NEWS: PR must become more familiar with the PCC’s rules on privacy

‘It was a madhouse, with people jumping up and shouting,’ Sir Richard Scott says of the press conference on his report into our trade with Iraq after a week’s reflection, hunting in Ireland. ‘It was the first time I’d been exposed to that sort of occasion...I have not been trained to deal with the media. I am only a judge after all.’

‘It was a madhouse, with people jumping up and shouting,’ Sir Richard

Scott says of the press conference on his report into our trade with

Iraq after a week’s reflection, hunting in Ireland. ‘It was the first

time I’d been exposed to that sort of occasion...I have not been trained

to deal with the media. I am only a judge after all.’



He is like thousands more in high places. He is happy to benefit from

media attention and perhaps enjoy their savaging of others or, in his

case, even to encourage their cruelty by the manner in which he treated

his witnesses. But he is taken aback when the media’s mood switches from

the benign, when their purposes are being served, to the malign when

they aren’t.



The media’s purposes were not served by Sir Richard’s report because it

could be made to mean all things to all men. So an opportunist reporter

- aren’t they all? - sought to clarify it by securing his positive

assent for the ‘no conspiracy, no cover-up’ summary about which Sir

Richard now quibbles.



His report is to clarity what the Sea Empress is to shags. As such, it

will become a classic study in how not to conduct an inquiry; how not to

write reports; how not to present the outcome; and how not to moan when

you have been found out.



If only Sir Richard were unique. Unfortunately, the PR industry knows

what sheltered lives are led by Britain’s top managers outside politics.

Most of them are unfit to be allowed anywhere near the media jungle lest

they be eaten alive. In a fit of compassion, I therefore feel I should

offer a timely warning to all who would milk the media lest they become

stuffed with cream.



I do so because Lord Wakeham’s Press Complaints Commission is steadily

building up case law on this. And the PR industry, as minders of the

media mad, should be clearer about it than they are likely to be after

some comments in the ‘Big Question’ column two weeks ago.



The PCC’s code of practice made clear that intrusions into personal

privacy can only be justified when in the public interest - for example,

to detect or expose crime, protect public health and safety and prevent

the public being misled. It has recently upheld complaints of intrusion

by such figures in the public eye as Selina Scott, Mrs Patricia Guppy,

wife of the ex-convict, and Earl Spencer, on behalf of his wife.



But it has rejected Julia Carling’s complaint because the offending

articles directly concerned the same areas of her personal life as she

had placed in the public domain. In other words, the press are not

entitled to publish anything about people who have sought publicity. But

don’t grumble if they pursue your particular publicity angle on

yourself.



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