Ian Monk: Privacy falls back on shaky ground

Just when misbehaving celebrities thought it was safe to go back into the water ... the spectre of kiss-and-tell stories and publication of compromising pictures emerges again Jaws-like from what had become, post-Leveson, a tabloid sea of tranquillity.

Monk: The McClaren revelations marked a turning point
Monk: The McClaren revelations marked a turning point

First the former England manager Steve McClaren had his application to halt publication in The Sun of a fairly tepid kiss-and-tell thrown out of court. The judge ruled that, due to his dismal attempts to manage the England football team, there was legitimate public interest in McClaren's alleged philandering. The Sun duly splashed the story.

As a news event it prompted little follow-up, possibly reflecting that the love life of McClaren interested remarkably few outside his own circle. Doubtless, within that circle, publication caused some dislocation.

The likelihood of this was probably a principal reason why those charged with protecting McClaren's reputation recommended a privacy injunction.

Nevertheless the story did mark something of a watershed moment for a cowed tabloid press. For the past year, to many a sigh of relief from PROs, its principal modus operandi and financial model had appeared fatally compromised by the Leveson Inquiry.

Then a few days after McClaren, came the Prince Harry pictures bombshell. For 48 hours an incandescent British tabloid media watched the pictures splattered globally across the internet.

Nervously awaiting Lord Leveson's recommendations into its regulation, a furious British media accepted St James' Palace's strictures against publishing. Again, it took The Sun to break ranks.

Thousands complained in a more or less confected rage to the PCC. But crucially, the Palace did not add its own complaint even though the pictures were taken without permission in a private setting.

Does this mean reputation managers and their clients have to accept the world of the phone camera is one without privacy? Are kiss-and-tells back in vogue?

Plainly there are choppy waters to navigate in the post-Leveson, post-News of the World internet age.

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

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