As much as this publication regrets the instances in which we are forced to go in to bat for the gutter journalism of the Daily Mail, we’re going to do so today.

Yesterday Channel Ten dragged the website, partly owned in Australia by rival Channel Nine, to court after the Mail published paparazzi pictures, shot through a hotel window, of an official photo shoot being conducted by The Daily Telegraph of Bachelorette Sam Frost and the man she chose for … something, whatever.

The Tele‘s official photo shoot was to accompany an interview being conducted by the paper (the publication wasn’t happy at losing its exclusive — its online headline: “Dear Daily Mail: Fuck You”). The pictures were posted online on the Daily Mail before the final episode and the winning man were aired, but Channel Ten managed to get the Supreme Court to issue a hasty injunction forcing the website to remove the photographs.

The injunction appears to be still in force, leading to the ridiculous situation this morning in which the Mail says it still isn’t allowed to describe what’s in the photos, while all the other websites that have been reporting on the saga are able to publish and describe the images in detail. In a statement posted to its website this morning, the Daily Mail Australia said it would fight the injunction — its spokespeople told Crikey they had nothing more to add to the statement.

Channel Ten may argue for commercial damages stemming from the publication of the photos. But many of those who’ve reported on this have gone further, arguing there’s something inherently wrong with the “breach of privacy”. Here’s Tim Burrowes at Mumbrella:

“The invasion of privacy of long lens photographs taken into a high rise hotel may earn censure for breaching privacy principles. (There’s a public interest defence, but not an interesting-to-the public defence.)

“Regardless of whether the pair were alone in the room together or, as has been suggested, doing a photo shoot for a newspaper, there’s still a reasonable argument that they are entitled to privacy from third party photographers. Plenty of business takes place privately. It will be interesting to see what the Press Council does with it, if there is a complaint.”

In its news report, The Sydney Morning Herald took a similar line:

“The website could also find itself in breach of the Press Council’s code of principles, which it is a signatory of, if the photos are deemed to have intruded on the new couple’s ‘reasonable expectations of privacy’.”

What nonsense. Of all the potential privacy breaches conducted by the media yesterday, is publishing unauthorised photos of a photo shoot something we’re really going to get worked up about? Since when is refusing to play ball with someone’s PR strategy a breach of media ethics?

The media’s been more than happy to plug Channel Ten’s hit show this season. Your correspondent hasn’t been able to avoid seeing the endless recaps, commentary and heartfelt advice given to Sam Frost on her quest to choose the least awful of the dozen or so men arrayed before her this season. According to media monitoring company Isentia, over the past 10 weeks the show’s had 14,521 mentions, including 11,075 online, 1231 on television, 1381 on radio and even 834 in print. More than 10% of those mentions came in the day leading up to last night’s finale, where it had 1870 mentions.

With great publicity comes the greater chance that someone, somewhere, will go off-script. I truly doubt Channel Ten suffered any loss for the Mail spoiling the surprise. Anyone who is into The Bachelorette enough to care was always going to tune in anyway, as nearly 2 million viewers did. And if the Mail thought it was worth outraging legions of fans who didn’t want the surprise spoiled, well, that’s their choice. No one said the media has to be nice. It’s also Crikey‘s choice to give this ridiculous issue more oxygen. But frankly, if spoiling a reality show, or even, heaven forbid, another publication’s exclusive, is a breach of media ethics, we’re all cooked. 

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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