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Sunday, 16 February 2020

BBC Licence Scrapping Story Is Crap

While the red-top part of the Murdoch press is busy trying to pretend that it really cares about those its hacks demonise and otherwise monster to the point of there being a body count, the allegedly upmarket Sunday Times is today claiming that the BBC is about to see its licence fee scrapped. This is yet another story brought to us by political editor Tim Shipman. And Shippers has been shipping rather a lot of bull on this one.
No 10 tells BBC licence fee will be scrapped … TV channels face axe in move to subscriptions” tells the headline, with the article claiming that the plan will “Force the BBC to sell off the vast majority of its 61 radio stations but safeguard Radio 3 and Radio 4 … Reduce the number of the Corporation’s national television channels from its current 10 … Scale back the BBC website … Invest more in the World Service”.

And then comes the first sign that someone, either Shipman or whoever briefed him, has not thought this through: “Ban BBC stars from cashing in with lucrative second jobs”. If the Beeb is going to be a subscription service - and therefore independent - then what hold does Government expect to exert upon it? Its stars could do what the heck they wanted.
Sounds like him ...

Worse is in store for Shippers when it comes to the all-too-clear identity of who fed him this shipment of bull. “A senior source said [that’s ‘senior Downing Street source’, remember, which means someone not unadjacent to chief polecat Dominic Cummings] ‘We are not bluffing on the licence fee. We are having a consultation and we will whack it’”. Oo-er!

But do go on. “It has to be a subscription model. They’ve got hundreds of radio stations [not according to the bloke you briefed, they haven’t - see above], they’ve got all these TV stations and a massive website [how massive is too massive?]. The whole thing needs massive pruning back”. Basically, folks, it’s pretty massive. And there is more.
... and shipped by him

They should have a few TV stations, a couple of radio stations and a massively [!] curtailed online presence and put more money and effort into the World Service, which is part of its core job”. Micromanaging, much? If it talks like Cummings, it might just be Cummings. And guess what? “The attack on the BBC will be led by John Whittingdale … One source described Whittingdale’s instructions from No 10 as ‘Mission: attack’”. There are two further front page references to “A No 10 source”.

Now I hate to rain on Shipman’s parade, aided and abetted by someone whose ranting sounds rather like Polecat Dom, but there is a problem here. This Government, even if it lasts a full five years, cannot plan any further forward than December 2024. The BBC’s current settlement lasts until 2027. Is it being proposed that it bind its successor?
Worse, that ranting, which includes more on those stars who make money outside the Corporation, sounds less like coherent policy and more like the embittered wailings of someone who has an axe to grind. Whether that is Cummings, Whittingdale, Bozo The Clown, his partner Carrie Symonds or whoever is immaterial. It still ain’t policy

Once upon a time, the Sunday Times dealt in serious, heavyweight journalism. Now it is reduced to kite-flying for an unelected mouth artist in Downing Street. Sad, really.
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The Sun’s Dead Female Sleb Problem

It was seven years ago to the day that the inmates of the Baby Shard bunker were faced with having to report the death of South African model Reeva Steenkamp. She had been the victim of her partner Oscar Pistorius’ paranoia: he believed there was an intruder in the bathroom, had shot the intruder, and it turned out to be her. As he was a well-known Olympic and Paralympic athlete, it was not any old story. It was a Sleb story.
So Ms Steenkamp was splashed all over the front page of the Sun. How would the story be handled? Would it be just a tasteful head-and-shoulders shot, a respectful nod to all those grieving relatives, friends and fans? Ah, but this was another occasion when the prurient interest trumped all other interests. “3 shots. Screams. Silence … 3 more shots … Blade Runner Pistorius ‘Murders Lover’”. And Ms Steenkamp in a bikini.
Look, readers, she’s hot - and she’s dead! Condemnation rained down on the Murdoch goons. But those passing adverse comment probably knew it would make no difference. Four years later, it was more or less the same: Tara Palmer Tomkinson died at the age of just 45. “Royals’ Celeb Pal Dies Aged 45 … Loud bang … Then Tara found dead five days later” screamed the Sun. Inside: lots of gratuitous flesh. She was hot, and also dead.
So we come to the tragedy of Caroline Flack, another mid February death, another Sleb source of endless Sun attention. And the temptation to score as many copies and clicks as possible once again trumped any thought that a little restraint may be in order.
The article bringing news of her death was, predictably, the first to tell readers that Ms Flack had taken her own life. The Murdoch droids seem to think that putting an explainer halfway down the article adding “You’re Not Alone … EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide” makes that OK. It doesn’t. It really doesn’t.
Then come the gratuitous snaps. Top of the article? Phwoar! Strapless top! Bare midriff! Matching shorts! Lots of leg! Further down the copy, a serious note is struck about Love Island - “Caroline Flack was forced to step down from the show” - but don’t worry, look, well off the shoulder! Lots of flesh! Boobs! Phwoar! And so it goes on.
How much the Sun really cares can be seen from more gratuitous flesh accompanying “Caroline Flack's death is third suicide to rock Love Island in just 20 months”. And do the hangers-on really care about the coverage and their part in it? Piers Morgan exclaimed “Oh my God. This is horrendous” at the news of Ms Flack’s death, but one suspects he never thought of the consequences when monstering the Duchess of Sussex.
In any case, he’ll keep going after the likes of Jameela Jamil, and the whole rotten red-top lot will continue to ignore campaigning group Hacked Off telling themTrial by media can have dangerous and unforeseen consequences. The media must be careful to scrutinise justice, not administer it”. Or as LBC host James O’Brien has put it, “Make money maligning them. Make more money mourning them. Move to Canada if you can”.

