Friday, 24 August 2012

The Sun left playing catch up as Blogosphere one step ahead again

The Sun has gone ahead and printed the naked Prince Harry pictures. The only British newspaper to do so. For now. Unfortunately for them, all those who have wanted to have a peek at the buff frame of our third in line royal have already done so. Online. More than two days ago. Whilst the paper would no doubt like to congratulate itself on having the balls (ahem) to publish said pics in a post-Leveson world, its supposed bravery is somewhat undone by the fact it has waited until today. No doubt hamstrung by assessing all the legal ramifications because I can’t imagine the editorial meeting discussed any ethical dilemmas the photos might pose. The Murdoch Empire is still a wounded beast. It needs all the kudos and publicity it can get these days.

First published on Wednesday, by American gossip site TMZ, (no, I’d never heard of them either) whilst the UK was snoozing, and then picked up at 2.33am by Guido Fawkes, which then enlarged and reproduced them at 9.47am, the pictures have now gone around the world and back. The Sun may be in defiant mood this morning, but they are clearly playing catch up with the blogosphere.
Twitter is awash with condemnation, although I can’t help detect just the faintest whiff of hypocrisy. All those feigning anger at The Sun, how many clicked on the links two days ago for a sneaky look? I certainly did. Whilst Leveson embroiled itself with how best to regulate the British press, that “elephant in the room,” the internet, just got that little bit fatter. Lord Justice Leveson may try to grapple with the thorny issue of blogs and other online publications based in the UK, but there’s very little that can be done away from these shores. The internet is a stateless, almost anything goes, global phenomenon. We can try and regulate it but we will fail.

At the time of the Inquiry, Index on Censorship, the campaign group fighting against threats to freedom of expression, argued that Leveson didn’t really understand how to get to grips with the web:
“In May MailOnline editor Martin Clarke implored Leveson and his team to stop “obsessing” with newspapers, describing them as just one part of a wider, tangled media spectrum, and that to focus on them solely was to look backwards.

“Fundamentally, as Clarke stressed, the way we consume news has changed. “You can’t really slice and dice the Internet up into different bits,” he said. “People consume the Internet as a kind of continuous spectrum.”
“Squaring the circle is tricky when what we’re discussing is a medium built on the basis of openness and making things easier to access.

“Perhaps Leveson didn’t quite know what he had himself in for when he was appointed to lead the Inquiry last summer. He does now.”
The facts of the matter are that this could prove the start of an audacious dash by the tabloids to out-sensationalise the other, at least until we hear Lord Leveson’s recommendations later in the year. It’s very hard to argue with Guido Fawkes and its belief that:

“The old media have been scared into submission by the Leveson Inquiry. This is the third in line to the throne, the son of Prince Charles and one of the biggest names in British public life. Yet not one British newspaper is reporting the story with pictures. Nevertheless everyone in Britain will be searching online for these pictures and will find them regardless. The old rules won’t work in the internet age.”
What Leveson concludes about the internet is anyone’s guess.

This article was first published by Speaker's Chair on Friday 24th August 2012  

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