Thursday, September 29, 2011


Filming has begun on this year's Doctor Who Christmas special and the first pictures have started to appear online. The likes of Claire Skinner, Bill Bailey, Alexander Armstrong and Arabella Weir have signed up to appear alongside Matt Smith in the festive instalment - which is expected (though not yet confirmed) to be broadcast on Christmas Day. 'The Doctor at Christmas - nothing is more fun to write,' said showrunner The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat. 'Maybe because it's so his kind of day - everything's bright and shiny, everybody's having a laugh, and nobody minds if you wear a really stupid hat. Of all the Doctors, Matt Smith's is the one that was born for this time of year - so it's the best news possible that he's heading back down the chimney.' Sounds like a line yer actual Keith Telly Topping used in a bar once, dear blog reader. True story.
A second journalist at the heart of the Scum of the World phone-hacking scandal is taking Rupert Murdoch's News International to an employment tribunal, claiming unfair dismissal. Ian Edmondson filed his claim in April, but the case has only come to light in the wake of revelations that the paper's former chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck, is also taking News International to an employment tribunal, claiming he was unfairly sacked. However, unlike Thurlbeck, Edmondson is not claiming that he was a 'whistle-blower' and, therefore, should not have been sacked because he disclosed wrong-doing on the paper. Edmondson was sacked in January this year after he was named by private investigator Glenn Mulcaire as the person who asked him to hack into the mobile phone of football agent Sky Andrew. As the former assistant editor of the disgraced and disgraceful Sunday tabloid, Edmondson was one of the most senior journalists on the paper. It is thought that Thurlbeck was only actually sacked by News International this month. Because he is using a whistle-blower's defence, his case is expedited through the system, with a preliminary employment tribunal hearing in East London on Friday of this week. News International said that it would 'vigorously contest' both cases. Thurlbeck was arrested in April on suspicion of unlawfully intercepting mobile phone voicemail messages but remained on the payroll of the paper until recently.
The Scum of the World paid staff of rival tabloid newspapers to hand over their news lists of stories, it emerged on Wednesday. According to the Gruniad Sue Harris, a secretary at the Sunday People, was sacked in 1995 after it was alleged she had sold stories obtained by the paper to the Scum of the World. She is believed to have received two hundred and fifty smackers a week for passing her paper's best scoops to the Scum of the World, which was then edited by the oily, vile and odious Piers Morgan. Several years later, two Daily Mirra reporters were sacked for a similar offence after Morgan joined the Mirra as editor from the Scum of the World. Morgan recounted the story in his best-selling book The Insider. Legal experts said that this revelation could leave the Scum of the World's former parent company News Corp vulnerable to legal action under US law because it could breach the Foreign and Corrupt Practices Act. Although the act was set up primarily to prevent American companies from bribing foreign officials, it is also an offence under the legislation to fail to keep a record of all payments made by a company listed in the US. That part of the act is enforced by the securities and exchange commission, American's stock market regulator. Mike Koehler, an assistant professor of business law at Butler University in Indianapolis, said: 'The reason this is an FCPA issue, perhaps, broadly is because the books, records and internal controls provisions apply to publicly traded businesses like News Corp. If the News of the World was making those payments and they weren't recorded you can be sure the SEC will be interested in those records.' Koehler added that because the Harris case took place many years ago, it was unlikely it could be cited by lawyers examining whether a prosecution could be brought against News Corp. 'Obviously there is a statute of limitations issue, but if [payments to rivals] happened in the last five years or so, I'd see the SEC becoming very interested in this.' Mark Lewis, the British lawyer whose clients include the family of Milly Dowler, teamed up with American legal experts last week to initiate legal proceedings against News Corp under US anti-corruption laws. Any such action is likely to focus on alleged payments by Scum of the World executives and journalists to British police officers. That is being investigated by officers at Scotland Yard's Operation Elveden. Koehler said the revelations about payments to staff on rival titles could also form part of that case. 'Every investigation has a point of entry. Once you're in an investigation they are not going to have blinkers on. They are going to go where the evidence leads them.' The Sunday People's owner, Trinity Mirror, declined to comment.

