Friday, November 30, 2012

You Never Take Advice, Someday You'll Pay The Price

So, to sum up then: He set up the Leveson Inquiry in the first place, in an effort to placate widespread - righteous - public fury at the excesses of the press. He was on record as saying there could be 'no more last chances' for the press. He was on record as saying that the test for any change was whether it 'satisfied the victims.' And yet David Cameron has - seemingly - on first sight of the final report rejected the central recommendation of Lord Justice Leveson - that a new law is essential to underpin a new stronger press regulator. Minutes after he did so, the prime minister swapped places with his deputy, Nick Clegg, who took the unprecedented step of making his own separate Commons statement saying exactly the opposite - that only a new law could guarantee the independence of any press regulator. Given that this is the view shared by the Labour leader, yer actual Ed Milibmolimadi, there is now - at least, in theory - a pro-Leveson parliamentary majority made up of Labour, the Liberal Democrat and dozens of Tory MPs who don't agree with their leader's stance. However, even though they could defeat and embarrass Cameron (possibly fatally from a party political point of view), such a coalition could not force a new press law into being since it is the government which controls the parliamentary time needed to pass new legislation. The prime minister knows that he has given his opponents yet another stick - covered, in Charlie Brooker's immortal words, in shit - to beat him with. He also knows, however, that the biggest self-interest group imaginable, the press themselves, are firmly on his side even if the public are not. His hope is that the pressure he is under will be somewhat relieved if newspapers swiftly (he hopes) set up the new self-regulator they've, supposedly, been working on - adapted to meet (some of) the principles set out in Leveson's report. Until this happens, however, Cameron will have plenty of time to wonder if picking up the phone to Sir Brian last summer was really such a good idea in the first place.
The press has been urged to 'take action' over Leveson Inquiry recommendations to regulate the newspaper industry. Lord Justice Leveson called for a new independent watchdog - which he said should be 'underpinned by legislation.' The lack of culture secretary the vile and odious rascal Miller told the BBC 'the gauntlet has been thrown down' to newspapers to outline how they would set up tough self-regulation instead. Meanwhile, work is beginning on a draft bill to regulate the press, expected to be ready within a fortnight. Leveson's two thousand-page report into press ethics, published on Thursday, found that press behaviour was 'outrageous' and 'wreaked havoc with the lives of innocent people.' It's a great read incidentally, dear blog reader. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping is up to page two hundred and seventy six already. I can't wait to get to the end and find out who dunnit. Leveson said the press - having failed to regulate itself in the past - must create a new and tough regulator but it had to be backed by legislation to ensure it was effective. The report exposed divisions in the coalition government, with David Cameron rejecting the idea of statutory control, unlike his deputy Nick Clegg, who wants a new law introduced without delay. Speaking in the Commons, Cameron weaselled that he broadly welcomed Leveson's 'principles to change the current system' but that he had 'serious concerns and misgivings' over bringing in laws to underpin any new body. Labour leader Ed Milimolimandi has joined Clegg in supporting a new press law. Following cross-party talks on Thursday night - which will resume next week - the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will begin the process of drawing up a draft bill implementing the Leveson recommendations. The prime minister believes this process will only serve to highlight how difficult it is to try to legislate in a complex and controversial area while Labour and the Lib Dems believe it will demonstrate the opposite. Speaking on BBC Breakfast, the vile and odious rascal Miller said: 'Our concern is that we simply don't need to have that legislation to achieve the end of objectives and in drafting out this piece of legislation what we are going to be demonstrating is that it wouldn't be a simple two-clause bill.' She said Conservative ministers felt that legislation 'would actually give the opportunity in the future to bring into question the ability of Parliament to stay out of the issue of free press and difficult for Parliament to not have a statutory framework on which they could hang further bits of legislation.' She went on: 'At this point what we should be focusing in on is the fact that the gauntlet has been thrown down to the industry. The press industry need to be coming back with their response to the Leveson report. Their response to how they're going to put in place a self-regulatory body that adheres to the Leveson principles and that is what I want to see moving forward swiftly.' Many of Friday's newspapers arse-lickingly slavvered all over Cameron's metaphorical opposition to law-backed regulation. But the father of Madeline McCann - the young girl who went missing in Portugal in 2007 - said Lord Justice Leveson's recommendations for press regulation did not go far enough. Gerry McCann, who was the subject of 'unbelievably damaging' newspaper allegations and innuendo which suggested that he and his wife killed Madeline, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'Full implementation of Lord Leveson's report is the minimum acceptable compromise for me and, I think, for many other victims who have suffered at the hands of the press. Without statutory underpinning, this system will not work.' Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman told BBC2's Newsnight: 'I think that the House of Commons will want to take that forward, will want to make sure that - by the end of January - it has an opportunity to have a full debate and vote to show its support for taking Leveson's recommendations forward.' BBC political correspondent Iain Watson said that, at the core of this disagreement, were two separate political calculations. Cameron believes the press will swiftly agree to tougher self-regulation which would make any new law unnecessary, allowing him to go into the next election as a champion of a free press. Labour and the Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, do not trust the papers to clean up their own act and assume the victims of press intrusion will say they are being sold short. Or, to put it another way, which is most likely to win one the next election - the support of the Daily Scum Mail and the Sun, or the support of the Dowler and McCann families. Because, seemingly, you can't have both. Writing in the Gruniad Morning Star, the actor and activist Steve Coogan - who told the Leveson Inquiry that journalists had gone through his rubbish bins in search of a story - said Cameron was 'playing a despicable political game - disingenuous at best, bare-faced lying at worst. By rejecting Leveson's call for statutory regulation, Cameron has hung the victims of crime out to dry.' He added: 'Quite simply, if future regulation is not backed by statute, Leveson's report is nothing more than a large slap on the wrist.' Coogan is a supporter of the Hacked Off campaign, which represents victims of phone hacking and press intrusion including the parents of Madeleine McCann, and Christopher Jefferies - who was falsely accused of murdering Jo Yeates. Another phone-hacking victim, Charlotte Church, told BBC1's Question Time 'all that the statutory underpinning should be able to do is make sure that there is a body, that those rules are enforced, and I don't see any way in which that can affect the free press.' Jefferies told BBC News the Leveson recommendations 'are proportionate, reasonable and entirely workable and I can see no reason at all why the prime minister should feel there is any part of the recommendation that he's unable to implement fully.' He added: 'It seems to me to be quite unacceptable that there should be cherry-picking in this way. The damage is already done in my case, and although I did get some redress, that experience will live with me forever, arrangements should be put in place to ensure that nobody in the future is put into the position that I was put in.'
Police whistleblowers have been warned against going to journalists with stories in the Leveson report, which advises officers to seek out other 'confidential avenues in which they may have faith,' such as the Independent Police Complaints Commission. The report calls for 'a clampdown' on press-police relations, with a record kept of meetings between police chiefs and journalists and tighter curbs on media briefings. Leveson's words on police whistleblowers warning the public through the media about wrongdoing will cause concern to some, claims the Gruniad Morning Star. But, no one that actually matters. Leveson writes: 'There remains an important point of principle which I need to come back to; that information which is confidential should remain so, unless there really are exceptional circumstances justifying the placing of that information into the public domain. Additionally, and looking at this more widely, the ends do not usually or, at least necessarily, justify the mean.' The report also says the term 'off-the-record briefing' should be scrapped. Instead there should be 'non-reportable briefing,' to inform reporters about things which cannot be used in reports, and a 'embargoed briefing' when reporting of the content needs to be delayed. Leveson also says: 'There are many respects in which off-the-record briefings operate against the public interest, but in some, the public interest will be well-served.' The report does not recommend a blanket ban of officers 'chatting with reporters over drinks,' but suggests that the dangers should be set out by police chiefs. Leveson says it was 'perception' that caused so much damage to the police's reputation: 'Ultimately, problems of perception lie at the heart of the public concerns regarding the police investigation into phone hacking up to January 2011. What is inescapable is that the harm to the reputation of the Metropolitan Police Service in general and certain individual police officers in particular has been immense.' Boris Johnson who has nominal oversight of the Metropolitan police said they would 'clearly' remain part of the way the media go about their business. The report notes opposition from some to the proposal for contacts to be recorded. John Twomey, of the Crime Reporters Association, said any requirement for officers to record contact with journalists would 'have kind of a freezing effect,' in his evidence to Leveson.

Among the biggest winners and losers after Lord Justice Leveson's sixteen-month inquiry were the following:-

  • Billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch – heavily criticised.

  • Murdoch failed to react when evidence of 'casual and cavalier' journalism on the disgraced, disgraceful and now defunct Scum of the World emerged through the Max Moseley privacy case. Leveson said the fact Murdoch had not bothered to read the legal judgment - or, at least, claimed not to have - 'says something about the degree to which his organisation engages with the ethical direction of its newspapers.' However, Leveson also recognised that the media magnate has 'undeniable business acumen,' and is 'an iconoclast in a number of respects' with 'immense power.' Although, so was Hitler, if it comes to that. Leveson found that Murdoch's power was 'largely implicit' and politicians 'knew exactly what they were doing' when they met him. 'It is the without having to ask which is especially important here. Sometimes the very greatest power is exercised without having to ask because to ask would be to state the blindingly obvious.' He adds: 'Just as Murdoch's editors knew the basic ground rules, so did politicians.

  • David Cameron - cleared.

  • Leveson rejected the suggestion that the Conservatives 'agreed a deal' with News Corp on its bid for BSkyB. But Leveson also acknowledges the prime minister's expression of regret that he and other politicians became 'too close' to senior media figures. 'The problem is not unique to any individual politician or any one political party,' Leveson said.

  • Andy Coulson - no judgment.

  • With three lots of legal proceedings against Coulson still active - charges which, it is important to note, Coulson denies - there is little in the report about the allegations of phone-hacking at the Scum of the World relating to the period of Coulson's editorship. There was 'no evidence' that Coulson was 'on a retainer' from News International when he become director of communications for the Conservative party in 2007, Leveson noted. But, Coulson did receive cash and shares from his former employer as part of a termination agreement.

