Hello! invaded Elle Macpherson's privacy, says press regulator

Hello! magazine invaded the privacy of former supermodel Elle Macpherson when it published photographs of her on holiday, the Press Complaints Commission has ruled. Macpherson had complained to the PCC.

The PCC is the press industry's self regulatory body, and the ruling was made as it comes under increasing scrutiny in the wake of several high profile privacy breaches by newspapers, including the interception of Royal aides' phone messages, for which a News of the World journalist was jailed last month.

The PCC said that Hello! had breached the privacy clause of its Code of Practice.

"[Macpherson] made a particular effort to choose a private holiday location, staying at a private villa on a secluded island," said its adjudication. "The Commission took this into account when making a decision under the Code."

Macpherson was holidaying on the island of Mustique, a favourite of the super-rich because it has no public beaches at all. She stayed at a private house with a private beach on the exclusive island in order to protect her and her children's privacy, her solicitors said.

Hello! said that it had been told that the pictures were taken on a public beach. Because Macpherson was looking straight into the camera lens in one picture, the magazine said that it questioned whether she had a reasonable expectation of privacy.

The magazine did make some concessions even before the PCC's verdict, though, saying that it would not use the images again or publish them on its website. The magazine's editor said he would write a personal letter of apology to Macpherson, and would pixellate her children's photos in any future case.

Macpherson also claimed that the pictures breached the PCC's Code as relation to the depiction of children, but the PCC ruled that since the photographs were not embarrassing and did not concern the children's welfare there was no breach of that clause.

The PCC has also announced that it will begin to regulate audio and video material on newspapers' websites. After an industry consultation, the PCC will regulate that content if it is under the control of the newspaper's editor and if it has not previously been edited or produced under the regulation of another media regulator.

"The extension has been agreed recognizing that 'on-line versions' of newspapers and magazines have moved on from the internet replication of material that already existed in a printed version of the publication to routinely carrying material not available in print form," said a PCC statement.

"The range and quality of digital editorial material offered by newspapers and magazines have expanded at a dizzying pace over the last couple of years," said Sir Christopher Meyer, the Chairman of the PCC. "These developments will only accelerate. [The PCC wants to] demonstrate to the public that editorial information in the digital age – regardless of the format in which it is delivered – will be subject to high professional standards overseen by the Commission”.

The PCC faces some calls from the political world for it to be wound up and for statutory regulation to be put in place. The PCC was established in the 1990s as a way for the industry to prove that it could regulate itself.

Recent newspaper and magazine privacy cases involving Prince Charles, the Royal Family's staff and Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas have resulted in some calls for regulation to be taken out of the industry's own hands.