Splendid Sting Smacks Smarmy...Tabloids

An undercover filmmaker gave some of the UK's sleaziest tabs a taste of their own meds when he filmed the editors trying to purchase celebs' "private medical information." And now, of course, the dirt's in his new documentary:

The Guardian has the gist:

The Sunday Mirror, News of the World and People were caught in the sting after they were approached by an undercover documentary-maker. He claimed to have a contact working as an administrative nurse in what was in fact a fictitious cosmetic surgery clinic...The newspapers were offered the chance to obtain confidential medical information about famous clients of the clinic, including actors Hugh Grant, Gemma Arterton, Rhys Ifans and Ricky Gervais. There is no evidence any of the celebrities received consultations for surgery, and the filmmaker, Chris Atkins, said he came up with the hoax to test "how far tabloid journalists are prepared to go" in pursuit of intrusive information.

Not shockingly, pretty damn far. In this case, the editors who took the juicy bait offered hefty sums and demanded copies of everything the "clinic" had. A surprise voice of integrity was the Sunday Express, which not only didn't meet with the faux-mole, but sternly told him that "his proposal breached the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) code, could be deemed illegal and constituted "a gross breach of ethics"." (Disappointingly, no word of the Daily Mail's conduct.) News of the World, for their part, says they were never going to go through with it - because there wasn't sufficient public interest.

The filmmaker said they made the oddly-named Starsucker (bad porn or bad lollipop?) to find out "just how far tabloid journalists would go." But while incriminating filmed transgressions are always noteworthy (see: ACORN), entrapment's never my cup of tea. Sure, there's a sweet irony in this case - and scruples would be out of place - but in a world where people actually try to profit from details of Jett Travolta's death and Perez Hilton outs stars with impunity, this frankly doesn't feel like that big a shocker, whatever the legal implications. Now, maybe something like this can draw legal attention to tightening strictures, but from an entertainment perspective, it's old news. We don't expect better from the tabs - and for that matter, clearly some readers care more about Hugh Grant's alleged brow lift than the legal and moral protection of privacy. Besides, as everyone now knows, we don't need medical records to ascertain plastic surgery - just look for The Bunnies.


Tabloids Caught Out By Celebrity Plastic Surgery Hoax
[Guardian]