Charlotte Church waived fee for 'good press'

 

Charlotte Church described today how she agreed to waive a £100,000 fee for singing at Rupert Murdoch's wedding in exchange for a promise of future favourable coverage in his papers.

The star, dubbed the Voice of an Angel, told the Leveson Inquiry into press standards she was just 13 at the time and wanted to take the money.

But she was persuaded by her management and record company that she should go for the option of being "looked on favourably" by a "powerful man" like Mr Murdoch.

Church, 25, said she accepted that her strategy failed and that the media mogul's newspapers had since been "some of the worst offenders".

Recounting her experiences of press intrusion, the singer cited a News of the World article reporting her father was having an affair and that her mother had attempted suicide.

On another occasion The Sun revealed she was pregnant for the first time before she had even told her family. She suggested the story must have come from phone hacking or other surveillance.

Church was asked to sing at Mr Murdoch's 1999 wedding to Wendi Deng on the media tycoon's yacht in New York.

She said she was given the choice of receiving a £100,000 fee - the biggest she had ever been offered at the time - or receiving favourable publicity from Mr Murdoch's papers in the future.

"Despite my teenage business head screaming, 'think how many Tamagotchis you could buy!', I was pressured into taking the latter option," she said in a witness statement.

"This strategy failed for me. In fact Mr Murdoch's newspapers have since been some of the worst offenders, so much so that I have sometimes felt that there has actually been a deliberate agenda."

The inquiry heard it was later claimed her performance was organised as a surprise for Mr Murdoch, but Church said she understood the request to be specifically from him.

The singer said she was told Mr Murdoch wanted her to sing Pie Jesu, even after she pointed out that it was a funeral song.

Church told the hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London she faced media attention from the age of 12 but the intrusion was worst when she was between 16 and 20.

The inquiry was told that her manager found evidence of a camera hidden in a shrub outside her home, she was chased by photographers in cars and paparazzi tried to take pictures up her skirt and down her top.

The singer spoke of the "massive psychological effect" of a News of the World story in December 2005 about her father's affair, headlined "Church's three-in-a-bed cocaine shock".

The article had a "massive, massive impact" on her family and in particular her mother's health, the inquiry heard.

Church said: "They knew how vulnerable she (my mother) was and still printed this story, which was horrific. I can't think of any justification for printing a story like that.

"I see no public interest at all that it serves other than to sell papers."

Other examples of media intrusion and inaccuracy highlighted by Church included:

:: A clock on The Sun's website counting down to her 16th birthday in a reference to the fact she was reaching the age of sexual consent;

:: A "shadow network" of staff at hotels, restaurants and airlines who allegedly tipped off journalists about her movements;

:: An article in The Sunday Times based on an interview with her after the 9/11 terror attacks in the US, which she said misleadingly suggested she was critical of the New York firefighters' celebrity status.

Church said in her statement: "Through my success as a singer, I grew up in front of cameras and reporters, and I was not allowed the time to learn and make mistakes in private as most children and teenagers do.

"Whilst I have been determined to not let the media change me, the coverage has been utterly horrifying at times and devastating to those around me."

PA

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