Morning Hearing on 18 January 2012

Hearing Transcript

(10.00 am) LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes? MS PATRY HOSKINS Good morning, sir. This morning we have the editors of OK! magazine, Hello! magazine and Heat magazine. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. MS PATRY HOSKINS They're going to be sitting together and answering some questions together and then they're going to be answering some specific questions related to their individual magazines, but can I invite them to come up and take their places? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much indeed. They all understand the slightly different approach? MS PATRY HOSKINS Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Very good. Thank you. MS LUCIE CAVE (sworn) MS LISA BYRNE (sworn) MS ROSIE NIXON (affirmed) Questions by MS PATRY HOSKINS MS PATRY HOSKINS Good morning. Could I please ask you each to identify yourself, give your full name and tell the Inquiry which magazine you represent. MS CAVE My name is Lucie Cave and I'm the editor of Heat magazine. MS NIXON My name is Rosie Nixon and I'm the editor of Hello! magazine. MS BYRNE My name is Lisa Byrne and I'm the editor of OK! magazine.
Q. Each of you has produced a witness statement for the purposes of this Inquiry. Could you please confirm to us that the contents of it are true to the best of your knowledge and belief? MS CAVE Yes, they are. MS NIXON Yes. MS BYRNE Yes.
Q. Just so I can explain the format to you very briefly, we're going to be about two hours, maybe slightly less with the break. I'm going to ask you general questions first. I'll put a question, I'll expect each of you to answer it, and at the end we'll have a short section where I'll ask you individual questions about your particular magazine. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The idea, I think, is that there are likely to be interests that are common to all three of you, so rather than have each of you say it, this might actually speed things up and hopefully where there is room for disagreement, you will identify it and we'll get to grips with the issues quite quickly. Thank you. MS PATRY HOSKINS Ms Cave, I'm going to start with you. Just touch on your career history briefly. This is set out at the beginning of your statement, which you should find at the start of the bundle that you have. You've set out your history working in television and magazines, but for the purposes of today, you've worked your way up through the ranks of Heat magazine, you've been in turn deputy news editor, associate editor features, features editor, executive editor, then you were acting editor from January 2011 and then you became editor in September 2011? MS CAVE That's correct.
Q. Ms Nixon, you are in fact the joint editor of Hello! magazine, with your colleague Ruth Sullivan. MS NIXON That's right.
Q. Again, you've set out your career history in paragraph 9 of your statement. You explain that you've worked at a number of magazines, but in terms of your time at Hello! magazine, you joined in April 2008 as assistant editor features, and then in November 2010, you were made an editor? MS NIXON That's right.
Q. Correct and accurate? MS NIXON Yes.
Q. Ms Byrne, again you set out your career history in your statement which is at the start of the bundle that we've seen and you explain that you've worked at various newspapers and magazines, but in terms of your career at OK! magazine you joined in 1999, that was just freelancing at that stage? MS BYRNE Yeah.
Q. You were then taken on as a writer. You've been senior writer, features editor then deputy editor in turn and then you became editor of the magazine in 2004? MS BYRNE Yeah; correct.
Q. What I'd like you to do, each of you, is to describe in a few words your magazine, what it does, what it offers its readers. Start with Ms Cave. MS CAVE The role of Heat magazine in the market is to cover the celebrities of the day in an entertaining fashion with an emphasis on interviews and amazing photo shoots that we do ourselves against a backdrop of a highly credible entertainment, TV and reviews section.
Q. Right. MS NIXON Hello!, the function of the magazine, I guess, is to entertain. It's to provide an insight into the lives of the rich and the famous. It's actually a lovely phrase we're a family business and the CEO's grandfather actually launched Hello! magazine and he had a lovely phrase which was "la spuma de la vida" which means "the froth of life", which kind of explains the fact that we take a look at the lighter sides of the personalities that we feature. Features and photo shoots and interviews with the stars are most important to us, especially weddings, access to people's homes, introduction of their babies make up sort of our core content.
Q. Ms Byrne? MS BYRNE OK! magazine is basically an exclusive invitation into the rich and famous and celebrities in this country and the States with worldwide celebrities. So we invite our readers into people's homes, to their babies' christenings, first pictures of their children, amazing exclusive weddings, so even the parties are exclusive, so it's just a fantastic aspirational magazine for readers to have a look at celebrities and their lifestyles.
Q. You've all mentioned photo shoots. Are your magazines pretty photo based or is it more text based in your view? MS CAVE I'd say it's a mixture of both. We do have a great deal of photos in our magazine, some paparazzi photos but also a great deal of photo shoots that we do with the celebrities themselves. MS NIXON We're a very visual magazine. Photos are of prime importance to us. We'll often run photo shoots over 35 pages, 50 pages, if the photos warrant it. The visual side of the magazine is extremely important. MS BYRNE For OK! magazine, it's definitely very visual. We will do page after page of beautiful glossy images from someone's home or wedding, so the interviews are of paramount importance as well, but our photographs are fantastic.
Q. I'll come on to ask you more about photographs and how they're sourced and the kind of questions you ask yourselves before you publish photographs, but let me ask you a few more general questions before we come to that. Approximately how many staff do you employ? Just so we have an idea how big the magazine is. MS CAVE 32 approximately at Heat magazine. That comprises of three people that work on the news desk, one features editor, a couple of reviews editors and then we have obviously the art and production team as well. MS NIXON About 40 in total. Of that, 19 sort of journalists and subeditors, but many of those job share or work part-time. We tend to be busiest towards the end of the week, so we have a number of staff that work sort of Wednesday to Friday. MS BYRNE We have around 25 staff members. We don't really use freelancers, it's mainly in-house journalists.
Q. Can you tell me a little about circulation figures? I don't want to ask you your precise circulation figures, but what I want to understand is whether you have been affected by declining circulation figures in the same way that the newspaper industry has? MS CAVE There's no doubt that there has been an effect on the celebrity market. However, we're holding firm at around 320,000 readers a week. MS NIXON It's quite an exciting time for Hello! really at the moment in terms of sales figures. Our ABC is 413,000 copies a week, but we're actually up news stand-wise 27 per cent at the moment. Yes, we feel like we're having a bit of a moment sales wise. MS BYRNE OK! is currently at 473,000 a week. Our readership per week is over 2 million, about 2.1 or over that, so obviously it's the most best read celebrity weekly in the country.
Q. Have you been affected, have your circulation figures increased or declined over the last six months, a year, five years? MS BYRNE With OK! we're definitely doing less news and more general features, more exclusive features, because news wise because of all the websites it's so immediate for people to see, like pictures that they used to wait a week to see, and now because they've already seen them, we've had to change because the Internet has definitely affected newspapers and magazines without a doubt.
Q. I'll ask you specific questions about the Internet but while we're just on circulation figures, how much are circulation figures affected by a particularly big or exclusive story? Is there a jump in sales, does it make a small difference? MS CAVE I think it depends on the celebrity of the week, and obviously what they're saying. So there's no doubt that if we have a big exclusive interview with a celebrity that is very newsworthy at the time, there is going to be a peak in sales. However, in general I think our sales are relatively steady.
Q. What you say a peak in sales, do you mean it doubles, it goes up a little bit? MS CAVE I wouldn't say it doubles. I think I mean it rises slightly but for us it doesn't.
Q. What about you Ms Nixon? MS NIXON Yes, absolutely. We see a big increase in sales if we have a really good exclusive story on the front cover. We recently featured the wedding of Holly Branson, Sir Richard Branson's daughter, in a traditionally tough week in the magazine market, beginning of January, and our sales were better than they've been for years in that week, so weddings especially would put on sales.
Q. Can you give me an idea of percentage? MS NIXON Gosh, it can vary. The royal wedding, obviously, we sold over a million copies in a matter of days. That was the ultimate wedding, obviously, for Hello! magazine. But it can fluctuate from a 10 per cent increase to a 30 per cent increase.
Q. I understand. MS BYRNE Well, absolutely for us recently it was Zara Phillips' wedding and also Prince William's wedding and we've done a million sales and it was absolutely amazing, so there's a real fluctuation, yes, because normally it's around 460, 470.
Q. Can I ask you about websites, while we're on general questions. How important is your website to the overall package that you offer and do you personally edit it? MS CAVE Our website is incredibly important to the brand. We have over 1 million unique users a month. I don't personally edit it. Obviously I have a keen eye on what's going into the website, but I largely edit the magazine, but there are lots of discussions about the kind of stories that we're covering, and obviously it offers a complementary service to the magazine as well, so for example if we're doing an interview with a celebrity we might film that interview or parts of that interview which will go on the website. MS NIXON Our website is pretty independent from the magazine, it has its own editor. I guess we feel that nothing can replicate 35 pages of glossy photographs. Our website simply couldn't do that job. But it's quite a straight sort of news mechanism for us that runs alongside the magazine, but, yeah, it will never sort of be as important as the main magazine to us.
Q. All right. MS BYRNE Yes, our website is run separately, so there's a separate editor. As far as I'm concerned, OK! magazine as a product is my baby, and that's what I really care about and look after, so there's a totally separate team who look after the website. It's a very good website. It's very important that I look after the magazine itself.
Q. I'm going to ask you about all sorts of decisions that you make when you're deciding to publish stories, deciding whether to publish a particular photograph. Do you know whether the same principles that you would be applying would be applied in terms of the website by the editor, the team dealing with the website? MS CAVE Our editor, our web team are very aware of the PCC code, they have a copy of the PCC code on their desk and our best practice guidelines that we issue to all employees, so they are very aware and conscious of the ethics surrounding the kind of pictures that we put online and the pictures we put up there. However, the reality is it is a challenging time so there's an immediacy of those stories, so there's probably it's a slightly more difficult area, I would say. MS NIXON Yeah, very much so. Our website adheres to the PCC code, as does the magazine. Our web editor sometimes jokes that we're often the last website to put up news stories because we're checking out the background to them. We do like to get confirmation on any stories directly from personalities or their representatives. Twitter obviously helps our website a lot in that we can often get direct access to celebrities for comment. But yeah, they adhere to the same principles as the magazine. MS BYRNE Our website is run by trained journalists, so the same principle applies.
Q. You've touched on the PCC code. Can I just ask whether I think we know, you're members of the PCC, you're members of the PCC, you're part of the Northern Shell group and therefore you're not members of the PCC. But how important, regardless of whether you're in or out, is the PCC in the workings of your magazine? How do you ensure that staff comply with it or the principles therein? MS CAVE For us, the PCC code embodies the ethics by which we work, so it's of prime importance to us and it's something that is just entrenched in the people that work at the magazine anyway, so the standards we apply to our work is we're always discussing the PCC code, so it's very important. MS NIXON We only employ very experienced journalists who already have an understanding of the PCC code, but as Hello!'s ethics almost operate so far within the PCC code that we rarely encounter any sort of problems with it or complaints. In fact, we haven't had a complaint for the last five years. But it's there as a guiding sort of body. It does get referred to in conference meetings. If we're unsure about something, then we put in a call to the PCC code and they often can clarify situations. But for us it works well.
Q. Your experience must be slightly different MS BYRNE Yes.
Q. given that you're not members? MS BYRNE We're not part of the PCC, but I still adhere to the code, the Editors' Code of Practice, as do all our journalists. I have an open house policy. Anyone can come into my office at any time and we discuss every single day different features and interviews and whether we might be concerned something might cross a line, then we'll discuss it and discuss it with our legal team. We all adhere to it.
Q. When you say you adhere to it, do you physically have a copy of it? Do you refer to it? Do you show it to journalists? MS BYRNE I suppose it's something I've had for so many years that I remember having, and I have a copy on my desk as well, so if someone we have a journalist who doesn't seem to be aware of the code of practice, I will bring it up, especially about privacy laws and everything, so everyone's up to date on all that.
Q. Do you keep yourself up to date with changes to the PCC code? MS BYRNE I always look on the website and check things that might have changed because obviously it has been changing in the past ten years, lots of changes have been made, so
Q. You try to keep up-to-date with it? MS BYRNE Absolutely, yeah.
Q. I want to now ask you a bit about the photographs. You've all told us that photographs are very important, the visual aspect of your magazine is central. Can I ask you a bit about the process that your magazine goes through before it decides to well, first of all photographs, then I'll come on to stories a bit later. Before I do that, let me ask you a bit about public interest, because it's obviously different for a celebrity magazine than it is, say, for a newspaper. To what extent do you consider that there is a public interest in the types of story that you publish, the celebrity stories you publish, and the public seeing the photographs that you print? If you ever want to go in reverse order just for a bit of a change, that's fine. MS CAVE I mean, I would say that there's obviously there's a great difference between public interest and things that are interesting to the public. I think that celebrity magazines I can only speak from the point of view of Heat, but we're there to entertain our readers about stories that are true about celebrities with access to those celebrities. 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 kind of contradicts how they portray themselves.
Q. Can you try and give me an example of that? You don't have to name the celebrity, but try and give me a more specific example. MS CAVE I guess if it's a celebrity who portrayed themselves as a real family person and they did photoshoots, they earned money from having photoshoots with their children and then they were found out to be having an extramarital affair. I guess that would be one example.
Q. You would consider that to be in the public interest, to disclose the fact that they were having such an affair? MS CAVE If they were the type of celebrity who sold a lot of aspects of their life and were very vocal about what a family person they were and how important their family was to them.
