Leveson enquiry hears of bounty ‘on the head of celebrities' newborn babies
Published 18/01/2012 | 13:54
THE Leveson Inquiry into press standards hearing today was told there is a "bounty" on the head of celebrities' newborn babies because paparazzi can make a lot of money if they get the first picture of the child.
Singer Charlotte Church told the inquiry in November that she signed an exclusive deal for a magazine article when her first baby was born to "take away the value" of paparazzi pictures.
"My decision was based upon the fact that photographs of my children would have been taken anyway, with or without my consent, and this was the lesser of two evils," she said.
Hello! co-editor Rosie Nixon said today: "The sad truth is that there is almost a bounty on the head of that child for the first photos. They can make a paparazzo a lot of money."
Heat magazine's Lucie Cave told the inquiry it would be a "very useful tool" if celebrities kept a body like the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) updated on their circumstances.
But OK! editor Lisa Byrne warned that such a register could place limits on the reporting of stories about well-known people.
"Every celebrity might say, 'no, I don't want any pictures of my family ever again'. Then it could cause a problem," she said.
Inquiry chairman Lord Justice Leveson questioned Ms Cave, Ms Byrne and Hello! co-editor Rosie Nixon about the idea of a list of which celebrities did not want to be featured.
The inquiry heard that stories pre-agreed with celebrities make up about 70% of Hello!'s content and 80% of OK!'s, and that both magazines will give copy approval in some cases.
Ms Nixon said certain stories could provide a big increase in sales, giving the example of the issue devoted to last year's royal wedding, which sold more than one million copies in just a few days.
Ms Cave said Heat was one of the only magazines that will point out when paparazzi photographs appear to be set up with the co-operation of the celebrities they feature.
The discussion of magazine spreads of the weddings, babies and homes of the rich and famous took a lighter tone than some of the inquiry's previous hearings.
Directed to a Heat photoshoot of celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal dressed as an egg, Lord Justice Leveson wryly observed: "It's a very different sort of journal to my normal, but fair enough."
Ms Nixon said: "We've noticed foreign magazines are able to publish photos of the Duchess of Cambridge that we wouldn't publish here."
These included images of Kate going about her daily life when she was not at an official event, she added.
Ms Cave justified photos in the latest issue of Heat showing Simon Cowell on board a yacht with a young woman on the grounds that the music mogul "enjoys the lifestyle that goes with his celebrity".
"We took the decision that he's clearly playing up to the paparazzi that are there so, in this instance, we didn't feel he would have a problem with us printing this picture," she said.
But she admitted that staff at the magazine were "mortified" by the "grave mistake" it made in printing a sticker insulting the disabled son of glamour model Katie Price.
Heat apologised for the 2007 incident.