Saturday, September 24, 2011

We Only Wanted To Be Loved!

Friday night was Stephen Fry night on the BBC, dear blog reader. It climaxed with a truly wonderful episode of Qi that ranged from Columbo and George Formby to 'irony' and the origins of the Three Lions insignia, via Brazil nuts and French expressions that the French don't actually use. Brilliant as ever and, once again, dangerous as you might just learn something from it. Like, for instance what υπάρχει πρόβλημα στο στρατόπεδο τσιγγάνων means. Or, perge scelus mihi diem perficias for that matter.
First-time panellists John Bishop and Frank Skinner immeasurably added to the fun. I can see both of those getting a return call for next year. Earlier in the evening, however, Stephen had been on The ONE Show. Mainly, he was plugging his new series on Sunday nights, Fry's Planet Word - including a very interesting section about accents that people are said to trust - but he also managing to help the world's (or, at least Norwich's) supposed worst pub quiz team win a pub quiz!
He was connected to the pub a number of times during the show helping to successfully answer several of questions in the quiz for his adopted team Super Fry Guys. One of the questions he successfully answered was 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is the first book in a trilogy, name one of the other books?' The answer he gave was Smiley's People. While appearing on the show Stephen told Chris Evans and Alex Jones, of his love of Norfolk. He said that the north Norfolk coast was 'simply stunning' and described it as the 'most beautiful part of Britain bar none.' He picked out its mixture of 'bleakness, bird life and huge skies' as part of the area’s appeal. The director of Norwich City Football Club, also hailed the 'old fashioned nature' and 'kindness' of people from Norfolk and said the 'whole city exploded with joy' when Norwich were promoted. Public service broadcasting at its finest, dear blog reader!

A programme of cuts may be underway at the BBC, but the corporation still spent over eight million quid on consultants in the twelve months to the end of March according to a spectacularly pointed and spiteful piece of muck-raking trouble-making in the Gruniad. The Communist lice of whom, of course, couldn't bastard well wait to Copper's Nark all this kefufflement up to the Great Unwashed so they'd be outraged. In a Daily Scum Mail style(e). The amount paid to consultants such as Deloitte, Capita and Ernst & Young, they claim, is 'equivalent to a series of a top BBC1 drama such as [spooks].' Note the fact that they specifically use the example of a show that is just finishing to increase the gleeful knife-sticking. What a bunch of toerags. A breakdown of the figures, they suggest, shows the BBC spent over seven hundred and sixty thousand on consultants to help it with 'change management' and £1.9m on 'strategy.' The biggest winner appears to be Deloitte, which earned just over three million smackers from the BBC over the twelve-month period. That included one hundred and ninety seven thousand quid for 'management consultancy' and just under five hundred thousand wonga for 'change management.' The figures were provided under the Freedom of Information Act and passed to the Gruniad. By a snitch. They have, the Gruniad claim - although, as usual they provide no names to back up their allegation - 'angered some BBC staff' who are facing cutbacks as a result of last year's stringent licence fee settlement. Programming is also under threat under the Delivering Quality First cost-cutting strategy, with the corporation looking to make about half of the sixteen per cent cut to operating costs from 'scope' – 'BBC management speak for content budgets' they claim. However, the £8.23m bill for consultants is less than the £10.9m that was spent by the corporation during the 2008-09 financial year. The BBC head of sourcing at BBC Procurement, Tracey Morris, said: 'The BBC in common with other large organisations does employ consultants but only when we need specialist advice and resource on projects that are outside of the normal course of our business and where it would not be cost efficient to maintain those specialist skills in-house. These costs are declining year on year.'
The solicitor who represented the family of Milly Dowler in their phone-hacking claims against News Corporation on Friday announced that he has teamed up with US lawyers with a view to initiating proceedings targetting Rupert Murdoch and his son James. Mark Lewis of Taylor Hampton has instructed Norman Siegel, a New York-based lawyer who represents twenty 9/11 families to seek witness statements from News Corp and directors including the Murdochs in relation to allegations that Scum of the World staff may have 'bribed' police. He says that he intends to assess whether he can launch a class action against News Corp using American foreign corruption laws, which make it illegal for US companies to pay bribes to government officials abroad. 'There is a provision within US law, before you start an action to seek depositions from individuals, in this case, such as James Murdoch and Rupert Murdoch and other directors of News Corp,' said Lewis. He added that Siegel would examine allegations of not just police bribery but also phone hacking and 'foreign malpractices.' The move will be a fresh setback for News Corp which has been trying - not very successfully - to insulate itself against contagion from the UK phone-hacking scandal which has engulfed its British publishing empire. Separately, it emerged that this week that US prosecutors at the Department of Justice have written to Murdoch's News Corporation requesting information on alleged payments made to the British police by the Scum of the World. The DoJ is looking into whether the company may have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Under FCPA laws, American companies are banned from paying representatives of a foreign government to gain a commercial advantage. The decision to co-ordinate legal efforts on both sides of the Atlantic comes just days after News International confirmed it was in settlement talks with the parents of the murdered thirteen-year-old schoolgirl. News International is discussing a total package of around three million quid including a personal donation from Rupert Murdoch of one million smackers to a charity of the Dowler's choice. And, of course, one hopes that it will be a charity representing something that Murdoch and his newspapers hugely disapprove of. News Corp themselves, of course, 'declined to comment' but - according to the Gruniad Morning Star - it is 'understood' that senior executives question whether there is any basis for Lewis's actions.

