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18 August 2008 @ 09:22 pm
Australian privacy law, and a gay Olympic diver  
Interesting changes afoot on the local media scene.
For background, you need to know that the Australian media is not as salacious as the UK or US media. Yes there are plenty of shots of stars without make-up, and a few years ago there was an appalling under-door shot of a local rugby league star shagging an athlete in a club loo published in the trashy Sydney tabloid, but I can tell you of at least one gay former PM and two who were having affairs through their Prime Ministerships, none of which has ever been really covered in the news.

That said, the press can be insane. I remember working on two separate mags around the time of the death of a major motoring star a few years back. The serious mag was doing a retrospective of his influence on the sport and his personal biography, the trashy mag was feverishly chasing an exclusive story of a woman who claimed she had borne his lovechild decades ago ("We only had the one night together, but I felt he was my soulmate!")

I have to say that I don't hold with trashy mags. In the same way that I don't hold with biographies of people who ask that they have no biographies, with the spilling of names of those who publish as anonymous, nor with the outing of people who are not anti-gay-rights politicians. Sure I've looked at a few, I worked on one for three weeks (I seriously believe that I have the most varied CV in Australian publishing), and I understand that you need to read something stupid some days -- goodness knows there has to be a reason that Dan Brown and Stephenie Meyer are this popular.

But I find it disturbing that we treat celebrities like some sort of exotic zoo display and assume that they are less than people, merely fodder for our entertainment. I understand how we reach this conclusion: Britney Spears does not invite a dignified response, nor does Russell Crowe. But they are nonetheless people. If Britney was your cousin, you would drive her to the doctor. Daily.
 
Now a new law has been suggested by the Australian Law Reform Commission, one which would enshrine an individual's right to privacy and allow them to sue for damages if their privacy was invaded in an egregious manner. The statute includes the right of publication for matters that are of public concern, but severely limits outrageous intrusions including unauthorised surveillance, phonetapping, publication of provate nude photographs and intrusion into private arenas.

MediaWatch, a program on the main government channel here, ran a special on the proposal this evening. As they described it, a number of commentators have declared that defamation laws already cover this area and so all the proposed laws will do is allow the rich and powerful to use the law as a means to stop journalists writing about them, including in cases of financial misconduct (which Australia has PLENTY of!)

Richard Walsh, former CEO of a publishing house I used to work for and not the man that I would direct children interested in journalism to model themselves on, declares that celebrities have no right to privacy and that they don't value their privacy at all. (Funnily enough, the athlete who was the victim of the loo amateur paparazzo doesn't see it that way.)  Under questioning, he agreed that this position did derive from the fact that gossip magazines would be garroted if this legislation were enacted, as their source of trashy shots would be destroyed.

But he argued with a straight face that it was essential that this law not be enacted, because it would see an end to investigative journalism in Australia.

Sam North, from Fairfax, who is an excellent journalist, and appears to be a generally decent bloke, made a similar argument from a different direction. He said that the wealthy would use this law to to bring legal actions that would stop investigation of their misdeeds, and, because the concept of Free Speech has no special status in Australia (that is to say, there is no freedom of expression enshrined in our constitution nor statutes), and because the judiciary historically been hostile to the media, there was every chance those actions would succeed.

I'm in two minds. On the one hand, I really do think that ordinary citizens and hapless celebrities should have an inviolable right to privacy. On the other hand, I would not like the judiciary to have the final say on whether or not an investigation into a corrupt company or politician was kosher.


My solution is simple. Stop buying trashy magazines and papers. Buy broadsheets, news mags and gardening magazines. Pay the salaries of smarter journalists. Make their frownlines profitable and keep their kids in good schools while the children of paparazzi become acquainted with the state system for a change.

And for the three people who are interested in this, you can watch and read about it at www.abc.net.au/mediawatch

In slightly related news, there is exactly one out male athlete at these Olympics. GO Australia's Matthew Mitcham! He's diving in the springboard preliminaries tonight and will be in the 10m on the 22nd. For all of you who are slashing the divers, focus, people. Focus.
 
 
 
maggiemarguerite_26 on August 18th, 2008 01:28 pm (UTC)
Stop buying trashy magazines and papers. Buy broadsheets, news mags and gardening magazines. Pay the salaries of smarter journalists

::nods::
I couldn't agree more. If those mags didn't sell... sadly, I don't think anyone who is likely to read this actually buys trashy mags.


And i'll be focusing. :D
But if he's up against Alesandre Despatie, I'll be still waving my Canadain flag.

::looses my focus while thinking of Mitcham up against Despatie::
blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 18th, 2008 01:36 pm (UTC)
THAT's the way to enjoy the Olympics!