Q. What if they'd never mentioned their family, would that be different? MS CAVE Yes, that would be.
Q. All right. Ms Nixon? MS NIXON I think yeah, we're obviously aware that there is a public interest in great access to celebrities' lives, by the sense that our sales go up when we have a really good exclusive, like a wedding. However, I think you have to look at the reasons behind a personality deciding to work with Hello! in opening up an area of their private life. They do it for different reasons. One of them is just to share. Sometimes they work with us because they want to set the record straight about stories that may have been written about them in other parts of the media. Sometimes they have a project to promote. There are lots of different reasons, and I think to say that just because somebody has opened up their home or shown their baby or invited Hello! to their wedding means that they are then public property is not right. I think it's a factor, as the PCC code says that it is a factor, but it's not the defining factor. I think that you have to look at an individual circumstance and if you're revealing, say, an affair of somebody that had shown their wedding in Hello! magazine, you actually have to think about the people that might be involved in that revelation. You know, the family that's involved, the individuals that are involved, there are innocent parties.
Q. All right. There's a slightly different question and I'll ask each of you about it but perhaps I'll turn to Ms Byrne. What's the public interest in the stories that OK! features? MS BYRNE I suppose because we mainly do feature stories direct from the horse's mouth, so to speak, direct from celebrities via their agents or via the celebrities themselves, they are people, the most well loved and best known celebrities in this country at the time, so there's huge public interest in their stories, but obviously because it's from the celebrity themselves, we don't really do many news stories, so LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Could I just ask that? To what extent is your material collusively prepared? In other words, to what extent are you doing material with the person who is the subject of the story throughout and they're participating, co-operating, whether for money or not, and to what extent are you going and getting stories not necessarily because you've entered into a contract with the celebrity but because they are taking a film and they are publicising their film or whatever? Do you understand the question? MS BYRNE Yes. I suppose a huge percentage is working directly with the celebrities, so if we go out to an event and we speak to a celebrity then, obviously they're at an event and they end up being interviewed, we might use something from that. And also we do round-tables for when there's a film premiere, the celebrity wants to be in the magazine, he wants to promote a film that's coming out in OK! magazine. It's hugely mainly working with the agents and celebrities directly at the moment. MS NIXON Yeah, we work directly with the stars sort of every step of the way. There's a long negotiation process generally before we go ahead with any feature, and they will be involved in that process. So it's a really sort of honest kind of trusting co-operative relationship, and we ultimately wouldn't do anything to upset anybody. I mean, that's often been a criticism that's been levelled at Hello! of our flattering portrayal of the stars, but actually I deliberately didn't use the word "flattering" in my statement because that would suggest a kind of manipulation of the truth, which really isn't the case. It's a very co-operative, honest relationship. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. People put their best face forward. MS NIXON They do, yeah. We're a positive magazine. I guess the difference between being a glass half full or a glass half empty person. We're a glass half full magazine. MS CAVE I would say we have a combination of great access with celebrities who enjoy doing photoshoots or interviews with us because perhaps we might ask them slightly cheekier questions and they'll get another side of their personality across. They'll often dress up in ridiculous outfits for us that they might not do for other people. We also have a smaller section at the front of the magazine, which is celebrity news, and our news team work in the same way that they would on a newspaper, so they work with confidential sources to get clearly sourced and substantiated stories about those celebrities, often with access to those celebrities themselves. So it's a combination. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That might raise other questions. MS PATRY HOSKINS Yes. Let's start with photographs. I was trying to find an example of this week's cheeky photo. Heston Blumenthal as an egg. Do you have this one? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I think I do, yes. MS PATRY HOSKINS Page 48. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's a very different sort of journal to my normal, but fair enough. Yes, I have Mr Blumenthal as an egg. MS PATRY HOSKINS Let's start with photographs then. Can you tell us a bit about how you source I think it will be slightly different for all of you, so I think it's important that you answer this. How do you source the photographs that are eventually published in your magazine? MS CAVE By that do you mean every type of photograph in the magazine?
Q. Yes. All sorts of photographs appear. It's obvious that some of them are taken by you on exclusive photo shoots, but there's also lots of others that can't be simply taken by your photographers. Where do they come from? MS CAVE The latter half of the magazine will be photographs that we're supplied by TV companies to go in our TV and review section, or film companies, fashion companies. Towards the front of the magazine we have some agency photographs, paparazzi photographs, that come through to our picture desk on a daily basis and we decide during our daily conferences which photographs we want to use in the magazine.
Q. All right. To what extent are the photographs in your magazine staged? By that I don't mean staged by you, I don't mean your photographers take the picture, but photographs where the celebrity is clearly aware that photographs are being taken or it's arranged for those photographs to be taken in advance? MS CAVE I think Heat magazine is probably one of the only magazines that would point out when we think a celebrity is aware of a shoot being done. So sometimes we might there are certain reality TV stars who make a bit of money from having set up photos, and some of them kind of pretend that they're not set up. However, we would probably point it out to the reader, because we like to peel back the curtain to how the celebrity machine works. In general, there will be questions I mean, every time a picture lands on our picture editor's desk, there will be questions as to the nature of the photo and the circumstances around it, so we'll know whether the celebrity is aware that there were cameras there.
Q. That was going to be my next question, you may as well answer it now. What sort of questions do you ask to ensure that the photograph you're publishing has not been taken in a situation where the celebrity was being harassed or there was an invasion of their privacy? MS CAVE Our picture editor has a checklist of numerous questions that they will always ask an agency if the photo appears to have been slightly intrusive. In general, most photos that we feature in the magazine would be of people on the red carpet or smiling or laughing, they're obviously aware that the camera is there. However, our picture editor will always ask a series of questions to the agency, such as, you know, where the celebrity was, who else was there, obviously the obvious question is: was it taken on private property? There are loads of factors that go into play before we even would consider printing a photograph. Normally it's glaringly obvious if there's any kind of infringement of that celebrity's privacy and we wouldn't go anywhere near it.
Q. Can I ask you the same series of questions? Where do you source your photographs by and large and how do MS NIXON The photos come from two different areas. They're either our commissioned shoots, in which case we will use one of our trusted photographers to do the photoshoot in a very controlled environment, or we take photographs from agencies, again sort of agencies that we've worked with for a long time. Photos are presented to the editorial team, to myself and Ruth and the other heads of department and journalists every morning in our conference, and we try to sort of look at a whole set. Sometimes if you're presented with maybe one or two shots, you don't have the full picture of the circumstances in which that photo was taken, so we really try to make sure that we see the whole set so that we can tell whether there's been any harassment, and ultimately we don't use photos if we believe that there has been some harassment. It's just not what Hello! does.
Q. I see Ms Cave nodding. Is that true of Heat magazine as well, you would ask for the full set? MS CAVE Yes, definitely.
Q. The other question was really about what questions is there anything else you want to add on the questions that you would ask? MS NIXON We'd obviously check whether it had been taken in a private place. Sometimes it's difficult, you know, it's hard as an editor to make that decision sometimes, especially when a photo might have been taken on a public beach. We were offered some photos of Prince William and his wife, Catherine, last Friday, and they had been taken on a public beach in Anglesey. Hello! is not the kind of magazine that would ever run something anyway without checking, we have a very good relationship with representatives, especially the Clarence House PRs, so we approached them to find out whether any harassment had occurred because it wasn't immediately obvious on seeing this set. They've clearly been taken on a very long lens. They actually asked us to not use the photos, that they had been followed by somebody and they would rather we didn't use them, even though the photos had actually already appeared on some website. So we didn't use them. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON There is an issue here, isn't there, that if an unscrupulous photographer does get photographs and then is able to place them, presumably for money, then it only encourages him to do more that may be unscrupulous. MS NIXON Exactly. At Hello! we wouldn't run anything that we were suspicious of and we would check with the rep. We never take photos I can't remember the last time we did, certainly not during my editorship, where we have been offered a photo from a random person and we've just run it. But, yeah, it's difficult. There's a pressure on us to make the right decision and to have all of the facts often in a pressured environment when you might be on deadline. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Nobody said it was necessarily easy. MS NIXON No. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So you look to the photographer to reassure you? MS NIXON The photographer and the personality themselves sometimes. We might go to the rep if we were really concerned to ascertain the circumstances. I think in the case of the Prince William and Kate photos, the PR actually spoke to the couple to ascertain what had happened in that situation. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. MS PATRY HOSKINS Ms Byrne, where are your photographs sourced and do you take the same steps to ensure someone has not been harassed or their privacy invaded? MS BYRNE It's very similar because we obviously commission our own photographers to do our own shoots. When we use paparazzi pictures, which is actually very rare, our picture editor will discuss with the agency or the photographer. Also, which has become more prevalent, which is fantastic for us and makes life easier, we're often contacted by agents saying, "Please don't use these pictures, we think there's a photographer around". Recently Mark Owen was on a beach with his children, and his people contacted us. Holly Willoughby as well and Edith Bowman didn't want their children being photographed. We'd never publish pictures of children anyway, but it was great to know so we knew for future reference. There's definitely a set amount of celebrities who you just do not touch if they're out with their children.
Q. You've pre-empted my next question. I was going to ask any of you whether there were any celebrities who you would be ultra cautious before printing photographs of them or their children and why it is that those particular celebrities have to be treated so carefully? Is it because they have an injunction out, their agent has contacted you to say, "Please don't print pictures"? What is it that would make you think twice before publishing a photograph of a particular celebrity? MS CAVE I think it comes with experience from working on a magazine such as ours and working with the celebrities that we write about. You generally know from speaking to their PR or from being alerted from the PCC that there are certain celebrities who are much more private than other celebrities, and in that instance we don't want to print pictures of celebrities who don't want to be in our magazine. MS NIXON Yes, I think similar to as Lucie said, there are certain people we're aware of that have always protected their families. It might have been that we have put in a request for them with their children and they've turned down that request, which is fine. It's for some people and not for others. We're not in the business of persuading anybody with huge sums of money to do something that they are not interested in doing. Somebody like JK Rowling springs to mind. She's always protected her family, so we wouldn't print photographs of them. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So you wouldn't have somebody go and say, "We think she's going to be in such and such a place, therefore we'll take photographs"? MS NIXON No, we never do that. No, that's completely against our philosophy. MS BYRNE No. MS CAVE No. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm sorry, I interrupted you. MS BYRNE No, it's fine. Totally the same, really, that we just wouldn't if we knew somebody was really respectful of their own privacy, there's absolutely no way. It just isn't nice, especially for their children's sake, they are victims of it. MS PATRY HOSKINS I suppose the converse of that is are there certain celebrities where you know actually you don't really need to check with them because they'll be relaxed about photographs being printed in general terms? Is that something that applies? MS CAVE Yes, I think it is.
Q. Would you all agree with that? MS NIXON Yes. MS BYRNE Yes.
Q. Does anyone want to disagree? Would that mean that when you're making a decision as to whether to publish a photograph, it won't just be the circumstances in which the photograph was taken that you would take into account, I know you would take into account, you've all said that, but you would also have at the back of your mind whether this particular celebrity is someone who your experience tells you might be concerned or not concerned about publication of photographs? MS CAVE Yes. MS NIXON Yes. MS BYRNE Yes.
Q. Is there anything that celebrities could do to more helpfully indicate to you whether they are the type of person who does want pictures published or that they're not the kind of person who wants pictures published? Anything you can think of? Do you want to go first? MS NIXON Yeah, it's been interesting. There's been a lot of talk during the Inquiry about which publications are part of the PCC and who uses it from a journalist sort of editor standpoint. From our perspective, it's really useful if the representatives of personalities use it universally as well. Sometimes we might call the PCC for their guidance on something and they won't have had any complaint, but then we will just because our checking mechanism is so intense at Hello! because we don't want to upset, we will then think we need to go directly to that person's representative just to check, and in some cases there won't be a problem, but in other cases there might be but they hadn't thought you know they hadn't alerted the PCC. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Would it be of value if there was a register? MS NIXON Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That people likely to be of interest to your magazines, or indeed the wider press, could say, "I'm very sorry, I want to be private"? MS NIXON Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Or "If there's an issue you can contact me. This is not permissible, this is not permissible". But something that you could go and check? MS NIXON I think every case is individual, so I don't think anybody would say you know, not many people would say a blanket "no photos of my children". LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Although you've identified somebody who has. MS NIXON Yes, so in her case that would be great, yes. But in other cases, you know, it's not all right to show a photo of them just going about their daily life, you know, on the street with their child, but then they might decide to take their child to a premiere of a children's film and be happy to pose on the red carpet with them. So, yeah, there are sort of individual circumstances for a lot of people, we find. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So would you be assisted by some mechanism that clarified all that? MS NIXON Yeah, I think we would. MS BYRNE As long as it doesn't limit it. That's the problem. Because every celebrity might say no, I don't want any pictures of my family ever again, then it could cause a problem. The way it works at the moment for OK! is fantastic because we just contact the agent, they let us know, or we hear from the PCC or from lawyers, so we know the situation. We haven't had a complaint for I can't remember since when. So I'm just a bit worried if we had a system where there's a list, then it might become more complicated, where at the moment I'm fine with contacting people. But we're a different magazine, we're OK! magazine, we're friendly with the celebrity, so I don't know. Newspapers might feel totally different to the way we feel about that. MS PATRY HOSKINS I understand. Something you wanted to add? MS CAVE I guess, as Rosie said, it depends on the circumstance of the celebrity at that time. It might be there's a moment in their life where they particularly don't want a photograph taken of them for whatever reason, for whatever they might be going through at the time, but then at other times they might be happy to have a photograph taken. So I guess it's, as Rosie pointed out, it would be very a very useful tool for us if they used a body like the PCC to update them on their circumstance and situation because it might not be that they want to be on a list forever where they don't want to have pictures taken. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, I'm not suggesting it's set in stone. MS CAVE Yeah. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Because there have been privacy issues with magazines, haven't there? I'm conscious there have been a number of quite important pieces of litigation concerned with the publication of photographs and the like. The television actor and others. MS PATRY HOSKINS I'm going to move away from photographs to the stories that you publish, features and stories. Let me ask you first of all about stories which are agreed with a particular celebrity in advance, so the exclusive wedding, the exclusive baby photographs, the Heston Blumenthal as an egg. Can I ask you some general questions about those. First of all, do you give celebrities copy approval on these types of interviews and stories? MS CAVE As a general rule, we try not to, because we think it's important for our readers to see the celebrity as they are, and there are certain agents who might want to rip out the personality of that interview and make the celebrity appear quite anodyne. So we have had instances in which we have agreed to give copy approval because we wanted that celebrity in our magazine, we thought our readers were interested, but when the copy approved piece came back, it just ruined the essence of the whole conversation, so we then refused to run it. It seems to be something that PRs are pushing for more and more, but as a general rule most people are happy to be interviewed by us. They know we're not going to be nasty to them, so it's just about them showing their personality.
