack phones of celebrities and others,' it has been alleged in documents released by the high court to the Gruniad Morning Star. Who gleefully printed details of it in a kind of we-told-you-so way. And, to be fair to them, after some of the shit that got flung their way by other organs of the press over the last couple of years for daring to suggest other journalists were scum-sucking weasels with the moral compass of a rattlesnake, who, honestly, can blame them? Paperwork submitted on behalf of phone-hacking victims by lawyers shed new light on the alleged extent of knowledge within the newspaper about the activities of Mulcaire, the two thousand quid-a-week private investigator at the centre of the scandal. It has been alleged in these court documents that there was 'a conspiracy' between Mulcaire and 'senior executives' including 'Clive Goodman' and five other journalists, known as A, B, C, D, and E, whereby he would obtain information on their behalf using 'electronic intelligence and eavesdropping.' Up until now only one Scum of the World journalist, the former royal editor Goodman, has been charged and sentenced to pokey in relation to phone-hacking offences. In the latest Operation Weeting investigation other journalists from the Scum of the World have since been arrested on suspicion of phone-hacking. The claim, submitted on behalf of phone-hacking victims, also alleges that Mulcaire was 'on a contract' with the paper between 2001 and 2006 worth up to one hundred and five thousand smackers a year. Under the initial contract, signed on September 2001, the victims allege, Mulcaire was paid one thousand seven hundred and seventy knicker a week, or ninety two grand a year, for 'services' provided by a company which he controlled, called Euro Research and Information Services. His fees were, allegedly, increased in 2003 when Mulcaire asked for an extra two hundred and fifty notes per week to extend his services beyond 9am to 5pm and to cover 'emergency calls outside these hours.' In February 2005, a separate contract was, allegedly, signed to pay Mulcaire (in the name of Paul Williams) seven grand for a story about the Professional Footballers' Association boss Gordon Taylor, who subsequently won a four hundred and twenty five thousand smackers claim for phone-hacking from News International. In July of that year, a fresh contract between Mulcaire and the Scum of the World was drawn up, this time in the name of Nine Consultancy Limited. Under this agreement it is claimed the private investigator was paid just over two thousand smackers a week, or a fraction under one hundred and five thousand quid per annum. The documents detailing the alleged contracts were 'obtained by the Gruniad and were released in redacted form last week.' They go on to state that some of these redactions have now been removed following a further hearing at the high court on Monday. The unredacted passages in the documents submitted in the name of 'voicemail claimant' for the purpose of a generic trial, allege that Mulcaire also agreed to 'provide daily transcripts of voicemail messages' to Scum of the World journalists. Last week, the Gruniad state, it emerged that News International 'took active steps' to delete and prepare to delete the publisher's e-mail archives as phone-hacking allegations and lawsuits against the owner of the Scum of the World mounted in 2009 and developed in 2010. According to court documents filed by victims of hacking, the publisher allegedly produced an 'e-mail deletion policy' in November 2009 whose aim was to 'eliminate in a consistent manner' e-mails which 'could be unhelpful in the context of future litigation.' Which, if proved, dear blog reader, I'm sure you'll agree is a bit naughty.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes has told the Leveson Inquiry that media reports of his sexual orientation damaged his chance to lead the party in 2006. Hughes told the inquiry into media standards and ethics that he had been contacted by the Sun who told him they had 'obtained his phone call records.' He said that subsequent press coverage, which was about his relationships, hurt his 'chance of winning the election.' He also spoke of how his phone had been hacked by the Scum of the World. He went on to say that he was unhappy the police had initially failed to explore the possibility of bringing charges against others potentially involved in hacking. In other evidence on Tuesday, ex-police detective Jacqui Hames claimed that the Scum of the World had placed her and her police officer husband under surveillance in 2002. She suggested this was because the paper had links to suspects in a murder case that her husband was investigating. Hughes, the MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, was named as a hacking victim in the 2007 trial of Clive Goodman, the Scum of the World's then royal editor, and Glenn Mulcaire. Hughes received forty five thousand smackers in damages, plus costs, after settling with News Group Newspapers - the publishers of the Scum of the World - out of court recently. He told the inquiry that he had had 'some concerns' about his phone messages in 2005 and 2006 following 'mysterious' and 'systematic failures.' Hughes, a man who - by his own admission - is not given to venting his spleen, used words like 'unforgivable', 'unacceptable' and 'serious failure.' His ire was directed at the initial police response to phone-hacking at the Scum of the World, which the Lib Dem politician believed was considered an 'acceptable practice' at the disgraced and disgraceful tabloid. As far as Hughes is concerned, the Metropolitan Police ignored evidence of 'widespread criminality' and chose instead to arrest just two people in 2006. This failure to investigate properly had left Hughes 'extremely suspicious.' The police and News International had become too close; officers had lost their way badly and were 'tainted.' It was time, Hughes declared, to 'clear out that stable.' The nature of the relationship between the Metropolitan Police and Rupert Murdoch's company will be the focus of this inquiry for days to come. Hughes said that he was then contacted by the Sun in 2006 whilst the Lib Dem Party leadership contest was ongoing and they told him that they had 'obtained' his phone call records and wished to speak to him about 'a private matter.' Hughes said that he agreed to speak to the paper after confirming the content of the phone calls referred to. In the January 2006 article, Hughes told the Sun that he'd had relationships with both men and women but did not feel that should stop his leadership bid. Before the revelations, Hughes had been one of the favourites to take over the leadership role but he said subsequent negative press coverage 'hurt his chance of winning the election.' He told the inquiry that he it was only in October 2006 that the Metropolitan Police told him private investigator Mulcaire had hacked his voicemails. He added: 'What they didn't tell me was that Mulcaire not only had that phone number but he had every other phone number, address, and other things. They did not tell me that he had, for example, the hotline in the office, which only a few people knew [or] my private phone number at home.' Hughes said that he believed 'more than one' Scum of the World reporter was also involved in the hacking and that he had not known the narrow nature of the charges brought against Mulcaire. It was a lost 'window of opportunity' and could have saved subsequent pain. 'We lost three or four years in which illegal activity continued,' Hughes said. But, Hughes added, when he had asked police at that time if they were investigating anyone else, he was told 'no.' He said: 'What I am very unhappy about - and it seems to me was a complete failure - was to explore whether it would be appropriate to bring charges against other defendants at the same time as part of the same inter-related set of activities.' In a statement, he added: 'I suspect that the police had shut down this investigation, much to the delight of News Group and ignored evidence of long-standing and widespread criminality.' Hughes said police returned to see him in 2011 and 'opened the books' Mulcaire had kept his notes in. He said: 'It looked to me that there was a pretty general trawl to look at anything that might lead anywhere that might lead to a story.' Former Met Police detective Jacqui Hames told the inquiry how working as a presenter on Crimewatch and dealing with the press was 'a baptism of fire.' She told the inquiry that she needed counselling after the Scum of the World placed her and her husband, Det Chief Supt Dave Cook, under surveillance and she wanted to know why the police had not investigated why this happened. Cook had appeared on Crimewatch seeking information about the 1987 murder of the private investigator Daniel Morgan. But Hames said that Morgan's company - Southern Investigations - whose members included suspects in the case - had 'close links' to Alex Marunchak - a news editor at the paper. In a statement, she said: 'I believe that the real reason for the News of the World placing us under surveillance was that suspects in the Daniel Morgan murder inquiry were using their association with a powerful and well-resourced newspaper to try to intimidate us and so attempt to subvert the investigation. These events left me distressed, anxious and needing counselling, and contributed to the breakdown of my marriage to David in 2010.' She told the inquiry that former Scum of the World editor Rebekah Brook's defence that the paper had been investigating if the two had been 'having an affair' with each other was 'absolutely pathetic' as the couple's marriage was 'common knowledge.'

