page highlights selected incidents of apologies and costs/damages
payments by newspapers and by broadcasters.
It illustrates the vicissitudes of publishers (some claims
may indeed have been true but unprovable in court) and risk-taking
or mere disregard for the reputation of celebrities.
It covers -
A truism in media studies is that tabloid newspapers, 'celebrity
magazine' publishers and commercial broadcasters regard
substantial defamation payouts as an acceptable cost of
Perceptions that those publishers are not 'defamation wary'
- or will fight defamation claims on principle (and because
they can afford to) - are reflected in claims that they
will knowingly publish problematical statements and generally
settle rather than defend. Some have commented that broadcasters
and newspapers will defend, even though their legal position
is weak, simply to preserve their own reputations.
The accuracy of such perceptions varies from jurisdiction
to jurisdiction and over time. In the UK for example Sweet
& Maxwell has identified changes in newspaper, magazine
and broadcaster responses to risks. It claims that in 2005
UK newspapers fought 56% of reported defamation claims,
up from 39% in 2000 and attributed by some to the the "qualified
privilege" defence established in the 1999 Reynolds
v Times decision.
In contrast, Sweet & Maxwell indicated that the number
of reported cases against UK magazines fell from 10 in 2000
to three in 2005 and that those involving broadcasters declined
to four in 2005 from 10 in 2000.
Media theorists have suggested that public figures need
to have a reputation to lose, a reputation that may be eroded
through a succession of reports that on an item by item
basis are not defamatory but tarnish a person's "good
That erosion means that the individual may be in a weak
position in responding to an egregious claim.
Some observers have thus decried what they perceive as a
'drip feed' approach to besmirch the reputation of figures
who have offended an editor or proprietor, particularly
by winning a substantial defamation payment against the
publisher or broadcaster.
Others have dismissed such perceptions as conspiracist.
They instead argue that tabloids are pack animals and operate
on a reactive basis, attacking the same targets as their
peers and seeking to outdo those peers with additional 'dirt'
or more outlandish claims (sometimes so outlandish that
the publisher appears in court).
+ 16 senior barristers (including a former
Supreme Court judge) and business figures win $480,000 and
an apology from Sydney Daily Telegraph in settlement
after newspaper publishes 'Pervert and his 59 mates' article
and reader blog posts regarding disgraced public prosecutor
+ A £750,000 damages claim by Patricia
Tierney against the UK Sun (over claims that she
had been intimate with footballer Wayne Rooney while working
as a prostitute) was dismissed in 2007. Tierney had denied
the paper's 2004 claim that she had been a sex worker at
a Liverpool brothel visited by Rooney, asserting that she
had only worked as a receptionist.
While the case was being heard it was revealed that in a
2002 statement to police she had admitted working as a prostitute.
Her legal counsel withdrew and the judge dismissed the case.
+ US actrss Cameron Diaz gains "substantial"
libel damages in UK from American Media Incorporated, publisher
of the National Enquirer, over claim on its website
that had a "smooching session" with a married
man. In reaching the settlement AMI accepted that its photos
did not show Diaz kissing or in a passionate clinch, that
the relevant incident involved no more than her giving a
friend a goodbye hug, and that any suggestion of a romantic
involvement was entirely untrue and without substance.
+ former Guantanamo Bay inmate Mamdouh
Habib loses appeal against jury's rejection of his defamation
claim involving Sydney Daily Telegraph over August
2005 article that allegedly implied he was a welfare cheat.
+ Edinburgh court awards former Scottish
Socialist Party leader Tommy Sheridan £200,000 damages
over News of the World claims that he cheated on
his wife, visited swingers' clubs and partipated in orgies.
Sheridan proclaimed that far from being compulsively priapic,
his weaknesses were more in the vein of an intense fondness
for playing scrabble.
The News foreshadowed an appeal, suspended pending
an official inquiry. Sheridan was charged with perjury
in December 2007, commenting
believe this whole farcical inquiry, which has usurped
an incredible amount of public resources, has been orchestrated
and influenced by the powerful reach of the Murdoch empire.
+ The Sun apologises and pays
compensation to former manager of band Take That for printing
allegations that he "either stole the profits from
a European tour or incompetently failed to make any, and
lied to the band when asked about it" -
fact, there is absolutely no truth in these allegations.
The European tour did make money, the band were paid and
the accounts were scrutinised by accountants and found
to be unimpeachable.
+ UK Sunday Sport agrees to pay
"substantial sum" in compensation and legal costs
and apologised publicly to former Big Brother contestant
Lesley Sanderson after falsely reporting that she had been
involved in a "three-in-a-bed sex romp" with two
+ London Evening Standard agrees
to pay £75,000 damages and legal costs to Gordon Ramsay
over claims he engaged in "gastronomic mendacity"
in his Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares television series.
+ Sadie Frost, ex-wife of Jude Law, accepts
costs and substantial compensation over claim in the
Mail on Sunday that she attacked a young model
in a toilet during the Project Catwalk fashion event
in August 2005 and that her behaviour warranted professional
treatment for anger management.
+ US National Enquirer pays costs
and damages to actress Kate Hudson after action in High
Court in London over claim ("Goldie tells Kate: Eat
something! And she listens!") that she deliberately
starved herself and was "dangerously" thin.
+ UK hypnotist and self-help entrepreneur
Paul McKenna sues the Daily Mirror over claim that
he bought a "bogus degree",
arguing that he was "pilloried as a fraud". He
complained that former Mirror journalist Victor
Lewis-Smith questioned the worth of McKenna's doctorate
from Lasalle University, Louisiana.
The Mirror's headline read "It's a load of
doc and bull", with Lewis-Smith commenting
discovered that anyone could be fully doctored by Lasalle
within months (no previous qualifications needed), just
so long as they could answer the following question correctly:
'Do you have 2,615 dollars, Sir?'
