Decision of the Complaints Committee 06604-18 McPartlin and Corbett v Now
Summary of complaint
1. Ant McPartlin and Anne-Marie Corbett complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Now breached Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined, “Tum-thing to tell us, Anne-Marie?” published on 8 October 2018.
2. The article reported
on social media speculation that Ms Corbett may be pregnant. It included a
photograph of the complainant, which the article said had been published online
and had led to comments such as “she looks pregnant,” and “pregnant I see” by
members of the public. The article was also trailed on the front page with the
headline, “Is Ant’s girlfriend pregnant?” and included a photograph of each
3. The article also
appeared online with the headline, “Tum-thing to tell us? Are Ant McPartlin and
girlfriend Anne-Marie Corbett expecting a baby?” published on 6 October 2018.
The online article did not include the photographs that appeared in print. It
was otherwise substantially the same as the print article.
4. The complainants
said that the article breached Clause 2 (Privacy). They were particularly
concerned that the article had been published in the context of recent,
extensive media coverage relating to various aspects of Mr McPartlin’s private
life. They said that Ms Corbett was not a public figure, and that the nature of
the speculation in the article was particularly upsetting for the complainants.
They said that whether or not someone was pregnant was a deeply personal and
private matter. They said that reporting on a possible early pregnancy was
particularly intrusive, due to the medically accepted heightened risk of
5. The complainants
accepted that there had been some speculation about the possible pregnancy on
social media. However, they said that this was limited, and did not affect
their expectation of privacy in relation to this information. They said that
the publication had not merely reported this speculation, but adopted and added
to it itself, as shown through the headlines on both the front page and inside
article. They emphasised that the speculation included in the article would
lead to further questions from members of the public and other media outlets,
which they said constituted a further intrusion for them and their families.
6. While the
complainants accepted that Mr McPartlin was well-known as an entertainer, they
said that Ms Corbett was a private individual, with no independent public profile.
Therefore, they said that the fact the media had speculated on the possible
pregnancies of certain well-known individuals in the past did not diminish the
intrusive effect of the article. Further, they said that the publication of
this private information could not reasonably be justified in the public
7. The publication
did not accept that it had breached the Code. It said that the article did not
contain any information about which the complainants had a reasonable
expectation of privacy, and therefore Clause 2 was not engaged. It said that it
had not revealed the fact of a pregnancy, but had simply reported comments made
by members of the public on social media, which it did not accept could be
considered private information. It provided screenshots of more than 100
comments that had been posted online by members of the public, speculating that
the woman looked pregnant. In some cases the comments had been subject to
“voting” by other members of the public; they had been “upvoted” up to 200
times. It argued that it had no knowledge as to whether or not the complainant
was pregnant, but had simply reported on speculation that was well-established
in the public domain.
8. While the
publication accepted that the reporting of speculation could, in certain
circumstances, constitute a breach of Clause 2, it did not accept that this was
the case in this instance. It said that the article had not reported the
pregnancy as fact, but clearly as the conjecture of others. It said that it had
explained that the claims had been made by members of the public, who plainly
had no direct knowledge of the matter, and that the article had included the
photograph that had led to this speculation. It said that the article had not
reported or suggested that any source with direct knowledge of the matter had
commented on it. In these circumstances, readers were able to come to their own
conclusion about the credibility of the claims. It also said that its readers
would read the article in the context of the publication in which it appeared,
and would not consider it to be an authorative or influential source of news.
It denied that the article would “force the hand” of the complainants by
putting them in a position where they felt obliged to confirm or deny the
9. The publication
stressed that it was entitled to discuss and report on the lives of people who
may be of interest to its readers. It said that light-hearted and affectionate
articles such as the one under complaint were of great importance to its
readership, and said that reporting on such matters was of public interest. It
provided a number of examples of similar stories in other publications, which
speculated on the possible pregnancies of various women in the public eye.
While the publication did not wish to advance a specific public interest
justification, as it did not accept Clause 2 was engaged, it said that the
article itself was an example of freedom of expression, which is recognised and
protected under the Editors’ Code.
10. Regardless, during direct correspondence between the
parties the publication offered a meeting with senior editorial executives at
the magazine, and a published apology to attempt to resolve the complaint.
Relevant Code Provisions
11. Clause 2 (Privacy)*
i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications.
ii) Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent. In considering an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy, account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information and the extent to which the material complained about is already in the public domain or will become so.
iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals, without their consent, in public or private places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Findings of the Committee
12. The Committee acknowledged that the complainants had found the publication of the article distressing.
13. The complainants’
position was that the publication of speculation about a possible pregnancy,
regardless of whether or not it was accurate, was intrusive. The Committee
emphasised that an individual may have a reasonable expectation of privacy in
relation to information about a pregnancy, specifically in relation to
information regarding a pregnancy in the early months, given the risks of
complications. Further, it acknowledged that the publication of speculation
may, in and of itself, be intrusive, depending on the full circumstances.
14. In this instance, the publication had been able to
demonstrate that around the time the article was published, published
photographs had given rise to widespread speculation by members of the public
as to whether the couple were expecting a child together. These included
comments on various articles published online, some of which had been “upvoted”
dozens of times by other users, apparently endorsing the speculation. The
article directly quoted a number of these comments, and made clear to readers
that these were the views of “fans” who had made comments online in response to
the publication of the photograph of the woman, which was also included in the
article under complaint. The publication itself had not expressed a view on the
credibility of these claims; nor had it added details to the speculation, or
endorsed the views of these members of the public.
15. There was no suggestion, in the article or otherwise,
that the publication was in possession of any information about the accuracy of
this claim. The Committee did not consider that the article was an attempt by
the publication to report on or reveal the fact of a pregnancy without the
complainants’ consent. Given the fact that the article was reporting on claims
which were in the public domain, and given the way in which the claims were
presented in article, the Committee concluded that the magazine’s publication
of an article referring to this speculation did not constitute an intrusion
into the complainants’ private life. There was no breach of Clause 2.
16. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 04/10/2018
Date complaint concluded: 24/01/19Back to ruling listing