Why the new code might give Becks a nasty surprise - Media - News - The Independent

Why the new code might give Becks a nasty surprise

Those aggrieved by press intrusion seem to be taking comfort from the latest PCC rules. They should think again

Clearly, it has been a toughening experience for David Beckham. After the alleged ecstasy and then the agony of confronting Victoria, the family and the Beckham machine, the footballing icon emerged to be very cross with the media at the Sardinia training camp where England are preparing for Euro 2004. Beckham raged that he was a "nice man, and loving father and husband". He thought that the way two newspapers had treated him was "an absolute disgrace".

Clearly, it has been a toughening experience for David Beckham. After the alleged ecstasy and then the agony of confronting Victoria, the family and the Beckham machine, the footballing icon emerged to be very cross with the media at the Sardinia training camp where England are preparing for Euro 2004. Beckham raged that he was a "nice man, and loving father and husband". He thought that the way two newspapers had treated him was "an absolute disgrace".

For a while there was the possibility of ballistic retaliation from the one-time role model - that he might refuse to talk to certain newspapers (such as the News of the World, which revealed his alleged infidelities with Rebecca Loos) and, worse, decline to give the "tunnel interview" to Sky during Euro 2004 matches. This is the one that goes: "We've given them too much space in the middle but Steve's been totally committed. We're giving the ball away too much, but we're still in it."

I could live without the tunnel interview, or optimistic words from Becks about England's chances. I couldn't give a yellow card about his annoyance with the media, which has collaborated in building his iconic multi-millionaire status. I was impressed with the good sense of the people of Manchester, where Becks worked before the ill-fated move to Spain. A poll carried out by the Manchester Evening News after Beckham's criticisms found that 37 per cent thought he had had a raw deal from the media, while 63 per cent did not.

What has brought about his renewed confidence? There must be more to it than getting away from Posh and heading for the tournament in Portugal. Then it struck me. Becks knows that the new Press Complaints Commission (PCC) code of practice comes into effect on Tuesday.

There seems to be a pleasant atmosphere between the media and the royals just now. Photographers, and even writers, were invited to Highgrove yesterday by the Prince of Wales to see him and Prince William chat about this and that. There were no indications that they werecross with the press.

There had been a little tension with The Sun about a picture of a girl William took skiing, but I understand that really the royals didn't much mind. Charles, understandably, gets far more worked up about the never-ending Diana stories. But in the main, Buckingham Palace is more relaxed about the media than Beckingham Palace.

I wondered, though, why the friendlier mood, why the invitations to Highgrove. Then I realised what the reason must be. The new PCC code will come into effect on Tuesday.

These are the first revisions to the code since 1999, and they are not that dramatic. Becks will be pleased that the PCC private correspondence clause is extended to cover the interception of mobile phone calls, text messages and emails. The support for the allegations about him and Loos came from a series of alleged text messages.

But would the new PCC clause have saved Beckham? What if the text messages had not been "intercepted" but simply kept by one of the parties? Would the clause apply? Probably not.

The more serious digital communication-based story was about the relationship between Cherie Blair, Carole Caplin, her boyfriend Peter Forster and the purchase by the Blairs of the student flats in Bristol. Would the new PCC clause have prevented that story? Again, it would depend where the text of the digital messages came from. And the clause can be overridden by the public interest defence. If the newspaper can sustain an argument that publication was in the public interest, then that will justify breaking the code.

The new code carries an insistence that the PCC is mentioned in headlines above reports of negative adjudications that newspapers have to carry, and also tightens the rules covering payments to criminals. The public are usually offended by the idea that a criminal should profit by selling his story to a newspaper. The PCC code now bans payments for stories or pictures that seek to exploit a crime or glorify or glamorise crime in general. It is not only convicted or confessed criminals who are included in this ban, but associates, who could include family, friends or colleagues. Again, a public interest defence can be brought into play by the newspaper complained about.

These are modest changes. Self-regulation through the PCC continues to be criticised as too little, too cosy and too tolerant of intrusion by some politicians, pressure groups and members of the public. But it is working reasonably well, which is the most one should expect, and it continues - so far - to achieve the most important thing, keeping the politicians out of further press regulation.