The Murdoch press has a problem with its pile-ons of female Slebs. It has what looks like an equally serious problem trying to monetise their deaths. Don’t buy the Sun.
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Caroline Flack - Slain By The Sun

Our free and fearless press, we are regularly told, has learned the lessons of Leveson and cleaned up its act. All that bad behaviour is now a thing of the past. Instead, we now have a more responsible, less vicious and more caring press pack. Except we do not: the behaviour is as execrable as ever, and the sad death of Caroline Flack underscores it.
Caroline Flack

The attitude of the tabloids to celebrities is unchanged: they are there to help sell copies and add clicks, and if they’re in the public eye, they’re press property, so the Fourth Estate can do with them what it wishes. The occasional casualty is as so much collateral damage. But this time, one paper is in big, big trouble, and that paper is the Murdoch Sun.
Why that should be is not hard to deduce: Ms Flack had been involved in an alleged domestic dispute with her partner, and as a result had not only had to step down as host of Love Island, she had been plastered all over two Sun front pages. On Christmas Eve, it was “Court Claim … SHE TRIED TO KILL ME … What Flack boyfriend told cops”, and New Year’s Day brought “Flack’s bedroom bloodbath”. Subtle it was not.
The coverage was incessant; unrelenting; vicious. Only the other day, the Sun had run a story titled “Brutal Caroline Flack Valentine’s Day card mocks troubled star with ‘I’ll f***ing lamp you’ message”. Yesterday it was taken down. And so began the attempts by the press and its hangers-on to shirk the Sun’s responsibilities.
Right on cue came the Sun’s chief creep Dan Wootton to blame ITV: “Caroline was hung out to dry by ITV. She was distraught they didn’t stand by her. And distraught about the lack of support she was given”. The paper itself blamed the CPS: “Those close to Caroline are said to be furious that the CPS had continued to prosecute … They are angry that the CPS had refused to listen to warnings that Caroline was vulnerable”.
Nothing about the creeping filth at the Sun being warned that she was vulnerable, though. Instead, the CPS blaming gathered pace, with former Screws and Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan joining in with “To all those rushing to blame the media for Caroline Flack's death … The CPS have big questions to answer”. Well, he wouldn’t blame ITV, would he?
Meanwhile, Sarah “Vain” Vine dutifully joined in the blame shifting: “I always had a really bad feeling about the Caroline Flack story. Trial by social media. What a terrible tragedy”. As Mic Wright pointed out, “MailOnline has published 16 stories about Caroline Flack since her death was announced. It had published 25+ stories about her since the new year. But yes, it was ‘trial by social media.’” Who has the biggest megaphone? Not social media.
Yet there was TalkRADIO host Julia Hartley Dooda - another taker of the Murdoch shilling - on the same page with “The angry keyboard warriors accusing people in the media of hounding [Caroline Flack] to her death are very same people who incessantly post abuse to celebrities & people in the media - & who are right now busily hounding those same people online”. Look over there! Nothing to see here! Move along, mugs, move along.

Well, excuse me for not giving a rat’s arse about Dan Wootton, Piers Morgan, Sarah Vine and Julia Hartley Dooda. What happened to Caroline Flack is down, more than anything, to the Murdoch Sun and its incessant, vicious monstering of her. Full stop, end of story.
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Saturday, 15 February 2020

Phillip Schofield Outing - Was It The Sun?

