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August 17, 2012

News of the World Scotland editor charged with perjury, hacking

News of the World Scotland editor charged with perjury, hacking

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Friday, August 17, 2012

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The former news editor at the now-defunct News of the World‘s Scottish division has been charged with perjury, conspiring to hack telephones, and breaching data protection legislation.

Scottish politician Tommy Sheridan features prominently in the inquiry, with Wight the second man to be accused of lying at his trial.

Strathclyde Police made the announcement yesterday that Douglas Wight, 39, has been arrested and charged as part of the force’s probe into phone-hacking in Scotland, dubbed Operation Rubicon. The investigation encompasses possible perjury at the trial of Tommy Sheridan, a former Member of the Scottish Parliament who was himself tried for perjury in late 2010. Sheridan was convicted of lying during an earlier defamation case against the News of the World.

Wight is now accused of lying at that trial, as well as a plot to hack phones in Scotland, and a number of allegations relating to unlawful acquisition of private data. Wight, who lives in London, attended a Glaswegian police station yesterday at the police’s request. He left last night and is not due in court today; a report is being prepared for the local procurator fiscal (prosecutor).

The charges follow Andy Coulson, who served as communications chief to David Cameron, being charged in May with perjury at the same trial. Sheridan was ultimately jailed for three years and released after serving one; he continues to protest his innocence. It followed a successful defamation case before the Court of Session in 2006, at which Sheridan was awarded £200,000 over allegations in the paper of sexual infidelity; his wife Gail was also tried in 2010 but cleared of lying in the case.



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September 22, 2011

News International offers £3 million phone-hacking settlement to family of murder victim

News International offers £3 million phone-hacking settlement to family of murder victim

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

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The family of murdered UK thirteen-year-old Milly Dowler, whose phone was hacked by journalists of the News of the World, have been offered £3 million compensation by Rupert Murdoch’s News International, in settlement negotiations currently under way.

UK newspaper The Guardian revealed the phone hacking earlier this year. After Dowler was reported missing in 2002, her voicemail messages were listened to and several deleted, creating the impression she might still be alive.

The £3 million on offer reportedly includes £1 million to charity. The rest would go directly to the family. The Guardian reports the Dowler’s lawyers were believed to be looking for about ₤3.5 million.

News International stated they were “in advanced negotiations” and “hope to conclude the discussion as quickly as possible.”

Rupert Murdoch personally met with the Dowler family earlier in the year to offer them his apologies for the actions of his News of the World paper. News of the World ceased publishing after discovery of the Dowler hacking and other similar incidents.



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August 25, 2011

UK electoral commission asked to investigate News International payoffs

UK electoral commission asked to investigate News International payoffs

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

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Labour MP Tom Watson is calling for an investigation into payments by News International to Andy Coulson.
Image: Jwyg.

The United Kingdom electoral commission has been asked to investigate whether payments made by News International to Andy Coulson amidst the recent phone hacking scandal were illegal.

Labor MP Tom Watson, who has been a driving force in the phone hacking scandal, called for the investigation after he believed that payments and benefits made to Coulson, including private health benefits and a company car, should have been declared as a political donation. Mr Watson has reportedly been trying to uncover whether Coulson declared these payments to the cultures committee upon applying for access to parliament.

MPs are bewildered by Prime Minister David Cameron’s hiring of Coulson without anyone looking into his financial history, and many have expressed outrage as the reports contradict evidence given by the former News of The World editor to the culture committee in 2009. He allegedly told the committee that he had received a salary of £275,000 and that he did not have a second income.

Coulson is expected to face further questioning from the committee about the payments after he is cleared from the phone hacking scandal.

Robert Peston, a journalist for the BBC, claimed that Mr Coulson had received several hundred thousand pounds from News International after he began working for the Conservative Party. Despite his ousting in 2007, Mr Coulson received his severance pay in installments from News International until the end of that year.

Coulson was known to have received a payoff after his resignation from News of the World in 2007. The resignation came after the conviction of journalist Clive Goodman for phone hacking.

The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has stated that both Coulson and News International should have informed the committee about the payments. The investigation will decide whether or not the electoral committee has been misled by Coulson, and whether the payments should be considered as a political donation.