Meanwhile, it has been revealed that well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks was 'loaned' a police horse by officers from Scotland Yard for use on her Oxfordshire farm. The Evening Standard has reported that the former Sun and Scum of the World editor was allowed to keep the retired horse for over a year. The loan was made in 2008, the year after former Scum of the World royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were jailed for illegal interception of voicemails. It was also offered while Lord Blair was the Metropolitan Police commissioner, although he claims that he was 'not aware' of the situation. The horse was subsequently re-housed with a police officer in Norfolk in 2010. Speaking to the newspaper, an alleged 'friend' of well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks and her horse trainer husband, Charlie, said: 'Rebekah acted as a foster carer for the horse. Anybody can agree to do this with the Met if they have the land and facilities to pay for its upkeep.' Brooks's spokesman added: 'It's well-known by people in the horse world that the Met looks for homes for horses once they retire. Rebekah took on a horse and effectively acted as a foster parent for it for a year or so. The Met horse team comes out to make sure your facilities are right and proper. It's just a way of giving a temporary home to a horse that has had a distinguished service in the Met. It went off to a retirement paddock in Norfolk once it couldn't be ridden anymore.' The Met Police said that it was 'routine procedure' for retired police horses to be loaned to members of the public (or, indeed, tabloid editors) after their working lives, but the arrangement with Brooks is likely to raise fresh questions over the closeness of well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks' relationship with officers. A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said: 'When a police horse reaches the end of its working life, Mounted Branch officers find it a suitable retirement home. Whilst responsibility for feeding the animal and paying vet bills passes to the person entrusted to its care at its new home, the horse remains the property of the Metropolitan Police Service. Retired police horses are not sold on and can be returned to the care of the MPS at any time. In 2008 a retired MPS horse was loaned to Rebekah Brooks. The horse was subsequently re-housed with a police officer in 2010.'
The revelation comes a day after the Leveson inquiry into press ethics and standards heard that the relationship between News International and the Met was 'at best inappropriately close and at worst corrupt.' It was revealed that Brooks was briefed by a senior Met officer on the progress of the original inquiry into phone-hacking at the newspaper she used to edit, and even asked - and was told - how far the investigation was likely to go within the Scum of the World. And, by one of those co-incidences that the phone-hacking scandal regular throws up to make it even funnier than it already is, the BBC's One O'Clock News' coverage of this story was fronted by, wait for it, Fiona Trott. You, literally, couldn't make it up.

And speaking of women with well-known relationships with horses, Clare Balding and TV presenter and former Paralympic basketball medallist Ade Adepitan will host Channel Four's coverage of the London Paralympic games in August and September. The schedule will be cleared for a full eleven days to make room for one hundred and fifty hours' worth of coverage; this amounting to the biggest broadcasting event in Channel Four's thirty-year history. It will also be the most time ever dedicated to the Paralympics on British television in the history of the games. Balding and Adepitan will host peak-time coverage and will be joined by disabled Australian comedian Adam Hills - a particular favourite of yer actual Keith Telly Topping, as it happens - who presented ABC's live coverage of the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing. T4 presenter Rick Edwards (who hosted four series of That Paralympic Show on Channel Four) and Olympic triple-jump legend and BBC athletics commentary regular Jonathan Edwards will provide comment and analysis throughout the games. Channel Four News anchor full-of-his-own-importance Jon Snow will front coverage of the opening and closing ceremonies. As Channel Four promised when they bid for the broadcast rights, fifty per cent of the presenting team will, themselves, be disabled. Irish presenter Daráine Mulvihill and former Royal Marine Arthur Williams will also perform studio anchoring duties and are amongst seven new faces to come out of the broadcaster's star search for disabled talent in 2010. They will be joined by former Paralympic swimmer Rachael Latham, sports reporter and wheelchair basketball player Jordan Jarrett-Bryan, former carpenter Martin Dougan, researcher Liam Holt and sports journalist Alex Brooker. A number of renowned athletes will also take part in the 'all day everyday' coverage on Channel Four, including runners Iwan Thomas and Danny Crates, and swimmer Giles Long. Special breakfast and tea-time shows will provide highlights of the coverage that is being produced by Sunset & Vine and IMG Sports Media. In addition, a new dedicated website will provide in-depth analysis and highlights throughout the Paralympics. Jay Hunt, the Chief Creative Officer at Channel Four, said: 'Being the broadcaster of the London 2012 Paralympic Games is a huge privilege and an opportunity for us to really make a difference to the perception of disability and disability sport in this country. I'm thrilled to announce this brilliant and carefully selected team of presenters and reporters; a mix of broadcasting heavyweights and new faces including disabled talent. Our coverage will contain in-depth analysis and intelligent, frank and thought-provoking insight from people who are equipped to bring these incredible but little-understood sports to a broad mainstream audience and help us to make this the biggest Paralympic Games ever. We will be on air before the sport of the day begins and until the last flag has been rolled up and put away with all the action, expert comment and analysis and specially commissioned breakfast and tea time shows. This is a four hundred per cent increase on the coverage The Paralympics has ever received in this country and will make it impossible to ignore.'

Grainy unofficial video has been leaked onto the Internet from the set of the Star Trek sequel in which Spock actor Zachary Quinto is shown fighting the film's villain, played by Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch. The footage, which you can see here (complete with pretentious dramatic music over it!), follows images which emerged at the weekend showing the pair tussling on location in Los Angeles. Speaking on Sunday at the Academy Awards, Quinto commented of the photos: 'The cameras weren't even rolling, so imagine what it'll look like when we're actually doing it! That happens, I guess. We're on incredibly big set pieces in the middle of somewhere and people sort of got wind of it.' The as-yet untitled Star Trek sequel, directed by JJ Abrams, has a scheduled release date of 17 May 2013.

Actress Lucy Liu has joined the cast of the CBS show Elementary, which is yet another Sherlock Holmes TV remake, but this time in America. And so, will stink like shat. The forty three-year-old will appear in the pilot as Joan Watson, Sherlock's side-kick, which has been traditionally played by men. Oh, this just gets better and better! If the pilot is picked up, a series will be made and broadcast in the autumn. British actor Jonny Lee Miller has taken the lead role. The detective series will be based in a modern day New York, and there is no more information about which of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories the drama will tackle. The show is being written and executive produced by Robert Doherty. Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly will also be executive producers. Last year, Miller appeared on stage with Benedict Cumberbatch, in Danny Boyle's National Theatre adaptation of Frankenstein. The BBC are said to be 'furious' about the clear influence of their own Sherlock on this proposed production and have made it clear that they will be watching developments very closely to see if there is anything they can sue over!

BBC Worldwide did not follow 'proper protocol' when it reached an advanced stage of production on a Top Gear branded sat nav, says the BBC Trust. And, it failed to adhere to the BBC Editorial Policy Conflicts of Interest Guidance. A review by the Trust's Editorial Standards Committee found that Worldwide had gone ahead with a deal with TomTom to produce a portable sat nav featuring The Stig and a Jeremy Clarkson voiceover without consulting the BBC Public Service team. This represented a breach of the protocol established in 2007. The Committee says it was 'concerned that public trust in the BBC could potentially have been undermined' as a result. And it was concerned too about the 'apparent lack of sensitivity to the potential of the deal to undermine the integrity and values of the Top Gear brand'. It pointed to 'some confusion' at Worldwide about the nature of the 'commercial boundaries' for Top Gear branded products. And it highlighted the fact that BBC Worldwide had 'not considered whether a Top Gear branded satellite navigation system would place any editorial limitations or restrictions on the Top Gear programme or magazine when it came to reviewing this category of information.' The commercial deal was halted by the director general just before the first products reached the shops. This was after BBC Public Service and Editorial Policy were alerted to it at the start of September 2011 and identified potential conflict of interest issues. As production was at an advanced stage, it was decided to let those products already created to be sold in Halfords, with the profits going to Children in Need.

