18 January 2020

The Film Photonovel

The Film Photonovel
The Film Photonovel, by Jan Baetens, is the first English-language book on the film photonovel and, indeed, on the photonovel itself. As the author explains, and as the book’s subtitle (A Cultural History of Forgotten Adaptations) suggests, the photonovel is a somewhat neglected medium, and—unlike other ‘lowbrow’ media, such as comics and pulp fiction—has yet to be rediscovered by critics or academics. (Baetens is a notable exception, and his journal articles on the subject are invaluable.)

Photonovels (fotoromanzo in Italian) were first published in Italian and French women’s magazines after World War II. (The closest contemporary equivalent is probably Deidre’s Photo Casebook, a photographic agony-aunt column in the UK tabloid The Sun.) Baetens traces the format back to the Italian magazine Grand Hôtel, whose photorealistic drawings he defines as the “drawn novel” genre. Grand Hôtel soon switched from photorealistic drawings to photographs, giving birth to the photonovel.

Like the photonovel itself, the film photonovel (cineromanzo) subgenre also has antecedents. Baetens cites the Italian film magazine Cinevita, which reproduced film stills accompanied by captions providing each film’s complete dialogue. (In the 1970s, Richard J. Anobile edited a series of books with a similar format, including Psycho; and Stanley Kubrick published his A Clockwork Orange screenplay illustrated with hundreds of frame enlargements.)

The first film photonovels appeared in Italy in the 1950s, and they enjoyed significant popularity until their eventual decline in the 1960s. The most successful title, an adaptation of the 1954 film Ulysses, sold half a million copies at the height of Italy’s ‘peplum’ craze. Baetens provides a history of the film photonovel and a detailed analysis of the format’s layout, imagery, and captions.

02 October 2019

“...a long and disturbing pattern of
behaviour by the British tabloid media”

The Mail on Sunday
Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, are suing The Mail on Sunday for breach of copyright, after the newspaper printed extracts from a letter she wrote to her father, Thomas. In a statement released yesterday, Harry said: “This particular legal action hinges on one incident in a long and disturbing pattern of behaviour by British tabloid media.”

The Mail on Sunday published the letter on 10th February, in a four-page article written by Caroline Graham. Thomas Markle—who supplied it to the newspaper—has legal ownership of the letter as its recipient, though copyright is retained solely by his daughter, as its writer. Thus, the newspaper was not legally entitled to reproduce it.

The Queen sued another UK tabloid, The Sun, for breach of copyright in 1992, after it published a transcript of her Christmas broadcast two days early. More recently, Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, sued the French magazine Closer for invasion of privacy.


20 August 2019

The Textening

Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Four American media companies have been fined by the Federal Communications Commission after unauthorised broadcasts of the emergency alert system tone. The tone, which is similar to an SMS notification, can only be broadcast on television or radio in the event of a genuine emergency, and the FCC argued that its use in entertainment shows could lead to “alert fatigue” and public dismissal of genuine emergency alerts, resulting in “a substantial threat to public safety.”

The ABC network received the largest fine, $395,000, as a 3rd October 2018 episode of the late-night comedy show Jimmy Kimmel Live! included a parody of the emergency alert. Its spoof trailer, The Textening, featured nine uses of the alert tone.

AMC was fined $104,000, as it featured the alert in an episode of the horror series The Walking Dead (Omega, broadcast on 17th February). Meruelo Radio received a $67,000 fine, as a spoof alert tone appeared in trailers on its California radio station KDAY on 8th September 2017. Animal Planet was fined $68,000, as an episode of its reality TV series Lone Star Law (Thousand Year Flood, shown on 21st January 2018) also featured the alert tone. In that case, the alert was a genuine emergency message about Hurricane Harvey, though the show was broadcast several months after the storm.


12 August 2019

100 Must-See Films

100 Must-See Films
On 7th July, the Sunday People newspaper (a UK tabloid) published 100 Must-See Films, an eight-page supplement listing “the top 100 films of all time.” The list, compiled by Karen Rockett, does not include any silent or foreign-language entries.


