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Thursday, 27 September, 2001, 12:41 GMT 13:41 UK
Loophole in prince's privacy deal
Ardent Productions sign
Ardent Productions is at the centre of the row
By the BBC's media correspondent, Torin Douglas

The much-publicised agreement between the Royal Family and the media to protect Prince William's privacy is not quite what it seems.

There are guidelines for newspapers and magazines, drawn up by the Press Complaints Commission, but no equivalent arrangement for broadcasters and TV crews.

Even the Broadcasting Standards Commission, which handles complaints from people who think their privacy has been invaded by a television or radio programme, is powerless in the current situation.

Prince Edward
Prince Edward is managing director of the company
Not only does it need a complaint before it can investigate - either from Prince William or someone he has authorised to complain - but it can take action only once a programme has been broadcast.

The BSC has no powers over the way broadcasters and TV crews behave in the gathering of material before a programme has been made.

And if, as is understood, the filming was for an American cable TV channel, it cannot act even after the programme has been shown.

Donia Moinian, the BSC's communications director, said: "The programme would have to be broadcast in the UK before we could investigate it.

'Pleased with newspapers'

"If it's not receivable here, it's outside our jurisdiction."

The Press Complaints Commission makes clear that it has no powers over broadcasters.

Its director, Guy Black, said: "This is a matter for the broadcasting regulators.

Prince William and Prince Charles
Prince William accompanied Prince Charles on an official visit to Scotland last week
"Our rules can apply only to newspapers and magazines, and we're very pleased with the way they have co-operated."

It was the PCC chairman Lord Wakeham who masterminded the strategy aimed at protecting Prince William's privacy - first when he was at school at Eton and then, when he left school in June last year.

School children have special protection under the Editors' Code of Practice, and the PCC made it clear to newspapers and magazines that William "must absolutely not become 'fair game'" when he left Eton.

Lord Wakeham said that the balancing act between individual privacy and legitimate coverage of the future King would be made easier if there was continuing co-operation between the press and St James's Palace.

William interviewed

That would "ensure both that the public sees and reads about Prince William's progress to and through university, and that what is written about him is accurate".

He made clear that the Palace was committed to "ensuring that regular facilities for the media will be made available to record his progress and continuing education".

Those facilities have been made available.

Art History sign
Prince William is taking a four-year course
William was filmed, photographed and interviewed on his 18th birthday and in Chile on his gap year.

Last weekend he fulfilled several engagements in front of the cameras in Glasgow and Edinburgh before arriving at St Andrews.

This was all seen as part of the "thank you" to the media for respecting his privacy - the broadcasters as well as the newspapers.

Now a loophole has been exposed.

And though Ardent is flatly denying that it broke the restrictions on filming, claiming it had prior agreement from the university press office, there is no broadcasting regulator that can rule on the situation either way.

See also:

27 Sep 01 | Scotland
Edward's firm denies media breach
24 Sep 01 | Scotland
Student prince starts university
21 Sep 01 | Scotland
No food at the inn for prince
31 Jan 01 | Scotland
William 'guards' request more cash
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