Big fat cuddly Lorraine Kelly is reportedly in talks to present a revamped edition of notorious ITV breakfast flop Daybreak. The fifty two-year-old host will be joined on the struggling ITV breakfast programme by Matt Barbet of Five News, according to the Sun. So, this is almost certainly lies, obtained by dubious means involving the corrupt payment of officials, no doubt. The 'top secret' proposal - except, it's not secret now, is it? - for Kelly will reportedly see her come on air about an hour after Daybreak's current start time of 6am, and stay to front her regular show Lorraine immediately after. 'It doesn't take a genius to realise the answer to ITV's breakfast problems is staring them in the face,' an alleged 'source' allegedly said. Yes. It's crap, basically. Next ... 'The audiences go up for Lorraine's slot and the reason for that is Lorraine. She is down to earth and someone British women can relate to. Everyone agrees this is something that could work. She was getting well over a million for her show even when [former Daybreak hosts] Christine Bleakley and Adrian Chiles were getting just a few hundred thousand for theirs.' The alleged 'insider' allegedly added that 'no deal has been done' as of yet, while the Sun claims that Kate Garraway or Natasha Kaplinsky could still take on hosting duties. Despite the shake-up, ITV producers are still believed to be axing Daybreak in the future. The development comes as Kelly announced on Twitter that she has been discharged from hospital after undergoing surgery in the wake of a horse riding accident last week. 'Finally out of hospital,' she wrote on Wednesday morning. 'Thanks for all your lovely tweets - really means a lot to know you are thinking of me. It was a bad accident but could have been so much worse.' She went on to praise the medical staff who treated her as 'kind, caring and professional.'

Award-winning US director and producer Theodore Mann has died, aged eighty seven. Mann, who co-founded New York's Circle in the Square Theatre and its school, died last Friday of complications from pneumonia. Charlotte St Martin from The Broadway League said that his contributions to theatre were 'immeasurable.' Mann, who directed more than two hundred productions, received his first Tony award in 1957 for Long Day's Journey Into Night. In 1976 he was presented with a special Tony for twenty five years of work with the Circle in the Square and its school for young actors, which he co-founded in 1951. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kevin Bacon, Lady Gaga and Benicio Del Toro were all students at the school. 'His contributions to Broadway and off-Broadway are immeasurable, both in the productions he created and the talent that he nurtured,' said St Martin. Together with Paul Libin, president of the Circle, Mann presented many new and classic works at the theatre. Notable productions they include The Lady from the Sea, which marked Vanessa Redgrave's first Broadway appearance, and Oscar Wilde's Salome, which starred Al Pacino. Mann, who married the late soprano singer Patricia Brooks in 1953, is survived by two sons and five grandchildren.

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, like. Here's The Fourth Best Band In Hull. Tell 'em what it's all about, Norman.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It Seems Like I've Been Here Before

BBC1 has ordered a sixth series of the comedy quiz show Would I Lie To You? Another nine half-hour shows, hosted by Rob Brydon, will be broadcast in an 8.30pm slot later this spring. Team captains Lee Mack and David Mitchell will both return, whilst Richard Madeley has tweeted that he will be one of the panelists in one episode. Series five, which went out in the autumn, started with four million viewers, and averaged slightly over three and a half million over the course of its run. Peter Holmes, he executive producer for programmer-makers Zeppotron said: 'We already have some amazing names and unbelievable stories lined-up for series six.' The episodes will be recorded at Pinewood Studios from next month.

Doctor Who writer Toby Whithouse has alluded to some of the changes coming in the next series of the show. The BBC's popular long-running SF family drama's seventh series will see Karen Gillan (Amy Pond) and Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams) departing, with a new companion replacing the pair. Whithouse, who is expected to write the third episode, told The Hollywood Reporter that he is 'aware' of 'some plans for the new companion. In terms of the series as a whole there are quite a few things I know,' he said. As one would expect since he's writing for it. 'The one downside of working on Doctor Who is that you know what's coming up.' The Being Human creator agreed that it was time for Matt Smith's Doctor to get a new assistant, adding that the show's companions 'have a natural shelf life. I know a bit about the new companion, [but] I don't know who they cast,' he explained. 'Even if I did, if I told you [showrunner] Steven Moffat would come out here and punch me in the neck.' Ooo, and you don't want that, dear blog reader, trust me. You wouldn't like The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods Before He) when he's angry. 'Steven is one of the cleverest, most inventive people I've ever met in my life, and so you know it is in very safe hands with him. If he makes decisions, the chances are it's for the best - it's the best thing for the show.'

As well as production commencing on the new series of Doctor Who last Monday in Penarth, later in the week saw filming taking place at Southerndown Beach, the distinctive Dunraven Bay location has featured in a number of BBC Wales programmes, including Merlin and Being Human, and has been used previously in Doctor Who to represent an alien planet (Army of Ghosts), Bad Wolf Bay (Doomsday and Journey's End) and Alfava Metraxis (The Time of Angels and Flesh and Stone). Matt Smith, Arthur Darvill and guest star Mark Williams were pictured during filming, which was covered by a number of media sources including the Sun, Radio Times and the Western Mail.
Now, this is something of a strange one. Cardiff City Council has been ordered to release any material that it holds relating to Doctor Who after failing to contest a decision from the UK's information regulator. Information Commissioner Christopher Graham had ordered the local authority to release the information last year, after receiving a complaint from a journalist named Christopher Hastings that his request for the council to release 'written complaints and correspondence' relating to the television series had been denied. Why Hastings wants this information is not made entirely clear. The council contested the ICO's decision, having withheld the information on the basis that dealing with the request would have 'taken longer than eighteen hours of work.' But an Information Rights Tribunal has now backed the Information Commissioner's original decision, unanimously dismissing the council's appeal after finding that the authority had 'not produced sufficient evidence' that the work would take this long. It said the council had 'failed to adduce "cogent" evidence to support their assertion' and that it had 'failed to demonstrate that they had undertaken a process involving "an investigation followed by an exercise of assessment and calculation." The tribunal therefore concluded that the appellant had failed to prove, on the balance of probabilities, that responding to Mr Hastings' enquiry would have involved in excess of eighteen hours work,' judges said. The tribunal added that it was 'bewildered' by the 'nature and quality of evidence' provided by Cardiff City Council, with two council officers - Phil Bradshaw and Dave Parsons - contradicting each other, and one of them (Bradshaw) 'contradicting himself.' It was also suggested that evidence from council freedom of information officer, Parsons, consisted of 'little more than a bald assertion that the work required would "obviously" take longer than eighteen hours.' A spokesman for the council said they were 'disappointed' at the decision and that they remained concerned it would take 'significantly longer' than eighteen hours to process the FoI request. 'In hindsight we accept we did not provide sufficient evidence to the tribunal in regard of the costs of processing the request for information, however, we note that the tribunal recognised the efforts made to clarify the request which were rejected by the requester of the information.' Although not forming a formal part the judgement, the tribunal said Hastings himself had adopted an 'unhelpful manner' in declining to narrow the scope of his enquiry. But judges were also concerned about a 'lack of an appropriate case or record management system' at the local authority. The council has now said a records management system and improved procedures are being implemented. But it accepted that there had been failings in their processes, and that a council leader had asked for a 'full review' of procedures as he was not aware of the tribunal until it was underway.

