Wednesday, November 30, 2011

... While I'm Sitting Here Doing Nothing But Ageing

Yer actual Keith Telly Topping, be it known, is not on strike today, dear blog reader. He's just resting. In solidarity with my brothers and sisters in the public sector. Up the workers, baby.
The full Christmas Day TV schedules have now been released. BBC1's goes as follows: 12.35 Kung Fu Panda; 2.00 Top of the Pops; 3.00 The Queen; 3.10 Monsters and Aliens; 4.40 BBC News; 4.50 Ratatouille; 6.30 The Gruffalo's Child; 7.00 Doctor Who; 8.00 Strictly Come Dancing; 9.00 EastEnders; 10.00 Absolutely Fabulous; 10.30 Michael McIntyre's Christmas Comedy Roadshow. ITV are going for the following in primetime: 5:30 You've Been Framed!; 6:00 Emmerdale; 7:00 All-Star Family Fortunes; 8:00 Coronation Street; 9:00 Downton Abbey. Set in 1919, the two-hour special sees Downton Abbey hosting a lavish Christmas party. However, despite being the season of goodwill, tensions are rife and Bates’s arrest has cast a shadow over the festivities. Will he be a condemned man or will he be found innocent in time for the annual servants ball? Following a contretemps at the shooting party, Mary has to consider her future with Sir Richard Carlisle. Meanwhile, Violet has concerns about Rosamund, whose new suitor - the dashing but raffish Lord Hepworth (Nigel Havers) - is not all he seems. He's Nigel Havers - he never is. On Christmas Night, BBC2 runs with Darcey Bussell Dances Hollywood at 6.30pm, followed by two Blackadder repeats and the documentary The Toys That Made Christmas at 9pm. C4 has the film Ice Age 3 at 7.15pm, with Alan Carr: Chatty Man at 9pm. BBC1's new feature-length dramatisation of The Borrowers, starring Stephen Fry and Victoria Wood alongside Aisling Loftus, Sharon Horgan and Christopher Eccleston, is shown on Boxing Day at 7.30pm. The David Jason drama The Royal Bodyguard - co-starring David Walliams - starts its run on BBC1 at 9.30pm on Boxing Day. The long-delayed new Poirot episode, The Clocks, will be broadcast on ITV at 9pm on Boxing Day. It stars Geoffrey Palmer, Lesley Sharp and the late Anna Massey, plus David Suchet in the title role. The BBC's big festive period drama is Great Expectations, showing at 9pm on Tuesday 27 December, Wednesday 28 December and Thursday 29 December. It stars Gillian Anderson and Ray Winstone. Doctor Who star Matt Smith is a guest on The Graham Norton Show on Friday 23 December at 10.35pm on BBC1, along with Kenneth Branagh, Amir Khan and Russell Kane. Some other festive highlights include The Lost Christmas (5.30pm Sunday 18 December BBC1); Just Henry (7pm Sunday 18 December ITV); Bleak Old Shop of Stuff (8.30pm Monday 19 December BBC2); Fast Freddie, The Widow and Me (9pm Tuesday 27 December ITV) and Charlie Brooker's 2011 Wipe (10.30pm Friday 30 December BBC4).
Well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson have been branded 'the scum of journalism' in a series of allegations from a former Scum of the World deputy features editor at the inquiry into press standards. Odious, 'risible', scruffy, pimple-faced, 'needs a damned good shave' wretch Paul McMullan accused Coulson of introducing 'wholesale' phone-hacking when he appointed editor of the Scum of the World in 2003, and described Coulson's predecessor, Brooks, as 'the criminal-in-chief.' In a dramatic two-hour testimony before the Leveson inquiry on Tuesday, McMullan made allegations about a 'culture of illegality' which, he claimed, stretched from 'the little men, the reporters' to senior police officers and politicians. Lord Justice Leveson at times had to interject to warn McMullan that he risked incriminating himself while he was rattling off claims about alleged criminal wrongdoing during his time at News International's disgraced and disgraceful former Sunday tabloid, which was closed at the height of the public outcry over phone-hacking in July. Asked whether his Scum of the World editors knew that voicemail messages were being intercepted, McMullan said: "Yes. I could go a bit further than that. We did all these things for our editors, for Rebekah Brooks and for Andy Coulson. You only have to read Coulson's column in Bizarre. It was blatant and obvious. I don't think anyone realised that anyone was committing a crime at the start.' He added: 'Andy Coulson brought that practice wholesale with him when he was made deputy editor. They should have had the strength of conviction to say, "Yes, sometimes you have to stray into black or grey illegal areas." Instead they said we didn't know they were doing it. They should have been the heroes of journalism. They're the scum of journalism for trying to drop me and my colleagues in it.' McMullen later said: 'For twenty one years you have a culture of illegality of phone-hacking and fiddling your expenses and so on. What you have is a future prime minister cosying up and being moulded by the arch-criminal, Rebekah Brooks, the criminal-in-chief.' Coulson and Brooks have separately and repeatedly denied any involvement in or knowledge of criminal activity at the Scum of the World. One or two people even believe them. McMullan separately launched an extraordinary defence of paparazzi photographers, who have been criticised by alleged victims of intrusion who have given evidence to the inquiry over the past week. 'I absolutely loved giving chase to celebrities,' he said. 'Before Diana died it was such good fun. How many jobs can you have car chases in? It was great.' He also claimed that 'In twenty one years of invading people's privacy I've never actually come across anyone who's been doing any good. Privacy is the space bad people need to do bad things in. Privacy is for paedos. If there is a privacy law your secrets are going to be much more valuable than they were before.' McMullan defended his former colleagues on the now-closed Scum of the World, saying they were 'honest [and] honourable' journalists. He said that hacking into murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's phone was 'not a bad thing for a well-meaning journalist to do,' claiming that they were trying to find the schoolgirl while she was still missing because they had such little faith in police to do the job.

Former Downing Street director of communications Alastair Campbell has said the press is 'frankly putrid in many of its elements.' Campbell, who worked closely with Tony Blair during his time as prime minister said many newspapers considered their coverage of the lives of celebrities was a 'public service.' His written evidence had already been leaked by blogger Guido Fawkes. It appeared online on Sunday and Paul Staines, who blogs under the name, has been called to attend the inquiry on Thursday to explain himself. Campbell's witness statement has now been posted on the Leveson Inquiry's own website. In it he says: 'Editors are under enormous pressure. Journalists are under enormous pressure. In most of the newsrooms, there are fewer of them with more pages and online space to fill, and less time to do it. These are important factors, but they should not be excuses to let standards and ethics slip.' Campbell - himself a former journalist at the Daily Mirra - highlighted one incident when a newspaper reporter rang him to say they were running a story that he was 'fed up' at Downing Street and was going to a job at Manchester United. He noted: 'I said it was completely untrue and his verbatim quote was "I know, but it's a good story."' Campbell suggested that the freedom of the press being defended most loudly had become a part of the press that is 'barely worth defending. A very, very small number of people have changed the newspaper industry so they've now frankly besmirched the name of every journalist in the country,' he added. He criticised the 'shift downmarket' in the whole newspaper industry, blaming it on 'a fiercely competitive market' and the drive to copy celebrity magazines. Campbell said of the press: 'We allow the public to hate or like celebrities.' He said that he agreed with former Daily Lies reporter Richard Peppiatt, who gave evidence on Tuesday, that the job was predominantly office-bound. 'It's become a desk job and they sit there re-writing other newspapers' copy or agency copy - journalism as a craft, there are not many people doing it,' he said. He blamed media management who cut back on staff to save money, adding: 'That has led to a reliance on private investigators.' Campbell added that some of these private investigators had been 'acting almost as freelance journalists,' presenting ready-made stories to the newsdesks - with too few questions asked about the methods used to obtain those stories. British journalism was the best and the worst in the world 'often in the same edition,' he said. But he suggested that true 'investigative journalism' was dying in Britain and something needed to be done to boost it. Campbell criticised in particular the Daily Scum Mail, which he said used its dislike of the European Union to 'make up' stories which were likely to 'outrage' its reactionary, bigoted, numskull readers. He read out a long list of 'traditional British items,' including 'kilts, curries and mushy peas,' which the Scum Mail claimed the EU was planning to 'ban or regulate.' In the vast majority of those cases it was, simply, not true, he said, highlighting one story about the introduction of 'Muslim-only lavatories' which was also untrue. Campbell said that Associated Newspapers and News International were not alone in making mistakes. Lord Leveson asked him how his evidence might have been leaked to Staines. Campbell said that he had made several drafts and shown them to lawyers, three friends in the media and a number of former colleagues in the world of politics. But, he said, he was confident that none of those would have leaked it to Staines.

Meanwhile, a thirty one-year-old woman has been arrested by police investigating phone-hacking by the press. The woman is believed to be Bethany Usher, a former journalist who had bylines in a number of national newspapers - including the Scum of the World - between 2005 and 2008. Usher is now senior lecturer in media and journalism at Teesside University. The university said: 'It would be inappropriate to comment on any ongoing police investigation.' The woman was arrested in the North East of England by officers from Operation Weeting, the police probe into allegations of phone-hacking. Operation Weeting launched earlier in the year to probe illegal hacking of mobile phones of public figures by the Scum of the World, the disgraced and disgraceful Sunday tabloid shut down in July at the height of the scandal. This latest arrest is the seventeenth by Operation Weeting, including former Scum of the World editor Rebekah Brooks and ex-Downing Street communications chief Andy Coulson. So far, no one has actually been charged with any crime.

