Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Is it Tomorrow Or Just The End Of Time?

BBC director general Mark Thompson has warned that journalism in the UK is facing a 'dangerous period' because of attempts by police to force news providers to reveal their confidential sources. This month, Scotland Yard attempted to obtain a production order to compel the Gruniad Morning Star to disclose its source behind the revelation that Milly Dowler's phone was hacked by the Scum of the World. The Met Police ultimately dropped their action against the Gruniad after an outcry from newspapers, leading politicians and even some 'normal' people. In a speech in Taiwan earlier this week, Thompson expressed his 'shock' that Scotland Yard even attempted the move in the first place. 'I can think of no better example of a journalistic disclosure being in the public interest than the Milly Dowler story in the Guardian,' he said. 'That anyone in the Metropolitan Police should ever have thought otherwise is not only incomprehensible but disturbing.' Thompson said that there was a 'disturbing trend' for UK police forces 'routinely to demand that journalists disclose sources and hand over journalistic materials.' He also noted that the BBC was receiving an 'ever growing' number of demands for untransmitted news footage, which 'the police seem to regard as having no more privilege or protection attached to them than CCTV pictures.' The BBC, ITN and Sky News were last week ordered to hand over hundreds of hours of unbroadcast footage of the UK riots in August after being served with court orders by the police. Thompson said that it was vital that quality journalism should be not be damaged by the aftermath of the Scum of the World phone-hacking scandal, as lawmakers shape the future of press ethics and regulation. He didn't point out, but perhaps should have, that broadcasts do not work for the police they work for the public. He said: 'It would be easy to respond to the completely unacceptable actions of some journalists at the News of the World by adopting such a draconian approach that even the best journalism is constrained. It would be easy for concern over the appalling invasions of privacy revealed by the phone-hacking scandal to spill over into legislation or regulation which enables wrongdoers to escape journalistic exposure.'

Meanwhile, the BBC News website has beaten strong competition from rivals to scoop a major international award recognising 'excellence in online journalism.' The website, which was revamped in July of last year, won the 'Online Journalism Award' for a large website at the Online News Association awards in Boston. It beat the websites of New York Times, the Washington Post and Al-Jazeera English to take the accolade. And, once again, we have a classic example of the way in which the BBC is recognised overseas as a World Class broadcaster and journalistic enterprise whose worst critics are in knobcheese dictatorships like Iran and China and, with supreme irony, in its own back yard from scum newspapers and their friends scum politicians. Editor Steve Herrmann told BBC News: 'The award is brilliant news - it comes in the year following a major revamp of the news site, including a complete redesign. It's also been a year of huge news stories and we have been able to be increasingly effective at showcasing all the BBC's newsgathering potential and expertise on the site. We also launched our North America edition a year ago, and have just announced a further investment in Washington, to run an international edition of our popular magazine section, with the backing of BBC Worldwide, the BBC's commercial arm, which funds our services internationally.' Elsewhere in the ONA awards, Zeit Online, Flipboard and the Washington Post also picked up accolades. The Los Angeles Times and Pro Publica each won two thousand five hundred dollars and the Gannett Foundation Award for 'Innovative Investigative Journalism' for their respective reports on corruption in a California town and the high cost of kidney dialysis in the US. Online Journalism Association chairman Anthony Moor said: 'What's most gratifying is to see the proliferation of quality work from next-generation digital journalists. While there is justifiable concern about the fate of numerous long-established newsrooms, there's a healthy amount of excellent work coming from a new class of publications that don't rely on broadcast or print to inform the public.'

There was more good news for the BBC yesterday when a court in Rome ruled in favour of BBC Worldwide in a copyright infringement case against Silvio Burlusconi's Mediaset over the format of Strictly Come Dancing. The BBC claimed in its lawsuit that Mediaset's new Baila! programme copied the Strictly Come Dancing format, which is sold around the world as Dancing with the Stars. Rome judge Gabrielle Muscolo told Mediaset that it could not air Baila! with 'some of the characteristics described in its written deposition,' but did not disclose the specific characteristics in question. An Italian version of Strictly Come Dancing has aired on the public broadcast channel Rai for six years and is fully licensed by the BBC. However, Mediaset commissioned rival show Baila!, thought to be based on a South American format called Bailando Por Un Sueno, or Dancing for a Dream. Mediaset pulled the planned premiere of Baila! on Monday night on its Canale Five channel in Italy as it made last-minute changes to the format in-line with the court stipulations. However, the company also called the court's decision 'unfair and erroneous,' and noted that it was made without anyone 'having seen even one minute of the new show.' It said that Endemol, from which it purchased the Baila! format, had guaranteed that it was original, and vowed to appeal against the court verdict urgently. 'While Mediaset remains convinced that its programme is absolutely unique and original, Baila! will scrupulously observe the court imposed restrictions handed down by the civil court in Rome, confident that they will be rapidly overturned,' the company added.