Being Human's Michael Socha has talked about Mark Gatiss's upcoming guest role in the popular BBC3 horror-flatshare comedy gestalt. Sherlock actor and co-creator Gatiss will play the vampire Mr Snow in a forthcoming episode of the supernatural drama. 'He's one of my favourite guest stars,' Socha, who plays werewolf Tom, told Entertainment Weekly. 'He really, actually, genuinely scared me when I was doing scenes with him. He's incredible.' Socha also admitted that he had been nervous about joining Being Human full-time, following the departure of original stars Russell Tovey, Aidan Turner and Sinead Keenan in rapid succession. 'At first, I was quite nervous,' he confessed. 'Being Human has got such a massive group of fans - a very hardcore, loyal group of fans. I thought that they had the potential to lose all of them. But I think now that people have actually watched the show, they've gotten themselves back into it and trust us nearly, if not as much, as the previous cast.'

Soaplife suggests that Scott & Bailey's second season will start on ITV on Monday 12 March (it was, of course, on Sundays last year) and Love Life is scheduled for Thursday 15 March.

Attending the Oscars is 'overwhelming and extraordinary', according to Benedict Cumberbatch. 'It's just wonderful, to be invited to the party and feel like you belong to something as glamorous on any kind of a level. It's still utterly overwhelming, extraordinarily sort of high-octane glamour,' admitted the Sherlock star during Sunday night's celebrations in Los Angeles. But Cumberbatch made it clear that, for him, being at the Oscars was more about his career than any childhood wish fulfilment of hob-nobbing with the glitterati. 'I watched an interview with an actress this afternoon saying "Oh, I'd dreamed of this as a kid." But I never did, and to me it's about work - it's great that I'm here, but I'm here because I'm working,' he told ITV's breakfast flop Daybreak. Yet even the man who plays the ice-cold detective couldn't hide his genuine excitement at rubbing shoulders with the stars - including some fans of Sherlock. 'The most extraordinary people who you've watched all your life are sitting in the seat next to you or wandering to get a drink, going, "Oh, I've just seen you in something" - I cannot believe it. And then, lots of them have seen Sherlock, which is great!' Cumberbatch attended the eighty fourth Academy Awards after starring in two nominated films, War Horse and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. They were up for best film and best adapted screenplay, respectively, but fell foul of the hugely successful The Artist and The Descendants.

Hustle finished its final - eighth - series with an overall average of 6.21 million viewers per episode and average timeshift of 1.39 million. Those figures are down 0.58m and up 0.25m respectively on the 2011 series. Which might suggest that the show just about ended at the right time, with the majority of its audience still intact and before it dropped significantly in quality. Call The Midwife, meanwhile, finishes its - astonishingly successful - first year with a final series average of 10.61 million per episode and average timeshift of 1.93 million. Not quite enough to be the top timeshifted drama of the year so far, but bloody close - Sherlock managed around ten thousand more timeshifters per episode. The happiest person in all this will be Danny Cohen who has two big dramas on his channel. Will any other dramas bar, perhaps, the Doctor Who Christmas episode be as big as those two on BBC1 this year? It's doubtful. Maybe New Tricks when it returns in the autumn. Danny has had a brilliant first quarter of 2012 so far. If it's any consolation, Dan, it can only go downhill from here! For the next three months on BBC1 it's Silent Witness and The Apprentice that are the big hitters and the big unknown of The Voice. For Danny Cohen The Voice could define him for the rest of his career at the Beeb regardless of what else he has done or will do in the future.

Grumpy old horrorshow Ade Edmondson (last funny, 1992) has 'slammed' (that's yer actual tabloidspeak for 'criticised' ... only with less syllables) soaps for their 'unpleasant' portrayal of British people. And, this is a new thing? The Young Ones and Bottom legend, these days reducing to fronting depressingly banal travelogues like The Dales described British soaps as 'selfish' and 'aggressive.' The fifty five-year-old told Reader's Digest: 'Can someone tell me what's wrong with a bit of feel-good telly? Haven't we got enough selfish, aggressive programmes? The soaps are full of unpleasant people. If you watched an average week of British TV, you'd come away thinking we're a nation of murderous, drink-driving, egotistical con-artists. I'm sorry, but this country's not like that. The vast majority of us are decent, funny and friendly.' Says a man who spent twenty five years playing extremely violent (if occasionally funny) skullcrackers like Vyvyan Bastard, Sir Adrian Dangerous and Richie Rich. Oh, the irony. Mind you, this is Adrian Edmondson talking, he's got previous form over exactly this sort of knobcheese glakery. Cheer up, y'grumpy sod!

A tabloid report has claimed there is a 'crisis' at EastEnders as ratings have 'slumped.' Last year it was Coronation Street which was supposedly 'in crisis', this year it's EastEnders if the tabloids are to be believed. Which they seldom are. But, as usual when a tabloid does a story based on television ratings figures, stripped of any context, it bears about as much relevance to reality as the contents of Ade Edmondson's head. The Mirra is claiming that 'bosses' (again, a beautifully tabloidesque word used because, it seems, tabloid writers don't believe that their readers have the intellectual capacity - or the wordskills - to get their head around the concept of 'executives') at the BBC are 'in crisis talks' as ratings for flagship soap EastEnders have fallen, the paper claims, by one and a half million viewers. The tabloid also claims that there are 'concerns' over the number of 'youth characters' currently in the soap and how much attention they receive sparking criticisms that EastEnders is 'turning into Hollyoaks' with older characters being sidelined leaving older audiences feeling alienated. 'EastEnders is going through a major transition, and some of the BBC's senior managers are concerned the show might suffer long term if well-loved characters are sidelined,' an alleged (and, of course, anonymous) 'source' allegedly told the Mirra. The paper goes on to say that BBC's 'drama chief' John Yorke is at 'odds' with EastEnders' executive producer, Bryan Kirkwood, over the number of younger characters in the soap. The alleged 'source' allegedly told the Mirra 'At the moment there are more youngsters in Albert Square than there are in Hollyoaks. John is concerned that viewers may be put off by the new stars, and wants to get it back to a more traditional feel. It's a worrying time, and urgent action is planned.' Just for a bit of balance, according to BARB the consolidated final audience figures for the four episodes of EastEnders shown in the week ending 19 February (the last full week for which figures are currently available) were 9.53m, 9.24m, 6.49m and 8.96m. Admittedly, the Thursday figure was very low for EastEnders - it was probably affected by the big audience Channel Five pulled in for the Manchester United vs Ajax match that evening - although the BBC3 repeat for that episode later the same night brought in a further 1.42m viewers. But, as we always say even with regard to shows that do appear to have lost, at least in the short term, a portion of their audience (as, say, Britain's Got Talent undeniably did last year) no show pulling in figures in the eight to nine million range, no matter what they were getting last year, can be described as 'in crisis' or anything even remotely like it. And, anybody who describes them thus is a foolish fool in their foolishness.

Downton Abbey has reportedly cast two new actors for its third series. Cara Theobald will play a new kitchen maid called Ivy in the Carnival Films period drama, while it has also been confirmed that Lucille Sharp has joined as lady's maid Miss Reid. Last week, it was revealed that Matt Milne, the star of War Horse, had signed up to play a footman named Alfred. In January, Oscar-nominated actress Shirley MacLaine was brought in to portray Martha Levinson, the mother of Lady Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern). Sharp's Miss Reid is to serve as Martha Levinson's maid in the Lord Snooty-penned piece. Downton Abbey is expected to return with a new series on ITV later this year.