Q. So as a general rule, no? MS NIXON Yeah, as a general rule we don't either, although we do understand that at times the personality is keen to see the copy for checking accuracy purposes. So if pushed, sometimes we do. MS BYRNE We would never offer it immediately, but if they required it, we definitely would, yes.
Q. In terms of the exclusive interviews, the stories agreed in advance, what percentage of your magazine is made up of that type of story as opposed to stories that aren't agreed with the celebrity in advance? MS CAVE It really varies week to week, so some weeks we might have three, four big interviews with celebrities, another week we might have one, so I don't think I can really give a percentage. MS NIXON It's similar with us as well. I would say maybe as a general rule sort of 70 per cent pre-agreed. But that can vary.
Q. I only want some rough figures. MS NIXON Yeah. MS BYRNE Gosh. Say maybe 80 per cent. It's quite a large amount that's agreed. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The predominant work is all agreed and consensual and done in a way that everybody's happy with what the product is? MS BYRNE Yeah, absolutely. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's good for you, because it is what your readers are interested in, it's good for the person you're interviewing or photographing. MS BYRNE Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Because it provides them with exposure? MS NIXON Yes. MS BYRNE And it's good for readers, yeah. MS PATRY HOSKINS The question which the Chairman touched on earlier: how often does this type of interview or at home feature or wedding exclusive happen because the celebrity is contractually obliged to give an interview, perhaps because they're promoting a film or a book, as opposed to a situation where they actually want to come and talk to you? Or do you not know? Do they not disclose that? MS CAVE I don't think any celebrity would agree to be in Heat magazine if they didn't want to be in Heat magazine. From my experience, most celebrities who appear in our magazine enjoy being in our magazine and so they've chosen to be. MS NIXON I guess with a wedding, that's because they want to share. They're not offering their wedding to a magazine, I don't think, in promotion of a project. But lots of our at home shoots may also tie in with something that they're promoting, so it varies, really. Yeah, individual circumstances are different.
Q. Would you know if they're obliged to do it, contractually obliged to do it or legally obliged in some way? MS NIXON I don't think they'd ever be contractually obliged to go that far. No. I mean often they like the environment that we offer, and they think, you know, they'll get more pages if they did something like an at home rather than a shorter interview that might go on our TV page that was just focused on the programme they were promoting. MS BYRNE I can't remember anyone being contractually obliged.
Q. All right. Can I ask you about the types of reasons that people give for coming and giving this type of story to you? I want to understand why people decide to sell their wedding or sell their baby photographs or give an interview. What are the range of reasons that they give? MS CAVE For us it can be setting the record straight on a story that might have been in the wider press. It can be because they are promoting a TV show or they have music to promote. It's not that they're forced to do it, but they obviously want to get readers to be aware of what they're doing at the time. MS NIXON Often with us I guess it's because they want to share, they know that there is an interest in their lives and they want to share it and they know that we will produce a respectful article and that the photographs will look lovely, we give lots of space to photos, so they feel safe with us. Sometimes a fee does come into it, I'm not going to pretend that, although, you know, I really it's a kind of bugbear when the first thing a representative might say to me is, "What's the fee going to be?" Often it makes me think whether that person might be right for Hello!, because we like to have more of a reason for them wanting to work with us than fee alone. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But it can be quite a substantial amount of money? MS NIXON It can be, although you mustn't believe everything you read. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Oh, should I not? MS NIXON I think Hello! might have gone out of business many times over if we paid a million pounds here or there. Some of our biggest scoops have been completely free. Some of our biggest weddings we haven't paid a penny for even though there's been lots of rumour in other areas of the media about what we may or may not have paid. And all our fees are completely confidential and sometimes they're donated directly to charity, as was the case with Holly Branson's wedding. The couple knew that they could set up a trust fund and donate that money to charity. There was no sense of a bidding war. In fact, I very rarely find myself in bidding wars these days because the nature of the type of celebrity that Hello! features is very different. I think we're very unique. MS BYRNE I suppose people find that say they're doing something like a wedding, it's very controlled, so they don't have to worry about anything, because we will look after the security and make those arrangements and just make sure they're happy with everything, so because they want the public to be able to see the photographs, but in a kind of controlled environment. So they don't have people that have national journalists trying to get into the wedding. That helps as well. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I see. So the idea is to control it and thereby make the experience more exclusive rather than more public? MS BYRNE I suppose for the people getting married, if they're very famous, their concern is that people anyone might try and get in the wedding, infiltrate it, hide in an organ as happened at Madonna's christening. Those things might happen. So they kind of think if we if they want their fans to see the pictures, whether they keep the money themselves or give the money to charity, whatever they do, then they want to do it in an environment where they feel content and happy and secure, and that's why they go to a magazine like OK! magazine. MS PATRY HOSKINS I don't know if any of you saw Charlotte Church give evidence, but she said that when she had children, in essence, I'm paraphrasing, she sold pictures of them to a magazine for the simple reason that she knew that once there were pictures out there and she'd put pictures in the public domain in a controlled way, in a way that she could control, the desire of the paparazzi to get pictures of them would diminish so she would simply suffer less harassment. Is that something that celebrities have said to you when they decide to sell a wedding or sell baby photographs? MS NIXON Yeah, definitely. I mean, the sad truth is that there's almost a sort of can be a sort of bounty on the head of that child for the first photos. They can make a paparazzo a lot of money. So to work with a magazine such as ours where we can offer this controlled, safe environment means that they can take that into their own hands and present themselves in the way that they wish. MS BYRNE I know Charlotte, obviously, she did OK! with her babies and she was very adamant that she wanted OK! magazine because she knew she would be protected, she knew she would have a preview of the pictures and the interview and it would look beautiful and she knew once it was out there she wouldn't be followed around and hassled as much as she was being beforehand.
Q. In the light of your answers on these questions, I think Ms Nixon has already answered this question, but do you agree that once someone has sold their story, their wedding, their baby photos, the at home feature, does that mean that their private life is then open season or can they still retain their privacy after that point? I think Ms Nixon you've answered that, but perhaps Ms Cave, Ms Byrne? MS CAVE No, I definitely don't agree with the principle that once a celebrity has sold an aspect of their private life then they're open season. No, I don't agree with that at all.
Q. Why not? MS CAVE Because I don't think it's fair, ultimately. You know, we're all human beings and just because somebody has decided to talk about an aspect of their life in one publication once, then it doesn't mean that everybody has a right to invade their private life.
Q. Ms Byrne? MS BYRNE I think that if you have your wedding in OK! or your first baby pictures, and paint yourself as being a real family person and then you have an affair, I don't think it should be open season purely because it's open season on anyone who is a celebrity, whether they seem to court the press or don't. I don't see where the line is, to be honest.
Q. All right. Is there anything that you wanted to add, Ms Nixon, to your previous answer? MS NIXON No, I guess it's just reiterating what I said earlier that I think it's a factor but not the defining factor. You have to look at the other reasons for doing the piece in the first place and the other individuals that may be involved.
Q. Let me turn then to stories which were not agreed in advance. You've explained that that would only be about 30 per cent, 20 per cent, but on some occasions a larger percentage of your magazine. Can I ask you about the concept of prior notification. If you're going to run a story which has not been done with the consent or written with the consent of the celebrity, to what extent would you notify them in advance that you were going to publish this story? And are there exceptions to the rule if you do tend to notify them? MS CAVE In general, we give prior notification to the PRs of the celebrity if we're going to run a story that might be slightly contentious or sensitive to that celebrity, yes. There are rare occasions in which you might choose not to, and that is based around the fact that it could affect the exclusivity of that story. Magazines like Heat go to I don't know, I can't speak for anybody else, but we go to press on a Friday and we don't hit the news stands until a Tuesday, and there have been instances in the past where we've notified and spoken to a PR about a story and because that story might they might not be quite ready for that story to be out or it might not be quite the story they want to paint of that celebrity, they might plant another story in a newspaper that could hit over the weekend that almost negates what we're putting out on the Tuesday. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I've heard of that before in the newspapers as well. The risk of a spoiler. MS CAVE Yes. And it affects magazines as well, and obviously we have we have a bit of a lag between when we print on the Friday and when we're out on the following Tuesday. MS PATRY HOSKINS Perhaps I can follow up by asking you this: what if the PR came back to you and says, "The celebrity says absolutely no way, we don't want you to run this story". Do you back off or do you publish? MS CAVE I don't think you can give any hard and fast rules of how you deal with a story. It depends very much, as does everything that we put in the magazine, on a number of factors around what we're doing, who the celebrity is, what the story is. If it's a huge story for our readers about a couple that have split up, for example, and we feel that it's important to tell our readers, then we might take the stance that we still think we need to run it. However, we have a good relationship with the PRs so we'll work with them as to what we can put in there. We wouldn't say, "Okay, we'll completely drop the story", but in some cases we might. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Marriage break-up is probably quite a good example where people probably don't want too much linen aired in public of their private disputes. Would that be fair? MS CAVE It would be fair, yes. However, I think in some instances there are it depends if it's a again, on the circumstances. Who the celebrity is, how private they've been in the past, whether it's a celebrity couple, so both of them are famous, and that they you know, our readers are aware of a lot of their life and they're interested in it. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That actually really does hit the privacy question, doesn't it? I understand the problem. If you lived in a glass bowl all your life and you've been happy to do so, then you can't draw necessarily the curtains quite so easily, but it's not just a single question, is it? It's a range. Would you agree? You tell me. It's your evidence, not mine. MS NIXON Yes. MS PATRY HOSKINS Do you want to answer the same question, prior to notification MS NIXON Yeah, we do prior notify and quite simply if somebody doesn't want us to run something, then we don't run it. Central to everything we do are our trusting relationships with people, and we won't get access to, you know, a big event in their lives maybe in the future if we've done something to upset them before. But we have very experienced journalists and we do seek to get the truth, but often situations, maybe relating to a break-up, are not clearcut and we have to trust the representatives and the personalities that we work with. It really is based around that.
Q. So that's an absolute answer. If someone came back to you and said MS NIXON If they said "No, that is not true, I don't want you to run it", we wouldn't run it.
Q. "No, we don't want you to run it", you just wouldn't run it? MS NIXON Yes.
Q. Regardless of how big a story it was or how much interest your readers might have in the story? MS NIXON Yes. We would have a negotiation process with them and explain the sort of source material that we had, maybe, but I can't think of any instance where they have really been anti us running something and we've gone ahead. We wouldn't do it.
Q. What about you, Ms Byrne? MS BYRNE For example, on Sunday we went to press and Michelle Keegan, the Coronation Street actress, there were loads of rumours in the papers about her and Max from The Wanted, this boy band, splitting up, and they're engaged. So on Sunday, as we were going to press Sunday morning, I asked our writers to call the agent and he couldn't get hold of her. So what we did was a page which was very balanced, because in the previous day's newspapers, the agents had given a quote saying they're still together, so we had that and just said there are rumours but the agent has said this. So it was totally balanced because we couldn't get hold of the lady but we did try. We always try and get hold of the person.
Q. Would there be situations where you would run a story despite someone coming back and saying no? MS BYRNE I cannot remember that ever happening. For the future of OK! magazine, I just don't think that's good to do that, to be honest.
Q. I suppose that leads to a question about sources. How do you source stories? How do you ensure accuracy? Do you want to start? MS BYRNE Well, our stories come from the agents and celebrities, so it's actually very easy for us because it's straight from the horse's mouth. And because we don't other general stories, such as news stories, we would contact the agents and find out if they're accurate.
Q. I was going to say, there are one or two gossip pages within the centre of MS BYRNE Yeah, Hollywood Gossip.
Q. Hollywood Gossip. MS BYRNE Which is over two or three pages.
Q. Where do they come from? MS BYRNE That's Sean Lynn, who has been with us for, gosh, probably about 15 years, and he gets that from anything such as press releases, celebrity tweets, American websites, anything like that, American TV shows, and then that is seen by our subeditors who check all the facts and then it goes to our legal department who also check the facts as well.
Q. Obviously if you're doing an exclusive interview with a celebrity, one source will be sufficient. But if the source is not the celebrity or the PR, do you check it more thoroughly than just one source? MS BYRNE The subs make sure they check it and make sure they can, you know, check that it's factual and everything.
Q. Ms Nixon? MS NIXON Similarly lots of our most of our stories are obviously one source kind of features, where we've gone directly to a personality. In the case of other source stories, we have we only use very trusted sources. Our journalists are encouraged to be open and completely transparent with myself and Ruth in discussions about sources, and when we have a story, we will then put it to the representative to get clarification, and as I said before, we don't run if they are unsure, say that it's not true. But we're not in the business of printing salacious gossip. You know, we wait until there is confirmation on something, even if there's a rumour abounding through Twitter and on websites. We wait for confirmation before we print.