  • Well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks – criticised.

  • Leveson describes the former chief executive of News International as 'influential, and supremely connected' with a 'warm' relation with David Cameron. Brooks is criticised in relation to the Sun's revelations that Gordon Brown's four-month-old son Fraser, had cystic fibrosis. Leveson said Brooks had 'not deliberately misled the inquiry' when she said the Browns had agreed to publication. But he said she is 'guilty of a degree of blinkeredness' adding 'had she stopped to place herself in Mrs Brown's situation, she would have begun to understand the predicament in which she had been placed. In all the circumstances, Mrs Brooks should have asked a series of direct questions of Mrs Brown to satisfy herself that consent was fully and freely given, and should have given her the express option of vetoing publication.'

  • Paul Dacre - heavily criticised.

  • Leveson said the Daily Scum Mail editor showed a 'failure to consider personal consequences of publishing information about an individual's private life' in relation to two specific stories published, one on the alleged (and untrue) drunken behaviour of actor Neil Morrissey and an attack on Abigail Witchalls, who was left paralysed after being stabbed in front of her son. He admonished Dacre for his 'unwillingness to entertain the idea that each of these stories might have been hurtful, upsetting and/or damaging to the individuals involved' even after hearing from both individuals. The judge also criticised Dacre for 'going too far' when he attacked Hugh Grant, accusing him of spreading 'mendacious smears' when Grant testified in the inquiry that he believed a Daily Scum Mail story about him 'may' have come from phone hacking. Leveson accepted Dacre's evidence that he never placed a story in the paper which he knew came from phone-hacking, but said the editor had refused to engage with the inquiry's question that his attack amounted to an allegation that Grant had committed perjury. 'In making that accusation the Daily Mail was increasing the temperature and went too far,' he said.

  • The vile and odious rascal Hunt – cleared but mildly criticised.

  • The Leveson report found that there was 'no credible evidence' that the vile and odious rascal Hunt was 'biased' in his handling of the BSkyB bid which was 'commendably handled' in all respects ... bar one. But there was 'a serious hidden problem' in the frequent intimate and persistent communications between News Corp lobbyist Fred Michel and the vile and odious rascal Hunt's special adviser Adam Smith, who fell on his own sword during the Leveson inquiry because of his relationship with Michel, who bombarded him with e-mails and text messages during the takeover bid. Leveson found that Smith 'was diligent to a fault' before the bid but he should not have 'succumbed' to Michel's 'intimate, surreptitious' communications and 'got way too close' and ended up 'probably passing on confidential government thinking which should never have been imparted to News Corp.' Leveson concludes: 'Best practice of the kind encapsulated in the Cabinet Office guidance on quasi-judicial decision-making was not followed.'

  • Champagne John Yates – cleared but criticised.

  • The former Met police assistant commissioner is cleared of corruption but criticised for failing to stand aside during the original phone-hacking inquiry because of his friendship with the Scum of the World's deputy editor Neil Wallis. Leveson writes that Yates 'demonstrated poor judgment' in failing to have 'sufficient respect' for the allegations made in the Gruniad Morning Star article.

  • Risible spotty scruff Paul McMullan – criticised.

  • The former Scum of the World feature writer provided the inquiry with some of its most 'provocative' quotes - especially when he boldly declared that 'privacy is for paedos.' Leveson said it was 'difficult' to assess McMullan's evidence because of a 'tendency to sensationalise and exaggerate.' McMullen was 'not an attractive witness' (or, indeed, an attractive man for that matter) but Leveson concluded that McMullen's evidence 'did obtain a substantial kernel of truth.'

  • Hoots Mon, Alex Salmond – heavily criticised.

  • The one politician that really gets taken to the woodshed in the report is the Scottish first minister. Salmond was 'willing' to 'breach the Scottish ministerial code' by 'lobbying on behalf of Rupert Murdoch' – though he never actually did it. The judge said the first minister showed a 'striking willingness' to lobby in favour of Murdoch's buyout of BSkyB but he failed to carry through with his promised lobbying of either Vince Cable, the business secretary, or the vile and odious rascal Hunt, then then lack of culture secretary.

  • Oily Piers Morgan – criticised.

  • Leveson found 'evidence of unethical or unlawful publication based on the calculation of legal risk versus potential profits,' during Morgan's Mirra editorship before he was - very satisfyingly - sacked. Leveson clears Morgan of actually ordering hacking of voicemails but found that Morgan was 'aware of it' and expresses 'serious concern' that the only reaction to the rumours circulating in Fleet Street were 'a series of "in-jokes" at award ceremonies and unguarded references in memoirs.' Leveson found some of his evidence 'utterly unpersuasive.'

    Leveson also expressed 'concern' in his report about aspects of James Murdoch the small's evidence to his inquiry on how much he was told about phone-hacking at the Scum of the World. Murdoch the small, the News Corporation deputy chief operating officer and former chairman and chief executive of Scum of the World publisher News International, claimed he was not told that hacking went beyond a single rogue reporter at a key meeting in 2008. But Leveson said he found it 'surprising' - for which read unbelievable - that Murdoch was 'unaware' of damning legal advice by a senior barrister about a culture of illegal information access at the paper, and concluded: 'Whatever the truth of what was discussed on 10 June 2008, the evidence outlined points to a serious failure of governance within the News of the World, NI and News Corporation,' he said. Leveson's concerns are outlined in a section of his report, published on Thursday, on the 10 June 2008 meeting between Murdoch, Scum of the World editor Colin Myler, and the paper's head of legal, Tom Crone. Murdoch's account of the meeting differed from those of Myler and Crone when he gave evidence to the Leveson inquiry in April. He denied that he was shown or told about legal advice by Michael Silverleaf QC that phone-hacking was 'likely' to have gone beyond the one Scum of the World reporter, Clive Goodman, who was jailed in 2007. Crone disputed Murdoch's evidence, claiming that he 'probably' took the Silverleaf advice to the meeting along with copies of a briefing note and the notorious 'for Neville' e-mail, which suggested that phone-hacking at the now-defunct title went beyond a single reporter. Leveson said in his report: 'I have given careful consideration as to whether I should go further, and conclude that Mr Crone's version of events as to what occurred on 10 June 2008 should be preferred to that of James Murdoch. There are aspects of the account of Mr Murdoch that cause me some concern: in particular, it is surprising if the gist of Mr Silverleaf's opinion was not communicated to him in circumstances where the potential reputational damage to the company, of which he was CEO, was likely to be great if an early settlement of the claim brought by Mr [Gordon] Taylor were not achieved.' He added that Myler and Crone had 'no motive to conceal relevant facts' from Murdoch the small. The judge also expressed 'serious concerns' about Myler and Crone's evidence about the meeting, saying it was 'surprising' that there was no full-blown risk analysis with options for Murdoch the small to consider. Leveson said that the nature of his inquiry meant there had been 'insufficient opportunity' for detailed cross-examination to get to the bottom of who knew what and when at the Scum of the World and News International. He added: 'In the circumstances, I do not seek to reach any conclusion about precisely what transpired at this meeting.' Leveson's report was also critical of News International's wider response in 2008 to phone-hacking. He said that evidence by billionaire tyrant Rupert and James Murdoch the small suggested that 'one or more parts of the management at the News of the World was engaged in a determined cover-up to keep relevant information about potential criminal activity within the organisation from senior management within NI.' James Murdoch the small claimed to the Commons culture, media and sport select committee earlier this year: 'I did not know about, nor did I try to hide, wrongdoing. Whilst I accept my share of responsibility for not uncovering wrongdoing sooner, I did not mislead parliament and the evidence does not support any other conclusion.'

    Chinese regulators have suspended a broadcaster after an unaired segment of a TV game show was leaked online. The clip showed a raucous shouting match about nudity between spectators and a woman who calls her daughter 'the next Lady Gaga.' The suspension on Friday of all of Jiangsu Education Television's programming – because of content deemed 'vulgar and not educational enough' – marked the government's latest attempt to rein in the increasingly freewheeling media. China said earlier this year it would limit reality TV and other 'light fare' shown on satellite TV. The latest ruling was prompted by the game show Bang, Bang, Bang. A video clip apparently filmed by an audience member features Gan Lulu, a model whose career was launched by a nude video of her posted online by her publicity-seeking mother and who is well-known in China for racy outfits. The six-minute clip of the not-yet-aired game show episode, still available on YouTube, shows Gan as well audience members and the model's mother shouting and swearing after one spectator asks whether Gan's risqué images have 'undermined China's morality.' Gan's mother, Lei Bingxia, also in the audience, stands to take up the argument. 'Can your mum make you the sexy goddess of China?' she shouts. 'Can your mum make billions of people like you? Gan's mum can. I'm the best agent in China, I'm telling you. I will not only make my daughter the world's Lady Gaga, but the world's Marilyn Monroe.' The state administration of radio, film and television on Wednesday ordered the cancellation of the show and criticised the clip for showing name-calling, 'wanton acts' and for 'amplifying ugliness.' It said the incident had a 'negative influence on society.' A bit like the Daily Scum Mail, really. Only a bit less right-wing and dictatorial. On Thursday, the agency issued a second directive saying Jiangsu Education Television, a regional broadcaster near Shanghai, had to suspend all programming because it had violated China's broadcasting rules by identifying itself as an educational channel while offering entertainment content. The Hong-Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said in a faxed statement that thirty programmes were affected by the suspension, including some distance learning programmes, meaning classes were cancelled for as many as one hundred and fifty thousand students. The editor of Bang, Bang, Bang was also sacked, the Jiangsu provincial government said. The broadcasting regulator is concerned about vulgar, violent and pornographic videos being aired, and has been tightening rules to make sure that broadcasters and Internet service companies pre-screen their content.

