Steve Coogan gives evidence to Leveson Inquiry into media ethics
Tim Clark22 November 2011
Comedian and actor Steve Coogan has given evidence to the judge-led inquiry into media ethics at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.
The Leveson inquiry into the media in the wake of the phone hacking scandal has seen a number of high profile celebrities give evidence including Hugh Grant, and ex-footballer Garry Flincroft.
Speaking to the Select Committee Coogan said that he had not made a ‘Faustian Pact’ with the press.
"I have never wanted to be famous, as such - fame is a by-product," Coogan told the inquiry.
Coogan also aimed a shot at the Daily Mail’s website Mail Online, which has become one of the biggest publishing websites in the world on the strength of it’s often controversial celebrity coverage.
Speaking about a story which purported that the actor Owen Wilson was close to suicide, Coogan said: "Their defence of something that is scurrilous is, basically, punctuation"
“If a newspaper was to question the entire veracity of the story then why did they print it?”
Touching on the reluctance many celebrities have to confront intrusion into their lives, Coogan said that his he had been warned by his publisher whether he wanted to ‘take action against these people?’.
Coogan said: “I know that there are a lot of other people who particularly involved in waving a banner for a right to privacy, but I felt that not many other people similar to me were getting involved. I’ve heard that a lot of other people have said they agree with me, but they don’t have the stomach for it and fear what will happen.”
“My closet is empty of skeletons due to the press, they [ the press ] unwittingly made me immune in some way, but in fact, when I appeared in Newsnight and mentioned Paul Dacre in a less than flattering light, there was a story in the paper the next day.”
When questioned about the fact that he has a publicist Coogan said that he tried to avoid publicity as much possible but does give interviews when he is obliged to promote something.
“If I can get away with the least possible then I will. I will try to avoid the tabloids, but sometimes the people I have made the programme for insist I speak to a tabloid and their [the publicists] job is to arrange these things.”
Answering questions about an interview in The Sunday Times in which he felt he was misrepresented, Coogan said that the policy of printing apologies in newspapers following controversial interviews is ‘a bit like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted – you
can’t give back the pound of flesh that you’ve taken.”
Returning to the subject later in the session when asked about complaints to the media Coogan added: “If a system of redress was more straight forward I would have engaged in it, the prospect of legal action is expensive. The PCC ... doesn’t fill you with confidence.
The hacking scandal completely passed them by, I feel that my prejudices against the PCC are not completely without foundation, if the mechanisms for redress were more straightforward I would use it.”
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