OPINION: Plans to curb the paps are doomed to fail

The US is calling for a Britney Law to ban the activities of the paparazzi around the troubled star and others. Simultaneously, Prince William's lawyers in London threaten to curb the excesses of the street photographers around the future king's girlfriend Kate Middleton.

Ian Monk
Ian Monk

Many PROs whose clients on both sides of the Atlantic are among those harassed, hounded and on occasions provoked to uncharacteristic violence by the ceaseless attention of photographers will welcome the calls. Unfortunately, they will change little.

The proliferation of the paps is an inevitable consequence of the celebrity culture fuelling modern media. Their remit and rewards have soared as a product of the pact between hosts of talentless wannabees, often riding the crest of reality TV fame, their PROs, agents and the media. The deal is to maximise the '15 minutes of fame' through relentless exposure at the expense of privacy.

For every PRO who acts against the intrusion of the cameras into the life of a client, there is another who is legitimately dealing directly with the paparazzi. PROs tip off agencies as to which location - be it beach, restaurant, nightclub or lover's flat - celebrities will be entering and at what time. The resulting images are sold around the world within minutes online and off, driving exposure and reward.

For the uninitiated, the word paparazzi may retain a certain glamour, redolent of Riviera jaunts of a gentler age. The modern reality could not be more different. I have known clients hounded for 24 hours a day by a motley crew of former labourers, lorry drivers and down-and-outs who have sought to make a quick buck out of being of paps.

Minimal photographic expertise is compensated by physical presence and a reckless willingness to pursue their quarry. Their rights to take pictures are enshrined in those of a free society and a free press. Yet, on occasion, their activities, placed in any other context, would see them in jail.

Regardless, many editors, when confronted with the excesses of the street photographers, will point out, with some justification, that the object of their pursuit has been known to court publicity. With less justification, they will then toy with the argument that this constitutes a licence for total intrusion.

Real stars tend to eschew and loathe the activities of the paparazzi. Celebrities, by their very definition, however, need the deal with the devil. Their pact with the paps is one reason why any action against them is doomed to failure. Hopefully, the price will not be the life of a Britney, a Kate or an Amy.

Ian Monk, founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun

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