    The BBC will no longer have to broadcast a minimum amount of new factual programming on BBC1 and BBC2 after a long-established quota was abolished by the BBC Trust. The 'factual quota' was dropped as part of the Trust's review of the way it monitors the BBC's output. BBC trustee David Liddiment said the quota 'did not add anything' to the Trust's ability to monitor the channels' factual output because of the wide range of programmes which were defined as factual. 'Our review concluded that BBC1 and BBC2's quotas for factual programming – which covered everything from Frozen Planet to Cash In The Attic – did not add anything to our ability to govern these services effectively and needed to be removed,' he said. Liddiment said the changes were intended to make the licences 'clearer and easier to understand. As a former programme maker, I know that setting boundaries to creativity is a finely balanced thing,' he said. 'Too little structure risks creating programmes which don't hit the mark with audiences; but too much can slow down the creative process.' He added: 'In particular, we took a careful look at the use of quotas or targets – a subject of much debate over the years. While these should never exist for the sake of it, we concluded that quotas are helpful in some areas alongside qualitative commitments. For example, remembering that BBC1's serious arts output nearly disappeared under a previous governance regime, we are clear that a minimum quota for arts and music on BBC1 alongside a small quota for religious programmes, is necessary.' The service licences for all of the BBC's TV channels and radio stations will be simplified and updated as part of the review, the trust said. With digital TV switchover now complete, the references to 'driving digital take-up' will be removed from the licences for BBC3 and BBC4. The Trust said the budget section would be 'edited' with the licences' scope section 'simplified.'

    The BBC has confirmed that a second series of Call the Midwife will be broadcast in early 2013. Series creator Heidi Thomas has promised that the eight-episode run will 'delve more deeply into the lives of [the show's] regular characters. Throughout series two, we continue to tell the gritty social and medical stories that so moved - and even shocked - the audience during our first outing,' Thomas said. 'These are not easy stories to tell, but they are real, and important, and often shine a light on the way we live today.' Call the Midwife - which stars Jessica Raine and Miranda Hart - is based on the memoirs of the late British nurse Jennifer Worth. 'Series two - like series one - draws heavily on the original, best-selling trilogy of books by Jennifer Worth and blends her stories with original material to create a multi-layered whole,' Thomas added. The second series will be preceded by a Christmas special, in which an abandoned baby is discovered on the steps of the nuns' convent. 'When asked to bring the curtain up on a new series with a Christmas special, we jumped at the chance,' Thomas continued. 'At its heart Christmas has always been about love, hope, and generosity of spirit - all qualities we celebrate in Call the Midwife.'

    Neil Gaiman has announced a Neverwhere radio play with an all-star cast. James McAvoy and Natalie Dormer will lead the cast on the forthcoming BBC Radio 4 production. Yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch, Sophie Okenodo, Tony Head, Bernard Cribbins and horror legend Christopher Lee will also loan their voices to the adaptation. Gaiman posted the announcement and cast list, alongside a photograph of members of the production, on his blog. 'The adaptation is by Dirk Maggs, who did the last three Hitchhiker's Guide radio adaptations,' he wrote. 'He's co-directing it with producer Heather Larmour, who is the one who went off and made this happen after a small enthusiastic chat in a London coffee shop much earlier this year - the kind of conversation that you have that normally just leaves you feeling happy, but doesn't actually turn into anything real. This time it did.' Neverwhere was originally broadcast as a television show on BBC2 in 1996. Gaiman later published the story as a novel, which was also adapted into a comic series by Mike Carey and Glenn Fabry in 2005. The radio play will début in early 2013.

    BBC1 has announced three new drama series for 2013. Being Human creator and Doctor Who scriptwriter Toby Whithouse has devised Cold War spy thriller The Game - set in the world of 1970s espionage. The six-part drama, with each episode an hour long, joins Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and The 7.39 on BBC1's new slate. Two-parter The 7.39 is a romantic drama from One Day writer David Nicholls and will chart the blossoming romance between commuters Sally and Carl. Based on the novel by Susanna Clarke and adapted by Peter Harness, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is 'a magical fantasy set during the Napoleonic Wars.' BBC1 controller Danny Cohen said: 'I aim to keep raising the stakes with our drama output on BBC1. Ben Stephenson and I are committed to finding pieces with great ambition, quality writing and memorable performances which portray a captivating range of fictional worlds and landscapes. We aim to keep working with Britain's very best writers, actors and directors.' Earlier this month, BBC1 announced five new drama series, including legal drama The Escape Artist from [spooks] creator David Wolstencroft and murder thriller Happy Valley by Scott & Bailey's Sally Wainwright.

    FOX Entertainment chief Kevin Reilly has accused US TV network heads of having 'our heads up our asses.' Quite the contortionists, they, it would seem. Reilly made his strong comments at the Hollywood Radio and TV Society's State of Broadcast panel, according to Variety. 'We don't spend enough time thinking of the consumer in the chain, we think about the audience in a clump,' he said. 'If you ask execs how they watch TV, they're either not watching a particular product or they just watched five seasons on Netflix. So, why is [this exec] any different than anyone at home?' Reilly claimed that network bosses are 'way too obsessed with one another and not with the consumer' and argued that networks should rethink how they schedule shows following a 'massive shift' in viewers' behaviour with the advent of online streaming, TiVos and DVRs. Earlier this year, Reilly defended the FOX network's disappointing performance in this year's EMMY nominations, with the broadcaster managing just twenty six nominations, substantially fewer than those of rival channels CBS, NBC and ABC. 'Seminal shows like House and 24 have cycled out,' he said in July. 'Next year we will have some [more].' Reilly has also billed forthcoming Kevin Bacon FOX drama The Following as 'the next 24,' praising the horror thriller's 'highly serialised' format.

    An NHL player was caught drink driving while in a Teletubbies costume. Riley Sheahan, a twenty-year-old player for the Detroit Red Wings, was stopped by authorities in Grand Rapids, Michigan on 29 October. He was driving down the wrong side of the road, according to Sporting News. At the time, Sheahan was also dressed as Tinky Winky from the children's show Teletubbies. His breathalyzer test showed him to be four times the legal limit. Red Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill said: '[Sheahan]'s getting help right now and will continue to get help.' Sheahan, also charged with carrying false identification, will appear in court on 13 December.

    A Labour MP has complained of urine leaking into his office. The vile and odious rascal Bradshaw took to Twitter to post a picture and comment on the situation, as the leak is reportedly coming from upstairs. Which is apt since the former lack of culture secretary usually talks a stream of stinking piss in this blogger's opinion. He tweeted: 'Urine seems to be pouring through the ceiling into my Commons office for the second day running! [Upstairs is] a men's urinal with ageing copper piping with holes.' An aide told BBC News: 'The whole office smells of urine. It's dripping from a corner. We've got a bucket underneath. It started yesterday and they fixed it, but it's started again today. The House authorities are aware and they are getting it sorted.'

    A thirty-year-old man who got a Mitt Romney campaign logo tattoo on his face has revealed plans to remove it. Eric Hartsburg from Indiana was paid five thousand dollars to have the mark tattooed onto his forehead. While initially, the professional wrestler said that it would be 'there for life,' he now plans to get the tattoo removed in Los Angeles. Gosh, here's hoping that it doesn't hurt, lots. Hartsburg explained that he can't stand the tattoo representing a 'sore loser. It stands not only for a losing campaign, but [also] for a sore loser,' he told Politico. '[Romney is] pretty shameful as far as I'm concerned, man. There's no dignity in blaming somebody else for buying votes and paying people off. I can't get behind that or stay behind that.' Romney had blamed the election defeat on Barack Obama handing out 'gifts' to minorities, stating earlier this month: 'The Obama campaign was following the old playbook of giving a lot of stuff to groups that they hoped they could get to vote for them.' Which worked, apparently. What a pity you didn't think of doing that instead of insulting forty seven per cent of the electorate when you thought you weren't being overheard. As the Gruniad's Michael Cohen noted: 'If the Republican primaries and presidential campaign have taught us anything, it is that Mitt Romney is not very good at politics. Incessant gaffes, strategic missteps, a paucity of policy prescriptions and a plethora of head-scratching tactical decisions have come to define his run for the White House. Quite simply, Mitt Romney is a bad politician.' Sounds about right.

    On Friday, dear blog reader, yer actual Keith Telly Topping spent much of the day in bed trying valiantly to fight off the after effects of hypothermia occasioned by a nasty dose of 'being left standing at a bus stop for three-quarters-of-an-hour on the coldest night of the year so far.' It was, trust me, dear blog reader, a life-changing experience! So, anyway, for today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, here's something apt.

    Thursday, November 29, 2012

    Ego Tripping At The Gates Of Hell

    Christopher Eccleston has admitted that he has 'not even thought' about Doctor Who's fiftieth anniversary. The BBC's popular long-running family SF drama will hit the golden jubilee milestone on 23 November 2013, but Eccleston was reluctant to discuss any potential involvement in a celebratory special in an interview with Red Carpet News TV. 'Would I like to be involved? If I told you that, I'd have to shoot you,' said the actor, who played The Doctor for a single (very good) thirteen-part series in 2005. He then added: 'It's so long ago for me that I haven't even thought about it.' Yer actual Big Ecc also praised current star Matt Smith, though admitted that he has not watched any of the thirty-year-old's episodes. 'I've not seen him as The Doctor, but I've seen him on stage - he's an excellent actor,' Eccleston said. Smudger his very self previously expressed his hope that Eccleston would return to Doctor Who for a guest appearance, but showrunner Steven Moffat has refused to confirm or deny if a multi-Doctor story will form part of the fiftieth anniversary celebrations. Earlier this year, Eccleston addressed his departure from Doctor Who and insisted that his 'conscience is completely clear. I know what went on and the people who were involved know what went on - that's good enough for me,' he explained, obliquely.

