Galloway v Telegraph: Bad news for journalists or just for the Telegraph?

While the result of George Galloway’s High Court victory over the Telegraph may be seen as a blow to free expression in some quarters, it is fundamentally sound in its application of legal principle. Incursions into the media’s freedom to publish scoops on corruption or other form of malfeasance, especially where our elected politicians are concerned should be vigorously defended however, where that which is published forms the basis of allegations of high treason, the message for the media is that the judge will be the final arbiter over what is fair and accurate reporting.

On one level, the Galloway case is relatively straightforward. The fact of publication or defamatory nature of the contents was never in issue. The fact that the authenticity of the documents that formed the basis of the publication could not be proven – or a newspaper could not reasonably be expected to be in a position to have the resources necessary to verify such documents was also not disputed. Unusually perhaps, the facts which would normally be put to a jury to deliberate on, were accepted by both parties and the judge as being sufficient to warrant dispensing with a jury in this case.

What was at issue was whether, in presenting those facts, the Telegraph was entitled to rely on the defence of qualified privilege (or the associated fair comment defence) in response to a claim for defamation. It is largely accepted that when it comes to pleading qualified privilege as a defence, evidence of malice can extinguish the right to the defence. So in this sense one could argue that the Telegraph did not have the strongest of cases.

But Galloway’s case did not rely on malice, instead it attacked the fairness and accuracy of the reporting or ‘neutral reportage’ as it was referred to. It is here that the case enters a more complex and controversial level. What sits uncomfortably with the media and which has clearly emerged from this case is that the courts will substitute their view of what amounts to ‘responsible journalism’ over that of an editor.

To assess ‘responsible journalism’ the court will look at the context of the publication as well as the duty of the media to inform the public and the public’s corresponding interest in the story. In his judgment Mr Justice Eady acknowledged that this gives rise to an ‘undesirable tension’. In the Reynolds context, it is the judge who has to decide whether the publication was in the public interest.

What his judgment makes clear and which should be of concern to the media is that when it comes to assessing the fairness and accuracy of a story, the courts will look beyond the construction of what is said and take into account the surrounding circumstances. The media are therefore subjected to a much wider test. The courts will now ask two things; first, is the report itself fair and accurate? and second, were the circumstances surrounding the preparation and presentation of that report fair and accurate?

This was the first hurdle at which the Telegraph’s case fell.

The second, concerned the neutrality of their reporting or reportage. In the Al Fagih libel case Lord Justice Simon Brown helpfully defined ‘reportage’ as a “convenient word to describe neutral reporting of attributed allegations rather than their adoption by the newspaper”. So how does one assess neutrality? Both the judgment in Al Fagih and now Galloway make clear that neutrality means not adopting the allegations contained in the publication. In other words, you can publish and comment on documents but what you cannot do is to subsequently adopt the content of those documents to form the basis of your comment. This extinguishes both the fairness of your comment and neutrality of your reporting.

Based on this assessment, the Telegraph’s defence was bound to fail. The privilege they sought to rely on was qualified and they had not measured up to Mr Justice Eady’s assessment of being eligible for or entitled to such qualification.
The defence of qualified privilege having failed, the further appeal the Telegraph made was that the denial of this and the associated fair comment defence (which failed because it depended on privilege having been established) amounted to a breach of the basic freedom of speech guarantee conferred by the European Convention. This is indeed a serious charge and if proven would have serious implications for the media. Mr Justice Eady went to great lengths to examine recent and relevant European cases, notably Thoma v Luxembourg and the Finnish Selisto case. The facts of these were slightly different but the judgments provide useful guidance in this case. In the Thoma case the distinction is made between adopting a story and distancing oneself from it. What the European Court stated was that it would infringe on a journalist’s right to free expression if they had to actively distance themselves from a story they are reporting. Adopting a story as the Telegraph did, would not, it seems, qualify for protection from the laws that are ‘necessary in a democratic society’ that qualify the convention right to free expression. In relation to the Selisto case, it turned on whether someone claiming to have been defamed by a report was only defamed through incidental inclusion as part of a wider discussion of issues as opposed to being singled out. It was clear that the Telegraph had very much singled out Galloway.

So ultimately, although Mr Justice Eady said he was making “all due allowance for the encouragement towards the wider and more flexible use of the common law principles in Reynolds” he was unable to uphold a defence of privilege. As he had found ..”the Defendants were not neutral. They did not merely adopt the allegations. They embraced them with relish and fervour”

What the Galloway case does is add a further qualification to qualified privilege. While qualified privilege as a defence has not been abolished, it has been sidestepped and subjected to further qualification. So the media need to add an 11th point to the 10 point test for applying qualified privilege set out by Lord Nicholls in the Reynolds case - whether in publishing, a newspaper or broadcaster can satisfy the judge that their interpretation of the duty-interest test which led them to publish amounts to 'neutral reportage'

While the finding that by adopting the allegations of their story, the Telegraph had forfeited the right to rely on a defence of qualified privilege may seem jurisprudentially fair, it has wider implications from a journalistic point of view. Mr Justice Eady has made it clear that in cases such as this, it will be the judge who is the final arbiter over what is 'neutral reportage'. He acknowledged that what can be seen as judicial disenchantment or unease in embracing the Reynolds defence, is in part down to the lack of opportunity to develop or define its application. The irony is that such opportunity as has arisen, the courts (notably Mr Justice Eady) have adopted a narrow and cautious approach.


PCC says soccer ground subterfuge was in public interest

The PCC has today announced its adjudication of a complaint brought by Controlled Events Solutions Ltd who were responsible for patrolling the ring of steel around Manchester United's Old Trafford ground, against the People and the Mirror. Details HERE <<<181104updating>>>

Latest Libel Action: Polanski asks Lords to allow video link

Will the fact that cameras are bing allowed into our courts persuade the House of Lords to allow Polanski to give evidence via video link - unlikely! <<<181104updating>>>


Galloway defends honour while Telegraph stands by story

Will the Telegraph prove it has a sting its tale about Galloway's friends in Iraq<<<<181104updating>>>>



<<<>>>>As a new pilot study gets underway to persuade their Lordships that televised court proceedings are the future and essential for open justice, are the media just convincing themselves its good - will it actually make good TV and does good TV make for good law? Mediabeak investigates.... <<>>

What a 'balls up' Boris!

<<>>>Never mind upsetting Liverpuddlians, Petronella Wyatt's mum proves much more fearsome for the beleagured Boris <<>>


Beckham's set to sue paper over marriage slur

As if we'd not had enough recurring stories about the Beckham's marriage being on-the-rocks! With minimal excitement taking place on the pitch, the papers thought they'd turn their endless speculation about Posh and Beck's marriage into an exclusive and claim (again) that their marriage was in trouble.

Fuel for this rekindled fire was the fact that the couple had spent some time together without the kids at a swanky hotel. This, according to our top tabloid sleuths, was allegedly due to the fact their marriage crisis had deepened and they were holding last-ditch talks in an attempt to save it.

The media still seems to feel cheated by the fact their coverage of Rebecca Loos sexy text affair was not enough to unseat the Beckhams from their marital throne and never elicited any confirmation or denial from Becks about the affair. (Well with Sven as his mentor what would one expect?) As the various tales of textuality never led to litigation we were deprived what would have been interesting legal argument about the admissibility of Miss Loos alleged text messages.

After threatening to call in the lawyers last time round, this latest publication of tabloid tittle-tattle has left the Beckhams unimpressed and upset and lawyers demanded the story be retracted. While the Sun has run Beckham's swift denial [story HERE], the News of the World is sticking to its story.

So could this finally see the Beckhams take on the tabloids? According to law firm Harbottle and Lewis who are representing them in this matter, the couple and their family are distressed. As we learnt from the recent House of Lords judgment in Naomi Campbell's tussle with the Mirror, such distress is now more likely to be actionable.

Whether tabloid speculation would be seen as intrusive of the Beckham's privacy may turn into an interesting argument. Certainly the story was upsetting but was it gained by intrusive means? What we may be looking at - if this case progresses - is whether speculation itself can be seen as intrusive and as such a breach of privacy.

More from BBC HERE
More from Media Guardian HERE


German court rules that TV ad blockers are not illegal

As reported by German media site DWDL.de, the top federal court has ruled that a controversial gadget called the 'Fernsehfee' - TV Fairy - which automatically switches TV channel when adverts appear is not illegal.

Germany's major commercial broadcaster RTL had brought an action claiming the gadget contravened its freedom to compete in the broadcasting market by switching TV sets to another ad-free channel whenever adverts appeared in RTL's programming.

RTL enjoys advertising revenues of around a billion Euros annually and saw the device as compromising its commercial operations as advertisers would be less inclined to pay for adverts knowing that audiences would have TV sets that automatically switched over whenever they appeared.

