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Charlotte Church gives evidence to Leveson

By | Published on Tuesday 29 November 2011

Charlotte Church

Well, someone from the music domain had to show up eventually, didn’t they, the pop world being strangely absent from much of the Hack-gate scandal so far. OK, so we’ve had George Michael and Creation Records boss Alan McGee putting the boot in from the sidelines, but it’s surprising how few music stars have been part of this story to date; perhaps the pop PR community so freely provide gossip to the tabs about their clients, that the journalists never needed to actually hack any pop stars’ phones.

But yesterday a music person did finally appear before the government-instigated Leveson Inquiry into the seedier activities of the press. And it was Charlotte Church, in the tabs from childhood of course, who was on hand to describe the pressures inflicted on music stars who find themselves in the tabloid spotlight. Demonstrating the power – or, at least, the perceived power – of the papers in making or breaking stars in the entertainment business, Church revealed how – aged thirteen – she was urged to waive a £100,000 fee to sing at the wedding of Rupert Murdoch to his third wife Wendi Deng.

She says that she was told that Murdoch’s people had proposed she might sing for free in return for a ‘favour’, ie positive coverage in the newspapers owned by Murdoch’s News International, in particular, presumably, The Sun and the News Of The World. Both management and label, Church added, advised her to take the favour.

She continued: “I remember being told of the offer of the favour [from Murdoch’s people] – to get good press – and I also remember, being thirteen, and thinking ‘why would anyone take a favour of £100,000?’. But I was being advised by my management, and certain members of the record company, that he was a very, very powerful man and could certainly do with a favour of this magnitude”.

The returned favour, though, was short-lived, given the tabloids, including Murdoch’s papers, soon turned against the singer. She recalled: “I was initially marketed by an aggressive record company campaign in which I was branded ‘the voice of an angel’. Little did I know, as a twelve year old, that this description would be used and distorted repeatedly to mock me in catchy tabloid headlines”. She then recalled being “appalled” when, a few years later, The Sun had run a countdown to her sixteenth birthday, alluding to the fact that she was almost old enough to have consensual sex.

Honing in on other tabloid coverage of her personal life, she recalled how The Sun had revealed her first pregnancy before she had even told her family, saying: “I had not told anyone. I can’t see how it came from any other area [other than phone hacking]. My family were really upset that I had not told them first”.

More shocking, perhaps, was the News Of The World’s reporting on her father’s affair, and the impact that reporting had on her mother. Noting that the tabloid had already reported on her mother’s mental health at the time, Church said “they knew how vulnerable she was, but still published the story. It just had a massive impact on my mother’s health, her mental health”. The fact the paper was reporting on her mother’s condition also bothered Church, who adds “the only way they [could] know about that was either through [phone] hacking or the bribing of hospital staff”.

Although, perhaps, Church’s family suffered most from the tabloid intrusion, the singer added that it impacted on other friends and colleagues too, partly because, as the tabloids revealed secrets only a small group of people could have known, Church naturally found herself doubting the people around her – who was it that was leaking information to the press? Having subsequently discovered those secrets were probably obtained by phone hacking, Church admitted the guilt she now feels for having suspected others of providing stories to tabloid journalists.

You can read Church’s full statement here.

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