    Yer actual Jenna-Louise Coleman has revealed that her appearance in the first episode of Doctor Who's seventh series 'wasn't initially planned.' The actress was supposed to make her début as The Doctor's new companion in this year's special Christmas episode, but surprised fans when she appeared in Asylum of the Daleks as Oswin Oswald earlier this year. The twist, which saw Oswin converted into a Dalek who seemingly died at the end of the episode, confused some thicker viewers since Coleman's companion character is reported to be called Clara. Or, you know, Avocado. Or something. 'It's interesting actually that that was never the initial plan either, to have me be Oswin. That was part of a genius plan that Steven [Moffat] came up with halfway through the audition process,' Coleman told Entertainment Weekly. 'That was already written but not written for what was to be the new companion. I was auditioning for the companion and then I got all these sides and I was like, "Who's Oswin?" not realising that it's basically Steven's mad genius again.' Asked if the twist will be addressed in the Christmas episode, The Snowmen, she continued: 'No. We're going to have what has been referred to as a "soft mystery." For me, filming, I've been totally oblivious to Oswin and the Asylum of the Daleks. I really have had to erase it from my memory. Christmas is its own episode. It's so difficult [to talk about it]. Because of the way it started with Oswin, it's really difficult to say much - where [Clara's] from, what period she's from, what planet she's from, even.' She added that there are 'some absolutely stunning, beautiful, very magical' moments in the Christmas episode.

    The BBC has released a new clip from their forthcoming Alfred Hitchcock drama The Girl. Toby Jones, Sienna Miller and Imelda Staunton star in the TV movie about the movie director's fractious relationship with the actress Tippi Hedren. The drama, which is part of BBC2's Christmas highlights, was written by Gwyneth Hughes, who interviewed Hedren and surviving members of Hitchcock's crew who worked with the duo on The Birds and Marnie. Hitchcock became obsessed with Hedren while shooting the movies and the emotional fallout impacted badly on both the director's and actress's subsequent careers. The Girl was broadcast earlier this year in the US on HBO.
    Lord Justice Leveson has delivered a damning savage verdict on British press standards and recommended the introduction of the first press law in Britain since the Seventeenth Century – proposing that a statutory body (such as Ofcom) should take responsibility for monitoring an overhauled Press Complaints Commission. The proposal – made despite the fierce opposition of various self-interest groups with a thoroughly sick and venal agenda in the Fleet Street area to the introduction of statute – is designed to reassure the public that newspapers are subject to 'an effective and independent' regulator to prevent a repetition of the phone-hacking malarkey or other such scummy scandals, shenanigans and doings. Leveson, in the fifty six-page summary to his two thousand page report, said that the purpose of legislation was 'not to establish a body to regulate the press.' But, he warned that if newspapers were not prepared to join a revamped PCC it 'would be necessary' to force Ofcom (or, someone) to act as 'a backstop regulator.' Ofcom would, therefore, become a back door man. The men don't know but, as we are all aware, the little girls understand. Leverson also said that he 'cannot recommend' the model of PCC reform drawn up by Lords Black and Hunt, because it would be 'insufficiently independent' of the press.' The appointment of the chair of a revamped PCC would have to be done by a 'fair and open process' with majority on the appointments commission that are 'independent of the press.' The proposed press law was one of a string of conclusions in a summary which contains some withering criticism of standards in the industry – but the shorter document rarely singles out any individual newspapers. 'There have been too many times when, chasing the story, parts of the press have acted as if its own code, which it wrote, simply did not exist,' Leveson wrote. This 'subculture of bad behaviour' had caused 'real hardship' and, on occasion, 'wreaked havoc' with the lives 'of innocent people whose rights and liberties have been disdained,' the judge said. Leveson added that people like the parents of Madelaine McCanns and the family of Milly Dowler had 'devastating' experiences at the hands of the press, and that parts of the industry viewed celebrities as little more than 'fair game.' However, there was specific criticism levelled at the Scum of the World, and by implication, its owner, billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. Leveson said that 'most responsible corporate entities would be appalled that employees were or could be involved in the commission of crime in order to further their business. Not so at the News of the World.' In its summary there was little criticism of individual politicians or of media owners. But the political handling of News Corp's BskyB bid was singled out, and - while there was no evidence that the vile and odious rascal Hunt, the then lack of culture secretary, displayed 'actual bias' – the exchanges between his former special adviser Adam Smith and James Murdoch the small's adviser, Fred Michel, did give rise to 'a perception of bias.' Some of Leveson's recommendations include:-
    • A new watchdog independent of MPs and newspapers, with statutory underpinning. An independent self-regulatory body underpinned by statute, it should be free of 'any influence from industry and government.' Leveson said: 'It should be governed by an independent board. The chair and the members of the board must be appointed in a genuinely open, transparent and independent way.'
    • The possibility of a First Amendment-style law. Leveson said that the legislation should allow for an independent regulator to be organised by the industry, but it 'should also place an explicit duty on the government to uphold and protect the freedom of the press.'
    • Powers, remedies and sanctions of the new watchdog. Fines of one per cent of annual turnover up to a maximum of one million smackers. It should have 'sufficient powers to carry out investigations both into suspected serious or systemic breaches of the code.' Had the Press Complaints Commission had such a power in 2006 it could have gone into the Scum of the World newsroom to investigate allegations of widespread phone-hacking. But it didn't.
    • The new watchdog should have an arbitration process in relation to civil legal claims against subscribers. The process should be fair, quick and inexpensive. 'Frivolous or vexatious claims' could be struck out at an early stage.
    • Membership would not be legally obligatory, which means the likes of Richard Desmond, owner of the Daily Scum Express and the Daily Lies could continue to opt out of the regulatory body. But Leveson recommends that if they do not join the independent regulator, they should be policed by the broadcast watchdog, Ofcom.
    The findings of the inquiry also included:-
    • On the subject of phone-hacking, Leveson makes no findings on any individual but says he is not convinced hacking was confined to 'one or two' individuals. 'The evidence drives me to conclude that this was far more than a covert, secret activity, known to nobody, save or or two practitioners of "the dark arts."'
    • Newspapers have recklessly pursued sensational stories. 'There has been a recklessness in prioritising sensational stories, almost irrespective of the harm the the stories may cause and the rights of those who would be affected.' The damage to people like the Dowlers, the McCanns, the victims and families of victims of of 7/7 and Elle Macpherson's former adviser has been 'devastating.'
    • Families of actors, footballers and other 'famous' people also have rights to privacy. Families of famous people have had some of their lives 'destroyed' by the relentless pursuit of the press. Leveson says he found 'ample evidence' that parts of the press decided actors, footballers, writers, pop stars, television personalities and others in the public eye were 'fair game, public property with little, if any entitlement to any sort of private life or respect for dignity.' He adds: 'Their families, including their children, are pursued and important personal moments are destroyed.'
    • Leveson condemned covert surveillance, finding that there has been 'a willingness to deploy covert surveillance, blagging and deception in circumstances where it is extremely difficult to see any public interest justification.' He notes - with some clear revulsion - that the Scum of the World was even prepared to put a surveillance team on two lawyers, Mark Lewis and Charlotte Harris, acting for phone-hacking victims.
    • There was a failure of compliance and governance at the Scum of the World. Few would subscribe to the views of odious, spotty scruff Paul McMullan, the former feature writer and chief apologist for the Scum of the World, who told the inquiry that 'privacy is for paedos' says Leveson, but he noted that the paper's 'casual attitude to privacy and the lip service it paid to consent demonstrated a far more general loss of direction.'
    • Complainants were not taken seriously enough. Leveson found 'there is a cultural tendency within parts of the press vigorously to resist or dismiss complainants almost as a matter of course.' He says some papers are 'defensive' and even when an apology is agreed, they get their own back by resorting to 'high-volume extremely personal attacks on those who challenge them.'
    Introducting the report, Leveson noted: 'For over forty years, as a barrister and judge I have watched the press in action. I know how vital the press is - all of it - as guardian of the interests of the public, as a critical witness of events, as a standard bearer for those who have no one else to speak up to them. Nothing has changed that view. The press operating freely is one of the true safeguards of our democracy. As a result it holds a privileged and powerful place in our society.' But, he continued, this power and influence 'carries with it responsibility to the public interest in whose name it exercises these privileges. Unfortunately as the evidence has shown beyond doubt, on too many occasions those responsible along with the editors code of conduct - which the press wrote and promoted - have simply been ignored.' This had damaged the public interest, Leveson said, and 'caused real hardship and on occasion wreaked havoc on the lives of innocent people.' What the press do and say is no ordinary exercise of free speech, he argued. 'It operates very differently to blogs on the Internet and other social media such as Twitter. Its impact is uniquely powerful. A free press in a democracy holds power to account but, with a few honourable exceptions, the UK press has not performed that vital role in the case of its own power. None of this however is to conclude that press freedom in Britain, hard won over three hundred years ago, should be jeopardised. On the contrary - it should not. I remain firmly believe that press, all of it, serves the public very well well most of the time. The are truly countless examples of great journalism, great investigations and great campaigns.' Not that it is necessary for the press to be pursuing serious stories for it to be acting in the public interest,' the judge added, noting that some its most important functions are to do what the BBC's royal charter requires of it: 'inform, educate and entertain, and when doing so to be irreverent, unruly and opinionated. But none of that means that the press is beyond challenge. I know of no organised profession, industry or trade in which the serious failings of the few are overlooked because of the good done by the many. In any other case the press would be the first to expose such practices.' Leveson said that the press is the standard bearer for those who have no one else to speak up for them. The press is one of the true safeguards of democracy. But, this power and influence 'carries responsibilities.' On too many occasions, those responsibilities, along with the editors' code of conduct, have simply been ignored, Leveson added. On occasion that has 'wreaked havoc' on the lives of innocent people. Press freedom should not be jeopardised, he said. The British press serves the country well 'most of the time,' Leveson says. The press operates very differently to blogs, Twitter and other websites. And, a free press holds power to account. But with a few honourable exceptions the UK press has 'not performed this vital role in the case of its own power.' None of that means the press is beyond challenge, he said, adding that he knows of no organisation where the 'serious failings of the few' are overlooked 'because of good done by the many.' In any other industry which used that argument, the press would be among the first to criticise such an attitude. Almost everyone accepts the PCC has failed in the task of keeping the press to its responsibilities to the public and to individuals, he said. 'There must be change.' Not a single witness proposed government or politicians should be involved with the regulation of the press, Leveson said.
    Leveson then turned to the idea that the criminal law could have dealt with everything raised by the inquiry. Exemplary damages should be available for all media torts, including breach of privacy. But, law enforcement cannot be the only answer, because lawbreaking in this area is - typically - hidden, with the victims unaware, he said. 'Putting a policeman in every newsroom is no sort of answer.' The privilege the law provides to the press, for example in protection of 'sources', must also be taken into account. So a system of independent self-regulation is needed. He has asked the press to try to do this for themselves. Lord Hunt and Lord Black tried to do so, he noted, with their plan for a contractual body. On Monday he heard that most of the industry was prepared to sign up to that. But, he added, he could not back the Hunt-Black model – it does not come close to delivering regulation that is genuinely free and independent both of the industry and political control, Leveson said. Any model with editors on the main board does not come close. It is still the industry 'marking its own homework,' he said. The press needs to establish a new independent regulatory body independent of the media and parliament, he said. The body should not include any serving politician or current editor. An appointments body could include a current editor, Leveson allowed. He has made recommendations but said that it was not his role to establish a new press standards code or to decide how a new PCC would go about its business. He also addressed the need for incentives to be put in place to encourage all in the industry to sign up to the new body. This cannot be realised with legislation, he said. There has been so much misinformation about legislation, Leveson said. He is proposing it only for the narrow purpose of recognising a new independent self-regulatory system, he said. It would 'not establish a body to regulate the press.' That is for the press itself to organise and to do, Leveson said. It would enshrine 'a legal duty on the government' to protect the freedom of the press. It would provide an independent process to recognise the new body. It would also provide new benefits for the press - as members, newspapers could show they acted in good faith and had sought to comply with public interest standards. Decisions of the new regulator could form precedent. A formally recognised, free arbitration system would also be part of it, he said. This cannot be characterised as statutory regulation of the press, he said. The statutory part is to provide for press freedom and support, he said. He turns to the police - the press have an important part to play in policing by consent. There has been a limit to how far the inquiry could go because of ongoing court cases, Leveson said. There is no evidence to suggest that corruption by the press is 'a widespread problem' in relation to the police, he concluded. Every day interactions between journalists and politicians cause no concern, but in a number of respects the relationship between politicians and the press has been too close - he is referring to policy lobbying outside of the public eye. That gives rise to the understandable perception that the power of the press is being used to influence policy. That undermines the perception of media policy being made in the public interest, Leveson said. The press is entitled to lobby in its own interests, through its writing and through access. But the extent to which politicians are lobbied should be open and transparent so the public understands the process. He suggests a number of steps to increase transparency. A good start would be for those steps to be taken in relation to press lobbying about this report, Leveson said. Similar considerations apply to politicians when taking decisions about media ownerships. Democratically elected politicians are the right people to take these decisions, he said. But they must be made in a more transparent way. The competition authorities should have the means to keep levels of plurality under review, Leveson said. He said the press had failed to properly regulate itself in the past, but he believed the law could be used to 'validate' a new body. 'The press has to be accountable to the public in whose interests it claims to be acting and must show respect for the rights of others. It should not be acceptable that it uses its voice, power, and authority to undermine the ability of society to require that regulation is not a free for all, to be ignored with impunity,' Leveson concluded. 'This is the seventh time in less than seventy years that these issues have been addressed. No one can think that it makes any sense to contemplate an eighth.' He hopes that he will get a cross-party response. The report will speak for itself and he will make no further comments. Presumably because he didn't particularly feel like speaking to any louse journalists after wading through the diarrhoea scum spouted by the likes of them. The ball moves back into the politicians' court, Leveson said. They must now decide who guards the guardians. 'The answer to the question who guards the guardians, should not be "no-one."'