The court ruled that the gadget did not constitute an illegal restraint on RTL's trade and competitiveness.

The Fernsehfee automatically switched back to the programme you were watching once the ad break is over - seems like a good thing!

Hospital sued for privacy invasion after staff take photo of unconscious patient's private parts

As reported by Reuters, a displeased patient has filed a lawsuit against a Denver hospital after staff took a picture of his genitalia while he lay unconscious in the emergency treatment room.

35 year old Gergory Bradford was being treated for a cracked skull when hospital workers decided - for reasons best known to themselves - to expose his private parts and take a photo with his own digital camera.

Clearly this was an unwelcome invasion of Mr Bradford's privacy though he has got a memento - and evidence - from his ordeal.


Irresponsible tabloid tripe

We had all the headlines about being ruthlessly robbed of our place in Euro 2004 and the usual post mortem of the game and the injustice England had to suffer at being knocked out of the championship.

That much is fair play and fair comment but the match is over and we have to accept that as fans or as journalists we were watching a game that has certain rules as well as certain uncertainties.

So we have to ask ourselves whether launching a media campaign against the much maligned Mr Meier who refereed that fateful game is either useful or responsible.

Plastering an England flag outside his house may seem intrusive but arguably is fair cop as a picture gag for the tabloid press. However, taking matters further and publishing his e-mail address transgresses the bounds or responsible journalism. It is ironic that while the BBC is busying itself with plans to send its journalists back to school, the press can get away with fuelling the fire of those bad sports out there who consider football games to be a matter of the utmost national importance and while not necessarily prepared to fight for their country will fight for their football.

Blaming the Sun among others, Mr Meier has now been forced into hiding and is receiving police protection against the death threats he has received. Did news editors really think that the e-mail address they printed would attract the attention of people who may want to enter into civilised dialogue with Mr Meier?

Meanwhile a portrait of David Beckham has been defaced at the Fifa 100 exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts.
(report HERE)

Its one thing to convey the population's disappointment over their football team losing a game but another to encourage a nation of bad losers who are only prepared to accept the score they settle by seeking to avenge the innocent actions of football players and referees.


Mattel counts the cost of defending Barbie's honour

Barbie is proving a costly commodity for toymaker Mattel who have just lost their most recent legal battle to preserve the honour of their world-famous doll.

The company had filed suit against an artist after taking exception to his use of Barbie in a collection of photographs that were part of a critique of 'the materialistic and gender-oppressive values' the dolls are accused of embodying. Little could the first Barbies in 1959 have known that they would come to be held responsible for 20th century gender oppression.

Mattel wanted to preserve Barbie's dignity and also ensure that its customers did not associate the company with such politicisation if its dolls.

Utah based artist Tom Forsythe started this saga with his collection of photos that sought to sexualise Barbie. At the centre of the dispute was a photo in which four Barbie dolls had been subjected to the harrowing ordeal of being wrapped in tortillas and thrown in the oven to produce 'Barbie Enchiladas'.

Mattel, which lost its case against Forsythe back in December has now been ordered to pay legal fees and court costs in excess of 1.8 million dollars. Not only did the appeal court judges rule that the artist had a first amendment right to parody the dolls but went on to say that Mattel's lawsuit 'may have been groundless and unreasoanble'. Harsh words for the defender of the dolls' dignity.

Mattel has not had much luck in the courts when it comes to protecting Barbie. Back in 2002 a court ruled that bondage Barbie or 'Dungeon Doll' as her UK creator called her was not an infringement of Barbie's copyright.
Details HERE

Further Barbie court cases

US Supreme Court blocks Internet Porn Law

The United States Supreme Court has blocked the controversial 1998 Child Online Protection Act (COPA) after a majority ruling decided that could be in breach of the right to free speech granted by the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Passed by Congress in 1998 the law has yet to come into effect and intorduced a range of measures aimed at protecting children against internet porn.

What made the measures so controversial was the fact that they would have required all users wishing to access 'adult' sites to register details. Free speech campaigners said that this posed an undue restriction on people's right to communicate freely and consequently was a violation of their First Amendment rights in this context.

Ruling 5 to 4 against the Act, the Supreme Court sided with the view that there were other methods for safeguarding children against porn sites that were less restrictive on the legitimate rights of adults to view such sites (assuming the sites contained material that was itself not grossly indecent or illegal!)

The other concern voiced by web publishers was that under the Act, large fines could be handed out to anyone who placed material that was harmful to minors on the net. Taken literally, this would render hundreds of sites and vast quantities of material potentially illegal.

The effect of the Supreme Court ruling is to make legislators take a fresh look at the law and address the fundamental issue that lies in access rather than availability of pornographic material on the internet.

Both sides will now have to present their arguments before a lower court which will pass judgment on whether the law, if brought into force, would violate the First Amendment.


Ofcom slams Fox news for BBC slur

Ofcom has today delivered its most recent adjudications and upheld complaints against Fox news and ITV.

Fox anchor John Gibson is known for delivering punchy opinions at the end of Fox's news programme 'The Big Story' but his 'My Word' at the end of January was a scathing attack on the BBC. In the wake of Hutton's findings that day he accused the BBC of, among other things, lying and engaging in 'frothing-at-the-mouth anti-americansim'.

His diatribe attracted 24 complaints and Ofcom was not impressed with Fox's defence of its position or omission to give the BBC a right of reply.

Read the ruling HERE

In another adjudication, Ofcom also upheld complaints over the level of violence depicted in the ITV drama Wire in the Blood. A brutal murder scene screened moments after the 9pm watershed had passed was deemed excessive violence that 'would have gone beyond viewers' expectations' even for such a dark drama.

Ruling HERE

Becks wins payout over 'golden balls' pics

The picture agency that provided the front page pictures of Beckham fiddling with his pants on a hotel balcony in Lisbon has been forced to pay out substantial damages for the intrusion into Beckham's privacy.
Big Pictures provided the shot of Beckham in just his pants and sunglasses which the Sun and Star newspapers used last Thursday. Its photographer must have been using extreme longlens photography to grab his picture from beyond the 500m security cordon around the England players' hotel. This contravenes the PCC code but is also an intrusion into privacy. The Football Association has taken a tough stance on tabloids and their snappers intruding on the England team in the run-up and during the Euro 2004 championship.
Recent cases involving photos of celebrities in private places have seen a tougher stance being taken against the press and where they decide to litigate, celebrities usually have the courts finding in their favour.
Beckham has had a rough ride with the press over the past few months and still licking his wounds from his sextext saga has also threatened legal action over pictures of him on a beach with his son Brooklyn.
After yesterday's tragic start to Euro 2004 he may well wish to keep the press at bay.


Media Beak is on holiday

The beak is taking a break and will be back with the latest news and views on the 10th June.

Coming soon: Media Beak will be relaunching this summer with a massive media law web site containing all the news, information and resources you could need for media law - from the latest judgments to online tutorials in media law subjects to online guides for print and broadcast journalists and editors.


Slamming cell doors could be the sound of the summer if you buy counterfeit CD's in Greece

Tourists are being warned to beware that they risk being banged-up in jail if they buy cheap pirated CD's to lend song to their summer holidays in Greece.

The Greek authorities are getting tough on copyright. They say they are not making an example but one unsuspecting punter who bought a couple of pirate CDs from a street vendor in Athens is now serving three months in jail. With nearly half the CDs being sold in Greece being pirated, the campaign to clamp down on counterfeits has moved from the vendors to the buyers - a draconian take on the 'caveat emptor' convention.

and from IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industries)HERE

Charges dropped in Spanish soccer sex case

The charges of sexual assault brought against Leicester City players Frank Sinclair, Keith Gillespie and Paul Dickov (see MB below) have been dropped.

Forensic tests having failed to incriminate the players or corroborate the accusations against them, the Spanish court has decided not to proceed with the prosecution.

More from BBC HERE


No stains in Spain as forensic tests fail to link Leicester players to the sexual assualt allegations against them

Forensic tests from that fateful night in La Manga have failed to link the three Leicester City players with the crime of which they were so colourfully accused.

Frank Sinclair, Keith Gillespie and Paul Dickov were banged up in a Spanish jail after 'businesswomen' alleged they had sexually assaulted them. The women's 'business' was subsequently called into question and the players bailed for a six figure sum.

This latest news will come as a relief to the players who have protested their innocence throughout and was welcomed by club Chief Executive Tim Davies.

The media had a feeding frenzy at the time of their arrest as they were added to an expanding roll-call of footballers behaving badly.

The difficulty with such cases is that while footballers may be prone to bad behaviour, it is not necessarily criminal. Last year's case involving premiership players accused of raping a girl at the Grosvenor House highlighted just how messy cases such as this can get.

