Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Jesus Died For Somebody's Sins ... But Not Mine

The Great British Bake Off continued to rise in terms of its ratings on BBC2, briefly eclipsing BBC1's long-running medical drama Holby City, on Tuesday night. The BAFTA-winning cookery show - fronted by Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins - saw its latest episode watched by 4.3 million overnight viewers between 8pm and 9pm on Tuesday, including two hundred and eighty thousand on BBC HD. It had a five-minute peak of 4.9 million viewers. Holby City averaged 4.6 million viewers at the same time on BBC1. The Great British Bake Off beat ITV's retro documentary, Unforgettable: The Sweeney, watched by 2.2 million viewers also between 8pm and 9pm. BBC2's hit baking show has come a long way since it launched with an audience of two million viewers in 2010, beaten by Channel Four's Help! My House is Falling Down. Only four episodes into its latest sixteen-part run, it is already within a whisker of beating the 4.6 million viewers who watched the last series finale. ITV turned the tables on BBC1 in the 9pm drama stakes, with 4.7 million viewers for the concluding part of A Mother's Son, starring Hermione Norris and Martin Clunes. A Mother's Son beat the last turgid outing in the current series of BBC1's misery-fest Accused, starring John Bishop and Anna Maxwell Martin, and written by bitter old whinging Red Jimmy McGovern which was watched by 3.3 million viewers. Channel Four's Paralympics coverage beat the last part of BBC2 docusoap The Midwives, which finished with 2.3 million viewers between 9pm and 10pm, including ninety five thousand on BBC HD. It also had the better of The Rob Brydon Show, with 1.2 million between 10pm and 10.30pm. Overall, Channel Four's Paralympics programming, which extended from early evening to most of peaktime, helped boost the channel's all-day share of the audience to 9.4 per cent and to 10.4 per cent in peaktime between 6pm and 10.30pm. BBC1 led primetime with 19.2 per cent of the audience share, ahead of ITV's fourteen per cent and BBC2's 10.4 per cent.

The production company that makes The Great British Bake Off has broken BBC editorial guidelines by taking loan of Smeg fridges on the show. Rules state that 'proper payment' must be made to hire equipment visible on screen. The issue came to light after a single viewer - who seemingly had nothing better to do with his or her time - wrote a troublemaking letter to the Radio Times complaining of 'blatant product promotion.' I hope your mother's very proud of you, single viewer. The BBC said Love Production's loan agreement with Smeg did not meet editorial guidelines and was being revised for this series. It added that hire payments would now be made. The kitchen appliance firm has loaned the independent production company a number of new fridges for the past two series of the popular BBC2 cookery show. However, the corporation's guidelines say productions should 'not accept free or reduced cost products' in return for 'on-air or online credits, links or off-air marketing.' The BBC has asked Smeg to remove a notice from its website promoting its association with the The Great British Bake Off. A spokeswoman said during the course of a general review of the show the BBC found other supply agreements needed 'a clearer process. We are working with Love Productions to put in place additional measures to ensure that sourcing and supply of equipment is clear in relation to our guidelines and a consistent approach is adopted in future,' she said. The author of the Radio Times letter said he or she had counted the Smeg logo 'thirty seven times' during one episode. So, clearly, he or she hasn't got anything better or more productive to do with their time. The BBC said that the nature of the show meant it was 'inevitable' that some branded equipment would be seen in shot, but that efforts were constantly made to 'minimise product prominence' wherever possible.

