Leveson suggests celebrity "privacy register"

Celebrity magazine editors today welcomed the idea of a register under the Press Complaints Commission of privacy-conscious celebrities suggested by Lord Justice Leveson at his inquiry into the UK press.

“It would be a very useful tool for us if they used a body like the PCC to update them on their circumstances”, Lucie Cave , the editor of Heat magazine said.

However, OK! editor Lisa Byrne warned: “Every celebrity might say, ‘No, I don’t want any pictures of my family ever again.’ Then it could cause a problem.”

Cave told the Leveson Inquiry there may be public interest in exposing the hypocritical behaviour of celebrities who are “role models”.

Giving an example of a celebrity who portrayed themselves as a “real family person” and went on to have an affair, Lucie Cave explained: “I think there obviously can sometimes be a public interest argument if a celebrity who is a role model for our readers does something that contradicts how they portray themselves.”

Cave conceded there was a “great difference between public interest and things that are interesting to the public.”

Cave, Byrne and  Hello! magazine editor Rosie Nixon were largely in agreement that once a celebrity had sold an aspect of their private life to the press, it did not mean they were now “open season”.

“I don’t think it’s fair,” Cave said, “it doesn’t mean everyone has a right to invade their private life.”

When asked about photos in this week’s issue of Simon Cowell on a yacht, Cave admitted the magazine did not seek his permission before publishing. “We know from Simon Cowell, he kind of enjoys the lifestyle that goes with his celebrity and he’s clearly playing up to the paparazzi,” she said.

Cave told the Inquiry that Heat magazine has received eight PCC complaints in 14 years, and rarely gets complaints from readers.

She also said her magazine’s picture desk would question an agency supplying photographs if it seemed they were taken in questionable circumstances. “Normally it’s glaringly obvious if there’s been an infringement of that celebrity’s privacy and we wouldn’t go anywhere near it.”

Nixon also defended her magazine, saying it “works directly with the stars every step of the way”. She added, “It’s a really honest, trusting, sort of relationship — we ultimately wouldn’t do anything to upset anyone.”

“We’re not in the business of printing salacious gossip,” Nixon said.

Byrne also said that a “a huge percentage” of OK! magazine’s stories came from “working directly with the celebrities”.

The Inquiry continues next week.

Follow Index on Censorship’s coverage of the Leveson Inquiry on Twitter – @IndexLeveson