Q. All right. Does Heat wait for confirmation before it prints? MS CAVE We will often speak to the PR and get confirmation that way rather than waiting for it to come out, but yeah, we will speak to them. We have numerous sources and we operate in the same way that a news desk would operate, so we will have sources who are the celebrities themselves who we have access to at events or if they've done an interview with us, or it could be the PR representative of that celebrity. Occasionally we will have a source who might be a reader who's phoned in, but that's very rare, actually, and then there will be very trusted sources that our news journalists use. In our best practice guidelines, it is best practice for us to at least double source the stories that we're putting in. Often we might triple source just to get the full picture, because as I've explained it's about a numerous amount of factors that go into what's going on in the celebrity's world. So I don't think one single source, unless it come from the celeb themselves, is enough.
Q. Let me ask you now about when things go wrong, complaints and corrections. Assuming for a moment something did go wrong and there was a complaint or someone asked for a clarification, can you give us a flavour of how many sort of complaints, requests for clarification your magazine might typically get over the course of a year? Can you answer that? MS BYRNE Probably about a handful.
Q. A handful? MS BYRNE Yeah.
Q. Can you tell me perhaps a bit about process? Do they come in to you? Do you have a separate mechanism for dealing with complaints? MS BYRNE Yeah, because obviously now we're not part of the PCC, so what we do in the magazine, they will come in to myself or my deputy editor, Christian Guiltenane, and he deals with them. Often it's a case of him just ringing up the person who's complained and explaining the story to them and then sorry, these are readers' complaints explain the story to the reader and the majority of the time they're absolutely fine with that. If they're not, then we will have a discussion with the legal team about what we can do, and since we haven't been in the PCC, people have always been happy when we may give them a subscription for a few months or something like that.
Q. All right. So that would be a reader. MS BYRNE Yes.
Q. What about celebrity complaints? MS BYRNE If it's a complaint from a celebrity, then that comes to me and it's discussed with my team and the legal department. Occasionally that will result in an apology, which we will agree with the celebrity where it will be placed often in Hollywood Gossip.
Q. Do you have a set place in the magazine where you publish apologies and corrections? MS BYRNE Yes.
Q. And where is that? MS BYRNE Yes, the Hollywood Gossip pages which are quite close to the front, normally over two or three pages are the gossip pages so we put it in there.
Q. How often per year do you find yourself having to publish an apology or a correction in that column? MS BYRNE I would say I don't know for absolute certain, but I would say maybe twice a year.
Q. I don't know whether you heard anyone else giving evidence at this Inquiry or watched any of it, but some newspapers have what's called a readers' editor, someone who is independent of the editor who deals with complaints. Given the number of complaints that you receive a year, can you see any purpose in having someone like that who deals with complaints or queries? MS BYRNE No, because we don't really they wouldn't really have much to do, I think.
Q. Okay. Can we move on to you, Ms Nixon? How many complaints you get and how they're dealt with? MS NIXON We rarely get complaints. I haven't had any complaints during my time as editor on the magazine. The odd times that we have in the past, we've used our Seven Days page, which is a very sort of bullety newsy page, it's about a third of the way through the magazine and we use that as our spot to print any apology. But they rarely happen. And I've seen the discussion about readers' editors. We actually don't get that many readers' letters. When we do, Ruth and I respond to them. They're generally quite nice, positive letters about the magazine. I suppose the other way we get feedback is maybe to our website at times or on Twitter, I often have a dialogue with readers about articles that they've liked, but it tends to be positive. I guess, yeah, that being the nature of the magazine.
Q. All right. So again, you have a specific place in your magazine where any apology or correction would be published? MS NIXON Yes, I think it's useful to have a regular space for that, so that readers might know where to find that in the rare instance that we print one.
Q. Are you including within that figure PCC complaints? MS NIXON Yes.
Q. Ms Cave? MS CAVE As I say in my witness statement, I've only been editor for the last year and a couple of months. However, over the 14 years that Heat's been in existence, we've had eight PCC complaints. We rarely get complaints from readers themselves. There might be a bit of debate as to whether they fancy a certain celebrity or not and they might complain because we've put them in as torso of the week, but then everything will go on our emails page, so that's where we would have corrections for more serious complaints and we will give it a prominent position so it doesn't just get blended in with the rest of the letters. It's generally on our letters page, which is one of the most well-read pages in the magazine.
Q. When I ask you some specific questions, I'll come on to ask you about one or two of the PCC complaints, but again, is that something that you would deal with? If a complaint came in, is that something you personally would deal with? MS CAVE PCC complaints would come direct to the editor and then we will obviously liaise with our external lawyer about the best process to go through. Readers' complaints would go to our editorial assistant and also we have somebody who is in charge of the emails page. If there are very serious complaints, obviously they will get handed to myself or my deputy who would deal with them personally. Often if a reader disagrees with something in the magazine, we'll happily put it in because we welcome that kind of dialogue and debate with the reader.
Q. All right. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Your emails are hardly ever complaints? MS CAVE They are sometimes. There's one moaning about Jordan looking like a meerkat, but they sometimes are. We don't shy away from putting complaints in there if a reader disagrees with something. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Mm. MS PATRY HOSKINS Do you want to have a look at that page? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Not necessarily. I've seen the email about the meerkat. MS PATRY HOSKINS That's all that matters. We'll come on to the issue of regulation now. I know that Ms Byrne's in a slightly different position because her magazine is not currently regulated by the PCC. I'm not expecting each of you to give me a sort of expose of the faults of the PCC and how you see future regulation of the press taking shape, but what I would like to understand are two things, please. The first is what your experience of the PCC is at the moment, and secondly, whether there's anything that you've heard either during the course of this Inquiry or anything that you've read that worries you about regulation for the future. So any recommendations or concerns that you'd like to share with the Chairman from your particular perspective? Just to change things a little, I'm going to start with Ms Nixon. What's your experience of the PCC to date? MS NIXON We have a great relationship with the PCC and it works very well for us. One of the reasons is because our own ethics of the magazine sit so far within it we rarely have any problems or complaints. I think the code is very good, but obviously I've seen areas where it may have failed, you know, areas that the Inquiry has brought up, that it's a complaints mechanism, but I think it works very well in dealing with those complaints. I think one of the important things is that we're not overregulated, because there is a lot of brilliant, incisive, entertaining quality journalism, that we're not all sort of tarred with the same brush and overregulated in future, but I do think it's important that it is universal, that everybody publication is a part of it. I know there's been lots of debate about how that could be encouraged. I mean hopefully the body, the new body or the reformed PCC will be so good and of such great quality that everybody will want to be involved with it without it having to become a statutory requirement, but maybe that will be the only option, I'm not sure. I think that, yeah, we need a certain amount of regulation, but not to be overregulated and that it should be impartial. I like the idea of it being made up, perhaps, of ex-editors, lawyers, people with a lot of experience in our areas, in media in this country, but perhaps they're not working on current titles, because that would it's hard to be impartial. I think magazines are only represented by Good Housekeeping magazine on the PCC, so it might be nice to have more of a magazine element on the body, but I welcome hearing sort of how things will change in the future. But I think the not overregulating is something that's very key.
Q. Thank you. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Just to pick up on that, I appreciate you've not worked at Good Housekeeping, but are the sorts of issues that magazines like that face similar to the sort of issues you face? Obviously the subject matter would be different or do you think they're not? MS NIXON I think they're not. Good Housekeeping is a monthly magazine. It doesn't really have much news content, so they're not I would have thought the editor there probably isn't coming up against the decisions that the three of us have to make on a daily basis around photographs that we're offered from agencies, for example. So yeah, I think it's a very different title to those in the weekly market. MS PATRY HOSKINS If I could summarise your answer, the PCC works well for you at the moment? MS NIXON Yes.
Q. You have a good relationship with them, you can speak to them when you have a concern, you think they deal with the complaints of your readers or celebrities effectively but you're worried about reputational damage, you don't want to be tarred with the same brush as others. Okay. Is there anything you wanted to add? MS NIXON Just that if the PCC requests something of us or reminds us of one of the regulations, that we listen at the moment, and that would continue. But just reiterating the fact that it's universally used, as we discussed earlier as well, that it's universally used by representatives of personalities as well as the media themselves.
Q. I understand. Ms Byrne, you might have a slightly different experience because of your particular circumstances. I know you don't interact with the PCC in the same way, but what's your view on whether it works at the moment? MS BYRNE Well, obviously my relationship with the PCC has been very good, and I used to meet with them and as soon as we'd get anything from them, I'd read this thoroughly and adhere to it. It's very difficult, isn't it, because I feel that I don't have the answers, but maybe a few more lay people on the committee, like the lay people on it are kind of police officers or former police officers, school teachers, maybe it should just be I don't know how to get general members of the public of all age spectrum on it as well. Obviously lawyers and just maybe less editorial people, because that I suppose that's the problem, isn't it?
Q. Why is that a problem? Is it a perception problem? MS BYRNE Well, it is a perception as I think someone said yesterday it's marking your own homework. That's what people might perceive it to be, so it might need to be a bigger organisation, but that's all I can say about it, to be honest. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON There's no doubt, Mr Desmond made it abundantly clear that it consisted of those with whom he is in competition. MS BYRNE Right. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And Mr Hislop said yesterday that it consisted of those whom he criticised. MS BYRNE Mm. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So therefore, therefore MS BYRNE I'm not critical of the people on the PCC at all, because as I keep saying, I've had a very good relationship with them, but maybe it needs to be more of a wider people from different areas of the general public. I don't know. MS PATRY HOSKINS Is there anything that you worry about in terms of future regulation? Is there something you really wouldn't want to happen?
A. I suppose we just go happily along as OK! magazine and our readers are happy, the celebrities are happy, everyone seems happy, so if someone would come down with some ridiculous edict I had to follow, I wouldn't be I would be really unhappy about that. As I think Rosie said, we haven't really done anything wrong, so this whole Inquiry is about came about because people were doing illegal things and we haven't been doing that, so if we're affected to some detrimental in some detrimental way, that would be really terrible for us.
Q. Thank you. Ms Cave? Does the PCC work for you? MS CAVE Heat magazine's dealings with the PCC have always found them to be a quick and fair resolution of problems. I found their mediation between both parties to be really good, to be excellent in fact, and I think that side of how the PCC operates shouldn't be overlooked. I agree with a lot of the points that Rosie made in that I think ex-editors would obviously be a useful resource to be on the new form of the PCC. I do think that if we're working towards a common standard, then every publisher should be involved. There shouldn't be the ability for a publisher to opt out, and I think there's been some discussion in there being some sort of branding or kite mark that publications can hold to say that they're proud that they are part of the PCC, and I think that's a good idea, particularly with digital sites as well.
Q. Is there anything that any of you would like to add on regulation or fears for the future, anything at all? All right. Before I move on to each of you individually, I've been passed a question which is about foreign celebrity magazines. Do you consider yourself first of all to be in competition with foreign celebrity magazines? I'm thinking of People and American magazines and so on. Is that something that worries you? MS NIXON Not in competition, no.
Q. Do they have very different standards in terms of the from your experience, in terms of the photographs that they would accept and publish? MS NIXON Sometimes, yeah. We've noticed it especially around the Duchess of Cambridge that foreign magazines are able to publish photographs of her that we wouldn't publish over here. We've actually taken a decision not to publish any photos of her going about her daily life when she's not at an event or there's she's not expecting to be at a public event, and sometimes we see those photos appear in the foreign press. MS BYRNE Like People magazine, OK! has worked very closely with People because often they have weddings or want our weddings or vice versa, but I do I am sometimes extremely shocked by some of the foreign covers, especially the crazy Italian and French covers which are quite graphic. And also I think last week People had a cover which was "Murder at the Palace" about the body of the girl found at Sandringham Palace and it was so shocking, I mean for People to have done that, obviously no magazine could have done that here. They do behave in a different way, I think. MS CAVE I'd agree with these guys. I don't really know the standards that they apply to their work.
Q. Can I turn to some individual questions. I'm going to start with you, Ms Cave, and Heat magazine. Let's remind ourselves that you've been editor since September 2011 and acting editor from January 2011, so some of the questions I ask will be relating to situations which occurred before your time as editor. Nevertheless, we'll see how we go. I'm going to take up, if I can, this week's Heat magazine. Do you have a copy? MS CAVE Not on me.
Q. I'll give you a copy. Can I check that you have it? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. MS PATRY HOSKINS Let me start with the photographs of Simon Cowell, page 14. MS CAVE Yes.
Q. For those of us who are watching this and don't have the magazine, it's a picture there are various there are two pictures of Simon Cowell, one with various items of fruit and the other with a young lady. These are clearly pictures taken on a boat, a yacht. Public or private place? MS CAVE Private place.
Q. I think when you were answering questions earlier, you said that you would always ask questions as to ascertain whether or not the picture was taken in a public or private place. Did you check with Simon Cowell that he was happy for you to print these photographs before they appeared in the magazine? MS CAVE We didn't check with Simon Cowell in this instance, no. The reason being, when we were looking at any photos that come through to us that our picture editor would receive from an agency, there are various different checks that we go through, including where the photograph was taken and the circumstance, and as I've said before, there's a number of factors that come into play before any decision is made to putting ink on paper. In the example of Simon Cowell, we know from working with him that he kind of enjoys the lifestyle that goes with his celebrity, and we took the decision that he's clearly playing up to the paparazzi that are there, so in this instance and obviously generally around the sort of tone of the piece we didn't feel that he would have a problem with us printing that picture. We have a good relationship with his PR.