    The Leveson report has criticised the Metropolitan police for 'errors' in its handling of the phone-hacking scandal and for fostering a 'perception' that some senior officers were too close to News International. Lord Justice Leveson found 'decisions made in the period 2006 to 2010 can be characterised as insufficiently thought through wrong and unduly defensive.' But the Met and past and serving officers called before the inquiry will be relieved that he dismisses corruption as a motivation and makes no challenge to the integrity of the police. He says that former Assistant Commissioner champagne John Yates, who in July 2009 took just hours to dismiss a Gruniad Morning Star article revealing phone-hacking was much wider than admitted by News International, should have recused himself because he had a friend at the company who had been deputy editor of the Scum of the World. In his report, Leveson said: 'For some time before January 2011, there was a concern that a number of senior officers within the Metropolitan Police Service had become too close to News International and its staff and that this has led, perhaps intuitively, to a rather greater reluctance fully to investigate what had happened at the News of the World.' The report continues: 'The failure to ensure that those who might have been the subject of phone tapping were informed, the incredibly swift dismissal of the allegations in the Guardian article of 9 July 2009, the continued defensive mindset over the months and the dismissal of the New York Times (without ever scoping the exercise of re-considering the material seized from Glenn Mulcaire) and, subsequently, the evidence of the friendship between Assistant Commissioner John Yates and Neil Wallis, at the relevant time deputy editor of the paper all contributed to that concern. It is entirely understandable.' That perception was made worse by revelations about expensive meals - and champagne - enjoyed by some senior officers during meetings with newspaper executives and journalists: 'Unsurprisingly, these attracted attention when the relevant evidence was called, with mention of expensive restaurants and bottles of champagne, which did nothing to enhance the reputation in the public mind of the MPS or the officers involved,' noted Leveson. He adds: 'The issue is about perception, more than integrity. In relation to the scale of hospitality which may be appropriate, consumption of alcohol, and similar issues, it is a question of leading by example; what has happened in London is very different from what has happened elsewhere.' Leveson says that his inquiry did not find 'extensive' evidence of corruption or lack of integrity in the Met: 'The inquiry has not unearthed extensive evidence of police corruption, nor is there evidence satisfying the standard of proof that I have adopted, namely the balance of probabilities, that significant numbers of police officers lack integrity in one or more of the respects I have examined. Speculation, suspicion and legitimate perceptions may abound and troubling evidence has been identified in a limited number of cases (with journalists tenaciously protecting their sources), but the notion, as a matter of established fact, that this may be a widespread problem is not borne out. The scale of the problem needs to be kept in proportion.' Leveson said that the 2006 decision by the first police inquiry into hacking to limit the scope of its inquiry to 'a handful of victims' was 'beyond suspicion.' Later decisions were 'bungled,' Leveson suggests. 'In 2006, the decision to limit the prosecutions at that time was clearly justifiable. Unfortunately, the approach of the police and some of the decisions made in the period 2006 to 2010 can be characterised as insufficiently thought through (and, in any event, not followed up or taken forward), wrong and unduly defensive (and not merely with the benefit of hindsight).' The victim strategy was flawed, namely informing people they were or may have been the targets of the private investigator employed by New International to hack phones: 'Even by November 2010, effective steps had not been taken to inform potential victims. Lord Prescott, who had been targeted through others, was not recognised as a victim as a result of the narrow approach which was taken.' Leveson found successive Met commissioners had tried to 'boost the public image' of the police by 'courting' the media: 'A number of commissioners have deliberately courted working relationships with the press, no doubt partly in an attempt to enhance the standing of the service in the minds of the public; others have adopted a more remote style.' Leveson says that the problems with the police and press relationship were predominantly an issue to do with the Met, and not most other forces in England and Wales: 'Outside the MPS, the relationship between the press and the police has usually worked well, with the right balance being struck between professional civility and excessive proximity. This may be a reflection of the fact that the regional press does not generate the same issues of culture or practice that I have been considering in some of the nationals.' The Leveson inquiry praises the police for its - eventual - response to the phone-hacking scandal and the concerns it triggered: 'It is clear that the police service as a whole has responded positively and pro-actively in the wake of the public concerns which led to the setting up of this inquiry in July 2011.' The phone-hacking crisis began in July 2009 when the Gruniad Morning Star ran the first of a series of articles revealing the practice was widespread at the Scum of the World, debunking the official version that all the phone-hacking had been limited to the desk of one 'rogue' reporter, honest guv. Sir Paul Stephenson asked the then assistant commissioner, Champagne John Yates to examine the story. Yates took 'no more than eight hours' in July 2009 to decide there was no need to reopen the criminal inquiry. He later said his decision, with hindsight, had been 'pretty crap.' The evidence kept on mounting about how common the illegal practices were at News International, and with it ebbed away the credibility of the Met's position. Furthermore the evidence for this was already in the Met's possession, it was alleged, as it had been seized as part of the first investigation into hacking which began in 2006. The Met's refusal to reopen the criminal inquiry lasted until 2011, during which time police chiefs pressed the Gruniad in private meetings that there was 'no basis' to its allegations. The Met said new evidence handed over by News International, finally fulfilling the company's promise to co-operate with police, led to the new criminal investigation which, in turn, led to charges against billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch's journalists over hacking and illegal payments for information. Many of the senior Met figures caught up in the phone-hacking row have left not just the force but policing entirely. In July 2011 the then commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, resigned, followed the next day by Yates. The head of press, Dick Fiasco also left. The Met will claim that its has a new leadership and top team, and the new commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, has put a stricter regime in place governing contact between the media and police officers.

