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Independent Exposes International Broadcasting’s Repeated Breach of anti-Propaganda Code

world news

International broadcasters including the BBC repeatedly broke the Ofcom code by screening programmes funded by foreign governments, charities and NGOs, an investigation has revealed.

News films and documentaries were acquired for nominal fees and the identity of the funders not disclosed to the audience – in what has been dubbed a “£1 programme scandal”. Ofcom has uncovered nearly 50 breaches of its code by CNN, CNBC and the BBC after a four-year inquiry into the global news channels, which are beamed into hotel rooms around the world.

The media regulator discovered a series of contraventions of its impartiality guidelines and found hundreds of nominal-fee programmes had been paid for by bodies ranging from United Nations departments to the Indonesian ministry of trade and a Cambodian casino firm.

It said the practice carried “inherent risk to independence and editorial integrity” and it has ordered an “industry-wide” meeting of news networks to address the matter.

The Ofcom probe, the biggest it has undertaken into television content, began after an investigation in 2011 by The Independent, which revealed that a London-based media company that had received millions of pounds from the Malaysian government for public relations work was making documentaries for the BBC on the subject of Malaysia. The Independent also detailed how the company, FBC Media (UK), had close ties to the American networks CNN and CNBC. Ofcom reported that both broadcasters had broken its rules on due impartiality. The regulator said it would now draw up new “best-practice guidelines” for broadcasters so that “viewers can continue to be confident in the independence of factual programming”.

It is also considering a public consultation on the matter with a view to changing its Broadcasting Code in this area. In a 112-page report, Ofcom said: “This was different from a normal investigation in that it covered programmes broadcast in over 200 countries, by three TV news channels.” Officials conducted “forensic analysis” of over 1,000 programmes and “hundreds of hours” of footage.

Read the entire article: BBC among broadcasters to repeatedly breach Ofcom code over propaganda content, by Ian Burrell, 17.8.15, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/tv-radio/bbc-among-broadcasters-to-repeatedly-breach-ofcom-code-over-propaganda-content-10459743.html

OPEN LETTER On Behalf of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Their Children

Prince-George-and-Princess-CharlotteI am writing to provide an overview of the current challenges facing Kensington Palace as we seek to protect Prince George and Princess Charlotte from harassment and surveillance by paparazzi photographers. I hope our experience will inform the ongoing effort to uphold standards on the protection of children in a rapidly changing media landscape.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have expressed their gratitude to British media organisations for their policy of not publishing unauthorised photos of their children. This stance, guided not just by their wishes as parents, but by the standards and codes of the industry as it relates to all children, is to be applauded. They are pleased also that almost all reputable publications throughout the Commonwealth – in particular Australia, Canada, and New Zealand – and in other major media markets like the United States have adopted a similar position.

The Duke and Duchess are glad that leaders in the media industry share the view that every child, regardless of their future public role, deserves a safe, happy, and private childhood. They have been delighted to share official photographs of Prince George and Princess Charlotte in recent months to thank the public for the thousands of kind messages of support they have received. News photographers have had several recent opportunities to take photos of the family and these will be a regular occurrence as both children get older.

Despite this, paparazzi photographers are going to increasingly extreme lengths to observe and monitor Prince George’s movements and covertly capture images of him to sell to the handful of international media titles still willing to pay for them. One recent incident – just last week – was disturbing, but not at all uncommon. A photographer rented a car and parked in a discreet location outside a children’s play area. Already concealed by darkened windows, he took the added step of hanging sheets inside the vehicle and created a hide stocked with food and drinks to get him through a full day of surveillance, waiting in hope to capture images of Prince George. Police discovered him lying down in the boot of the vehicle attempting to shoot photos with a long lens through a small gap in his hide.

It is of course upsetting that such tactics – reminiscent as they are of past surveillance by groups intent on doing more than capturing images – are being deployed to profit from the image of a two-year old boy. In a heightened security environment such tactics are a risk to all involved. The worry is that it will not always be possible to quickly distinguish between someone taking photos and someone intending to do more immediate harm.

