With Naked Royals, Gagging the Press Is Pointless

Thomas Samson / AFP / Getty Images

The blindingly obvious just has to be stated sometimes.

Cue Michael Grade, a former chairman of the BBC, who said today that it is impossible to stop “unethically obtained” images such as those of Kate Middleton topless and Prince Harry playing naked party games circulating on the Internet, and suggested that measures to restrict the U.K. press would be pointless.

Lord Grade made his comments during a parliamentary debate today in advance of the publication of the Leveson Inquiry next month.

Grade, a member of the Press Complaints Commission, said: "I am hopeful that Lord [Justice] Leveson's deliberations will redefine, and then codify in writing for the first time, the role of a new, enhanced, self-regulatory body.

“We have just had two press controversies involving unethically obtained photographs of members of our Royal Family—Prince Harry in Las Vegas and the Duchess of Cambridge in France—which have vividly highlighted the problem of content regulation in a global digital media market.

“'I doubt it has escaped Lord Justice Leveson's attention that the photographs of the duchess were published in countries with regulatory regimes offered as possible solutions for the U.K.”

He added: “On this evidence, his menu of available options seems to be shrinking.”

He argued that the pictures of the duchess were first published in France, which was “the country cited as having the model of strict privacy legislation.”

But he said the rules were “ignored” by an editor who could offset any court-imposed fine or penalty with increased circulation revenues.

The photographs were later published in Ireland, which Lord Grade said had a system regarded as the possible model for Britain.