The BBC's chief finance officer, Zarin Patel, is suing the arse off the Daily Lies for libel over two stories about the tax affairs of corporation staff. Sadly, she isn't also suing them for constantly printing crap made-up stories featuring wholly invented quotes from fictitious 'sources'. Patel is demanding much wonga in damages and 'a permanent injunction' over articles, headlined Dodge tax or face the sack! BBC tells its stars and Beeb con must stop, both published on 24 July. She claims that the articles falsely libel her as having 'connived' in plans to order BBC employees to dodge tax and save the corporation millions of pounds. The Daily Lies articles followed the row over the BBC's use of public service companies in July. The scheme, which is used by more than three thousand BBC freelancers, are perfectly lawful and allow the employee to pay lower rates of corporation tax rather than personal taxes. The BBC has insisted that the practice is not new and is endorsed by the government. Patel and David Smith, the BBC's head of employment tax, were questioned by the Commons public accounts committee about the legal tax route in July. In a claim form filed at the high court in London, Patel claims the stories 'exposed her to public scandal and contempt,' seriously injured her reputation, and caused her 'considerable stress and embarrassment.' She alleges that the Daily Lies leader article meant she 'had devised or connived in the BBC's deplorable practice of ordering its star employees, under pain of dismissal, to dodge tax by creating personal service companies so as to allow the BBC to save millions of pounds.' Patel wants Express Newspapers, the publisher of the Daily Lies, to pay her libel damages, legal costs and obtain a permanent injunction to prevent the claims being repeated. It is highly unusual for a top BBC executive to take individual legal action against a newspaper. She is using the BBC's in-house litigation department to sue the paper. The Daily Lies stories came two days after the Daily Scum Mail splashed on the same story, headlined BBC Tells Stars to Dodge Tax. That story has since been removed from the Daily Scum Mail website and the paper printed a - grovelling - apology to Patel on 26 July. A spokesman for Northern & Shell, the owners of the Daily Lies, declined to comment.
Scotland Yard has identified just over one thousand likely victims of Scum of the World phone-hacking by Scum of the World scum and is budgeting for this investigation and others into alleged illegal activities by journalists to last another three years, at a cost of about forty million quid. Sue Akers, the senior Metropolitan police officer with responsibility for the three interlinked investigations into alleged criminal wrongdoing by journalists, told the Commons home affairs select committee on Tuesday that the force had now concluded its efforts to contact more than four thousand seven hundred potential phone-hacking victims, of which one thousand and sixty nine were likely to have had their voicemail messages intercepted. Akers, who is retiring as a Scotland Yard deputy assistant commissioner in October, said that her role overseeing the three investigations will go to Stephen Kavanagh, a deputy assistant commissioner in the Met's territorial policing division. When pressed on how much longer the investigations would take, Akers replied that 'resources have been factored in for the next three years.' She also told MPs that the inquiries – Operation Weeting (into phone-hacking), Operation Elveden (illegal and corrupt payments to public officials) and Operation Tuleta (computer hacking and other breaches of privacy not covered by Weeting) – were budgeted to cost just less than nine million smackers this year, and in the region of forty million quid over four years. The Met later clarified the numbers, explaining that £8.9m was spent during the financial year 2011-12 on the three investigations plus Operation Appleton, Scotland Yard's 'response to the Leveson inquiry', including fees for legal representation. Combined budget forecasts for the four operations over the next three years are £14.23m for 2012-13, £10.94m for 2013-14 and £6.07m for 2014-15. Akers added that the Met had one hundred and eighty five officers and civilian staff working on the investigations – ninety six on Operation Weeting, seventy on Operation Elveden and nineteen on Operation Tuleta. Kavanagh is expected to add the role to his existing job in the territorial division, which is responsible for day-to-day, on-the-street policing across London. Akers is a DAC in the Met's specialist crime and operations division, overseeing specialist investigations. In her final appearance before the committee before she retires, Akers was asked if the investigations were now winding down. 'That's probably not how I would describe it,' she replied. She said that the phone-hacking investigation was now switching priorities, with the Met having attempted to make contact with all potential victims and eight people charged in relation to the Operation Weeting investigation. 'We are now prioritising getting cases through court. We have gone as far as we can on victim notification,' Akers added. She said it was harder to say how much longer Operation Elveden would take to complete, as the extent of the investigation into improper payments to police and other public officials depended on information provided by newspapers involved. Lord Justice Leveson's recommendations on the future of press regulation and any interventions by the information commissioner could also affect the length of the investigations, she added. Akers said the Met and Crown Prosecution Service would consider the likelihood of further criminal prosecutions. 'An exit strategy is one of the most difficult issues. In terms of the phone-hacking, it's perhaps easier to see an end because we now have people charged. That needs to take its course through the courts,' Akers said. 'In terms of the corrupt payments, that very much depends on the co-operation of the papers. If we're uncovering corrupt police officers we feel that we should continue to do that. But at some point there is an enormous amount of money being spent on this, a lot of police resource and post-Olympics we're going to be in very tight financial times.' She was asked by committee chairman, Labour MP Keith Vaz: 'Forty million pounds of taxpayers' money, half the people haven't actually been notified, only eight people have been charged, is that a concern to you?' Akers replied: 'No. I think that the fact that people have been charged under Weeting represents a success in our investigation. Elveden is still under consideration.' So far there have been twenty five arrests related to Operation Weeting, forty three in relation to Operation Elveden and eleven linked to Operation Tuleta. Akers said that as of 31 August the Met had identified a total of four thousand seven hundred and forty four potential or likely victims of phone-hacking by the Scum of the World. Of these, one thousand and sixty nine were 'likely victims' and six hundred and fifty eight had been contacted. But three hundred and eighty eight were 'uncontactable' and Scotland Yard had chosen not to contact twenty three others 'for operational reasons', Akers said. A further three thousand six hundred and seventy five people were 'potential victims', where a name and phone number had been found in evidence searched by the police. Of these, eighteen hundred and ninety four had been contacted but seventeen hundred and eighty one were uncontactable. Pressed on why the Met had been unable to contact almost two thousand two hundred potential or likely victims, Akers said that in many cases it was either because the mobile phone number was no longer in use, or was linked to a name that was so common that the police had been unable to identify an individual owner. 'We're dealing with material that is six years old, so lots of people don't have the same telephone numbers, people move on,' she added. 'It's very difficult this long after the event. There's a whole range of reasons why we haven't been able to contact them. We have to draw the line somewhere.'

