Belfast Telegraph

Press storm timed to perfection as media verdict looms

By Paul Connolly

Sorry, but I refuse to play the game. Prince Harry is a tube and he got what he deserved. Yes, the language is strong. But he's third in line to the throne, for heaven’s sake.

He’s a terrorist target and a blackmailer’s dream. He’s the ultimate child of privilege — funded by your hard-earned taxes into a gilded life most people can barely comprehend, never mind dream of attaining.

He's also an Army officer, holding the rank of captain.

He has embarrassed the Queen, who is the epitome of grace and astuteness and who is the constitutional glue that binds the UK together.

Airmiles Andy has nothing on clown Prince Harry and his games of strip pool surrounded by gawping strangers in a hotel suite paid for by a billionaire.

And yet, somehow, reporting this is not supposed to be in the public interest?

In my opinion, this whole affair has deteriorated into those who despise popular culture and who wish for all to conform to a certain (il)liberal standard and those who stand up for popular culture, however ‘vulgar’ it sometimes is in its expression, and the associated right — nay, requirement — of the popular Press to be irreverent, pugnacious and rumbustious.

This grand coalition believes it should decide what is in the public interest — and that neither the masses nor the Press know what is right and what is wrong.

In my opinion, The Sun has done the cause of a free Press a favour by publishing Harry’s photo.

The story’s news value is clear — publication by CNN and the New York Times, to name but two, is proof enough.

The timing of this latest media row is, of course, impeccable.

We are now moving towards endgame in the Leveson inquiry. Battle is about to be joined in earnest.

Yes, the cancer of corruption, mainly at the News of the World, had to be tackled. Yes, the PCC needed replacing by a body with sharper teeth, an investigatory arm and less industry influence. But if Leveson’s proposals are so radical that they risk neutering an industry at a time when it faces massive cyclical and structural disruption — ie the recession and gravitation to online — then the report itself could be seen as an existential threat to the popular Press, at least, if not to the wider industry.

If that does become the case, David Cameron, already besieged on several fronts, may wish he hadn’t kicked the whole thorny issue of Press regulation into an inquiry in the first place.

Belfast Telegraph

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