Yes, I am afraid that I already have a higher proportion of New Yorker and Economist readers on my Flist than OK and er ... other trashy mag readers. Still, if everyone spreads the word!
shoeboxer4life on August 18th, 2008 02:36 pm (UTC)
Marguerite, what's the deal with Despatie and his diving partner? The announcers were all, "Miranda shouldn't be here. He's the weak link. But he is Alesandre's best friend, and Alesandre demanded he dive with him. No one in Canada questions Alesandre." My Slashy McSlashy heart couldn't help but wonder if this prima dona national hero diver Despatie had a, um, thing for the less qualified but perhaps well-endowed Miranda?? Talk about salacious stories. Is it wrong to wonder these things under Bram's post about putting a stop to celebrity gossip? Sorry, Brammers!!!
(no subject) - blamebrampton on August 18th, 2008 02:53 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - shoeboxer4life on August 18th, 2008 03:59 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - marguerite_26 on August 18th, 2008 03:02 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - shoeboxer4life on August 18th, 2008 03:57 pm (UTC) (Expand)
grey_hunter on August 18th, 2008 04:27 pm (UTC)
sadly, I don't think anyone who is likely to read this actually buys trashy mags.

Yes because we can get all that and more and better on the net. In fact, we can create them.* And the appropriate disclaimer ensures that there's no actual violation of privacy.

*Disclaimer: I'm not actually into RPS, except for a brief jaunt a few years ago but that didn't involve any athletes.
(no subject) - marguerite_26 on August 18th, 2008 04:32 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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(no subject) - drgaellon on August 18th, 2008 06:47 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - marguerite_26 on August 18th, 2008 06:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)
&helena;uminohikari on August 18th, 2008 02:02 pm (UTC)
Trashy magazines are stupid anyway. Half of what they print is just lies!
blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 18th, 2008 02:04 pm (UTC)
Oh goodness yes. "What can we make out of this pic?" is the start of many an editorial briefing!
Bryoneybryoneybrynn on August 18th, 2008 02:14 pm (UTC)
I'm down with the boycott of tabloid crap. I make an effort not to get into that stuff. I'm always of two minds with the celeb privacy thing. I firmly believe that each of us has the right to basic privacy and can't believe the shit some media people get away with but I do get irritated that celebs participate in building a culture that worships them and then complain about the attention. It's usually a much better articulated rant but I'm sick today.

And hee for slashing the divers. I havne't been but I have been like "Oh, I think Harry's les would look like that but his stomach would look like that." Divers are pretty.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 18th, 2008 02:28 pm (UTC)
I do see what you're saying, but I'm not sure that that many celebrity figures want to be in a culture that worships them.

Sure, some do, Paris in particular! And I am certain that George Clooney and Robbie Williams both thank their lucky stars every day that popularity comes with totty, but the vast majority of talented actors, writers and musicians are pretty normal (as examples I give you Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet and several other people named C/Kate, as well as Yo-Yo Ma, David Bowie these days and 90% of authors I could think of (except for Philip Pullman, he wants more fame;-)) Why is it that success in the arts needs to be accompanied by clebrity. Why can't you just be skilled and private? The paparazzi do not stalk Nobel prize winning physicists!

Maybe we should all agree to only follow the travails of those who enjoy celebrity: Britney, Jade Goody and the cast of every reality program ever ... though I think it wold be kinder to find them all professional help.
Bryoneybryoneybrynn on August 18th, 2008 02:39 pm (UTC)
Yes, I was thinking of the more high-profile movie stars etc. I don't know. I just sort of feel like it's all a crazy machine. The magazines and the "Entertainment Tonight" style "news" shows. They make entertainment seem like news and we buy into and suddenly it is news. In some ways, the stars collude with this and that's the part where I can't just see them as victims. It is possible to make a living in your field without being a $20 mil a picture movie star and then outsiders would be less intrusive. I kind of feel like you can't be a star without being a star. But no one deserves to have their home invaded or their personal safety threatened or any of that. But it's different here - Canadians aren't nearly as instrusive as Americans when it comes to that stuff so my impressions of what they actually put up with are probably skewed.
(no subject) - blamebrampton on August 18th, 2008 02:52 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Randy: Bowie Labyrinthdrgaellon on August 18th, 2008 06:48 pm (UTC)
David Bowie these days
these days being the critical words... Davie used to be quite the media whore, back in the day.
not your typical annihilatrixfuriosity on August 18th, 2008 02:22 pm (UTC)
I have never understood the appeal of "look, it's a star without make-up!" o.o
blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 18th, 2008 02:24 pm (UTC)
And yet those issues sell like crack sandwiches. Sigh.