The Leicester players spanish saga was widely reported because Spain does not have the contempt of court rules which restricts our press back home. However the Grosvenor House allegations got the Attorney General twitching after the accused (and a selection of girlfriends, relatives and random friends) sold their side of the story to the press and the victim hired PR supremo Max Clifford. While we were presented with spectacular media coverage the ensuing case was thrown out after the Crown Prosecution Service decided there was no reasonable chance of securing a conviction on the evidence.

So from the stains in Spain to Park Lane hotels it may be easy to accuse footballers of illegal acts but as these cases show, it will not be as easy to prove a crime. At the end of the day it may well be down to forensic tests and a review of contrasting front pages to determine the cases that end up out of court.

The Spanish judge will now have to decide how to proceed. The accusers may lodge an objection but no doubt the media will make up its mind.

BBC report HERE
Sky News HERE

Final act in bitter battle over comedy play

A long-running feud between the playwright Mary Jones and theatre director Pam Brighton over who was the author of the hit play 'Stones in His Pockets' has finally been settled by the High Court.

This contentious copyright claim dated back to 1996 when Ms Brighton had provided Marie Jones with what was referred to as a 'draft opening script'.

Ms Brighton has alleged and tried to assert ownership over the ensuing play that was written by Marie Jones in 1996 and revised in 1999. The stage play has been an enormous success and was performed in various countries across the world.

Ms Brighton's claim was based on the fact that having provided her draft, she was the joint author of the work.

Section 10(1) of the Copyright Designs & Patents Act 1988 states that: " a work of 'joint authorship' means a work produced by the collaboration of two or more authors in which the contribution of each author is not distinct from that of the other author "

Having felt that Marie Jones didn't value her creative input the relationship between Brighton and Jones had deteriorated and what was finally authored was therefore anything but collaborative.

The reworking and writing of the play also meant it could be seen as a distinct or new copyright work.

The judge, Mr Justice Park actually took the trouble to see the play when it was on at the New Ambassadors Theatre before ruling in the case.

He said that Marie Jones was the sole author of the copyright work but that for future purposes, the input provided by Ms Brighton in the form of her 'draft opening script' was sufficient to require her consent to be sought for future exploitation of the work. This does put a significant constraint on Marie Jone's freedom to use the play.

More details HERE
Doublejoint Theatre Company - founded by Brighton and Jones before their artistic troubles began.


Latest OFCOM rulings: You can have Love but don't say 'fuck' on a Saturday night

Ofcom has today issued its latest complaints bulletin.

ITV came under fire for allowing the word 'fuck' onto two of its programmes - Love on a Saturday Night and the Brit Awards. A surprised contestant got expletive on the channel's Love show while rapper 50 Cent's lyrics caused offence when they appeared on the subtitles during the Brit Awards.

Meanwhile on CBBC, kids show 'Stitch Up' caused offence after a Greek tourist who was tricked into performing a horror sketch for the show slipped into Greek vernacular, promising to do something sexual with a third person's mother. A Greek speaking viewer complained and Ofcom ruled that this was serious:"While we appreciated the efforts made by the broadcaster prior to broadcast, we felt that as the person consulted had not recognised the words, the onus was on the broadcaster to make further enquiries, given the programme's likely audience."

Mirror may have been hoaxed but are the public being cheated?

Political, military and ultimately shareholder pressure may have claimed the latest media scalp in a war no-one wanted but while press and politicians play hardball the public are being short-changed in their quest for the truth.

The Queen’s Lancashire Regiment may have ignited the fuse that blasted Morgan out of Canary Wharf but it will be easier to sort out what goes on the front page than it is to sort out what’s been happening on the frontline.

Showing torture pictures may be putting our soldiers at risk but the real danger lies behind the headlines. The dust may have settled on the fake pictures but they have opened up an unfortunate window on war and practices which have previously not been called into question.

What has made recent events so horrifying is the fact that whether it be the authentic American photos or the fake British ones, there are people who see fit to take pictures of such practices. There can only be three reasons – as part of a deliberate process to use in interrogation; as trophies for a few misled soldiers; or to expose either of these practices.

However the various pictures came about the public has a right to some answers and while the Mirror should have been checking the fakes others should have been checking the facts about what has been happening behind the scenes and why it has taken fakes to expose Red Cross and Amnesty reports about those facts.

While truth may count as the first casualty of any war, the quest for the truth is what responsible journalism is all about. While journalists should be responsible, politicians have a corresponding duty to their electorate to be accountable. However, these duties have been damaged in the cross-fire as both sides wage their own war with each other. So as the battle rages over what should be allowed onto the front pages the public are being denied the debates we should be having.

Only the people who provided the pictures Piers decided to publish will know the truth behind their story. The fate of Dr David Kelly may have put off many a whistleblower and the true tales behind the fake photos may now never come to light. Journalists have a duty to protect their sources and that duty extends to Soldiers ‘A’ and ‘B’ who provided the pictures. Only they know whether it was an horrific hoax or a deep-rooted desire to expose wrongdoing. As things stand it could be up to a court of law to force the truth to be told. That could turn out to be a seriously bad news day for all.

German court rules that TV broadcasters allowed to change their published schedule

An interesting case arose in Germany last week where a disgruntled viewer took state broadcaster ZDF to court for altering its schedule.
The viewer had wanted to watch the regular lunchtime news bulletins "Heute" and "ZDF Mittagsmagazin" and was outraged to find the channel was broadcasting live footage from the Danish royal wedding.
The administrative court in Mainz (sensibly) ruled in favour of the broadcaster saying that an individual viewer had no rights to a specific programme or schedule. The judgment said that while there were certain duties public broadcasters had to observe, it was down to them how they set out and adapted their schedule.

Report (in German) from DWDL.de


Papers fail to overturn Carr injunction

Death threats and her exposure to 'risks disproportionate to her crime' have persuaded Mr Justice Eady that the far-reaching restraining order preventing the media from publishing or seeking to find out details of Maxine Carr's whereabouts or identity, should remain in place.

See MB below.
More details HERE

Papers set to challenge Carr injunction

Several papers are heading to the High Court this afternoon to challenge the court order granted to Carr yesterday.

They feel that the wide-ranging restrictions (see MB below) are excessive. While there is acceptance of the ban on directly identifying Carr, the ban on her surrounding circumstances is seen as an intrusion on the media's freedom of expression. The debate in court will be about whether the desire to protect Carr from physical abuse and danger should outweigh the public's right to know and media's right to report on her general circumstances.

It could turn out to be textbook stuff with the court turning to Article 10 of the European Convention. This does provide for freedom of speech and expression but clause 2 of the article contains a significant claw-back that makes an exception in cases where national security or the protection of others is at stake. There is a requirement that any restrictions imposed under the clause are 'necessary in a democratic society' - so it could come down to whether the level of protection granted to Carr is deemed 'necessary'.

The order as it currently stands is perhaps tougher on internet service providers whose customers may well be outside jurisdiction and post prohibited material which the ISP then makes available in England and Wales. In response to the Bulger case Demon Internet did successfully challenge its application to ISPs thereby placing liability on the customer rather than service provider. Whether the same rules would apply or be accepted in Carr's case needs to be ascertained.

More from BBC HERE
More from Media Guardian HERE

Carr secures court protection

Maxine Carr who is released from prison today has obtained a far-reaching court order that bans the press from revealing or showing pictures of her new identity.

While this type of injunction is nothing new - in the case of the Jamie Bulger killers both boys were granted anonymity for life - the scope of the protection pronounced for Carr is significantly further-reaching than anything issued before.

It extends beyond print and broadcast media to the internet and internet service providers who have a duty to ensure they take reasonable steps to prevent any information about Carr's identity or wherabouts being published on or using their services.

The media are not just prohibited from indentifying Carr but also from seeking to elicit information about her life or whereabouts. In other words, anything relating to Carr or her new life is strictly off limits.

However the court order only applies to England and Wales so it will be interesting to see what would happen if details emerged in other jurisdictions.


PCC reveals its revised Code

The Press Complaints Commission has today unveiled its revised Code of Conduct which is due to come into effect on June 1st.

The Editor's Code of Practice Committee has revised the code in a bid to make it "shorter and crisper" as well as providing for expanding areas such as digital communications.

The key changes include:
>Re-emphasises that editors and publishers have the ultimate duty of care to implement the Code.
>Stresses that its rules apply to all editorial contributors, including non-journalists.
>Makes clear that it covers online versions of publications as well as printed copies.
>Insists that publications which are criticised in adverse adjudications should include a reference to the PCC in the headline.
>Extends the protection of private correspondence to include digital communications – prohibiting the interception of private or mobile telephone calls, messages or emails, unless in the public interest.
>Introduces a new rule to prevent payment to criminals for material which seeks to exploit, glorify or glamorise crime.
>Tightens the rules so that a newspaper which paid a criminal in the belief that it would elicit material in the public interest could not publish if no public interest emerged.