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan police are to be asked to investigate allegations that reality TV regular the late Jade Goody's phone was hacked while she was dying with cancer. It is understood that Charlotte Harris, the Mishcon de Reya lawyer representing several phone-hacking claimants, has been asked to represent her and ask the Met with the allegations made by Goody's mother, Jackiey Budden. Budden believes that both her own and her daughter's phones were hacked, but did nothing about it until July this year when she read about murder victim Milly Dowler's phone messages being intercepted by the Scum of the World. She could not understand how journalists were getting hold of information and, when she read the Dowler story, believed it could have been through phone-hacking. '[Jackiey] will be going to the police. She believes her phone was hacked by the News of the World, and Jade's. Jade told me "I'm convinced my phone is being hacked,"' said Max Clifford, who handled Goody's PR after she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in August 2008. 'Jade had said to me on many occasions that someone had been bugging her phone because of stuff that was coming out in the papers. She would say, "I've had these conversations and there's no way any of these people would have revealed them,"' added Clifford. 'This was all while she was ill. I think it's absolutely disgusting.' Clifford said Goody was convinced calls she made to her mother in August 2008 from the Big Brother set in India to tell her she had cancer had been hacked. 'She said to me "I think my phone is being bugged,"' he added. The PR man, who settled his own Scum of the World phone-hacking action for more than one million notes last year, said that the former Big Brother contestant was an obvious target – in the months between being diagnosed and her death in March 2009, there was 'a feeding frenzy' and 'immense interest' in getting exclusives about her personal life. If the allegations against the Scum of the World are substantiated, it would increase the duration of the now defunct News International title's allegedly illegal activities. Up to now the Scum of the World has been implicated in phone-hacking allegations up to mid-2006 when Glenn Mulcaire, the phone investigator who formally worked for the title, was arrested. Mishcon de Reya said it 'could not confirm' whether or not it had been instructed by Budden. News International declined to comment, but a spokeswoman said the company continued to cooperate fully with police investigation. Goody lived the last seven years of her life in the spotlight, with every twist and turn documented or exposed in the tabloids from her first appearance in Channel 4's Big Brother in 2002, when she was branded 'The Pig' by the tabloids, to the day she died. Her on-off relationship with the father of her two children, a miscarriage, and then her cancer were all covered in minute detail by the tabloids, with one hundred and forty stories alone featuring Goody in the Scum of the World between diagnosis and her death seven months later. But she also regularly co-operated with the now defunct News International paper in 'buy-ups' – deals in which she would talk about her life in exchange for payment. In a separate development on Friday, the actress Sienna Miller revealed that she accused her mother, her sister and her former boyfriend Jude Law of selling stories about her to the press because she could not understand how journalists were getting information about her private life. 'I changed my mobile number three times in three months. There were clicks on the line. I would pick up the phone and it would drop, there were messages I would never get, coupled with articles coming out every week. So I started to do tests. I would leave messages on people's phones, like we're going to rent this house or whatever, and it would appear next day in the papers,' she told the Independent.

