Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Transfixed To My Tee-Vee Station

Call the Midwife will broadcast a Christmas special on BBC1 this year, it has been announced. The BBC confirmed this week that the 1950s drama, which focuses on nursing nuns in the East End of London, will return to screens earlier than expected. Midwife, starring Miranda Hart, Jenny Agutter and Pam Ferris, was recommissioned after only two episodes following its huge viewing figures. BBC's drama controller Ben Stephenson said: 'Following its huge success, we simply couldn't resist treating audiences to a Call the Midwife special this year - our Christmas present for all BBC1 viewers.' Executive producer Pippa Harris said: 'As the nights draw in and Christmas approaches, the residents of Nonnatus House pull together to celebrate the season in their own very special way. Christmas celebrates one particular birth, and so it's especially fitting for BBC1 to pay a visit to these much-loved characters, whose daily lives revolve around the joys and tribulations of childbirth.' Created by Heidi Thomas, the period medical series broadcast its first run of six episodes from January on Sunday nights.

Downton Abbey's Brendan Coyle has said that shows like The X Factor give young people false hope. The actor, who plays crippled murderer Bates in the ITV drama, bemoaned the Wee Shughie McFee, the sour-faced Scottish chef off Crossroads series for creating a generation of youngsters unaware of their limitations. 'I would have loved to have been a footballer like my great uncle Matt Busby, but I knew quite early on that I wasn't going to make the grade,' Coyle said to the Radio Times. 'Luckily I was told by the age of thirteen that I wasn't good enough. That's not a bad thing. You see this X Factor generation of kids now who don't accept that they're not good enough.' Coyle also discussed the role that Downton Abbey has had on his career, revealing: 'I was offered the chance to play a lot of moody men.'

Ofcom has cleared Jeremy Clarkson's comparison of a Japanese car to The Elephant Man of breaching the broadcasting code, despite more than forty complaints - from people with, frankly, nothing better to do with their time - that it was 'offensive to people suffering from facial disfigurement.' And, to the massive disappointment of the various Communist lice-scum at the Gruniad Morning Star. Jezza compared a Japanese camper van hybrid to 'people with growths on their faces' in an edition of BBC2's Top Gear in February. The presenter deployed gestures as if he had a disability and slurred his speech in a way that seemed to mimic Joseph Merrick, the so-called Elephant Man, saying that the car looked like something you would not talk to at a party. Co-presenter Richard Hammond called it 'the elephant car.' Merrick, of course, has been dead for more than a century but that didn't stop the odious wretched Gruniad lice from trying to stir up a bit of trouble over the issue. The segment prompted complaints to the BBC and to media regulator Ofcom, including one from body disfigurement charity Changing Faces, which said that the comments were 'offensive' and 'likely to have a negative impact' on the way people with such disabilities were perceived. Ofcom received a total of forty one complaints. Ofcom assessed the complaints and decided that Clarkson's comments would not have 'exceeded the likely expectations of the audience' and was not a jibe designed to deliberately insult people with facial disfigurements but, rather, at a very famous dead person. Quite why they needed to do that when anyone with half-a-frigging-brain in their head - or, anyone who isn't a professional offence-taker - could have worked that one out for themselves is, at this time, unclear. 'Ofcom recognises that the comments were potentially offensive to individuals living with facial disfigurement,' said a spokesman for Ofcom. 'However, on balance we believe that they would not have exceeded the likely expectation of the audience, and any potential offence was justified by the context. We have informed the BBC of the issues raised by the complainants so they can be taken into consideration for future programmes.' It's jolly nice to see that even a government appointed quango, elected by no one, can get a decision right once in a while.