Q. When you're considering issues of privacy before you're deciding whether to publish a photograph, you will take into account whether it's a public or private place, but even if it's a private place, the identity of the celebrity would essentially dictate whether or not you publish the photograph; is that right? MS CAVE Yes, it is. It's rare that we would choose to print a picture of a celebrity in a clearly private place. Simon Cowell is quite unique in that respect, I would say.
Q. All right. Can I then ask you about articles dealing with celebrities' bodies. The title of the headline in Heat this week is "Our men love our wobbly bits" and there are a number of articles dealing with celebrities' bodies. So there's the article about Tulisa from X Factor and an article on page 8 about Christina Aguilera and her body. Last week's Heat had an article about a model who you were commenting looked too thin in a particular photograph that you'd published. Is this not an invasion of privacy, publishing photographs of celebrities and commenting on whether they look fat or thin? MS CAVE Firstly, the same checks would have gone through when we were deciding on buying this set of pictures, so I know, because I had various conversations with our picture editor at the time, they spoke at length to the agency about the circumstance of these pictures and the agency gave her the assurance that the celebrities were very aware of this set of pictures being taken. In this instance, we felt that we were writing a very empowering piece about a celebrity who loves her wobbly bits and her boyfriend loves her too, but it's a positive message to our readers, and the same instance with Christina Aguilera who spoke about her body and her boyfriend loving her body at a recent press conference.
Q. One of the considerations is whether or not the celebrity has spoken already about their body or their weight and that might be something which justifies you publishing a photograph? Is that your evidence? MS CAVE Yes.
Q. What about a situation where you're publishing a photograph of someone who looks in your view too thin? Would you satisfy yourself in advance that that celebrity had previously spoken about being too thin or about their weight? MS CAVE I think, as again with everything, it's taken on a case-by-case basis. I don't think you can have any hard and fast rules. If there is a photo that lands on our picture editor's desk, one of the checkpoints that I talked about in my witness statement is that various people in the office will be looking at those pictures, be discussing those pictures. If they're particularly shocked by them or they feel that there is comment to be made, then we may make that decision to print them in the magazine, but we'll be very careful about our wording and the tone of the piece.
Q. Right. Perhaps it might be helpful to look at the particular piece from last week. I'm not sure we have do you have this one? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No. MS PATRY HOSKINS All right. Perhaps I'll just read out the sections. It's a picture of a lady who is a model whose name I won't read out, for obvious reasons. The headline is: "Hope you're going for a burger, [X]." Then the celebrity says nothing, is not quoted, but you say that you're concerned about her weight, you say she clearly needs feeding up a bit and then you attribute a quote to her, but it's obviously it obviously hasn't come direct from her. I don't know do you have a copy of it? MS CAVE No, I don't have a copy.
Q. I'll pass it to you if you would like me to. MS CAVE Yes.
Q. What I would like to understand is did you check with that young lady whether she was happy for you to run that article and publish that photo? MS CAVE Obviously I'm editor so I'm not aware of every single circumstance of that picture, but I don't believe in that instance that we did, no.
Q. Why not? MS CAVE Because it was taken in a public place and we felt that it was a picture that was out there in the wide world. We weren't invading her privacy in printing that particular picture. The people in the office were genuinely quite shocked at how she looked in that picture, and we felt that we took a gentle approach rather than a kind of finger-pointing approach to that piece, but our readers, it's the kind of thing our readers would have said.
Q. So in that circumstance, the overwhelming criteria or the main factor in your decision to publish was that people in the office were shocked, you knew that your readers would be shocked and therefore it went into the magazine; is that right? MS CAVE In that instance, yes. Can I ask you about your Spotted section next, please. Come back to the copy that we have. Spotted is at page 38 of this week's Heat. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. MS PATRY HOSKINS Spotted has traditionally, correct me if I'm wrong, been a section where people can email in and say, "I spotted X celebrity" and they give a few words about where the celebrity was spotted and what they were doing. I'll read out an example: "Old-school crooner Cliff Richard leaving Barbados airport." That would be it. It would simply be a section where you can say "I spotted X" and then you would publish it. More recently photographs have appeared in this part of the magazine, photographs, some which are clearly paparazzi pictures, but also some which are clearly pictures sent in by readers. We can see that because at the bottom of the right-hand page there, 39, there's a section headed: "Win ?2000, text or email your snapped pictures straight away to [a number] or email it with your name, address and a daytime contact number. If your unposed photograph of a star is printed in Heat, you'll win." Two things there. One, the reader is invited to send in photographs, if taken, and secondly, the indication is they have to be pictures that are not posed. It can't just be "Here I am with a celebrity", it has to be almost catching them unawares. Would that be a fair assessment of what you're inviting? MS CAVE Yes.
Q. What steps do you take to ensure that photographs that are sent in to you through this invitation are not taken in situations of harassment or situations where someone's privacy is being invaded? MS CAVE As with any content and any picture that goes in the magazine, we use the same conversations, the same checks and measures. So in the same way that a picture might come through to us from a picture agency, if a picture came through to us from a reader, we would obviously have a very keen eye as to the circumstance of that photograph, where they were, who the celebrity was, how they appeared in that photograph.
Q. But aren't you inviting further invasion of people's privacy if you're offering your readers the opportunity to win ?200 just by snapping a picture of a celebrity when they're unaware? MS CAVE I think that the kind of readers we have and the general public, if they see a celebrity in a public place that they like and they're excited by, I don't think it takes us to tell them to take a photo of them. I think they would, you know, in this day and age they would post a picture on Twitter and say, "Look who I've seen", or on their Facebook page.
Q. One of the photographs that's in this week's Spotted section is a picture of Ben Affleck with his daughter. The daughter's face isn't pixelated or obscured in any way. How did you make that decision to publish that photograph of a child? MS CAVE Again the same checks and measures would have gone through, the questions would have been asked from our picture editor to the picture agency as to whether they were aware that the photo was being taken. I believe that was in a very public place. In most instances I have to say that we would pixelate a child's face, unless they have been photographed on numerous occasions, and I think in this instance Ben Affleck and his wife have had their children photographs have been taken on numerous occasions.
Q. Can I ask you to turn now to your bundle, tab 5. This is a PCC adjudication relating to Katie Price and Peter Andre. For those of us who don't have it, this was a complaint made by Ms Katie Price and Peter Andre relating to a sticker can we just give the context. In one of the copies of Heat, there was a section where a number of stickers were printed, and one of the stickers that had been printed showed Katie's young son with an imposed speech bubble. In the interests of privacy, I'm not going to read out again what the sticker said, but the allegation was that it was a quotation it wasn't a real quotation, it was something that had been imposed and something he hadn't actually said, but it constituted, it was said, a prejudicial and yeah, a prejudicial reference to Katie Price's son's disability, as it's well-known that he does suffer from a disability. I want to understand what thought process went into, if any, into publishing that particular sticker and how it happened that you got to the point where a complaint was made? MS CAVE A complaint was made in 2007. I was not editor at the time, although I was working at the magazine, so I can't speak for how that decision was made. All I can say is that it was a grave mistake. Everybody who worked at the magazine, including of course the editor, as soon as we realised what a mistake it was, then we did everything we could to apologise for that mistake. I don't think I can sit here and justify how it happened because I don't think it's justifiable, and everyone who worked on the magazine at the time and who still works at the magazine is mortified by that instance.
Q. Has there been any similar complaint during the years that Heat has been in existence that you have made fun of people's disabilities or any other similar complaint? MS CAVE No, certainly not that I'm aware of.
Q. Just for the sake of completeness, we can see that the complaint was resolved when you apologised both privately to the complainants, you also published an apology online and you also put text within the magazine setting out how apologetic you were. Did that appear on the emails page? MS CAVE No, I don't believe it did. I think it had bigger prominence than that. Obviously I can't recall, but
Q. You believe it had greater prominence, all right. Thank you very much indeed LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's probably a moment to have a break, so we'll just have six, seven minutes off and then we'll carry on. Thank you. (11.32 am) (A short break) (11.43 am) MS PATRY HOSKINS Ms Cave, I said I'd finished with you, but for the sake of completeness, I think there's one thing we need to clarify over the Katie Price/ Peter Andre complaint. You did apologise online and in your magazine, but it's important we also say that you also made a significant donation to the Vision charity, an organisation that Katie and her family had worked with for a number of years. MS CAVE Yes, we did. MS PATRY HOSKINS It's all recorded in the (inaudible). I'm going to turn, please, to Ms Nixon. I want to ask you, please, about exclusives. Two aspects of that I really want to ask you about. The first relates to an exclusive interview with JK Rowling. Let's remind ourselves before I even ask you about that that although you've been a joint editor of Hello! since November 2010, you've only been at Hello! since April 2008, so when I refer to this incident which took place in 2001, that was well before your time, I appreciate that. Can we take up the bundle, please, relating to Hello! and look at the evidence of Ms Rowling. It's tab 3 in the bundle that you should have. This is a transcript of evidence that she gave to the Inquiry on 24 November 2011. It is very lengthy. If you look at the bottom right-hand side of the page you'll find numbers and you should find page 21 in the bottom right-hand corner, but the actual page in the box is page 82. Do you see that? MS NIXON I have it here, yes.
Q. She's asked about false attribution on about line 16, do you see that? MS NIXON Yeah.
Q. She's being asked by the person who is questioning her: "I will move on to false attribution in paragraph 63. In Hello! magazine an article in 2001, or thereabouts, claiming to be a rare and exclusive interview." She says "Yes". "Question: The one which never occurred?" She says: "Yes. I think people might think that's quite a banal occurrence, but in fact it's not. If you are trying, as I am, to make it quite clear that my person life my family life is out of bounds, then the perception that I had granted an interview to a magazine that is primarily notorious for going into people's houses, photographing them with their families, hearing personal details of their private lives, and I censor no one by the way for doing those interviews. I don't think that's an awful thing to do. It simply happens that that's not something I wish to do. "So the magazine asserting that I had done it, I feared, would then be used as justification for further invasion: 'Well you give an interview to Hello! magazine, you are prepared to sell your private life in this way', and as is clear from my statement, what they had done was taken that article from a different paper and repackaged it. From a different source, and repackaged it." We'll pause there. She goes on to deal with the apology that resulted. It was before your time. Can you tell us anything at all about this incident? It seems that she was alleging that the cover of Hello! had indicated that there was inside an exclusive interview with JK Rowling but actually the interview in there was an interview that had been cobbled together from various other sources. MS NIXON Yes, I've looked into the situation, and from what I can glean, it was a Q&A session that JK Rowling undertook with a group of children in support of Comic Relief and the magazine reprinted the Q&A session, it did actually credit it to Comic Relief, but the problem was that we attributed it as a rare and exclusive interview with JK Rowling, which was clearly misleading, and an apology was printed. But I think the important thing to take away from this is that we treat the word "exclusive" with respect. This situation has never recurred. We now have a process in place, you know, when we're taking interviews from another source, we make sure that we understand the circumstances in which the interview was done, and currently, had we been presented with a Q&A like this, we would now have gone to JK Rowling's representative and said, "As this was done for charity, would you be happy with us reprinting it in Hello!? If you would rather not, then we won't do it." So the important thing that I want to make clear is that this doesn't indicate a culture and practice at the magazine. Mistakes occur occasionally, but we don't repeat the same mistakes.
Q. All right. That was in 2001. MS NIXON Yes.
Q. Are you aware from your researches of any other misleading exclusive complaints made about Hello! since then? MS NIXON No, none at all. As I said, we really treat the term "exclusive" and "world exclusive" with respect. I have a dialogue with our CEO, who is also the editor-in-chief, especially regarding our cover stories and often, you know, we will refrain from putting the word "exclusive" on, even though it might be an exclusive photograph, we really save that word for use when a personality has spoken to us directly, to Hello! magazine, and then we use it.
Q. All right. Let me ask you now about the issue of the Douglas versus Hello! litigation. You would be well familiar with that. MS NIXON Yes.
Q. Clearly a long time ago. The wedding itself took place in the year 2000. If I can summarise it, rather than getting it explained, and you can tell me whether you think I've summarised it accurately. We know that Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas got married in the year 2000 in New York. My understanding is that they sold their wedding to OK! magazine as an exclusive, doubtless they gave some of the reasons that you've explained today for deciding to feature in OK! magazine in that way. A freelance photographer then managed to obtain photographs, despite the fact that there was security in place, despite all the controls that were put in place, a freelance photographer managed to obtain pictures of the wedding and they were then sold to Hello! for a considerable sum of money, I don't need to look at what that was. The legal issues are thorny but an injunction was granted initially; is that correct? MS NIXON Yes.
Q. Then it was reversed by the Court of Appeal and the photographs were published in Hello!, the freelance photographer's photographs, effectively spoiling OK!'s exclusive. Is that fair and accurate? MS NIXON Yes.
Q. There was then a considerable amount of litigation over a number of years, and simply to summarise, Hello! eventually paid out considerable damages, yes? MS NIXON Yes.
Q. Would that be fair and accurate? It's also fair and accurate to say that the various judgments were fairly critical of Hello!'s behaviour during this period? MS NIXON Yes.
Q. I know that this was vastly before your time, but as far as you've been able to ascertain, why was the decision taken to buy and publish pictures in the knowledge that that would spoil the exclusive that had been obtained by another magazine? MS NIXON I suppose at the time there was no sort of laws around protecting an exclusive, and it was actually OK! won this particular dispute sort of based on it was a commercial decision rather than a privacy dispute. It was a landmark case, and since then there are now there's a sort of ring of protection around exclusives, which means that it is unlawful for other publications to spoil another exclusive. Preceding the year 2000, OK! had spoiled a number of Hello!'s exclusives, and Hello! hadn't sort of retaliated, so I guess there was a cavalier sort of feeling that these pictures had been offered so they were bought. But really rather than dwelling on this situation that did happen 12 years ago, the thing I want to make clear is that it was a mistake, it was a very costly mistake, it doesn't indicate a culture of practice at the magazine, the situation has never occurred again, there's actually quite a good relationship amongst the magazines in that we know if somebody else has an exclusive, we don't have to send legal letters out. We stay away from it and exclusives now are protected.