    Leveson also criticised Alex Salmond for being willing to breach the Scottish ministerial code by lobbying on behalf of billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch, while clearing the first minister of any 'specific wrongdoing.' The judge said the Scottish first minister showed a 'striking' willingness to lobby the UK government in favour of Murdoch's buy-out of BSkyB, by giving 'irrelevant' advice about Scottish jobs, at the same time as negotiating with the Sun newspaper to win its editorial support in the Scottish elections. Leveson said Salmond, who insisted throughout his inquiry evidence that he had 'a duty' to protect Scottish jobs, was saved from criticism for acting improperly essentially because he failed to carry through with his promised lobbying of either Vince Cable, the business secretary, or the vile and odious rascal Hunt, the then lack of culture secretary. Even so, it was wrong for Salmond to make that offer in the first place because it breached the ministerial code's rules forbidding partisan activity to support a specific firm's business interests. It was wrong for Salmond, Leveson ruled, to lobby UK ministers who were acting in a quasi-judicial capacity on the Sky bid. Even if Salmond had no legal duties on the bid, 'it does not follow that he was entirely at liberty to seek to persuade the secretary of state into error (particularly, if successful, it could potentially have had the effect of giving rise to grounds for challenge). Mr Salmond's duty to promote the Scottish economy and Scottish jobs cannot sensibly be understood as requiring irrelevant submissions to be made to a quasi-judicial decision maker.' Leveson said the e-mail evidence from News Corp about Salmond's talks with the Murdochs did not 'prove' there was a deal to trade political favours for Murdoch's media influence, but, he added: 'Salmond's readiness, when the subject was first raised in November 2010 and thereafter, to stand ready to assist News Corp is striking.' The judge said he had 'absolutely no doubt' that Salmond was motivated by his desire to protect Scottish jobs with Sky. That was 'entirely laudable,' he said. But Leveson cautioned: 'How far that should be taken, however, is another matter. He appreciated that employment whether in Scotland or elsewhere was not a relevant consideration for the minister and, in fact, he never contacted either Dr Cable or Mr Hunt to argue the contrary. Judged by what he did, as opposed to what he said he was prepared to do, therefore, he cannot be criticised.' Salmond declined to respond directly to Leveson's criticisms of his conduct, although he insisted that the ministerial code did require him to fight for Scottish jobs. A spokesman for the first minister claimed the report was a 'complete vindication' of Salmond's actions. However, Salmond said he believed Leveson's recommendations to have independent regulation underpinned by the law, as opposed to full statutory control, were 'very close' to his proposals for a new Scottish regulatory body using the Irish model of an independent ombudsman. Unlike control over broadcasting in Scotland, which is controlled by the UK government, the Scottish parliament is able to set up independent press regulation. He has urged opposition leaders to hold cross-party talks, and then appoint a Scottish judge to propose a Scottish regulatory system. But opposition leaders said Leveson's criticisms of Salmond raised real doubts over the first minister's fitness to lead those talks. Salmond said Leveson's report 'puts us very much in the territory of the Press Council of Ireland which I think might well provide a good template for the way forward. Clearly, we will have to be satisfied that this can be done within the necessary context of a free press.' Willie Rennie, the Scottish Lib Dem leader, said Leveson's conclusions raised significant questions about Salmond's conduct, which raised doubts about whether the first minister could convene a cross-party group to agree press regulation in Scotland. Rennie said Salmond was 'the most heavily criticised politician' in the whole Leveson report. 'He should offer to stand aside from the cross-party work. It should be led by someone untainted by the report,' Rennie said. Paul Martin, a Scottish Labour MSP and son of the former Commons speaker Michael Martin, said the report 'confirmed' the first minister was prepared to act improperly: 'It confirms that Alex Salmond offered to lobby the UK government on the Murdoch family's behalf and to have done so would have been wrong. The only thing that stopped that wrongdoing was that the UK government made a decision before Salmond got round to phoning them.'

    Risking the wrath of the victims of phone hacking - and, seemingly, the vast majority of public opinion, the prime minister said Britain would be 'crossing the Rubicon' by writing elements of press regulation into the law of the land. He said parliament had been 'the bulwark of democracy' over the centuries and MPs should think very carefully before crossing such a line. The prime minister backed 'the principles' behind Lord Justice Leveson's recommendation for a tougher regulatory body for the press, but like a thorough weasel he said he had 'serious concerns and misgivings' over underpinning by law any new body thus backsliding on a number of solemn promises he had made to the victims of press intrusion. This, remember, from the man who set up the Leveson inquiry in the first place. He said that there was a danger this could 'infringe free speech' and the new body did not necessarily need legislation. Labour said the report was 'measured, reasonable and proportionate' and backed its conclusions 'unequivocally.' Cameron told MPs that legislation backing a regulatory body could 'cross the Rubicon' by writing elements of press regulation into the law for the first time. 'The danger is that this would create a vehicle for politicians, whether today or some time in the future, to impose regulation and obligations on the press, something Lord Justice Leveson himself wishes to avoid,' he said. 'I believe there may be alternative options for putting in place incentives providing reassurance to the public and ensuring the Leveson principles of regulation are put in place, and these options should be explored.' The prime minister said the press should be given 'a limited period of time' to put a new system in place. 'While no one wants to see full statutory regulation, the status quo is not an option,' he warned. Labour leader Ed Milimolimandi said his party 'unequivocally endorse both the principles set out and [Leveson's] central recommendations.' Cross-party talks on the Leveson report are expected to take place later. 'These talks must be about implementing these recommendations, not whether we implement them,' Milimolimandi said. He called for a 'swift timetable' for implementing the report's recommendations, with a new system up and running by 2015 at the latest. He called for reform, 'on behalf of every decent British citizen who wants protection for people like the Dowlers; who wants a truly free press, a press that can expose abuse of power without abusing its own. We must act.' The split in the coalition over the issue was confirmed when Nick Clegg rejected Cameron's response, saying that he accepted the judge's call for legislation to underpin a new press watchdog. Labour's deputy leader, Harriet Harman, immediately praised the deputy prime minister for his 'excellent' statement. Clegg told MPs: 'On the basic model of a new self-regulatory body, established with a change to the law in principle, I believe this can be done in a proportionate and workable way.' The Lib Dem leader, who raised concerns about Leveson's proposal to give Ofcom a role and joined Miliband in questioning the proposals on data protection, said that he understood the 'legitimate' concerns about legislation voiced by the prime minister and others. But, he said: 'Lord Justice Leveson has considered these issues at length. He has found that changing the law is the only way to guarantee a system of self-regulation which seeks to cover all of the press. And he explains why the system of sticks and carrots he proposes has to be recognised in statute in order to be properly implemented by the courts.' Clegg said there was 'a difficult balancing act', though he said the time had come to 'end the bullying tactics' of the press. He said: 'There are two big, liberal principles at play in this debate: on the one hand, the belief that a raucous and vigorous press is the lifeblood of a healthy democracy; on the other, the belief that the vulnerable, the innocent and the weak should be protected from powerful vested interests. A free press does not mean a press that is free to bully innocent people or free to abuse grieving families. What I want now is for us to strike a better balance between these two liberal principles so that our media can scrutinise the powers that be, but cannot destroy innocent lives. So that the journalists up in the press gallery can hold us – the politicians – to account, but we can look up to the individuals and families in the public gallery knowing they have the right protections in place.' A very disappointed response to the prime minister's comments wasn't long in coming. Hacked Off campaign director Professor Brian Cathcart claimed that Lord Justice Leveson has done his job well - but that David Cameron has not: 'His failure to accept the full recommendations of the report is unfortunate and regrettable. Despite their years of abuses and outrageous conduct, it seems that the prime minister still trusts the editors and proprietors to behave themselves. It seems that the prime minister wants self-regulation all over again.' Mark Lewis, solicitor for some of the phone-hacking victims, said that he has spoken to some of his clients and 'they feel they have been let down.' He added: 'Because it's a voluntary system, people can pull out of it so quickly.' Lewis recalled the PM's evidence to Leveson: 'He referred to 'the victim test' or 'the Dowler test' and he's failed that himself. Maybe he needs to resit.' Hacked Off member Ed Blum added: 'I think David Cameron's statement today has let down the victims. It has ripped out the heart and soul of the Leveson report. The British public will know that the slippery slope to self-regulation has let them down as well.' Jacqui Hames of Hacked Off noted: 'It does all start to fall apart without the underpinning recommendation. It is extremely depressing.' Christopher Jefferies, the man vilified in some sections of the press and wrongly arrested over the murder of his tenant Joanna Yates, told Hacked Off he felt 'betrayed.'

    Yer actual Stephen Fry, confirmed his 'national treasure' status, posting on Twitter: 'It would seem David Cameron's address is no longer Number Ten Downing Street: it's now Flat Two, Rupert Murdoch's arse.' What he said.
    Max Mosley, the former Formula One chief, who successfully sued the now disgraced and disgraceful Scum of the World over a story that alleged - wrongly - he was involved in a 'sick Nazi orgy' said it would be 'astonishing' if the government did not act on Leveson's recommendations. 'It certainly is a very thorough document and it's in many respects better than one could have hoped. It would make the situation much better than it is now and what he has done is more or less give the press what the Hunt-Black proposals would want, but underpinning with a statutory to make sure there's no backsliding and no cheating. The only real omission is that if you want to stop something coming out because you find that they are going to breach your privacy, you would still have to go to court to do that, which of course is very expensive. I think it would be astonishing if the politicians didn't implement the report because no responsible politician could allow the current situation to continue.' Civil liberties group Liberty - whose director Shami Chakrabarti served as an assessor in the inquiry team - welcomed the principal recommendation of a more robust and independent press self-regulator, but said it was 'unable to back' the last-resort alternative of compulsory statutory regulation. Chakrabarti said: 'Leveson's main proposal makes sense for the public, press and politicians alike. The press sets up a robust body - independent of government and serving editors - and earns legal protections from needless challenges in court. The public gets confidence of greater access to justice and redress when things go wrong. What nobody needs and Liberty cannot support is any last-resort compulsory statutory press regulation - coming at too high a price in a free society.'