Whenever someone well known comes out as gay, after the acceptance, the thought inevitably enters that they may have jumped before being pushed, that one or more organs of our free and fearless press may have been about to “out” them anyway. And when it comes to outing those who have not yet come out as gay, one newspaper has a special place somewhere between the gutter and the sewer.
Oh hang on, is that a Sun reporter over there?

To no surprise at all, that newspaper is the Murdoch Sun, where, it seems, very little in the way of Sleb tittle-tattle is off limits. Driving much of that part of the paper’s output is the deeply unpleasant Dan Wootton, a self-promoting creep of no known principle. Which brings us to the recent admission of Phillip Schofield, nowadays a regular presenter on ITV’s This Morning, that he was gay. Did he make that admission of his own accord?

Well, he did, but the further question concerns the possibility that the press was about to “out” him. Suspicion has inevitably fallen on the Super Soaraway Currant Bun, after many noticed that back in December, the paper had run a series of particularly nasty attack pieces featuring Schofield, not leastPhillip Schofield sparks civil war at This Morning after relationship with Holly becomes strained & Ruth makes complaint” on December 6.

The author? Yes, it was Dan Wootton. We read that a series of presenters was “unhappy about the host’s attitude” (attitude - geddit?!?). Also, “The Sun can reveal his professional relationship with close friend Holly Willoughby has become strained in recent months”. Backed up by “An ITV source” and “A former colleague”. And Ruth [Langsford] is alleged to have complained because … Schofield once interrupted her on air.
What's Dan's involvement with this story?

But do go on. “Amanda Holden is the only star who has attacked Phillip publicly. She confronted him in the This Morning studio after he blocked her filling in for Holly when she presented I’m A Celebrity last year”. Except that’s not quite true, is it, Dan? The Sun article admits that: “AMANDA Holden clashed with Phillip Schofield after she believed he got her axed from This Morning”. “She believed” is upgraded to “he blocked her”.

This was then followed byTHIS Morning fans claimed Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield were ‘trying too hard’ to look like they were getting on during today’s show after their tense relationship was revealed”. A desperate trawl of social media. Then cameHOLLY Willoughby struggled to compose herself at the press launch of Dancing On Ice amid reports of a feud between herself and Phillip Schofield”. No evidence provided.

The knocking copy started up again just four days before Schofield made his live-on-air admission that he was gay. Now, all of this may be entirely coincidental, but right now, my Occam’s Razor is pointing at the December hit pieces showing every sign of being a deliberate softening-up exercise. The thought occurs that someone at the Sun knew, and maybe, ultimately, Schofield knew they knew. So he took matters into his own hands.

If that was the case, it would not be the first time the Sun had dabbled in “outing”. And it shows that when it comes to the commercial interest, nothing sells like the prurient interest. More than half a century after homosexuality was decriminalised, our free and fearless press likes nothing more than to do a little celebrity outing.

Which also includes plenty of falsehood and misinformation. No change there, then.
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Whittingdale Returns To Finish The BBC

Former culture secretary John Whittingdale is a very well-connected man: as the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr has noted, he has “close financial ties to the Ukrainian oligarch at centre of Trump scandal”. That’s Dmitry Firtash. Also, “Dom Cummings’ brother in law was a joint business director with Mrs Firtash”. And not forgetting “Boris Johnson’s girlfriend Carrie Symonds was Whittingdale’s  SPAD last time around”.
John Whittingdale

Whitto’s name is also present on That Tory Spreadsheet, which records his relationships with women who turn out to be sex workers, although he has claimed to have met them on Match Dot Com. It was one of those relationships that our free and fearless press was, by complete coincidence you understand, not reporting on when Whitto stalled on commencing Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act. Which they didn’t want.
(c) Steve Bell 2016