28 June 2019

The Nation

The Nation
Today marks the final print edition of The Nation, with a commemorative “FAREWELL EDITION” printed on heavy white paper rather than regular newsprint. The newspaper was launched in 1971 as a rival to the Bangkok Post, Thailand’s other English-language daily, though it will now exist only online. The Nation had already folded its Sunday edition almost exactly a year ago, on 1st July 2018.

Although it had defied the military government after ‘Black May’ in 1992, The Nation became an apologist for the 2006 and 2014 junta administrations. Ironically, in the months before its closure, it regained some of its credibility with a series of liberal editorials. On 29th May, for example, it published a surprisingly bold obituary of Prem Tinsulanonda: “Prem’s legacy will be to inspire military top brass to maintain their strong influence in politics, to the diminishment of democracy in Thailand.”

The transition from print to digital-first has led to declining revenue at many news organisations, as readers and classified advertisers migrate to free online alternatives. Online advertising, dominated by a Google and Facebook duopoly, generates a fraction of the income from print ads, and print circulations are falling. In the UK, The Independent and its Sunday sister paper ended their print editions in 2016.

18 June 2019

“A shell company that’s
a money-laundering front...”

Scottish National Party MEP Alyn Smith has issued a formal apology to fellow MEP Richard Tice, chairman of the Brexit Party. Tice threatened legal action after Smith accused the Brexit Party of financial crimes, in a live interview with Sky News on 27th May. Smith has also agreed to contribute towards Tice’s legal costs.

In the interview, Smith said: “the only question about the Brexit Party now is which laws they’ve broken and where their campaign finances have come from, and we’ll find that out after the campaign, but they’re a shell company that’s a money-laundering front”. In a statement issued by his solicitors yesterday, Smith withdrew the claim: “I do not have any evidence to support such an allegation. I spoke in the heat of the moment and am happy to set the record straight.”

The Brexit Party, founded by former UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, has been criticised by the UK Electoral Commission for its lack of financial transparency. In a report published last week, the EC concluded that the Party’s system of anonymous online fundraising “leaves it open to a high and ongoing risk of receiving and accepting impermissible donations”.

14 June 2019

“Why bother with a milkshake when
you could get some battery acid?”

UK police are investigating comedian Jo Brand following a comment she made on the BBC Radio 4 programme Heresy. After reports of milkshake being thrown at Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, Brand joked: “Why bother with a milkshake when you could get some battery acid?” After sustained laughter from the studio audience, she immediately qualified herself: “I’m not gonna do it. It’s purely a fantasy.”

The programme was broadcast on 11th June, though it was deleted from the iPlayer streaming service last night. Brand’s comment was played on Radio 4’s 6pm news bulletin yesterday, and on this morning’s midnight news. It was also played yesterday on Sky News. Scotland Yard announced that they had “received an allegation of incitement to violence” on 13th June.


13 April 2019

"I consider the allegation...
implausible and improbable"

The Daily Telegraph
Geoffrey Rush has won his libel case against The Daily Telegraph, and has been awarded $850,000 in damages. The newspaper, published in Sydney, alleged in 2017 that Rush had been accused of "inappropriate behaviour" by a colleague at the Sydney Theatre Company. Rush's accuser was Eryn Jean Norvill, who appeared with him in a production of King Lear; she alleged that he had groped her during a preview performance.

In a written judgement issued on 11th April, Justice Michael Wigney concluded that Norvill's claims were baseless, and that Rush was beyond reproach: "I consider the allegation and Ms Novill's [sic] evidence concerning it to be somewhat implausible and improbable. Mr Rush was a dedicated actor and consummate professional." (The judgement begins, somewhat pretentiously, by quoting several lines from the play.)

01 April 2019

"We apologise to Mr Poroshenko
for any distress caused..."