    On the very day that Brian Leveson was due to reveal the contents of his inquiry into scummish press doings and their naughty ways, by the greatest of great ironies David Cameron's former communications director (and chum), Andy Coulson, and the ex-News International chief executive and well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks appeared in court over alleged illegal payments to public officials. In two short hearings at Westminster magistrates court on Thursday morning, the pair spoke only to confirm their names, addresses and that they understood the charges. They appeared alongside the former Scum of the World royal correspondent Clive Goodman, the veteran Sun journalist John Kay and a Ministry of Defence official, Bettina Jordan-Barber. The chief magistrate, Howard Riddle, sent the five for a 'directions hearing' at Southwark crown court on 6 December. Mark Bryant-Heron, prosecuting, said that well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Brooks, Kay and Jordan-Barber face charges of conspiracy to pay approximately one hundred thousand for information that formed the basis of several news stories between 2004 and 2011. The charge against the three was heard in a twenty-minute hearing before they were replaced in the dock by Coulson and Goodman. Bryant-Heron told the court that Coulson and Goodman face two charges of conspiring to pay public officials for information, including a Buckingham Palace phone directory, known as the Green Book, that contained contact details for members of the royal family. Robert Roscoe, representing Jordan-Barber, applied unsuccessfully to keep the MoD employee's home address secret. The magistrate rejected the application on the grounds of open justice and said he had not been sufficiently convinced that revealing Jordan-Barber's address posed a risk to the security of her neighbours. Riddle released the five on unconditional bail and ordered them to appear before Mr Justice Fulford at Southwark crown court on 6 December.

    When BBC News correspondent Nick Higham suggested Daily Scum Mail readers had 'prejudices' it prompted a complaint which went to the corporation's highest echelons. The BBC Trust's editorial standards committee reached for the Oxford English Dictionary to ascertain whether Higham, in a report about Daily Scum Mail editor Paul Dacre's evidence to the Leveson inquiry, had been unfair to readers of middle England's favourite newspaper. And, very satisfyingly, and for once showing a bit of backbone, they told the complainant to go fuck themselves. A single complainant contacted the BBC to say that Higham's report for the BBC1 Ten O'Clock News bulletin on 6 February had inaccurately reported Dacre's evidence and that the use of the word 'prejudices' had done his readers a disservice. A spokesman for the Daily Scum Mail confirmed that it did not make the complaint. In these 'politically correct times,' said the unidentified complainant, words had evolved to carry a different, non-dictionary definition. He added: 'I think we all know that the word "prejudiced" is a perfect example of this.' But the Trust's editorial standards committee, the final arbiter of appeals at the BBC, rejected the claim. The ESC said Higham's report was 'accurate' and had not breached guidelines on due accuracy or impartiality. Higham's report began: 'He's the man who runs Britain's second biggest daily with ferocious drive and a natural feel for his readers' prejudices – though he prefers to call them anxieties.' Higham continued: 'Paul Dacre rarely appears in public, but today he came to the Leveson inquiry.' The report followed Dacre's evidence to the inquiry, which included an exchange with Robert Jay QC in which the lead counsel to the inquiry had asked the Scum Mail editor whether he empathised with his 'readers' fears and prejudices.' Dacre replied: '"Anxieties" rather than "prejudices" is the word I'd use.' The complainant said the report had inaccurately reported Dacre's evidence and led to the suggestion that Scum Mail readers were prejudiced in their views. The BBC, in its response, said the word 'prejudiced' had not been used and was not the same thing as 'having prejudices,' which could be 'mildly pejorative.' The committee of BBC Trustees considered the Oxford English Dictionary definitions of 'prejudices' and it was 'noted that these definitions encompassed both the complainant's and the BBC's interpretations.' It decided that it was 'reasonable' for the word to have been used, reflecting a 'certain set of preconceived views' held by readers of the Daily Scum Mail. 'Readers of other papers, meanwhile, would have had different sets of preconceived views or "prejudices"', concluded the committee. 'The reporter [Nick Higham] was describing what Mr Jay and Mr Dacre had said and that, on this basis, he did not express an opinion that Daily Mail readers were particularly prejudiced.'

    Former Scum of the World staff, including ex-deputy editor Neil Wallis, are - according to the Gruniad Morning Star - exploring whether News International could be forced to pay their legal fees arising from the phone-hacking affair after a court of appeal win by Andy Coulson. The court of appeal ruled on Wednesday that News International was liable for Coulson's legal costs relating to alleged illegal activity at the Scum of the World while he was editor. Now several other ex-Scum of the World journalists believe the court ruling could mean News International will also be forced to cover their legal bills over the saga. News International has faced criticism from some former staff on the disgraced and disgraceful Sunday tabloid because it refuses to pay their legal costs while agreeing to indemnify ex-chief executive and well-known Crystal Tipps lookalike Rebekah Brooks and several Sun journalists. Wallis said he was 'delighted' for Coulson, his former editor at the now-defunct paper. Asked whether he was exploring his own challenge to News International, Wallis said: 'I am asking my lawyers to look into it urgently. I would assume all the other Scum of the World people caught up in this matter who are also in the bad position of not having legal costs met by News International will be doing the same.' One former Scum of the World employee - whom the Gruniad claims 'declined to be named as they are currently on police bail and are exploring whether News International could pay their legal costs' - said: 'News International seems to have drawn an arbitrary line between supporting Sun staff with legal costs and not supporting Scum of the World staff. Why should one Murdoch newspaper be afforded better treatment than the other? In the absence of any finding of guilt against individuals, it is difficult to see how their decision can be justified in terms of fairness.' Another alleged 'well-placed source' allegedly claimed that 'several' ex-Scum of the World staff now intended to pursue the matter through their lawyers. News International declined to comment on the prospect of further legal bills. A spokeswoman for the publisher confirmed on Wednesday that it would not appeal against the court of appeal ruling in favour of Coulson. Other ex-Scum of the World staff charged in relation to alleged phone hacking are ex-managing editor Stuart Kuttner, former news editor Greg Miskiw, former head of news Ian Edmondson, ex-chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, and former senior reporter James Weatherup.

    And finally on the subject of Brian Leveson, his lordship is turning into quite a star down under. While he refused to answer questions in London following the publication of his report offering recommendations on the future regulation of the press, he has signed up for a second gig in Australia a few days later. On 7 December he will join a legal conference to discuss privacy and the media, and five days later he will give a lecture on news gathering at a time of change.

    Fines on newspapers found to be in contempt of court could be substantially increased, reports Caroline Binham, legal correspondent of the Financial Times. Under Law Commission proposals published yesterday, media organisations would be obliged to pay fines based on a percentage of their turnover if ruled to be in contempt of court. Fines on media companies for contempt range from ten grand up to seventy five thousand smackers. For example, a recent case against the Daily Mirra and the Daily Scum Mail, over their coverage of Levi Bellfield's conviction for the abduction and murder of Milly Dowler, resulted in fines of ten thousand notes and legal costs of twenty five thousand knicker. In July 2011, the Mirra and the Sun were fined fifty thousand quid and eighteen grand respectively for publishing articles about Christopher Jefferies, who was mistakenly accused of the murder of Joanna Yeates. In April 2002, the Sunday Mirra was required to pay seventy five thousand quid (plus a further fifty four thousand smackers in costs) for publishing an article that led to the collapse of a trial. It was one of the biggest contempt of court fines in newspaper history. Contempt of court rules aim to ensure fair trials by limiting juries' exposure to prejudicial material. But newspapers are not the only source nowadays of jurors obtaining information. As Owen Bowcott reports in the Gruniad, with the rise of social media jurors are able to conduct online research on cases they are trying. The Law Commission review argues that a new criminal offence may be necessary to prevent the practice. And it also believes that courts should be armed with additional powers compelling media organisations to remove from their electronic archives old stories that contain potentially prejudicial material. The commission says: 'The new media – Twitter, Internet blogs, and so on – pose a challenge to the current law on contempt of court, which dates from a time before the Internet was so widely used.' But the practicality and advisability of media outlets being required to take down material is disputed, as are proposed restrictions on jurors. Binham quotes lawyer Susan Barty as saying: 'The problem with some of the changes proposed to the existing law is that there is a real risk of making the position too complicated and difficult to enforce. For instance, making it an offence for jurors to seek information relevant to their case would be impractical to enforce, as jurors may unintentionally stumble across prejudicial online material without actively seeking it – and dealing with these sorts of grey areas could cause real problems.' The findings of the commission's consultation, which closes in February next year, will be recommended to government.

    Filming was stopped on the recording of an episode of Countdown this week because a contestant was 'showing too much chest hair.' What a hellish crime. In the episode, which will apparently be broadcast on 3 December, twenty four-year-old law student Duncan Conway reportedly chose to wear a V-neck top. How very 1970s of him. However, some of his chest hair was said to be visible which prompted production staff to pause filming to tell the contestant to cover up, according to the Kirkintilloch Herald. Blimey. Y'brazen hussy. Who do you think you are, Burt Reynolds or what? Conway, from Lenzie, Dunbartonshire, recalled: 'Having been instructed to either wear a shirt or V-neck, I opted for the latter - which was funny because on set there was a complaint that I was showing too much flesh and that my chest hair might offend some people. I had to have my T-shirt taped so it held up higher.' Conway added: 'The filming was great fun and meeting the Countdown team was brilliant.'

    The BBC Trust has praised the corporation for making 'significant progress' following criticism of its science coverage, but called for further action in putting more women on screen. Last year's independent review, which said the BBC gave too much weight to 'fringe' views on issues such as climate change – has 'had an impact on output and is likely to continue to do so,' according to the Trust. Among the changes following on from last year's review were the appointment of long-serving BBC correspondent David Shukman as the BBC's first science editor. The corporation also put a new system of training in place and measures to expand the range of voices it featured from the science community to redress a preponderance of men and institutions from the South-East of England. But, the Trust said it was 'disappointed' that the science seminars were not yet under way at the BBC's College of Journalism. BBC management said the setting up of the course was 'a more complex exercise than we foresaw' but wanted to provide a course that was 'both accurate and useful rather than unsatisfactory.' On the issue of gender balance, the BBC said it was 'working hard to increase the number of female scientists we put on air, in the knowledge that women form twelve per cent of the scientific, engineering or technology industry.' The corporation is also looking to recruit more female presenters of TV science programmes, pointing to three editions of BBC2's Horizon fronted by women. 'There are some constraints,' said the BBC, outlining its response to last year's review. 'Good presenters of science programmes are hard to find, irrespective of gender.' Question Time was singled out in the earlier report for not featuring more scientists – of either gender – and the BBC said it had gone to 'considerable lengths' to rectify this with Colin Blakemore, Phil Hammond and Brian Cox. 'The team has bid for many more potential panellists from the science world – but most refuse because they wish to talk about their field and do not want to become involved in current affairs,' said the BBC. Shukman, the BBC said, had advised editors that the corporation should 'regularly stand back from regular science news to offer audiences coverage of important themes that may not, in the normal run of events, attract headlines,' such as synthetic biology. The Trust asked the BBC to report back in eighteen months on a number of issues including the gender balance of presenters and contributors.