Newspapers are to likely to come under the auspices of a new regulatory body that is 'better at enforcing standards of accuracy' than the Press Complaints Commission, according to the lack of culture secretary the vile and odious rascal Hunt. Giving evidence to the Lords communications committee inquiry about the future of investigative journalism, the vile and odious rascal Hunt said that he thought, in light of the phone-hacking scandal, most people agreed that regulatory processes for accuracy needed to be changed. He said he did not want to cut across Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry into media ethics, taking place across town at the high court, but that 'looking at events so far, you'd be likely to conclude we'd be likely to have a successor body to the PCC that's better at enforcing standards of accuracy.' The Leveson inquiry has heard from a number of victims of alleged press intrusion who said they had little faith in the PCC. The vile and odious rascal Hunt also said that 'I don't think investigative journalism is under threat,' but added that it is 'important' and one of the 'absolutely essential parts of a free media.' The vile and odious rascal Hunt said that although it had the potential to make his job more difficult, investigative journalism such as that which uncovered phone-hacking and MPs' expenses showed that democracy in the UK is working. Getting his tongue right up Murdoch's chuff for a damned good lick, he praised the now defunct, disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World for breaking the cricket spot-betting scandal and the Daily Torygraph for uncovering the MPs' expenses story. Though, perhaps significantly, not the Gruniad Morning Star for breaking the phone-hacking story in the first place. However, he said he was not sure a 'particular ownership model results in more investigative journalism. If you asked me [what] the biggest threat [is], I would say that it is the potential lack of profitability in the sector,' the vile and odious rascal Hunt added. But the vile and odious rascal Hunt went on to say: 'Plurality is essential. It's a complex issue. We want to make sure we've got proper protection in place to make sure we do have plurality and make sure we don't have over-concentration of market power.' He said he wanted to 'reserve judgement [on media plurality] as this is something that Lord Justice Leveson is looking at. Because of what's happened in the last six months many members of the public do now really understand that issue. The government is committed to what the public want, which is proper protection of plurality.' The vile and odious rascal Hunt said he had asked his advisers to look at the local newspaper market ahead of the forthcoming communications act. 'I think it's clear to me the local newspaper sector needs to consolidate and develop new business models. I'm a big champion of local media,' he added. He also said he expected some licences for new local TV services, the first tranche of which are due to be awarded next summer, to be awarded to consortiums containing local newspaper groups. The vile and odious rascal Hunt added that 'when it comes to standards of impartiality and accuracy, broadcasters are the gold standard.'

The former Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain has been told by the Metropolitan police that they are investigating evidence his computer, and those of senior Northern Ireland civil servants and intelligence agents, may have been hacked by private detectives working for News International. The suggestion that the minister's computers, containing sensitive intelligence material, may have been compromised is the most serious sign yet that newspaper malpractice extended far beyond the hacking of mobile phone voicemail, into the realm of other electronic data. The investigation into computer hacking is being carried out by detectives from Scotland Yard's specialist crime directorate. It is separate, but related to the phone-hacking investigation. Officers from Operation Tuleta are looking at the activities of individuals who were paid by News International, including a firm of private detectives allegedly offering 'ethical hacking.' They are also looking at allegations about the detectives' connections within News International. A spokesman for Hain would not directly comment on the news of recent contacts between him and the police but said: 'This is a matter of national security and subject to a police investigation so it would not be appropriate to comment.' News International has declined to comment, but said on Monday night that Operation Tuleta was looking at a number of newspapers. Hain, Labour MP for Neath, was Northern Ireland secretary from May 2005 to June 2007 when he was involved in sensitive peace negotiations. He will have had access to classified information about informers and security. It is understood from legal sources that Hain is to be asked to confirm material obtained by the police investigators comes from his computer. It is not known if Hain has been informed of the nature of the material identified. Tom Watson (power to the people!), a member of the culture, media and sport select committee and a strident campaigner against hacking, said: 'Phone-hacking is one thing, but targeting the computers of ministers with high-security clearance takes this police investigation to another level. It also raises questions for News International about whether its management were aware.' The Metropolitan police arrested a fifty two-year-old man last week under investigation for computer hacking. His name has not been disclosed. He has been released on police bail until early December. The allegations focus on the use of Trojan e-mails. These involve a hacker sending a computer virus to the target's computer. The virus then allows access to computer content as the keyboard is used. The revelation comes on the day the Leveson inquiry heard from Ian Hurst, a former British army intelligence agent, who used to recruit and run agents within the IRA in Northern Ireland. Hurst told the inquiry he understood his computer was hacked into by a Trojan Horse virus in 2006 by private investigators working on behalf of the Scum of the World. He said that he had been shown a seven-page fax by the BBC, which was researching a Panorama programme on the subject for broadcast last March. The fax contained material from July 2006 which was 'not only material from his computer,' which came from the private investigators. Police officers from the Tuleta team are already investigating evidence that Hurst's computer was hacked. The virus had been sent by e-mail, and after he opened an attachment to an e-mail it could read the contents of his computer hard drive and send them back to the private investigators. Hurst told the inquiry that he had learned later the Trojan was also able to see through the webcam so the hackers 'could have actually seen me or the kids at the desk.' The virus was sent to Hurst by 'Mr X' – a hacker whom he knew from his time in Northern Ireland. Hurst said the hacker worked for a private investigator who was in turn working for the Scum of the World. Last week Sienna Miller claimed her e-mail had been hacked into in 2008. She told the Leveson inquiry that Glenn Mulcaire, the former private investigator convicted on phone-hacking charges, had taken a note of 'all my telephone numbers, the three that I changed in three months, my access numbers, pin numbers, my password for my e-mail.' She went on to tell the inquiry that the password 'was actually used to later hack my e-mail in 2008.'

Simon Cowell will return to the Britain's Got Talent judging panel in 2012, a report in the Mirra has claimed. as if anybody actually gives a shit. It's a busted flush now, matey.

Joey Barton has described the cast of Desperate Scousewives as 'disgusting human beings.' The footballer 'blasted' - which is, of course tabloidesque for 'criticised' only with less syllables - the newly-launched E4 series on Twitter. He also said that he had new found respect for The Only Way Is Essex, which he had famously described as 'shallow, fake and pretentious.' Barton wrote: 'How does this shite get on telly? That's the issue here, not these monosyllabic subordinate chimpanzees, doing what people tell them to do? The Only Way Is Essex have gone up in my estimations after this show. When I say gone up, it was impossible for them to go down.' Barton also dismissed reports that he had been 'romantically involved' (or, you know, shagging) with any of the Housewives, writing: 'All the women/creatures look like The Bride of Frankenstein crossed with an Umpalumpa. The men, aren't Scouse lads, there crazy woolybacks. Due to Botox overdose they cannot even form a facial expression! Their [sic] undeserving of our time. How did they come up with the title? Surely it should be rebranded, "just fucking desperate" as none are Scouse or married. Definitely desperate.' He concluded: 'Never commenting on them again, even if they chrip up tomorrow because the producers tell them to.' The former The Only Way Is Essex 'star' - and, one uses that word quite wrongly - Amy Childs has previously accused Barton of attacking the show 'for the sake of publicity.' Which, coming from a plastic, shallow waste-of-space non-entity like her whose entire life seems to be lived for the purposes of publicity, that really is a comedy diamond which I never expected to hear. Plus, I wouldn't get Joey Barton angry. You wouldn't like him when he's angry.

Marks & Spencer's reputation as a paragon of family values has not saved it from a rap across the knuckles from the advertising watchdog, which has banned an 'overtly sexual' lingerie advert. M&S ran two poster adverts featuring scantily clad models on the side of buses as part of a campaign to promote its Autograph lingerie range. The Advertising Standards Authority received a number of complaints that one of the adverts featuring two lingerie models – one pictured lying on her side, the other kneeling on a bed – was unacceptable because it was 'sexually suggestive' and 'likely to be seen by children.' M&S said that the adverts were 'in no way offensive' and had been shot in 'a filmic and atmospheric style.' The ASA said the shot of the woman kneeling on the bed was 'overtly sexual' because her legs were wide apart, her back was arched, she was touching her thigh and wearing stockings. 'We considered that the image was of an overtly sexual nature and was therefore unsuitable for untargeted outdoor display, as it was likely to be seen by children,' said the ASA, which banned the advert from running on buses. 'We concluded that the ad was socially irresponsible.' In October the ASA moved to toughen its stance on raunchy advertising, after the David Cameron-backed Bailey Report into the commercialisation and sexualisation of children called on the industry to limit sexualised imagery near locations such as schools.

The BBC's World News has been taken off the air in Pakistan after broadcasting a documentary that was deemed to be critical of the country. Well how sodding dare they?! Secret Pakistan, which was screened last Wednesday, explored accusations by CIA officials and western diplomats that Pakistan was failing to meet its commitments in the 'War on Terrrrr.' Khalid Arain, president of the country's cable TV association, said that operators had 'blocked' the BBC service as a result. The BBC condemned the decision, which is understood to have been applied to other foreign news broadcasters broadcasting 'anti-Pakistan' content as well. 'We are deeply concerned that BBC World News has been taken off air by the Cable Association of Pakistan,' said a BBC spokesman. 'We condemn any action that threatens our editorial independence and prevents audiences from accessing our impartial international news service. We would urge that BBC World News and other international news services are reinstated as soon as possible.' The service was suspended in parts of Pakistan on Tuesday, with the broadcaster expected to be off-air across the whole country by Wednesday. The blocking of the BBC comes amid high tensions following NATO air strikes that accidentally killed twenty four Pakistani soldiers on Saturday. And, once again let us marvel at the fact that the BBC is a World Class broadcaster with an international reputation for fairness, balance and seeking out only The Truth. And that some countries - run by knobcheese, corrupt and totalitarian dictatorships - are so terrified by that prospect they do what many rank trash Tory MPs and lice Daily Scum Mail journalists in this country would love to do. Silence them.

BBC1 will show a series of daytime dramas focusing on adult literacy next spring. The five forty five-minute dramas will feature characters who experience reading and writing difficulties and the effect it has on their relationships. In the late 1970s, Bob Hoskins starred in BBC's On The Move, which catalysed an adult literacy drive. BBC Learning, who have commissioned the current strand, hope the new dramas will again raise awareness on the impact of low literacy skills. Learning controller, Saul Nassé, said the programmes would aim to break stereotypes and reduce the stigma associated with literacy problems. 'We want these five terrific stories to entertain and engage the widest possible audience, as well as inspire anyone with similar needs to feel more confident about seeking help.' The series will be made by Liverpool-based LA Productions and has been written by Nick Leather, Esther Wilson, Arthur Ellison, Lyn Papadopoulos and Jaden Clark.

ABC has denied that Pan Am has been cancelled. Karine Vanasse tweeted that the show had been axed on Tuesday, adding that it will return for only one more episode after Christmas. 'We received the call, Pan Am is only coming back for one more episode after Christmas. But up to the end, we'll give it our all!' she wrote. However, ABC has since denied the claims, telling Examiner: 'Nothing has changed. We are not cancelling Pan Am. We are still in production and will continue to be in production finishing the original thirteen episodes plus one more additional one. We have one more original episode this coming week. And then will return in January with the new episodes, airing all of them. Pan Am is still in contention for next season. We won't know about that until our upfront announcement in May.'

