Media in the Press 15.2.11

POST-graduate Journalism student, Claudie Qumsieh, from Edinburgh Napier University reviews today’s papers…

A judge in the US has thrown out a £16 million libel and slander lawsuit against celebrity magazine, In Touch, by footballer, David Beckham. It follows claims he had an affair with a prostitute. As reported in today’s Herald (page 3), the allegations were that the footballer had slept with prostitute Irma Nici on five occasions at hotels in New York and London in August and September 2007.

Beckham’s lawyer argued that the US magazine had failed to make basic checks. Had they done so, he argued, they would have shown that Beckham was not where the magazine claimed he had been at the times of the alleged rendezvous.

As reported in the Daily Record (page 7), on one of the occasions he was apparently at a football match and on another he was understood to be visiting his father in hospital. As LA Galaxy player Beckham is seen as a ‘public figure’ in the US this means to bring an action of defamation he has to prove the claims were published with ‘actual malice’. In other words, the magazine would have to have known the claims were false. The judge said the footballer’s legal team had failed to show this.

The Scottish Daily Mail (page 5) reports that the judge’s summary stated that, as a public figure, there was a public interest in his personal life and that Nici had a constitutional right to free speech. In Touch’s publisher, Bauer, is reported to have argued: “What is undisputed are the facts that they relied on two on-record sources”. It is further reported to have added that the claims were “entirely consistent with Mr Beckham’s reputation as a philanderer”.

It is understood that Beckham’s lawyer, Richard Kendall,is planning to appeal and that Nici’s lawyer is planning to counter-sue Beckham claiming outside the court that: “When Mr Beckham sued my client he hired people to hunt her down. He did so in an outrageous and terrifying way.”

Elsewhere, the shamed ex-Sky Sports presenters, Andy Gray and Richard Keys, made their radio debut on talkSPORT yesterday. During their show between 10pm and 1am they did not take calls from the public and did not mention the sexism row that led to them leaving Sky. Before the broadcast, Keys appeared on Alan Brazil’s breakfast show and is reported saying of his new role: “I can have an opinion rather than just ask questions.” The Daily Record (page 3) also covers the story and reports that the show was “female-free” and that “no female voice was heard at any stage”. The Scotsman (page 16) describes the duo as having “faces for radio”.

The Scotsman (page 8) reports that the BAFTAs – broadcast on Sunday – enjoyed their largest TV audience for seven years, with an estimated 5.3 million viewers. The success has been attributed to the buzz surrounding The King’s Speech which was nominated for 14 awards and came away with seven, including Best Film and Best Actor for Colin Firth.

And finally, Stuart Heritage of The Guardian (page 9) reviews Channel 5’s new show, OK! TV, and concludes that it “aims low and misses” going on to say that “[Owner] Richard Desmond’s attempt to synergise his magazine and his television station is colossally vapid”.