Former Scum of the World editor Andy Coulson is reported to be suing his former employers News Group Newspapers, allegedly for breach of contract. Coulson - who resigned from his position as communications chief to prime minister David Cameron in January - is said to be taking action because the company has stopped paying his legal fees. News Group Newspapers is a subsidiary company of News International, publishers of the Sun and was the former publisher of the now-defunct, disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World. Sky News's Mark Stone told viewers: '[The] news has been confirmed to us both by his lawyer, who I've spoken to in the last ten minutes or so, I've also spoken to News International, who've confirmed the same thing. At the moment he is having to pay his own legal fees. He is suing his former employer for effectively breach of contract.' Max Clifford said: 'Clearly Andy Coulson was counting on News International paying all his legal bills, and potentially his legal bills are going to amount to an awful lot of money. I suppose it remains to be seen how News International will react.' Bloomberg had earlier reported that an 'A Coulson' was listed in court documents filed on Friday as taking action against News Group at the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court. The Financial Times had claimed last month that Coulson's legal fees were, at that time, being paid by News International.

Simon Cowell told The Hollywood Reporter that anything less than twenty million viewers for the first episode of The X-Factor USA 'would be a disappointment.' So, dear blog reader, you'll be delighted to know that it got twelve million and was out performed by Modern Family. And Criminal Minds. And CSI. They might have a lot of things wrong with them, the Americans, but at least more of them watch drama than talent shows, it would seem. Which is a definite tick in their plus points column as far as noted Americophile yer actual Keith Telly Topping is concerned. Good on yer, America. And we like your president as well.

The BBC's Formula 1 commentator Martin Brundle has said that he is yet to decide his future for next season, as speculation mounts that Sky is interested in his signature. It has been suggested that ex-Formula 1 driver Brundle is a 'key target' for Sky as the broadcaster prepares to put together a team to cover every race, qualifying and practice session live from 2012 under its new shared rights deal with the BBC. However, Brundle took to Twitter this week to deny speculation that he was about to sign a lucrative new contract with Sky and form part of the satellite broadcaster's F1 presentation team. 'It's very amusing to read the stories about what I'm doing next year and how much I'm being paid. I haven't agreed or signed anything,' he tweeted. From 2012 to 2018, the BBC will broadcast approximately half of all Formula 1 races each season - including Monaco and Silverstone - on free-to-air television, while Sky will show every race on pay-TV.

Notorious ITV breakfast flop Daybreak recently 'celebrated', if that's the right word, it's one-year anniversary. But, according to Metro, the cake shown on-screen was not popular. 'Insiders' (nameless, of course), supposedly told Metro's gossip columnist Neil Sean, 'all the girls are so weight-conscious, most of the cake ended up being chucked in the bin.' Which, to be fair, is a pretty decent metaphor for Daybreak's entire first year, frankly.