Noel Gallagher was left starstruck on Sunday after meeting Sir Paul McCartney before his show in Italy. The former Oasis rocker spent the day watching a football game between his beloved team Manchester City and Liverpool, before heading to the Mediolanum Forum venue in Milan to watch McCartney perform - and he was, he claimed, 'in awe' when he spoke to his hero backstage. In a post on his official website, Gallagher writes, 'The match? Well, it ended in a draw. A fair result in the end. We should have won it, but on the other hand we could have lost it. From there we went straight to some arena or other to see Paul McCartney. Somewhat predictably he was mega, as always. He's got all the tunes, innit! Actually managed to get to say hello to him before the show. What a treat. I'm like a small boy when shit like that happens. And he's a true gentleman. The fuckin' daddy!' Gallagher was in Milan ahead of his show in the city on Monday night.

A portion of the M1 was closed on Tuesday after twenty tonnes of Marmite was spilled on the busy carriageway last night. A huge clean-up was under way on Wednesday morning between junctions thirty two and thirty three near Sheffield. A tanker is said to have collided with a motorcaravan at around 10.15pm on Tuesday night, although thankfully nobody in the accident was hurt. A South Yorkshire Police spokesperson said: 'We were called at 10.15pm yesterday to reports of a tanker, which was carrying twenty three and a half tonnes of waste yeast, overturning. Some of the contents were spilled on the northbound carriageway and we are in the process of emptying the remaining contents of the tanker and clearing up the spillage before it can be moved and the road reopened.' Asked what motorists thought of this catastrophe the spokesman said that some of them liked it, but others didn't. Seriously, I'm here all week.

For today's actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, like, here's something from The Beatles. A popular beat combo of the 1960s, you might've heard of them.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Centre Of Things From Where Everything Stems, That's Where I Belong

The BBC and ITV have confirmed their Christmas TV schedules for the festive period. Doctor Who will return to BBC1 on Christmas Day at 7pm, facing opposition from All Star Family Fortunes on ITV, the first time since 2006 that Doctor Who isn't up against the popular soap Emmerdale. An hour-long edition of Coronation Street will follow at 8pm, opposite Strictly Come Dancing on the BBC. As previously confirmed, Downton Abbey will also return on 25 December, clashing with a festive episode of EastEnders at 9pm. Sitcom Absolutely Fabulous will then return to BBC1 at 10pm, followed by Michael McIntyre's Christmas Comedy Roadshow at 10.30pm. The BBC's new adaptation of The Borrowers - starring Stephen Fry, Victoria Wood and Christopher Eccleston - will be broadcast on Boxing Day at 7.30pm. David Jason's new comedy The Royal Bodyguard will then premiere at 9.30pm. ITV has scheduled new Poirot movie, The Clocks in opposition at 9pm. Other Christmas highlights include animation The Gruffalo's Child - broadcast on BBC1 at 6.30pm on Christmas - and a new three-part BBC adaptation of Great Expectations - beginning 27 December at 9pm and continuing over the following two evenings.

So, as noted, the BBC have confirmed that this year's Doctor Who Christmas special will be broadcast on 25 December. The popular family SF drama will retain its traditional Christmas Day slot for the seventh year running, broadcasting at a later-than-usual 7pm on BBC1. Written by showrunner Steven Moffat, The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe will see Matt Smith reprise his role as The Doctor. Claire Skinner, Bill Bailey, Arabella Weir, Alexander Armstrong, Paul Bazely, Holly Earl and Maurice Cole will play guest roles in the festive special, directed by Farren Blackburn. 'The Doctor at Christmas - nothing is more fun to write,' said 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.' Hurrah.

The Scum newspaper had claimed that the BBC has 'scrapped' a Christmas Special episode of Doctor Who Confidential even though it has already been filmed. The BBC3 behind-the-scenes series which gave fans an insight into how a Doctor Who episode was produced was cancelled in September by Zai Bennett, the digital channel's controller. An episode of Doctor Who Confidential has accompanied each episode of the popular BBC family SF drama since it was revived in 2005 and performed well for BBC3. Bennett, it was reported, had cancelled the documentary series to concentrate money elsewhere in the station's schedules. The Scum claims that a further episode of Confidential had been filmed prior to its cancellation; covering this year's Doctor Who Christmas Special. The newspapers report appears to be based on an article in the Doctor Who Magazine in which Confidential producer Gillane Seaborne wrote 'The biggest regret is the episode of Confidential we've filmed for this year's Doctor Who Christmas special which now won't be shown. So I guess in the fine traditions of Doctor Who, we now have our very own missing episode.' However, an alleged BBC 'source' allegedly told the tabloid 'This is the first we have heard of it. We're being told there is no Christmas show.'
Charlotte Church has told how her mother's mental health suffered when the Scum of the World published a story exposing her father's affair. She told the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics that her mother had attempted suicide 'at least in part' because she had known the story was coming out. Later the former TV presenter Anne Diamond said the media had been on her doorstep within an hour of the cot death of her son in 1991. The broadcaster added that the press had 'trampled all over our dignity.' During Monday's morning evidence, the Bristol landlord wrongly arrested over Joanna Yeates's murder, Christopher Jefferies, said that the media had 'shamelessly vilified' him. Jefferies said the tabloid press had decided he was guilty of the murder of Miss Yeates in 2010. Another man was convicted of her killing last month. 'They embarked on a frenzied campaign to blacken my character by publishing a series of very serious allegations about me which were completely untrue,' his statement said. Jefferies told of how he was portrayed as a 'creepy oddball', a 'pervert' and a 'peeping Tom' by the tabloid press. He said that he would 'never fully recover' from the libellous coverage and that he believed some people will still continue to think he is a 'weird' character who is 'best avoided.' In her evidence, Church said that the Scum of the World had already published a story talking about her mother's mental health, 'so they knew how vulnerable she was but still published the story. I just really hated the fact that my parents who had never been in this industry - apart from looking after me - were being exposed and vilified in this fashion. It had a massive impact on my family life,' she said. Church also said the Sun newspaper had revealed her first pregnancy before she had told her family. 'It had a massive impact on my mother's health, her mental health, her hospital treatment - the only way they know about that was either through hacking or the bribing of hospital staff.' Church said at first she had been treated with kid gloves when she became famous aged twelve, dubbed 'The Voice of an Angel.' But she said she had experienced the 'worst excess of the press' between the ages of sixteen to twenty. 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. Church said she had been 'totally appalled' by a clock on the Sun's website which counted down to her sixteenth birthday, an 'innuendo' highlighting the fact she was reaching the age of sexual consent, she said. 'It was just horrible, I was a sixteen year-old-girl and was uncomfortable with it.' The inquiry heard how the Sun had published a story about her being pregnant for the first time before she had told her family. She said she believed journalists had obtained their information through hacking voicemail messages from the doctor or through other surveillance, although added she did not have any evidence. 'I had not told anyone apart from when I had gone to have my initial scan. I can't see how it came from any other area. My family were really upset that I had not told them first,' she said. Church said newspaper coverage had adversely affected her career as it was difficult for her to be taken seriously as her credibility had been 'blown to bits.' She said she had attended the inquiry because she did not want her children to go through the same thing. 'A lot of this happened to me whilst I was a minor and whilst I was really very young. It was really hard and it has had a psychological effect upon me. It almost feels like they put you through this psychological grinding, test your strength, and you come out the other side and it just keeps happening.' In her evidence, Diamond described the aftermath of her son Sebastian's death. 'Our front door was very quickly filled up with hundreds of press. And there was one incident when a female reporter tried to rush the door. She rang the door and she had a big bouquet of flowers and when the chain had to be removed to open the door, she rushed in.' Church claimed that she was advised to waive a one hundred thousand smackers fee to perform at Rupert Murdoch's wedding to Wendi Deng, because she would get 'good press' from the media mogul's newspapers. Church said that she agreed to appear at the 1999 event – she was thirteen at the time – because she was advised by her management and record company that it was a good idea given Murdoch's power and influence. 'I remember being told that Murdoch had asked me to perform at his wedding to Wendi Deng in New York on his yacht,' she told Lord Justice Leveson. 'I remember being told of the offer of the favour – to get good press – and I also remember being thirteen and thinking why would anyone take a favour of one hundred thousand pounds? But I was being advised by my management and a certain member of the record company that he was a very, very powerful man and could certainly do with a favour of this magnitude.' Murdoch married Deng, his third wife, in June 1999, in a private service on board his yacht Morning Glory in New York harbour, with eighty two guests attending. Church performed three songs at the event, according to press reports at the time. Diamond said that she had written to every Fleet Street editor 'begging them to stay away from the small, private family funeral,' but the Sun published a photograph on its front page. 'On the day of our little boy's funeral - and this was held at a very remote country church - there was a photographer on the public highway. Here we were, a young couple at our child's funeral, and they took this photograph.'

The journalist who broke the Scum of the World hacking story says 'a culture of bullying' on Fleet Street meant that he had to keep his sources anonymous. Gruniad Morning Star writer Nick Davies told the Leveson Inquiry that the fear was real and extended to more than just concerns about losing work. 'You've got to make these people safe and the first step almost all the time is a guarantee of anonymity,' he said. Davies wrote an article in July 2009 revealing claims of widespread phone hacking at News Group News­papers, publisher of the Scum of the World. Davies told the inquiry he thought 'a fluke' had led to his interest in phone-hacking. He said reporters started talking to him about illegal methods while he was researching for a book published in 2008, Flat Earth News. His chapter referring to the media's 'dark arts' was subsequently questioned during a BBC Radio 4 interview and he was contacted by someone with information. Davies said it took him eighteen months to gather enough information to publish an article on hacking. He explained why he had to protect his sources. 'There is a culture of bullying in some Fleet Street news organisations,' he said. 'The fear is real.' Davies said a 'loose assembly' of fifteen to twenty five former Scum of the World journalists had spoken to him on condition of anonymity as well as around six investigators, and a number of alleged victims. On the defence of public interest, Davies said it was 'incredibly difficult' to know where the boundary lines were. 'Very often it isn't clear and personally I would like it if somebody set up by statute a public interest advisory body,' he said. Davies said he had received information about a former cabinet minister's phone being hacked that he had decided not to use as he judged it was a breach of privacy. But he said the Gruniad had decided to publish allegations that the voicemail of murder victim Milly Dowler had been hacked despite the potential impact on her family. 'What we were disclosing was so important that we needed to find some way of getting it into the public domain. On the other hand the family had been through hell, I really was worried about digging it up.' Davies said that in the end the Gruniad had given the Dowler family prior warning the article was going to be published. He told the inquiry that he was sorry to hear Milly's mother Sally had been upset by the article. Davies said he could not tell the inquiry who had been responsible for deleting messages on Milly's phone but that private investigator Glenn Mulcaire had 'facilitated' the hacking. Mulcaire denies having deleted any messages. 'He does not actually, on the whole, do the listening to the messages himself. Most of that is done by the journalists themselves,' Davies said. 'Mulcaire's job was to enable them to do that where there's some problem, because he's a brilliant blagger. So he could gather information, data from the mobile phone company.' Davies said he had initially been in favour of self-regulation of the media but that he had changed his mind. 'I don't think this is an industry that is interested in or capable of self-regulation,' he said. 'It obviously doesn't work, we're kidding ourselves if we think it would - it hasn't.' The inquiry earlier heard from ex-Daily Lies reporter Richard Peppiatt. In his evidence, Peppiatt said that he had worked for the paper on a casual full-time basis for about two years. He said it was 'a right-wing tabloid' and reporters were 'encouraged' to find statistics that 'fitted its ideological perspective.' He also claimed that a story he had written about model and actress Kelly Brook was 'totally made-up.' He said a news editor had offered one hundred and fifty pounds for an article for page three and 'I came up with that.' Peppiatt resigned from the paper in March, saying he had expressed disquiet about what he said was 'its anti-Muslim slant.' At the time, the Daily Lies denied it had any negativity towards Islam. It claimed Peppiatt had been 'unhappy after he was passed over for several staff positions' and had been 'warned about making up quotes.' At the Leveson Inquiry hearing, Peppiatt denied his former employer's explanation for his resignation. 'I probably have been warned about making up quotes - but probably not good enough ones.' He said he wished he had come forward earlier but had seen the newspaper respond to another colleague who had expressed discomfort around a year before by giving her lots of anti-Muslim articles to write. 'That's the atmosphere - you toe the line or you get punished,' he said. 'Your job is simply to write the story how they want it written.' Peppiatt claimed that he had received threats after he resigned such as 'you're a marked man until you die' and that circumstantial evidence suggested his own voicemail and work e-mail had been accessed. The inquiry heard legal proceedings relating to the matter were currently under way.