Mr Justice Eady ruled against the paper, saying he did not
believe the hypnotist was dishonest and that his work was
McKenna was not, in my judgment, dishonest and, for that
matter, whatever one may think of the academic quality
of his work, or of the degree granted by La Salle, it
would not be accurate to describe it as 'bogus'.
energy has been expended to very little purpose. No doubt
there would have been various windows of opportunity for
sensible compromise and setting the record straight. Yet
the parties seem to have been determined to fight to a
standstill ... Costs are no doubt massive on both sides
[yet] what all this has achieved is open to question.
UK The Independent ordered to pay a judge Jack
Bayliss legal costs and undisclosed damages and to apologise
over claim that he had presided over a "kangaroo court"
in handling the court martial of RAF Flight Lieutenant Malcolm
Kendall-Smith (sentenced to eight months in jail for refusing
to serve in Iraq).
+ Elton John receives £100,000 in
libel damages plus costs from the Daily Mail over
claims that he banned guests from talking to him at a charity
+ London Evening Standard apologises
and pays undisclosed damages to Norman Lamont over claim
that he tried to insult John Major's son by giving him a
copy of Lamont's 1999 memoirs as a wedding present - a "cheap
and vindictive act"
+ London Daily Mail issues a formal
apology and agrees to pay "substantial" damages
to Sharon Stone over allegations that she left her son in
a car while she had a late-night dinner
+ UK News of the World and the
Sun pay legal costs and over £100,000 damages
to footballer Ashley Cole for falsely suggesting that he
was involved in a "gay orgy"
+ London Sun and the News
of the World offer potential apologies and damages
to Choice FM presenter who took legal action over claims
that a "well known DJ" had "gay sex"
with a UK Premiership footballer
+ UK jockey Kieren Fallon accepts undisclosed
damages from News of the World over 2004 claim
of unprovoked attack on a fellow rider
+ London Sun and Heat
magazine apologise and make "substantial" payments
to Desperate Housewives star Teri Hatcher over
"sex romps in her VW camper van" claims. Daily
Sport apologise and pays substantial damages and costs
to Hatcher in 2005 after publishing similar claims
+ Elton John receives damages from the
Sunday Times over claims that he acted in a "self-important,
arrogant and rude" manner at his charity ball
+ Wayne Rooney receives £100,000
in damages, plus costs, from libel action against the Sun
and News of the World over allegations that he
slapped his girlfriend
+ London Mail on Sunday issues
formal apology and agrees to pay damages to tv figure Noel
Edmonds over allegations that he seduced a woman away from
her husband and used their relationship to promote his career
+ London Daily Telegraph agrees
to pay controversial politician George Galloway £150,000
in damages over allegation he had received money from Saddam
+ London Financial Times faces
£4.5m bill (inc £300,000 damages) in settling
suit brought by broker Collins Stewart over claims in 2003
+ London Sun apologises and pays
"substantial damages" to Belinda Brewin over accusation
of helping two murderers to go on the run
+ Boston Herald ordered to pay
US$2.1m for defaming Superior Court judge Ernest Murphy
+ BBC apologises and pays "substantial"
damages to eight UK police officers accused of "unlawful
killing" in programme about death of a mentally ill
+ UK Mail on Sunday pays undisclosed
damages to Brigadier Matthew Sykes over claim he was involved
in alleged conspiracy to bring down Iraq war commander Colonel
+ UK Daily Express agrees to pay
"substantial" damages to Elaine Decoulos over
accusation of stalking a former friend
+ Robbie Williams gains legal costs and
substantial damages from People newspaper, Stars
and Hot Stars magazines
+ The Sun apologises and pays
damages to Mohammed el Guerbozi, Moroccan-born UK citizen
it falsely accused of being a "fanatical terrorist"
+ UK actor Jimmy Nail faces legal costs
of £200,000 after gaining £30,000 damages against
News of the World
+ NZ$780,000 award to former police officers
Bryan Rowe, Wayne Idour and Peter Woods in action against
Independent Newspapers (Sunday Star-Times) and
columnist Rosemary McLeod
+ News of the World apologises
and pays damages to high-profile Spanish journalist Ana
Garcia-Sineriz Alonso over publication of wrongly identified
+ London Sunday Telegraph apologises
and pays "substantial" damages to web designer
Adam Musa King over claims of suspected links to al-Qaida
+ former Chelsea football boss Ken Bates
awarded £9,000 damages plus costs in action against
London Evening Standard
+ Rowan Atkinson gains substantial damages
from The Mail on Sunday and Daily Mail
+ Celtic football club manager Martin O'Neill
gains "substantial" damages from Scottish tabloid
The Daily Record over 2003 claims he planned to
quit the club
+ London Daily Telegraph agrees
to pay a five-figure sum to Barbara Cassani, head of London's
Olympic bid, after it wrongly quoted her describing Tony
Blair as "not that bright"
+ Mohamed Al Fayed's Harrods left with
estimated legal bill of £500,000 after losing libel
case against Wall Street Journal
+ John Cleese gains £13,500 in damages
from London Evening Standard after what judge characterises
as "manifestly vitriolic" and "unaccountably
+ class of students from Mount Druitt High
School (NSW) takes action against Sydney Daily Telegraph
over front page article that incorrectly claims not a single
student had passed the HSC. That action was settled, with
damages estimated at about $1 million.
+ Elton John receives £1 million
settlement in action over allegations appearing in The
Sun. High Court judge Sir Michael Davies (1973-91)
criticises Sun's publication of details of settlement
before it had been approved by court, commenting that the
courts are a forum for trials and disputes, "not a
supine adjunct to a publicity machine for pop stars and