Channel Four is reportedly under investigation by Ofcom over its exclusive airing of the film trailer for Ridley Scott's SF film Prometheus. The broadcaster aired a special promotion around the exclusive trailer to capitalise on huge audience interest in the film, which marks Scott's return to the genre in which he made his mark with 1979's Alien and 1982's Bladerunner. Ofcom has launched an investigation into whether the promotion, which involved the trailer being broadcast and then Channel Four viewers being encouraged to book tickets, blurred the lines between 'advertising' and 'editorial' and broke the broadcasting code. Channel Four aired the trailer, which has been viewed almost 2.7m times on YouTube, during Homeland on Sunday 29 April. The trailer for the film, which is made by US studio Twentieth Century FOX, is preceded by a Channel Four voiceover saying that it was being shown to UK viewers as 'a joint initiative.' Channel Four encouraged viewer reaction on Twitter by promoting feedback using 'are you seeing this' hash-tag and subsequently broadcast tweets in the Homeland commercial break that followed the debut of the trailer. In both advertising breaks a Channel Four voiceover encouraged viewers to buy tickets and there was the broadcaster's logo in the background. Ofcom's rules on advertising and editorial separation come under what is called 'Costa,' the media regulator's Code on the Scheduling of Television Advertising. The relevant section in this case states that: 'Broadcasters must ensure that television advertising and teleshopping is readily recognisable and distinguishable from editorial content and kept distinct from other parts of the programme service. This shall be done by optical (including spatial) means; acoustic signals may also be used as well.'

The Loveable Rogues and Molly Rainford became the next acts to make it through to the Britain's Got Talent final on Tuesday night's show. London three-piece Loveable Rogues were the first announced act to head to the final, having won the viewers' vote following their performance of their own song 'Lovesick'. Rainford and the Twist & Pulse Dance Company were also voted by the public into the top three acts, with the judges' vote given to the eleven-year-old singer.

Just one day after it was claims that its days were numbered, ITV has said it is 'committed' to Inspector Morse spin-off drama Lewis. Author Colin Dexter told the Radio Times he thought ITV would 'probably do one more series,' adding that he did not think the character 'can go on much longer.' A sixth series of the drama starring Kevin Whately begins next week. ITV told the BBC it had already commissioned a seventh series. Dexter, who works as a consultant on the drama, said: 'The agreement is they won't put anything on telly without me seeing it. Sometimes we have to say it's not up to scratch.' The author criticised the first two series of Lewis as being 'ridiculously complex', but said that later episodes had 'got better.' The detective drama has been on ITV since 2006. Whately originally starred as the partner of the late John Thaw in Inspector Morse. The actor told the Radio Times in January he also thought the series might not last much longer. 'I'm now police retirement age this year, so the time is coming quite soon, I think,' he said, adding: 'You can definitely expect one more [series] next year, then after that, we'll see.' An ITV spokeswoman said: 'We have a series of Lewis due on screen later this month and a further series goes into production in June. We remain committed to Lewis.'
David Cameron reportedly texted well-known Cyrstal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks in the week that she quit as News International's chief executive over the phone-hacking scandal to tell her to 'keep her head up,' it has been claimed in an updated biography of the prime minister. In a sign of his closeness to some of the most controversial News International chiefs, Cameron told well-known Cyrstal Tipps lookalike Brooks that she would get through her difficulties, just days before she stood down. It has also emerged that he agreed to met her at a point-to-point horse race 'so long as they were not seen together', and that he also pressed the Metropolitan police to review the Madeleine McCann case in May last year following pressure from well-known Cyrstal Tipps lookalike Brooks. The prime minister then sent an intermediary to well-known Cyrstal Tipps lookalike Brooks to explain why contacts had to be brought to an abrupt halt after she resigned. The authors say the gist of that message was 'Sorry I couldn't have been as loyal to you as you have been to me, but Ed Miliband had me on the run.' The revelation comes in the week that Cameron's closeness to well-known Cyrstal Tipps lookalike Brooks will come under intense scrutiny when she gives evidence to the Leveson inquiry on Friday. It is not known whether precise details of her text exchanges will be published by the inquiry, but it is thought that at certain points well-known Cyrstal Tipps lookalike Brooks was in repeated daily text contact with the prime minister. The day before well-known Cyrstal Tipps lookalike Brooks's evidence session, her successor as Scum of the World editor Andy Coulson will also give evidence, including how he came to be appointed as director of communications for the Conservative party. Cameron has admitted that he and other politicians became 'too close' to many newspaper proprietors and executives. Following a ruling by the Leveson inquiry last week, the prime minister is being given early access to the evidence being submitted to the inquiry. He will be studying her evidence and preparing a counter-strategy. The evidence of the text comes in a revised biography of Cameron written Frances Elliott and James Hanning and titled Cameron: Practically a Conservative. The book also claims that the Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin acknowledged that the clutch of News International bosses such as well-known Cyrstal Tipps lookalike Brooks could be' very demanding.' He is quoted by the authors as saying: 'If you are on the same side as her, you have to see her every week. This was how it worked.' Letwin, the Cabinet Office minister, told the authors how the Conservatives viewed well-known Cyrstal Tipps lookalike Brooks. 'The realpolitik is that you have to get on with people who run newspapers. Labour did the same. If you are on the same side as her, you have to see her every week. This was how it worked. It was what was demanded if you wanted them on your side. All of us should have said, "We'll have nothing to do with them and we'll only meet them when we absolutely have to." But the problem with that is if the other guy is doing it, it's an arms race. I don't think this was a love affair based on a misjudgment. I think it was a carefully calculated view of what you had to do in order to carry the people onto our side. That game is over, thank God.' In a further sign of the relationship between well-known Cyrstal Tipps lookalike Brooks and Cameron the authors claimed that as Cameron prepared for a meeting with her, Ed Llewellyn, his chief of staff, told him: 'Your turn next, Dave. Wear kid gloves.' The book also claims that royal courtiers told Cameron's team that Buckingham Palace would 'think poorly' of a decision to take Coulson into Downing Street. They had previously been pacified by the understanding that he would leave Cameron's side after the election. Downing Street sources told The Times that the decision on the McCann case had been taken on its merits. 'This was something the Government believed in. Just because a newspaper champions a cause doesn't mean it's not the right thing to do.' Alleged 'sources' allegedly close to well-known Cyrstal Tipps lookalike Brooks allegedly told The Times that she would not be commenting ahead of her appearance before Lord Leveson.