The Queen has joined in the celebrations surrounding the fiftieth birthday of BBC1's Songs of Praise. The long-running series filmed a special episode to mark the occasion at Alexandra Palace in London this weekend. The Queen, writing in the programme given to audience members, described the show as 'a remarkable achievement' and said it 'delivered hope, comfort and joy to millions. [The series is] a traditional and much-loved part of our Sundays,' she said. 'I hope this evening's event will be a great occasion.' The anniversary episode of Songs of Praise will feature performances from Katherine Jenkins, Andrea Bocelli and LeAnn Rimes.
Labour shadow lack of culture secretary Ivan Lewis has told Rupert Murdoch that 'never again' will he be able to assert political power in Britain in pursuit of his 'commercial interests or ideological beliefs.' What a pity Ivan and a few of his parliamentary colleagues didn't show a bit of backbone like this a decade ago when they were actually in a position to do something about it. Speaking at the Labour Party conference, Lewis proposed a new 'system of independent regulation' for journalists after the phone-hacking scandal, including 'proper like-for-like redress which means mistakes and falsehoods on the front page receive apologies and retraction on the front page.' Lewis accepted that the history of Labour's relationship with Murdoch and his News International UK newspaper group has been 'a complex and tortuous one.' That's a nice way of saying that after the Sun did a hatchet job on Neil Kinnock those who followed him were so shit-scared of the power of Murdoch's media empire that they, effectively, got down on all fours and offered the media baron their own holes to plunge as he saw fit. However, he said that politicians must be able to 'stand up for the public interest without fear or favour' of the press in the future. He paid tribute to the efforts of MPs Tommy Watson (power to the people!), Chris Bryant and John Prescott in helping to expose the phone hacking scandal at the Scum of the World. The controversy has not only led to the closure of the one hundred and sixty eight-year-old disgraced and disgraceful Sunday paper and the withdrawal of Murdoch's bid to take full control of BSkyB, but it has also put the spotlight on the billionaire's close relationship with politicians of both main parties in the past. In his speech, Lewis accepted that Murdoch's media properties are hugely popular, but said that 'never again' must he be able to wield such influence over UK politics. 'A message for Mr Murdoch. Your newspapers and Sky TV are popular with millions of British people. Some people in our movement might find that uncomfortable but it's true,' he said. 'However - and yes Conference, we should have said this a long time ago - Mr Murdoch, never again think you can assert political power in the pursuit of your commercial interests or ideological beliefs. This is Britain. The integrity of our media and our politics is not for sale.' Lewis also called on David Cameron and his chancellor George Osborne to 'come clean' over the decision to appoint former Scum of the World editor Andy Coulson as the Conservative Party's communications chief. He said that 'despite numerous warnings' the Prime Minister took Coulson 'to the heart of our democracy at No 10 Downing Street,' a move which has been criticised following Coulson's recent arrest in the police phone hacking investigation. To improve ethics in the newspaper industry, Lewis suggested a system in which journalists can be struck off a register if they are found to be guilty of malpractice such as phone-hacking. Elsewhere in the speech, he outlined the further steps in Labour's creative industry network, the initiative designed to encourage companies to offer internships and apprenticeships. 'I am delighted to announce today that the Advertising Association, UK Music, Virgin Media and the Sharp Project have agreed to become the first signatories to our pledge,' he said.