The committee is expected to meet in early September to decide on a plan of action.



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July 31, 2011

British police launch computer hacking investigation

British police launch computer hacking investigation

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Sunday, July 31, 2011

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The Metropolitan Police, a British police force based in the capital city of London, has announced its intention to commence a new investigation related to allegations of computer hacking. The force has received numerous allegations of computer and email hacking relating to journalists since January of this year, prompting the launch of the probe, codenamed Operation Tuleta. According to a spokesperson for Scotland Yard, computer hacking allegations have already been brought into account, but now, “some aspects of that operation are being moved towards investigation”.

These allegations occurred during Operation Weeting, which has investigated alleged phone hacking offences. The Metropolitan Police said that the computer hacking claims were not within the remit of the phone hacking allegation probe, so a separate investigation had to be launched. Operation Tuleta consists of a fresh team of detectives, who will provide information to Operation Weeting deputy assistant commissioner Sue Akers.

Meanwhile, the legal representatives for Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator for the former British publication News of the World (NotW) have stated that he was proceeding “on the instructions of others”. Sara Payne, the mother of the murdered girl Sarah Payne, was informed that Mulcaire possibly hacked into her phone and gathered her contact information. Payne was said to be “very distressed and upset” by the allegations. Mulcaire was sentenced to prison in January 2007 along with Clive Goodman, the royal editor for the NotW.

The final edition of the NotW was published this July, amid the phone hacking scandal within News Corporation. A public inquiry relating to the affair was launched, triggered by allegations of phone hacking and police corruption.



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July 16, 2011

Rebekah Brooks resigns from News International

Rebekah Brooks resigns from News International

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

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Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of News International, has resigned after two weeks of growing pressure over allegations of phone hacking at British tabloid newspaper the News of the World.

“I feel a deep sense of responsibility for the people we have hurt and I want to reiterate how sorry I am for what we now know to have taken place,” Brooks, who formerly edited the NotW, said in a statement. Her resignation came amid mounting pressure from politicians for her resignation, and after Rupert Murdoch dropped his bid to take full control of BSkyB following growing public anger.

David Cameron, the British prime minister, said Brooks had made the “right decision” to leave her post. His spokesperson said: “Clearly there have been mistakes made. There are a lot of questions to answer.” Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labour party also welcomed the decision. “No one in this country should exercise power without responsibility,” he said. “[But] this is not just about one individual but about the culture of an organisation.”

Her resignation came as it emerged the FBI had launched an investigation into the alleged hacking of relatives of victims of the September 11 attacks on the United States by journalists at the NotW. The move amounts to the first time the scandal has spread outside of Britain, and analysts predict it might have widespread consequences for Murdoch.

Murdoch, the media giant at the head of News Corporation, the parent company of News International, has so far stood by Brooks. Analysts say the pressure for her resignation came to a head on Thursday night as Alwaleed bin Talal al-Saud, the Saudi prince who owns the second largest stake in News Corporation, questioned her “integrity”. He told the BBC: “For sure she has to go, you bet she has to go.”

His comments followed the arrests of a number of NotW editors and reporters, and the closing of the tabloid in reaction to the phone hacking scandal that has erupted in the last two weeks following allegations that the voicemail of abducted and murdered teenager Milly Dowler was hacked into. It has also emerged that journalists at the NotW had been involved in the hacking of phones belonging to victims of the 7/7 attacks in London and relatives of British soldiers killed in combat in Afghanistan.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Murdoch has defended his handling of the scandal. “The company has made mistakes,” he said. “It is not only receiving appropriate scrutiny, but is also responding to unfair attacks by setting the record straight.” It has also emerged today that News International is to take out large advertisements in British newspapers this weekend to apologise for what they describe as “wrongdoings” at the NotW.

Brooks worked for News International for 22 years and had also edited the daily tabloid paper The Sun. She will be replaced by Tom Mockridge, the chief executive of Sky Italia. Her announcement was made to staff at News International’s offices in Wapping in East London.



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July 13, 2011

Murdoch drops BSkyB bid amid public, political pressure

Murdoch drops BSkyB bid amid public, political pressure

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

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Image: David Shankbone.

