Has French mag risked closure over topless Kate photos?
French editor shows no remorse as Closer UK magazine boss seeks urgent talks
COULD the plug be pulled on Closer France, the celebrity gossip magazine that dared to publish topless photos of the Duchess of Cambridge today, risking the ire of the royals – who called it a "grotesque invasion of privacy" and the revulsion of the British pulic?
This morning, the British version of Closer has desperately sought to distance itself from its French namesake, issuing a statement saying the French version is editorially independent and that Closer UK would never consider doing such a thing.
But it could get a lot heavier than that if normal magazine licensing agreements are in place.
Closer UK began life as an EMAP title and is now published in Britain by the German-based Bauer Media. The French magazine is published by Mondadori France, a subsidiary of the Italian media giant Mondadori, under licence from Bauer.
Such a licence invariably includes a stipulation that the licence holder – Mondadori in this case - must not bring the title into disrepute. Breaking the agreement could invalidate the licence.
In an interview with Media Week this morning, Paul Keenan, chief executive of Bauer Media, declined to give details of the licensing agreement. But he did admit he was "very disappointed" about the publication of the topless photos by Closer France and said a brand meeting with Mondadori was being hastily organised.
"We are very disappointed, clearly, to see that the Closer brand in France have taken this editorial approach," said Keenan. "This is not something we would do in the UK."
Clearly being as diplomatic as he could, Keenan went on: "The editorial decisions are made in France by the editor-in-chief there. I am sure in the coming days, if not today, we will be talking to the management around that brand, and try and understand from them their philosophy and how they plan on taking it forward."
There would, of course, be commercial considerations in withdrawing Mondadori's licence because Bauer takes a proportion of Closer France's revenue.
But with the Leveson inquiry hanging over any questionable publishing decision of this kind, and when publication quite clearly represents a breach of William and Kate's expectations of privacy, Bauer is likely to come under pressure to be tough with Mondadori.
A lot will depend on Mondadori's reaction. So far, the French magazine's editor, Laurence Pieau, has shown no sign of remorse. "These photos are not in the least shocking," she said this morning. "They show a young woman sunbathing topless, like the millions of women you see on beaches."
As I reported earlier today when the photos first appeared, Pieau's insouciance is breathtaking, given the relatively strict privacy laws that operate in France.
As for the Italian parent company, Mondadori is chaired by Marina Berlusconi, the daughter of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. If she's any kind of chip off the old block, then she, like Pieau, might not see what all the fuss is about.