The BBC has come fifth in this year's annual UK Consumer Superbrands survey. The corporation was the highest-scoring UK organisation in the poll, with an index of seventy nine out of one hundred. Which is ... better than seventy eight. Apparently. Watch-maker Rolex topped the survey, followed by multi-national firms Coca-Cola, Google and Mercedes-Benz. This is the sixth year in which the BBC appears in the top five in the poll of the UK's strongest brands, which has been running since 1995. Other UK brands in the top twenty include the Royal Albert Hall and John Lewis. But technology firms Apple and Microsoft dropped out of the top ten to numbers eighteen and forty five respectively. The vote involved a survey of more than two thousand adults, following a selection process by The Centre for Brand Analysis. This constitutes 'news', apparently.

Filming has begun in South London on BBC3's Some Girls, written by Game On author Bernadette Davis. The six-part series follows 'the lives and loves of a group of quirky sixteen year old girls who play on the same school football team and live on the same inner city estate.' So, it's a BBC version of Skins, basically. Produced by Justin Davies (whose previous credits include Absolutely Fabulous, Beautiful People and Psychoville) and directed by Adam Miller, Some Girls stars Adelayo Adedayo as Viva, the great Colin Salmon as her dad Rob, Dolly Wells as her stepmother, Anna and Natasha Jonas, Mandeep Dhillon and Alice Felgate as her friends. Justin Davies commented: 'Some Girls is a very funny snapshot of four underdogs. It is an unadulterated celebration of teenage life; messy, sexy and a little bit wrong – but always lots of fun.'

And, so to phone-hacking. Yeah, why not?
Charlotte Church says she was 'sickened and disgusted' by what she discovered during her legal action against News International over phone-hacking. Church and her parents have agreed damages and costs of six hundred thousand smackers with News Group Newspapers - publishers of the defunct, disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World. The High Court heard that the singer's phone was repeatedly hacked when she was just sixteen years old. The court agreed that thirty three articles in the paper had been due to her family's voicemails being hacked. The settlement includes three hundred thousand knicker in legal costs and a - very - public apology from a not particularly contrite News International. Speaking outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Church said it was an 'important day' for her and her family. 'I brought this legal claim with my parents, as many others have done, because we wanted to find out the truth about what this newspaper group had done in the pursuit of stories about our family. What I have discovered as the litigation has gone on has sickened and disgusted me. Nothing was deemed off limits by those who pursued me and my family, just to make money for a multinational news corporation.' The court heard that Church's phone was hacked in 2002 and journalists also placed her under surveillance and gained access to her medical records. The court also heard that her mother, Maria, was at 'her lowest ebb' and was 'coerced' into doing an interview with the paper's journalists about how she had self-harmed and attempted suicide after reporters gained information from hacked voicemails about her medical history. The family's solicitor, Mike Brookes, told the court: 'She felt she had no choice but to give the interview and was deeply traumatised by the publication of the story in the News of the World.' He said: 'The News of the World targeted Charlotte and her voicemail messages repeatedly, and in doing so unlawfully obtained her private medical information and details of her personal relationships with her family and friends. Even her first teenage boyfriend. They then ran stories about Charlotte using this information.' The BBC's legal affairs correspondent, Clive Coleman, said that the award, the last of the first wave of sixty settlements against News International, was one of the highest. He said it gave 'an insight' into some of the things that had taken place and the deeply personal nature of the intrusion which Church was clearly very angry about outside court. 'We got a sense of how important the process of litigation here is, the process of discovery, with Ms Church saying it has only been in the last few days that she really learned the full extent of what had been happening,' he added. Church said she had discovered that, despite an apology she believed the paper was 'not truly sorry, only sorry they got caught.' She added that 'money could never mend the damage that was done,' and she would use her portion of the settlement to protect her children from further invasions of privacy. The twenty six-year-old singer said that she was now planning to focus on helping the criminal investigation and Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry into media ethics. In November, she told the Leveson Inquiry that her mother had attempted suicide 'at least in part' because she had known the newspaper was going to publish details of her father's affair. She told the hearing paparazzi had taken pictures up her skirt, there were photographers outside her house on most days and her manager had found evidence of a camera hidden in a shrub outside her home. 'I really wanted to take it all the way as well. I am really sorry, I hope people don't feel let down, but the thing is it's not so black and white, it's definitely not a case of money; it became totally irrelevant,' Church added, in an interview with the Gruniad. Church, the newspaper notes, doesn't know how far up the chain at News International knowledge of phone-hacking went but, it claims, she has 'strong views' about former Scum of the World editors Andy Coulson and well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks, who went on to become News International chief executive. 'I don't know what their involvement was, but looking at their positions as editor of the News of the World, the other being the head of the umbrella company, I think they behaved very irresponsibly and I think they put a lot of people at risk.'

