Max Clifford: The Fall of a Tabloid King review – scandal at the heart of Fleet Street


Though not quite a hagiography, this one-off documentary – heavy on archive clips – comes close to glamorising the way in which the serially abusive publicist operated

There appears to be no reason for the documentary Max Clifford: The Fall of a Tabloid King (Channel 4) – there is no anniversary of his arrest, charge or conviction on eight counts of indecent assault against four victims, or of his death three years into serving his eight-year sentence. However, we do not live in an age when a documentary about the symbiotic relationship between celebrity, handler-slash-story-supplier and media editors, or the ways in which a man in a position of power and influence used it to exploit young women and children, can ever be called untimely.

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Rather, we’re at a point where the latter story, especially, has become almost too common to merit comment. The greatest question such retrospective anatomisations used to try to answer was: “How did they get away with it for so long?” Now, the one that looms most unavoidably with every fresh story – about an apparently cuddly TV presenter, popular light entertainer, R&B star, Olympic sports coach and so on – is: do men seek power and influence for any other reason than to abuse it? We’re getting to the point, surely, where it’s better and safer to move forward on the accepted basis that anyone rich and famous has become so because they need the protective trappings that come with it – including a large network of enablers and/or people cowed into silence – in order to satisfy the kind of desires that would otherwise quickly get them arrested.

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