Q. I'm going to interrupt you to ask whether Ms Byrne agrees. Is that right? Is there a cooperative atmosphere between MS BYRNE Definitely. I can't remember anything happening since this. If Rosie has a wedding or we have a wedding, I can't remember any problems. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's perhaps rather odd that we have the two opponents sitting next to each other. MS NIXON We're sort of quite different as well, really, the magazines, in the type of personalities that we feature, but the important thing with the Douglas's case is that it has never happened again and actually the ruling has helped editors across the country actually be able to protect their own exclusives. MS PATRY HOSKINS I understand, thank you. At the time, was the decision taken simply because Hello! were safe in the knowledge that if they published the photographs, that that would increase circulation? Was that essentially a commercial decision? MS NIXON Yes, I guess it was. I guess there was a sort of cavalier feeling that they could do it. There wasn't any sort of law in place to say that they couldn't. And as we've discussed before, weddings do put on sales for us. So I think, you know, the proprietors of Hello! felt that their audience would be interested in seeing this wedding as well.
Q. Again I know this was before your time, but as far as you've been able to ascertain, was any consideration given to the feelings of Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas, how they would feel? They had clearly made a decision to publish an exclusive, provide an exclusive to OK!. Ms Byrne explained earlier that people often do that in order to control the situation so they know they will have beautiful photographs in a controlled environment. From memory, the photographs that were published in Hello! were not posed and beautiful, they were grainy and not taken always in the most flattering of circumstances. Was any consideration given to how the celebrities in question might feel about publication of the photographs? MS NIXON I think clearly there wasn't at the time because the photos were run but we're in a very different time now. As I said, that was a mistake and a very costly mistake, and we simply are not in that position any more. We just wouldn't publish those photos.
Q. So this type of spoiling of exclusives doesn't happen now? MS NIXON No. I can't remember the last time it happened.
Q. Ms Cave, I don't know if you'd like to say something, but it simply doesn't happen? MS BYRNE No, it doesn't happen. MS NIXON No.
Q. Thank you. Ms Byrne, if I can turn to you, take up your bundle. Let's remind ourselves, you've been editor since 2004? MS BYRNE Yes.
Q. Although you've worked at OK! since 1999. I want to ask you about the front pages of Hello! and headlines and so on that are on the front page, if I can. You've told us, I think, that an exclusive may in some circumstances sell considerably more copies of the magazine. MS BYRNE Yes.
Q. And I think one source that I've seen would suggest that for example Jade Goody's wedding photos meant that sales increased four-fold? MS BYRNE It was the biggest selling issue ever of OK! magazine.
Q. Let's start, please, with tab 7. Around six pages in, so the first page is JK Rowling versus OK!, which we'll come back to, but if you turn six pages, you should find something from the Press Complaints Commission, it's written in handwriting from the November 2008 newsletter. Do you see that? MS BYRNE Yes, I have that.
Q. This is an extract from the Press Complaints Commission's newsletter from November 2008 and it's headed "Readers misled by front page teasers." It says this: "The Commission has recently resolved a number of separate complaints from concerned readers complaining that magazine covers have promised content that does not correspond to the inside articles." Then they give a number of examples, one from Reveal, one from Look magazine, and then the third example they give is from OK! magazine: "OK! magazine ran a front-page headline referring to the star-studded wedding of Wayne and Coleen [Wayne and Coleen Rooney]. Inside there was just a full-page advert for the wedding which was to be covered in the following week's edition. The magazine indicated that it had not intended to mislead readers and offered the complainant a six-month subscription." Can you recall that particular MS BYRNE I can't, I was on maternity leave, but I looked at it yesterday. It was the week before the wedding and I think there was a DPS spread that the editorial team had done on the build-up and then a spread on the invitation, but, yeah, I can understand someone might buy it thinking, oh, that's the start of the wedding, because it says that. But then anyone who's aware of OK! magazine knows that if we had the wedding of Wayne and Coleen it would be a full image and nothing else on the cover, but I do understand that situation.
Q. What importance do you place on the accuracy of the front page and the headlines that are on the front page? MS BYRNE From the point of view as editor of this magazine, I have to sell the magazines and make sure whatever's on the cover is inside the magazine, because we love our readers and we don't want our readers buying the magazine and then looking through it and thinking, "I'm really upset, I don't have what I thought I was going to get". So we have to it's a fine line making the cover as spectacular and beautiful and fabulous as it possibly can be and also making sure we have as much information and interviews inside the magazine so readers will be happy and stay happy.
Q. Would it be fair to say that you think that accuracy of the front page is important? MS BYRNE I think that is very important.
Q. Okay. Can we turn, please, to tab 10 of the bundle? MS BYRNE Yes.
Q. This is an apology to Sienna Miller from June 2010. This is an extract from your website and it says this: "In an item which publicised the 16 March 2010 edition of OK!, we wrongly stated that the magazine contained an exclusive interview with Sienna Miller. In fact the article was not an exclusive interview but was based on various interviews given by Sienna Miller in the last few years." The next paragraph is not relevant. "We apologise to Sienna Miller and to our readers for any misunderstanding which has been caused." Again, what happened there? MS BYRNE What happened was we what's actually good about this case actually to bring it up is the way things were changed in the magazine. Like many magazines and publications, we buy interviews from agencies who are doing round-table chats when celebrities want to promote their films. So we bought this interview in and published it. Now, we didn't actually put in the magazine that it was exclusive or that Sienna spoke to OK!. That was put on the website. So we never put "exclusive" in the magazine because it wasn't an exclusive interview. The fact that they state it was "various interviews given by Sienna" really concerned me. So since then, whenever we buy an interview in, we always say to whichever agency, "You do have the tape, you can categorically tell us that you do have the tape" and I've told the writers to do that because I think that's so important, because obviously there were some agencies literally putting together quotes that the celebrity did give, but they could be out of context, because it's not just one long-running interview.
Q. And you accept that the headline or the description of the interview as an exclusive on the website was simply inaccurate? MS BYRNE Absolutely. I mean, it wasn't an exclusive interview and we didn't put that in the magazine itself.
Q. Can I ask you about last week's edition of OK!. I don't know if you actually have this one so I'll pass up a copy of the front cover. Do you have this one with you? MS BYRNE I don't. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I think I have a copy of the front page. MS PATRY HOSKINS I want to understand because this is obviously a very recent example of a front cover of OK!. It has a prominent photograph of the Duchess of Cambridge and the headline to the left says: "The Duchess of Cambridge celebrates her 30th birthday." Just below that there is a box and the text within that reads: "'My husband is my soulmate' world exclusive interview, pictures." Do you see that? Can you see that on first glance of the magazine, that that looks as if OK! magazine may have an interview with the Duchess of Cambridge in which she says, "My husband is my soulmate"? MS BYRNE Well
Q. Can you see that? MS BYRNE I can see how some people might envisage that, but
Q. But in fact the exclusive interview and the quotation comes from Joan Collins, which is at the bottom left-hand corner. MS BYRNE Yeah.
Q. In your view, is that a bit misleading? MS BYRNE Well, after I did this cover, I spoke to legal and we just made sure that these were both in the same colour, so the story would relate to each other, and also if I was going to be misleading, I would have pushed that much further up so it was closer. There's quite a big empty space between "birthday" and that box itself. I mean, some people might see that it could be misleading, but there was no nowhere else to put that box as well. We do have on the cover occasionally some boxes a lot bigger and the writing more huge than other boxes. We just do that generally. I mean, we couldn't have put this there because there would be all that empty space, so.
Q. What about the headline at the top: "Catherine's royal birthday, the intimate party, gifts, star guests and delicious menu." What might that suggest to the reader? MS BYRNE We had spoken to the palace and found out
Q. Pause there. What might the headline suggest to a reader who doesn't know what's inside, just sees that on the news stand? MS BYRNE That we have detail inside.
Q. Right. MS BYRNE Yes.
Q. And what was there inside? MS BYRNE So we spoke to the palace. I think it was quite late in the week we managed to get information on the because all the papers and magazines were speculating that Harry and Pippa were throwing this ridiculously mad party and we spoke to the palace, who told us that it was going to be a very quiet occasion, and really intimate, just between, you know, William and Catherine, and maybe a few others, but so the rest is kind of speculation on what gifts they bought each other in the past, but that obviously isn't speculation, what they have bought each other in the past, what they could expect, their favourite food, what they've said in the past that they liked the most.
Q. If we just go back to the headline, the "intimate party", that might be right because they were going to have a very small party, intimate. "Gifts, star guests and delicious menu", that's really nothing to do with her 30th birth at all, it's just speculation on the part of OK!, isn't it? MS BYRNE I suppose, but it's just discussing what they like as a couple. We haven't put "exclusive" anywhere on Catherine's royal birthday.
Q. Can I ask you to go back to the bundle and look at tab 5 LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Just before you do, do you think that the questions there are being a bit precious or do you think there's a point that is being made? Do you think it's a fair point? MS BYRNE No, I don't think the questions are being precious at all, I totally understand her point of view. But I do feel that in this day and age I will protect this magazine because it's my baby and I love it so much and I want it to be very successful, and if that you know, I'm not it's not like there's nothing in there. There are details of gifts that had been given in the past or they both liked, there's loads of detail in there. We just have to all magazines and newspapers have to, to an extent, sell their publication but not cross a barrier, and I personally don't feel that we crossed a barrier there at all. If we had done we'd say, "World exclusive" blah, blah, and we haven't done, we haven't done that. MS PATRY HOSKINS So it draws people in without being misleading? Is that what you say? MS BYRNE Yeah.
Q. Let me ask you about tab 5, the evidence of Ms JK Rowling again. Again transcript of her evidence. Without having to turn it up, she was concerned here about photographs published in Hello! in 2001 of her and her daughter in swimsuits. MS NIXON In OK!.
Q. Did I say Hello!? Sorry. In OK!, concerned about publication of photographs of her and her daughter in swimsuits. I appreciate that relates back to 2001. What the Chairman wants to understand is whether that's something you may say that was a mistake. MS BYRNE Yes.
Q. What I want to understand is this: is that something which you do now? Would you publish photographs of children in swimsuits on private or public beaches? MS BYRNE In relation to JK Rowling, I looked at those photos yesterday obviously I wasn't editor at the time and they did look hugely private although she's on a public beach, but I absolutely wouldn't have published them myself.
Q. Right. MS BYRNE I don't know if privacy laws were different then, I don't know, but from just looking at them, I feel personally I wouldn't have done that. And obviously she's a very private person and you have to respect that. With publishing photographs of children on beaches? I'm trying to think. Because that's a difficult one as well, because there are some people who are very happy to have their children in pictures on beaches having fun with their parents, and there are some people just we know would be unhappy with that, and we kind of know who they are. If we were worried there's like a line we might cross, then we definitely wouldn't publish them.
Q. I have one final question for you: the evidence of Dr Kate and Dr Gerry McCann was that defamatory articles were published about them in various newspapers, including the Express, and their evidence was that they were essentially offered an exclusive OK! interview as a bargaining tool after these defamatory articles had appeared. Were you aware of that at all? MS BYRNE We discussed this yesterday, and I I cannot 100 per cent say that I wasn't, but I wasn't when we discussed it, I didn't think, "Oh my gosh, yes", at all, so probably if I cannot remember
Q. So you either can't remember or you weren't aware? MS BYRNE Yes.
Q. Is this something that happens regularly? Are you aware that there are occasions where people come to talk to you because they've done a deal with the newspaper group, for whatever reason? MS BYRNE Not really, because OK! is so separate.
Q. When you say not really, does that mean it doesn't happen? MS BYRNE I don't
Q. Can you think of an occasion when it has happened? MS BYRNE I mean, I suppose the only time maybe recently it might have happened was with Celebrity Big Brother, when we all do interviews together, but I can't remember at all a deal being done with all the newspapers and OK! because we always want to have our interviews and features be totally exclusive, so we have to help the magazine. MS PATRY HOSKINS Ladies thank you very much indeed. Those are all my questions. Was there anything that any of you wished to add? MS CAVE No. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much. Now you want to change gear to MS PATRY HOSKINS Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON other newspapers. I'll rise and allow that to happen. MS PATRY HOSKINS Thank you very much. (12.10 pm) (A short break) (12.19 pm) LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, Mr Barr. MR BARR Sir, good morning. For the rest of the day, we're going to be hearing from newspaper editors from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and then from the editors of some English regional titles. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. Could I say before we start that I'm particularly grateful to editors who have travelled to London to help me. I'm very conscious that the dynamic in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales may indeed be different, and I'm equally conscious that the dynamic outside the pressure of Fleet Street will itself be different. So there are quite different elements of the picture which I'm very grateful to you all for helping to fill in. MR BARR Sir, before I formally call the first group of witnesses, could I mention statements which are to be taken as read? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. MR BARR First of all, Mr Tim Blott from the Herald, Mr Paul Connolly from the Independent News Media, Mr Peter McCall from the Johnston Press and Mr David Brookes from the Birmingham Evening Mail. Our witnesses are going to be called in two groups of four. The first group is going to include Mr John McLellan from the Scotsman, Mr Spencer Feeney from the South Wales Evening Post, Jonathan Russell from the Herald and Mike Gilson from the Belfast Telegraph. This afternoon we're going to hear from Noel Doran, the Irish News, Maria McGeoghan from the Manchester Evening News, Nigel Pickover of the Evening Star based in Ipswich and Peter Charlton of the Yorkshire Post. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON There's no discourtesy intended to the Irish in splitting them up. It's simply because we can fit four people there but not five, so I say that so that that's quite clear. MR BARR Could I ask first of all that each of the witnesses is sworn in, please? MR MIKE GILSON (sworn) MR JONATHAN RUSSELL (sworn) MR SPENCER FEENEY (sworn) MR JOHN McLELLAN (sworn) Questions by MR BARR MR BARR Mr McLellan, could I start with you, please? Could you confirm your full name? MR McLELLAN: John Crawford McLellan.