The Beckham textsex saga seems to have influenced the extension of protection relating to correspondence so that text messages would now be covered - unless proved to be in the public interest.

MB is also pleased to note that the revised code has done away with the derided reference to longlens photography and clause 3(2) now simply becomes "It is unacceptable to photograph individuals in private places without their consent" - this does however leave scope for photographing in public places.

Read the revised Code HERE

The existing Code HERE

Guardian comment HERE


ASA says Armani ad made child seem too sexualised

The Advertising Standards Authority has today upheld a complaint against an advert for Armani Junior clothes.

The advert which had appeared in Times Magazine showed a topless child in baggy jeans with long hair and a necklace. The complaint under sections 2.2 (Principles), 5.1 (Decency) and 47.2 (Children) of the ASA code said the advert "was offensive, because it sexualised children and encouraged them to emulate adults, exploited the child in the photo and, especially, because the gender of the child was ambiguous and could encourage paedophiles."

The model had in fact been a boy but Orthet Ltd. who were responsible for the advert said it had withdrawn it. The Times had also received 10 complaints.

The ASA adjudication said that "because it sexualised the child, the advertisement was likely to cause serious or widespread offence. It welcomed the advertisers' decision to withdraw the advertisement and advised them to seek advice from the CAP Copy Advice team before advertising again."

PM may get to prove pictures fake but what they have exposed is far more real and far more worrying

Having mobilised massive military might to prove the Mirror's photos fake, Tony Blair and Geoff Hoon will (again) think it's not their fault and it was all down to that terrible Morgan chappy at the Mirror. Meanwhile Alistair Cambpell is pontificating from beyond the grave of his political career and taking up the mantle of the free speech mantra while blaming the press for the spectre of spin.

So Piers Morgan may be pushing the limits of responsible journalism to expose inhumane practices and politicians who remain in denial of anything that suggests their information is less frontline than the journalism that upsets them, but thankfully someone is.

Tabloid turncoats may be trying to call time on Morgan's reign and the Mirror's domination of the headlines but they are missing the same point as our displeased politicians. All is not well in Iraq, our soldiers face torment and some of their captives torture. This is the backlash of war and no desert sandstorm or political spin is going to gloss over this.

If the effort the Ministry of Defence and military investigators have put into discrediting the authenticity of a Bedford truck had gone into policing their troops on the ground we might not be facing these issues. It is they who have failed not just their captives but also their soldiers and their public.

So before the politicians point their fingers at the press they should take stock of the story and face up to the facts. The picture the Mirror printed may prove to be fake - but only insofar as what it depicted was staged. The facts remain the same and it is these facts that it is the duty of responsible journalists to expose. News stories are made up of both and as Lord Hoffman, giving judgment in the Campbell case, recognised in the House of Lords last week "From a journalistic point of view, photographs are an essential part of the story. The picture carried the message, more strongly than anything in the text alone, that the Mirror's story was true". You can only carry out so many checks on pictures but there is no denying that the story that accompanied them was true. It is time to recognise this and shift the debate to what is going to be done about this.

The situation in Iraq remains an unpalatable mess that no vote-winnning war of words or revenue-generating headlines are going to clear up. The Hutton Inquiry may have exonerated the Government from the charge that it misled the country when it took us to war, but with that political and military battle won the fall-out is not going to be as easily whitewashed from our front pages.


Chanel enjoys the sweet smell of success

The sun has set on Samantha Roddick's dreams of registering a trademark for her upmarket sex shop that promises its customers to "titillate every extremity". Inspired by her mother's (Anita Roddick) Body Shop chain but keen to cater for the more sensual end of the massage oil and passion potion market, Samantha opened Coco de Mer in Covent Garden a couple of years ago. She decided to name her shop after the palm nut which was described to the High Court as a "potent and particularly feminine symbol of fertility".

But Roddick's desire to make her mark was dashed this week when Mr Justice Patten upheld the trade mark registrar's refusal to grant her a trade mark. Her shop may be upmarket but it was not classy enough to compete with the Parisian style of Chanel. Having got scent of Roddick's trade mark application the company, which has since 1984 marketed its own highly successful 'Coco' cosmetic brand, wanted to ensure there would be no confusion. They launched an objection claiming that this allusion to the essence of fertile nut should not be permitted to tarnish the reputation of their designer fragrances.

In a fascinating judgment that included much historical analysis of palm trees and nuts as well as a drawing, Mr Justice Patten sided with Chanel and found for the fragrant rather than the fertile brand.

Coco de Mer nut explained HERE

The legend of the nut and its fertile properties HERE


Beeb finds its editors not to blame for Gilligan's gaffe

The post Hutton Spanish inquisition at the BBC has cleared its editors of improper conduct and failing to follow procedures.

Hutton had blamed a breakdown of procedures and the BBC as being the root of all evil in his cleaning of the government's wartime laundry but as was widely recognised by those conversant with media matters it was Gilligan's unscripted early morning mutterings that caused all the trouble.

So there will be no sackings as the board decides not to alienate any more of its staff.

BBC report HERE

Kate Moss not OK! with holiday snaps

You'd have thought that their victory over Hello magazine in the Douglas-Zeta-Jones case would have alerted OK! to the perilous waters of privacy. Not so it would seem as they went ahead and published holiday snaps of Kate Moss on a beach with her baby girl.

Hot on the heels of fellow supermodel Naomi Campbell's courtroom success for invasion of her privacy, Moss is now armed with a powerful precedent with which to go knocking at OK!'s door.

Moss has instructed her lawyers Harbottle & Lewis to look into the matter after being outraged by the publication of these illicit pictures. Her cause for concern was exacerbated by the fact the photos included her daughter, whose privacy she closely guards.

Publishing pictures of children - which Clause 6(v) of the PCC code tells us should not be done because of their parents' celebrity status - is a no go area. Whether Kate Moss will complain to the PCC remains to be seen but MediaBeak for one thinks this unlikely as litigation or the threat thereof proves far more effective.

There has been ample debate about whether a beach is a place where you should enjoy a 'reasonable expectation of privacy' but a string of cases have confirmed that unless its a private beach you're quite literally exposed. Anna Ford found this out to her detriment when she complained to the PCC about pictures of her on the beach. Kate Beckinsale was also denied a remedy after the Mail published pictures of her with her partner and young daughter Lily in a park. Again, as the park was not private the PCC did not see fit to rule that protection was in order.

Back on the beach and Sarah Cox and Ewan McGregor decided to bypass the annoyance of an impotent PCC ruling and went straight to court. In both cases an injunction and damages were awarded.

The fact that the pictures were taken using longlens photography is hardly worth debating and as a clause in the PCC code is only observed in its breach. It matters not what technology is used to obtain the image but the fact the ensuing image is published that counts.


PCC announces 'buoyant' first quarter figures

The Press Complaints Commission has announced that complaints against the press for the first quarter of this year have been in line with those for previous years.

50 per cent of investigations into breaches of the Code of Practice related to regional press with 40 per cent being bagged by national titles. The remainder relate to magazines and other titles.

Read the PCC release HERE


Campbell wins landmark victory for privacy - but what will this mean for the press?

Full analysis from Guardian Media:

House of Lords judgment HERE

Mirror comment HERE

COMING UP ...House of Lords judgment in Naomi Campbell's case against the Mirror

MediaBeak will bring you details of the judgment and analysis of its implications for privacy and the media shortly after the judgment is handed down today.

Expensive lick of paint to get Government off the hook
The final costs of the HUTTON INQUIRY have been announced and the meticulous manner in which it was found that no-one but the BBC was to blame has cost the humble taxpayer over 2.5 million pounds. Value for money? Well it helped the Government be found whiter than white and John Scarlett to become head of M16 so not all's lost then!

Full figures on BBC


Irish politician settles libel suit

Leader of the Progressive Democrats Tanaiste Mary Harney has today settled her long-running libel case against the Sunday Independent. In an article appearing in January 2001, the paper had suggested Harney received 'payments of a corrupt nature' in relation to property development.

In a brief hearing at the High Court in Dublin, Independent Newspapers (who own the Sunday Independent) confirmed that they had reached a settlement with Harney. In addition to libel damages the paper promised to print a full apology in its next edition.

Full report from Ireland Online

Impact of this and other cases on Irish libel laws HERE
Reynolds v Times Newspapers


Daily Record scores own goal

Scots tabloid the Daily Record is facing a big bill for upsetting Celtic manager Martin O'Neill. Amid speculation that O'Neill was to quit Celtic for Liverpool, the Record ran a story last February claiming he had already signed a legal document to that effect. The article also claimed that the deal had been done before he announced he'd renewed his contract with Celtic.

