Ian Burrell: Why Richard Desmond was so outraged by publication of topless pictures of Duchess of Cambridge
Ian Burrell is Assistant Editor and Media Editor at The Independent, i paper and Independent on Sunday. He covers news from the whole media sector from television, press, radio and advertising to technology. His weekly column on the media appears every Monday in The Independent and i paper. He also writes on media, music and culture, including long-form pieces for The Independent’s Saturday magazine and the Independent on Sunday’s magazine, New Review. He is a regular presenter of BBC Radio 4’s What The Papers Say and a specialist commentator to Monocle 24 radio. He has contributed to most major broadcast outlets including BBC television and radio, CNN, Sky News, Al Jazeera and LBC. He has also written on media for GQ magazine. Ian has been reporting on the media industry for The Independent for more than a decade. Previously he was the newspaper’s Home Affairs Editor. He worked at The Sunday Times for five years, including as a member of the investigative Insight team, covering stories on political funding, industrial espionage and the arms industry. Previously he worked in ITV for London Weekend Television, on a weekly current affairs programme presented by Danny Baker. Ian trained at the Birmingham Post & Mail and was Regional Reporter of the Year in Press Gazette’s national awards.
Monday 17 September 2012
Fans of such regular Daily Star online features as "Star Babes", "Celeb Babes" and "Retro Babes" may have had a surprise when Googling for an eyeful of the topless pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge over the weekend.
For there among the top searches were a slew of news items revealing that the publisher of their favourite newspaper was planning to close down its Irish edition, so furious was he at its use of the same scandalous images they were seeking a peek at.
The former publisher of such titles as Asian Babes and Horny Housewives was so livid at the Irish Daily Star's publication of the images he was promising to pull out of the arrangement by which his Northern & Shell business produces the Irish paper with the Dublin-based company Independent News & Media (a former owner of The Independent).
"I'm very angry at the decision to publish these photographs and am taking immediate steps to close down the joint venture.
"The decision to publish these pictures has no justification whatsoever and Northern & Shell condemns it in the strongest possible terms," he said.
Part of Mr Desmond's ire can probably be explained by the potential damage to the royalist Daily Express, the most important paper in his stable.
He is likely to also be concerned by the timing of the Duchess pictures furore, just ahead of the publication of Lord Justice Leveson's report into the future regulation of British newspapers.
N&S controversially sits outside of the Press Complaints Commission, which Mr Desmond calls a "useless body run by people who want tea and biscuits".
But the company is working with the rest of the industry to formulate an acceptable new system that will head off the threat of statutory regulation, which is a real danger amid the public anger over phone hacking. He will not want to incur the wrath of other media barons at this delicate moment.
So far Fleet Street has held firm over the Duchess pictures. The Sun broke ranks in publishing naked shots of Prince Harry, but would surely not dare do so in this instance.
First, because the Harry pictures provoked 3,000 complaints to the PCC. Second, because after the paper's apology over its Hillsborough coverage last Thursday it couldn't risk further public outrage. And third because, as St James's Palace has said, these pictures really have crossed "a line in the sand".
But in France, Ireland and Italy the line isn't so easy to define.
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