Documents revealing the full extent of the Metropolitan police cover-up over phone-hacking have been unearthed after legal discovery battles by Scum of the World victims. The files' contents were detailed on Monday to the Leveson inquiry in sworn written statements from the former deputy prime minister John Prescott and the former Met deputy assistant commissioner Brian Paddick, who was himself a hacking victim. Paddick used his insider knowledge to depict the existence of 'a widespread fear' of the tabloids among senior police officers and what he called a general 'culture of cover-up' at the Met. But the detailed allegations that he and Prescott made about the hacking affair are even more startling. According to the evidence, specific lies appear to have been told not only to individual victims, but to government ministers, parliament, the judges and the public. Police attempts to undermine the Gruniad's reporting when it first disclosed the scandal in 2009 are shown to have been wrong. There had been a 'conspiracy of silence', Prescott said. According to the evidence presented on Monday, police knew from the outset that John Prescott was a hacking victim, but told him exactly the opposite; police immediately identified hundreds of hacking targets in the seized files of the private detective Glenn Mulcaire in 2006, but later claimed that they were 'unaware' of them; police never received key financial evidence or computers from News International; police 'tipped off' well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks, the then editor of the Sun, about the scope of their investigation; police discovered in Mulcaire's files highly sensitive leaks from within their own ranks which could have endangered those with new identities. An unknown police officer reversed a recorded decision to inform key victims, ensuring a cover-up. Some of the most senior officers who handled the case have already testified to MPs on the Commons media committee. They are being recalled under oath by Lord Justice Leveson later this week. These include the former assistant commissioner John Yates, who has resigned and is currently employed as a consultant by the ruling family in Bahrain; the former deputy assistant commissioner Peter Clarke and the former assistant commissioner Andy Hayman. Police investigations were 'thorough and appropriate' to start with, said Paddick. The Scum of the World's royal reporter Clive Goodman was targeted in 2006 after members of the royal household complained that their phones were being interfered with. The documents reveal, however, that police realised from the outset that phone-hacking was a potentially huge issue. On 4 April 2006, Detective Superintendent Philip Williams wrote that the ability to intercept voicemails was 'highly unlikely to be limited to Goodman alone' and could be 'too expensive' to investigate by the royal security squad. In May, after Mulcaire had been linked to the alleged crime, the case officer Mark Maberley wrote of 'sophisticated and organised interception of voice messages.' His senior investigating officer, Keith Surtees, proposed that 'given the large number of non-royal victims' a better-equipped squad should take over. Paddick said that he did not understand why this never happened. The team then discovered that the then Labour cabinet minister Tessa Jowell was being hacked. When Mulcaire's property was raided on 8 August 2006 they found that John Prescott, then the Deputy Prime Minister, was also being targeted. A transcript of Mulcaire's interrogation on the following day was revealed on Monday. Prescott said that he found the transcript 'quite staggering' when it was eventually disclosed to him five years later. The interrogator, a DC Gallagher, was recorded saying: 'Another page here has got the name John Prescott. There's another name underneath, first of all it says adviser and then the name Joan Hammell. You've got her telephone numbers and DI numbers, password numbers and Vodafone passwords and an address.' Police regarded the Prescott allegation as so significant in 2006 that they included his name in a draft application for a search warrant for the Scum of the World, for some reason still unknown, which was never executed. The draft said that Mulcaire had been receiving extra payments of two hundred and fifty smackers a time 'which appear to be linked to assistance given in relation to specific stories.' It added: 'The details contained in these invoices demonstrate these stories involve individuals in the public eye such as "Prescott."' The evidence police already held included two two hundred and fifty knicker bills which Mulcaire presented to News International dated 7 May 2006 and 21 May 2006. One said: 'Story – other Prescott assist – TXT' and the other: 'Story: Other Prescott assist – TXT: Urgent.' Other damning evidence which later came to light, and would have been discovered had police pursued inquiries at the time, included an internal News International e-mail dated 28 April 2006. It was headed 'Joan Hammell: adviser to Prescott,' and gave instructions on how to access her voicemail box, saying that there were 'forty five messages to be listened to.' But police did not push ahead. There was a 'tense stand-off' at the Scum of the World offices when police arrived, according to the case officer. Stuart Kuttner, the managing editor, and the Farrers solicitor Julian Pike met police and allegedly 'obstructed' them. The accounts department was not searched as intended, nor were Goodman's safe and computer taken away. The paper's lawyers continued to stall and refuse to provide documents, and falsely claim to be co-operating, according to Paddick. Police never served a planned production order to 'identify other individuals' who had committed offences. Paddick said: 'It is not usual that a suspect would be permitted to fob the police off in this way.' Nevertheless, by 10 August 2006, police had identified 'hundreds of individuals including royals, MPs, sports stars, military, police, celebrities and journalists' among the Scum of the World's alleged hacking victims. A printed analysis with names, addresses and contact details of four hundred and eighteen of them had been prepared. In summer 2006 a decision was recorded in the decision log to warn all the victims, especially those such as politicians, military and police, where there were security concerns. But this decision was reversed, with no record kept of the reversal or who had actually made the decision. Only 'a tiny fraction' of victims were told at that stage, with Paddick and Prescott among those kept in the dark. Paddick said: 'I have no idea who made that decision.' According to Paddick, police also went on to 'tip-off' well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks (then Wade) about the 'limited police strategy' which had been decided upon. On 15 September 2006, a conversation between Brooks and 'cops' is described in an internal News International e-mail. According to the e-mail, police 'reassured' Brooks that the Met would not widen the hacking case to include other Scum of the World 'people', as long as no more direct evidence was forthcoming. 'The [Metropolitan police service] were effectively tipping [the Scum of the World] off and [they] could do then, as indeed they did, avoid providing evidence of the involvement of other journalists,' Paddick said. The contents of Brooks's conversation were subsequently passed to Andy Coulson, then Scum of the World editor, by the paper's lawyer Tom Crone. All three subsequently falsely claimed that hacking was limited to 'one rogue reporter' and continued to do so, publicly, for another four years. The police remained silent, and the facts were covered up until the Gruniad disclosed in July 2009 that 'public figures were targeted by investigators, including John Prescott.' A News International statement after the publication of the first Gruniad hacking story - by Nick Davies - said: 'All of these irresponsible and unsubstantiated allegations against News of the World and other News International titles and its journalists are false.' This was untrue. A letter from Brooks, still editor of the Sun at this stage, to John Whittingdale, the chairman of the Commons culture and media committee, in response to Gruniad allegations stated, boldly: 'The Guardian coverage has, we believe, substantially and likely deliberately misled the British public.' This was untrue. Coulson, the by now former editor of the Scum of the World, told the committee: 'I have never condoned the use of phone-hacking and nor do I have any recollection of incidences where phone-hacking took place. I took full responsibility at the time for what happened but without my knowledge and resigned.' Whether this was untrue or not, time will tell. In August 2009, the Scum of the World's new editor, Colin Myler, to the Press Complaints Commission: 'Our internal inquiries have found no evidence of involvement by News of the World staff other than Clive Goodman in phone message interception beyond the e-mail transcript which emerged in April 2008 during the Gordon Taylor litigation and which has since been revealed in the original Guardian report.' This was untrue. Myler further told the PCC that allegations by the Gruniad that police 'found evidence of News Group's staff using private investigators who hacked into thousands of mobile phones,' and that the police findings 'put the figure at two or three thousand mobiles' were 'not just unsubstantiated and irresponsible, they were wholly false.' In actual fact, events have proved that they were something of an underestimate. Myler's denials, however, were wholly false. Lord Prescott said he was 'astonished' to read the Gruniad story and wrote, immediately, to the Met. John Yates rang the then Deputy Prime Minister in his car the next day to deny that there was anything to the Gruniad's story. This was untrue. He went on to deny it at a press conference, saying: 'This investigation has not uncovered any evidence that John Prescott's telephone had been tapped,' and again to the home affairs committee on 7 September 2010: '[Prescott] has never been hacked to my knowledge and there is no evidence that he has.' He insisted that every potential victim had been told 'where we had even the minutest possibility they may have been the subject of an attempt to hack.' All of these statements are untrue. Hayman – by then employed by News International to write a column for The Times – claimed on the radio that Prescott was 'ranting' and 'wasting public money.' He also claimed that the police had 'left no stone unturned.' This was untrue. Police then apparently misled a judge, according to the evidence given to Leveson, in an attempt to block Prescott's lawsuit against them. Permission to sue was initially refused in February 2011 because of a false assurance that there was no evidence Prescott's voicemail had ever been hacked. Not until 30 September last year were the documents finally disclosed. Prescott told Leveson on Monday it was 'deeply shocking' for him to find that police had 'supported and assisted an organisation guilty of criminal behaviour. They appear to have protected the perpetrators and misled the victims,' he said. Paddick said that he was similarly misled. After writing personally to Yates he had originally been assured that 'we have no documentation to suggest that [you] were subjected to unlawful monitoring or interception.' This was untrue. He eventually discovered that his name and details as 'police commander' were on one of Mulcaire's three hundred and twenty computer 'project lists.' Police also filed a misleading defence to Paddick's judicial review case, claiming there was 'no evidence' about him and that the full Mulcaire material had not been examined because it was 'too voluminous, chaotic and disorganised and difficult to decipher.' One of the documents now emerging is a witness statement from case officer Maberley. He disclosed that Mulcaire's 'project list' included new identities of people in the witness protection scheme, such as the two Bulger defendants. This included 'people who had been given new identities by the police for their own protection.' Paddick said that it must have been leaked by the police. If it reached the Scum of the World, 'this could have serious consequences for those individuals.' It should have been handled with the utmost seriousness. But Mulcaire was never questioned about it, and, because he agreed to plead guilty, 'the whole thing appears to have been covered up.' Paddick said that the public might not be convinced by the renewed Met investigations, despite Sue Akers's undoubted integrity, because News Corporation ultimately controlled what evidence was turned over, and Met officers were themselves allegedly heavily implicated in corruption.