O'Neill was forced to issue statements denying the story, an episode that according to his lawyer caused him "great distress and anxiety" (normally reserved for watching his club play).

In a brief statement to the High Court in London, the Daily Record offered an apology to O'Neill and agreed 'substantial' damages.

Not afraid to litigate, O'Neill has previously been awarded similarly substantial damages against the Observer when it suggested he was off to Manchester United.

Ironically for the Daily Record:
1: O'Neill's been named Scottish Football Writers' top manager of the year
2: The rumours that got the paper in trouble are again rife

Link to Celtic FC


German broadcaster cleared of deception

German interactive quiz channel 9 Live has been cleared of misleading and deceiving its audiences. A consumers association had taken the channel to court amid complaints from the public that they had faced big phone bills following unsuccessful calls to join in one of 9 Lives games.

The consumers association couldn't back up its claims and lost its case in the Leipzig county court. Similar proceedings in Munich have now been dropped by prosecutors there.

9 Live or 'neun live' as it is also known, recently got into the Guinness Book of Records for being the longest running TV Quiz! report HERE

Munich prosecutors drop case (in German)

Campbell case - Lords to give judgment on May 6th

The much awaited judgment from the House of Lords in Naomi Campbell's privacy appeal against the Mirror is due to be released next Thursday 6th May. The Beak will be back with a full comment and analysis of the judgment and what it means for privacy laws.


Laundry Label Libel

Could a laundry label containing a defamatory statement be libellous? Seattle based bag maker Tom Bihn which manufactures 'bags for laptop computers and other stuff' has seen sales soar after word got out that the laundry labels on these products contained a hidden message.

As reported on Reuters the washing instructions on the labels are accompanied by the French text "nous sommes desoles que notre president soit un idiot. Nous n'avons pas vote pour lui" which means "we are sorry that our president is an idiot. We did not vote for him"

It's not clear whether this refers to George W. Bush or Jacques Chirac and to avoid any liability Tom Bihn claims to have no idea how this sentiment found its way onto the bag tags and suggests that it is probably a reference to him as president of his own company. Yes, we believe you Tom.

It's unlikely that the label sufficiently identifies either president to make it libellous but there would always be the fair comment defence.

MB has checked out the bags and they do look rather good:
Check them out HERE

Law in the media: Boozy barrister in court battle over Bootsie

The Mirror has picked up on this delightful court case between two barristers locked in an acrimonious property dispute following the demise of their turbulent relationship.

Kerry Cox is suing her erstwhile lover and fiancee Lawrence Jones for substantial sums she claims she is owed from joint ownership of property in Lincolns Inn and Essex. Their engagement lasted three years before she broke off the relationship in 2001 following what she claimed was 'alcohol-fuelled aggression and violence' on the part of a boozy Mr Jones.

Mr Jones denies she has any ownership of either property both of which are in his name and claims he broke off their engagement after just a few weeks. His complaint was not about booze but about a certain Alsatian dog called 'Bootsie' that was owned by Miss Cox and behaved in what he told the court was an 'uncontrollable and unacceptable' manner.

Further evidence was led in relation to a 20 thousand pound engagement ring and Cox's 'outrageous advances' towards the Australian cricket team and 'blatanlty sexual behaviour' with another barrister outside the couple's flat.

They don't come much better than this - the case continues.

Related news: Alcohol fuels violent crime rise


Big bill after Irish politician loses long-standing libel battle

Beverly Cooper-Flynn has learnt her lesson for not cutting her losses after losing her libel case against Irish state broadcaster RTE and retired farmer, James Howard back in 2001. The Fianna Fail politician had taken action against them following allegations that while employed by National Irish Bank she had encouraged customers to avoid paying taxes.

The High Court found her evidence in support of her libel claim to be 'irrelevant' and dismissed the action. She was at that stage already facing a 2 million pound bill. Undeterred she sought to appeal which given that her initial evidence was deemed irrelevant seemed a bit optimistic (how could it be made to be relevant on appeal?). The Supreme Court was similarly unimpressed by the argument her lawyers presented and dismissed the appeal. Cooper-Flynn did not contest liability for the costs which will make a substantial addition to her existing 2 million bill.

She also faces expulsion from her party.

Full report from RTE here


Huntley snapper case dropped

As reported on MB (below) News of the World reporter David McGee was in court this week charged with violations of the 1952 Prison Act for having smuggled a camera into prison (without permission) where he took what became front page pictures of Ian Huntley in jail.

In what McGee's editor hailed as a victory for common sense, the judge dismissed the action saying that the interpretation of the rules under which McGee had been charged was too wide to be of sustainable application.

Counsel for McGee, Andrew Nicol QC illustrated the point by suggesting that the rules (had the judge allowed them to be so interpreted) would even render someone's underpants in breach of them if they did not have prior permission to wear or take them into prison.

MB notes that there was no need to argue the public interest point in this case as it ultimately came down to the decsription it deserved namely, pants!

BBC report HERE
Guardian Media report HERE


Close shave leaves Beckham quids in

If reports in today's media are true then Becks has escaped from his torrid text saga and cut himself a new sponsorship deal with Gillette to promote their razors. Whether he uses them on his head is anyones guess but at a reported 40 million pounds it has to be the best deal a man can get - and makes the million Loos has netted from her dirt dishing pale into insignificance.

So much for fears that his corporate sponsors might take a dim view of publicity surrounding his private life - Vodafone are also likely to be pleased with his hands-on approach to promoting their phones!

Meanwhile Real Madrid are not as keen on the off-pitch publicity that follows the Beckham brand - though that didn't seem to stop them selling billboard space to a spanish gossip mag trailing ads for their 'exclusive' with rent-a-girl Sarah Marbeck.
If your spanish is up to it you can read the racy story in INTERVIU

Snapper in court for prison pics

David McGee, the News of the World reporter who managed to get himself a job as a prison warder at Woodhill high security prison in Buckinghamshire where he took undercover photographs of Soham murderer Ian Huntley, is up in front of Milton Keynes magistrates today.

McGee's exposee caused outrage after he showed how easy it was to get a job in a prison and look after high risk prisoners such as Huntley.

He was subsequently charged on two counts under section 41 of the 1952 Prison Act.

It will be interesting to see if the charges - which McGee denies - are upheld and the case proceeds. There is a public interest and accompanying line of argument in defence for such undercover journalism. In this case it exposed just how easy it was to get a job in the prison and how slack security checks were.

In a similar case last year, Mirror reporter Ryan Parry got a job as a footman in the royal household. His exposee ended with legal action for breach of confidence and the recent announcement about tightening up of security checks on royal staff.

Both won awards at this year's British Press Awards

More HERE and HERE


Sex, lies and pointless people

As if we hadn't seen and heard enough of Rebecca Loos - who attracted the scorn of the stars with her crass appearance at this week's Kill Bill premiere in London - she is now also in talks with Playboy who say she is a number one choice for a centrefold.

Whether she gets her kit off for them or not her claims to have bedded Becks are certainly paying off. Her earnings from her torrid text tales are rapidly approaching the million pound mark following her vapid interview on Sky and Channel 4 sofa chat with Richard and Judy.

Never one to shy from sex, sleaze and sensation (that pays), Max Clifford, who was Loos natural choice as agent, is negotiating with Playboy who in addition to splashing her in their illustrious publication are also keen to get her doing a dirty dance routine for their tv channel. Whether they stump up the six figure sum Loos is looking for remains to be seen but as the media give Posh and Becks a well deserved break it could be that in Playboy Loos has finally found her level. By all accounts Sarah Marbeck who is now in London to try and cash-in on her 'story' has plenty experience to teach Loos how to pole dance.

While Loos gets set to expose herself a similarly classy socialite is busy trying to prevent a tape of her sex antics being released. Hotel heiress Paris Hilton is already in litigation with an internet firm who she is suing for 30 million dollars after it released a video of her having sex with her former boyfriend. Rick Salomon has struck a deal with Red Light District Video (an LA porn production company) and given them the rights to produce the video.

Perfectly titled "One Night In Paris" is set to hit the shelves of the type of stores that stock theses films some time in June.


Libel award for Mr Bean

Whether as Blackadder or Mr Bean the award winning comedian and actor Rowan Atkinson has never been 'on the edge of a nervous breakdown' as the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday had suggested at the end of last year.

The unfounded and unsubstantiated suggestions which Atkinson referred to as contributing towards stigmatising mental health issues, landed Associated Newspapers in the High Court (again).

Atkinson has said he will donate the proceeds from the undisclosed damages award to a mental health charity.

