Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
5 MAY 2009
Q820 Mr Sanders: My observation would
be there is a lot of code and hint and innuendo of things where
you are skirting around because the law prevents you from actually
naming somebody or telling it like it really is.
Mr Myler: That is right, and that
is why we have to abide by the law. We have to abide by what the
legislation says and if you cannot name a certain personMr
Farrelly raised the issue of the ladies involved in the Mosley
case and why they were known as initials. That was because it
was agreed, first of all by the two legal teams and by the Judge
that they would remain anonymous.
Q821 Janet Anderson: When it comes
to use of the libel law, we took evidence from Professor Greenslade,
and he told us there are plenty of examples in which journalists
are prime users of the libel law they affect to dislike. Have
you or your paper ever issued a libel action to prevent another
party publishing information about you?
Mr Myler: I am not aware of one.
I will check but I do not believe we have.
Q822 Janet Anderson: Have you ever
threatened anyone with libel action?
Mr Crone: No. I have been in this
job for 29 years four months and about 28 days and no, nevernot
that I can recall.
Q823 Janet Anderson: Professor Greenslade
did say that the last person to threaten him with a libel suit
was the News of the World's lawyer.
Mr Crone: No, I did not. I pointed
out that it was completely wrong and it was libellous. It was
actually the coverage of the Mosley case, believe it or not, in
which he said I gave evidence, and I did not, and actually, everyone
who was following it knew I did not give evidence. Mr Myler gave
evidence and the reporter gave evidence but the esteemed Professor
thought I did, and he was quite disparaging about the evidence
I gave, suggesting it was disingenuous and possibly dishonest.
I suggested he correct it. He did not come back to me at all.
I therefore wrote to the editor of the newspaper, the Guardian,
who you will be hearing from next, I believe. I think I got a
reply something like three and a half weeks later, with a mealy-mouthed
form of words, and I said, "Forget it. Don't bother. If you
can't do it properly, don't bother." So no, I did not threaten
him with libel. Actually, Greenslade came up and met me socially
not long after that and apologised.
Q824 Alan Keen: You were talking
about the member of the Armed Forces and you did not run the story.
You did say that the woman happened to be on the staff of the
News of the World. What you meant was that she had gone
specially to catch him out.
Mr Myler: Not catch him out, no.
Why would she be catching him out? He was breaking every rule
in the book of army regulations, and he was a family man too.
If every time a story appears in the News of the World
I and its staff are going to be accused of being the moral guardians
of everything that takes place in this country, that is just ridiculous,
because we are not.
Q825 Alan Keen: No, I am not objecting
to it on those grounds. It is back to the privacy thing again.
I was concerned about the words you used earlier on. Then you
gave the sergeant as an example. Again, I maybe would not argue
with you too strongly that that was wrong, even if someone went
in to trick him.
Mr Myler: Excuse me. It is not
Q826 Alan Keen: If you are trying
to get a story through a trick.
Mr Myler: No, it is not to get
a story. Here is a man who is a sergeant in the army, who is advertising
himself as a male escort on a male escorts site, in full army
uniform, and making no other claims than that is what he is; he
is a serving army sergeant and if he gets found out, he is going
to be in trouble and will probably lose his job. We did not set
him up. He set himself up.
Q827 Alan Keen: I have already said
that. I was not really arguing against you on that case. I was
more concerned about the phrase you used. I am concerned about
my constituents: you said that nobody is really entitled to privacy.
I was at the South Bank yesterday with my wife watching the lesbian,
gay, bisexual and transgender people; it was a special weekend
of entertainment provided by that group of people. Is it fair
game to reveal someone who is gay who has not come out, for instance?
Mr Myler: No.
Q828 Alan Keen: So my constituents
would be safe there? You would not think that was something that
should be revealed?
Mr Myler: No, I do not think it
is fair game. I think the phrase "fair game" is not
the right term to use. Every single case has to be judged on its
merits, and I think that, if you look at a very high profile,
public case of the last couple of months relating to the 13-year-old
boy that allegedly fathered a baby down in Eastbourne, I think
it was, that was open house at the time, where a newspaper rightly
published a story that here is a boy of 12 or 13 who has fathered
a baby. I think it isagain, I have to be careful. We are
in a legal minefield because injunctions have now been issued
regarding this. Suffice to say that there were other boys involved
who, it is believed, possibly could have been the father, and
I think I understand that one of them, other than the 13-year-old
boy, has been proved to be the father. In other words, it was
not the 13-year-old who said he was the father that turned out
to be the father. As a result of legal measures that have been
taken on behalf of all of those families, principally by Social
Services, the identity of the real father has not been revealed,
and probably will not be able to be revealed. So privacy, if you
like, has been afforded to those people, rightly.
Q829 Alan Keen: First of all, you
talk about the moral compass and that openness was necessary.
When I was talking about the progression of your career, was I
right that the New of the World is really a money-making
machine rather than anything else?
