chapter  4
16 Pages

– trouble spots


The behaviour of the British media, especially of the tabloid newspapers, provoked bitter debate on privacy in the 1980s, a debate no nearer true resolution by the mid-1990s, despite the government decision not to bring in a privacy law. The essence of the issue is the extent – if any – to which newspapers, programmes, magazines and other parts of the media are entitled to make public facts about the private interests and activities of individuals who do not consent to the publicity. Issues arising from the main question include the methods used by journalists to discover private facts: harassment, long-lens photography, bugging, surreptitious recording, deception, use of stolen or leaked documents, trespass, persistent approaches to relatives, friends and colleagues. Concern over privacy includes concern for the feelings of people who are bereaved or who are involved in other distressing events. The right to grieve quietly is a matter of privacy. That people killed, accidently or deliberately, are not usually named publicly until their closest relatives, their next-of-kin, have been informed, is also a matter of privacy. So is respect for victims. Anonymity for people raped is a further dimension and the desire for privacy encourages anonymity in other contexts, from personal donations to

political parties to big wins in the national lottery or on the football pools.