Phone-hacking was carried out with the knowledge of Scum of the World editors, an odious, risible ex (alleged) journalist on the paper has said. Paul McMullan accused former-Scum of the World editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, who deny knowledge of hacking, of 'trying to drop me and my colleagues in it. I don't think anyone realised that anyone was committing a crime at the start,' he also told the Leveson Inquiry. McMullan was a Scum of the World deputy features editor between 1994 and 2001. Asked whether his editors had known about mobile phone voicemails being intercepted by Scum of the World journalists, McMullan said: 'I could go a bit further on that: we did all these things for our editors, for Rebekah Brooks and for Andy Coulson. You only have to read Andy Coulson's column in [the Sun's] Bizarre where it would just be littered with "Pop star A is leaving messages on pop star B's phone at 2am in the morning saying 'I love you and shall we meet up for a drink?'" I mean, it was that blatant and obvious.' He added: 'My assertion has always been that Andy Coulson brought that practice wholesale with him when he was appointed deputy editor.' McMullan also said it was Piers Morgan, who became editor of the paper in 1994, whom, he alleged, 'set the trend' for malpractices in the pursuit of the big sales. 'He was "get that story at all costs" and "I don't care what you have to do,"' he told the inquiry. 'He wanted to be number one, he wanted to sell five million copies a week.' Morgan has not yet responded to the claims, but he is also due to appear soon before the inquiry. McMullan called Brooks and Coulson 'the scum of journalism for trying to drop me and my colleagues in it. They should have had the strength of their conviction to say: "I know, yes, sometimes you have to enter into a grey area - or enter a black illegal area - for the good of our readers, for the public good, and yes we asked our reporters to do these things." But instead they turned around on us and said: "Oh, we didn't know they were doing it. Oh heavens, it was all just Clive Goodman and later it was just a few others."' He added: 'All I have ever tried to do is to write truthful articles and to use any means necessary to try to get to the truth. There's so many barriers in the way that sometimes you have to enter a grey area that I think we should sometimes be applauded for entering, because it's a very dangerous area.' He went on to claim that most people did not need privacy because they had nothing to hide. 'Privacy is the space bad people need to do bad things in,' McMullan said. 'Privacy is for paedos.' He also said it was not for anyone to say whether a story was or was not in the public interest. 'Circulation defines what is the public interest,' he claimed. Elsewhere in his evidence, this odious disgraced of an individual defended the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone by the Scum of the World, saying that it was 'not a bad thing for a well-meaning journalist to do.'

As the Leveson inquiry reveals fresh horrors about press behaviour every day, the British Library's archive of early newspapers, which has gone online, shows there is nothing new under the sun – or, perhaps, in it. More than four million pages, drawn mainly from Nineteenth-Century regional newspapers, previously kept in decent obscurity at the library's newspaper archive in Colindale, North London, will now be available for historians and family researchers to browse for a small fee, or free if they visit the central library in King's Cross. All human life is there, albeit written up in florid Victorian prose. Users can read newspaper reports on key historical events, such as the wedding of Victoria and Albert, the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the Charge of the Light Brigade. Great events, horrible murders reported in exhaustive and bloody detail, celebrity gossip, as well as the occasional intrusion into private grief, it's all there. Thus, the Herts Guardian, Agricultural Journal and General Advertiser, reporting on the death of Lord Raglan, the hapless British commander in the Crimean War noted: 'Our commander-in-chief [was] pained in his last hours by the ribald attacks of an unprincipled press.' They could teach the Scum of the World a thing or two about how to knock down celebrities in those days too. Following the death of Grace Darling, the lighthouse keeper's daughter who had become a heroine for rescuing shipwrecked passengers off the coast of Northumberland, the editor of the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette sneered in the sort of tone to be heard any day now on blogsites: 'We wonder our contemporaries do not know better than to suppose the public are generally interested in the health of this peasant.' One wonders what would have happened if the Sun, say, had used that sort of tone about Jade Goody. When John Bean, 'a deformed boy aged sixteen, a wretched and diminutive looking being' tried to kill Queen Victoria – a few weeks after two previous assassination attempts – in the summer of 1840, there was the authentic voice of editorial outrage when the perpetrators had their sentences commuted. The Hereford Times could not believe it and set the tone for every Daily Scum Mail editorial thereafter (except, possibly, the one that praise Herr Hitler getting Germany all sorted): 'The country will participate in the feelings of indignation and horror with which we announce that another miscreant has been found mad enough, or wicked enough, to have entertained designs against the life of our beloved Queen. On the very day on which it became publicly known that Her Majesty had spared the life of him who had raised his hand against her own, another vile attempt upon that precious life would seem to have been intended.' Crikey. As for scandals, the British Chronicle in September 1790 had a ripe one about 'an unnamed peer' who, it would seem, fancied his valet's wife and sent the servant off on an errand which would take him away overnight so that he could have his wicked way. The valet was suspicious, hid near his wife's apartment and locked the couple in when he heard his employer enter 9the chamber, that is, not her), before heading off to the peer's wife's chamber on a similar mission. 'In the morning, gentle readers, you may picture to yourselves the confusion of the whole family: his lordship was found locked in the arms of Mrs Anne and her ladyship was discovered in the same situation with Mr Thomas.' Shocking. The archive features more than two hundred newspapers, which are being copied for the library by the online publisher Brightsolid. Ed Vaizey, the lack of culture and communications minister, said: 'The archive is a rich and hugely exciting resource packed with historical detail. I searched for my own constituency of Wantage and within seconds had forty two thousand results – an indication of the breadth and variety of material featured.' So far, the project has focused on out-of-copyright material pre-dating 1900, but Brightsolid is negotiating with rights holders to obtain permission to scan newspapers from the early to mid-Twentieth Century.

Richard Desmond, owner of the Daily Scum Express and the Daily Lies, has declared that he is 'very pleased' with his decision to quit the body which regulates newspapers in Britain, branding the Press Complaints Commission 'an old boys' club.' At the same time, he put the boot into Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Scum Mail, claiming that Dacre was 'immoral' and 'hypocritical' about the PCC. Desmond told a parliamentary select committee looking at libel and privacy law that he was 'not proud' that the commission has taken him to task over the last two years, but said the number of lapses had been few and far between. Last week, the Leveson inquiry heard how Desmond's Express Newspapers paid five hundred and fifty thousand knicker to Gerry and Kate McCann for more than one hundred libellous articles in its four titles, including one in the Daily Lies which claimed the couple had sold their missing child to pay debts. 'We're not proud that we've had seven cases in two years,' said Desmond. 'I think this PCC is an old boys' club, and it's certainly been very ineffective, and I'm very pleased at what we did last January, that we pulled out.' He told MPs and peers that the newspaper industry would be better served if editors were not involved in regulation. 'Let's not have editors of newspapers who sit in a little cabal and, when it's their turn, that editor withdraws and gets discussed behind his back by competitors,' Desmond said. 'It would work better if the people on that committee were not the same people who were working as day-to-day editors and executives on rival newspapers.' The newspaper proprietor quit the PCC earlier this year. He said he was in favour of self-regulation but without the make-up of the PCC commission, which has seventeen members – ten lay and seven serving editors. Desmond added that the Daily Scum Mail's lack of coverage of the phone-hacking scandal was 'hypocritical' and that Dacre was 'absolutely wrong' to say recently that celebrities stories were 'part and parcel of the every day.' His attack on Dacre comes just weeks after the editor-in-chief of the Daily Scum Mail described the Scum Express's decision to leave the PCC as 'a body blow to the commission.' Dacre also questioned the 'Blair government's' decision that 'Desmond, the businessman who'd made his money from porn, was a fit and proper person to own a newspaper.' Dacre told the Leveson seminar in October that commercially adroit newspapers use great skills to 'leaven their papers with sensation, exclusive pictures, scandal, celebrity gossip and dramatic human stories' but still devoted considerable space to serious news. Which is, of course, utter crap. Desmond also claimed: 'You knew that the News of the World were hacking because the guy had been in prison. We heard internally about the Mail on Sunday, about the Mirror, about the People, and these were the very people that were sitting there hanging us out to dry. I find the whole thing very hypocritical.'

Musical comedy duo Flight Of The Conchords are planning a movie version of their cult TV show. Bret McKenzie said that he and co-star Jemaine Clement had big-screen ambitions – but they needed to come up with a script first. He made the comment in an interview to promote The Muppets movie, to which he contributed several songs. When a journalist from the Hollywood Reporter asked him if he had any plans for a Flight Of The Conchords film, McKenzie said: 'Yeah, we're going to do a movie. We just need a story – so if you know anyone who has any story ideas.' When asked when it might come out, he said that 'movies take a long time to make' – so joked that it could take him up to a month from now to film and edit it. The New Zealand duo ended their HBO series in 2009 after two seasons, as they were finding it difficult to come up with enough new material.