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has received a financial settlement from the BBC, after he sued the broadcaster for defamation. In a report by Paul Wood broadcast on 23rd May 2018, BBC News alleged that Poroshenko had paid Michael Cohen $400,000 to secure a meeting with Donald Trump in 2017. (At the time, Cohen was Trump's personal lawyer, though he has since been convicted of election campaign violations and other offences.) In a statement, the BBC said: "We apologise to Mr Poroshenko for any distress caused and have agreed to pay him damages".

11 March 2019

The Washington Post

The Washington Post

Last week, Johnny Depp filed a defamation lawsuit against his ex-wife, Amber Heard. Depp is seeking $50m in damages for an op-ed Heard wrote in The Washington Post on 19th December last year, headlined "A transformative moment for women". In the article, published on page A21, Heard referred to her own experience as an abuse victim: "two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse," though she did not name Depp directly.


27 February 2019

"contemptuous by reason of
it scandalising the Court..."

Herald Sun
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in the state of Victoria, Australia, has written to dozens of journalists, accusing them of contempt of court in relation to the trial of George Pell, a former Catholic archbishop accused of child abuse. Pell was convicted of five counts on 11th December last year, though the guilty verdict could not be reported by Australian media due to a gagging order imposed to prevent coverage potentially prejudicing a subsequent trial.

The reporting restrictions effectively amounted to a superinjunction, as even the existence of the gagging order could not be reported. On the day after Pell's conviction, the Sun Herald newspaper ran the banner headline "CENSORED" on its front page, describing the case in general terms as "a very important story that is relevant to Victorians." Similarly, other news outlets referred to the conviction of a high-profile figure on unspecified charges.

The restrictions were lifted yesterday, after Pell's second trial was dismissed, though DPP Kerri Judd warned journalists that they faced "substantial imprisonment" for contempt. In letters to individual reporters, she claimed that indirect coverage of the case had "a definite and real tendency to interfere with the administration of justice and therefore constitutes sub judice contempt, is contemptuous by reason of it scandalising the Court, and aided and abetted contempts by overseas media".

02 February 2019

"The secret life of Melania..."

The Telegraph Magazine
The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph has paid "substantial damages" to Melania Trump in settlement of a defamation lawsuit filed by the First Lady last week. The newspaper printed a correction on 26th January (on page two), apologising for "a number of false statements which we accept should not have been published."

The lawsuit relates to the cover story from The Telegraph Magazine, published on 19th January. The article, by Nina Burleigh, appeared on pages fourteen to twenty, and was based on her book Golden Handcuffs: The Secret History of Trump's Women, which was released in the US last year. (The book's publishers avoided a lawsuit, as American libel law requires proof of 'actual malice', a high bar intended to protect freedom of speech.)

The article was reprinted by the Irish Sunday Independent on 20th January, on page twenty. It has since been deleted from the Telegraph and Independent's websites, and is "suppressed for editorial and/or legal reasons" on the PressReader digital archive.

Ironically, following the Telegraph's retraction, Burleigh has also filed a defamation case against the newspaper, claiming that its apology damaged her journalistic reputation. Yesterday, in a letter to the Telegraph Media Group (TMG), her lawyer argued that "fear of Mrs Trump's lawyer Mr Harder, "the Gawker slayer", caused TMG to capitulate abjectly". This is a reference to Charles Harder, who represented Hulk Hogan in a privacy lawsuit that bankrupted the Gawker website. Harder also won $3 million in damages from the Daily Mail in a previous Melania Trump defamation case.


22 January 2019

صح النوم

A presenter on an Egyptian satellite television station has been jailed for a year, after being found guilty of inciting immorality. Mohamed al-Ghiety's talk show, صح النوم, featured a gay man discussing his sex life in an episode transmitted on 5th August last year. (The man's face was blurred to disguise his identity.) The broadcaster, LTC TV, was suspended for a fortnight after the programme was aired.

