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Drawing back the curtain: a post-Leveson examination of celebrity, privacy and press intrusion

Peck, N. (2017). Drawing back the curtain: a post-Leveson examination of celebrity, privacy and press intrusion. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


The private and public domains are usually regarded as a dichotomy: what is in one is not in the other. There can be many reasons for intrusions by the news media into the private lives of people. This thesis assesses the extent to which celebrity is a useful conduit for understanding why the media intrudes into people’s private lives and the extent to which celebrity affects any public interest justification for doing so. In essence: does celebrity make a difference in press intrusions into the private lives of others, or is it just one of many factors.

The private lives of celebrities have been subject to invasion by the press for many years, while the conceptual definition of privacy has been fiercely debated by academics and lawyers. In 2011, as a direct consequence of the revelation that the News of the World had illegally accessed murder victim Milly Dowler’s voicemail during an active police investigation into her disappearance, the first part of the Leveson Inquiry was launched in order to examine the relationship between the British press and the public, the police and politicians.

The significance of the Leveson Inquiry on public life and the media and political spheres means that an analysis of press intrusions into the private lives of both celebrities and those, like the Dowler family, who were unlucky enough to fall under scrutiny due to tragic events, is essential in understanding the relationship between celebrity, privacy and the press in twenty-first century England.

This thesis utilises an observation study of the Leveson Inquiry public hearings from the Royal Courts of Justice, and the resulting evidence, to investigate the impact of celebrity on the nature and extent of press intrusion into the privacy of celebrities, and how it differs in the cases of noncelebrities who become of interest to the media.

The thesis concludes that the element of celebrity has a major impact on press intrusion into the private lives of individuals regardless of their personal status, as ordinary individuals are targeted due to their proximity to a celebrity, or as a result of being caught up in extraordinary circumstances. However, social media platforms are threatening the role of the press in revealing private information about individuals to the general public, as both traditional celebrities and ‘internet micro-celebrities’ communicate directly with global audiences.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: K Law > KD England and Wales
N Fine Arts > NE Print media
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Departments: Doctoral Theses
Interdisciplinary Centres > Law, Justice & Journalism
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