It takes a lot to shock Kelvin MacKenzie. But the moment the Metropolitan police laid in front of him the documentary evidence that his phone had been hacked he felt 'violated.' Perhaps now he knows how relatives of the Hillsborough victims feel after the newspaper which he edited ran spiteful, hurtful lies about the circumstances of their deaths. If you're fishing for sympathy, Kelvin, you despicable rotter, you're not going to get much on Merseyside, I fear. Justice for the Ninety Six. In this week's Spectator, the former Sun editor and columnist writes about the incident in terms that show the level of his distress at betrayal by journalistic colleagues. He does little to hide his displeasure at discovering the truth about the Scum of the World's interception of his mobile phone voicemail messages. He begins by explaining that he was called in by officers from Operation Weeting and shown 'a tatty binder with my name down the side.' He continues: 'Sheet one had my name on it with a number by the side. The next page was more interesting. It had the pin code used to access my phone's voicemails. Up to this moment I had always believed that the pin codes of mobiles were 0000 or 1111 and that's why it was so easy to crack. But no. In my case it was something like 367549V27418. That surely must kill the idea that the hackers guessed or blagged the number – they must have had inside help from the phone networks.' It gets even more interesting by the time he is shown the final page. It contained six dates in 2006 that gave the time and duration of his phone being hacked. He writes: 'For the first time I felt uneasy. If you have been editor of the Sun for twelve years, if you have floated and run a public company as founder, chairman and chief executive, very little worries or concerns you any more; your nerve endings have become encased in cement. But, oddly, I felt quite threatened by this invasion and understood more clearly why celebrities - no matter if they were A- or Z-listers - felt they had been violated. You see, there are three sides to this triangle and it's the last side where the money and the hurt lies. Side one is the name and mobile number. Side two is the actual hacking of the voicemail. Side three is information gained from the voicemail that has a value to the media.' MacKenzie does not lash out at anyone. He may have quit the Sun to join the Daily Scum Mail but he remains as loyal as ever to the News Corporation chief he always called 'boss.' He writes: 'I know Rupert Murdoch and I know he would have gone ballistic at the very thought of such actions.' But it is widely speculated that MacKenzie he has little time for the departed News International chief executive and well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks. In his Scum Mail column two weeks ago, he wrote about putting a voicemail message on his mobile saying: 'I'm sorry that I am not here right now but do leave a message and Rebekah will get right back to you.' He wrote: 'Rebekah didn't find it funny and told me so in an e-mail.' In private, it is understood that MacKenzie is much more disparaging of her, and his views about her management style more generally at News International are said to have played 'some part' in his decision to quit the Sun. He often wondered whether she was involved in making editorial decisions, despite having moved on from the Sun editorship, in order to advance or protect the company's wider commercial interests, not least the BSkyB deal. Nor was he enamoured with the editing skills of Dominic Mohan. He also thought the Sun's employment of Jeremy Clarkson as a columnist reeked of hypocrisy when the paper was publishing editorials criticising superinjunctions while Clarkson was publicly defending their use. MacKenzie has pledged not to sue News International. But the Spectator piece does suggest he is working towards settling accounts with his former employers.