28 December 2018

Stage, Screen, Society at 50

Censored! Gay News

Theatre censorship in the UK was abolished fifty years ago, and London’s Victoria and Albert Museum is marking the anniversary with Censored! Stage, Screen, Society at 50, an exhibition devoted to UK censorship. The exhibition covers theatre, film, music, and media censorship, with exhibits including the 3rd June 1976 issue of Gay News (number 96, containing James Kirkup’s poem The Love That Dares to Speak Its Name about a Roman centurion’s sex with Christ after the crucifiction) and the ‘School Kids’ issue of Oz (number 28, which was the subject of a long-running obscenity trial in 1971). Censored! opened on 10th July, and runs until 27th January next year.

Denis Lemon, editor of Gay News, was convicted of blasphemous libel in 1977, following a private prosecution instigated by Mary Whitehouse. After the guilty verdict, a handful of socialist magazines—Anarchist Worker (number 33, February 1977), Peace News (28th January 1977), Liberator (January 1977), and Freedom (23rd July 1977)—reprinted Kirkup’s poem in solidarity. It was also included as a single-page insert in the 14th July 1977 issue of Socialist Challenge (number 6), as the magazine’s printers “would not print the poem in question.” The socialist journal Gay Left (number 5, Winter 1977) published extracts from the poem, along with an ambivalent analysis: “It is a rather silly poem. It is at times an amusing poem. It is from start to finish an extremely “literary” poem.” Inoffensive extracts also appeared in The Observer (on 17th July 1977), which coyly explained that “the centurion kissed Christ’s body.”

Geoffrey Robertson defended the poem in the 1977 trial, and his memoir The Justice Game includes lengthy extracts from it, including one stanza “which the judge suggested was so profane not even I would read it aloud”. Reflecting on this, Robertson writes: “after two decades, I wonder whether the reason I could not read it was the awfulness of the poetry rather than the grossness of the blasphemy.” Alan Travis included the same extracts in Bound and Gagged, his history of obscenity, which also reproduces the Tony Reeves illustration that accompanied the poem.

The twenty-fifth anniversary of the prosecution revived interest in the case. An analysis in Gay Times (number 270, March 2001) dismissed any potential literary merit: “The poem itself is tawdry and insignificant.” The Guardian (11th July 2002) was equally dismissive: “as a poem, it’s feeble in the extreme.” Joan Bakewell recited extracts from it in an episode of her BBC2 documentary series Taboo (broadcast on 12th December 2001), and the socialist magazine Weekly Worker (number 423, 14th March 2002) defended her right to do so. (Extracts later appeared in the Channel 4 documentary The Secret Life of Brian, broadcast on New Year’s Day 2007.) The Weekly Worker reprinted the first four stanzas, though declined to offer any literary criticism: “Whether or not it is a good poem or bad poem I will leave to the reader to decide.”


26 December 2018

Visual Journalism

Visual Journalism
Visual Journalism: Infographics from the World's Best Newsrooms and Designers, edited by Robert Klanten and Anja Kouznetsova, was published last year. (Like Information Graphics, it includes an essay by data journalist Simon Rogers.) The book is primarily a survey of contemporary infographics from newspapers and magazines, though it includes chapters on two modern masters of news graphics: Peter Sullivan and Nigel Holmes.

Sullivan's graphics were not only visually innovative, they were based on data he obtained in the field: he was as much a journalist as a designer. His editor at The Sunday Times, Harold Evans, called him "the most important graphic journalist in the world." For Holmes, a former graphic director at Time magazine, infographics are unapologetically artistic: "It is not information, it is art." (This put him at odds with infographics guru Edward Tufte, who criticised his approach in The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.)

Visual Journalism begins with an essay by Javier Errea, outlining the history of news graphics, including several elaborate 1930s examples from Fortune magazine. Errea cites a 12th September 1702 map in The Daily Courant as (probably) the first graphic image in a newspaper. He also highlights the "legendary" plan of Isaac Blight's house, published in The Times on 7th April 1806. (Oddly, the Blight house graphic is not reproduced in Visual Journalism, though it does appear in Harold Evans' classic Pictures on a Page.)