Richard Herring has said that stand-up comedians should consider the consequences of their material. The comic last month publicly took issue with Ricky Gervais's continued use of the word 'mong' in his work and on Twitter. Herring told Metro: 'I wrote a blog saying maybe using disablist language is the same as using racist language and maybe we shouldn't because it's hurtful to disabled people. To find out that saying we should be considerate to disabled people is the most controversial thing I've said in my career is interesting. It seems fairly reasonable.' He continued: 'A comedian has a responsibility to themselves to consider the consequences of what they're doing. If it's funny enough, you can get away with virtually anything in comedy. You should consider the effects of throwing disablist language around. Being on the sharp end of his followers calling me a "mong" for a week, I can see that whatever Ricky thinks the word "mong" has become, the five hundred thousand people following him don't agree or don't understand the subtleties he's coming up with.' Herring added that through his eight years of work with the disabled charity, Scope, he is aware of how much the use of such language affects disabled people. 'I don't think it's for a non-disabled multi-millionaire to say the word has been "reclaimed"', he said. 'That word hasn't changed meaning - it's always meant the same thing.' Gervais was initially - loudly - unrepentant over his use of the word claiming, as he did two years earlier when using it to describe Susan Boyle, that the word had 'changed meaning.' Following statements from disability campaigners including Nicky Clark and his one-time Extras colleague Francesca Martinez, Gervais later admitted that he had been 'naïve' over his use of the word. Meanwhile, Herring's former colleague, the full-own-his-own-importance knobend, Stewart Lee has been described as 'flabby and ireelevent' by Mad Frankie Boyle. Boyle told the Gruniad Morning Star - who, of course, just lurv Lee the mostest, baby - that he is not a fan of Lee. Boyle noted: 'It seems to me [he's] irrelevant and flabby. Okay, you don't like Russell Howard; that's fine. But don't put on your posters "a new kind of political comedy." Without any politics? Crisps? What the fuck is that about? People internalise marketing. You sell yourself and people sell stuff to you. He ends up going, "Michael McIntyre, Russell Howard, not like me." What the fuck is that? Sick of that old washing powder?' Big fight, little people.

China has ordered a ban on advertisements during TV dramas as part of its reform of cultural activities. Adverts will not be allowed in the middle of programmes lasting for forty five minutes from 1 January next year. The authorities said this was in line with the 'spirit' of a recent Communist Party meeting. Senior leaders said then that they wanted to develop a 'socialist culture,' although they did not elaborate on exactly what that means. TV stations are clear about what this latest move means for them though - they say it will result in a loss of revenue. The latest announcement was made by China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television on its website. It said the regulation was being introduced as part of a new attitude towards culture, outlined at the party's Central Committee meeting in October. 'Radio and television are a mouthpiece of the party and the people - an important propaganda front in cultural thought,' read the SARFT statement. An organisation spokesman told Xinhua, the state-run news agency, that the aim was to make TV shows conform to 'public interests and aspirations. In the long-run, the move will help TV dramas develop in a scientific and healthy manner,' said the unidentified spokesman. The Communist Party has always kept close control over cultural activities such as television programming in China. A few months ago it told a successful commercial station to stop broadcasting a popular talent contest called Super Girl. At the recent Central Committee meeting, China's senior leaders appeared to indicate they wanted to keep an even closer eye on broadcasters. This latest move will have an effect on the money made by these companies though. 'The government could really take our lives if it bans all commercial breaks during the most-watched TV series,' one - unidentified - executive with a mainland TV station is reported to have said. A spokeswoman for Hunan Satellite TV said this new regulation came after most advertising deals for next year had already been signed. 'TV stations bosses around the country will be having many sleepless nights,' she said. Not as sleepless as the spokeswoman for Hunan Satellite TV one imagines as she waits for a knock on her door from the men from the Ministry of State Security. China's TV advertising industry was worth nearly five hundred billion yuan last year. The rights for one top slot before the main evening news on China Central Television - the nation's top broadcaster - cost four hundred and forty million yuan for eight months at a recent auction.

Grammy-winning music executive Don DeVito, who produced Bob Dylan two great 1970s LPs Blood on the Tracks and Desire has died aged seventy two. In a statement, Columbia Records said DeVito had suffered from prostate cancer for the past sixteen years. During his career, the producer worked with many other artists including Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel and Aerosmith. The Recording Academy said DeVito was 'a multifaceted talent' who 'made a lasting impact on our industry.' DeVito spent his entire career at Columbia Records after starting off as a trainee at CBS, and went on to become one of the label's most influential executives and producers. He helped to create LP that would become a part of music history including Dylan's mournful Blood on the Tracks, which is considered one of the singer/songwriter's greatest and most mature works. The producer, who retired four years ago, won a Grammy in 1989 for his work on Folkways - A Vision Shared: A Tribute to Woody Guthrie And Leadbelly. He is survived by his wife Carolyn and two children, Marissa and James.

Elvis Costello wants his fans to spend, ahem, less than zero on his pricey new box set. In a post on his website, the singer-songwriter tells fans not to buy the upcoming release, The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook, recorded over two nights at The Wiltern in Los Angeles in May, because it's too expensive. Costello, he stressed, wasn't slagging the quality of the box-set, which he calls 'a beautifully designed compendium' featuring live recordings that 'find The Imposters in rare form. Unfortunately,' he added 'we find ourselves unable to recommend this lovely item to you as the price appears to be either a misprint or a satire.' The set, which contains a CD, DVD, a ten-inch vinyl record and a book autographed by Costello along with other tour memorabilia, is currently available on pre-order for between two and three hundred dollars, according to various retail websites. The singer said that his attempts to have the price lowered had been 'fruitless.' Instead, Costello said, fans should shell out for Louis Armstrong's Ambassador of Jazz, a ten-disc set packed with music, interviews and other extras from across Satchmo's sixty-year career. 'Frankly, the music is vastly superior,' Costello wrote. For Costello die-hards who simply must have The Return, the singer advises waiting until after the New Year, when the music and DVD will be sold separately.

An amplifier used by George Harrison during recording sessions for The Beatles iconic Revolver and Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band LPs is set to sell for fifty grand plus. The rare Vox UL730 amplifier is set to go under the hammer when it was rediscovered by accident after it was borrowed by former New Order bassist Peter Hook for a recording session. An engineer only discovered that it used to belong to Harrison, whose name was scratched inside, when he was called in to fix it after it broke down. Researchers then tracked down the amp's history and found a photograph of Harrison using it. The amp is expected to fetch between fifty and seventy thousand smackers when it is auctioned on 15 December at Bonhams in Knightsbridge. Stephen Maycock, Bonhams entertainment memorabilia consultant, said: 'Very few amps used by the Beatles have come to auction before, and to find one that was used on two such significant albums is truly rare and exciting. Beatles fans all over the world will be eager to own such an important piece of music history.' Well, yeah but I think you should amend that too 'Beatles fans with more money than they know what to do with during these tough financial times will be eager to own ...' Perspective. Good word that.

An inquest has opened, and been adjourned, into the death of Gary Speed. The Welsh football manager, forty two, died at his family home in Cheshire on Sunday after an apparent suicide. He leaves a wife and two teenage children. A tribute to the player is expected before Tuesday night's cup tie between Cardiff City and Blackburn Rovers. In a statement issued on Monday afternoon Speed's family said that they had been 'overwhelmed' by the support they have received from the football community across the country following his death. Speaking outside the family's home Hayden Evans, Speed's agent, said: 'Gary's family would sincerely like to thank all the people that have sent messages of condolence and tributes in what is a very difficult time. We have been overwhelmed by the support and it really has helped. We would ask that the family are now given the respect of some privacy to just grieve on their own.' Evans later told BBC Wales that the support had made a difference 'albeit a small difference.' Understandably. He added that there had been no indication from Speed that anything was wrong in the days leading up to his death. 'We spoke on Friday, everything was normal,' said Evans. 'We speak regularly and meet regularly and there were no tell-tale signs. That's what's made it all the more shocking.' Tributes to the former Leeds United, Everton, Newcastle United, Bolton and Sheffield United midfielder, have continued to pour in from the public and sporting figures. On a visit to Manchester, the Prime Minister managed to muscle himself into the frame, saying: 'I think it has been incredibly moving. I was watching Match Of The Day last night and watching people, crowds, absolutely silent and footballers revering his memory. Obviously here in the north, where he played for so many of the iconic teams, I know he meant an enormous amount to people and people feel very, very sad on his behalf and on his family's behalf.' Firstly, does anyone actually believe that David Cameron watches Match of the Day? No, thought not. The flags outside the Welsh assembly in Cardiff Bay are still flying at half-mast as a mark of respect, and a call has been made for a minute's silence during Tuesday's plenary session in the debating chamber. Supporters have left scarves, football shirts and flowers across several football stadiums - including Everton's Goodison Park, at Leeds United's Elland Road, Newcastle's St James' Park, the Millennium Stadium and Cardiff City Stadium, where Wales played their home games. Speaking about Tuesday night's Carling Cup quarter-final, Cardiff City manager Malky McKay said: 'I'm sure the correct tribute and respect will be paid towards Gary. Our fans are fantastic. They will do exactly what I think they'll do in terms of tributes, be it silence or applause.' The FAW has opened a book of remembrance at its offices in Cardiff, which will be open from 09:00 to 16:00, and online. Speed enjoyed a long and distinguished playing career over twenty two years and five clubs all of whom he served with distinction. He was also Wales' most capped outfield player, winning eighty five international caps, and managed Sheffield United before becoming Wales boss in December 2010. After a difficult start, Wales' 4-1 friendly win over Norway on 12 November was his side's third successive win. Meanwhile, in an emotional interview with BBC 5Live, Speed's former team-mate Alan Shearer says that he is still numb and in shock over the sudden death of his friend. Shearer said: 'This just doesn't happen to one of your best mates. I was with him on Saturday afternoon arranging next weekend. He was coming up with his wife to stay at my house. I left the studio, shook his hand and said "see you next weekend." He was happy, joking,' Shearer said. 'We were having the normal mickey taking that we do out of each other and having a laugh and joke about golf trips and holidays that we went on together last year. We were planning our next holiday in Portugal next summer with the families and the kids. That's why it's so hard to come to terms with.' Shearer had been at St James' Park for eighteen months when Speed signed for Newcastle in February 1998. Speed went on to played more than two hundred and eighty matches for the club, including two FA Cup Final appearances and some memorable nights in the Champions League, before leaving for Bolton Wanderers in July 2004. Shearer continued: 'I played against him many times, but when Kenny Dalglish signed him for Newcastle straight away we struck up a relationship. You're bound to make enemies and have arguments along the way in football - but no one ever did with Gary. No-one had a bad word for him. He was just an incredible guy, what you would describe as a proper bloke. If you were meeting him at seven o'clock, he'd be there at five to seven, and that's the type of guy he was.' Speed burst on to the scene as a dynamic and versatile midfielder at Leeds United, and by the age of twenty two he had already won the league championship playing a pivotal role in a United midfield which also contained Gordon Strachan, Gary McAllister and David Batty. Shearer spoke about the player who was a 'manager's dream,' adding: 'He was a great footballer, great in the air, he had a great left foot, a great engine, he was a model professional. To play with him, I knew, when I was at Newcastle, what sort of performance you would get from him and the fifty two thousand fans knew what kind of performance you were going to get - he'd run all day. Everyone loved him - that's the type of guy that he was. He got on with the young guys, the older guys, the laundry lady, the chefs, the kit man - we used to get in early after taking our kids to school and we were in the training ground at 8.45 having breakfast together. It's such a sad situation, a sad loss.' There's a superb article by the best writer in football journalism, Henry Winter of the Telegraph, on the subject which you can read here. 'Wherever you look and listen, people are honouring Speed. Aston Villa's fine supporters have already stood in silent salute of the Wales manager at the Liberty Stadium. Of course they should, people will cry, it's common decency. Sadly, it's not always thus. I covered a Holland versus France match in Lens when the Dutch fans tried to start a Mexican wave during a minute's silence for a French disaster. Enmity is a part of football. Not this week. Any hostilities that stain the game on these shores have been put on hold. Speed's stature in the game ensured that. In their darkest hour, at least his family know that countless people grieve with them.'