This incident was not an isolated one. In recent months photographers have:

  • on multiple occasions used long range lenses to capture images of The Duchess playing with Prince George in a number of private parks;
  • monitored the movements of Prince George and his nanny around London parks and monitored the movements of other household staff;
  • photographed the children of private individuals visiting The Duke and Duchess’s home;
  • pursued cars leaving family homes;
  • used other children to draw Prince George into view around playgrounds;
  • been found hiding on private property in fields and woodland locations around The Duke and Duchess’s home in Norfolk;
  • obscured themselves in sand dunes on a rural beach to take photos of Prince George playing with his grandmother;
  • placed locations near the Middleton family home in Berkshire under steady surveillance

It is clear that while paparazzi are always keen to capture images of any senior member of The Royal Family, Prince George is currently their number one target. We have made the decision to discuss these issues now as the incidents are becoming more frequent and the tactics more alarming. A line has been crossed and any further escalation in tactics would represent a very real security risk.

All of this has left The Duke and Duchess concerned about their ability to provide a childhood for Prince George and Princess Charlotte that is free from harassment and surveillance. They know that almost all parents love to share photos of their children and they themselves enjoy doing so. But they know every parent would object to anyone – particularly strangers – taking photos of their children without their permission. Every parent would understand their deep unease at only learning they had been followed and watched days later when photographs emerged.

The Duke and Duchess are of course very fortunate to have private homes where photographers cannot capture images of their children. But they feel strongly that both Prince George and Princess Charlotte should not grow up exclusively behind palace gates and in walled gardens. They want both children to be free to play in public and semi-public spaces with other children without being photographed. In addition, the privacy of those other children and their families must also be preserved.

We hope a public discussion of these issues will help all publishers of unauthorised photos of children to understand the power they hold to starve this disturbing activity of funding. I would welcome constructive conversations with any publisher or editor on these topics. And I would ask for your help as we work to encourage the highest standards on the protection of children in every corner of the media. The Duke and Duchess are determined to keep the issues around a small number of paparazzi photographers distinct and separate from the positive work of most newspapers, magazines, broadcasters, and web publishers around the world.

The text from this letter, which has been sent to a number of people in leadership positions, will be placed in the public domain to raise awareness of the issues discussed.

Jason Knauf, Communications Secretary, Kensington Palace


patrick KaneEfforts to shift the culture of rape that places heavy burdens upon the victim may influence public perception in weighing the facts. The dilemma of course is that the extra-judicial statements, leaks, pre-trial speculation, and face book proclamations affect the ultimate quest for justice by offering nearly everything but the facts.

Alleged Facts

A summary of the reports surfacing about the ongoing investigation into the rape allegations reveal that the victim was 26 years old when she and a friend met a world-famous athlete at a local bar on August 2, 2015. He invited the pair back to his house, the friend wanted to go, the target did not, but she went any way to prevent her friend from going alone. A few hours later she was at the local hospital for forensic testing after being overpowered by the hockey star.

Two sources: a law enforcement official and a member of Buffalo’s legal community are reported to have leaked this information.

EA Sports then removed Kane’s photo from the cover of its NHL16 video game.




Flaming arrows merely need a pitch soaked rag round the arrowhead, lit, then fired into enemy lines.  The arrow’s aim: Death to the Target (in this case the dentist who killed Cecil the Lion).  The pitch: I have nothing better to do. The match: send /enter on the keyboard.The enemy is whoever offends your personal sense of right or wrong, regardless of the facts and for most any reason.

Reasonable debate has come full circle when the death of a Celebrity Lion has sparked massive outrage and calls for retribution.

Social media is not merely a vehicle for chiming in (where one agrees or disagrees with a brief qualification), it has become a force for leading the charge. Mob violence on the internet, for those who have nothing better to do or who feel passionately about issues that may only be tangentially related to their core beliefs has supplanted the drive to create meaningful societal change.

A day in the life: Eat breakfast, make a death threat, sign a petition, then play a game of soccer.

