The story of Prince Harry’s strip billiards may be splashed all over the British papers, but the normally scandal-hungry tabloids have, so far, decided not to publish the photos of the naked royal in a Las Vegas hotel room. In fact, not a single newspaper or broadcaster has shown the photos yet.
St. James’s Palace has warned that any media organization that runs the photos would risk violating the prince’s privacy. Great Britain has a self-regulatory code for the press that says individuals are entitled to a “reasonable expectation of privacy.”
The Sun newspaper has had to make do by showing a mock-up on its front page, showing a reporter recreating the scene.
So why the reticence to run the photos that have already attracted millions of hits to the TMZ website that first published them? After all, newspaper editors in Britain could have argued that publishing the images is in the public interest because Prince Harry is a military officer and third in line to the throne. And they could also point out that the photos are already in the public domain.
Media watchers believe that the tabloids, as well as public opinion and advertisers, have become more cautious about running scandal stories since an inquiry was launched into the practice and ethics of the press after the recent phone hacking scandal in Britain. The so-called Leveson inquiry is now looking at ways to replace the old self-regulatory code, and the theory goes that newspapers are afraid of provoking stricter regulation.
Influential blogger Guido Fawkes believes the tabloid media are running scared.
“This situation illustrates the threat to a free press in Britain,” Fawkes said. “The truth is the old media have been scared into submission by the Leveson inquiry. This is the third in line to the throne, the son of Prince Charles and one of the biggest names in British public life.”
In the age of the Internet, when anyone in Britain can easily access the photos online, the whole issue may seem irrelevant. But the story is being debated in the British media and radio talk shows because of the questions it raises about the press and privacy, the royal family and what’s considered acceptable behavior.
And because it involves a royal taking all his clothes off in Vegas.