Meanwhile, ex-Scum of the World editor Coulson has been told that he can appeal against a court ruling that his former employer does not have to pay his potential legal costs in the phone-hacking affair. Coulson had claimed News Group Newspapers was liable. Coulson was arrested in July 2011 - several months after he resigned as David Cameron's director of communications - over the phone-hacking allegations and released on bail. He has denied any wrongdoing. In the Court of Appeal on Tuesday, judges said Coulson had 'an arguable case' which should go before three judges at a full one-day hearing, for which no date was set. Coulson wants a declaration that NGN, which stopped reimbursement in August last year, 'must pay the professional costs and expenses properly incurred' by him 'in defending allegations of criminal conduct' during his tenure.

The private investigator at the heart of the phone-hacking scandal has denied that he is 'protecting' News International by fighting an order to reveal who at the Scum of the World instructed him to intercept voicemails. Glenn Mulcaire described as 'completely wrong' any claim he is defending his former employer with the legal challenge, which began a three-day hearing at the supreme court in London on Tuesday. Mulcaire is challenging a court order to reveal who at the Scum of the World told him to hack the phone of Nicola Phillips, the former PR consultant to Max Clifford. The private investigator is claiming 'privilege against self-incrimination' in refusing to disclose the information, which would include naming the journalist or journalists he allegedly passed the hacked messages on to. In a statement released shortly before the supreme court hearing on Tuesday, Mulcaire said: 'This appeal is being heard because I have been advised by my legal team from the outset that I should not have to give potentially incriminating answers to questions asked of me in the phone-hacking cases in the high court. I bring it for no other reason. All the steps taken by my legal team in respect of the civil claims against me are to protect my legitimate legal interests. Any suggestion that I am bringing this appeal, or defending the civil claims, to protect the company I used to work for, or any one at that company, would be completely wrong.' Mulcaire's counsel, Gavin Millar QC, told the supreme court that the recent Commons culture, media and sport select committee report on phone hacking implied that the private investigator was challenging the original November 2010 order to protect News International from further damaging revelations. 'The decision to pursue this appeal is Mr Mulcaire's and his alone,' Millar told five senior law lords at the supreme court. In his opening arguments, Millar said Mulcaire wanted to know when he is able to rely on privilege against self-incrimination and when he cannot. He added that Mulcaire would comply with any court order where he is not able to claim the legal privilege. Much of Tuesday's two-hour hearing involved complex legal argument about whether the voicemail messages hacked from Phillips's mobile phone could be classified as 'intellectual property' within section seventy two of the Senior Courts Act 1981. If the supreme court rules that this information does fall within the relevant section, Mulcaire will lose his privilege to self-incrimination and finally be forced to hand over the information. The private investigator has now challenged two earlier rulings by the high court, on 17 November 2010 and 25 February 2011, and the court of appeal, on 1 February 2012, which all found that the hacked voicemails are 'confidential, commercial and/or personal information' and covered by section seventy two. Millar told the supreme court that the more recent court of appeal ruling was 'too broad. At the widest scope of the court of appeal ruling you could catch all sorts of information that doesn't bare any semblance to intellectual property, and that's the problem with it,' he said. 