Bollywood hide-and-seek: privacy, disclosure and the media

Wednesday 24 November, 6.00pm until 7.30pm, Landmark, Lower Level, Palladium High Street, Phoenix Mills, Lower Parel, Mumbai, India

Venue: Landmark, Lower Level, Palladium High Street, Phoenix Mills, Lower Parel, Mumbai, India

Tickets: Free, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for more information.

Celebrities are notorious for courting publicity one minute and protesting the next about the invasion of their privacy. Not only filmstars but sportsmen and indeed politicians often have an ambivalent relationship with the media. So do public figures forfeit any right to privacy, or should they be protected from the public gaze? Some argue that those who depends on media attention for their livelihoods must accept the consequences. If Bollywood stars want newspapers and TV stations to hype their latest movies, they should not be surprised when reporters are equally interested in their personal relationships, and any salacious details of their private lives. After all, when the public buys in to a celebrity’s personal brand, they want their money’s worth. But what about those celebrities’ families and other parties unwittingly caught in the flashlights? Shouldn’t their privacy and dignity be respected?

For some, it is a simple question of free speech. Either the media are free to report as they see fit, or they are subject to censorship. This principle has often been invoked by those opposing any proposed privacy law or broadcasting legislation that might undermine the editorial autonomy of media outlets. Others argue that media have undermined their own credibility by behaving irresponsibly, for example by conducting fake sting operations. Indeed, some critics see deeper problems with today’s ‘celebrity culture’, with its focus on superficial gossip and scandal. Don’t the media have a responsibility to inform the public as well as entertaining it? The question is especially pressing when it comes to politics, which some argue has come to resemble show business rather too closely. A figure like Rahul Gandhi attracts attention not so much for any particular political message or idea as for who he is, and perhaps his filmstar looks as well as his family heritage. Shouldn’t the media focus more on the substance of politics than on personalities?

Some believe that the very boundary between public and private is changing, and that ordinary citizens as well as celebrities are increasingly living their lives in public, sharing information and pictures of themselves of ‘social networking’ websites like Facebook. Is such information fair game for the media? How should the media balance the public interest with the privacy of individuals, whether they are in public life or not?

The discussion will be introduced by Angus Kennedy, head of external relations, Academy of Ideas

Helen Birtwistle
history and politics teacher, South London school

Soutik Biswas
India editor, BBC News

Dolan Cummings
associate fellow, Academy of Ideas; author, That Existential Leap: a crime story (forthcoming from Zero Books)

Shishir Joshi
journalist; co-founder, Journalism Mentor

Mayank Shekhar
national cultural editor, Hindustan Times

Meeta Vashisht
Indian film, television and theatre actress; screenwriter; director; social activist

Kevin Toolis
director and co-founder, manyriversfilm; director, Emmy-nominated Cult of the Suicide Bomber

Claire Fox
director, Academy of Ideas; panellist, BBC Radio 4's Moral Maze; author, I Find That Offensive

Produced by
Angus Kennedy convenor, The Academy; author, Being Cultured: in defence of discrimination
Dolan Cummings associate fellow, Academy of Ideas; author, That Existential Leap: a crime story (forthcoming from Zero Books)
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