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Lord Wakeham, Press Complaints Commission
Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

DAVID FROST:

Well with us to review the papers this morning we have a very special guest, the Chairman of the Press Complaints Commission himself, Lord Wakeham. John welcome, first of all happy birthday because we're celebrating, isn't it, the tenth anniversary of the Press Complaints Commission?

LORD WAKEHAM:

Absolutely, tenth anniversary.

DAVID FROST:

I suppose, I suppose when you turn to the papers every day you're thinking 'oh what's in here, what's going to be trouble in here, oh they're flying a bit close to the¿'?

LORD WAKEHAM:

I'm afraid there is a bit of that, yes and of course also, looking at the papers today you see a great many stories which are inspired about the fact that everyone is convinced there's going to be an election fairly soon, I hope they're right, I can remember was it September 1978 when Jim Callaghan, everybody thought he was going to call an election and at the last minute he changed his mind, mind you he still lost when he did have it for next year but¿

DAVID FROST:

But he might not have lost if he'd had it then?

LORD WAKEHAM:

Well that's, that's always for speculation but there are, but the election may not come in May although I think probably it will, so that's, that leaves out the Mandelson stories and all that where I think I probably oughtn't to comment in elections as Chairman of the Press Complaints Commission but there are a lot of other stories.

DAVID FROST:

Yes there was one quote here I found, Peter Mandelson on Arthur Scargill's impending challenge for his Hartlepool seat and Peter Mandelson apparently said 'that's the first good piece of news I've had for some time. So what did you go to?

LORD WAKEHAM:

Well I saw in the, also in the Sunday Times in the News Review there was a story that Naomi Campbell is going to complain to me about reports and intrusion into her private life, into her health as is Geri Halliwell and they're two famous names who are complaining. The thing I, the point I'd make about that is of course they're entitled to complain and I shall look at it and I shall talk to the editors and we shall look at both sides before we come to do a conclusion but some people think it is only the famous who complain to us. 95 per cent of all the complaints we have come from ordinary people who you have never heard of and the reason they do it is it's quick, we can do it in, on average, 40 days, it's cheap, it costs nothing except a postage stamp to write to me and we get on and we sort them out very quickly. So there's two good cases that are coming and I shall obviously deal with them.

DAVID FROST:

Yes I mean I think that the point they seem to be trying to make in that article is that, that celebrities or ordinary people, everybody, deserves privacy when they're having emergency counselling, treatment, narcotics anonymous, alcoholics anonymous and so on, and that people who get photographed on the way in and way out may give up the treatment they so desperately need?

LORD WAKEHAM:

I think that's a very fair point, we certainly had a very important judgement of Countess Spencer years ago where we said absolutely firmly, she's entitled to have her illness in private, if you've got to have an illness at least you must be, the publicity must be kept away from you and we're also very, very strong about intrusion into the lives of children, but health and children are two, are very, very important matters.

DAVID FROST:

Yes because apparently some of them are going to claim that, that press people have gone in posing as addicts or posing as people or alcoholics or whatever just in order to hear a famous person stand up and then rush off and then tell the papers which seems a bit much?

LORD WAKEHAM:

Sometimes they do, well at one time we had a photographer went in in a white coat to photograph somebody in hospital but that was some years ago and it's never, we condemned that out of hand and it has never happened since so they do learn from mistakes.

DAVID FROST:

What's next?

LORD WAKEHAM:

Well next is a nice little story in the Sunday Telegraph where we're going to have this much written up party next week and when Prince William went to Eton I said he is entitled not to special treatment but the same treatment as every other child in the country and I pointed out that we had just some months previously condemned a newspaper in Accrington for intruding into the life of schoolboy there and I said for Prince William we demand the same rights as the boy from Accrington. Well we've got the boy from Accrington coming to our party next week and he will actually meet Prince, Prince William and I see the Sunday Telegraph has got hold of it from somewhere, so that, that's fine. And again I'm afraid about our much talked about party, the best report I think is in the Independent on Sunday where they have a lot of celebrities. Now the thing that isn't absolutely clear, all of those celebrities have complained to us and every one of them was satisfied with the way in which we dealt with it. Secondly there will be at least as many people there that you will have never heard of who are also satisfied customers, so we don't win them all but we do win some.

DAVID FROST:

In the period, in the period of ten years do you think in addition to the battles you fought and so on, do you think in general there's been a sea-change in the press, or only, only in these particular areas?

LORD WAKEHAM:

No I think there has been a, a better, it's not perfect by any manner of means but I think editors now, because after all the code they operate is their code, it's not my code, they have said what the standard should be and I am to enforce the standards that they maintain. I think they are very conscious of a code and they do certainly consider very carefully whether a story should be reported or not, of course we have our disagreements but I think they do, they do maintain standards better than they did before.

DAVID FROST:

Now the law has got into one thing, the case of the two boys who murdered poor Jamie Bulger, the, do you think that that judgement in court, that they could never be covered again in their whole lifetime, but to have total anonymity is right or over the top?

LORD WAKEHAM:

Well I think it's a very, very close call in my view, I, I, the judgement was made by the judge on the basis of the protecting of the children under Article 2, it's nothing to do with privacy, they're not entitled to privacy for privacy's sake but they are entitled to be protected and the judge held that they were physically likely to be in danger if they weren't protected and so I think that I can see why the judge reached that conclusion but it's a very dangerous judgement and I hope the matter will be reviewed from time to time because I think that restrictions on the press of that sort are a very, very slippery slope and I, and I'm not very happy about it at all.

DAVID FROST:

And so what's the main problem that you're going to be facing in the next year or so, I suppose one of the things is, can Prince William be protected in the same way now he's growing up and at university as at school, are the rules the same?

LORD WAKEHAM:

No they're not quite the same but they are still, he is still entitled to his privacy, he's still entitled to, to go about his ordinary private life without intrusion and his private life will include, in my view, going to lectures and doing things of that sort, what a normal boy would do. Of course Prince William has, I think, recognised that if you occasionally allow the press to take pictures of you on certain occasions it takes the heat off the situation and you can get on with your private life that much easier, like he did so splendidly in Chile, he gave some photographs and by and large the press respected his privacy there. Only one newspaper slipped up a bit but the rest of them were very good, they got their pictures but in an organised way.

DAVID FROST:

Talking of actors that was OK magazine wasn't it, have you, have you met your latest proprietor yet, Richard Desmond?

LORD WAKEHAM:

Yes I have but I met him at a party, I think I'm going to have lunch with him fairly soon so I shall get to know him a bit better and he may even be coming next week.

DAVID FROST:

Well thank you for being with us and happy anniversary.

LORD WAKEHAM:

Thank you.

DAVID FROST:

John Wakeham there.

END.

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