The many twists and turns:

Why the outrage?

It seems that most supporters of extradition for the dentist who paid for the score were offended because “this particular lion was special.” Are we to assume that any other lion would have been ok? Does it depend upon who you are (lion or hunter)? The professional hunter claims to have believed that the lion was old and beyond his reproductive years. Another says a hunt is a hunt and when the laws are followed it’s perfectly legal and thrilling to boot.

Others lament the loss of tourism translating into millions for the nation of Zimbabwe.

Conservationist argue that killing this one lion who led 2 prides could translate into the loss of many more, since a new male entering the pride would instinctually kill off Cecil’s cubs.

Those who value the sanctity of life are worried that Lions (and other animals) are becoming an endangered species for the thrill attending a morbid and depraved “sport.”

The African mother of the three year old child who was mauled and killed by two lion cubs applauds the effort in the service of needed animal control.

Then in true Danish Cartoon fashion, other hunters felt a need to defend and spread the risk to use the words of some European publishers. Rather than take a moment to reflect, the impulse is to defend and provoke. Dangerous times indeed.

I get it. I may never get the following image out of mind.


A picture must really be worth a thousand words because my own stomach is still a bit queasy.

Who will lead the charge for a reasoned debate and sensible solutions?

Calling on all professional media outlets to do more than capture the vitriol, vilification, and death threats, instead lead the world, now that Cecil has taken center stage, in understanding the whys and the why nots.


Looking to Charge Bill Cosby? By Robin Barnes

cosbyIt’s hard to imagine, given the scope of the New York Magazine article, featuring a dramatic photo collage of his alleged victims on its cover: that US authorities are going to pass on the opportunity to indict Bill Cosby for rape.

The article suggests that although they photographed and interviewed 35 women, there are still more victims of a crime spree that spans more than 50 years: “The group of women Cosby allegedly assaulted functions almost as a longitudinal study: both for how an individual woman, on her own, deals with such trauma over the decades and for how the culture at large has grappled with rape over the same time period.”

I must have missed that part of the story.

What I did see was an “acknowledgment” that younger women will take up their cause using social media as a weapon. I saw a rather detailed description of how the statute of limitations makes it difficult to prosecute this case because most of the accusations are 25-35 years old. There was legal wrangling in 2002 and 2005, but then in 2014 dozens of women made public accusations that Mr. Cosby sexually assaulted them.

One claimed that she was molested as a minor and Cosby counter-sued with evidence of an attempt to extort money from his estate.

In sum, with the New York Magazine article there is a revving of the engine, a possible run-up to the announcement that the public outcry for justice is simply too loud to ignore.  If so, I have not heard it.   But that may be the very problem that the media is trying to solve. They want a public outcry.  Good luck with that.

Some of the most horrific cases of rape have surfaced in the past few years and the silence is deafening: media silence in particular…. Where was New York Magazine and its photographers in the aftermath of crimes for which there is more than ample evidence and no hint of extortion?  The examples are endless:

Try rape among politicians: Israeli president Moshe Katsav was found guilty of rape and sexual assault.

The Delhi Bus Gang-Rape/Murder.

The Steubenville High School rape on the night of August 11, 2012, when a high school girl, incapacitated by alcohol, was publicly and repeatedly sexually assaulted by peers,  who documented and disseminated the acts via social media.

How about the sexual assault of Savannah Dietrich in Louisville, Kentucky?

The suicide of Rehtaeh Parsons (Cole Harbour District High School, Nova Scotia)?

The suicide of Audrie Pott (Saratoga High School, California)?

The Torrington High School Rape (Connecticut)?

The Glen Ridge High Rape (New Jersey)

The $1.3 Million Settlement paid by the University of Connecticut to end its rape suit?

NADA! A US Justice Department study found that 80 percent of campus rapes went unreported between 1995 and 2013, compared to 67 percent in the general population.

I have no thoughts on Cosby’s guilt or innocence, but I have a multitude of questions about the priorities of the media, and its interest in celebrities accused of rape far and away above the culture of rape that women battle world-wide every single day.