So, as we have seen, both well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks and the Prime Minister's, ahem, 'chum', Andy Coulson were warned as early as 2006 that there was evidence of widespread hacking at the Scum of the World, according to an e-mail which was submitted in evidence to the Leveson inquiry. The internal News International e-mail shows that an unnamed police source told Brooks there were between one hundred and one hundred and ten alleged 'victims' while the Scum of the World was under criminal investigation for hacking phones in the royal household. She was also told there were records suggesting News International had paid more than one million smackers to Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator employed to carry out the hacking. The e-mail from News International lawyer Tom Crone to the then Scum of the World editor, Andy Coulson, sets out what the police knew and the steps which they were planning to take in their first phone-hacking investigation. It was based on information which Crone says had been passed to him by Rebekah Brooks, then Wade, who was the editor of the Sun at the time. She had been the Scum of the World editor before Coulson. 'They are confident they have Clive [Goodman] and [Mulcaire] bang to rights on the palace interception,' says Crone's e-mail to Coulson in deliciously Sweeney-esque style. Cor blimey, guv'nor, it's a fair cop an' no mistake. The e-mail further informed Coulson that police had 'recovered payment records' from News International to Mulcaire: 'The only payment records they found were from News International, the News of the World retainer and other invoices. They said that over the period they looked at (going way back) there seemed to be over one million pounds of payments.' Both Brooks and Coulson have - repeatedly - denied that they had any knowledge of phone-hacking in the years after the successful prosecution of royal correspondent Goodman and Mulcaire in 2007, although Coulson resigned from his position to take what he termed 'ultimate' responsibility. The e-mail was sent at 10.34am on 15 September 2006. Crone begins: 'Andy, here's [what] Rebekah told me about info relayed to her by cops.' And, as previously noted, isn'[t it nice to see that even when they're e-mailing each other, News International executives use Sun-speak and never use a two syllable word ('police') where a one-syllable word ('cops') will do instead? The e-mail then sets out ten key developments about what the police had discovered after arresting Mulcaire and raiding his premises. 'Their purpose is to insure that when Glenn Mulcaire comes up in court the full case against him is there for the court to see (rather than just the present palace charges). All they are asking victims is "did you give anyone permission to access your voicemail?" And if not "do you wish to make a formal complaint?"' says the e-mail. 'They are confident that they can then charge Glenn Mulcaire in relation to those victims. They are keen that the charges should demonstrate the scale of Glenn Mulcaire's activities so they would feature victims from different areas of public life, politics, showbiz, etc.' The e-mail shows that the police source had told Brooks that raids on Mulcaire's premises had recovered voice recordings and notes from them. But the extensive e-mail, read out by Robert Jay QC at the Leveson inquiry, also seems to show the officer had said the police investigation would be limited in scope: 'They suggested that they were not widening the case to include other News of the World people but would do so if they got direct evidence. Say, News of the World journos directly accessing the voicemails (this is what did for Clive).' Another passage outlines the strength of the police case at that time: 'They do have Glenn Mulcaire's phone records which show sequences of contacts with News of the World before and after accesses. Obviously they don't have the content of the calls so this is at best circumstantial.' The e-mail goes on to say police knew the pattern of victims being targeted, and which ones detectives would visit. The e-mail says the police were 'confident' five to ten victims would co-operate with a prosecution of Mulcaire. The e-mail ends by saying: 'They are going to contact RW today to see if she wishes to take it further.' RW, it was suggested by Jay, 'most likely' refers to Rebekah Wade.

Fresh allegations of a 'culture of illegal payments' at the Sun newspaper have significantly increased the likelihood that US authorities will prosecute News Corp, according to legal experts. US authorities are considering bringing action against Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, the Sun's parent company, under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, legislation which allows officials to go after US firms alleged to have bribed foreign officials. If found guilty, News Corp faces a possible court case and hundreds of millions in fines. This week, Metropolitan police deputy assistant commissioner Sue Akers told the Leveson inquiry that there was 'a culture of illegal payments' at the Sun to 'a network of corrupted officials.' The Sun and its former sister paper, the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World, are owned by News International, a wholly owned subsidiary of News Corp, the US media giant which also owns FOX, the Wall Street Journal, Harper Collins publishing and a controlling stake in BSkyB, among other assets. 'This is obviously a very significant development with regards to the likelihood of a US prosecution,' said Mark MacDougall, partner in the Washington office of the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and a former federal prosecutor. 'If the British authorities are articulating a pattern, a defined scheme, to bribe officials, that is a very big deal.' The latest allegations significantly increase the likelihood of an FCPA action, said Mike Koehler, professor of business law at Butler University and author of the FCPA Professor blog. 'Last July, when we first started talking about this, there was one newspaper, the News of the World and one category of foreign official, the police. Now we have another newspaper and a much broader category of foreign officials,' said Koehler. 'The evidence seems to suggest that there was a recognition that these payments may have been illegal and the notion that there were attempts to disguise the nature of these payments,' said Koehler. These elements would fall under the remit of the FCPA. The original investigation centred on payment to police officers, and there had been some argument that the police did not fit the FCPA's definition of 'foreign government officials.' Tom Fox, a Houston-based lawyer who specialises in FCPA cases and anti-corruption law, said that Akers's allegations that payments had been made to 'police, military, government, prison and health and others' had destroyed that argument. 'Speaking of a culture of corruption is really bad,' said Fox. 'There are two main types of FCPA case. In the first, a company has policies in place but fails to detect corruption. The second is far worse. And that's when there is a programme in place and you ignore it.' Koehler said that any prosecution was most likely under the 'books and records and internal control provisions' of the FCPA. 'If a company is misrepresenting payments or has insufficient internal controls to stop illegal payments before they occur, [FCPA officials] will take action,' he said. In Akers's testimony, she claimed that there were 'systems' in place at the Sun to hide the identity of sources, and evidence to suggest those making the payments fully realised that what they were doing was wrong. FCPA experts said the mounting evidence was also likely to put paid to arguments that the payments were too small and localised an issue to trigger a full FCPA case. In several recent cases brought by US financial watchdog the Securities and Exchange Commission, action was taken against foreign subsidiaries because their accounts were consolidated with a US parent company. In February Smith & Nephew, a UK-based medical supplies company, paid twenty two million dollars to settle charges that it had made 'illicit payments to public doctors employed by government hospitals or agencies in Greece.' S&N was hit by an FCPA action because it consolidated its accounts with its Memphis-based US subsidiary. Last April, New York-based Comverse Technology settled charges that it had violated the FCPA's books and records and internal controls provisions for payments made thorough an Israeli subsidiary. Koehler said that the majority of FCPA cases were now being brought on books and record-keeping, as they were easier to prove. 'The allegation that the subsidiaries' problematic books and records were consolidated with the parent company issuer's books and records for purposes of financial reporting is made in nearly every SEC FCPA enforcement action,' he said. FCPA experts said investigators would be looking for any similar evidence of payments that could violate FCPA rules in other News Corp markets like Australia. MacDougall said the investigations could also have ramifications for News Corp in the US. 'If any of this decision-making was made in the US, or if information flowed into the US outlets then that significantly increases exposure for those involved,' he said. MacDougall added that there were a variety of statutes under US law that prosecutors could consider should they find direct US involvement in the case. 'US prosecutors powers are very broad, and necessarily so,' he said. But no case is likely to be brought against the firm soon. Koehler said typically it takes two to four years before the US authorities feel they have thoroughly exhausted an FCPA inquiry and decided whether or not to press charges.