Legendary comedy writer and producer David Croft as died aged eighty nine at his home in Portugal. Croft, whose TV credits include classic sitcom Dad's Army, died on Tuesday morning. A message on his official website reads: 'The family of comedy legend David Croft OBE are sad to report that David died peacefully in his sleep at his house in Portugal earlier today. He was a truly great man, who will be missed by all who had the great fortune of knowing and loving him. We know that he would have been proud that you had all been watching.' Croft, real name David John Sharland, was born in 1922 to actress Annie Croft and radio star Reginald Sharland. He was seventeen when he appeared, briefly, as the shop delivery boy Perkins in the 1939 film Goodbye Mr Chips. He later described the role as 'the beginning, middle and end' of his film career. He served in the army between 1942 and 1947 in England, India, Singapore and North Africa, which inspired his later works Dad's Army, 'Allo 'Allo! and It Ain't Half Hot Mum. Croft graduated from Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 1942, and immediately entered the British Army. He served during World War II in North Africa, India and Singapore, rising to the rank of Major. When his military service ended he began working in the entertainment industry, as an actor, singer and writer, eventually settling as a TV producer. Croft relocated to the North East to work at Tyne Tees Television, where he produced many editions of the variety show The One O'Clock Show. For Tyne Tees, Croft also directed and produced Ned's Shed and Mary Goes to Market, as well as producing his first sitcom, Under New Management, set in a derelict pub in the North of England. After leaving Tyne Tees Television to work at the BBC in the mid-1960s, he produced a number of the Corporation's popular sitcoms such as Beggar My Neighbour, Further Up Pompeii! and Hugh and I as well as episodes of The Benny Hill Show and Steptoe And Son. It was while producing Hugh and I that he was introduced to a bit-part actor Jimmy Perry, who handed him an unsolicited script for a pilot called The Fighting Tigers about the British Home Guard during World War II. Croft liked the idea. Renamed Dad's Army, the two men co-wrote nine series of the sitcom (1968-1977), plus a feature film and stage show. It was recently estimated that every single person over the age of twenty five in Britain has seen at least one episode of the show. Together, Perry and Croft became two of the most renowned and loved comic writers in the country, in addition to Dad's Army, producing the almost-but-not-quite-as-good It Ain't Half Hot Mum as well as Hi-de-Hi! and You Rang, M'Lord? Croft later formed other writing partnerships with Jeremy Lloyd (on the hugely successful Are You Being Served?, it's spin-off Grace and Favour and another long-running wartime farce 'Allo 'Allo!) and Richard Spendlove (Oh, Doctor Beeching!). His final work was a pilot for Here Comes The Queen, which featured Wendy Richard, Les Dennis and Ian Lavender, and was broadcast in 2008. In 1978, Croft was awarded an OBE for services to television. He also won a Desmond Davis Award for his outstanding contribution to the TV industry and a Lifetime Achievement Award at the British Comedy Awards. Croft's comedy was loved and celebrated for its warm, family-friendly nature and his clever wordplay. In an interview with the TV Times in 2004, Croft complained that modern comedy had become too smutty and youth-orientated. There's no double entendres, it's single entendres - which alienate large parts of the public,' he said. 'In my day you wrote a show and if it was funny it found its audience. Everyone aims for the eighteen to twenty five age group, but they're at the pub or the latest movie.'

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has expressed his belief that 'the devil' of television has too much power over football in the UK. Which it does as anybody even vaguely involved in football knows and has known since the early 1990s. So, quite why it's taken miserable old Sir Alex this long to make his complaints public is a mystery. In an interview broadcast on BBC North West Tonight on Monday evening, Ferguson will say that TV - and specifically Sky - is able to control aspects of the English game because of the vast revenues it brings. Ferguson, who ended his long-running boycott on speaking to the BBC last month, claims that clubs have lost control over the scheduling of fixtures and this has hurt the teams competing in Europe. 'When you shake hands with the devil you have to pay the price. Television is God at the moment,' he said. 'It shows itself quite clearly because when you see the fixture lists come out now, they can pick and choose whenever they want the top teams on television. You get some ridiculous situations when you're playing on Wednesday night in Europe and then at lunchtime the following Saturday. You ask any manager if they would pick that themselves and there'd be no chance.' Ferguson also believes that clubs in the English top flight are not getting the money they deserve from television deals, particularly those struck overseas. The Premier League sells its product to two hundred countries around the world (which is pretty impressive since there's only about two hundred and ten in total. Makes you wonder who the ten are that don't show the Premier League?) But, Ferguson argues that 'when you think of that I don't think we get enough money.' When it was last renewed in February 2009, the Premier League's domestic TV rights deal with Sky was worth in excess of £1.6bn to show five twenty three-game packages from 2010 to 2013. Setanta paid one hundred and fifty nine million smackers for rights for the remaining matches over the three years, but this allocation was taken over by ESPN in 2009 after the Irish broadcaster collapsed in the UK market in financial distress. Each club is understood to earn on average £4.3 million for each game which is shown live on TV. In April, Ferguson blamed the 'powerful' TV companies for the lack of a winter break in the English football schedule, which he said is detrimental to players' fitness. And again, it has to be noted, pretty much all of this is true and has been since Sky first bought the Premier League rights in 1991. So, why's it taken Fergie twenty years to get around to whinging about it?