A Labour MP has alleged that phone-hacking at News International has gone 'far beyond the News of the World' as he claimed that the Sun is also implicated in illegal practices. Tommy Watson (power to the people!) made the allegation during an emergency motion debate on the phone-hacking scandal at the Labour party conference which called for James Murdoch to stand down as chairman of BSkyB in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal that rocked Rupert Murdoch's media empire this summer. The scandal took centre stage at the party conference on Tuesday morning as speakers took turn to lament Labour's past era of cosy relationships with media barons and called for measures to clamp down on bad practice by media companies and journalists. Watson warned Labour activists that the scale of phone hacking at the now closed Scum of the World could be the tip of the iceberg. 'Do you really think that hacking only happened on the News of the World?' he said. 'Ask Dominic Mohan, the current editor of the Sun. He used to joke about lax security at Vodafone when he attended celebrity parties. Ask the editor of the Sun if he thinks Rupert Murdoch's contagion has spread to other newspapers. If he gives you an honest answer, he'll tell you it's only a matter of time before we find the Sun in the evidence file of the convicted private investigator that hacked Milly Dowler's phone. This month we learn that journalists at The Times are affected by this scandal. The paper is shutting down its BlackBerry phone network – I hope they aren't deleting the records.' The emergency motion called for trade unions to have a role on the press watchdog and for the rules governing media ownership in Britain to be examined in the wake of the affair. Watson turned on the case for applying the 'fit and proper' test to News International, a company he described as 'sick' with corruption and criminality from 'top to bottom. Let's tell Ofcom what we think about James Murdoch,' he said. 'I wouldn't put him on the board of an ornamental garden. He's certainly not a fit and proper person to chair a major broadcaster.' Watson was among a number of speakers who hailed the leadership of Ed Milimolimandi following revelations over the summer of how widespread phone-hacking had been at News international, and contrasted it to Labour's past closeness to Rupert Murdoch under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Watson, who received a standing ovation from delegates over his persistent questioning on phone-hacking which, more than anyone else, has kept the topic in the public eye when nobody else wanted to touch it with a bargepole, said MPs had to 'accept our shame of the blame' but said that Labour had, at least, acted quickly in response to hacking allegations. He said that hacking had been allowed to take place because of 'police failure, a newspaper out of control, politicians refusing to act. There is no point in us glossing over it. We got too close to the Murdochs and allowed them to become too powerful,' he said. 'As a party, we got there in the end. When Ed got up at prime minister's question time and said what he said about the Murdochs, like you I thought, "That is the leader I want." This is the Labour party I want to be part of.' He went on: 'Now our leadership must spearhead seeing the reforms through. It is not just about the News of the World or just about phone-hacking. Murdoch should also tell us about the computer hackers, the people who left Trojan devices on computer hard-drives enabling them to read e-mails.' Chris Bryant told the conference that Labour's past relationship with the Murdoch empire was 'not our finest moment' as he urged the party to 'choose our bedfellows with a little more care' in the future. Ivan Lewis, the shadow lack of culture secretary, underlined Labour's new approach to the media mogul as he told delegates that Labour would create 'tougher' media ownership laws and a register which could see errant journalists barred from the profession. Lewis said the history of the relationship between Labour and the Murdoch press was a 'complex and tortuous one. But what can never be complex or tortuous is the responsibility of politicians to stand up in the public interest without fear or favour.' Setting out his reforms, he said: 'Never again can one commercial organisation have so much power and control over our media. In the period ahead, Labour will bring forward proposals for new, tougher cross-media ownership laws.' While a free press was 'non-negotiable,' Lewis said that with freedom also comes responsibility. 'Neither the current broken system of regulation nor state oversight will achieve the right balance,' he said. 'We need a new system of independent regulation, including proper, like-for-like, redress which means that mistakes and falsehoods on the front page receive apologies and retraction on the front page. And as with other professions, the industry should consider whether people guilty of gross malpractice should be struck off.' Lewis also said it was time David Cameron 'came clean' about the appointment of former Scum of the World editor Andy Coulson as his communications chief. Bryant, a former minister whose phone was hacked, told Labour delegates that he hoped those involved in phone hacking and the ensuing cover-up would go to jail. He hit out at those who had 'lied and lied and lied' to parliament during the hacking investigation. Earlier this month, he claimed that he had tracked fifty three lies told to parliament. But he said his tireless researcher had now tallied that a total of four hundred and eighty six lies had been told to parliament. 'I hope that people will go to jail for the criminal cover-up that happened at News of the World,' he said. 'But there is a bigger scandal, because it is the monopoly that BSkyB have. The fact that they've got eighty per cent of the pay-TV market and ninety five per cent in the pay-TV market in many places. They can hoover up television rights, and hardly produce a decent programme of their own. That is one of the things that we should be dealing with – the monopoly at BSkyB.' Unite general secretary Len McCluskey pressed for a 'long overdue' review of the rules governing media ownership in the UK and told the conference that there should be an element of 'shame' in the party over the way past leaderships helped to 'prop up' the Murdoch empire. In a swipe at former premier Tony Blair, he said: 'The Labour party needs to learn lessons – and they won't be learned by standing down by the banks of the Jordan blessing Murdoch's children. They will be learned by setting up the two commissions called for in this motion. One is for an overdue look at the rules controlling media ownership and the unacceptable concentration of power, of which the Murdoch empire is the worst example. And the second is to look at a still wider question – how independent trade unions are essential in ensuring that the rich and powerful do not get it all their own way. That they do not control our politics without the slightest counter-balance in society as a whole.' Milimolimandi has pledged to work with actor Hugh Grant on media reforms. The actor, who has become a champion for the Hacked Off campaign that is pressing for tougher sanctions and restrictions on the press, claims some newspapers will be 'back to their old tricks' soon and questioned whether Labour MPs would still stand up to the media when the furore had died down. Grant met the Labour leader on Monday night to press his case at the party's conference in Liverpool. A senior Labour source said it was 'an excellent meeting. Ed expressed his thanks for Hugh's work in the Hacked Off campaign and they said they would work together in future.'

