With the use of revolutionising technology the media have evolved in many ways regarding their distribution of information. 2011 has seen the decline of self-regulation along with a significant decrease in media ethics at the peak of intrusive media behaviour. The revelation of the phone hacking scandal which resulted in tabloid newspaper News of The World closing down was closely followed by the launch of the Leveson Inquiry.
Police had announced in 2011 that the newspaper had perhaps hacked almost 5,800 individual’s voicemails. With the vast majority of them being in the public eye, many celebrities have become victims of phone-hacking leading them to appeal for damages. This is where the case began to stimulate public interest. The dehumanising process where journalists cease to regard celebrities as real people has led to an array of celebrity’s voicemails being intercepted. Dominic Lawson (2011) suggests that celebrities exist in a strange half-life, apparently known to millions who in fact do not really know them at all. And thus suggests that this allows the public and journalists to treat celebrities as they please without any ethical consideration.
The scandal provides evidence that the key problem in exposing private information is that ‘the realism of what is considered to be private is blurred’ (Raburn, 2007). The UK Right to Privacy Article 8 of the HRA offers protection for a person’s private and family life. However people in the public eye do not receive this right as they are constantly under scrutiny as the public become increasingly interested in their private lives.
An ex News of the World reporter has attempted to justify the hacking of celebrity’s phones by stating ‘if you don’t like it, you’ve just got to get off the stage. It’ll do wonders’ (Mcmullan, 2011). Ian Hislop, editor of Private eye, also defends the use of subterfuge in investigative reporting on the basis that ‘sex lives of well-known figures can be a legitimate subject of journalistic investigation’ (The Guardian, 2011). Speaking at the House of Lords culture committee Hislop suggested that UKs publications should not hold the same restrictions as their counterparts in France, where strict privacy laws are in place.
He told the Leveson inquiry into journalism ethics and practices, ‘there are situations where sex does influence how people behave; it does sometimes have a bearing. It's not so easy as to say 'we can't be interested in anyone's private life at all' (The Guardian, 2011).
However, in relation to the direct intrusion of unauthorised interception of voicemail messages, it is preposterous that any law would discriminate individuals on account of their public profile. If such activity was ever deemed justifiable, it would have to be for another reason other than the victim’s celebrity status.
Veteran British Journalist contends that journalist ethics are a “mess”. In relation to the high-profile events of journalist’s alleged interception of voice...