    Sky has overhauled the way it displays programmes' end credits, after research found three-quarters of its own viewers believe that these are important for actors. Equity has campaigned since 2004 against onscreen credits being squeezed – a practice it claims can damage a performer's future employment prospects – and is now urging other UK broadcasters to follow suit. The changes at Sky, which happened after Equity approached all broadcasters with its concerns, mean end credits on programmes commissioned and acquired from this month will be given significantly more space to be displayed onscreen. Previously, a programme's credits were squeezed into a small box in the right hand corner of the screen, while a trailer for what was coming up was shown. Sophie Turner Laing, managing director of entertainment, news and broadcast operations at Sky, said: 'When Equity raised the issue of end credits with us, it was important to address their concerns comprehensively and quickly. We spoke to our customers, and their suggestions were instrumental in shaping the changes that we have made to end credits on all our channels. It's clear that this is an important issue to Equity members and our customers alike, and we're delighted to have implemented a new strategy onscreen that works for everyone.' Sky conducted a survey gauging viewers' attitude towards credits after Equity presented it with research highlighting how the general public dislikes information being unreadable at a programme's end. Sky's own research backed this, and found more than a third of its customers – thirty six per cent – like to read end credits, and thirty nine per cent feel they are 'important' for viewers. About three-quarters of its viewers – seventy one per cent – also say 'end credits are important for actors.' According to the survey, seventy seven per cent are interested in finding out which actors were in the programme they have watched, with forty four per cent saying they want to know who has directed a show. Two-thirds believe squeezing credits makes them hard to read, and half say they become 'very annoyed' when credits are difficult to see. More than fifty per cent say they would like a show's end credits to fill the whole screen. Respondents say they feel frustrated by credits being run too fast or squeezed to advertise upcoming programmes. Responding to Sky's actions, Equity spokesman Martin Brown said: 'Equity is delighted. Sky listened to their viewers and then took decisive action. This will be applauded by Equity members and the viewing public alike, and we hope that other broadcasters will follow suit.' Equity's findings from its own survey of more than ten thousand viewers, published in February, revealed 95.2 per cent of viewers felt splitting a screen at the end of a programme, often to advertise something coming up next, made it hard to read the names of people involved in a production. The report also found that squeezed credits made eighty nine per cent of people 'very annoyed.' At the time, Equity general secretary Christine Payne said there was 'very little comfort for broadcasters' in the findings. The union said Sky is the first broadcaster to take direct action as a result of the campaign.

    Lenny Kravitz is to play Marvin Gaye in a new biopic to be filmed in 2013, his publicist has confirmed. It will be the first lead role for Kravitz, forty eight, who has performed several supporting roles and cameos in films. Gaye, whose hits included 'I Heard It Through The Gravevine', 'Sexual Healing' and 'Let's Get It On', was shot dead by his father in 1984. Rolling Stone said Kravitz would portray Gaye during his battles with depression and drug addiction. The magazine said the project will be directed by British film-maker Julien Temple, who has previously made documentaries about The Kinks singer Ray Davies, Joe Strummer of The Clash and The Sex Pistols. Temple has also directed music videos for the likes of Billy Idol, Blur, The Rolling Stones and Culture Club. Kravitz, who won Grammys in four consecutive years in the best male rock vocal performance category, played the role of Cinna in the film The Hunger Games, released earlier this year. He also had a small part in 2009 film Precious and appeared in a 2010 episode of US drama Entourage, alongside Mark Wahlberg. Previous attempts to make a film about Gaye, Motown Records' top-selling solo artist of the 1960s, have failed due to difficulties in obtaining music rights. His number one hit 'Sexual Healing', which was released in 1982, won him two Grammy awards the following year. He was shot dead by his father, Marvin Gaye Sr, following a violent argument between the men in 1984, a day before his forty fifth birthday. He is one of several influential artists whose lives are being retold for screen audiences. In May, Andre Three Thousand (not his real name) of hip-hop duo OutKast began filming a biopic about guitar legend Jimi Hendrix during his breakthrough in London in 1966 and 1967. A film about Australian rock star Michael Hutchence, who died fifteen years ago, is also in the pipeline, based on a book by the INXS singer's mother and sister.

    Football's governing body, FIFA, must ensure that matches in the 2014 World Cup start on time, the boss of sport at UK commercial broadcaster ITV has said. Niall Sloane criticised time overruns at past World Cup tournaments. He said it made it very difficult for commercial TV companies to accurately organise their advertisement breaks. 'We need a rigorous examination of the timetables, we need to know exactly when teams come onto the pitch, when the national anthems will start.' Sloane was speaking at the Soccerex Global Convention in Rio de Janeiro, the annual gathering for the worlds of football business, finance and merchandise. He contrasted kick-off delays at past World Cups with what he said was the perfect timings in Europe's Champions League tournament for club sides, which is run by UEFA, European football's governing body. 'With the Champions League everything is pre-set, we know exactly when the teams are going to walk out of the tunnel before every game,' said Sloane. With more than eighteen months now until the 2014 World Cup kicks off in Brazil, Adrian Bevington, head of communications at the Football Association, was also speaking at Soccerex. With the England team travelling to Brazil next summer for a number of friendly games, he said the squad would aim to be 'open and forthcoming.' The England squad was criticised for their remoteness from the local population during the 2010 World Cup, unlike other countries - such as the Dutch - who had a more open approach to meeting locals and fans. 'We are very determined that when we come to Rio [next year] to be as accessible as possible,' said Bevington. 'We want to reach out to the people of Rio and the international media.' Turning his attention to the wider level of access that national football teams grant the media, Bevington added that on the one hand 'it had to work for the manager and the players - it is important that they don't feel exposed. But it is also crucially important that it works for the media.'

    Rowan Atkinson has revived Edmund Blackadder – as an immoral Twenty First Century banker. He made a surprise reunion with his old oppo Tony Robinson's Baldrick on Wednesday night at the We Are Most Amused benefit show at London's Royal Albert Hall. Their sketch closed the night, which was in aid of the Prince's Trust and attended by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall. The premise was that Edmund Blackadder – now a Lord after buying a peerage at the Parliamentary gift shop – was head of the Melchett, Melchett and Darling Bank, which had got itself into twenty billion smackers of debt. He appeared in front of a Select Committee of MPs investigating the financial crisis, whose chairwoman was played by yer actual Miranda Hart. 'How can I be in crisis?' he told them. 'I own half of Kensington.' Blackadder then called his gardener, Sodov Baldrick, as a character witness – and blamed him, and millions like him, for the economic meltdown after running up debts for 'luxury items such as fuel and food.' Heh. Baldrick suggested that he might have 'a cunning plan' to extricate Britain from the financial mess, to which Blackadder said it would have to be a plan 'so brilliant that it would win a place at Oxford University – even if it had a Northern accent.' But, ultimately, the cunning plan amounted to nothing. The sketch was penned by Blackadder writer Ben Elton, who also hosted the event, and was its creative director. It was the first new Blackadder material since 2002, when Sir Osmond Darling-Blackadder, Keeper of Her Majesty's Lawn Sprinklers, featured in BBC1's Golden Jubilee coverage. The night's line-up also featured Jimmy Carr, Joan Rivers, Ed Byrne, Stephen K Amos, Milton Jones, Omid Djalili, Jon Culshaw, Patrick Kielty, Sanjeev Bhaskar and Helen Lederer – with video contributions from Barry Humphries. The Prince's Trust has helped seven hundred thousand vulnerable people aged thirteen to thirty since it was formed in 1976. Gala events to support the cause were launched with a rock gig in 1982, with the first We Are Not Amused comedy show coming in 2008 – featuring John Cleese and Robin Williams's first UK stage appearance in twenty five years.

    A taxi driver in Loughborough has allegedly shocked passengers by watching a football match whilst driving. Two council officers reported the unnamed driver after they witnessed him placing his mobile phone on the dashboard and tuning in for a football match as he ferried them to a hotel. The driver had also overcharged his passengers for the local trip. Following the incident, which took place in June, the driver received disciplinary action. He admitted two offences of 'misconduct regarding the charging of fares' and for failing to 'take all reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of passengers,' a Charnwood Borough Council spokesman said. The driver was given nine penalty points, with the warning that if twelve points were exceeded, his taxi operator licence would be revoked. Speaking to MSN News, the council's cabinet member for regulatory services said: 'Our officers were stunned when this taxi driver decided that watching the big match was more important than the safety of his passengers. One of the council's key priorities is helping to keep our residents and visitors safe and secure, and we will take action where we find this has been compromised.'

    And, so to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day. On Thursday evening, as it happens, yer actual Keith Telly Topping was due to attend Uncle Scunthorpe's latest Record Player event at the Tyneside. This week, it was an LP by The Flaming Lips. A description which has been applied to yer actual Keith Telly Topping and at least four occasions. No, really. That, at least, was the plan. But, after getting to the bus stop just on quarter past six yer actual Keith Telly Topping then stood around for about fifty minutes minutes - in the bone chilling cold - waiting for a number twelve that never showed up and never looked likely to. Finally, at five past seven, knowing that even if a bus did turn up yer actual Keith Telly Topping wouldn't make it into town in time for the start of the gig, he gave up. His is now sitting in his gaff, dear blog reader, shivering, thawing out and trying very hard not to hit things, so utterly and completely pissed off he is at such a ruddy shite state of affairs. Ooo, God damn vexed so he is. Anyway, back to The Flaming Lips, and from the featured LP, the band's classic.