In Rape Culture Is Real, Zerlina Maxwell offers a candid view.

Simply put, feminists want equality for everyone and that begins with physical safety.

You were drinking, what did you expect? Those were the first words that I heard when I went to someone I trusted for support after my roommate’s boyfriend raped me eight years ago. When I came forward to report what happened, instead of support, many well-meaning people close to me asked me questions about what I was wearing, if I had done something to cause the assault, or if I had been drinking. These questions about my choices the night of my assault — as opposed to the choices made by my rapist — were in some ways as painful as the violent act itself. I had stumbled upon rape culture: a culture in which sexual violence is the norm and victims are blamed for their own assaults.

Rape culture is when women who come forward are questioned about what they were wearing.

Rape culture is when survivors who come forward are asked, “Were you drinking?”

Rape culture is when people say, “she was asking for it.”

Rape culture is when we teach women how to not get raped, instead of teaching men not to rape.

Rape culture is when the lyrics of Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ mirror the words of actual rapists and is still the number one song in the country.

Rape culture is when the mainstream media mourns the end of the convicted Steubenville rapists’ football careers and does not mention the young girl who was victimized.

Rape culture is when cyberbullies take pictures of sexual assaults and harass their victims online after the fact, which in the cases of Audrie Pott and Rehtaeh Parsons tragically ended in their suicides.

Rape culture is when, in 31 states, rapists can legally sue for child custody if the rape results in pregnancy.

Rape culture is when college campus advisers tasked with supporting the student body, shame survivors who report their rapes. (Annie Clark, a campus activist, says an administrator at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill told her when she reported her rape, “Well… Rape is like football, if you look back on the game, and you’re the quarterback, Annie… is there anything you would have done differently?”)

Rape culture is when colleges are more concerned with getting sued by assailants than in supporting survivors. (Or at Occidental College, where students and administrators who advocated for survivors were terrorized for speaking out against the school’s insufficient reporting procedures.)

It’s no surprise that we would refuse to acknowledge that rape and sexual violence is the norm, not the exception. It’s no surprise because most of us would rather believe that the terrible realities we hear about aren’t real or that, at least, we can’t do anything about it. The truth is ugly. But by denying the obvious we continue to allow rapists to go unpunished and leave survivors silenced.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, media pundits target celebrities and victims with false and misleading headlines: leaving a trail of ruined lives, while lining up to argue that they deserve special legal protections because they serve the public interest.

“Their Royal Heilnesses” Seriously?

sun nazi debacle

This week the Sun, a prominent UK newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch, featured a shocking front cover with an image photo-shopped from a film stolen from the palace with the headline: “Their Royal Heilnesses.”

A clip from a 1933 family video shows Edward VIII teaching his nieces, the seven-year-old future Queen, her three-year-old sister Margaret along with the late Queen Mother, how to perform the Nazi salute in the gardens at Balmoral.

Without revealing how they obtained film footage of the Queen and her sister as children, the editors claimed to protect the public’s interest in knowing that Edward VIII: “The man who briefly became our King was already a fan of Hitler – and remained so as late as 1970, long after the Holocaust’s horrors were laid bare.”

Members of the Royal Family were disappointed by the privacy invasion as the Sun exploited footage shot eight decades ago and apparently stolen from the personal family archive.

Other tabloids chimed in: ‘The Sun has sunk to a new low': British public reacts with fury after tabloid publishes 80-year-old pictures of the seven-year-old Queen and the Queen Mother being taught a Nazi salute.”[i] 

Messages across social media defended the target: the queen was just a young girl, 1933 featured a pre-war Hitler just rising in power, Rupert Murdock with his deceit and manipulation is a disease in the body politic, just inciting more hatred….

