Phil Hall on the PR and media implications of the Kate Middleton photos
Date: 03 October 2012 12:52
I don't know anyone who does not feel sympathy for Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, concerning the topless pictures that were published first in France and then elsewhere in the world.
However, the issue highlights a real problem in the PR world; so many high-profile people engage advisors, but then either ignore their advice or don't engage closely enough with them.
Of course it would be difficult for an advisor to say: "Kate, don't go topless on holiday!" But if they were properly engaged they would clearly have given the royal couple briefing notes – you are touring a Muslim country the following week, don't be photographed with alcohol or in bikinis, beware the paparazzi will be watching you – that sort of thing.
Of course Kate and William should take responsibility for their own actions. It is easy to say they should be able to enjoy the same freedoms as everyone else, but they enjoy a hugely privileged life and with that goes certain responsibilities – primarily to use common sense.
The wider issue is controlling paparazzi. Suing magazines or newspapers is pretty pointless, the fines will be more than covered by the circulation increase these pictures would have brought. It is more effective to seek criminal charges against the photographer in my view – they will think twice about doing it again.
But the furore brings into focus once more that the internet is not policed. With different rules across different borders it is impossible to shut down a story/pictures like this. The authorities need to unify the internet laws across borders to prevent this flagrant intrusion into individuals' private lives. Somehow I can't see that happening with rogue states ploughing their own furrow.
If anything, privacy intrusions will become more prevalent on the internet than in the printed media and thus the shackling of the press through the Leveson Inquiry will become pretty pointless.
Phil Hall was editor of the News of the World and is chairman of PHA Media. Phil writes a regular column for PRmoment.com.