ANDREW PARSONS AGAINST HERALD ON SUNDAYAndrew Parsons (the complainant) complained about a photo published in the Spy section of the Herald on Sunday on October 5, 2014.
The complainant alleged that the photo was completely irrelevant to the content of Spy and was indecent and breached Principle 5 – Headlines and Captions and Principle 10 – Photographs and Graphics.
The complaint was not upheld.
The Herald on Sunday was celebrating its 10th anniversary edition and used this theme throughout that edition.
The photo was on the front page of Spy section of the newspaper and was of a naked female covered strategically by red balloons with the newspaper logo on them and multiple similar- balloons around her and the words “Happy Birthday” included. The balloons were large and a person would have to look very closely at the photo to ascertain whether the female was wearing any form of attire such as a bikini or not.
The Spy section is the newspaper’s social pages section and contains coverage of parties, celebrities, gossip and social news. The caption read “Happy Birthday. The hottest people to party with” which was a reference to the fact that the newspaper was celebrating its 10th anniversary.
The complainant alleged that the photo breached Principle 5 – Headlines and Captions which states that Headlines, sub-headings, and captions should accurately and fairly convey the substance or a key element of the report they are designed to cover.
He also alleged a breach of Principle 10 – Photographs and Graphics which states Editors should take care in photographic and image selection and treatment. Any technical manipulation that could mislead readers should be noted and explained.
He alleged that the photo was irrelevant to the fact that it was the newspapers 10th anniversary, was indecent and involved the use of “sexualisation”. He explained sexualisation as “A naked body is not a “fun way” to illustrate a point but is designed to titillate”.
He complained to the newspaper and received a reply stating that it did not agree with his opinion and giving reason for this.
When given the opportunity to comment on the submission made to the Press Council by the newspaper, the complainant reiterated his grounds for complaint.
The Newspaper’s Response
In reply to the complaint, the editor said the newspaper believed the photo was relevant to their 10th anniversary celebration in that it was a female surrounded and covered with balloons signifying a party with the words “Happy Birthday” included.
The editor rejected the allegation that the photo was indecent and noted that balloons were used to ensure decency. The balloon theme was used throughout the newspaper on every page containing special anniversary coverage to signal the newspaper’s anniversary edition.
The Spy section of the newspaper are the social pages covering events, celebrities and gossip, and while the photo at the beginning of that section signified a party, there was also information on that same page as to the rest of the content in Spy.
The editor believed that everything on the front page was in keeping with the Spy content and the balloon theme used throughout that edition.
She stated that she was unable to comment on the allegation of “sexualisation” as she was not entirely sure what the complainant’s meaning was but reiterated that her view was that the photo and caption were “simply a fun way to illustrate the content [10th anniversary] pertaining to it”.
Discussion and Decision
The complaint related to the photo appearing on the front page of Spy and the complainant’s opinion of that photo.
The photo in fact showed less naked flesh than one would see on a beach and it is hard to see how it could be termed indecent. Any person looking at the photo would have to study it closely to ascertain if the person posing for the photo was in fact completely naked or not.
The photo showed a smiling female surrounded by balloons along with the words “Happy Birthday” and invited the reader to celebrate a birthday. The page also included information about the content of Spy along with other photos.
The newspaper asserted that the smiling model and balloons were in keeping with a birthday theme and it is hard not to see some validity in this argument. The balloon theme was used throughout that issue to signify the newspaper’s 10th anniversary content.
Neither Principle 5 nor Principle 10 have been breached.
The complaint is not upheld.
Press Council members considering the complaint were Sir John Hansen, Tim Beaglehole, Liz Brown, Chris Darlow, Peter Fa’afiu, Jenny Farrell, Sandy Gill, Vernon Small, Mark Stevens and Stephen Stewart.
John Roughan took no part in the consideration of this complaint.