High level officials agree: Labour MP Barbara Keeley declared that there’s certainly enough moral outrage about misjudgement in history to go round: referencing an image of The Sun’s controversial 1989 front page photo and article which criticized Liverpool fans for the Hillsborough disaster that killed 96 spectators. New evidence shows that there was much more to that tragedy than revealed in the official story.[ii]

The irony is that few seemed prepared to back up PFA’s Gordon Taylor who made the same point when he remarked that pro-football star Ched Evans: “wouldn’t be the first person or persons to be found guilty and maintain their innocence and then been proven right. If we’re talking about things in football we know what happened, what was alleged to have happened, at Hillsborough and it’s now unraveling and we’re finding it was very different to how it was portrayed at the time, indeed by the police at the time.” Critics are offended by his comparison as if the Court of Law and Court of Public Opinion are so very different these days….

Rather than focus upon the point of media exploitation of tragedy, crisis and official misjudgment or cover-ups, new editors chose to fan the flames of indignation with the Hillsborough Family Support Group: claiming wide-spread “distaste for a thought process in which Taylor seemed to put giving emotional ballast to his case for Evans above respect for what the families went through.” As they say in England, that’s just rubbish. One may disagree with Taylor about Evan’s return to football, but his reasoning related to media abuse of power is dead on.

Full essay forthcoming August 2015.

[i] By Ollie Gillman and Imogen Calderwood and Elaine O’flynn For Mailonline and Emily Davies and Harriet Sime for the Daily Mail, Published: 17:13 EST, 17 July 2015 | Updated: 12:17 EST, 18 July 2015

[ii] Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3165923/Pictured-Queen-taught-NAZI-SALUTE-Edward-VIII-secret-1933-film-Balmoral.html#ixzz3gHjt4Kgh

South Carolina Does the Right Thing!

SC-Capitol-Confederate-Flag-1000x600After an impassioned discussion Monday, a bill that would remove the Confederate flag from statehouse grounds was approved by state lawmakers.


High Level Impact of Charleston Massacre?

keep it down

Justice Stephen Breyer’s majority opinion in Walker v. Sons of Confederate Veterans[i] recognized the role of symbolic speech in our daily lives when government officials at that state and local levels tacitly endorse messages of hate.  The massacre in Charleston, South Carolina provided a stark example on the eve of that decision.

Not long ago, the US Supreme Court developed a doctrine that prohibits states from engaging in viewpoint discrimination.  The theory is that we need to monitor state action so as to ensure consistent application of neutral/objective standards when carrying out government functions.

The Texas Sons of Confederate Veterans brought suit when the group was denied a specialty license plate displaying America’s historic symbol of racial hatred and violence.

Upholding the state’s refusal to issue the plate, Justice Breyer explained: When government (itself) speaks there is no First Amendment prohibition on examining the content of the message.

The history of license plates shows that they are essentially government IDs communicating messages consistent with public policy.  The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles maintains direct control over the messages conveyed on all TX license plates.

On this same basis, members of the #KeepItDown campaign recently determined that the time for debate is over: “We took this task in our own hands because our President, Governor, mayors, legislators, and councilmen had a moral duty to remove the flag but failed to act. We could not sit by and watch the victims of the Charleston Massacre be laid to rest while the inspiration for their deaths continue to fly above their caskets.”

According to CNN: “Dressed in climbing gear and a helmet, Brittany “Bree” Newsome shimmied up a 30-foot flagpole on the grounds of the South Carolina state Capitol early Saturday hours before a pro-flag rally was scheduled to take place at the monument in Columbia.”

The time for debate is over!

[i] http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-144_758b.pdf


Survivors of the South Carolina Shooting Rejected Victimhood

SC victimsA favored pundit recently stated:  there are few things that bring people together more decisively than their collective moral outrage. When they’re all bristling and wounded because of suffering under an oppressive regime, the sense of camaraderie just keeps on growing. This is all well and good if you want to forge your strongest social connections on the basis of some shared sense of misfortune.

Not in South Carolina! Who wouldn’t be proud to be American (this week in particular)?

I take this moment to applaud  each and every one who embraced the spirit of peace, brotherhood, unity and forgiveness.  You set a fine example.  And the world is watching!

