Hello? You want payment, publicity and your privacy?

Last week's judgment in the legal battle between <b>OK!</b> and <b>Hello!</b> threw the future of the buy-up into doubt and raised a whole new set of questions about the rights of celebrities who do deals with the media. So where does the press go from here? We canvassed expert opinion
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The Independent Online

Piers Morgan

Piers Morgan

Former editor of 'The Mirror'

When Catherine Zeta-Jones launched her case we ran a picture of her on the front of the Mirror as a bleating baby with a dummy, because that's what she was. Judges are recognising that the whole business has been on the side of celebrities who put their private lives into the public domain for money. Now they are waking up to the farce of celebrities getting paid huge amounts and as far as I'm concerned it's a good thing. Any celebrity who sells their wedding pictures has abrogated any right to privacy. The veneer is coming off celebrity and the message is, "If you want privacy, don't invade your own." The young now don't hold celebrities in such reverence and I think that's quite healthy. If a celebrity is going to be waking up a judge on a Saturday night wailing about their privacy then they'd better not ever have sold their wedding or baby shots. Take this month's case with Jessie Wallace and her ex-boyfriend David Morgan. The judge ruled that News of the World had every right to print his interview because she had forfeited her right to privacy by deliberately seeking publicity. It emerged that she had spent most of the time selling pictures of herself! Celebrities are entering into a deal with the devil and they'd better watch out because the devil has sharp horns and they might get pricked.

Max Clifford

Max Clifford PR

This ruling doesn't make a blind bit of difference.

Trying to get the jump on your rivals is not exactly new in Fleet Street and this judgment will just send a message to the press and celebrities to be even cleverer with their buy-ups. OK! and Hello! are the only ones who pay a fortune anyhow. I'd love to think the importance of celebrity is waning but it's not the case. Their egos are enormous and their talent doesn't match it. Perhaps now they won't be so greedy and believe they're invulnerable. Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas weren't harmed by Hello!. Frankly if there's a poor, blurred picture in one magazine, you're more likely to go on and buy the magazine that has the better spread. It's common sense. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of money that gets paid to these celebrities to go on holiday. I take advantage of it all the time. I've got one client getting paid £150,000 to spend three days on holiday with her new boyfriend. That's the kind of money that can be generated. On an average year I earn £1m from just two or three people in shoots that take them no more than five hours. It's a market that's exploded in the last five or so years and there's no sign of it abating. There may be fewer of them getting the really big money, but that's because the magazines' market research is becoming more specific.

David Yelland

Former editor of 'The Sun'

Generally celebrities' privacy is being invaded less rather than more, simply because of the complex degree of collusion so many of them are engaged in.

What you see is very much not what you get. Nearly every picture you see in a magazine of a celebrity on holiday has been paid for, sometimes even by the photographer. There's an immense collusion between the tabloids and the stars and sometimes I think the only people being short-changed are the readers. They've got no idea, but they should ask themselves, how's a downmarket celebrity going to be able to afford to go to Antigua for a week? I don't think I ever knowingly at The Sun paid for a celebrity to go on holiday but by buying the photos I probably did. I think overall the interest is increasing. I'm fascinated that celebrities are being created in the media by reality TV in a "roll your own" way because they're too expensive to buy up. You can create a Rebecca Loos or a Jade Goody or a Will Young and in this country we have a very high turnover of especially young celebrities. I remember being shocked when I came to The Sun after years in the States just looking at how young they all were.

Mark Borkowski

Head of Borkowski PR

The enormous pay-outs have waned. There's a lot of bullshit talked about money but it ain't as good as you think. Circulations are down and magazines and newspapers are going for economies of

scale. Weddings are a problem. Really pukka A-list people don't play that game. It's not the same as five years ago, and if TV keeps turning out these dreadful reality-show people it'll go down and down. We need heroes - the Ellen MacArthurs, people who have achieved something. But these people don't seem to want to harvest their fame in the same way. The public's interest in celebrity is punctured, there's no doubt about it. Take Celebrity Love Island. I find it excruciating to watch a bunch of meaningless people wandering around on a beach. There will always be exclusives but there are more and more problems with the quality of the content, and if the copy is sanitised it just doesn't connect with the audience.

Amanda Platell

Writer, broadcaster and former editor of the 'Sunday Express'

There is absolutely no need to strengthen the level of privacy for celebrities.

The moment you appear in Hello! or OK! you forgo what an ordinary person has a right to expect. There is a way of being a huge star without having your privacy invaded and that is not to collude with it. Look at David Bowie. You never see him falling out of nightclubs or being snatched in the street. He's not like the Jude Laws who don't think they exist unless they see themselves in the papers. Once you flog your name and your family, you're entitled to much lower levels of privacy. But sadly I don't think there's any chance of interest in celebrity going away and thus the buy-ups will continue. It's a huge industry. Look at The Farm and Celebrity Love Island. Why would anyone want to watch someone masturbating a turkey? But they do.

Mark Stephens

Media lawyer at Finers Stephens Innocent

This was a very significant ruling. I've done many buy-ups for celebrity magazines

and although they're not the lifeblood of the media, they are vitally important. In that market it is the only way to get the scoop. When it started there were quite modest sums, but with the arrival of OK! the celebrities started to ramp it up. Because the magazines wanted to develop a vision of an unattainable celebrity lifestyle, these weddings became extraordinary events and effectively they were paying to dress the set. That meant the case for an exclusive became even more important. OK! knocked Hello! from its slot in the marketplace by securing long-term deals with people who really put on circulation - the Anthea Turners, the Beckhams, the Zeta-Joneses. These were their foundation stones to get readers to swap. We haven't come to the end of the road with this case - it's got House of Lords written all over it. I think it's a major own goal for Hello!. It's their last gasp. Only Hello! says it's a victory for them and the fact is they've won on a technicality. It's now open season for every photographer and agency and waiter with a pinhole camera to infiltrate their exclusive events and take snatched photos. The ruling is also very important on the privacy issue. Zeta-Jones said they got their privacy through controlling it with exclusives like this, but the court said that's not an appropriate way forward.

Bill Hagerty

Editor of 'British Journalism Review' and former editor of 'The People'

This judgment's right. But given that popular journalism is driven 100 per cent by celebrity now and the appetite continues to be voracious, I don't think exclusive buy-ups show any sign of going away. The amount of money that's paid now is astounding. I was astonished to see what someone's paying for Jordan's wedding. Flabbergasted. But it's the market. There's nothing wrong with it either. If some Cabinet minister has an affair with his secretary, why shouldn't she sell her side of the story? Spoilers have always existed, they're part of journalism too. Everyone's trying to get one over. When we broke the story of David Mellor having an affair with an actress, someone spoiled it by faxing our front page to the News of the World. The privacy issue is 95 per cent about celebrities and I think if they sell shots of their wedding they've forfeited their right to be taken as private people. If they get their exclusives spoiled then just tough, I have no sympathy for them at all.

Interviews by Jane Thynne

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