And finally, an important confessions from those lovely people who can't in any way be described as sick bigots at the Daily Scum Mail.
For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day we have The Tindersticks finest three and a half minutes.

Monday, November 28, 2011

See The Sky In Front Of You

We start today's From The North bloggerisationism with a short sermon on ... stuff. Please note, yet again, that any anonymous comments sent to this blog will not be accepted for publication. I had a really good one the other day, concerning the story from earlier this year about Ofcom's acceptance of a completely bloody pointless whinge from some glake against the Dave channel for showing a barely-edited episode of Qi containing swearing in the afternoon. But, if the person writing comments - even interesting ones - can't even be bothered to put their name on their comments, whether by accident or design, then frankly I can't be bothered to read them. Democracy in action, dear blog reader. Even if this blog  is, by definition, a - benevolent - dictatorship. Actually, not so benevolent more often than not. Right, on with the show ...

David Coulthard and Lee McKenzie are to stay with the BBC's Formula One presentation team in 2012, it has been confirmed. The pair will remain at the corporation along with anchor Jake Humphrey next year, according to a post on the BBC Sport editors' blog. Ben Gallop, who is head of Formula One coverage at the BBC, wrote: 'Jake Humphrey will be leading our coverage from the F1 paddock, as he has for the past three seasons, and he'll have thirteen-time race winner David Coulthard alongside him, while Lee McKenzie will be back in place as pit lane reporter.' He also passed on his best wishes to Martin Brundle, who confirmed on Sunday that he is leaving the BBC to join Sky Sports F1 for the 2012 season. Coulthard, a former Grand Prix winner who has driven for McLaren and Williams, has been with the team since Formula One returned to the BBC in 2009. His original role as an analyst was expanded this season and he moved into the commentary box alongside Brundle, who replaced Jonathan Legard as lead commentator. McKenzie also joined the BBC's team in 2009. She became the first woman to present British television coverage of Formula One last year, covering for Humphrey while he was working at the Commonwealth Games. It is not yet clear whether analyst Eddie Jordan, pit lane reporter Ted Kravitz or BBC 5Live's lead commentator David Croft will stay with the corporation next year. Croft had been linked with a move to Sky to commentate alongside Brundle. Gallop also explained the rationale behind how the BBC's live races were selected as part of the controversial new joint rights arrangement with Sky. He said: 'Just to be clear, it wasn't the case that the BBC was simply able to select its preferred ten races to cover live - under the terms of our rights agreement, the allocation was decided through a negotiation with Sky, with each broadcaster able to prioritise specific choices within certain parameters.' Explaining that some of the races were chosen so as not to clash with next summer's Olympics coverage, Gallop added: 'The way the calendar works after the Olympics, the rest of the season on the BBC will effectively alternate between live and highlights races, so there is something of a pattern that viewers can follow. While we would obviously prefer to have all the races live, we still have significant airtime over the course of Grand Prix weekends to devote to F1.'

Still with the Olympics: along with a theme tune by Elbow, the BBC have also unveiled its Cultural Olympiad logo, which is a bit like the normal BBC branding, but in pink. 'It is the cultural colour,' explained Roger Mosey, the BBC's director of London 2012, helpfully. The colour-coded branding will accompany the whole of the BBC's coverage – orange for the seventy-day torch relay and gold for the Olympics itself. Elbow displayed a degree of self-awareness rare in pop music when discussing their selection to record the BBC tune. 'There was a big feeling of responsibility but also dead proud,' said lead singer Guy Garvey. 'Strange as well, with none of us really being athletic!'

Former EastEnders actress Samantha Womack has reportedly been lined up to judge the next series of Britain's Got Torment. Womack, who played Ronnie Mitchell in the soap, is said to have held 'secret talks' with 'ITV bosses' and is now 'on the shortlist' to join the panel. Well, they're not secret now, are they? 'Samantha is brilliant and the bosses love her,' an alleged 'source' allegedly told the Sun. So, this is almost certainly lies, then. 'She's hugely popular as ten million people watched her every week on EastEnders - and she's got a fair old mouth on her. She's not afraid to call a spade a spade, but she also has a down-to-earth approach that producers think will encourage acts. We don't just want the judges to slag people off.' David Walliams and Dannii Minogue have also been touted to join Britain's Got Torment, in recent days although the alleged 'insider' allegedly claims that the former X Factor judge Minogue would 'have to rely on Simon Cowell' to land the role. 'Dannii didn't even make the long list,' they allegedly told the alleged newspaper. 'She's only got a chance if Simon Cowell steps in and gives her the job.' ITV 'chiefs', the Sun claims, are searching for new judges after Michael McIntyre quit Britain's Got Torment and David Hasselhoff was, allegedly, given the tin-tack. Amanda Holden has confirmed that she will only be present for the live stages due to her pregnancy.
The Leveson inquiry into the culture, practice and ethics of the press has summoned a political blogger to give evidence after a document purporting to be the evidence of Tony Blair's former communications adviser, Alastair Campbell, was released on the blog three days before it was due to be heard. Lord Justice Leveson called on Paul Staines to appear before the inquiry to investigate how a version of Campbell's evidence – which included his fear that a newspaper may have hacked into his phone messages and into those of the then prime minister's wife Cherie Blair – came to appear on the Order-Order website, which Staines runs under the pseudonym Guido Fawkes. A statement on the inquiry website said that the judge was 'very concerned' to hear of the publication in spite of strict confidentiality agreements being in place. 'The website asserts that this statement was obtained by "legal means" but Lord Justice Leveson will be enquiring further into this claim and Mr Paul Staines will be required to give evidence pursuant to section twenty one of the Inquiries Act 2005,' it said. 'Witness statements are disclosed under strict confidentiality agreements in order that participants can prepare for the evidence; that confidentiality must be observed to maintain the integrity of the inquiry.' Campbell himself said on Twitter he was 'genuinely shocked someone has seen fit to leak my statement to Leveson.' Staines' website published extracts from what it claimed to be Campbell's evidence and a link to a document. It is understood that the evidence published may be an early draft which differs from what Campbell finally submitted to the inquiry. The inquiry said: 'In the interests of fairness to Mr Campbell and others, Lord Justice Leveson has directed (and Mr Campbell has agreed) that his statement, which had been amended slightly, should be published on Monday on the inquiry website.' Campbell was due to give evidence on Wednesday morning and has prepared a wide-ranging critique of the media, sections of which were extracted on the blog. The controversy comes at the start of the third week of hearings. Last week was dominated by the testimonies of Kate and Gerry McCann, the parents of Madeleine McCann, and Margaret Watson, from Glasgow, who told the inquiry how her son killed himself after reading derogatory articles about his dead sister. Actors Steve Coogan and Hugh Grant also took the stand along with JK Rowling and Sienna Miller. Appearingon Monday will be Chris Jefferies, the Bristol landlord who won massive libel damages from eight national newspapers after they ran inaccurate, defamatory and highly prejudicial stories about him following the murder of his tenant Joanna Yates in December 2010. The singer and presenter Charlotte Church will be questioned about the alleged phone-hacking of her family and the former TV presenter Anne Diamond will also speak. Diamond was involved in an acrimonious divorce from Mike Hollingsworth and their private lives were written about extensively by the tabloid press. Nick Davies, the Gruniad Morning Star journalist who has led the phone-hacking revelations, will be questioned ahead of former tabloid reporters, Richard Peppiatt and Paul McMullan. Peppiatt has confessed to making up stories while he was working for the Daily Lies. He has said he was ordered to do so and was paid a one hundred and fifty bonus when he did. McMullan is a former deputy features editor at the Scum of the World who has publicly defended phone-hacking and criticised Steve Coogan for 'bleating' about it in a memorable clash on Newsnight. Though Coogan got the better of the exchange by describing McMullen as both 'a risible individual' and 'morally bankrupt.' 'I think you are a walking PR disaster for the tabloids because you don't come across in a sympathetic way,' Coogan told him. And he was right.

Meanwhile, the private investigator at the heart of the phone-hacking scandal is due to appear in the high court later today as he attempts to secure protection from facing more civil proceedings against him. Glenn Mulcaire is appealing against a court ruling that he cannot rely on privilege against self-incrimination, meaning he does not have the power to refuse to answer questions put in civil cases. Currently, Mulcaire would have to reveal who asked him to provide details of voicemail numbers, as well as explain how he obtained voicemail numbers and passwords. Steve Coogan and PR consultant Nicola Phillips, a former employee of Max Clifford, have launched civil damages claims against News International, the former publisher of the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World. A raft of information was contained in notebooks handed over by Mulcaire to the police after he was jailed for six months in January 2007 for illegally intercepting the voicemails of members of the Royal household. Mulcaire, who was jailed alongside Scum of the World royal editor Clive Goodman, was said to have been contracted by the Sunday tabloid for 'research assignments' from late 2001. His appeal will be heard by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger and Lord Justice Maurice Kay in London. Last week, the high court heard claims that Mulcaire was involved in illegally tracking phone signals, in a process known as 'pinging', along with computer-hacking. However, the private investigator has denied claims that he deleted the voicemail messages left on the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, leading her parents to think she was still alive.