'I am not pretending that these are easy questions, but this is a difficult case which has thrown up difficult questions of construction.' The appeal relates to cases brought by actor Steve Coogan as well as Phillips, who made the applications in their claims for breach of confidence against both News Group Newspapers and Mulcaire himself, whom NGN had exclusively retained. Mulcaire was jailed in January 2007 for phone-hacking after he admitted unlawfully intercepting voicemail messages received by three royal aides. He was also convicted of hacking the phones of a number of other public figures, including Max Clifford and actress Elle Macpherson. In July 2011, allegations emerged that he had also hacked into murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's mobile phone and had the phone numbers of relatives of service personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was rearrested on suspicion of conspiracy to hack voicemail messages and perverting the course of justice in December 2011, and was released on bail. The supreme court hearing continues on Wednesday afternoon.

George Michael has claimed that he rejected a request to testify at the Leveson inquiry, branding the investigation into phone-hacking and media standards 'bullshit.' The singer and convicted drug addict made his remarks in a series of tweets on Tuesday morning, ranting about Rupert Murdoch, David Cameron, phone-hacking, the Daily Scum Mail and the allegedly 'sham' system that, he claims, has failed to jail any journalist for criminal activities apart from the royal editor of the Scum of the World, five years ago. Michael started his tweets 10am by criticising the Daily Scum Mail for not covering remarks he had recently made in defence of gay teenagers. He then moved to Murdoch: 'Who by the way, has been called "unfit" to run a major media company by MPs. Understatement of the year?' Then Michael laid into the Tories over two sequential tweets: 'And it's so funny that the Conservatives in government are defending him! Trying to cover their arses when those lily-white buttocks of theirs are already on display for the whole world to see. Cameron must be the most cowardly PM we've seen for decades.' Michael also claimed the Leveson inquiry wanted to hear from him: 'One last thing. I was asked to talk to the Leveson inquiry but I declined. It's all bullshit.' A spokeswoman for the inquiry said: 'The inquiry has never asked George Michael to appear.' However, the added, he may have been asked by his solicitor if he wanted to volunteer to give evidence. Most witnesses who have appeared in the last four months have effectively been subpoenaed to appear at the inquiry after being served section twenty one notices under the Inquiries Act 2005. 'You have an obligation to appear if you get one of these notices,' said an alleged 'source' allegedly close to the inquiry. However, it is believed that most of the phone-hacking victims who testified when the inquiry opened last November including Hugh Grant, Sienna Miller and Charlotte Church, volunteered to appear. Michael has had something of a love-hate relationship with the press ever since he was arrested for lewd conduct in a Los Angeles toilet in 1998. He continues to enjoy a successful solo recording career, but it is his behaviour off-stage that has made him a tabloid target. His anger towards the press was never far from the surface on Twitter on Tuesday. 'It has been several years since two hacking journalists were sent to prison for bugging the royal family.' Actually, only one journalist - Clive Goodman - and one hacking private detective - Mulcaire - have been jailed for their hacking naughtiness. Yet. 'They remain the only people who have been tried in the criminal courts. After all these years, and all the crimes committed by journos, editors, the police force and MPs. The bewst [sic] can do is "enquiry" after "inquiry" and no actual criminal prosectiions [sic],' he said. 'Why on earth are the rights of the royal family more important than those of Milly Dowler's parents, or any of the hundreds of people whose lives have been violated by the press?' Michael also criticised politicians for allegedly not pursuing journalists with more vigour in the courts. 'Shame on our political system for it's [sic] refusal to take this further. The day they make this sham real and start genuinely prosecuting people.' There are almost fifty phone hacking victims registered as core participants in the inquiry. It is not known if Michael's phone was ever hacked but he is not among the new batch of civil litigants who are currently suing News International for alleged breach of privacy in relation to interception of voicemail.