Red card for Ron the racist

Whether or not the microphone was live is no excuse for Ron Atkinson's remarks about Marcel Desailly's performance in the Monaca v Chelsea match. While ITV apologised for the remarks which were not meant to have been broadcast there was nothing Ron could say to justify him saying "He's what is known in some schools as a fucking lazy thick nigger". Even by footballing standards this was a shocker and ITV was swift to accept Mr Atkinson's resignation.

What he called an uncharacteristic outburst has also led to him losing his column in the Guardian - "by mutual agreement". A view about a players performance can be seen as free speech but the level or racism in Atkinson's remark questions whether it is appropriate for him to be allowed to share his comments with media audiences.



Not much ado about My Foetus

As reported on MB (5.04.04) Channel 4 was bracing itself for a backlash of complaints for screening 'My Foetus'. The programme made by Julia Black - who previously had an abortion but gave the featured foetus a lucky break by carrying it to term - was the first time an abortion had actually been shown on british TV.

Previous attempts by the Pro Life Alliance to show such disturbing sights in its 1997 election broadcast were banned and became a cause celebre all the way to the House of Lords (who upheld the ban).

While 1.5 million viewers tuned in to see what all the fuss was about, the supposedly shocking sight only outraged 10 viewers enough to complain.

It was good to break the taboo and in doing so Channel 4 was right to show the programme but whether it will contribute much to debate is questionable. It was true to its title and very much about Ms Black's foetus. Rather than opening up the debate it was more of a cathartic journey for the film-maker who was now happily pregnant and wanted to justify her previous abortion to herself - and presumably her audience.

The most pertinent comments came from the doctor she interviewed who openly did not like the procedure but was pragmatic in his approach. His view was that he was carrying out abortions for the benefit of the foetuses as it would be more cruel to bring them to term and into a world where they were not wanted and perhaps even subjected to cruelty and other forms of abuse.

As the Monty Python song goes 'every sperm is sacred' but given the complexities of modern day life we have to question whether society should adopt such a sanctimonious approach over what should be clinical decisions.


Damages awarded for legal website libel

The Lawyer.com has issued an unreserved apology and paid undisclosed damages to solicitor Andrew Milne over an article accusing him of lying to the House of Commons Standards and Privileges Committee during its investigation into the financial affairs of MP Keith Vaz.

Under the banner "Law Firm denies Vaz Payout" the article had suggested Mr Milne's evidence had not been entirely truthful. Following legal action (never a good idea to libel lawyers!) the article was swiftly removed from the web site and an unreserved apology issued.

Lawyer.com is owned by Centaur Communications

This case goes to show - lawyers are not above the law - Lawyer.com should have got advice from MediaBeak and saved itself this costly suit!


Scots papers threatened with prosecution after naming teenage murder suspect

The Edinburgh Evening News and Aberdeen Press and Journal could face prosecution or comtempt charges after naming the 15 year old boy accused of the murder of Jodi Jones. Jodi, who was 14 at the time, went missing near the town of Dalkeith on the outskirts of Edinburgh in June last year.

As HoldTheFrontPage reports, the papers claim they acted within the law in naming the 15 year old. The Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act prevents suspects under the age of 16 being named but as the papers are arguing, this applies to "proceedings in a court" and not to the period before.

section 47 of the Act HERE

The 1981 Contempt of Court Act will also not apply as this relates to 'active' proceedings and at the time the papers published the proceedings were not yet active (i.e. someone had been arrested). Both papers headlined the story in which they named the boy on Wednesday before he'd been arrested and charged. They deliberately did not publish details online as this may have allowed the naming to run into 'active' time.

Whether common law contempt may apply is questionable as the procurator fiscal would have to show that the papers intended to cause prejudice in relation to imminent proceedings. Given the high level of public outrage and the interest in the case it could be argued that the public had the right to know and in naming the boy the paper was not putting the trial at risk.

It will be interesting to see if proceedings are issued against the papers. If so, then the crown office and procurator fiscal have clearly formed the view that section 47 of the Criminal Procedure Act does cover the pre-trial part of proceedings.

More HERE and HERE

Loos live on Sky

The best bits of an otherwise boring interview - HERE


Beckham bashing - will Sky be stopped from screening Loos' side of the story?

Malicious, mad or making it all up? - Rebecca Loos has certainly upped her game and challenged Beckham to see her in court. She will be seen telling us what she says is 'the truth 100 per cent' on Sky 1 at 10pm this evening (MB notes: what would the truth 70 per cent be?) - that is unless Andrew Thompson from Beckham's lawyers Lee & Thompson manages to secure a last minute deal or obtain an injunction preventing Sky from showing their prime time sensation.

Apparently Ms Loos knows something secret about Beck's tackle that she thinks will substantiate her story (and presumably a court will believe!) so either she is calling Beckham's bluff or she really is the posh girl who dethroned Posh. Either way she has the upper hand and the king and queen of self-publicity have been left cowering in a corner.

As was commented in Media Guardian - if Becks has nothing to hide then he should be suing the socks - or in Loos' case, the white thong - off not just her but the dubious character that is Sarah Marbeck and the media.

The best the Beckham legal camp has so far advanced is the threat of a breach of confidence action based on the fact Loos had signed a confidentiality agreement with SFX where she worked for Beckham. Media Beak squawks in anguish at this legal approach which is as lame as Buckingham Palace's tour de force against the Mirror and Ryan Parry for their pictures of Her Majesty's breakfast table.

If Becks has nothing to hide then bring on the defamation claims. Lets see some serious litigation and secure an injunction preventing Sky's screening. Faced with a defamation claim Sky and Loos would have to prove to a judge that they would be able to provide evidence (if not immediately then at least by the time the case came to trial) supporting their statements. So if Loos is a liar then she'd be smoked out and the screening stopped.

So as the clock ticks closer to 10pm and we've not seen a writ winging its way from the High Court then we can safely assume that either Becks has not had the best legal advice - given its Andrew Thompson that is highly improbable - or he has something to hide. That 'something' need not be the full sexy sensations Loos has talked about but could just be incriminating yet not conclusive carelessness (which to give Becks the benefit of the doubt is more likely).

If all is not what it seems then a breach of confidence action would be the compromise - Loos was a former employee and bound by a confidentiality clause and so should not be talking about Beckham's private life. Well it won't take a genius or a lawyer to figure out that with what Loos is being paid for her story and the Sky interview she might just be willing to risk a breach of confidence suit. A successful claim against her for breach of confidence will not come as expensive as a libel claim would and the way things are going she'd probably get her legal fees paid by the paper that secures her next exclusive.

Meanwhile the Sarah Marbeck saga just gets sleazier. She's gone from poor deluded victim of Beck's predatory passion to a street-wise call-girl who's up for most things and not shy to sell herself or her story. As her daddy rushed off to see her in Sydney he may well be regretting selling the press his story and upset at how Becks had allegedly treated his daughter. Loos aside the Marbecks have to be due a libel writ or two by now!? Even if Loos and Marbeck didn't share Beckham, as the tabloids tell us they certainly enjoyed the same things from thongs to threesomes, boys to girls and baring bums and boobs in public. Even if the Beckham affair were to turn out not to be ture these girls surely deserve a place on Footballers Wives!

So with Posh and the kids running for cover lets wait and see if Becks bites back or crawls back with a breach of confidence action.

More HERE and 'Becks made me feel like a million dollars'HERE
BBC's top tips for the rich on how to handle scandal HERE

For celebrities in need of a good media lawyer to help them manage a scandal e-mail:
mediabeak@yahoo.co.uk where the beak will put you in touch with the best.


Rough scenes on Rough Justice - are pictures of the dying taboo?

The BBC is going ahead and screening it episode of Rough Justice that shows shocking CCTV footage of 37 year old Christopher Alder dying on the floor of a police station.

The former paratrooper had become aggressive while receiving treatment for injuries caused by a fight outside a nightclub. Police removed him from hospital and took him to Queens Garden police station in Hull where they proceeded to stand by and accuse him of play-acting while he sprawled on the floor suffering a heart attack. The footage shows his 11 minutes of distress and he was left on the same floor with no medical assistance for a further 8 hours before finally being checked over and pronounced dead.

No surprise that the police were not going to release the pictures but having obtained them elsewhere and received backing from Mr Alder's family who were left outraged and disgusted by what they saw, the BBC decided to show them.

An inquest cleared the police of wrongdoing but failed to answer key questions as to how Alder's condition had rapidly deteriorated in police custody and why the police van and clothing were cleaned before anything potentially incriminating could be found.

Aside from the theme of the programme - namely investigating deaths, especially of black people, in police custody - the decision to show Alder's death carries its own controversy. Media normally don't publish or broadcast pictures of people dying - the Mirror attracted record level of complaints to the PCC when it front-paged Marc-Viven-Foe being stretchered off the pitch in France after suffering a fatal collapse. The BBC also attracted complaints after showing pictures of murdered british soldiers in Iraq.