An inflatable pig was used to create a real-life replica of the cover of Pink Floyd's 1977 LP Animals on Monday. To mark the re-issue of the band's fourteen studio CD, the pig was flown over Battersea Power Station in a recreation of the iconic sleeve designed by songwriter Roger Waters with Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell.
Now, here's an interesting little bit of rank trivia for you, dear blog reader. If you get a copy of The Pink Floyd's live video/DVD Pulse and jack the volume up to quite enormous levels at exactly fifty eight minutes into the show, in a pause between songs someone in the audience - probably off their bloody face on cake - can be heard bellowing 'LOOK AT THAT FUCKING PIG!!!!!' Personally, this blooger doesn't think that's any way to talk about Dave Gilmour but, there you go...

A shipwreck containing two hundred tonnes of silver worth about one hundred and fifty million quid has been found in the Atlantic - the largest haul of precious metal ever discovered at sea. The SS Gairsoppa, a UK cargo ship sunk by a German U-boat in 1941, was found by US exploration firm Odyssey Marine. The firm will retain eighty per cent of the cargo's value under the terms of a contract with the Department for Transport. Only one person from the eighty five-strong crew survived the torpedo attack as the ageing steamer tried to reach Ireland. The vessel was on its way back to Britain from India when it ran low on fuel in stormy weather, and tried to divert to Galway harbour, but it was spotted and sunk by the German submarine. Three members of the crew survived in a lifeboat and reached the Cornish coast two weeks later, but two died trying to get ashore. The wreck of the four hundred and twelve feet ship was found this summer nearly five thousand metres below the North Atlantic, three hundred miles off the Irish coast, but it was only confirmed as SS Gairsoppa last week. Odyssey Marine's senior project manager, Andrew Craig, said: 'We've accomplished the first phase of this project - the location and identification of the target shipwreck. Now we're hard at work planning for the recovery phase. Given the orientation and condition of the shipwreck, we are extremely confident that our planned salvage operation will be well suited for the recovery of this silver cargo.' SS Gairsoppa settled upright on the seabed with its cargo holds open, which means remote-controlled robotic submarines should be able to retrieve the bullion. Work would begin in the second quarter of 2012, Odyssey said. The marine archaeology and exploration company said it was 'highly unlikely' any human remains would be found, given the age and depth of the wreck. Odyssey's chief marine archaeologist Neil Dobson said: 'Even though records indicate that the lifeboats were launched before the ship sank, sadly most of her crew did not survive the long journey to shore. By finding this shipwreck and telling the story of its loss, we pay tribute to the brave merchant sailors who lost their lives.' The merchant ship belonged to the British India Steam Navigation Company, and was ordered into the merchant navy fleet at the outbreak of World War II. A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: 'The contract for the salvage of the SS Gairsoppa was awarded by competitive tender in accordance with government and departmental procedures. While we do not comment on the specifics of such commercial arrangements, Odyssey Marine Exploration were awarded the contract as they offered the best rate of return to HMG.'

Residents in the Surrey town of Staines are to be consulted on whether it should be given a new name. Spelthorne Borough Council intends to ask locals whether the town should be renamed 'Staines-upon-Thames' to promote a more 'positive' image. The consultation will launch this Saturday and runs until 31 October. Local councillors will then vote on the proposed name change at a meeting on 15 December. Councillor Colin David said: 'Staines has been undersold for a very long time and that needs to change. I believe the name 'Staines-upon-Thames' more accurately reflects our riverside location and will improve people's perceptions of the town.' The idea was first proposed by business leaders in November 2010 and attracted criticism from impressionist and celebrity golf bag Bobby Davro, a Staines native (which probably explains much) who labelled the idea as 'pompous and snobby.' Indie rock four-piece Hard-Fi also hail from Staines, which has a population of forty five thousand and is home to companies like British Gas and the UK research and development division of Samsung. Staines is also the hometown of fictional rapper Ali G, played by Sacha Baron Cohen. Ay.

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Which, today, goes all psychedelic and drug crazed for no obvious reason other than we haven't featured any Jimi yet.