E4 has unexpectedly axed its comedy showbiz gossip show Dirty Digest after just three episodes. The comedy website Chortle says that it understands the broadcaster pulled the plug after being 'unhappy' with changes to the senior staff on the series, which is made by independent production house Running Bare. A Channel Four spokesman would not discuss the reasons for the sudden cancellation, but confirmed that the episode which went out last Thursday would be the last. Originally, eight shows had been commissioned. It was hosted by model and ITV Fashion Show presenter Michelle De Swarte, who also came up with the format, and featured BBC Switch presenter AJ Odudu, former Qi researcher Dan Schreiber and stand-up Joe Lycett discussing the week's showbiz trivia. All the regulars, except Lycett, are clients of John Noel Management, the sister company of Running Bare. An alleged 'source' allegedly 'close to the show' told Chortle: 'The crew were changed without prior warning, meaning there was complete new set of writers and producers. The talent quite rightly started wondering what was going on, and due to the complete mess created, Channel Four pulled the plug.' Next week's show has been replaced by a re-run of Chris Moyles' Quiz Night. Just in case you want to avoid coming across it by accident.

2011 continues to be a really rotten year for many of this blogger's heroes; they're currently going at a rate of knots. Dear old mad as toast Ken Russell, the film director, writer, Agent Provocateur and enfant terrible of the British film industry, has died at the age of eighty four. His son, Alex Verney-Elliott, said that Ken died in hospital on Sunday following a series of strokes. During a near-fifty year career, Ken became known for his controversial and often outrageous films including Women In Love, which featured Oliver Reed and Alan Bates wrestling nude and The Devils in which Ken had Ollie burned at the stake. So, as The Goodies once noted, 'he's clearly not all bad, then!' Not even close, as it happens. 'I know my films upset people. I want to upset people,' the filmmaker once infamously said. He also directed The Who's rock opera, Tommy, in 1975, a film which perfectly sums up Ken's entire career and, indeed, entire life. A bit pompous and overblown and so-far-over-the-top-it's-down-the-other-side. But also beautiful, righteous, thoughtful, intelligent and fucking entertaining! There is a moment in the BBC's late 1980s sequel to The Big Time, In At The Deep End in which presenter Paul Heiney is trying to learn how to become a director so that he can make a video with Bananarama. Someone has the bright idea of getting Mad Ken Russell involved. In the space of five minutes, Ken makes the suggestions that Heiney's test video of a young boy playing with a man in a teddy bear costume should include a) the boy pulling the bear's arm off and b) the bear dumping a large jelly that they're supposed to be eating on the boy's head. Mad Ken Russell, ladies and gentlemen. One of a kind! 'My father died peacefully, he died with a smile on his face,' Verney-Elliott said and, you sensed, that's pretty much how Ken Russell lived his life. Except for the 'peaceful' bit. Glenda Jackson, who gave an Oscar-winning performance in Women In Love and starred in a number of Russell's other films including The Music Lovers, told the BBC it was 'just wonderful to work with him as often as I did. He created the kind of climate in which actors could do their job and I loved him dearly.' Jackson added that she believed the director had been 'overlooked' by the British film industry, saying it was 'a great shame. It was almost as if he never existed - I find it utterly scandalous for someone who was so innovative and a film director of international stature,' she said. Joely Richardson, who starred opposite Sean Bean in Russell's acclaimed 1993 BBC TV series Lady Chatterley, said: 'I will forever feel privileged and honoured to have worked with the great Ken Russell. More than that, I was extremely fond of the man himself.' Film-maker Michael Winner hailed Russell's 'duplicity of mind', adding he had made an 'enormous contribution' to British cinema. 'He pushed the barriers completely and got away with it sometimes and didn't others, but he made some startling movies,' said. 'He had an eye for the composition of each image on the screen - a great eye for imagery and then, of course, he had a great idea for the grotesque.' Ken's friend and cultural commentator Norman Lebrecht said: 'Among many achievements that spring to mind, he made British cinema less insular and self-referential. He was also a leading creative force in the history of British television. He will be widely mourned.'
      The maker of some great films - and, as he would admit himself, some terrible ones as well - Ken was born in Southampton on 3 July 1927, the son of Ethel and Henry Russell, a shoeshop owner. His father was distant and violent man who, by all accounts, took out his considerable rage on his family. Ken, therefore, spent much of his time at the cinema with his mother. It was, he said, 'where I got my real education.' He would cite impressionist masterpieces like Die Nibelungen and The Secret Of The Loch as two early influences on him and the style he would later develop. Ken was educated in Walthamstow and at Pangbourne Navel College ('full of sadomasochists,' he later noted). He harboured a childhood ambition to be a ballet dancer but instead joined the Merchant Navy as a teenager. On one occasion he was made to stand watch in the blazing sun for hours on end while crossing the Pacific. His lunatic captain feared an attack by Japanese midget submarines despite the war having ended some years previously. A nervous breakdown ensued and it was during his recovery that he first heard Tchaikovsky on the radio, inspiring a lifelong obsession with the classical composers. After a spell in the Royal Air Force he became a photographer and first made amateur films while working for the magazine Picture Post. His series of documentary Teddy Girl photographs were published in the summer of 1955, and he continued to work as a freelance documentary photographer until 1959. An exhibition displaying some of his best photographic occurred during the summer of 2007 in London's Proud Galleries in The Strand. The exhibition, entitled Ken Russell's Lost London Rediscovered: 1951–1957, included over fifty limited edition prints from Ken's personal collection. Soon afterwards Ken's amateur films (his documentaries for the Free Cinema movement, and his 1958 short Amelia & The Angel which he made after converting to Catholicism) secured him a job at the BBC in the arts department under Sir Huw Wheldon, who became a major influence on his career. At the Beeb, he developed an increasingly eccentric style, what the film critic David Thomson described as 'an unbridled sense of pictorial madness and decay.' There, he worked regularly from 1959 to 1970 making often acclaimed but, as usual controversial, arts documentaries for Monitor and Omnibus. Among his best-known works from this period were: Elgar (1962), The Debussy Film (1965), Isadora Duncan, The Biggest Dancer In The World (1967), Song Of Summer (about Frederick Delius and Eric Fenby) (1968) and Dance Of The Seven Veils (1970), a film about Richard Strauss. Ken recently said that the best film he ever made was Song Of Summer, and that he would not change a single shot frame of it. The Elgar film proved to be particularly ground-breaking because it was the first time that an arts programme (in this case Monitor) had broadcast one long film about an artistic figure instead of a series of short items. It was the first time that re-enactments were used, meaning that Ken Russell has a justifiable claim to being the man who, effectively, invented both the biopic and the docudrama genres. Ken fought with the BBC over using actors to portray different ages of the same character, instead of the traditional photograph stills and documentary footage. His TV films became increasingly flamboyant and outrageous as the decade progressed. Dance Of The Seven Veils infamously sought to portray Richard Strauss as a Nazi: one scene in particular showed a Jew being tortured while a group of SS men look on in delight, to a soundtrack of Strauss's music. The Strauss family was so outraged that they withdrew all music rights and imposed a worldwide ban on the film which continues to this day. Ken's ground-breaking BBC work - he made over thirty films, in all - influenced many directors in British cinema in the 1960s, particularly Stanley Kubrick, who admired the settings for Russell's films, which he subsequently used for his own Barry Lyndon. The feeling, however, was not mutual, Ken once infamously describing Kubrick's films as 'boring (although I did quite enjoy Dr Strangelove!)' Ken's first feature film was French Dressing (1963), a comedy loosely based on Roger Vadim's ... And God Created Woman; its critical and commercial failure sent Russell scurrying back to the BBC. His second big-screen effort was much better, part of author Len Deighton's Harry Palmer spy cycle, Billion Dollar Brain (1967), starring Michael Caine. In 1969, Russell directed what he, himself, considered to be his 'signature film', Women In Love, a rollicking, bawdy adaptation of DH Lawrence's novel about two artist sisters living in post-Great War Britain. The film starred Glenda Jackson, Oliver Reed, Jennie Linden and Alan Bates and was notable for its homoerotic nude wrestling scene, which broke the convention at the time that a mainstream movie could not show male genitalia. Women in Love was a ground-breaking, highly intellectual film which connected with the sexual revolution and bohemian politics of the late-1960's. It was nominated for several Oscars, and won one for Glenda Jackson as Best Actress. Ken himself was nominated for Best Director (shamefully, his sole nomination) as were his cinematographer and screenwriter. The film is also notable for the BAFTA-nominated costume designs of Ken's first wife, Shirley Ann Russell, with whom he would collaborate throughout his 1970's prime. Reed said that when he worked with Russell on Women In Love, the director was 'starting to go crazy even then. Before that he was a sane, likeable TV director. Now he's an insane, likeable film director!' Russell enjoyed a short-lived prestige during this period, when he was praised as 'Britain's Orson Welles.' Known for his pioneering work and for his controversial style, he was often criticised for being overly-obsessed with sexuality and the Catholic church. Which made him less 'Britain's Orson Welles,' and more 'Britain's Pier Paolo Pasolini.' Only Ken made far better films! He followed Women In Love with a string of innovative adult-themed movies which were often as controversial as they were successful. The Music Lovers (1970), a biopic of Tchaikovsky, starred Richard Chamberlain in the flamboyant title role and Glenda Jackson as his wife. Russell won a reluctant United Artists around with the pitch that the film was less a biopic and more a lover story 'about a nymphomaniac who falls in love with a homosexual.' They immediately gave him the money! The score was conducted to great acclaim by André Previn. The film was a critical flop but, surprisingly, a huge box office success. The following year, Russell released the infamous The Devils, a film so controversial that its backers, Warner Brothers, still refuse to release it uncut. Inspired by Aldous Huxley's book The Devils Of Loudun, it starred Ollie Reed as a noble (if rather oversexed) priest who stands in the way of a corrupt church and state. Helped by publicity over the more sensational scenes, featuring (ahem) 'sexuality among nun's, the film topped British box office receipts for eight straight weeks. In America, the movie, which had already been cut for distribution in Britain, was further edited. It has never played in anything like its original state in the US. Film critic Alexander Walker described the film as 'monstrously indecent' in a television confrontation with Russell, leading the director to hit him with a rolled up copy of the Evening Standard, the newspaper for which Walker worked. That was Mad Ken all over - proving that the pen (or, the typewriter, anyway) is mightier than the sword! Just a couple of weeks ago, the British Film Institute announced they will release the UK-theatrical version of The Devils on DVD in March 2012. They were able to license the film from Warner Brothers, but were not permitted to use Russell's own 2004 'director's cut' restoration. Ken's next project was a reworking of the period musical The Boy Friend, for which he cast Twiggy, who won two Golden Globe Awards for her performance. The film was also heavily cut, shorn of two musical numbers for its American release, where, unlike Britain, it was not a big success. Russell himself provided most of the financing for Savage Messiah, a biopic of the artist Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, and he provided the producer David Puttnam with a rare box-office hit with Mahler, a movie which helped to make the career of Robert Powell. Russell himself refused to compromise. 