I have been alerted to a conference taking place at Manchester University next month. It is titled Mis/Representation in the Media. The details sent to me outline what will be discussed.

"This conference intends to rethink the notion of media, in its myriad forms, both as discourse and device, in order to examine the impact it has upon contemporary society. How is media susceptible to the misrepresentation of social groups and individuals, guiding modern stereotypes into the everyday language of western newsreel [sic] culture? How has media infiltrated the manner in which we conceptualise our world? And in what manner do we construct our realities based on these mis/representations? The premise is that representation is not a separate objective form from the creation of the subjects being represented. The relationship is inherently political, ambiguous and tacit, making misrepresentation all the more a necessary object of discussion."

The sale of the Telegraph titles goes on and on, and white smoke is yet to rise. Meanwhile, The Daily Telegraph continues to seem more and more like Club Boris. Of course, the affable and studiedly chaotic editor of The Spectator (owned by the Telegraph), Daily Telegraph columnist, broadcaster, celebrity and Conservative MP for Henley is a much-loved figure. But there are times when The Daily Telegraph seems to act as a fanzine for Johnson. Columnists gratuitously mention him. He is written about in the diary. The parliamentary sketch writer devotes a column to him. Most MPs have to work hard for the press mentions they think so important. Not Boris. There was some talk when he was elected to Parliament of the compatibility of that with his many other roles. I wonder what view the new owners will take.

Peter Cole is professor of journalism at the University of Sheffield

DIARY

Engel's new angle

One of the most distinctive associations of recent journalistic history has come quietly to an end with the transfer of Matthew Engel from The Guardian to the Financial Times as its star sports columnist. Engel, who doubles up as the editor of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, had been at The Guardian for all of 25 years - first as a sports sub, then as pioneering sportswriter, and latterly as Washington correspondent and all-purpose feature writer. "It's all very amicable," Engel says. "But I've always liked writing for a non-specialist audience, and the thing about the FT's sports pages is that they are not for people who think sport is the only thing that matters in life. They are for people who lead full and busy lives but have sport as an interest."

That's enough politics, Ed

Meanwhile, more heavyweight Fleet Street manoevrings with that veteran of political journalism, David Hughes, deciding that a decade as the political editor of the Daily Mail is long enough. But he won't be leaving just yet, preferring to see things through to the next general election. The job has had only two occupants in 30 years. Hughes succeeded the legendary Gordon Greig, who broke the story that Margaret Thatcher was running for the leadership of the Tory party in 1975. Hughes's prospective successor is Benedict Brogan, who is joining the Mail from The Daily Telegraph. Brogan has a distinguished lineage. His uncle, Hugh, is the author of the authoritative Penguin History of the United States.

This is your lifestyle

The new management at the BBC should remind staff to be polite, according to the veteran presenter Michael Aspel. "I once did a series with one of the founders of BBC2 who came up with a superb idea for a series," he says. "So I sent a cheery little note to Alan Yentob saying 'I like this idea, what do you think?', and we waited and waited. We rang his secretary who said: 'He's away now, you can speak to him when he's back'. And when he came back from wherever he hadn't been, we never got a reply, not even an acknowledgement. I don't know how busy you can be not even to say thanks, but no." Quite!

News
Residents of James Turner Street such as White Dee will have a chance to share their experiences of benefits on a Channel 4 spin-off show
peopleBenefits Street star says mixed-race children were subjected to trolling
Sport
Angel Di Maria
Football
News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game
film
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
News
newsIn short, yes
Extras
indybest
News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
Life and Style
Jourdan Dunn gave TopShop’s Unique show some added glamour at London Fashion Week
fashion week
News
Groundskeeper Willie has backed Scottish independence in a new video
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor poses the question of whether we are every truly alone in 'Listen'
tvReview: Possibly Steven Moffat's most terrifying episode to date
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Resourcer / Junior Recruiter

£15-20k (DOE) + Benefits / Bonus: Guru Careers: Joining as a Resourcer / Juni...

Head of Design & UX / UX Architect

£55 - 70k: Guru Careers: Head of Design & UX / UX Architect is needed to join ...

Media and Entertainment Lawyer - City

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - A specialist opportunity with ...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories