- - Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ex-co-worker: Morgan must have known about hacking

CNN celebrity interviewer Piers Morgan was an extremely hands-on tabloid editor who must have known that phone hacking was rife at his paper, a former employee claimed Wednesday, the Associated Press reports.

Business journalist James Hipwell said voice-mail interceptions were an everyday activity at Britain’s Daily Mirror tabloid, where Mr. Hipwell worked in the late 1990s as a columnist providing stock tips.

Mr. Hipwell told a British inquiry into media ethics that while he had no direct evidence that Mr. Morgan, the Daily Mirror editor at the time, was involved in phone hacking, he said it was impossible to imagine that Mr. Morgan had been kept in the dark.

“Nothing happened at the newspaper without him knowing,” Mr. Hipwell testified, speaking a day after Mr. Morgan was grilled Tuesday in a tense, nationally televised hearing before the inquiry.

Mr. Morgan denied having any direct connection to phone hacking - although he refused to answer questions about how he came to hear a voice-mail message left by former Beatle Paul McCartney on the phone of his now ex-wife Heather Mills.

Before his U.S. television career, Mr. Morgan ran two British tabloids - Rupert Murdoch’s now-shuttered News of the World, between 1994 and 1995, which has been at the center of the U.K. phone-hacking scandal, then the rival Daily Mirror, which is not connected to the Murdoch empire, where he stayed for nearly a decade.

Mr. Hipwell and Mr. Morgan have a long history. Both were investigated as part of an inquiry into market manipulation after it emerged that Mr. Morgan made a quick profit of thousands of dollars by buying shares that were then promoted in the next day’s paper.

Mr. Morgan was cleared of wrongdoing, but Mr. Hipwell and another tipster, Anil Bhoyrul, were convicted in 2005. Mr. Hipwell expressed remorse over his role in the stock scam but said he always believed his former boss had been as guilty as he was.

“I can understand why people think that I have an ax to grind against him,” Mr. Hipwell told the inquiry.

By Mr. Hipwell’s account, phone hacking was a matter of routine - a “standard journalistic tool for gathering information.” He said journalists openly boasted about breaking into phones to intercept voice mails.

Mr. Morgan, 46, has already dismissed Mr. Hipwell’s claims as the “unsubstantiated allegations of a liar and convicted criminal.”

Golden Globe nominations energized ‘The Hour’ actor

Dominic West is no stranger to award ceremonies - he’s just not used to being nominated. The British actor is on the shortlist for a Golden Globe for his performance in BBC America’s period newsroom drama, “The Hour.”

“In my 37 years in show business I’ve yet to win an award,” Mr. West grinned. “So yes, we had a little jump up and down at home, cracked open another bottle.”

Talking Tuesday to the Associated Press on the TV program’s south London set, Mr. West said he had worried about how the program would be received, noting the tough competition it faced from “great” American dramas like “Mad Men.”

“The Hour” has been nominated for three Globes in all; best miniseries or movie, Mr. West for the actor category and co-star Romola Garai for best actress.

Mr. West plays blustery anchorman Hector Madden, while fellow Brits Miss Garai and Ben Whishaw round out the love triangle that is taking place behind the scenes of an hour-long British news TV program.

Mr. West said the news of the Globe nominations, which came at the start of shooting for six new episodes in the second season, has put a spring into the step of the cast and crew.

“It’s always nice to know that what you’re doing is actually being watched and appreciated by people,” he said. “Especially when audience figures aren’t so big. And in England, we were on over the summer holidays, so I wasn’t ever sure if anyone saw it.”

The Golden Globes ceremony is being held Jan. 15 at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Los Angeles.

HBO renews ‘Enlightened,’ axes three other series

HBO is renewing its Golden Globes-nominated freshman series “Enlightened,” but is axing three other series.

According to the Associated Press, “Hung” and “Bored to Death” will not return for a fourth season, nor will “How to Make it in America” be back for a third cycle, the network said Tuesday.

“Enlightened,” which ended its first season earlier this month, last week earned a Golden Globe nomination for best comedy or musical series, as well as a nomination for its star, Laura Dern. On the show, Miss Dern plays an unstable career woman who wants to be a social activist.

HBO will premiere six new series in 2012. They include “Luck,” an untitled drama series created by Aaron Sorkin, “Veep,” “Girls,” “Life’s Too Short” and “Angry Boys,” which debuts on New Year’s Day.

New game show hitting streets of New York

The music-based Fuse network is branching out into comedy with a game show filmed on New York City sidewalks. Think “Cash Cab” without the cab, and with some New York attitude.

“Funny or Die’s Billy on the Street” features comic Billy Eichner, who has made a popular series of videos with sassy street encounters. The series, which premieres at 11 p.m. Thursday, is the third television production launched by the comic website Funny or Die.

Mr. Eichner stalks the sidewalks to find people willing to answer music and celebrity-based questions for money. Not a lot of money, mind you. One woman was insulted when Mr. Eichner counted out single dollar bills as part of her winnings.

The questions aren’t typical, either. Mr. Eichner had a particularly ribald way of probing how well contestants kept up on John Mayer’s love life, for example.

The idea for him is to give celebrity gossip the same weight as issues of war and peace and see how people react, he said.

“I’m bringing this urgency to what is really a ridiculous topic,” he said.

Most of the people he encounters are good sports. “It’s fascinating to me how even jaded New Yorkers who you think wouldn’t want to be on television are really very excited to be on television,” he said.

Compiled from Web and wire service reports.