What interests the public is not necessarily the public interest

An article in the Guardian by Carl Gardner argues that “Exposing celebrities’ sex lives is not in the public interest”.

… what’s the public interest in exposing the sex life of a golfer, footballer or motor-sport administrator, any more than yours or mine? None, is the answer: the interest is overwhelmingly commercial.

One suspects that this is a distinction not very clear to those in the ANC who are currently attempting to create new restrictions on the South African media. Indeed, they appear not to realise that by comparison with the British tabloid press, the South African media, for all their missteps and arse-creeping of big business, are the epitome of restraint and decency.

I agree with Gardner. I see no point at all to the kind of reporting that we have seen, for example, in the case of Tiger Woods.

(Though I do think the following comments on Gardner’s article are worth re-posting!

Clunie (17 Aug 2010, 6:31PM):

@Silverwhistle … at least the endless diet of celeb dross stops the Mail and Sun dedicating every single page to ”Why We Should Bring Back Hanging and Public Dismemberment For Benefit Cheats and Immigrants” – which is something. 🙂

owaingr (17 Aug 2010, 6:42PM):

@Clunie, fair point. Though I’d never though of celebrity as a sort of public duty before. God bless ’em for taking it on the chin for those less fortunate. 😉

As for the SA media…

I think the SA media would greatly benefit from being more diverse. The Independent group is foreign-owned and is way too big. In many SA cities, it effectively has a monopoly on the daily press. In Cape Town, for example, it owns the morning Cape Times, the evening Cape Argus, the Weekend Argus and the down-market Daily Voice. Interestingly, the muck-raking Daily Voice is not currently listed on the Independent News and Media websites. It also has a huge chunk of magazine publishing, with Condé Nast Independent Magazines.

The SA media are far too beholden to the business and consumerist agenda. The interests of society come a very poor second, especially in the broadcast media.

Journalists are frequently under the illusion that the ordinary principles of respect and decency do not apply to them, when of course they do. Observing these principles, however, never means remaining silent when there is a need to report on inhumanity, corruption or relevant hypocrisy in public figures. President Zuma, for example, presumed to lead South Africa’s “moral regeneration” movement (that faded away, didn’t it?) a few years ago. Any politician who presumes to tell others how they should behave deserves to be held to particularly high standards.

About David

I am an environmental writer, journalist and speaker living in Cape Town, South Africa.
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