News Corporation, owned by Rupert Murdoch, has made the decision to abandon a deal to take full control of broadcasting company BSkyB. The decision came amidst pressure from the British public and politicians, as British parliamentarians from the government and opposition parties prepared to vote in the House of Commons in London to urge Murdoch to drop the deal.

The Murdoch move followed a series of damaging revelations about alleged phone hacking offences by journalists at the News of the World, which published its last edition on July 10. Labour leader Ed Miliband said the decision was “a victory for people up and down this country who have been appalled by the revelations of the phone hacking scandal and the failure of News International to take responsibility”.

Chase Carey, the president of News Corporation, said it would be “too difficult to progress in this climate.” The corporation “remains a committed long-term shareholder in BSkyB,” Carey said in a statement. “We are proud of the success it has achieved and our contribution to it.”

Politicians from around the political spectrum have expressed their disapproval on Murdoch over the allegations of phone hacking and praised his decision to drop the deal, with Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, saying the decision was “decent and sensible”; while Ivan Lewis, a senior Labour shadow minister, called the decision “a victory for the public of this country.”



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July 10, 2011

Murdoch empire in crisis after newspaper closes: BSkyB bid halted, former editor arrested, anger at chief executive

Murdoch empire in crisis after newspaper closes: BSkyB bid halted, former editor arrested, anger at chief executive

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Sunday, July 10, 2011

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Murdoch with his wife, Wendi, in 2011.
Image: David Shankbone.

Rupert Murdoch, the media billionaire giant at the head of News Corporation, flew to London today amid a growing storm over allegations of phone hacking at the News of the World, which this week closed down the bestselling newspaper in the country, saw a former editor of the newspaper arrested, and halted his hopes of taking full control of broadcaster BSkyB.

After a devastating week for Murdoch which saw new allegations that journalists from the tabloid hacked into the phones of a missing schoolgirl and relatives of victims of the 7/7 attacks, his empire was in crisis last night as it emerged the British government had put on hold his bid to take over BSkyB.

Investors rushed to ditch their shares BSkyB as Cameron announced an independent inquiry into hacking at the newspaper and Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary, said it would be “some time” before a take-over bid was authorised after a massive public response. “Shareholders are discounting the possibility that this bid won’t happen for the foreseeable future. Some people wonder if it will happen at all,” said media analyst.

Cquote1.svg I decided to give him a second chance but the second chance didn’t work. The decision to hire him was mine and mine alone. Cquote2.svg

—David Cameron, speaking about Andy Coulson

Prime minister David Cameron was forced on the defensive Friday after the arrest of Andy Coulson, a former editor of the NotW who later went on to work at Downing Street. Cameron tried to distance himself from the allegations of phone hacking, but refused to apologise for hiring Coulson. “I decided to give him a second chance but the second chance didn’t work. The decision to hire him was mine and mine alone,” Cameron said on Friday.

Coulson was bailed until later this year on Friday evening after he was questioned by officers working with Operation Weeting, which is investigating phone hacking, and his house was searched. As he left a police station in Lewisham, he said that “[t]here is an awful lot I would like to say, but I can’t at this time.”

News Corporation executives are also facing new allegations that they have disrupted inquiries at Scotland Yard into hacking at the NotW by deleting millions of incriminating e-mails. A report in The Guardian newspaper indicated that the “massive quantities” of deleted e-mails revealed discussions between journalists and editors.

Labour politicians have now demanded in a letter to Cameron that he start an inquiry before more evidence is deleted or hidden. Harriet Harman, the deputy Labour leader, said computers may be destroyed and journalists may become difficult to contact once the paper closes. A spokesperson for News International, the British arm of News Corporation, said the allegations of obstructing the police investigation were “rubbish”.

Journalists at the NotW were on Saturday putting together the final publication of the paper at News International headquarters in Wapping. There was fury in the newsroom of the tabloid on Friday as Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of News International, told reporters the brand had become “toxic” and had to close. Sources at the paper said journalists who are being made redundant as the paper closes feel they are being sacrificed to save Brooks. “They have to make us redundant first and then they will recruit some people again,” a reporter at the tabloid said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “They have to do that to show they’re scrapping the old paper.”



