Channel 4 news anchor Jon Snow comes out in favour of privacy restrictions on reporting in this Guardian interview with Ann Widdecombe. And strongly in favour, too, even disallowing the public interest defence in cases of hypocrisy:
AW Would you welcome a privacy act, Jon Snow?
JS I would welcome a privacy act, yes.
AW We have the scoop! Jon Snow says, “Bring in a privacy act.”
JS I believe that the tabloid media, in particular, have so intruded into the private lives of public people that they have brought it upon themselves that there should indeed be a privacy act.
AW I think that is absolutely right. I think…
JS Damn me, Ann Widdecombe, I didn’t think we’d have to sit here and agree.
AW And I consider that quite a coup, to have got Jon Snow to agree with me that we need to curtail the rights of the media. Thank you, Jon Snow…
JS I am totally opposed to, and would go to the gallows to prevent, censorship. But needless intrusion into the private lives of anybody…
AW Let me ask you this. Let’s imagine a politician – I don’t care whether it’s male or female, Jon, but let’s imagine a politician. You’ve got a politician who has never made any pronouncements about morality, who has a mistress. Is that the public’s business?
JS Not at all.
AW You’ve just put a lot of the tabloids out of business.
JS Well, they’re going out of business anyway, so that won’t mean much…
I think the hypocrisy exemption is valid, if only because in those cases the private behaviour becomes the counter-argument to the political statements of the public figure (it’s possible that this is only a sop to my own prurience). But I approve very much of what I see as the logical extension of Snow’s statement: the hope for a culture where private, consensual actions are off-limits for both the state and the press.
Text © Sarah Ditum, 2009