This blogger is intrigued by the new Sky One trailer for its drama line-up. It kicks off with the words 'original British drama.' Which is, as most dear blog readers will recall, the tagline for the BBC's campaign, which began in April and is still running (the latest BBC trail, excellently, features The Jam's 'Start!' as its soundtrack). All this begs the question just how 'original' is Sky's 'original British drama' trail?

Harry Hill has reportedly quit his ITV series TV Burp. The popular show returns for its eleventh run on 8 October, with the Sun claiming that the comic turned down a one million smackers pay rise to sign on for more. The forty six-year-old previously admitted that working on the BAFTA Award-winning show, which sees Hill poke fun at the week's TV, was 'a drag,' saying that the longer runs had left him feeling 'completely mental.' Hill - who is currently appearing in drag in the somewhat mental This is Jinsy for Sky - is said to be planning to focus on working on Simon Cowell's rumoured The X Factor musical, which he was linked to last week. 'Harry kept telling people how much he hated doing it but they thought he was joking. He wasn't,' an alleged 'source' allegedly told the alleged newspaper. An ITV spokesperson said that another series of TV Burp 'would air in 2012,' while production company Avalon responded: 'Harry has a lot of commitments in the next year, but a final decision has not yet been reached.'

CSI creator Anthony Zuiker is developing a new drama for ABC. Chameleon will follow an undercover female FBI agent who is a master of disguise, according to Deadline. World Trade Centre writer Andrea Berloff will pen the pilot script and will also executive produce alongside Zuiker. Berloff worked with ABC last season on a proposed update of Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet. Zuiker - who is due to appear as a guest judge on America's Next Top Model - recently signed a three-year overall deal with ABC Studios. Other drama projects in development at ABC include a new legal series from Changing Lanes writer Michael Tolkin and a modern-day update of the Jekyll and Hyde story. A new medical drama from The Whole Truth creator Tom Donaghy and adventure series The Seven Wonders are also in the works.

John Thaw's daughter Abigail has signed up to appear in ITV's new Inspector Morse prequel. Endeavour will star Shaun Evans as a younger version of the legendary detective. Abigail Thaw has now joined the cast of the drama, the Sun reports. 'Abigail's a brilliant actress in her own right,' Evans said. 'It was amazing having her on set.' Thaw has previously appeared in shows including Vanity Fair, The Bill, Casualty, Love Soup, Midsomer Murders and Doctors. Endeavour is being produced as part of the celebrations surrounding the Twenty Fifth anniversary of the first episode of Morse.