'Reality is a dirty word for me, I know it isn't for most people, but I am not interested. There's too much of it about.' In 1975, Russell's astonishing, wildly overblown, hugely entertaining star-studded movie of Pete Townshend's rock opera Tommy starring Roger Daltrey, Ann-Margret, Oliver Reed, Elton John, Tina Turner, Eric Clapton and Jack Nicholson, played to full houses for over a year. Adapting the LP for the screen, Russell had Townshend add some new numbers to fill out the story and changed a key detail in the traumatic murder that Tommy Walker witnesses (leading to the child becoming deaf, dumb and blind). The film is Ken's masterpiece - an every day story of child abuse, drug addiction and murder - in which Oliver Reed sings (well, sort of), Ann-Margaret gets half-drowned in baked beans and Tina Turner pumps Daltrey full of acid before Keith Moon rapes him. It's extraordinary. 'This country is in a weird, feeble, grotesque state and it's about time it got out of it,' Ken said in an infamous TV rant whilst being interviewed by Russell Harty to promote the film and which can be seen in all its bonkers over-the-top glory in Jeff Stein's The Kids Are Alright. 'And the reason it could get out of is through rock music! I think that Townshend, The Who, Roger Daltrey, Entwistle, Moon could rise this country out of its ambient, decadent state more than Wilson and those crappy people could ever hope to achieve!' Two months before Tommy was released (in March 1975), Russell started work on Lisztomania, another vehicle for Daltrey, also featuring Ringo Starr and with a score by Rick Wakeman. One of Ken's aims with this wild comic-strip movie was to explore the power of music for good and evil. But whilst Tommy was a big hit then and has become of a cult favourite since, Lisztomania was and is considered too outlandish, even by many of Russell's biggest fans. The 1977 biopic Valentino, also topped the British box-office for two weeks, but it was not a hit in America, a theme which, sadly, was to affect Ken's career ever after. 1980's Altered States was a departure in both genre and tone, in that it is Ken's only foray into science fiction - a genre many felt he'd been born to be an auteur in. Working from Paddy Chayefsky's screenplay, Ken used his penchant for elaborate visual effects to translate Chayefsky's hallucinatory story to the cinema, and took the opportunity to add in some of his own trademark religious and sexual imagery. The film was also noteworthy for its innovative Oscar-nominated score by John Corigliano. But Ken's over-the-top behaviour on set, including a spectacular row with Chayefsky himself, caused him to become a virtual pariah in Hollywood after this. Russell's last American film, Crimes Of Passion (1984), with Anthony Perkins and Kathleen Turner, was seen as a failure, and Russell subsequently returned to work for the most part in Europe. After taking a break from film to direct opera, Russell found financing with various independent companies. During this period he directed the excellent Gothic (1986) with Gabriel Byrne and Julian Sands - a brilliantly surreal account of what may have occurred between Byron, Shelley et al during the weekend before Mary Godwin was inspired to write Frankenstein. The scenes where the cast are supposed to be hallucinating off their tits on laudanum are some of the most frightening anyone has ever managed in cinema history. Ken also made The Lair of the White Worm (1988) with Amanda Donohoe and Hugh Grant, based on a novella by Bram Stoker. Though dismissed at the time, both of these films are now considered minor cult classics of the horror genre. 1988 saw the release of Salome's Last Dance, a loosely adapted esoteric tribute to Oscar Wilde's controversial play Salome, which was banned on the Nineteenth Century London stage. The movie, in many ways, defines Ken's adult-themed romance with The Theatre Of The Poor and was also notable for the screen début of Imogen Millais-Scott as Salome. Ken finished the 1980s with The Rainbow, another DH Lawrence adaptation, a prequel to Women In Love. Glenda Jackson played the mother of her character in the previous film. It was a more subdued movie for Ken than usual and impressed the critics. It is widely regarded as his last 'personal film.' He had one more go at producing a big-budget Hollywood movie, 1990's The Russia House - a Tom Stoppard adaptation of John Le Carre's novel - starring Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer. Ken made one of his first significant acting appearances in the film portraying Walter, an ambiguously gay British intelligence officer who discomfits his more strait-laced CIA counterparts. A year later, Prisoner Of Honor allowed Russell a further opportunity to explore his abiding interest in anti-Semitism through a factually-based account of the Dreyfus Affair in France. The movie featured Richard Dreyfuss in the role of Colonel Georges Picquart, the French army investigator who exposed the army establishment's framing of the Jewish officer, Captain Alfred Dreyfus. Also in 1991, Russell directed his final film of note, Whore with Theresa Russell. It was, again, a highly controversial film and was given an NC-17 rating for its sexual content. The MPAA and the theatre chains also refused to release posters or advertise a film called Whore, so for this purpose the movie was re-titled If You Can't Say It, Just See It. Russell protested about his film being given such a harsh rating when Pretty Woman - released a few months earlier - had been given an R, on the grounds that Whore showed the reality of being a prostitute, whilst Garry Marshall's movie had 'glorified it.' Ken even tried his hand at music videos, making 'Nikita' for Elton John with whom he'd previously worked on Tommy. Many of Russell's later films were dismissed as too eclectic by critics and by the late 1990s he found it almost impossible to get funding for his work. But, Ken had become a celebrity by now: his notoriety and over-the-top persona attracting more attention than any of his recent projects. He became largely reliant on his own finances to continue making films. Much of his work post-1990 was commissioned for television, he contributed regularly to The South Bank Show. Prisoner Of Honor was Ken's final work with his old friend Oliver Reed; his last film with Glenda Jackson before she gave up acting for politics, was The Secret Life Of Arnold Bax. Mindbender (1996) was dismissed as propaganda for Uri Geller and Dogboys (aka Tracked) (1998) was unrecognisable as a Ken Russell film. In May 1995, he was honoured with a retrospective of his work presented in Hollywood by the American Cinematheque. Titled Shock Value, it was a retrospective that included some of Russell's most successful and controversial films and also several of his early BBC productions. Russell attended the festival and engaged in lengthy post-screening discussions of each film with the audiences and moderator Martin Lewis who had instigated and curated the retrospective. Ken's 1997 BBC documentary Ken Russell In Search Of The English Folk Song was a beautiful essay on a subject close to his heart.
     Turning to acting, Ken was fantastic in the Waking The Dead two-parter Final Cut in 2003 (playing, effectively, an exaggerated version of himself) and also appeared in Marple. He had a cameo in the 2006 film adaptation of Brian Aldiss's novel Brothers Of The Head. He also appeared in Colour Me Kubrick. From 2004, Ken was a visiting professor of the University of Wales, Newport Film School. He was also appointed visiting fellow at the University of Southampton in April 2007. His arrival was celebrated with a screening of the rare director's cut of The Devils hosted by the critic Mark Kermode, a huge admirer of Russell's work and a close friend during the later years of the director's life. Soon afterwards, Ken began production on his first full length film in almost five years, Moll Flanders, an adaptation of Daniel Defoe's novel, starring Lucinda Rhodes-Flaherty and Barry Humphries. But, a finished film failed to materialise. Also in 2007 Russell produced A Kitten For Hitler, a short film hosted by the website. Ken commented: 'Ten years ago, while working on The South Bank Show, Melvyn Bragg and I had a heated discussion on the pros and cons of film censorship. Broadly speaking, Melvyn was against it, while I, much to his surprise, was absolutely for it. He then dared me to write a script that I thought should be banned. I accepted the challenge and a month or so later sent him a short subject entitled A Kitten For Hitler. "Ken," he said, "if ever you make this film and it is shown, you will be lynched!"' 'This is not the age of manners,' Ken once famously noted. 'This is the age of kicking people in the crotch and telling them something and getting a reaction. I want to shock people into awareness. I don't believe there is any virtue in understatement.' Ken joined Celebrity Big Brother in January 2007, but left voluntarily within a week after an altercation with the odious Jade Goody whom he described as 'a guttersnipe.' Besides several books on film-making and the British film industry, Ken wrote A British Picture: An Autobiography in 1989. it was, as you'd expected, bombastic, defiant, wilfully obtuse and hilariously funny. In 2006, Ken and his fourth wife, Elise Tribble, lost almost everything when their home in the New Forest burned down. Ken was at a doctor's appointment when the fire at the Sixteenth Century cottage began, while Elsie was in the bath. As well as his home and belongings, including much of his archive of scripts, he also lost work on a number of ongoing projects. Among those paying tribute was the broadcaster and film critic Jonathan Ross, who tweeted: 'RIP Ken Russell. A film-maker of rare vision and unique talent. Also, a lovely man to spend time with.' Russell's widow Elise said that she was 'devastated' by her husband's death, which happened at their home in Lymington, Hampshire. She said: 'It is with great sadness that I can confirm that Ken Russell passed away peacefully in his sleep on Sunday afternoon. It was completely unexpected, as he was doing what he loved.' Ken is survived by Elise, and by eight children from his previous marriages, Xavier, James, Alexander, Victoria, Toby, Molly, Rupert and Rex.

A man with a ring stuck on his penis had to be cut free by ten firefighters, it has been reported. Two fire engines were called to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in London after staff were unable to remove the ring. It took the firemen twenty minutes to cut the ring off. Firefighters have been forced to carry out the procedure on two previous occasions, according to Metro. The most recent incident is just one of four hundred and seventeen involving people 'stuck in objects, machinery or furniture' that London firefighters have attended to so far this year. A reported thirty six people had to be freed from handcuffs, a man in Kingston upon Thames needed help after 'getting wedged in a child's toy car' and several people managed to get toilet seats 'stuck on their heads.' An ironing board and a DVD player were also among the unusual objects that members of the public have become 'entangled in.' Don't ask. Just, don't ask! Dave Brown, the brigade's assistant commissioner for operations and mobilising, asked the public to 'be more careful' and to 'avoid' getting into such 'ridiculous' situations that 'take up' firefighters time. 'These incidents are time-consuming, costly and take up the precious time of our crews who are then unavailable to attend other, potentially life-threatening emergencies,' he said.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, here's a little - if you will - stoned masterpiece from World of Twist. Groove. On.