Q. You've provided a witness statement to the Inquiry. Are the contents of that witness statement true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief? MR McLELLAN: Yes.
Q. In your witness statement, you tell us that you have spent your entire working life in journalism stretching back for 29 years? MR McLELLAN: Yeah.
Q. And that you started writing a weekly column in the Stirling Observer whilst you were still a university student. Since then you've worked for the Chester Observer, the North West Evening Mail and the Journal which is based in Newcastle upon Tyne. In 1993 you were transferred to the Edinburgh Evening News and you were appointed the editor of Scotland on Sunday. At the beginning of 2002 you moved back to the Evening News until February 2009 when you became the editor of the Scotsman. In addition to your editorial appointment, you were also chair of the Editors Committee of the Scottish Newspaper Society and you've also previously chaired the same committee of the Scottish Daily Newspaper Society. You are also a Press Complaints Commissioner, an appointment which you've held since 2010, and since 2010, you've been an honorary professor of journalism studies at Stirling University; is that right? MR McLELLAN: Right.
Q. Mr Feeney, if I can ask you next please to confirm your full name to the Inquiry? MR FEENEY Spencer Feeney.
Q. And are the contents of your witness statement true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief? MR FEENEY They are.
Q. Mr Feeney, you tell us that you're the editor of the South Wales Evening Post, which is Wales' largest-selling daily newspaper and is based in Swansea. You were appointed in September 2002. You're also the editor-in-chief of the Evening Post's publisher, South West Wales Media, with oversight responsibilities for its two paid-for weekly newspapers, the Carmarthen Journal and the Llanelli Star. This is your third editorship of a regional newspaper. Previously you've been the editor of the Citizen, a daily newspaper based in Gloucester, and the Llanelli Star, a weekly newspaper in south west Wales. You've also held senior editorial positions at regional daily newspapers in Stoke-on-Trent and Exeter. You're a former member of the Press Complaints Commission and have served as an external examiner for Cardiff University's School of Journalism; is that right? MR FEENEY That's right.
Q. Mr Russell, the same questions. Could you confirm your full name? MR RUSSELL Jonathan Russell.
Q. And are the contents of your witness statement true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief? MR RUSSELL They are.
Q. Mr Russell, you tell us that you've been the editor of the Herald newspaper in Glasgow and editor-in-chief of Herald and Times Group, which comprises the Herald, the Sunday Herald and Evening Times newspapers, since July 2010. Before your appointment as editor, you were assistant editor at the Daily Record and Sunday Mail. Your previous jobs have included Scottish correspondent, then Scottish news editor and then Scottish editor of the Daily Mirror, editor of the Paisley Daily Express and Scottish bureau chief of the Mail on Sunday. You've also worked for news agencies and began your career on the Evening Express in Aberdeen. Is that correct? MR RUSSELL It is. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That means that you've always worked in Scotland? MR RUSSELL I spent two years at the agencies I mentioned and they were both based in Yorkshire. That was two years in the early 1990s. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I see. But you have both the experience of a Scottish newspaper and also the Scottish arm of papers published in London? MR RUSSELL That's right. MR BARR Last but certainly not least, Mr Gilson, could you tell us your full name? MR GILSON Michael Gilson.
Q. Are the contents of your witness statement true and direct to the best of your knowledge and belief? MR GILSON Yes.
Q. Mr Gilson, you tell us that you are the editor of the Belfast Telegraph, former editor of the Scotsman, the News Portsmouth, Peterborough Evening Telegraph and you've had senior positions on the Western Mail, Hull Daily Mail, Kent Evening Post, as well as being a member of the PCC Code Committee between 2003 and 2009; is that correct? MR GILSON It is.
Q. Gentlemen, can I ask you first, so that we can understand a little bit about the environments in which you publish your newspapers, about your readership and how it affects your papers and what you print? Could I start, please, with Mr McLellan? MR McLELLAN: We publish a daily quality newspaper that covers the whole of Scotland. It circulates from the islands in the north to the borders and until recently circulated widely in London and the south east as well. We have a website, which is an extensive readership around the world, serving the diaspora as well as the home market. I'm also responsible for Scotland on Sunday which has a similar publication pattern, and also the Edinburgh Evening News which serves, as the title would suggest, the Edinburgh market.
Q. So what sort of content do you publish to attract that readership? MR McLELLAN: The Scotsman is primarily a political and business newspaper, and also serving the arts in Scotland in ways that other publications, with the possible exception of the Herald, doesn't, so we perform a particular function in Scotland that is unique to ourselves and the Herald. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. I think we're going to have to reorganise ourselves a little bit, because the microphones aren't quite picking up what you're saying, I'm afraid. MR McLELLAN: Is that better? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much. MR BARR Mr Feeney, could I ask you the same question, please? MR FEENEY Yes. The South Wales Evening Post is a three-edition daily, covers three different counties in South and West Wales. Three separate editions allow us to focus very much on local news and local sport, which are the staple of the product.
Q. Mr Russell? MR RUSSELL Broadly the same as Mr McLellan said about the Scotsman. We are we consider ourselves a Scottish national newspaper covering mainly Scottish news, Scottish sport, Scottish art, Scottish business plays a big part. There's also a flavour of more national and international news as well because a lot of our readers see the Herald as their main source of, you know, news for the day. So we have to cover the national and international agenda also, but it's largely a Scottish newspaper.
Q. Thank you. Mr Gilson? MR GILSON Yes, the Belfast Telegraph, despite its title, is a newspaper for the entire country of Northern Ireland. It completes in a tough marketplace against many local editions, if you like, of London-based newspapers and the Irish News, a predominantly nationalist newspaper, and the News Letter, a predominantly Unionist newspaper. Like everyone else, it focuses on politics and business and arts, although it would also cover news from the UK and news from the Republic.
Q. Thank you. I'd now like to get a feel, if I could, please, of the market in which you're operating and the pressures which you are under. Could I ask a question to all of you. Does any one of you have an increasing circulation at the moment or are you all facing the common trend of decreasing circulation? I take it from the silence that it's all heading south? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's all a balance between the Internet and print is changing? MR GILSON Yes, indeed. If you're talking about total audience, that's a different matter, but if you're talking about pure print figure, you're right. MR BARR Has anyone got an increasing advertising revenue or are your advertising revenues all decreasing? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm not trying to elicit commercially sensitive information. I'm really trying to grapple with the concern which has been expressed that all print media are under pressure, but none more so than newspapers that are not London-based. It may not be so for the primary papers for Scotland or for Northern Ireland or indeed for Wales, so it may be you are different from a title that publishes, say, in Leeds or Manchester. I'm very keen to try and understand the different dynamics so that I have a picture of those dynamics and make sure that whatever comes out of this Inquiry fits with the issues with which you are concerned and doesn't fail to address them, and that's why we're asking the questions. We're not trying to ask you to expose your concerns to your competitors or the world. MR FEENEY I think the general picture is over the last five years advertising revenues in the regional press have about halved. MR RUSSELL I couldn't give you the percentage figure, but our advertising revenues have come under increasing pressure in recent years as well. There's certainly been a drop-off. MR BARR Does anyone wish to disagree? MR McLELLAN: Only to add a little bit of light and shape to it. The big categories are the ones that have taken the steepest fall, in particular the big classified categories of recruitment, property and motors are the ones that have taken the most flak, in particular recruitment, which was a mainstay of the regional press. And that has, I think it's fair to say, all but disappeared as far as print is concerned. What were 24-page sections ten years ago are now one page. Some categories are doing a little bit better than others, but by and large the trend is still downward. Things like family notices are still rather robust but not as strong as they once were. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Somebody said to me about recruitment. Is that because it's all going on the net or because the economic downturn has meant that there is just not the same recruitment? MR McLELLAN: It's both. There are free services available for small advertisers, large numbers of agencies have found easier ways to find the people that they're looking for. But at the same time, the downturn has meant that basically there are there's need to recruit, but also the downturn has encouraged companies to find more efficient ways that than a broadbrush print ad could provide, so the downturn has not only reduced the need to recruit, but also has encouraged people to find other ways to get to the market. Traditionally, regional newspapers across the board regarded recruitment advertising as a cash cow, and a lot of the economics of the businesses were based on the fact that classified markets particularly there was nowhere else to go locally, and so that's ended now. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. The point has been made that the big difference between London and papers not printed in London is the balance between purchase price and advertising revenue. Would you agree with that? MR FEENEY I think national papers' sales revenue, cover price revenue is a much larger percentage of the overall revenue than is the case in the regional press where advertising revenue is the majority. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's a point that's been made. MR GILSON It works out roughly as I would say two-thirds classified, one-third newspaper sales, so you get the picture. MR FEENEY What we're finding in Wales of course is where the public sector is such a big employer, about half of our readers work in the public sector, that more and more public sector organisations are only advertising vacancies, when they have them, on their own websites. So that's compounded the issue with the loss of recruitment advertising in Wales. I was only at a meeting last week where the Welsh government is now proposing to remove the statutory obligation on organisations like councils to place their road traffic orders in local papers. If that comes into law in Wales, then the regional press in Wales will lose an additional ?1 million a year revenue. MR RUSSELL There's a similar issue in Scotland to that with the discussion about statutory notices being no longer statutory in the press, and going online, which would I couldn't tell you the exact figure, but that would have a significant impact on Scottish newspaper revenues also. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Is there any good news in any of this? MR FEENEY We're still producing good papers that people want to buy. MR RUSSELL And the content that we produce is still very popular, whether in print or online, and the challenge is to monetise the online content. MR GILSON As I said before, in terms of audience, a Belfast Telegraph journalist will reach more people now than perhaps ever, in terms of the reach and the combined audience, but as was just said there, monetising that of course is the 64 trillion dollar question. MR McLELLAN: I think the good news such as it is just now will come in the form of tablet apps, Kindle devices and things like that, because what they are doing is they are reconnecting an electronic audience with the principle of paying for what they are reading. The basics of online readership is that the readers expect to read what they get on the screen for nothing, and the new way of reading on tablets and on phones is that people are now relearning that they have to pay for some of these services, so if there is a brighter future, it's in being able to sell our services to tablet users as opposed to people reading for free online. I think the expectation was if you paid 500 or 600 quid for your home computer, then you expect everything on it to be free, whereas, for some reason, people are quite happy to pay ?400 for an iPad and then have to pay additional sums for whatever it is they want to read, that has a potential to reenergise our industry, and in fact it puts journalism back up to the top of the tree again as well. MR GILSON I think the other thing is the old inky product is not dead. If you listen perhaps in this room and to other self-appointed media gurus, you would believe that that would be the case, and I believe a lot of imaginative strategies are now being developed to keep the old ink product alive. I'm not as pessimistic as a lot of people might be about the mix, and I think at some point I think the word "bumping along the bottom" was mentioned earlier this week, and I think in terms of sales that will happen, I think there is still a big, big market for a physical in-the-hand product and I'm certainly not as pessimistic as some others. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm delighted to hear it. Right. MR BARR Thank you. Having painted the background scene, can we move on, please, to some editorial practices. My first question I'm going to start with Mr McLellan. I'm reading from your witness statement where you tell us about your attitude to sources, and in particular an editor's knowledge of sources. You say: "There is an absolute requirement on the part of a reporter to divulge full details of how a story came to light if asked by the editor. The senior team are aware of this policy and it is understood the editor will need to know exactly how the stories have been obtained. "Example 1, the Evening News: I refused to publish a story and then threatened a reporter with disciplinary action for refusing to divulge the identity of a source." I'm going to ask the other witnesses in a moment about this same theme, but if I could ask you, Mr McLellan, what is the rationale behind that approach? MR McLELLAN: I simply want to be confident that what I'm about to put in the paper is true, and that if I'm going to publish a story that is going to be attributed to an anonymous source, that I have the confidence that that source is trustworthy. I don't want to publish a story and then find out that there was some kind of background to this which I wasn't aware of, which meant that, had I been aware of that, I wouldn't have published the story, so I don't think it's unreasonable for the editor to be fully in command of all the facts of a story before it gets him or her into trouble. So I will always ask, "Who's telling us this?" and if they say, "Well, I can't really say who it is", I say, "Wait a minute, it's not going in the paper then". As I say, it's only happened once, but once I was in a situation where the reporter wouldn't tell me who the source was and I said, "Well, the story's not going in the paper"; then it became more of a principle issue. I said, "Wait a minute, the editor has a right to know the basis of the story that he is legally responsible for", and when the reporter said, "Well, I'm not comfortable with telling you this", I said, "That's a real problem because if you're not comfortable telling me who your sources are, what position does that put me in? I'm responsible for your stories." In the end, the reporter saw the sense of what I was saying and told me, and so we remained friends. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So the distinction is: you as his editor are entitled to know but you will fight vigorously not to tell anybody else? MR McLELLAN: Yes, that's right. Because the person who's told us may well find themselves exposed LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand. MR McLELLAN: As we're finding right now in Scotland, where someone who is suspected of being the source of a story in one of Jonathan's stable has been summarily dismissed, without any hearing or anything like that, because he's suspected of being a whistle-blower, and we have to do all we can to protect people who come to us with information which may well be in the public interest. MR BARR Mr Feeney, do you align yourself with the McLellan school on this or do you take a different view? MR FEENEY No, I take exactly the same view. I think it's just a given that the editor has the right and an obligation to know what the source of a story is. I don't say I ask every reporter on every story, "What's your source?" but there are certain stories where I think you just have to know. How do you go about protecting the identity of a source if you don't know who the source is? It just seems to me it puts you with a conflict.
