How much privacy do celebrities deserve?

This is such a loaded topic. Especially since the news hook into it involves a former prime minister, his daughter, Halloween, News Ltd and some vodka.

Here is how Fairfax is reporting it:

ENRAGED by what he regards as an invasion of his family’s privacy, the former prime minister Paul Keating has called for the rewriting of privacy laws so that media would have to gain someone’s permission before publishing a photograph or story about their private life.

”Matters for which there is no public right to know ought to be the preserve of the citizenry in its privacy,” Mr Keating told the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday. ”That includes details of their personal lives, altercations in marriages, love affairs, compromising photographs taken of them privately without their consent. These are all matters that should be off limits for newspapers and other media.”

Mr Keating contacted the SMH after an article in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph which alleged his daughter, Katherine, kicked one of its photographers at a social event at the State Theatre and said: ”Do you want me to throw you down the stairs and kill you?”

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Through her father, Ms Keating denied the claims and accused the journalist who wrote the story of ”wilful misrepresentation”. This prompted a furious response from the chairman and chief executive of News Ltd, John Hartigan, who accused Ms Keating of lying and her father of being motivated by self-interest in calling for privacy law reform.

Ms Keating denied the altercation took place as reported. ”It is a wilful misrepresentation by the journalist, Jonathon Moran, of the conversation. Moran did not call to discuss the incident or to verify the quotes. But when Moran rang an organiser of the event, the organiser said I would never say such a thing. This was not enough to discourage Moran from running the story unchecked.”

Mr Keating did not deny his daughter was angry but said she denied kicking the photographer and alleged she was deliberately ”ambushed”. But Mr Hartigan said: ”Her claim she neither assaulted or threatened our staff … is a lie. Two of our staff witnessed the threats and the assault and they have given signed and witnessed statements to this effect today.”

Well, there’s a few issues to unpack right there!

I’m not going to get into what did or didn’t happen at the party in terms of assault etc but it does seem that all parties agree that Katherine Keating didn’t want her photo taken and was pissed off when it was.

On the surface, I find that a little hard to endorse. Maybe she was just having a bad day or a grumpy moment but if you are going to attend a public party like that, there is an implicit understanding you will be photographed. That is WHY you have been invited.

It’s a very simple and open exchange and it happens at thousands of functions all over Australia most nights of the week. It’s also why I go to pretty much nothing that I’m invited to. I can’t be bothered to get dressed up and I don’t want to have my photo taken (the sound you just heard is the DELETE button as all the publicists who read this website remove me from their invite lists….oh well).

Publicists work so damn hard to promote their products (which are often extremely uninteresting) by creating froth and bubbbles and fun and glamour around it in the way of a good guest list. If you are one of those guests, you say thank you by smiling for the photographers – who are invited specifically to take your picture.

It’s part of the deal and for most celebrities, it’s win-win. They get to go out and have a fabulous time with free alcohol, food and entertainment and in exchange, they have to pose for their photo which, for most celebs, is excellent publicity.

Having your photo taken when you’re off-duty, in the street or the park or leaving the doctor’s surgery with your kid is another story and I can understand celebs who are upset when that happens.

Here’s what journalist Tracy Spicer – who is herself photographed when attending events – wrote in The Punch yesterday:

I’m sick of politicians and performers, who trade their profiles for money, biting the hand that feeds them.

Keating’s daughter Katherine has a reputation for appearing at the opening of an envelope to promote her political lobbying business. But why turn up at a VIP party, sponsored by a vodka company, dressed as Amy Winehouse, if you don’t want to be papped by photographers?

There’s an unwritten rule at these kind of parties. Make no mistake, you aren’t being invited for your scintillating personality. The organisers want pictures of high-profile people to appear in the media, covertly promoting their brand of alcohol/clothing/jewellery.

It is the height of bad manners – not to mention counter-productive – to lash out at the snappers for simply doing their job. There are plenty of Hollywood stars…..complaining about the paparazzi invading their privacy while their publicists work feverishly behind the scenes tipping off the media.

Or spending half their time posing for photos for women’s magazines and the other half wearing a low-slung baseball cap, pretending to be unaware of the snapperazzi hiding behind the bushes. These celebrities can even posture as ‘fiercely protective’ parents, but will happily to take their kids out for a staged “pap” shot when they have a new movie to promote.

Not all of them, though. You never hear the ever-gracious Cate Blanchett complaining about being papped sans make-up in the supermarket. It’s not just the rich and famous who suffer so-called invasions of privacy. In this brave new world we are ALL exposed, via Facebook, My Space, LinkedIn, citizen journalism or mobile phone cameras.

So why should a select few be protected, while everyone else accepts some loss of privacy as part and parcel of living in the modern age, with all its benefits?

Politics is a tough profession. But those who pursue the power and the glory know that it comes at a price – sacrificing the right to privacy. This is especially so in cases where the spouse or children choose careers, based upon political connections and the family name.

Don’t be surprised if Katherine Keating appears at a Melbourne Cup function, possibly wearing clothes supplied by a top designer. While sipping the free champagne and nibbling tasty canapés, she might take a moment to reflect on her privileged place in society. And the unwritten contract that comes with it.

But where do you think the line should be drawn for celebrities? Does the fact they’re famous mean they give up any right to be in public places and not be photographed? Or should celebrities decide when and how they are portrayed in photos? What about freedom of the press?

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