PCC acts in Susan Boyle story

In Debate on June 4, 2009 at 8:38 am

The Press Complaints Commission has warned newspaper editors not to breach the privacy of Susan Boyle, reports Media Guardian. The Guardian reported that the PCC had been contacted by SyCo, the company behind Britain’s Got Talent (and presumably to whom Susan Boyle is contracted) on behalf of Susan Boyle. The email reminded editors not to breach Miss Boyle’s privacy in relation to her health and treatment, under clause 3 of the code, which reads:

i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications. Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual’s private life without consent.

ii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals in a private place without their consent.

It’s welcome news that the PCC has acted, particularly in light of some of the coverage over the last few days. On Monday, this blog reported that there were possible invasions of Boyle’s privacy in some newspapers.

It also appears to be a really significant step forward by the PCC. By comparison, following the Alfie Patten story there were no reports that the PCC had reminded newspaper editors of the families’ rights to privacy – only that the PCC had launched an investigation into possible payments by newspapers.

It would be easier for observers of the PCC to understand its operations if they were clearer on their use of precedent. The Susan Boyle warning is not currently available on its website. The PCC could point out similar privacy cases on which it had ruled, to help inform what is and is not acceptable coverage of Miss Boyle. And it is not clear why they acted in this case, and not that of Alfie Patten. One difference between the two cases might have been the inquiry from Syco as a representative of the subject of the story. But we don’t know whether there was a similar inquiry from representatives of the families in the Patten case.

The PCC has often said that much of its most valuable work is achieved pre-publication and that this does not receive the recognition it deserves. If the case is a sign of a willingness on the part of the PCC to be proactive in the biggest news stories of the day, then it should be praised.


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