One could have easily joined the chorus of condemnation for former Texas Governor  James Richard Perry’s thoughtless remarks. But why engage? After viewing just a small number of Perry presentations over the years, one might easily notice neurologic markers suggesting slower cognitive functioning. I find no evidence that he meant to say that the massacre was an accident.  If I read the video correctly, he meant to say incident. Although, if you follow Perry’s reasoning (poor white child, at the mercy of a corrupt medical/ pharmaceutical industry, caught in the crosshairs of Obama’s War on Guns), he does suggest (albeit subconsciously) that no one is really to blame here.  He may even believe that what happened in Charleston is just an unfortunate incident.  If so, the Oxford Dictionary backs him up:  Accident defined “An unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury.” We may never understand how Perry’s brain works, but it clearly doesn’t register the meaning of white separatist violence and racist manifestos the way some of us might.  And during the short clip of that interview: I saw nothing, not a single marker of unconscious semantic activation, to express even an ounce of sympathy or regret for those gunned down in their house of worship.

The good citizens of the South could have recoiled in horror, as the spectacle of slaughter was captured by news outlets around the globe alongside the Confederate Flag flying high above Southern Capitals; but they didn’t.  The survivors and their families decided that love will conquer hate and they forgave the gunmen, while the rest marched to Columbia with resounding unity: TAKE IT DOWN!

As a result, South Carolina Republican Governor Nikki Haley called for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the State Capital. Officials in Mississippi are calling for removal of the Confederate flag from their banner.  Walmart and Sears have finally rejected the most prominent symbol of the slave-holding South and the 100 years of brutality that followed emancipation, announcing that they will no longer sell related merchandise.  Business leaders across the state issued statements of support for removal, while the largest corporations: Michelin Tires, Boeing Aircraft,  and SCANA Energy supported Governor Haley’s call to action.  It altogether reminds me of a famous quote:

Beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn’t make sense any more.

Jelaluddin Rumi


Leveson’s regulator and the goal of protecting ‘real harm caused to real people’: A likely story? By Paul Wragg

LevesonIn his report, Lord Justice Leveson expressed concern at the ‘real harm caused to real people’ resulting from the ‘cultural indifference to individual privacy and dignity’ that he observes in problematic press behaviour. The tragic case of Lucy Meadows is surely the paradigm example of what he had in mind.

A recent posting on this blog spoke confidently of the role that Leveson’s regulator (once installed) might have in averting, or compensating for, the damaging experience suffered by someone like Miss Meadows as a result of the intrusive and unwanted press attention into her private life following an acerbic piece by Richard Littlejohn in the Daily Mail entitled ‘He’s not only in the wrong body… he’s in the wrong job’.

It is to be hoped that this will be the case. Certainly, the dialogue so far has tended to assume that Leveson’s regulator will have a profound effect on media freedom, whether the author is for or against Leveson’s recommendations. The purpose of this note is to offer a more sceptical view – there is no intention to suggest that Leveson’s recommendations will be a damp squib (although they might be if they are watered down too much) but rather to doubt the capacity of the regulator to achieve the sort of meaningful cultural change Leveson advocates in order to prevent ‘real harm’ happening to ‘real people’. That is to say, those troubling journalistic practices that Leveson identifies at length may well continue to affect ordinary members of the public who are not celebrities but, for whatever reason, have piqued the interest of the press. This scepticism stems from two typical features of stories involving members of the public:

First, members of the public are likely to be more vulnerable to the problematic behaviour that Leveson identifies – blagging, cajoling or threatening in order to obtain an interview or private information, etc – since a) they are likely to have less experience of or exposure to journalistic norms and b) less resources to obtain advice (legal or otherwise) let alone initiate legal action in order to protect their interests. Moreover, even if they have access to a free service, they may not complain for fear of intimidation, retaliation, etc. — all of which Leveson recognises in his report. The onus in such circumstances would be on the regulator to intervene, possibly unprompted by the individual concerned and we should query how readily the regulator would be able to do so. The defence of press partisanship may also influence the regulator’s approach to intervening (see below).