Other mags call those spreads: "Look, it's an editor without originality!"
not your typical annihilatrixfuriosity on August 18th, 2008 02:30 pm (UTC)
I have to admit that it's always fascinated me why people actually feel better about themselves when they see someone else worse off than they are. It's just. I don't understand the logic behind "she has more wrinkles/debt than I do, therefore I am awesome!" Buh? O.o
(no subject) - blamebrampton on August 18th, 2008 02:32 pm (UTC) (Expand)
pingridpingrid on August 18th, 2008 02:26 pm (UTC)
Hah! "Make frownlines profitable TODAY! We're doing our part." :D

The Norwegian media is pretty tame compared to some, but god yes, I absolutely agree. And who CARES about how Madonna looks without makeup? If only the tabloids were a sign that there's nothing more important to focus on then everything would be dandy, but yeah. *sneers*

I suppose all the other Olympians have just chosen not to be gay. :p
blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 18th, 2008 02:29 pm (UTC)
Well, some, like Phelps, have had no time for any sex ever ...
pingridpingrid on August 18th, 2008 02:30 pm (UTC)
I haven't really followed Phelps, but I take it that a lot of people dislike him - why is that?
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parallel parking prodigyempress_jae on August 18th, 2008 02:45 pm (UTC)
the way i see it, trashy magazines do nothing but add to the igorance of basic human intelligence. what kills me is that there's a huge percentage of people that actually believe everything that is printed. and what's worse, is that they take what's printed as gospel. no one can tell them differnt. even if they're being told, you know...the truth. :D
blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 18th, 2008 02:49 pm (UTC)
Whenever anyone tells me that magazines speak the truth, I mentioned that I was paid to write fashion articles. I wear ethical Converse knock-offs from Oxfam or Birkenstocks with a 7-year-old skirt and denim jacket most days ...
(no subject) - pingrid on August 18th, 2008 02:58 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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blamebramptonblamebrampton on August 18th, 2008 03:17 pm (UTC)
Do try a good newsmag or homewares title ;-) We need an industry to keep going, just without the trash. Not that I'm selfish (oh who am I kidding?)
Amazing Little Ecosystemwinterthunder on August 18th, 2008 04:52 pm (UTC)
Besides not caring the slightest bit about the content of those types of magazines, the general writing quality just bugs me. Though, ironically, here in the States there's been a big to-do amongst the 'real' papers that the National Enquirer (a really trashy tabloid of the "make stuff up" genre) scooped the Edwards affair story. Guess they do get it right occasionally.

Randy: Kiss Me Brian Justindrgaellon on August 18th, 2008 06:44 pm (UTC)
nor does Russell Crowe
Really? Over here, he's generally known as a decent actor, not tabloid fodder.
The statute includes the right of publication for matters that are of public concern.... including in cases of financial misconduct
Isn't financial misfeasance/malfeasance a matter of public interest? Especially if it involves governmental or publicly traded entities?
it would see an end to investigative journalism in Australia.
Again, there's a difference between "investigative journalism" (which, almost eo ipso references the public interest) and "gossipmongering."
there is no freedom of expression enshrined in our constitution nor statutes
Well, then, there's your problem right there. They need to fix that oversight, tout de suite.
there is exactly one out male athlete at these Olympics. GO Australia's Matthew Mitcham!
Yay! I'll be rooting for him, even if I won't be watching. (Sorry, I have better things to do than watch televised sporting competitions of any nature. Even if they do have nice eye candy.)
i can see your house from herewho_la_hoop on August 18th, 2008 08:01 pm (UTC)
*puts on my hat of mild disagreement* (and very fetching it is too!). Of course, things may be wildly different in Australia, but in the UK the majority of 'candid' shots of celebrities are arranged with the full knowledge and consent of said celebrities. Who often get paid vast amounts of money. Who are nearly all Z-listers who want the attention. Yes, it's very unfair on the few who don't - but if you put yourself out there, doing interviews constantly with these magazines and talking about your sex life, your diet, your makeup... it's kind of eyerollworthy to then say "zomg! you're violating my privacy!" when a pap takes a picture of you making friends with a cream bun outside a cafe. Which is the majority of the people who star in the trashy mags.

So as I said, very unfair on the people who don't act like that, but I find the idea of an inviolable right to privacy when you're in public pretty frightening, actually - the top of the slippery slope...
It's a Deensedeensey on August 18th, 2008 11:47 pm (UTC)
Stop buying trashy magazines and papers. Buy broadsheets, news mags and gardening magazines. Pay the salaries of smarter journalists

Absolutely. I used to buy trashy mags when I flew, as a treat. Now I grab Scientific American and New Scientist.
AMY 凛☆ラブ☆アタックtomatoe18 on August 19th, 2008 02:56 am (UTC)
I used to buy Entertainment Weekly. It was not trashy. Now it is. I'm not buying anymore. The way they pimp Twilight is just... scary. I can't even appreciate their articles on my favorite movies anymore because they usually say all the wrong things about it. The only magazine I'd still buy right now is GQ (UK).