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Teachers: Literacy: Text

Last Updated: Monday February 20 2006 11:38 GMT

Do celebs have a right to a private life?

Citizenship 11-14/KS3/Levels E&F
Media and society

Actress Sienna Miller
Actress Sienna Miller wants the Prime Minister to stop so many photographers following her around all the time.

Students weigh up privacy against freedom of expression arguments as they take on the role of members of the Press Complaints Commission.

Learning aims

By the end of the lesson, students should understand;

  • The Press Complaints Commisssion code of conduct
  • Relevant articles of the Human Right Act
  • The right to privacy
  • Freedom of expression
  • What constitutes the public interest

Sienna Miller at the premiere of her latest film

News-based comprehension

Read out this story to the class.

The story and the following questions and activities are available as printable worksheet 1

Ask students:

1. What does Sienna Miller want the Prime Minister to do?
To stop so many photographers following her around all the time.

2. How does she hope to persuade him?
With a petition.

3. Why does Sienna want something done about photographers?
She says she has been frightened and felt physically threatened.

4. Why are some people unsympathetic?
Some people think that if celebs pose at premieres they shouldn't complain when private photos are taken.

5. Name some other celebrities who have complained about photographers.
Britney Spears and other examples. In September 2004, when asked what she wanted for her birthday, actress Gwyneth Paltrow said, "The best present I could have would be for the paparazzi to be banned, there should be a law against them."

6. What do you think? Do celebs have a right to privacy or is it part of their job?


When rights clash

Imagine this conversation between an actress and a newspaper photographer: Ask students to fill in the missing words.

ACTRESS: Stop following me around. You're breaking the law which says that everyone has the right to ....

PHOTOGRAPHER: That's true, but under the same law, everyone also has the right to freedom of ...

ACTRESS: But what about the rules for journalists. Isn't there a code of ... that says everyone is entitled to respect for their private and family life?

PHOTOGRAPHER: You're right, but the code of conduct also says there may be exceptions where the story is in the public ...


  • Right to privacy
  • Right to freedom of expression
  • Code of conduct
  • In the public interest
Explain to students:

The following information and instructions for the main activity Judge who's right is right are available as printable weorksheet 2.

In October 2000, the European Convention on Human Rights, was incorporated in to UK law.

It says:

"Everyone has the right for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence (meaning letters, emails etc)."

AND "Everyone has the right of freedom of expression."

Newspapers, magazines etc follow a set of self-imposed rules called the code of conduct.

This code, which is overseen by an organisation called the Press Complaints Commission, says:

"Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence. A publication will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent. The use of long-lens photography to take pictures of people in private places without their consent is unacceptable. "

But it also says

"There may be exceptions where they can be demonstrated to be in the public interest."

Ask students:

  • What does the expression public interest mean?
  • What situations do you think would justify intruding into someone's private life because it was in the public interest?

The PCC code of conduct states that:

The public interest includes, but is not confined to:

  • Detecting or exposing crime or serious impropriety.
  • Protecting public health and safety.
  • Preventing the public from being misled by an action or statement of an individual or organisation.
  • There is a public interest in freedom of expression itself.
  • The PCC will consider the extent to which material is already in the public domain, or will become so.
Main activity

Judge who's right is right

The group imagine they are members of the Press Complaints Commission receiving a complaint from a celebrity regarding an intrusion into their privacy.

Their job is to weigh up privacy against freedom-of-expression arguments and decide which are the most important.


Kate Moss

Students can either research a real case, examples are listed in the blue box


Invent a situation.

This involves one meber of the group taking on the role of the celebrity and answering the follwing questions.

  • How was your right to privacy breached?
  • Where were you?
  • Who were you with?
  • What do you want the newspaper to do? E.g. print an apology
Another member of the group should take on the role of the newspaper photographer and answer the following questions:
  • Why is the photograph/story in the public interest?
  • Why didn't you arrange a photo shoot/interview with them, involving their consent?
If the group agrees with the celebrity, they suggest what the newspaper should do to make amends.

The PPC code of conduct says:

"Any publication judged to have breached the Code must print the adjudication in full and with due prominence, including headline reference to the PCC."


adjudication = judgement

with due prominence = making the apology as visible as the original story. E.g. if the story was splashed all over the front page and the apology was squeezed into a tiny corner of page 26, this would not be judged to be "with due prominence."

Extension activity

Written apology

Students write a newspaper apology based on the case they examined during the main activity of the lesson.


Students present outlines of the cases and their rulings, giving explanations fro their decisions.

Teachers' background

Rules graphic

Click on these links for information about:

  • Defamation
  • Contempt
  • Libel
  • Copyright
  • Jigsaw identification
to answer the questions:
  • What are the media checked for?
  • Who checks TV and radio?
  • What about the cinema, DVDs and videos?
  • Who deals with newspapers, books and magazines?
  • What about computer games?
  • What happens with adverts?
and for relevant comments submitted by children logging onto the Newsround website.

Curriculum relevance

National Curriculum programme of study for Citizenship at Key Stage 3

1h. The significance of the media in society
2a. Think about topical political, spiritual, moral, social and cultural issues
2b. Justify orally and in writing a personal opinion about such issues, problems or events
2c. Contribute to group and exploratory class discussions, and take part in debates

For hundreds more news-based stories, click on Teachers on the left-hand side.

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