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June 7, 2011

Scottish singer Jai McDowall wins fifth Britain\’s Got Talent series

Scottish singer Jai McDowall wins fifth Britain’s Got Talent series

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

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Jai McDowall, a Scottish man who works as an assistant to disabled individuals and performs a singing act, has been declared as the winner of the fifth series of televised talent competition Britain’s Got Talent, broadcast on ITV1 in the United Kingdom. The final took place on Saturday night. As the winner of the show, McDowall will receive a prize of £100,000 (US$164,270, 112,252), as well being able to participate at the Royal Variety Performance – which will be attended by British Royal Family senior members – later this year.

In the final, McDowall – who lives in the South Ayrshire village of Tarbolton – had sung To Where You Are, which was originally performed by Josh Groban. McDowall’s victory was calculated via a public telephone voting system. The number of votes he received was a margin of under three per cent greater than the act who achieved second place: a 12-year-old male singer named Ronan Parke. According to BBC News Online, Parke had been considered the most likely act to win this series by bookmakers. A short time after his victory was announced, McDowall commented that he was feeling “absolutely amazing, fantastic…it’s so much more, absolutely so much more”. When interviewed afterwards, Parke said he “loved it, thank you to everyone who voted. Congratulations, Jai.” Simon Cowell acknowledged “there was going to be a shock result” and that McDowall “wasn’t one of the favourites coming in but tonight we could feel he nailed the song. He came in believing that he could win and I think he’s a worthy winner.” Meanwhile, on-air, judge Amanda Holden admitted that she “really, really wanted Ronan to win.”

Cquote1.svg [I feel] absolutely amazing, fantastic … it’s so much more, absolutely so much more. Cquote2.svg

Jai McDowall

The finale consisted of one programme featuring the finalists performing, which was broadcast from 1900 – 2100 BST (1800 – 2000 UTC) and a second programme, announcing the positions of the finalists; the latter was broadcast later in the night, from 2130 – 2200 BST (2030 – 2100 UTC). The programme also featured performances from two guests. Jackie Evancho, who achieved second place in the fifth season of America’s Got Talent, performed Nessun dorma on the first programme. US singer-songwriter Nicole Scherzinger, scheduled to appear as a judge on The X Factor (U.S.), appeared in the second show and performed Right There, the latest single to be released from her.

In the run-up to the final, five semi-finals were broadcast live on ITV1 each night from Monday to Friday. A total of 41 acts appeared between them. British stand-up comedian Michael McIntyre and American actor David Hasselhoff made their debut appearances on the show’s panel, alongside British actress Amanda Holden, who has judged for all the series so far, and British music executive Simon Cowell, who only judged for the semi-finals and the final.

Earlier in the week, an unidentified Internet blogger, who stated that they were an employee of music corporation Sony Music UK, claimed that the programme had been unfairly pre-arranged due to Parke allegedly being familiar with Cowell and Syco for two years, already having a record contract, as well as prior arrangements being made for his appearance, including his clothing, hairstyle and behaviour. Parke achieved the largest number of public votes in the semi-final he appeared in on Monday, allowing him to earn his place in Saturday’s final.

On the fifth Britain’s Got Talent semi-final on Friday, Cowell addressed these allegations and publicly denied them, stating: “There has been an allegation made in the papers – not in the papers actually, on the internet by somebody – that Ronan Parke had a previous recording contract with my record label, that I’d met him beforehand, both of which are complete and utter lies. The first time I met Ronan was the first time he appeared on this show. He entered the show of his own accord. He’s 12 years old. This is a deliberate smear campaign.”

In a statement, Syco – a British entertainment company which Cowell is the chief executive officer of – responded by claiming that “[t]here is no truth in this story whatsoever. Ronan first came to Syco/Sony’s attention when he entered this year’s competition. Syco/Sony Music will not hesitate to take whatever legal action is appropriate to prevent further publication of these unfounded allegations.” The Metropolitan Police Service have also reported that “[a]n allegation of malicious communications was made to Kensington and Chelsea police on Thursday 2 June” and that “[t]he allegation is being considered.” In an interview with BBC Radio Norfolk, Maggie Parke – Ronan’s mother – called the allegations “laughable” as there “couldn’t be further from the truth”. “There’s no foundation in it whatsoever,” said Maggie.

