“What happens in Vegas” gets splashed all over the papers

The Sun says it published the photos of a naked Prince Harry because it was in the public interest.

“How do you know it’s in the public interest?” you ask them.

“Cos sales went up, dinnit”

That’s a convincing argument to the Sun. It’s the same one used by the News of the World to justify hacking peoples’ phones. It’s obviously something in the Murdoch corporate culture that they can do whatever they like if it results in extra sales. It’s a completely twisted argument because ‘what the public is interested in’ isn’t the same as ‘what is in the public interest’. For example hacking Milly Dowler’s phone (the teenage girl who was abducted and murdered) amongst the thousands who had their phones hacked in the search for salacious stories was not in the public interest, but finding out who authorised the hacking and how it came to happen most certainly is.

Sensationalism and scandal sells newspapers. We know that. The fact is, there are many genuinely sensational stories out there and many great scandals that should be reported, enough of them in fact to fill a newspaper every day without the need to ‘sex them up’. One such story might indeed be that the third-in-line to the throne had a naked romp in a hotel room in Las Vegas. Okay, let’s talk about that and let’s talk about how his security detail handled the situation, but do we need to see the photos?

“Yeah, we got to see the photos cos it shows the sort of thing sleazy newspapers will print if they get the chance, and therefore that’s why he shudna done it.”

“So you had to publish the photos to show how wrong it would be to publish them?”

“Yeah, summink like that.”


The day before the Sun decided to go ahead and publish the real photos it mocked-up the pose of Prince Harry and a naked woman by getting a journalist to stand in as a royal body double and having a naked woman posing behind. The only problem is the naked woman they used was a 21 year-old fashion intern there for work experience. Some experience; “highly unethical” is one quote, and I think “used” is the right term to use here. “Sordid” is another one. Mind you, Sun management issued a statement saying the pair were perfectly happy to strip off, so that’s all right then.

Reports from the Guardian:

The Sun using an intern to strip for ‘nude Prince Harry’ pictures is shameful
Sun denies it pressured intern to strip for Prince Harry front page

Postscript follow-up

It gets more interesting. After the storm of criticism of the Sun for getting an intern to strip naked, it looks to me like she was not naked after all. The photo below is a crop of the Sun’s front page where the picture appeared. You can just make out that she was wearing knickers which have been pixelated-out using Photoshop. You can tell this by the different size of the coloured spots where the knickers are compared with other parts of the body.

Justice delayed is justice denied

We do not need another “Bloody Sunday” inquiry that will take years and cost millions, Lord Saville spent twelve years and over £200 million to accomplish nothing. The phone hacking scandal, which may be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of lawbreaking and misconduct by the media, requires new laws to be introduced at the earliest opportunity. At the very least we want tough new guidelines and sharper teeth for the complaints handling process immediately.

We are not going to get satisfaction from a ponderous inquiry. We want action.

If Lord Leveson cannot undertake to complete his inquiry within three months, he should step down now. We should instead put it out to tender. We should invite commercial bids to conduct the inquiry from suitable organisations. Interested parties submit sealed bids outlining their capabilities and setting out how they would conduct the inquiry. The government then appoints the most competent and cost-effective contractor to do the job. And of course, there must be a penalty clause for late delivery.

Should Lord Leveson get to drag his inquiry out as he plans, time will have moved on, dirt will have been brushed under carpets, excuses will be fine tuned, and we’ll all forget why this is such an important issue. The guilty will escape jail, they’ll carry on making money and eventually retire in ill-deserved comfort. And after a suitable interval we can be sure everyone will be back up to their old tricks again, write best-selling memoirs telling all and have the last laugh at our expense.

And there will have been no justice done.

Rupert Murdoch: Befuddled old man, or willful blindness?

Stockholders in News Corporation ought to be worried. On the evidence of his appearance before the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee yesterday, Rupert Murdoch is preparing a defence against any potential charge of “willful blindness” by presenting himself as a befuddled old man. He sat motionless and unawares during the shaving-foam assault on him towards the end of proceedings, it was up to Wendi Deng and an un-named woman to spring to his defence and wipe him clean afterwards, but in the three hours prior to that he had shown an equal degree of mental torpor.

The willful blindness charge matters a great deal, that’s why he needs to avoid it at all costs. It applies when executives try to deny responsibility for errors or illegal activity by their subordinates by claiming they didn’t know about it. That defence fails if it can be shown that they ought to have known but kept themselves in the dark or saw to it they were kept in the dark. The only other plea in that situation is insanity.

Some selected questions and answers from the Hearing to illustrate:

Louise Mensch MP: You are ultimately in charge of the company. Given your shock at these things being laid out before you and the fact that you didn’t know anything about them, have you instructed your editors around the world to engage in a root-and-branch review of their own news rooms to be sure that this isn’t being replicated in other News Corps papers around the globe? If not, will you do so?
Rupert Murdoch: No, but I am more than prepared to do so.

It seems incredible to me that being aware of how serious the situation is he hasn’t already launched an enquiry, but even more, when fed a leading question he still doesn’t announce that he will have an enquiry only that he is prepared to do so.

Louise Mensch MP: It is a much bigger ship, but you are in charge of it. As you said in earlier questions, you do not regard yourself as a hands-off Chief Executive; you work 10 to 12 hours a day. This terrible thing happened on your watch. Mr Murdoch, have you considered resigning?
Rupert Murdoch: No.
Louise Mensch MP: Why not?
Rupert Murdoch: Because I feel that people I trusted I am not saying who, and I don’t know what level have let me down. I think that they behaved disgracefully and betrayed the company and me, and it is for them to pay. Frankly, I think that I am the best person to clean this up.

Ms Mensch should have followed this up by asking “What will you do to clean this up?” but she did not, despite his acknowledgement that people he trusted have behaved disgracefully and betrayed the company. He knows people have lied to him or his subordinates, yet he shows no interest and has taken no steps to finding out who they are. The same line again in response to an earlier question from Tom Watson MP:

Tom Watson MP: If it can be shown to you that private investigators working for newspapers in News International used other forms of illicit surveillance like computer hacking, would you immediately introduce another investigation?
Rupert Murdoch: That would be up to the police, but we would certainly work with the police. If they wanted us to do it, we would do it. If they wanted to do it, they would do it.

A pattern emerged at the Hearing of Rupert Murdoch consistently failing to find out when he ought to have been finding out.

The track record of News Corp’s cooperation with the police is not good either. Leaving aside accusations that they were bribing members of the Metropolitan Police for information, and that they had a too-close relationship with some seniors officers, Keith Vaz, Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee which is also investigating the phone hacking scandal has said, “…there has been a deliberate attempt by News International to thwart investigations…” Therefore, Rupert Murdoch’s assurance that they will work with the police cannot be taken at face value.

Furthermore, any reasonable person would think that someone in Rupert Murdoch’s position would order a thorough investigation immediately upon hearing about these allegations and without waiting for the police to launch a criminal enquiry. The scale of some of the out-of-court settlements which bought the silence of some News of the World victims, and the interference with some of the evidence by senior News of the World executives points to a culture of denial and cover-up. Did that culture extend all the way up to the top of News Corp?

Rupert Murdoch is in an invidious position. If he really is a befuddled old man from who other people were keeping the truth, then he isn’t a fit and proper person to be running such a large organisation. If on the other hand he is a fit and proper person to be running the show, he cannot deny responsibility for his failings.