Having being humiliating at the hands of the Leveson inquiry, it looks as if Rupert Murdoch got his own back as he gave the inquiry two fingers by publishing in his daily Sun the picture of a naked Prince Harry cavorting with a female in Vegas while watching television – the only British newspaper to do it.
Murdoch defended his decision on Twitter as the arguments whether to publish or not continue to escalate. He wrote, “ Needed to demonstrate no such thing as free press in the UK. Internet makes mockery of these issues. 1st amendment please. “
Under the headline “HEIR IT IS!”, the Sun’s defiant act to publish has been framed by his managing editor David Dinsmore as a bold stand for a free press arguing about the ludicrous situation where a picture can be seen by hundreds of millions of people around the world on the Internet, but can’t be seen by readers in the UK.
In the huge ensuing controversy, it has become clear that the decision was not necessarily about re-establishing the Sun’s reputation as a brash newspaper, but was calculated to make a point ahead of the forthcoming critical report by Lord Justice Leveson into press ethics following the public inquiry which was launched following the phone-hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch's now defunct News of the World. Some News International journalists are anxious about the effect the inquiry started having on them and believed that were the News of the World still around it would have served up several pictures of Harry for Sunday breakfasts.
Politicians, media lawyers and leader writers are divided between those who believe that there is a public interest argument as Harry receives money from the civil list while others, egged on by the monarchy’s solicitors, Harbottle & Lewis, warning newspapers there was no justification for publication in English law, argue that publication of the picture is an invasion of privacy.
Publication of the picture clearly contravenes the Press Complaints Commission Code of Practice, which forbids “intrusions into an individual’s private life,” another pointer that Murdoch’s act of defiance is designed to scuttle the “self-regulation” scheme that may brought in by Leveson.
But in the end, it could just be a simple commercial decision. Outweighing the risk of legal action and financial penalties against the increase in circulation has often been Murdoch’s prime motivation.