Woman’s Day invaded privacy of Chrissie Swan’s children with Maccas drive through pics, rules press watchdog

A series of photos published in Woman’s Day of radio presenter Chrissie Swan and her children at a McDonald’s drive through were not in public interest and caused substantial distress, the Press Council has ruled.

The article in question, published on March 27 last year, showed Nova FM’s breakfast show co-host and her children at a McDonald’s franchise in Melbourne. The pictures were taken by a hidden photographer. Mumbrella has chosen not to feature images of the article here.

Woman’s Day is Australia’s highest circulating weekly magazine title. Prior to Bauer Media withdrawing it from the print circulation audit, it had a distribution of just under 250,000 copies a week.

According to the APC ruling:

The images of Chrissie Swan’s children not in public interest and caused substantial distress, said the Press Council

“Ms Swan said her complaint was not about the coverage of herself but of her young children. The photograph showed them in an unflattering light, one with a pacifier and a security blanket and another with a pacifier. She said the effect of the picture was to expose the children to ridicule. The photograph had been taken without her knowledge or approval, and the article caused considerable distress to her family, made the children feel unsafe, and exposed them to threats and abuse, especially cyberbullying.”

Swan told the APC that she had taken the decision to try to keep her children out of the media after an article she cooperated with for the Australian Women’s Weekly featuring her son led to comments about his weight.

The APC report added: “The complainant said she enters into agreements with publicists to ensure her children are not photographed or reported on at events they attend with her. If that agreement is not reached,  she attends without her children. She said her children do not have any commercial endorsement or representation arrangements with anyone, are not in the media industry and are not in the public domain or of any interest to the public.”

Woman’s Day disputed Swan’s claims to no longer put her children in the public eye, and argued that the publication’s role is to write about celebrities. According to the APC: “A significant proportion of its editorial content was focused on documenting the lives of celebrities and their families, in which the public was very interested. The publication said it was aware of the sensitivities associated with images of children and it refrained from publishing photographs of children who were not ‘in the public eye’.

However, it disputed the complainant’s view that she had not placed her children in the public eye in the last five years. It said there were many instances of the complainant having done so, including publishing a memoir which discussed her children, giving television and magazine interviews and hosting a radio show in which she mentioned her children, and posting several photographs of her children to Instagram.”

The Press Council ruled:  “Children have a reasonable expectation of privacy, although this can be limited in various ways, in particular by what their parents do or cause the children to do.

“The Council is satisfied that the level and nature of engagement with the media by the complainant and her children did not reduce the children’s reasonable expectation of privacy so as to justify the article’s intrusion on that expectation. Although members of the public might have found the photographs of interest, the Council considers that their publication was not in the public interest so as to justify the level of intrusion.”

In addition, the watchdog ruled Woman’s Day had not taken the correct steps to avoid causing offence, distress and prejudice in publishing unauthorised photos of Swan’s children.

Mumbrella has approached Swan and Woman’s Day for comment.

Woman’s Day is one of the titles published by Bauer Media that actor Rebel Wilson recently successfully sued for $4.5m for libel.


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