BBC local radio is 'set to be hit hard by the imminent round of cost cutting at the corporation,' with hundreds of hours of local programming 'likely to be axed' according to a report in the Gruniad. Large swathes of output outside of peak time programming are 'expected to be syndicated' between neighbouring stations in a bid to cut budgets, they claim. Some 'insiders' (once again, nameless) fear that the strategy – which would see the stations switch to 'regional' rather than 'local' output across much of the schedule – could be extended to all programmes outside of the breakfast and drivetime shows. Another cost saving that has been discussed is for local radio stations to share football commentaries. Each station currently sends their own commentary team to each match. The BBC's forty local stations already share some content in the evenings and early mornings, and syndicate BBC Radio 5Live overnight. Proposals to extend the crossover between Radio 5Live and local radio were rejected. The BBC's Delivering Quality First initiative, aimed at finding twenty per cent of cost savings across the corporation, 'is expected to significantly extend the amount of syndicated programming shared by regions.' One proposal is thought to include the establishment of a 'BBC Radio England'-style station which would syndicate an evening programme to all local stations apart from those broadcasting football commentaries. Five local stations took part in a networking trial beginning last year to share some afternoon programmes to free up resources to put into morning shows. Early afternoon and evening programmes are seen as most likely to be syndicated in the new budget squeeze. Morning programmes are also understood to have been targeted, although one BBC 'source' allegedly said it would be an 'absolute shock' if the morning slot was syndicated as well. Local stations have been pumping extra money into their breakfast and mid-morning shows as part of an effort to beef up their news and current affairs content, as requested by BBC director general Mark Thompson's strategy review in 2010. The BBC Trust met on Thursday to discuss Thompson's long-awaited DQF cost-cutting proposals. The trustees are understood to have agreed the broad principles of the final DQF proposals, but will discuss them again next week. More meetings are also expected to take place between the trustees and BBC management on the details of DQF, with a final announcement due to be made to staff in early October. A BBC Trust spokesperson said: 'We are not giving a running commentary on the process. Lord Patten has said we hope to be able to publish the executive's proposals in early October and, once published, we will put them out to public consultation.' BBC local radio stations have a combined weekly audience of 7.22 million listeners a week, according to official Rajar figures for the second quarter of this year, up from 6.84 million a year ago.

Eileen Derbyshire, the actress best known for playing Coronation Street veteran Emily Bishop, accidentally set herself on fire while shooting a scene for the soap's Bonfire Night episode. Derbyshire reportedly got too close to a candle and set the arm of her shawl alight, reports the Daily Mirra. Luckily, one of the production team noticed the flames and quickly sprinted over with a fire extinguisher. The eighty-year-old was rushed to her dressing room and treated by a doctor while she calmed down. A 'source' on-set allegedly said, 'It was a scary moment for Eileen. She got too close to the tea-light candle and her clothes went up in flames. She was lucky someone on the crew acted so quickly. Thankfully, she didn't get burned but the costume was ruined so the scene had to be completely reshot.' Eileen had been shooting a scene as part of the birthday celebrations for Brooke Vincent's character Sophie Webster. The 'source' allegedly added, 'It was hardly the biggest scene for 5 November. There are others which have fires and fireworks in them so it's amazing this one caused such a problem.' A Coronation Street representative confirmed the incident, but claimed it was a 'minor' fire and that nobody was in serious danger. Derbyshire is the second longest serving member of the Corrie cast, having first joined the soap in December 1960.