Secondly, often stories involving members of the public have an arguable public interest dimension to them. Even if the regulator were minded to accept that a breach of the code of conduct had occurred, penalties may not follow due to the presence of this public interest. Of the current sixteen clauses of the editor’s code of practice, ten contain an explicit public interest defence. Likewise, both the domestic and Strasbourg jurisprudence makes it clear that discussions of public interest should only be interfered with in narrow circumstances (see, e.g., the Supreme Court decision in Re Guardian News and Media Ltd [2010] UKSC 1). Should the regulator closely follow current judicial reasoning in privacy claims then complaints by members of the public may be unsuccessful where there is a public interest at stake unless the breach of code is particularly extreme.

The Lucy Meadows story provides an interesting and provocative lens by which to examine the prospective regulator. Assuming that clause 12 (discrimination) of the current editor’s code is replicated in the new code, then Miss Meadows might have made a successful complaint on the grounds that the article was prejudicial although this cannot be assumed (as it appears her complaint to the PCC has yet to be adjudicated). The PCC’s previous adjudications are not particularly favourable to transgender complainants who have complained about insensitive disclosures in discussions concerning a matter of public interest (see, e.g., A woman v The People, A man v Daily Record, Ms Keira McCormack v Sunday Life).

Whilst we might seriously question whether Lucy Meadows was a public figure simply by virtue of her position as a teacher or whether the suitability of people in transition to teach at a primary school is really a matter of public interest there has been a spate of recent judicial decisions evidencing a broadly generous approach to such issues in which the courts have endorsed the role of newspapers to criticise the behaviour of others, particularly role models (a term that has also been broadly conceived to include, e.g., Steve McClaren, ex-England manager). Similarly, the PCC decisions mentioned above broadly agree that newspapers are entitled to publish stories expressing concerns over the suitability of particular employment. Likewise, let us not forget the sheer breadth of the definition of public figure employed by the Council of Europe under Resolution 1165 of 1998: ‘public figures are persons holding public office and/or using public resources and, more broadly speaking, all those who play a role in public life, whether in politics, the economy, the arts, the social sphere, sport or any other domain’.

Of course, the presence of some public interest ought not to be used as a blunt instrument to justify journalistic disregard for privacy and dignity. That is, an identifiable public interest ought not to be treated as a threshold point to determine whether or not a misuse of private information claim is successful (see Lord Phillips in Associated Newspapers Ltd v HRH Prince of Wales [2006] EWCA Civ 1776, [66]). Yet recent cases involving Rio Ferdinand, Chris Hutcheson, Steve McClaren, Karina Trimingham and Caroline Spelman’s son provide little comfort that such a nuanced and sceptical approach will be followed.

A finding in favour of the media, though, is not the only option available. In a case such as that of Lucy Meadows, the regulator might conclude that the harm to individual privacy and dignity far outweighed any coincidental public interest in the discussion or that the expressive activity crossed the line of acceptable criticism or even that the expression amounted to a form of hate speech, thereby depriving it of any protection under Article 10 of the ECHR. But we cannot be sure of such careful scrutiny, particularly in light of recent judicial decisions (and PCC decisions – for what they are worth).

In short, a sceptical view on the prospect of the new regulator protecting ‘real people’ from ‘real harm’ may be unavoidable. Ordinary members of the public are an easier target for the press than savvy celebrities with access to greater resources. Similarly ordinary members of the public may be uncertain of their rights and disinclined from pursuing them for fear of further intrusion. All of this is recognised in Leveson’s report and if a meaningful cultural change is to be achieved then, at the very least, a tough approach from the regulator is called for. But can we be certain this tough approach will occur? More likely than not, there will be some public interest dimension to the story, even though that aspect is probably disproportionate to the sense of intrusion experienced by the member of the public. Yet legally and politically, the regulator may struggle to justify interferences with expression tackling a matter of public interest. Expressing viewpoints, even deeply unpopular ones, on a matter of public interest falls squarely within the domain of press partisanship – a concept that Leveson endorsed as a vital feature of press freedom.