In the final, Parke performed a cover of the Kelly Clarkson song Because of You and placed second in the contest, behind McDowall. However, British tabloid newspaper News of the World has reported the intentions of Sony Music Entertainment to provide a record contract for the 12-year-old singer, allegedly valued at £1,000,000 (US$1,641,681, €1,123,711). Speaking to the paper, a source familiar with Cowell commented: “We are not going to let malicious claims about Ronan impact his entire career. That would not be fair. The fact is, he is a little star. He’s like our Justin Bieber. He launched his career on the internet. He is self-made.” Musical manager Jonathan Shalit claimed that Parke “will be the most successful BGT winner ever, bigger than Bieber. I’d take him to Hollywood, straight to Disney.” A source related to Britain’s Got Talent cited the aforementioned fix allegations for Parke’s failure to win the series, mentioning: “Sadly, the result had nothing to do with Ronan’s talent. A lot of people believed the completely false smears on the internet and wanted to punish Simon as a result. The public are against him at the moment. This was their revenge.”

A London-based act named New Bounce achieved third place in the competition. Their act consists of four male singers: Mitchell, aged 16, 12-year-old MJ, Kuan, aged 13 and James, aged 12. In the final, the group performed a cover of the Bill Withers song Ain’t No Sunshine. Simon Cowell subsequently compared their potential to that of JLS, who have achieved number 1 on music charts, claiming that “[t]his is a group that would work in the real world”.

Other acts who appeared in the final included Michael Collings, who is also a singer and plays a guitar for his act. Razy Gogonea performed a form of breakdancing known as body-popping. James Hobley was also an act who danced, performing contemporary dance routines. Steven Hall was another dancer, albeit one who performed for comedic effect, dancing to the sounds of various famous pop music tracks and lip-syncing the lyrics. Les Gibson performed a comedy act involving him making impressions of various celebrities, with Cowell, McIntyre and Hasselhoff amongst them, as well as Ant & Dec, who host the programme. Paul Gbegbaje and Jean Martyn were both musical acts, with the former playing the piano and the latter using an organ to make music. Gbegbaje played piano music which he had composed himself, while Martyn performed a medley of songs, amongst which was the John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John song You’re the One That I Want. Martyn sang along to the song but was not clearly audible due to the absence of a microphone during her performance. She later explained that her performance had been previously rehearsed without the singing included.

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Below is a table addressing the rank the finalists of the fifth series of Britain’s Got Talent achieved in Saturday’s final.


Rank Artist Act
1 Jai McDowall Singer
2 Ronan Parke Singer
3 New Bounce Singers
4 Razy Gogonea Breakdancer (body-popping)
5 Michael Collings Singer / guitarist
6 Paul Gbegbaje Pianist
7 Steven Hall Comedic dancer
8 James Hobley Dancer
9 Les Gibson Impressionist
10 Jean Martyn Organist

This map illustrates the location of South Ayrshire, where McDowall lives. Image: Ordnance Survey OpenData.

This map illustrates the location of South Ayrshire, where McDowall lives.
Image: Ordnance Survey OpenData.

Stand-up comedian Michael McIntyre, seen here in April 2009, judged Britain's Got Talent for the first time this series. Image: Damien Everett.

Stand-up comedian Michael McIntyre, seen here in April 2009, judged Britain’s Got Talent for the first time this series.
Image: Damien Everett.

File:Hoff Wiki.jpg
American actor David Hasselhoff, seen here in November 2006, also became a permanent judge from this series. Image: Tylermiller805.(Image missing from commons: image; log)

American actor David Hasselhoff, seen here in November 2006, also became a permanent judge from this series.
Image: Tylermiller805.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

British music executive Simon Cowell (left), seen here in June 2010, judged only for the semi-finals and the final for this series. Image: Alison Martin.

Simon Cowell, seen here in June 2010, judged only for the semi-finals and the final for this series.
Image: Alison Martin.

