Friday, April 13, 2018


What did we learn from Day One of Sir Cliff v The BBC ?  Well, it emerged that South Yorkshire Police settled their dispute with the pop singer with a payment of £400k, plus some legal fees. That's on top of apologising and accepting that their conduct was 'unlawful'. If the BBC loses, then their price will be much higher - Sir Cliff's opening bid before damages includes £280k in legal fees, £100k in PR costs, a 'lost' autobiography advance and more.

On the BBC side, QC Gavin Millar had the dry side of the day; there was, he said "a general consensus" that reporting on such matters was in the public interest, and part of a common law right to freedom of expression; Parliament had never legislated to restrict such reporting.  The BBC's contribution was accurate and in good faith, was on a matter of legitimate public interest and respected the rights of Sir Cliff as a suspect, in particular the presumption of innocence.

On Sir Cliff's side, QC Justin Rushbrooke had all the adjectives; this was a BBC 'obsessive' about scoops; emails talked about getting 'the money shot' of police going into the singer's flat. “What we are talking about is using TV cameras to spy into someone’s home at the time when their target is in the most vulnerable position imaginable and then serve it up to the British public as the most sensational story imaginable.”

So we have the BBC warning that a decision against it will set a new precedent restricting press freedom; whilst Sir Cliff's team are on about disportionate, intrusive coverage, without saying nothing could be reported. Will the following days tempt Mr Justice Mann to get his name into media textbooks big style ?

BBC Newsgathering chief Jonathan Munro was at the hearing yesterday, and can expect to spend some time in the witness box; Director of News Fran Unsworth and former UK News boss Gary Smith are likely to appear next week.

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