Lord Justice Leveson will not produce his final report and recommendations on reforms for press regulation until early November such is the workload created by eight months of hearings, alleged 'sources' have allegedly indicated to the Gruniad Morning Star. This is slightly later than expected – and will be a year after the high court judge began public hearings with a star-studded cluster of witnesses including Hugh Grant, Steve Coogan and JK Rowling. It has been widely reported that Leveson would submit his report in October after the political party conference season but 'those familiar with the workings of the inquiry team' say that is now 'unrealistic.' Leveson closed the public hearings of the inquiry in July after ninety six days of witness testimonies on the behaviour of the press which started with the devastating testimonies of Milly Dowler's parents Bob and Sue Dowler and ended with the testimonies of newspapers, some of which pleaded for 'one last chance' at self-regulation and for Leveson not to cane them as they'd been 'led astray by older boys.' The appeals court judge promised to 'produce a report as soon as I possibly can' saying he recognised 'the urgency of the matter and the need to provide my views for the consideration of the government and all those interested parties speedily, so that decisions can be made as to the way forward.' The report is expected to be hefty, given the length of a round-robin letter Leveson recently sent to all newspaper groups warning them of potential criticism in his final report. That letter led to the editor of the Independent, Chris Blackhurst, claiming Leveson was 'loading a gun' against newspapers. He said the document, which is confidential, was a 'point-by-point demolition of the industry' and a 'damning indictment of my industry.' His remarks reportedly infuriated Leveson who had sent the letters under public inquiries legislation which obliges him to warn those who may be adversely criticised in his final report. He said he was 'disapppointed' that the letter was being openly discussed in the media and pointed out that they were designed to be one-sided. Leveson was appointed by David Cameron when the prime minister shat in his own pants when he realised how angry the British public were over the nefarious doings of the Scum of the World and ordered a public inquiry into press behaviour. He's almost certainly regretting doing so now.

Four of News Corporation's top executives have had their bonuses cut due to the adverse impact of the Scum of the World phone-hacking scandal, although chairman and chief executive billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch still pocketed more than thirty million dollars for the year to the end of June. The company's remuneration committee said in its review of News Corp's performance during the twelve-month period that Murdoch and other senior executives 'should share responsibility' for the impact of the scandal, including the closure of the disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World in shame and ignominy, the abandoned bid to take full control of BSkyB, and costs relating to phone-hacking investigations, litigation and settlements. This was balanced against News Corp's strong overall performance, which saw its share price rise twenty three per cent in the twelve-month period, and 'management's leadership of the significant efforts to address the issues arising out of the UK allegations.' But, due to the impact of phone-hacking, the remuneration committee decided to award only half the 'qualitative portion' of annual bonuses – equivalent to a third of the total – to Murdoch; chief operating officer Chase Carey; James Murdoch the small, deputy chief operating officer and David DeVoe, chief financial officer. The four executives collectively took home $27.2m in cash bonuses, down $6.3m on what they were paid the previous year. Ones heart bleeds for them.

Downton Abbey will return to ITV on Sunday 16 September at 9pm. The series three premiere date was confirmed by the broadcaster on Wednesday. Let's hope it's a tad better than the dismal second series. Created by Oscar-winning screenwriter Lord Snooty, the first series of Downton Abbey premiered on ITV in September 2010.