ITV has ordered a new 'sports-based entertainment show' hosted by Vernon Kay. Let's Get Gold will run in summer 2012 for three episodes, stripped across consecutive nights. Oh Christ, that'll be worth watching, then. The series will see sporting teams from across the UK battle it out, to impress a panel of celebrity pundits and sports stars. Across the three nights, fifteen teams will compete to transform their sport into the most spectacular and entertaining routine. 'With the Olympics just around the corner and sport fever hitting the UK, this show provides the stage for local sporting teams to show off their skills and sporting prowess in breathtaking performances,' said Kay. The winning team will be rewarded with a one hundred thousand knicker prize and will be judged on their technique, skill and athleticism, as well as their creativity, style and flair. Kay added: 'With a huge cash prize up for grabs and an all-star panel of famous pundits from the worlds of showbiz and sport, this series promises to be the ultimate sporting battle.' Let's Get Gold was devised by Sebastian Scott and developed by Superhero TV. The show is a Superhero/Thames co-production.

The Stone Roses may be forced to perform without Reni this summer it has been claimed. The musician is rumoured to be 'too ill' to reunite with his band mates for their upcoming comeback shows at Heaton Park and beyond. Dodgy drummer Mathew Priest made the claims during an interview on XFM, saying: 'I bought tickets because The Roses were one of my favourite bands and Reni was playing. But I've heard rumours that Reni might not be playing - he's not well apparently and they're rehearsing with another drummer. They've sold a lot of the two hundred and fifty thousand tickets because of Reni - I'd want to see them with Reni.' However, a spokesperson denied the comments, stating: 'The Stone Roses are currently rehearsing for their forthcoming dates. All four members can't wait to play the shows.' The Roses announced that they would be reforming last year and later signed record deals in the UK and the US for new material.