04 December 2018


Daily Mail
Daily Mail
Two years ago, the Daily Mail newspaper was fined £40,000 for not sufficiently disguising the identity of an alleged sexual-assault victim. On 19th September 2015, the Mail had published a pixelated photograph of a man known by the alias Nick, though only the centre of his face was obscured.

The man, whose real name is Carl Beech, has since been charged with perverting the course of justice, after it became clear that his allegations of a political paedophile network were fabricated. Yesterday, Newcastle Crown Court ruled that his identity could be revealed, and on page five today the Mail has published an unpixelated version of his photograph.

29 November 2018

El Intermedio

Spanish comedian Dani Mateo appeared in court on Monday, after being charged with disrespecting a national symbol. On his satirical news programme El Intermedio, he blew his nose on the Spanish flag, and then stroked and kissed it in a mock apology. Representatives of a police union filed charges against the TV presenter after the show was broadcast on 31st October. The TV channel, laSexta, deleted the sketch from its website the next day.

24 October 2018

"Leading businessman...
gags The Telegraph"

The Daily Telegraph
Sir Philip Green has been granted an injunction against The Daily Telegraph, preventing the publication of allegations against him. In a front-page article today, Claire Newell reveals that he made payments to five people who accused him of "sexual harassment and racial abuse". Green is not named in the story, and he is described only in general terms as a leading businessman.

Under the conditions of the interim Court of Appeal injunction, Green's identity cannot be published in England or Wales. Similar high-profile injunctions in recent years have involved Ryan Giggs (who was named by The Sunday Herald in Scotland) and Elton John (whose injunction remains in force, despite the National Enquirer naming him in the US).

07 October 2018

"The Washington Times
retracts it in its entirety..."

The Washington Times
The Washington Times has reached an out-of-court settlement with Aaron Rich, after he sued the newspaper for defamation. Rich's brother, Seth, became the subject of a conspiracy theory after his unsolved murder in 2016. It was alleged, without any evidence, that Seth Rich had leaked Democratic National Committee emails to WikiLeaks.

In a Washington Times op-ed published on 2nd March (page B3), James Lyons stated the conspiracy theory as a fact, implicating both Seth and Aaron Rich in the DNC email leak: "Interestingly, it is well known in the intelligence circles that Seth Rich and his brother, Aaron Rich, downloaded the DNC emails and was paid by Wikileaks for that information." [Aside from its defamatory nature, the sentence has at least three grammatical errors.]

The newspaper has since deleted the article (headlined "More cover-up questions") from its website. It has also issued a retraction, disavowing the op-ed's allegations about the Rich brothers: "The Washington Times now does not have any basis to believe any part of that statement to be true, and The Washington Times retracts it in its entirety."


22 September 2018

"Attacked by Freddy Krueger..."

The Sun
Elton John accepted damages from The Sun yesterday, after suing the newspaper for libel. In a front-page story published on 11th February, The Sun on Sunday alleged that one of John's dogs had savagely attacked a toddler, and that he was not concerned about the victim's injuries. A double-page spread described the victim as "looking like she was attacked by Freddy Krueger" and claimed that she was "yet to receive a phone call from Sir Elton," though his solicitor argued that "the injuries were not serious" and that John had "made several inquiries about the girl's welfare".

The Sun has a history of libellous articles about John, including a previous story that also involved his dogs. On 28th September 1987, the newspaper falsely claimed that he had arranged for his dogs' vocal chords to be removed, in a front-page story headlined "MYSTERY OF ELTON'S SILENT DOGS". On the first day of that libel trial, 12th December 1988, The Sun agreed to a record £1 million damages payment and apologised with the front-page headline "SORRY ELTON". (It was also an injunction against The Sun on Sunday by John and his husband that led to the "PJS" privacy case.)