'If you discuss private life, others can too,' warns PCC

Feltz’s complaints about kiss-and-tell stories were rejected by PCC

Celebrities have been warned they can compromise their right to privacy by talking publicly about their private lives.

The warning came as television presenter Vanessa Feltz failed to have kiss-and-tell stories about her declared an invasion of privacy and inaccurate by the Press Complaints Commission .

Feltz had complained about Sunday Mirror articles headlined "Vanessa’s love No2", published on 15 July, and "We lay on her bed, her hands crept over my chest… all Vanessa ever wanted from me was sex", published on 26 August. She also complained about an article in The Mirror on 30 August headlined "I read what Vanessa got up to in her garden and I just thought… Ugh!".

The commission rejected all the complaints, satisfied that the Sunday Mirror had adequately balanced the complainant’s right to privacy with the right to freedom of expression of the man who kissed and told, Fitzroy Charles.

The commission pointed out in its ruling that it had made clear on many occasions that it would take into account the extent to which similar matters about Feltz had been published before without complaint.

"Privacy is a right which can be compromised and those who talk about their private lives on their own terms must expect that there may be others who will do so, without their consent, in a less than agreeable way," the PPC warned.

Under the Editors’ Code of Practice, individuals have a right to tell their own story, the PCC concluded, and Charles was exercising that right.

It was clear to the commission that the public had been kept closely informed about the state of Feltz’s previous relationships, in particular the breakdown of her marriage which the complainant had discussed at length and which had excited much comment and speculation about which she had never complained.

While the commission accepted that part of the Sunday Mirror interview with Charles included some references to intimate details, it did not consider the material to be so salacious or detailed as to be disproportionate to that already in the public domain.

The first Sunday Mirror piece said that Charles was Feltz’s new boyfriend. The second carried his intimate account of their relationship, as well as a denial from Feltz that she’d had any physical relationship with him.

The article in The Mirror was based on an interview with fellow television presenter Trisha Goddard, who criticised Feltz and wondered why she was so interested in black men.

Feltz’s solicitors said she had denied having a physical relationship with Charles, yet the newspaper still published. She had only met him on two occasions, in a business context.

The Sunday Mirror said its information for the 15 July story that Feltz had started a relationship with Charles had not come from him but from two independent sources. Her denials should be seen in the context that she had previously – inaccurately, it claimed — denied having a relationship with her previous boyfriend.

Both papers said that Feltz was a "celebrity of her own making" who had written books about herself and her family, had appeared in magazines for payment and had spoken often and publicly about her marital difficulties.

Feltz’s solicitors claimed she had gone to considerable lengths to keep her private and professional lives separate.

 

By Jean Morgan

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