Bill Miller has withdrawn his bid for Glasgow Rangers, blaming fan opposition and 'fresh information' that revealed 'the seriousness of the club's finances.' But administrator Duff & Phelps say that there are three other bids on the table - one from the UK and two from overseas. American trucking tycoon Miller had been named as the 'preferred bidder' last week. But he has now said that 'preliminary information' given by Duff & Phelps was 'more optimistic than reality' and he is no longer pursuing his offer. 'As soon as I was announced as preferred bidder for Rangers, my team began to press ahead with our due diligence,' said Miller in a statement. 'Until then, information had been limited to what was made available in the Internet data room and questions addressed to the administrators and their staff. In addition, I had preliminary discussions with the Scottish footballing authorities and limited discussions with Ally McCoist. Upon being named preferred bidder, discussions with Rangers staff started and discussions with all interested parties intensified. By late Monday night, it became clear to me that preliminary information, discussions and analysis were, unfortunately, more optimistic than reality.' The American had yet to visit Scotland following his bid for the club but turned in his statement to the reaction from some Rangers fans, who displayed anti-Miller banners at last week's game as McCoist's side beat Dundee United. 'Having no intention of negatively affecting the potential outcome of the club's future, and after hearing the message from Rangers supporters and fans loud and clear ("Yank go home!"), I notified the administrators today that I have withdrawn my bid for Rangers and will not be moving forward,' he said. Jon Pritchett, chief executive of Club Nibe Sports, had been advising Miller and revealed that the American businessman had received 'vitriolic' e-mails from some fans. 'There are big legacy costs as a result of doing things poorly over a number of years, structural and commercial problems,' Pritchett explained. 'It would be a hard time turning things around and implementing structural changes and discipline. Such changes would have made Bill very unpopular given the way things have operated. Even after Bill announced his austerity measures last week there were people within the club asking how much money was available to be spent. It would take a fairly large amount of money to keep it from dying. The second factor is some of the contingency liabilities: are the players coming or going? What are the final decisions with regard to the SFA and SPL and sanctions? The third factor was more about the environment. It was a fairly inhospitable environment for Bill. He was getting hundreds of e-mails every day - vitriol and expletive-filled. Bill felt like it was a pretty unwelcoming environment. He would have had to do a lot of things that would make him less popular.' Bids from Sale Sharks owner Brian Kennedy, the Blue Knights led by former Rangers director Paul Murray, a Far East consortium led by Singapore-based businessman Bill Ng and a mystery German consortium had already been discounted by Duff & Phelps. Kennedy, who had backed the Blue Knights then Miller after his own offer was rejected, held talks with Craig Whyte over the weekend about a transfer of the owner's shares to smooth any proposed takeover. However, it is believed that neither Kennedy nor the Blue Knights are among the other bidders to have now come forward, one of which is thought to be worth close to the £11.2m being offered by Miller. Joint administrator David Whitehouse said: 'Since Mr Miller was announced as preferred bidder on Thursday of last week, it is regrettable that more progress could not be made to further the sale of the cub. We have been informed by his advisors that there were a number of issues with which he felt uncomfortable, including legacy contracts, the limitation of potential revenue streams and the expectation of required investment. As in any company takeover, the selection of a preferred bidder does not guarantee the completion of the sale. In this case, with time and money for Rangers running out quickly, it was essential to move the process forward with urgency. Mr Miller's bid was deliverable to creditors and was the only deliverable bid on the table at that time. We had no other unconditional bid. Given the fact that Mr Miller did not enter into an exclusivity agreement, we informed all other known potential bidders at the time the door was not closed. As a consequence of Mr Miller's bid being accepted, three other bidders have come forward to express their interest in buying the club and these offers are being evaluated with the utmost urgency. There is every opportunity for these bidders to now complete the purchase of the club prior to the end of the season.'

How nice it was to see that Moscow Chelski FC sent their Girls Under Fourteens Second XI along to Anfield last night to take part in their 4-1 'surrender before kick-off' against the Liverpool Alabama Yee-Haws.

More than Twenty football clubs are to be informed that they are facing investigation as an Italian inquiry into match-fixing reaches a new phase. The Italian football federation said sixty one people, including fifty two active players, would also be told they will have to answer questions over the allegations. More than thirty arrests have been made in investigations into match-fixing over the past year in Italy. Prosecutors are studying suspicious results in thirty three matches. The probe could lead to another damaging trial, similar to the one in 2006 which saw Juventus relegated to Serie B and other major clubs suffer points reductions. The BBC's Alan Johnston in Rome says that prosecutors have, for many months, been looking at allegations that players have collaborated with underworld gambling interests to manipulate results. He says most of the games involved were in the second division but some in the prestigious top flight - Serie A - have also been tainted by the scandal. Andrea Masiello, a former player for the southern club Bari, recently admitted to scoring an own goal in return for tens of thousands of Euros. At the time, last season, his side were still in the top division. Of the sixty people, over fifty are players, two being described as 'non-active' (presumably, now retired), four are club officials and three are coaches. In other high-profile cases, former Italy player Cristiano Doni was banned for three-and-a-half years while Giuseppe Signori was banned for five years for their part in the Calcioscommesse' match-fixing and betting scandal.

And so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. Which, today, features a Panorama-style investigation into the worlds of Italian football, politics, corruption, sex, drugs and rock and roll from Pop Will Eat Itself.