Touring musical Disco Inferno! has been cancelled after it was revealed that Tracy Beaker star Dani Harmer was leaving to join Strictly Come Dancing. Its producers claimed an investor withdrew when they learned Harmer had quit to take part in the BBC contest. However, a spokesman for Harmer said she had only signed up for Strictly after already leaving Disco Inferno!. A BBC spokesman said: 'We're delighted Dani is on board for Strictly and, when booked, was one hundred per cent available.' Harmer is the first celebrity to be confirmed for this year's Strictly. Writing on her Twitter account, the twenty three-year-old said: 'I would just like to send a massive apology to everyone that has booked tickets to see Disco Inferno! Unfortunately the tour has been cancelled. On behalf of all the cast thank you to all your amazing tweets from you guys who have seen and enjoyed it! We're all gutted.' She later posted: 'Looking forward to my next adventure. Can't wait to tell you all what I'm doing next. So excited.' A spokesman for the actress told the BBC News Website: 'We share the disappointment of Dani's fans that the Disco Inferno! tour was regrettably cancelled. 'But we're delighted that the BBC have offered Dani this exciting opportunity, which she is now able to confirm.'

The Thick of It creator Armando Iannucci has criticised the show's US remake. Iannucci worked with ABC on a revamp of the political satire in 2006, but told the Radio Times that the resulting pilot was 'terrible. The mistake is to think that because America has this tremendous influence internationally, therefore all Americans are brilliant,' said the writer. 'When we were doing the pilot of The Thick of It at ABC there were just scores of people working on it, all called "vice president this and that," and a lot of them were buffoons.' However, Iannucci praised US cable channel HBO, with whom he recently collaborated on new series Veep starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus. 'What has been great with HBO is that they are the opposite,' he said. 'What you realise is that they are people at the top of their game, and you are actually benefiting from their experience.'

British wheelchair racer David Weir claimed his second gold medal of the Paralympics with a world record victory in the T54 fifteen hundred metres. The thirty three-year-old's win was GB's twenty third gold of the games and ensured they remained second in the medals table ahead of Russia. Earlier, Sophie Christiansen won her third gold in London to take Britain to their best ever Paralympic equestrian medal haul of eleven. Swimmer Heather Frederiksen also retained her one hundred metres backstroke S8 title and Danielle Brown edged out Mel Clarke in an all-British women's individual compound open archery final as the host nation won four gold, five silver and seven bronzes on day six. Weir channelled all the support from his hometown crowd in the Olympic Stadium to sprint to victory in the final lap ahead of silver medal-winning Prawat Wahoram of Thailand and Gyu Dae Kim of South Korea, who took bronze. The Londoner, who now has four Paralympic titles to his name, and eight medals in all, will also hope to defend his eight hundred metres crown on Thursday before turning his attention to the T54 marathon on Sunday. The equestrian continued to be a source of success as Sophie Wells won her second silver of the games in the Grade IV freestyle dressage. The Lincoln-born rider led with 81.150 per cent but was overtaken by Belgium's Michele George. Taunton's Deb Criddle repeated her compatriot's feat in the Grade III freestyle dressage test. Their performances were overshadowed by Ascot's Christiansen as she finished nearly six per cent ahead of second placed Laurentia Tan of Singapore. Walsall-born Ellie Simmonds added to the two gold medals she had already earned in the Aquatics Centre with a bronze in the S6 fifty metres freestyle final. The seventeen-year-old only qualified fourth in the morning heats and had said she did not expect to end up on the podium again. David Devine got Great Britain's night in the athletics off to a medal winning start with a bronze in the T13 men's fifteen hundred metres final. The Liverpool-born runner put in a fantastic performance to finish behind Zhiou Abderrahim of Tunisia, who won with a world record three minutes 48.31 seconds, and Kenya's David Korir who attained the silver. His achievement was bettered by Dorchester's Paul Blake in the men's four hundred T36 final as he held on in the final straight to take silver behind Russia's Evgenii Shvetcov, who broke the world record with a time of 53.31 seconds. Britain's four by one hundred metres women's T35/T38 team took bronze but were forced to endure an agonising wait for the result to be ratified as the officials pondered whether the final handover between Katrina Hart and Jenny McLoughlin occurred inside the changeover zone.

On Wednesday Sarah Storey won her third gold medal of the 2012 Paralympics by defending her title in the C5 time trial at Brands Hatch. Storey, thirty four, can equal the modern British record of eleven Paralympic titles, held by Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and Dave Roberts, if she wins Thursday's road race. And ex-Formula One driver Alex Zanardi provided one of the stories of the games at Brand Hatch on Wednesday. The Italian, forty five, won gold on his Paralympic debut in hand cycling. Zanardi lost his legs in an accident while racing in a Cart event in 2001 but returned to car racing just nine months later, eventually retiring in 2009 after discovering hand bikes. Elsewhere, Welshman Mark Colbourne won his third medal of the games with silver in the C1 time trial. Zanardi beat second-placed Nobert Mosandl of Germany by twenty seven seconds to take the top medal in the H4 time trial. Storey began her Paralympic career at the 1992 Games as a fourteen-year-old swimmer. The Manchester-based cyclist narrowly missed out on a place in the gold-winning 2012 Olympic team pursuit team, but is now on course for a Paralympic clean sweep, having already claimed victory in the C5 pursuit and five hundred metres time trial in the Velodrome. She gave a dominant display on the road at Brand Hatch, saying: 'Having watched the success of the Olympic team on the road, Bradley [Wiggins] winning the time trial and Chris Froome getting the bronze medal, I just wanted to make sure I added my name to that list of success.'

