The Press Council has considered whether its Standards of Practice were breached by an article in New Weekly (NW) magazine on 5 January 2015, headlined “Full-colour photo prince”.
In the article a large photo depicts a group of young African children sitting with UK Prince Harry, who is holding a camera, apparently showing them pictures on its screen. The image is captioned with speech bubbles, and Prince Harry’s speech bubble says to the children ‘these are the “private” Christmas pics’. A second speech bubble positioned below one of the young boys says ‘Hot damn! Granny is a GILF’ (an acronym for Grandmother I’d Like to F-ck). Text accompanying the picture says “Prince Harry is pretty focused on his charity Sentebale – which translates as ‘Touching Tiny Lives’ and provides health care and education for kids - as he visits youngsters in Lesotho”.
The Council asked the publication to comment on whether the material breached its Standards of Practice that require reasonable steps be taken to “avoid causing substantial offence, distress or prejudice… unless doing so is sufficiently in the public interest".
The publication said that NW is principally a celebrity gossip magazine and a “satirical” publication, and is clearly understood as such by its readers. It said the relevant photograph and caption (“Hot damn! Granny is a GILF”) appeared in the magazine’s ‘Week in Pics’ section, in which the tone is “silly and fun”. The publication said the captions were clearly not the Prince’s own words and were intended as a light hearted joke, characteristic of the type of material commonly featured in the magazine.
The publication said it did not consider the treatment offensive or as sexualising the children featured in the photograph. It said publication of the material was within the bounds of freedom of expression and it had received no other complaints about the material. It said ‘GILF’ and other similar acronyms - such as ‘MILF’ and ‘DILF’ - were now part of common parlance and were not intended to be read literally as a sexual term, but instead carried the connotation that a woman was “pretty”. NW said such terms had been used in headlines and other editorial matter, although the publication was unable to indicate whether it had been previously applied in connection with children, as occurred in this case.
The Council considers that the image involves children in a sexual theme, and many readers would consider the material to be inappropriate and offensive for this reason. The Council notes that if the image had depicted adults in a similar way, the level of offence probably would have been greatly diminished, suggesting that greater care needs to be exercised in the treatment of children when publishing such material.
On balance, however, the Council concludes that the level of offence must be considered in the overall context of the magazine and its readership, and was not so substantially offensive as to breach the Council’s Standards.
Relevant Council Standards (not required for publication):
This adjudication applies the following General Principles of the Council.
“Publications must take reasonable steps to:
6: Avoid causing or contributing materially to substantial offence, distress or prejudice, or a substantial risk to health or safety, unless doing so is sufficiently in the public interest.”