Carol Vorderman has said that she won't talk about her sex life on Loose Women, to avoid embarrassing her children. And scaring the horses, no doubt. The presenter, who joined the ITV lunchtime panel show earlier this month, told the Mirra that she would not be joining in the frank discussions about her fellow stars' bedroom antics. 'No, no, no, no, no,' Vorderman said. 'There are things you can discuss, just as you would with your own girlfriends, without giving away too much. I'll just think of my mum back home watching me and telling me off. And I wouldn't want to embarrass Katie and Cameron in front of their friends. But if the other ladies are happy talking about sex, that's up to them. I'm not at all judgemental of other people. Denise [Welch] and Carol [McGiffin], carry on!' The former Countdown number-cruncher, who says turning fifty 'changed' her, admitted that she is enjoying the single life, having split from partner Des Kelly earlier this year. 'I've always been with someone from the age of fifteen, I've always had a boyfriend, husband or lived with someone,' she said. 'Now's the first time in my life I've been single and I really like it. But that's not to say I'm not dating, by the way!'

Sunderland's centre half Titus Bramble has been arrested on suspicion of sexual assault and possession of a Class A drug. The thirty-year-old defender is being held by police on Teesside. Cleveland Police said that 'a thirty-year-old man from Wynyard' was 'arrested in Yarm in the early hours.' Sunderland AFC said in a statement: 'The club is looking into this matter but due to ongoing police investigations is unable to comment further at this stage.' Bramble, who began his career at his home town club, Ipswich, was picked ten times for England's Under-21s. He also played for yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved Newcastle - where he earned the nickname Titus Shambles for his frequent calamitous clangers - and Wigan Athletic, before joining Sunderland in 2010.

Meanwhile, four footballers, a substitute and their manager were all reportedly sent off in a recent match due to a heated argument over the colour of their underwear. Darren Adie was refereeing a game between Newport County and Bath City Academy in the FA Youth Cup when the furore happened, the Sun reports. In the first half, the referee ordered two Bath players, who were wearing white and black underwear respectively, to remove their offending items because the colours clashed with their red shorts. Law 4 reads: 'If undershorts are worn, they must be of the same main colour as the shorts.' With Bath temporarily down two men as the two players changed outside, Newport scored, igniting a number of confrontations which saw six members of the Bath team receiving a red card. Two hundred spectators eventually saw Newport win six nil. The Bath chairman said: 'It was farcical. The players were made to strip in front of the crowd, which is quite an ordeal for lads aged sixteen or seventeen.' The Football Association is reported to be investigating the incident.