While we are presented with plentiful pictures of war and death on our screens and in our papers, there seems to be a taboo about showing anything too real or too close to home. In this case Alder's family wanted the pictures to be shown to let the public see how shocking they were but this will not always be the case.

It presents an increasingly difficult question for editors over the limits of what to show. The public has a right to know and should be told about miscarriages of justice or the true extent of war but do they need the pictures to go with it? In this case the answer was yes and the BBC were right to screen the CCTV pictures. Where relatives don't give their consent and are likely to be seriously upset then a finer balance needs to be struck such that the upset caused to family can be justified by a compelling need for the public to be informed. Arguably, when it came to the pictures of war the BBC's judgement was less astute.


TEXT'n'TELL that sells could prove headache for libel lawyers

We've had all the headlines in the 'text-it like Beckham' saga and as more maggots provide comment for the media's feeding frenzy we have to ask where this will all end.

Tabloid editors couldn't want for better material and are happy to pay friends of friends of people who may or may not have at some stage been in the presence of - or as is alleged - bedded Beckham for their 'stories'. As it moves into its second week the media onslaught shows no sign of slackening pace.

So why has all this surfaced now? - the whole thing seems too well orchestrated to be a chance kiss-and-tell and given the sums of money exchanging hands behind the scenes it suggests a concerted campaign rooted in a desire for money and revenge. Max Clifford steps in to protect poor Rebecca Loos from these terrible attacks on her character .... and now we have Sarah Marbeck's daddy defending his daughter's integrity ... perhaps some of the public may be fooled but the media are playing a well rehearsed game.

It is however a game that could prove a gamble if the Beckhams proceed with their threat to start suing. A quick spot of supper at Claridges, some quad biking and happy smiles can't hide what's at stake. Not just their marriage but more importantly (possibly also to them) is their brand value and all those lucrative deals they have going. No surprise then that its Victoria B's agency '19 management' who are taking control of matters and issuing the statements. With the News of the World (amongst others) staunchly defending it stands behind its reports the stakes are getting high and the play could get nasty.

If David Beckham is playing a clean game and is innocent then there's no reason not to get out the big guns and litigate. If however things are not all as 'unsubstantiated' as they claim, Beckham's legal team will have to think as strategically as legally when it comes to taking action.

To a cynical lawyer (not that MediaBeak is such!) the carefully crafted phrase 'unsubstantiated' does not equate with not true but rather not proven. This technicality translates into a subtle yet crucial point when it comes to a defamation action. If the Beckhams litigate it would be for the likes of Ms Loos, Sarah Marbeck or those 'publishing' their stories to prove that they are true (and an interested public will not provide any public interest defence here!).

In the absence of photographic, DNA or reliable third party evidence all we seem to have are transcripts of alleged text messages.

Lets look at some background information:
DNA from a SIM card containing incriminating text was admitted as vital evidence in case against Real IRA bombers at the Old Bailey last year.

A recent survey by a top Italian private investigation agency Tomponzi reveals that mobile phones and text messages are to blame for revealing nearly 90 per cent of extra-marital affairs.

Text messages cannot be retrieved if deleted from both parties phones however if they remain on one or if they are available via a text-to-e-mail service such as Vodafone Mail then they can be traced.

Mobile phone companies can trace the numbers from and to which messages are sent and can be compelled by a court of law to provide such information.

So what does this mean for Beckham. Well unless Ms Loos or Marbeck can provide some physical evidence of their alleged affairs with Beckham then they seem to be relying on the text messages. If Beckham sued for libel based on their stories they would have to prove the content of the various messages to substantiate their claim that he was cheating on his wife with them and so rebut the libel claim. We have been presented with some fabulously lurid text messages attributed to Beckham but can these be proved. Allegedly contemporaneous notes were made of some of these messages but proving that they were authentic, came from Beckham's phone and were truly contemporaneous would not be easy.

A further question is how did they have his number or he have theirs? in the case of Ms Loos it is answered by the fact she previously worked with the Beckhams. This could complicate matters as she may be able to prove the receipt of text messages from his phone but that does not of itself prove the content. Added to this is the fact that he has several phones and these may have been used by others. There was a case in 2002 where a recipient of a sexual text message traced it back to a phone owned by the Norwegian prime minister but as it turned out it was his driver who had sent it.

So if the Beckham's decide to sue then it will be interesting to see if Beckham still says 'it's great to get my hands on this new Vodafone Live!'

Clean-up at Clear Channel

As previously reported on MB, the spectre of Janet Jackson's nipple at the superbowl has got US media giants running scared of tough regulatory clamp-downs if they don't clean up their act.

So it should come as no surprise that Howard Stern was hardly compatible with any such policy and faced with a fine of just under half a million dollars for comments on his show, Stern was dropped from six of the channel's radio stations (his show still survives on over 30 further stations!).

Stern's show has not been the only casualty, having been swiftly followed by Atlanta WKLS programme 'The Regular Guys'. In a bid to disguise smutty content the show's hosts had produced a segment called 'backward smut' where they played a recording of a porn star talking backwards. Nice try had they not forgotten to take down the sound when they went to an ad break and listeners were able to hear them discussing the smut in a more forward manner. The two presenters were promptly sacked.

So the clear message from Clear Channel is that it wishes to become the clean channel.

US Senator tries to block Gmail

As reported by MB (see blog 6.04.04) Privacy Campaigners are outraged by the invasive potential of Google's new e-mail service 'Gmail'.

The service would allow messages to be electronically scanned and then send out marketing based on any word triggers within the mail (e.g. mentioning sickness or a disease would prompt a raft of ads for drugs or health insurance etc)

As reported by the BBC Democratic Senator Liz Figueroa is putting forward draft legislation in her home state of California in a bid to prevent Google going ahead with what she sees as 'an invasion of privacy'.

See MB below for more or click here


Costly correspondence - the letter that collapsed the Tyco trial

Those proud of UK contempt laws may well sit back bemused as one of the largest corporate corruption trials in the US collapses after an 'angry' yet non-threatening letter is sent to a juror. Former bosses at Tyco were in the doc having been accused of misappropriating some 600 million dollars.

The jury in the trial were at the deliberation stage and media attention was - as its allowed to do in the US - focussing on which way the jury were likely to go. Having mistakenly believed that a mistrial had already been declared our angry outsider wrote to one of the jurors to express their dislike of the fact Juror Number 4 - a Ruth Jordan - seemed set to acquit the accused. Problem was, the trial was still active and so after a protracted and expensive six month court case the New York Supreme Court was forced to declare a mistrial. Expensive letter that!

This has left the proceedings in tatters but surprisingly reports suggest police will not be charging the letter writer with jury tampering because of their innocent mistake. (MB says - don't try this at home folks!)

Meanwhile our now famous juror was quoted in the New York Times and will be on prime time CBS News (tonight) saying she would have acquitted the two Tyco types.

Great court action from the US!
more HERE and HERE

Gilligan back on air

The government may have used the Hutton Inquiry to silence some of its critics but the final word may yet rest with the media. While Greg Dyke is preparing to host the BBC's 'Have I got News for You' - story HERE - Andrew Gilligan will be fronting a documentary on Channel 4 next month. An inspired choice for an inspired subject matter, Gilligan will be examining the reliability and trustworthiness of our security services (so if it wasn't before then his card is surely marked as far as MI5 and MI6 are concerned!). If the producers have a sense of adventure then we'll hopefully see David Shayler and Katherine Gunn join in Gilligan's 30 minutes of fun thereby completing a line up sure to please TB and Captain Scarlett.

More HERE and Gilligan's BBC resignation speech HERE


Attorney General gets heavy with the press as Mirror and Sun banned from publishing pictures of terror suspects

As reported on Media Guardian, Lord Goldsmith is playing hardball with the press again as he seeks to protect the justice process from too much press interest. Having blasted papers over Soham and warned editors over the Gorsvenor House incident last year he has this week urged the media to 'exercise restraint' over their coverage of suspected terrorism detainees. As if some of the legislation and David Blunkett's comments don't give rise to enough concern, the Attorney General wants to ensure he can at least attempt to keep the media in check when it comes to terrorist suspects.

Surely the public has a right to know and the media a right to report extensively about people being arrested on suspicion of wanting to blow us up. Conducting inquiries and informing the public in an open fashion is less likely to lead to the hysteria, prejudice and sensationalist headlines Lord Goldsmith is seeking to protect the criminal justice system from.

