Leveson Inquiry: Celebrities Hugh Grant, Charlotte Church, Pitted Against Newspaper Editors

29/11/2012 10:05 | Updated 29 November 2012
  • Jessica Elgot Jessica Elgot is Assistant News Editor at The Huffington Post UK

Movie stars, singers and models have long been attacked for being foolish, materialistic and dumb, mostly by tabloid editors.

But the Leveson Inquiry has been more than an opportunity for celebrities like Hugh Grant and Charlotte Church to air their grievances about press intrusion.

It has been a golden opportunity for them, and others, to prove they are not just a pretty face, to reinvent themselves as campaigners and lobbyists, and to face down the editors who they claim made their lives a misery.

One of the most prominent voices in the debate on press reform has been Hugh Grant, who sits on the board of directors of Hacked Off.

The group, which counts former Reuters and Independent journalist-turned academic Brian Cathcart among its founders, says its aim is a "free and accountable press".

hacked off

Hugh Grant speaking on behalf of Hacked Off at the Conservative Party conference

Its detractors say it will pave the way for state regulation of the press but Hacked Off says it has not proposed any particular form of regulation, instead calling for an "effective" system "independent of both the government and the press industry".

Grant has become the face of the celebrity movement, appearing on Newsnight, Question Time and a host of media to make the case for tougher regulation, even being pursuaded to join Twitter as @HackedOffHugh to pursue the cause.

The actor, who listed his location as 'Anywhere but Wapping' follows just 31 people, including nemesis and News International owner Rupert Murdoch, and other Leveson Inquiry journalists like Ian Burrell of the Independent and the BBC's Nick Robinson, and fellow celebrity privacy campaigner Charlotte Church.

Many, including tabloid editors and chat show host Piers Morgan, have ridiculed the actor, known for romantic comedy's like Bridget Jones Diary and Four Weddings and a Funeral, for using the cause for career purposes.

Grant, who gave evidence to the inquiry, said he wants to see "independent regulation underpinned by statute" which would likely involve parliament giving more powers to whatever body replaces the Press Complaints Commission.

Charlotte Church, who told the inquiry into media standards that she was pressured into waiving a £100000 fee to sing at Rupert Murdoch's wedding, has also used the inquiry to spearhead a privacy campaign, and will appear on Question Time to debate the issue on Thursday night, after the report is published.

Actor Steve Coogan has also taken on the campaign, appearing on numerous political talk shows and the Liberal Democrat conference to petition Nick Clegg.

But many have commented that the appearance of celebrities like Grant, Church, Coogan, Sienna Miller and Abi Titmuss, detracted from some of the victims of crime whose phones were allegedly hacked by the News of the World journalists.

Graham Foulkes, whose 22-year-old son David was one of the 52 people killed in the 2005 7/7 attacks criticised the inquiry for turning into a "celebrity circus".

He told BBC Breakfast: "Leveson went from being a really serious piece of work for Joe Public to OK! magazine overnight.

"The whole focus of the issue was which celebrity was on, what was he saying, what was she saying?

"And then it became the Rebekah Brooks show and the David Cameron show and the horse-riding show."

Leveson Inquiry

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