Junk food advertising on television should be banned before the 9pm watershed in an effort to tackle soaring obesity rates among young people, the leader of Britain's children's doctors has urged. A clampdown on advertising foods high in salt, sugar or fat would help protect children from unwelcome and unhealthy 'commercial exploitation,' said Dr Hilary Cass, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, which represents eleven thousand children's health specialists across the UK. Existing regulations are 'too weak' and need to be overhauled, she said. 'Although they are trying to avoid junk food advertising around specific children's programmes, you've still got it around soaps and other programmes that children watch. So the only realistic way to do it is to have no junk food advertising before the watershed in any programmes at all. When children see the adverts they start nagging their parents to get them a McDonald's or whatever. They see something at 6pm on the telly and want a McDonald's that night. It's a similar thing to having sweets at the checkout – get to them then,' added Cass, a senior paediatrician at St Thomas's hospital in London who sounds like a right good laugh. The coalition should also impose 'immediate extra taxes' on highly-sugared soft drinks and examine the viability of 'fat taxes' to reduce consumption of unhealthy foods, she added. The Food and Drink Federation, which represents big food manufacturers, declined to comment. But Cass's plea was rejected by the Advertising Association, the industry's trade body. 'This call for a watershed ignores the academic evidence and risks overlooking the real causes of childhood obesity,' said Sue Eustace, its director of public affairs. 'Advertising in the UK has an exemplary record in complying with one of the strictest regulatory regimes in Europe, and is already playing its part with constructive changes to the volume, visibility and content of food ads.'

Sky Sports has announced a new three-year deal to live TV rights to American Football, extending its relationship with the National Football League into its twentieth year. The new agreement will bring coverage of more than sixty live games a season to satellite TV viewers in the UK across 2012, 2013 and 2014, including the International Series games at Wembley Stadium in October, the play-offs and the Super Bowl its very self. Alongside television, the multiplatform deal also includes rights to coverage across mobile, online and tablet devices. Financial terms were not disclosed. The new season will get under way on Sky with the opening game on Wednesday 5 September between the Dallas Cowboys and Super Bowl champions, the New York Giants. In all the next three seasons, Sky will broadcast two live primetime fixtures every Sunday at 6pm and 9.15pm on one of Sky Sports 1, Sky Sports 2 or Sky Sports 3, in both standard and high definition. The broadcaster will also show three Thanksgiving Day clashes and regular matches on Thursday nights. For the Play-offs and Super Bowl each season, there will be live coverage of every wild card, divisional and Conference Championship play-off match, plus the annual season ending Super Bowl.

As mentioned in yesterday's blog, dear blog reader, yer actual Keith Telly Topping - along with his good mate Geoff - went to see The Patti Smith Group at the Academy on Tuesday night. And terrific stuff it was too. Patti herself was in really good form. Funny, too - in fact, at several points it was difficult for her band to get her to shut up her 'between song' raps and just sing. She spent half the night giving out restaurant reviews to a couple of places she'd been to in Newcastle that day. The set was mostly the new LP with some greatest hits ('Redondo Beach', 'Pissing in a River', 'Because the Night' and a fabulous version of 'Gloria' which she dedicated to Pussy Riot). There was also a great bit where she let Lenny Kaye - still one of the world's best guitarists - and the band do a little three-song medley of some old punk and garage rock (Penetration's 'Night Time' and The Seeds' 'Pushin' Too Far' were two of the songs). Lenny also mentioned that last time he'd been in Newcastle he'd spent a winter here 'as the only American in town' producing someone 'when Kevin Keegan came down from a helicopter to save the team' and me and Geoff spent the rest of the night trying to work out what the LP was (five minutes on the Internet revealed it to be Martin Stephenson & The Dainties' The Boy's Heart in 1992). Anyway, we had to come away before the encores to get the last bus but - for the second time in a month - that's proved that yer actual Keith Telly Topping isn't too old to rock! And, neither  is Patti. So, this is today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day.