Costly comment as Mail pays out over Phillips claim

Insider gossip that cannot be substantiated comes at a price if you decide to publish it. The Daily Mail ran a story last October in which it claimed that Fiona Phillips - Eamonn Homes's friendly sofa companion at GMTV - was being squeezed out and having her pay cut. Not so it would seem and the beaming breakfast presenters are seen as the 'core strength' that attracts some 1.2 million viewers. So a pay rise for Fiona while the Daily Mail had to print an apology in today's paper and pay a 'substantial' sum to a children's charity. So the Mail's mistake has at least resulted in one charitable act.

Free e-mail may put privacy at risk

Privacy campaigners are up in arms over Google's latest venture that plans to make vast e-mail space available to the masses. Gmail hopes to rival major players such as Yahoo and Hotmail and offers significantly larger storage space as well as being free from the menace of pop-up ads.

Well what's wrong with that one may ask? The answer is that there is no such thing as a freebie and what Gmail would do - albeit in automated fashion - is have mailcrawlers go through your mail and target yo with ads based on the content of your mail. Well that isn't so good. So instead of pop-ups you'll get bombarded with lots of random mails trying to flog you things based on what a computer thinks your e-mails display an interest in. Stuff privacy, one wouldn't want the annoyance of this.

BUT privacy campaigners do have a point. While individuals are not sifting through our mails the fact that a computer is remains intrusive. If we want our mails scanned or to recieve adverts for goods and services then we want the choice to sugn up for these. You do have a choice - don't sign up for Gmail if you don't like these terms.

The other privacy issue is that Google in offering users such vast server space will retain back-up capability over mails you may have long forgotten about or even deleted - not ideal. Again, this is perhaps a trade-off for the extra storage your getting. Gmail certainly seems to offer users more but this is offset by how much you as a user are willing to give and receive in return. Even if you are happy to compromise your privacy in this way, Google in having the capability to crawl through mail and store archived or deleted mails could well be in breach of both data protection and privacy laws.

More HERE and HERE


The furore over showing foetuses

Channel 4 has defended its position over the screening of a film showing aborted foetuses. Entitled 'My Foetus' the programme which will be broadcast later this month, contains graphic images of a vacuum-pump abortion as well as 10 and 20 week old foetuses. Channel 4 claims the images contained in the film should be viewed within the context of the wider debate surrounding the emotive issue of abortion.

The independent filmmaker behind the production has herself had an abortion and wanted to produce a film that challenged her own pro-choice position and offered a balanced debate about the issues.

The difficulty in striking or resolving such a balance was made clear by the less than satisfactory judgment of the House of Lords last year HERE in Pro-Life Alliance's case against the BBC. There has been a long-standing taboo surrounding showing images of foetuses and highlighting their likeness to miniature babies. People are uncomfortable with things that look too human. The long running battle between Pro-Life and the BBC concerned a film they submitted as their party election broadcast for the last election. It contained similar images to those Channel 4 is proposing to show but was banned by the BBC on taste & decency grounds. Clearly - as was established in the Court of Appeal - freedom of expression should allow such images to be screened and enable the debate it was meant to provoke. However the House of Lords concluded that the BBC were entitled to exercise their discretion in following their guidelines and refuse to broadcast the film. While on a narrow interpretation of the rules concerning the following of guidelines this may be sound it ignores the larger issue. The judges were themselves in disagreement over this and the real answer is perhaps that Pro-Life should have been allowed to freely express their views - though perhaps not within the confines of a 4 minute party election broadcast.

So Channel 4's stance on the matter provides viewers with the debate and lawyers with an answer to the freedom of expression issue. We should show such things but just get the context right. This is what Prash Naik (C4's head of legal) said - "The pro-life film contained 23 images in a 4 minute film ...this film uses 4 images in a 30 minute film which carefully explains the issues."

Hopefully it will achieve its aim of a balanced debate that gets over the taboo and doesn't shock too many sensitive viewers. More HERE and HERE

Nearly nude Morissette stands proud against US censorship

As US broadcasters try to clamp down on that sinful spectre of indecency Alanis Morissette took to the stage at the Canadian 'Juno' music awards in protest over what she describes as 'an era when they're (US broadcasters) scared, when there's lots of fear'.

She didn't quite come up with the bottle to get her clothes off but appeared in a 'nude suit' which came equipped with hair and nipples. Hosting the awards ceremony in this novel attire she said she was proud to be able to stand there and live in a land where 'we're not afraid of the human breast'.

So are US censors running scared. There were some 200,000 complaints about Janet Jackson's escaping nipple at the superbowl but should that warrant a widespread clampdown across a mass market that probably has equal or greater numbers of viewers who enjoy such 'pride' in the body beautiful?

The question is really one of what's shown where and when. A nipple as such is not offensive but there were plenty of american parents who didn't want their kids choking on a half-time hot dog as they watched what was meant to be a music gig at the interval of a sports event. There are certainly more serious matters for censors to worry about.

For Morissette's suit with the real hair click here


Michael makes the grade as BBC boss

After much speculation and a list of both usual and unusual suspects culture secretary Tessa Jowell has finally picked former Channel 4 boss Michael Grade to be the new Chairman of the BBC.

Grade is a popular choice and was quick to promise the license payers some quality TV as he returned to the BBC (where he was in charge of BBC1 before he went off to Channel 4). More here

Sun gets banned from the palace but Kate's out the bag

The Sun may have been banned from taking official snaps of Prince William but that won't stop the story or the pictures. Having taken over from the Mirror as the palace's public enemy the Sun has served up the sensational story about Prince Wils 'housemate' or 'fit Kate' as she's known to her friends. Apparently they have been living together and more than just good firends for some time so it seems naive to think that even the sleepy surrounds of St Andrews could keep this story under wraps.

The Sun says there is a strong public interest in these photographs and you'd be inclined to agree. After the stories circulating about Charles over the last 6 months you'd think the palace would be up for some more positive tittle tattle. As Wils and Kate are both adults is it right that the palace should try to suppress these stories?
sadly the Sun didn't help Charles lighten up on this one.

More here

PCC slams Closer over picture payment

The celebrity magazine ran a story about Louise Woodward who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the US after shaking a baby while working as a nanny. Captioned as "I want to be a lawyer to help people" the article was looking at how Ms Woodward has been turning her life around since her conviction. Rather than take a photograph from a news archive they paid her boyfriend for a recent piccy.

This of course contravenes the PCC code on payments for stories or pictures to confessed criminals or their associates. The PCC ruled that this was indeed a breach even though it was the boyfirend who got the cash. PCC ruling here

This ruling is an interesting contrast to a previous complaint against the Daily Mail which in 1998 had apparently paid Ms Woodward's parents a whopping 40,000 pounds towards their legal fund and for their story. In that case the PCC didn't uphold the complaint as there had been "a clear public interest in questioning the murder conviction".

Strike threat looms heavy over Springfield

There's been some tough talking at Moe's bar in recent weeks as the voices behind the Simpsons have been having a set to with Fox over what they get paid.

Hollywood's Daily Variety reports that the actors have failed to show for their script readings in protest over the time its taking to sort out their contracts. The last round of negotiations in 1998 was eventually settled. Back then they were on 30,000 dollars per episode whcih seems slight compared to the 360,000 an episode they're apparently demanding now and is more than double the 125,000 they are currently earning - that's a lot of doughnuts for Homer!

If the spat drags on then there could be some delays to the next season.

Papers lose libel action over Iraq allegations

Colonel Tim Collins who led the Royal Irish Regiment into Iraq with a widely broadcast battle speech has won undisclosed libel damages over reports in the Sunday Express and Sunday Mirror. The papers had run stories which linked Collins and his soldiers to investigations about Iraqi troops who were alleged to have been gunned down as they surrendered. Collins had been investigated by the Ministry of Defence in relation to other allegations but was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Both papers admitted they had got the story wrong and apolgised to Colonel Collins for the "hurt and embarrassment" caused by their respective articles. The papers had basically accused him of trying to conceal war crimes against surrendering Iraqi soldiers.

A spokeseman for Collins who is due to leave the army in August said he was relieved this episode was now over.

The case highlights the risk of running stories like this without proper evidence to support the associations and suggestions being made. It also shows how difficult it can be for independent media to obtain reliable evidence fro the battlefield.

More here


Viacom told to clean up its act

Executives at US media giant Viacom are giving some of their subsidiaries a spring clean after outrage over Janet Jackson's escaping nipple and Howard Stern's 'blumpkin' broadcast.

Taste and decency guidelines are in for a shake-up after the the super bowl nipple flash attracted some 200,000 complaints. Unfortunately for Viacom they own both the channel that broadcast the match - CBS - and MTV - which was responsible for the half-time musical extravaganza.

The timing of this was not good as the FCC has just fined Infinity - another Viacom subsidiary the maximum penalty of 27,500 dollars for Howard Stern's expletives about sexual activities.

Details of Stern's 'blumpkin' here