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October 11, 2009

Boyzone member Stephen Gately dies at age 33

Boyzone member Stephen Gately dies at age 33

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

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Boyzone member Stephen Gately has died suddenly at the age of 33 while on holiday on the Spanish island of Majorca.

Gately was on holiday with his partner Andrew Cowles when his body was found on Saturday. The information was confirmed on Boyzone’s official website on Sunday. The other members of Boyzone were said to be travelling to the same island on Sunday before his death was discovered. Dan Wootton, showbusiness editor for British tabloid News of the World, told BBC News that the singer had left the means of accommodation to go out for some drinks, returned, fell asleep and never woke up again. Spanish police report his body was found on a sofa in the lounge.

Louis Walsh, manager of the group and also a judge on UK television singing competition The X Factor, commented, “We’re all absolutely devastated. I’m in complete shock. I was only with him on Monday at an awards ceremony. We don’t know much about what’s happened yet. I only heard after The X Factor and we will rally around each other this week. He was a great man.”

A spokesperson for Spanish police said today in Majorca, “[a]t the moment it is not known how he died. There are no signs of suspicious circumstances. “Gately’s time of death was given as approximately 13.45 UTC. The police spokesperson added, “[d]etails remain pretty unclear. We managed to take a look at some documents, they tell us that police received the body around half past four. We think we know he was drinking in a bar, perhaps they went to a restaurant, but none of this is confirmed.”

Gately’s family hope to hold his funeral in Dublin, Gately’s home town. A representative of the family stated they are “shattered”.



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October 9, 2009

BBC receives 487 complaints after \’Dancing\’ race row

BBC receives 487 complaints after ‘Dancing’ race row

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Friday, October 9, 2009

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The BBC has received 487 complaints after Strictly Come Dancing professional dancer Anton du Beke used a racist remark for his dance partner. Actress contestant Laila Rouass, who is of Morrocan descent, was called a “paki” by her dance partner during rehearsals for the show. British tabloid News of the World revealed the information from the BBC One programme in their newspaper on Sunday.

By Monday, it had emerged that there had been 63 complaints to the corporation. Since Thursday, the racist comment by du Beke has caused a total of 487 complaints to the BBC. Du Beke has since apologised to Rouass for the comment.

Bruce Forsyth, who presents the show alongside Tess Daly, had an unscheduled interview with radio show TalkSport on Wednesday. During the interview he said that, in days gone by, the remark would not have been treated so seriously. He said: “You go back 25, 30, 40 years and there has always been a bit of humour about the whole thing.

Cquote1.svg Everybody has a nickname. Cquote2.svg

—Bruce Forsyth

“Americans used to call us ‘limeys’ which doesn’t sound very nice, but we used to laugh about it. Everybody has a nickname,” Forsyth stated to the BBC Radio 5 Live show. “I’m sure there was nothing vindictive about what he [Anton du Beke] said…the page should be closed on it. It’s a damn shame and I feel for him and Laila, she’s a lovely girl. He is a lovely, sensitive guy. OK, he can be a bit mouthy and can say quick things off-the-cuff like I do. But when you’re like that you can slip up every now and again. You can say something that you don’t mean.”

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As a result of the comments made by Bruce Forsyth, the Victoria Derbyshire show received a record 600 complaints from listeners. Afterwards, Forsyth apologised for the comments he made on the show, and released a statement on Thursday saying: “To be absolutely clear, the use of racially offensive language is never either funny or acceptable.” A spokesperson for the BBC has also said: “The BBC does not condone offensive language in the workplace. Anton du Beke has apologised to Laila, who has accepted his apology.”

Kulvinder Ghir, an actor from Asia, showed his dissatisfaction for what was said on the radio show, stating: “Claiming the word paki is harmless is just ignorance.”

There has been calls made from viewers to the BBC over the last few days to dismiss Anton du Beke from Strictly Come Dancing. Earlier this year, former The One Show presenter Carol Thatcher was dismissed from ITV1 reality TV show I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here! due to racist remarks she made while on the programme. Despite this incident, the BBC have decided not to sack Anton du Beke from the BBC One dancing show.

The BBC has now had 686 complaints since Friday, an increase of 199 complaints from Thursday.



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