He had been seeing a woman whose other, er, contacts included at least one London gangster. There was a clear potential blackmail risk. But one title after another declined to run the story: the Mirror, Sun, Mail on Sunday and Independent had all either passed on it, or investigated, only to have the story spiked later on. Then the story broke.
Byline Media ran it. Zelo Street ran it. After the press’ excuses, Private Eye magazine ran it. After that, BBC Newsnight reported on it. Then came howls ofNon story” and “Conspiracy theory”, just as they had with phone hacking. But the story was now out there, and could not be stopped. Whitto might not have been happy that the hated BBC had helped it on its way. The licence fee settlement he imposed on the Corporation carried the suggestion that he was not a fan. And now he is back in Government.
Doing what? As he himself has revealed, “I am thrilled to go back to [the DCMS] at such an exciting time. There are huge challenges facing UK media but great opportunities too. Am looking forward to working with [Oliver Dowden] and the team”. His forte is, apparently, going to be the future of broadcast media. Which means the future of the BBC.
Peter Jukes was mildly sceptical on those “opportunities”, musing “Great opportunities for a different model of broadcasting: the Russian model, the Belarus model, the Ukrainian model - courtesy of Dmitri Firtash and Sergey Nalobin”. Whitto’s contacts among those from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine are well-known and, er, diverse.
So what do those who served with him on the DCMS Select Committee think his appointment will mean? Former Labour MP Ian Lucas was in no doubt: “BBC RIP”. The Corporation has alienated many, especially on the left, who would in the past have been first to man the barricades in its defence. Now it really needs them, they may be loath to respond. The press will be salivating at the prospect of Whitto taking the axe to the Beeb.
And the security risk is most likely still there. Whether that means Whittingdale being open to potential blackmail, or just being open to being leaned on by the Fourth Estate, the outcome will be broadly the same. He will do the bidding of our free and fearless press, because, as with the sex worker revelations, they have all the dirt on him.

John Whittingdale used to be called the Minister for Murdoch. I’ll just leave that one there.
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Maajid Nawaz - A Smear Too Far?

Of all those prepared to spray around accusations of Islamism and anti-Semitism, few come close to LBC host Maajid Nawaz, whose preferred method of defending the Quilliam report’s claims about Grooming Gangs has been to go on the attack, rather than engage with his critics and their apparently superior evidence. How his modus operandi might change, now that the boot is firmly on the other foot, will be an interesting sight to see.
Nawaz’ latest target, for reasons which are not apparent right now, is Miqdaad Versi of the Muslim Council of Britain, who has worked tirelessly to impress upon our free and fearless press that much of their wilder reportage on Muslims and Islam is inaccurate to the point of being plain flat wrong. Despite the barrage of falsehood and misinformation, he has stuck to his task courteously and tenaciously, earning widespread respect by doing so.
The attack came out of a Tweet by an account calling itself Islamist Watch: “Here are a bunch of images where M Shafiq of [The Labour Party] and the defunct [Ramadan Foundation] blames the [Times] piece on [Qari Asim] on [10 Downing Street] office, [The Home Office] and [the Commission for Countering Extremism] and [Andrew Gilligan]. He claims he has a ‘Govt Source’ who told him so”. And so off went Nawaz.
[Miqdaad] Versi of the Jamat-e-Islami dominated [Muslim Council] of Britain (MCB) exposed here sharing a private Whatsapp group to coordinate UK political lobbying to legally define ‘Islamophobia’ (sic) with pro-blasphemy activist Muhammad Shafiq of the defunct ‘Ramadan Foundation’”. Rather a lot of accusations being sprayed around there. It looked as if Versi was merely adding some information and asking a question.
Two days later, Versi mused “This week, an individual tried to frame me & damage my reputation by falsely claiming I leaked a message from a private group of Muslim activists … An individual has admitted his phone was responsible for the fake imagery, but claims his phone was ‘hacked’ or ‘cloned’”. So the images may have been faked anyway.
He went on, quoting Nawaz’ claim about him, “Why the individual chose to target me in this way, I cannot know, nor can I know whether the individual was working *with* others, or at the behest of others. What I can know, however, is who weaponised this lie against me, and who is (again) trying to lie and demonise me”. Did he mean Nawaz?
While that one was being answered, Versi added “What I can know, is the editor of which newspaper, shared this fake news about me”. Step forward Stephen Pollard of the Jewish Chronicle. He does seem to get around. Then Nawaz appeared to own up.
Interesting pivot (without denying central allegation) by Miqdad Versi of Islamist-pandering MCB. He was clearly revealed as having been in a private Whatsapp coordination group named ‘Tackling Islamophobia’ with the pro-blasphemy Muhammad Shafiq of the defunct Ramadan Foundation”. Yes, Versi did mean Nawaz. Nawaz says so.
Versi responded “Caught spreading a lie about me (& refusing to retract & apologise), Mr Nawaz now changes his accusation. Apparently, now merely being in a WhatsApp group of individuals tackling Islamophobia (which includes [Mohammed Shafiq]) is unacceptable to Nawaz. The hypocrisy is as clear as day” before concluding “Those who have propagated the false news, to damage my reputation, know who they are - and have the opportunity to retract and publicly apologise. They will face due recompense for their actions”. That sounds as if matters are about to become serious. Legally serious.

Maajid Nawaz has proved adept at instructing lawyers to go after others. It will be interesting to see how adept he is when someone instructs lawyers to go after him.
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