Mr Myler: No, it is not. No, no,
no. Sorry, it is not a money-making machine. We are a commercial
business, like thousands of other businesses around. If we do
not make money, we do not have a business. That is a principle
that any other business operates under. If I could just remind
youand this is something you did not get because I did
not realise it: the News of the World has been around since
1843. On the first front page that it had, its editorial, its
mission statement, raged against social injustice and it pledged
"to give poorer classes of society a paper that supports
their means". For 25 years between 1942 and 1969 the paper
actually ran an advisory service where it employed 40 professors
and 100 typists. In real terms today, that cost £5 million.
There are not many businesses in this day and age that would set
aside that kind of investment as a service to its readers. The
News of the World raised a £1.5 million reward for
Madeleine McCann in 48 hours. In eight years it has campaigned
for 14 different pieces of legislation to be introduced under
Sarah's Law. That is a very heavy commitment, that I would regard
as very compelling, and something that should be applauded when
it comes to what the News of the World does. So it is not
all about whether someone runs off with somebody else's wife.
We have just launched a campaign with the Department for Children,
Schools and Families and the Department of Energy and Climate
Change to save our readers money by going green. We have just
joined with the Forestry Commission to give away a million seedlings
to 25,000 schools. Every single school will get seedlings. So
we actually do some positive good, I like to think.
Q830 Alan Keen: Could I ask you one
last thing? Paul Dacre, when he was here in front of us last week,
agreed with me when I saidthis was an issue that had been
raised by different people during the inquirythat it is
wrong for newspapers to mislead the public with a headline, and
then the allegations that attract people to buy the papers are
not as true as the headline made out. Although he argued the case
to a certain extent, he said he basically agreed with that. One
or two of the lawyers we have had in front of us said that is
something that should be taken account of in libel law, that if
the headline misleads, and the body of the article is different,
that should be taken into account where I understand up till now
it is not.
Mr Crone: No. The ordinary reasonable
reader is expected to read whatever is on a page, in other words
the words underneath the headline as well. If he has to turn inside
to find the truth that is quite different, but if the front page
has both the headline and whatever needs to be put underneath
it to balance it and so forth, then that would not constitute
libel, not normally.
Q831 Alan Keen: That would not be
Mr Crone: Not on its own, no.
Q832 Alan Keen: But one or two lawyers
have said that they thought that it should be because the headline
and the first part of the article misleads. Should a paper be
able to cover that up by one sentence at the end?
Mr Crone: It very rarely happens,
actually. I think headlines usually reflect the story.
Mr Myler: I think you are talking
about some rather egregious excesses in maybe the `70s and `80s.
I do not think that happens any more. I think also people who
buy newspapers are far more intelligent than people often believe,
and they can discern and decide. And they do.
Alan Keen: Well, people are beginning
to disagree with that, I have to say.
Q833 Chairman: Can I quickly move
on to the PCC? How seriously do you take a judgment of the PCC?
Mr Myler: Very seriously. No editor
wants to have an adjudication against them.
Q834 Chairman: How many have you
Mr Myler: I think I have had about
three, and one was a couple of months ago.
Q835 Chairman: And if the PCC contacts
you prior to publication, how many times have you not run a story
because of the intervention of the PCC?
Mr Myler: Maybe, with respect,
if I could turn it round the other way, the dialogue with the
PCC never stops, we talk to them literally up to publication on
certain stories, and their advice is invaluable, often incredibly
wise, sometimes not quite the way we expected things to go, but
we do talk to them all the time and it is invaluable, because
it is an open dialogue.
Q836 Chairman: Invaluable but you
do not necessarily follow it?
Mr Myler: Certainly personally,
if they come up with a reason that I find compelling, I would
rarely disagree with them.
Q837 Chairman: But there will be
instances where you do not find it compelling?
Mr Myler: Yes. Can I give you
another example, a practical one? We had a story of a policeman
who had gone through a transgender process. The Force were aware
of it because his superior had sent out an e-mail explaining that
this was what the individual had been going through, that it was
a rather harrowing experience for him and his family, and when
he/she was welcomed back into the Force he wanted to send as many
people on courses so they could understand how to deal with it.
We had a picture of the individual, not dressed as a man but dressed
as a woman, and it was only indeed to Mr Crone's credit at about
3.30 in the afternoon on the Saturday that he said to me: "We
may have an issue here", and I said "What is that issue?"
and he said "Well, because there is a significant difference
between, say, 500 members of his Force being aware of what is
going on and 8 million readers being drawn into it", and
we pixilated the face of the individual, and I can guarantee that
a year ago that would not have happened.
Q838 Chairman: That I do not think
is to do with the PCC.
Mr Myler: We spoke to the PCC
about it. The PCC actually, strangely on that occasion, felt that
we did not need to pixilate the face. They felt that because a
communication had gone out amongst the Force it was out there.
Q839 Chairman: So you actually decided
that it was not responsible, even though the PCC did not think
it was irresponsible?
Mr Myler: Yes. We pixilated the
face of the individual.