Q. Thank you. Mr Russell? MR RUSSELL Broadly, I take the same view, but I would also take the view that I would try, while I would endeavour to find the organisation or whatever it is of the source of the story, I would be reluctant to ask the reporter to give me the specific name of the person, because I think that the source has a right to expect the reporter to protect him from the editor, but we have example and I have had occasion where I've had to say, "Without knowing the name, the story can't go in the paper", and then it's really up to the reporter to decide how to deal with that.
Q. So there's a subtle but distinct difference there? MR RUSSELL I think so too. It largely depends on how well you know and trust the reporter and his sources previously, so I wouldn't automatically expect to ask the specific name of the person, but if necessary to satisfy myself of the veracity of the story, then yeah, we would.
Q. Mr Gilson, are you of the Russell school, the McLellan school or is there MR GILSON I think there's a third middle way there. Clearly you need to, on big stories that you're dealing with, you might need to splash on, it follows that you have to that the provenance of it. I think there are times, as Jonathan said, where if you've been working a long time with reporters who consistently delivered that you may say, "I accept and I trust that reporter's word", if there are reasons that he or she might not want to divulge, but generally I think that would be rare, but I do think there are reporters and very good reporters, and track records come into play there, so I think I would take a slightly middle way. MR McLELLAN: Just to come back on that, I would say that if I'd worked with a reporter for a long time and knew and trusted them, then they're unlikely to have any problem telling me if I asked LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It works two ways. They know and trust you. MR McLELLAN: Trust me, yeah. MR BARR Your point is it's essential for the safety of the newspaper and for you taking responsibility for the story? MR GILSON Sorry, what I was saying was if a news editor said to me, "This is the story and we got it from X, our reporter", then you'd either be very confident or not that it was true or not, and I don't think there is every 100 per cent time where I would say, "I need to know the name and address of the person involved in that story."
Q. The next thing I'd like to ask about is phone hacking, interception either of conversation or voicemails. I'll start with Mr Gilson. I have a letter which is in the bundle at page 394 and 395 under tab 8. It's towards the back. It's a letter on the Scotsman's headed paper dated 30 October 2007. It has the name "Mike Gilson, editor". MR GILSON Is that 8J or where are we looking?
Q. It's under tab 8 towards the end. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's 8K. MR GILSON I have it, yes. MR BARR Is this your letter to Sir Christopher Meyer? MR GILSON It is.
Q. Who was then the chairman of the Press Complaints Commission. It says that on behalf of your chief executive, as chairman of the Johnston Press Editorial Review Group, you were replying to a letter about subterfuge. In the course of replying, in the fourth paragraph, you say: "On subterfuge and issues arising from the Clive Goodman case, I have to say there are not that many occasions in our group when such practice is ever deemed necessary." Could I ask you what you were referring to by the words "such practice"? MR GILSON Just to give you some background, the Editorial Review Group was, as it says there, a group of editors which I chaired, which advised the Johnston Press board on ethical and journalistic issues and we were asked to look at this. I think what I was saying again, this was 2007 but we had a fairly extensive trawl through the newspapers to see was any of this sort of thing happening and I think what we were saying there was that at some points, and obviously with public interest reasons, that subterfuge of some form was not something you could rule out.
Q. So is your answer you were referring to subterfuge in general and not to phone hacking specifically? MR GILSON Sorry. If that's your question, it's subterfuge in general, yes.
Q. Mr Gilson, following up with you, have you ever come across phone hacking during your career as a method that's been used to obtain journalistic information? MR GILSON No.
Q. Mr Russell? MR RUSSELL No.
Q. Mr Feeney? MR FEENEY No.
Q. Mr McLellan? MR McLELLAN: No.
Q. Can I ask you the same question about payments made to public officials to obtain confidential information. Mr McLellan, have you ever come across that during your career? MR McLELLAN: No. As a result of all this we asked many of our reporters if there's ever been an issue here, they were asked for money and it's just not something that's come up for us at all. Many, many years in Edinburgh covering many stories with local government, police and all government agencies, it's just not been an issue.
Q. Mr Feeney? MR FEENEY The same answer. I've never done it, never been asked to do it.
Q. Mr Russell? MR RUSSELL No, never.
Q. Mr Gilson? MR GILSON The same.
Q. Coming on to subterfuge, where Mr Gilson has told us that there might have been some occasions where it had happened, the question is: in what circumstances is subterfuge practised by your titles and with what controls? Mr Gilson, could I start with you? MR GILSON Certainly, yes. I think, like I said before, the decision about whether this is in the public interest becomes first. There is a rigorous and strong debate. Lawyers may well be involved as well. If an issue needed a journalist to pretend so be somebody other than a journalist, that would only be sanctioned by myself, there have been, you know, two or three cases, certainly one recent case that I can think of, in which we sanctioned that, because the public interest, in my view, made it necessary.
Q. Is a written record kept, however succinct, of the reasons, the fact of the decision to use subterfuge and the reasons for it? MR GILSON Not written, no. It will be the subject of numerous meetings. This particular case took three, four months to come to gestation, and at that time it was on a regular weekly meeting about how are we going, where are we going, have we overstepped the mark? And that was always involving myself, reporters and the deputies. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Would you minute that? MR GILSON No. Well, we didn't, no. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The reason I ask is because there is a risk that if something happens, and, for example, the story doesn't come out as you want it to and then it all emerges, that justifications come later, whereas if they're at the time, they're that much easier to pin down and to recognise as clearly justifiable. MR GILSON Yes, I take your point. The only things we'd have had on that one were legal letters and emails about how we should LORD JUSTICE LEVESON About which you would say you're not prepared to waive privilege. Probably. MR GILSON Indeed. But I take your point. As I say, those things, when you are involved in those things, they take long periods, they're not done overnight and the journalists were thoroughly briefed and controlled. As this case happened, it turned out that we exposed some considerable wrongdoing, so again it was justified in my view. MR BARR Thank you. Mr Russell, does the Herald ever use subterfuge, and if so, subject to what controls? MR RUSSELL I would say the potential is there for it to be used and it has been used. I would say there's different levels of subterfuge. It's a very broad word, I suggest. If I thought there was anything that was likely to be illegal or be in breach of the Editors' Code of Conduct or morally questionable, it would be brought to my attention for a decision whether or not to go ahead with it.
Q. Are reasons recorded or not in writing? MR RUSSELL No, they haven't been up till now.
Q. Mr Feeney? MR FEENEY We haven't used subterfuge in the time that I've been editor of the Evening Post. I can't answer for if it was used before, I don't know. But generally, on a general point, when I have meetings with reporters to discuss different issues, they're always minuted and notes are issued.
Q. Mr McLellan? MR McLELLAN: I think it's fair to say subterfuge has played a part in most journalistic careers to one degree or another. In particular, I remember an instance where we sent a male and female reporter to investigate a new swingers club just off Prince's Street and of course they were not swingers and had to pass themselves off as swingers, but that was not something which we had any great moral debate about as to whether or not this was something worth exposing in the public interest. It is true to say that custom and practice in newsrooms has been to discuss these things and then go on and do it, and not to note it, not to minute it and not to maintain a paper trail. I'm fully aware that that is something which is now if not changing, it has changed, and the new guidelines for the industry as a whole will be that any form of subterfuge that requires a public interest justification must have a paper trail so that, as you say, things gone wrong or something that happens that shouldn't have happened, that there is an audit that can be referred to so that the process can be scrutinised quickly and effectively. But, you know, there are elements of subterfuge which, you know, are at the frivolous end. We had a discussion amongst Johnston Press editors not that long ago whereby the one of the daily papers said, "What about my secret diner feature? Is that now off limits because I'm using subterfuge?" So it goes from that right the way up to the Daily Telegraph reporters purporting to be members of the public to get information out of Members of Parliament at their surgeries, right the way down to that, so it may seem trivial, but it's not, that the tightening up of subterfuge rules and regulations has an effect over all kinds of different things which the industry up until now and the readers would have regarded as just part and parcel of what we do: exposing things, finding out things which otherwise might not reach the public's attention. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I think obviously one has to look at all this with a broad brush and with a degree of common sense. MR McLELLAN: Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Somebody said, "We couldn't possibly write it all down because it would all take too long." I'm not trying in any sense to suggest a bureaucratic process, but it's really a question of self-protection as much as anything else. MR McLELLAN: I think it's very easy to put up an argument against it, but the sense of it seems to me to outweigh the objections. Given that we have daily conferences, it's not that difficult to make sure that there's a minute of a discussion that took place surrounding an expose that was going to be worked on. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Where you're using public interest type explanations to justify what the code would otherwise say was inappropriate? MR McLELLAN: Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I don't suppose that would cover your secret diner. MR McLELLAN: Exactly. I don't think you'd have to jot that down every time you sent somebody out to have a surreptitious meal. I suppose the swingers club might require a minute, though. MR BARR I'm going to keep up with that theme because I wanted to move on to the question of how you deal with privacy. If we take that story as an example, if you're going to expose people going to a swingers club, you are invading their privacy to an extent. Did you, when you published the story about that I'm assuming you did? MR McLELLAN: Yes.
Q. Did you identify individuals who were visiting that club? MR McLELLAN: Not so that they could be identified. There were names given, but not full names and addresses or occupations or anything like that.
Q. Was that a deliberate decision to protect their privacy? MR McLELLAN: No, I just don't think that the full information was obtained because the situation these people were in was not one where you would normally say, "What do you do for a living? What's your second name?" It wasn't that kind of environment and that might have blown their cover.
Q. I can quite see that, Mr McLellan. Perhaps I can put it on a more general level. If you are going to publish a story which invades somebody's privacy, do you see any difficulty with, where at least it's a feasible proposition, giving prior notice to the subject of the story so that they have an opportunity to object before irreparable damage is done to their reputation? MR McLELLAN: I can't think of an instance where that's been a scenario we've had to deal with, but we would always in general we would go to the source of the story and say, "Here is the story that we are considering publishing" LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, you go to the subject of the story. MR McLELLAN: Yes, subject, "What is your reaction to our findings?" And that would be pre-publication, not post. But in terms of an invasion of someone's privacy, I can't think of an instance, other than something like that club, where it was an issue. At the Scotsman we tend not to deal with that kind of material on a regular basis anyway. MR BARR Mr Feeney, I need to ask you the same question. Is privacy and giving prior notice an issue for you? MR FEENEY As far as prior notice is concerned, again, as a general rule we approach people who are the subject of stories before the stories are published to give them an opportunity to respond. It's not unusual for us to delay publication of that story by 24 hours, if they request that, to give them time to gather their response, although it's made clear to them that it's not a means whereby they can suppress publication and if we delay for 24 hours, we won't delay any further. I think in terms of views of invasion of privacy, then that's something that's very much to the forefront of our minds anyway. We're running a series of stories at the moment, for example, there's a young American woman who's gone missing while on a visit to Swansea. We have been provided with some information about her private behaviour which has come from a source, I know the source and I know the source is impeccable, and that information may well be useful in helping to find the whereabouts of this young woman, but I've chosen not to publish that information because I felt it was too intrusive.
Q. Mr Russell? MR RUSSELL Likewise, if a subject of a story is to be shown in a poor light or criticised, it's incumbent upon us to go to that person for a reaction or a rebuttal or right of reply.
Q. Mr Gilson, do you agree? MR GILSON Yes, I do. I think in the example I mentioned to you, which was a case of a gentleman using a high office in politics to get sexual favours, we would go to him and gave him a short period of time to respond. I think in the land known as the land that invented the superinjunction, something the legal profession is very proud of, there are times certainly in Northern Ireland and certainly in some newspapers where you have this issue of beating the possibility of an injunction. There have been a case where people haven't been approached, but in my time in two and a half years at the Belfast Telegraph that hasn't arisen. MR BARR Thank you. Sir, is that a convenient moment? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, certainly. You are aware about when these gentlemen have to MR BARR Yes, I've established that none of them will be inconvenienced if we continue this session after the lunch adjournment. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm sure about that, but as long as we know when their flights go. Thank you. (1.02 pm)


Gave a statement at the hearing on 18 January 2012 (AM) ; and submitted 4 pieces of evidence
Gave a statement at the hearing on 18 January 2012 (AM) ; and submitted 2 pieces of evidence
Gave statements at the hearings on 18 January 2012 (AM) and 18 January 2012 (PM) ; and submitted 1 pieces of evidence
Gave statements at the hearings on 18 January 2012 (AM) and 18 January 2012 (PM) ; and submitted 12 pieces of evidence
Gave statements at the hearings on 18 January 2012 (AM) and 18 January 2012 (PM) ; and submitted 6 pieces of evidence
Gave a statement at the hearing on 18 January 2012 (AM) ; and submitted 2 pieces of evidence
Gave statements at the hearings on 18 January 2012 (AM) 18 January 2012 (PM) and 21 March 2012 (AM) ; and submitted 7 pieces of evidence


Understand all the key topics and the context behind the Inquiry's findings

Journalism & society
View more
View more
View more
Future of journalism
View more
Background & history
View more
Subsequent developments
View more
Ethics & abuses
View more