Public humiliation and crisis management

Max Mosley has won his libel case against the News of the World, with the judge declaring:

the claimant had a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to sexual activities (albeit unconventional) carried on between consenting adults on private property.

There was no evidence of any “enactment of Nazi behaviour”, just “bondage, beating and domination which seem to be typical of S&M behaviour”.

So the judge in awarding £60,000 damages and legal costs against the newspaper (estimated at £450,000) decided there was no public interest in the story being reported. 

Clearly Mr Mosley suffers the public humiliation of the story and the outcome of the libel case being reported worldwide.  Whether or not his private behaviour is the business of the public, his reputation has been affected, with this story forever linked to his name.

The personal crisis has also become a reputational issue for Formula One.  Of course, the sport has an image of money and glamour, but whether the public and F1 stakeholders believe, as witnesses stated, sadomasochism is simply “the scene” is another matter.

So, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) will be hoping Mr Mosley will take a back seat following the unrest the case has caused among many stakeholders in the sport. 

These include motor racing associations, sponsors and manufacturers, many of whom feel the sport has been brought into disrepute.  Some members of the FIA have responded to the situation by suggesting they form their own association. 

Clearly the real crisis management work will be away from the titillation of Mr Mosley’s sexual predilections, which will be regurgitated by the media and comedians for some time to come. 

Here, the issue isn’t public interest or even public opinion so much as the confidence of the myriad of potentially active publics emerging from the various stakeholder groups of the FIA and motorsport, when its flagship formula is making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.