It is a revelation that may send shockwaves through generations of Blue Peter badge wearers: the BBC reported to be planning to phase out the pets as the show tries to better reflect the interests of tech-savvy pre-teens. John Noakes, the flustered presenter, and his desperate cries of 'get down, Shep' spawned a catchphrase that swept the nation. However, as a sign of the times, the top item on Monday when Blue Peter returns for a new series – the first episode from the show's new base in Salford – will be about smartphones and apps of interest to children, including those designed by children. One of the apps featured offers help in dealing with bullying. The current Blue Peter dog, Barney, an Irish setter dachshund cross, will still feature, the programme editor Tim Levell said – it is owned by presenter Helen Skelton. Lucy, the golden retriever who died of cancer in March, aged twelve, is not being replaced. Blue Peter's two cats, Socks and Cookie, are also moving to semi-retirement in Hertfordshire. 'It is a big ask for cats to come to the studio every week. We want to feature them if editorially relevant, but cats don't do what they are told, they are not biddable, they zoom off,' Levell said. 'But if we have a guest who loves cats, say, they might appear.' If Blue Peter decides to visit The Cat Show again next year, Cookie will attend with a presenter. But otherwise Cookie and Socks' only scheduled Blue Peter appearance is for this year's Christmas show, along with Shelley the tortoise – assuming she is not in hibernation at the time – who is also not moving to Salford. Socks was at the centre of a BBC viewer deception scandal in 2007 when the result of an online vote to choose the name for a new Blue Peter kitten was ignored, with the production team deeming the poll winner, Cookie, inappropriate for a children's show. After the obligatory BBC internal inquiry and the departure of Blue Peter's editor – who was replaced by Levell – a second cat, called Cookie, was introduced. Blue Peter, which launched in 1958 as a weekly show, has had many pets over the years, including parrots and two Riding for the Disabled ponies. One of the most famous of its dogs was the boisterous border collie Shep (1971-87) who was paired with presenter Noakes. The show's move to Salford, where it will be the first live programme broadcast from the new BBC North headquarters, complete with a new Blue Peter garden on a rooftop, is being used to give it more playground credibility and faster pace. Other changes included a remix of the theme tune, 'Barnacle Bill', and an overhaul of the credits to feature the presenters, Skelton and Barney Harwood. The set, while keeping the famous sofa, has been redesigned as a 'media hub.' By next year viewers will also be able to interact with celebrities and phone in via a webcam and e-mail. Blue Peter is fighting to hold its ground in a crowded children's TV market dominated by dedicated kids' channels. BBC 'insiders' allegedly say that there has been concern about whether the programme's 'agenda' is 'keeping pace' with the changing interests of its target age group of six-to-twelve-year-olds. The changes are aimed at making Blue Peter more appealing to the upper end of this age range, especially boys, who watch Top Gear and The Gadget Show, as the BBC overall tries to counter criticism that it lacks appeal and programming for older children. 'It is fair to say we're going to experiment a bit more, it's really crucial for us to tap in more to children's current passions, what they are talking about in the playground now,' Levell said. 'I hope the top end, the ten to twelves will watch – we all know children always look up to older children.'

A couple in Italy have sought legal advice to evict their forty one-year-old son. Law firm Adico has sent the son a letter asking him to leave within six days if he wants to avoid the matter being taken to court, according to Italian media. The father said: 'We cannot do it anymore. My wife is suffering from stress and had to be hospitalised. He has a good job, but still lives at home. He demands that his clothes be washed and ironed, and his meals prepared. He really has no intention of leaving.' Should the son ignore the warning letter, the lawyers plan to file a protection order request on behalf of the parents against him.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 33(s) of the Day, it's long past time that we celebrated the totally off-the-frigging-wall sounds of Johnny, Jah and Keith. Don't be rotten, dear blog reader, here's a couple of quality slabs of furious dub vision avant-garde from Public Image Limited. Firstly, Jah Wobble inventing the concept of lead-bass on 'Fodderstompf'.
And then, the defining moment from Metal Box on Whistle Test.
And, finally dear blog reader, a short note which, I'm sure will produce a great gnashing and wailing of teeth. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping's traditional manic Saturday night trying to get up a review of that evening's Doctor Who episode faster than you can say Raxacoricofallapatorius will not occur tonight. Along with Mama Telly Topping, yer actual Keith Telly Topping is having a night off, attending a family social event. With food. And booze. So, given that, it'll probably be sometime on Sunday - afternoon , like as not - by the time I get around to watching the damn thing, never mind telling you what I thought about it. Calm down, dear blog reader, it's only the one with James Corden in it!