Today's Keith Telly Topping's 45(s) of the Day is one that I've been planning for a while and has a special not-particularly fab feel to it. During the early 1970s when bootleg LPs of The Beatles unreleased recordings first started to appear all manner of unusual items were included which were claimed by those responsible to be 'lost Fab outtakes' but were, in fact, nothing of the sort. Of course, this was years before Mark Lewisohn's Complete Beatles Recording Sessions book came out in the late 1980s. Prior to that, what The Beatles actually had and hadn't recorded in and out of Abbey Road was still shrouded in fab-gear mystery and discombobulation. Here, then, are five such 'not-Beatle' artefacts. Starting with 'Have You Heard The Word?' a song which appeared on many an illegal Fab Four release in the 70s and 80s claiming to be a John Lennon song recorded during either the Sgt Pepper or Magical Mystery Tour period. Of course it's neither. It's actually a 1970 single by a band called The Fut who were, basically, Maurice Gibb of The Bee Gees (doing a superb Lennon impression) and a couple of other blokes. To be fair, it did fool a lot of people including, apparently, Yoko who reportedly tried to copywrite the song during the 1980s. Only to subsequently discover that it wasn't her late husband, the old alcoholic wife-beating Scouse junkie's work at all.
Another regular feature on many early Beatles bootlegs was a song called 'The LS Bumblebee.' The odd thing is that, unlike most of the others not-Beatles recordings which masqueraded as the real thing, this doesn't really sound anything like the Beatles. It's actually the great Peter Cook and Dudley Moore doing a rather funny pastiche of the Pet Sound-era Beach Boys in a song - very obviously - about drugs. There is a sort of Beatles link to the recording in so much as the song was premiered by the classic comic duo during their Christmas 1966 TV special Not Only ... But Also in the same episode that Lennon made his well remembered cameo acting appearance as Dan The Doorman of The Ad-Lav Club. Nevertheless, despite what you might've heard to the contrary on You Tube, 'The L.S. Bumble-Bee' is not 'an unreleased Beatles recording from 1967' but, rather, a single, on Decca, by two of the greatest comedians this country has ever produced.
When 'We Are The Moles' was released in 1968, many people assumed that it was The Beatles recording under a pseudonym. The certainly sounds like an atypical 'I Am The Walrus'-style piece of Spike Milligan-meets-Lewis Carroll-down-the-UFO-club-for-a-cup-of-tea weirdo Lennonism. The lyrics appear to allude to it having been recorded by someone covering their true identity - 'hiding our faces/revealing our souls' - and the fact that it was on the Parlophone label was, surely a further clue that it must be The Beatles? In fact, it was a single concealing the true identity of the band behind it (and they did record on Parlophone) but, rather than The Beatles it was actually the far-less-famous Simon Dupree and the Big Sound. Anyway, it's still a great slab of late-period Brit psychedelia.
Similarly, two songs called 'Shades of Orange' and 'Living Loving Scared' cropped up on more than a few Beatles bootlegs and (quite a few Rolling Stones ones as well). Indeed, one or two of these even alleged that the recordings were by The Beatles and The Stones together in the same studio but they were never released by they were on different labels. The truth, as ever, is far more mundane. The songs were the respective A and B sides of a single by a band called The End who were produced by Bill Wyman. But, it's not The Beatles.
The last one is the most curious of all, by virtue of the fact that whilst it's pretty certain it isn't by The Beatles nobody has yet come forward to actually claim responsibility for thae damn thing. 'The Candle Burns' (also known as 'Peace of Mind') first seems to have surfaced sometime around 1973. It was claimed to have come from a cassette tape which was 'found in a rubbish bin' outside Apple's Saville Row HQ circa 1970. And that's all anybody knows about it. The - very rough and demo-like - recording does, vaguely, sound like some of Lennon's home recordings from the mid-to-late 60s and for at least one chap, that in and of itself is proof that it's a genuine article regardless of the lack of an explanation as to how this ended up in the hands of bootleggers in the early 70s whilst we had to wait for a further twenty years to hear most of the rest of Lennon's home recording archive of that vintage. Lyrically, the song is also slightly reminiscent of other Lennon output from that era, such as 'Tomorrow Never Knows' and 'She Said She Said', although George Harrison has also been mentioned as its possible songwriter. Indeed, on the CD bootleg Day Tripping, the song is attributed to Harrison and given the name 'Pink Litmus Shirt', a reference to definitely spurious Beatles song title 'Pink Litmus Paper Shirt.' Many experts on The Beatles and their recordings are unconvinced. Both Mark Lewisohn and Doug Sulpy completely ignore the song in their books on the subject. Richie Unterberger allows for a slight possibility of a Beatles origin, stating: 'Unless some surprising proof is unearthed, it must be assumed that 'Peace of Mind' is not the Beatles - though not beyond the shadow of a doubt.' John Winn, author of several books documenting Beatles recordings, was asked his opinion about the song and was quoted as replying: 'The only surprising thing about this is that so many people still believe it might have a Beatles connection, despite the fact that no evidence of such a title has turned up in the EMI tape log, the Lennon home archive, the eighty hours of Get Back sessions, copyright records, any written documentation, or any interview (Paul, Ringo, and George Martin have all been asked about 'Peace Of Mind' and/or 'The Candle Burns' and it didn't ring a bell with any of them). I would bet my entire collection that it's not a Beatle recording.' Decide for yourselves, dear blog reader.