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Complainant Name:
Mr David Sullivan

Clauses Noted: 1

Publication: The People


Mr David Sullivan of Essex complained that an article headlined "Porn king threat to Cilla" published in the Sunday People on 3 October 1999 was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code of Practice.

The complaint was rejected.

The article said that the complainant had upset Cilla Black and her late husband by making 'menacing phone calls' in pursuing Ms Black for an interview about the television programme Blind Date. It said that the complainant had telephoned her on her ex-directory number at home and left a message saying that unless she gave an interview 'we will resort to things which are not very nice for you'.

The complainant said the whole message ran to two and a half minutes and that the newspaper had only seen an edited thirty second clip of the call on a television programme. The television programme had not shown the context in which the alleged 'threat' was made which would have demonstrated that it was part of a joke in which the complainant said that he would send a newspaper reporter to Ms Black's house dressed as an alien. The complainant said that the newspaper erroneously claimed that Ms Black had 'fired off a warning letter' to newspaper watchdogs.

The newspaper said that the first call resulted in Ms Black's late husband putting the phone down on the complainant and that during the second call the complainant said that 'if we can't get anywhere then we will resort to things which are not very nice for you'. On the day of the calls, London Weekend Television wrote to the complainant to say that they considered that the calls to Ms Black 'constituted harassment' and referred to an assurance given by the complainant that he would not telephone Ms Black at home again. Whether or not the call was intended as a joke it was clearly not perceived that way.

Not Upheld


The Commission noted that the complainant disagreed that the telephone calls constituted harassment. However, the letter from LWT made clear that, regardless of the impression that the complainant had intended to give, the calls had been perceived as threatening. Although the complainant thought that the newspaper may have had a different view of the matter had it been exposed to the whole answerphone message, the Commission did not consider that this would have materially affected the story, which was that Ms Black - who had heard the whole message - had felt threatened. The Commission had received no complaint from Ms Black or her late husband that the article was inaccurate in this respect. With regard to the complaint that - contrary to an apparent suggestion in the article - Ms Black had not contacted the PCC at the time of the telephone calls, the Commission noted that the article had in fact stated that Ms Black had 'ordered her bosses at LWT to fire off a warning letter' and not that such a letter had been sent or received.


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