A private detective at the centre of allegations that computers were hacked for the Scum of the World has been jailed for illegal 'blagging' in a separate case. Philip Campbell Smith was one of four investigators who have become the first to be jailed for accessing private information for cash. Along with Daniel Summers, Graham Freeman and Adam Spears, he was involved in a blagging conspiracy where they accessed confidential information at the behest of wealthy clients. Smith, a former army officer, who also admitted possessing three rounds of ammunition in a separate case, is under investigation over allegations that he hacked the computer of a former British army intelligence officer for the now defunct, disgraced and disgraceful tabloid in 2006. Some of the hacked information allegedly related to two IRA informants who were both high-profile assassination targets including Freddie Scappaticci, codenamed Stakeknife. Sentencing Summers to twelve months in The Big House, Spears and Smith to eight months and Freeman to six months behind bars, Judge Andrew Campbell said: 'You knew it [the information] would be obtained by using criminal deception. The fact is you were all charging for your services and in some cases charging very considerable sums. I am satisfied that each of you knew that if you were caught you were likely to face a charge that carried imprisonment. Indeed Mr Freeman wrote an e-mail advising a client of that very fact.' Sandip Patel, prosecuting, said that Summers - 'a self-confessed blagger' - was the 'lynchpin' of the conspiracy, using his skills to get confidential information from banks, holders of medical records, HMRC, the DVLA, the Criminal Records Bureau, Interpol and others by pretending to be the individual concerned or from a bank or other legitimate institution. Operating from his flat in Teddington, the thirty two-year-old, who describes himself as 'an information broker,' was subcontracted to get the details by Smith, fifty three, and Freeman, fifty one, who ran the private investigation firm Brookmans International. Freeman, who lives in Spain, would e-mail or phone Smith about the work and investigators believe Smith would then pass the work on to Summers, charging clients up to five grand a time. In an e-mail to a client about why their charges were that high, Freeman wrote, apparently, proudly, that police and Interpol databases which might be accessed were 'not open to the general public and are tightly regulated,' meaning that 'should we be apprehended a custodial sentence' may be handed out. Summers was also asked to extract information by Spears, seventy two, a retired Metropolitan police detective inspector, for his consultancy firm Global Intelligence Services Ltd. The quartet were caught out when an undercover police officer bought Summers's laptop from him for five hundred and ninety quid in October 2008 and a forensic examination retrieved evidence of his activities, which Summers thought he had deleted. When he was arrested in May 2009 Summers, who is said to be an alcoholic, told police: 'I'm in the biggest shit imaginable. Do you want to talk now? I'll sing like a canary.' He freely admitted that he knew what he had been doing was illegal and revealed his three main clients, who were subsequently arrested. He later said: 'I'm glad this has happened because now it has stopped. I can't do it any more.' The four men all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obtain information by false representation between January 2007 and May 2009 but claimed some of those they investigated were criminals themselves. In one case they investigated suspects accused of duping hundreds of members of the public in a multimillion-pound fraud. But, although a judge said in some of the cases those investigated had almost certainly committed crimes, it was still 'no excuse' for what the defendants did in their naughtiness. Kingston crown court heard that some information came from corrupt police and there was the suggestion that hacking - phone and computer - could have been used, but this did not form part of the prosecution case against the four. However, a 'source' supposedly with knowledge of the case, which was brought by the Serious Organised Crime Agency, allegedly told the Gruniad: 'There could have been hacking. There is some suggestion they got mobile phone passwords and pins to hack voicemails and text messages.' The 'source' allegedly also suggested that computer hacking with a trojan virus was 'also possible.' Smith, a former intelligence services officer, who served in the British army between 1986 and 1991 including tours of Northern Ireland, is now understood to be under investigation by a Scotland Yard inquiry, Operation Kalmyk, which is examining allegations that e-mail hacking may have been used against several dozen targets. The computer that Smith is suspected of hacking belonged to the former British intelligence officer Ian Hurst. It is claimed that this activity was commissioned by Alex Marunchak, who was a senior editor on the Scum of the World when it was edited by Andy Coulson. Marunchak denies the allegations. The material accessed by the hacker included messages concerning at least two agents who had informed on the Provisional IRA: Scappaticci and a second informant known as Kevin Fulton. Both men were regarded as high-risk targets for assassination. Hurst was one of the few people who knew their whereabouts and the e-mails contained information capable of disclosing this. Hurst found out Smith had hacked his computer and went on to tape him confessing to it. Sections of that confession were broadcast last year as part of a BBC Panorama programme. Smith is also alleged to have hacked the e-mail of a former police officer who was acting as a police informer known as Joe Poulton between September 2005 and January 2006. Operation Kalmyk is investigating the allegations in the BBC Panorama programme. Smith, who has a previous conviction for soliciting a woman for prostitution in 2004, was further sentenced to four months in the slammer for possessing three rounds of ammunition which were found in a cupboard at his home. This will run concurrently with the eight-month sentence for blagging.

The sentencing of a film actor who racially abused his ex-girlfriend has been adjourned after he was sectioned under the Mental Health Act. James Howson, twenty four, of Leeds, admitted racially aggravated harassment last month and was due to be sentenced at Leeds Magistrates' Court. The case was adjourned however after the court heard that he was in a Newcastle hospital. Howson starred in the latest film adaptation of Wuthering Heights, which was released last year. He won the role after he attended auditions advertised in a JobCentre and was the first black actor to ever play Emily Bronte's Heathcliff. Speaking outside the court Anthony Sugare, Howson's solicitor, said: 'The position is that on arriving at court this morning, I was told that the court itself had heard from the hospital that he had been taken in there under the Mental Health Act for a period of twenty eight days for observation.' At a previous hearing the court was told Howson shouted racist abuse and threats at his former girlfriend after their three-year relationship ended. Howson is now expected to be sentenced on 26 March.

Noel Gallagher has suggested that he would judge The X Factor for a million smackers fee. Hell, for a million smackers, I'd join The X Factor. The former Oasis songwriter and guitarist, who confirmed last year that he turned down an offer to join the panel, added that he was drawn to the lucrative role. 'It's about six months' work, innit? I reckon it would have to be a million pounds after tax,' he told Radio Times. 'I say that tongue-in-cheek. I don't really want to do it. But a million pounds for six months' work? That's good money if you can get it. Even I don't earn that much.' Gallagher revealed that Simon Cowell wanted him to be the 'alpha male' of the refreshed X Factor panel. The musician recalled: 'He said, "Basically [I want] somebody to replace me", and I was like, "What, you mean have all the kids round my house in the back garden and saying to big lunatics, I've made my decision and I can only take three." No, that's not going to happen in my house, the missus would kick off for a start!'

An Accrington Stanley ('who are they?') fan from Brazil flew almost six thousand miles from his hometown to watch his favourite team. Lose. Diego Guerra revealed that he fell in love with the League Two club in 2006 after watching them beat Nottingham Forest 1-0 in the Carling Cup online. Since then, he has studied the club, followed the team's results and brought them to - virtual - Premier League glory on Football Manager. Guerra explained that fellow fans urged him to come to the UK to see a game, where he was also given a tour by club officials. 'Talking to fans on the Internet forums they said I should come, so that's what I did,' he told the Mirra. The Rio de Janeiro resident saw his team lose 2-0 to Crewe Alexandra, but insisted that he still enjoyed his experience. 'I think the club shows what's right about football as it's a local club,' he said. 'I like the history about the club struggling through the years but how the fans never let it die.' He added that Accrington Stanley were rather different in stature to his local team Flamengo, saying: 'They are one of the biggest clubs in Brazil with thirty five million fans and have players like Ronaldinho.'

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, a truly mighty slab of yer actual indie-eighties dance crossover. Bring The News. Tune.