As far as the media is concerned, one ethical standard I know they must follow is responsible reporting. If this alone is the standard, then I would give a thumbs up for the showing of the documentary. By this criteria alone, the airing of the documentary is already ethical. As claimed by the article itself, “this was a responsible and important documentary. It was not primarily about Princess Diana or Dodi Al Fayed. It was about the photographers who were subjected to an authority instituted and media supported lynching. Locked up without charge for over two days.
Two years later they were formally cleared. Mohamed Al Fayed pursued an action against them for breach of privacy and was awarded derisory damages. ” The rights involved here are not only those of Princess Diana or her sons or Al Fayed. The documentary was mainly focused on the rights of the photographers involved. Thus, if the motivation for airing the documentary is to show to the world how they were treated without ill-motives of hurting the royal family or Princess Diana’s memory, then there is no reason why it should be unethical for Channel 4 air the documentary.
Its airing falls as responsible reporting from where I stand. Why is it ethical? Ethics should be viewed from the point of view of the one whose acts are concerned. In this case, whether the act of airing the documentary is ethical or not should be viewed from the perspective of Channel 4. Many great thinkers support the act of Channel 4 as ethical. Of course, this is assuming that it was done in the name of responsible reporting and without bad faith on its part. And this is a fair assumption because this is the only fact we can assume from the article as this was specifically mentioned therein.
What I am driving at is that we cannot assume bad faith on the part of Channel 4, like for example, airing it just to gain ratings or money for the in-between commercials, because these are not mentioned in the article. To proceed, I will start my defense with the ethical principles ordained by Socrates, who is regarded as one of the greatest teachers of ethics. He said that anyone who knows what virtue is will necessarily act virtuously. He further said that those who act badly, therefore, do so only because they are ignorant of, or mistaken about, the real nature of virtue.
Applying it to Channel 4, if they acted out of responsible reporting, then they acted ethically. If it should happen that they acted badly, then they were only mistaken on what should have been the proper conduct. This mistake should not automatically make the act unethical. Necessarily, Channel 4 should know what responsible reporting is. In fact, it acted upon this virtue. Thus, the airing of the documentary is ethical. Confucian ethics will also support the act of Channel 4 as ethical. The heart of Confucian ethics is character.
He said that it (ethics) centers neither on acts nor on their consequences, but on character. Applying this principle, airing the documentary or the consequences of airing it are not material to deterrmine whether the act is ethical or not. What matters is the character of Channel 4. Thus, the question is whether Channel 4 aired the documentary with ill-motives or with a noble and genuine purpose. Seeing that Channel 4 aired the documentary out of responsible reporting, which is a noble purpose as far as the media is concerned, then the act was nothing but ethical for them to perform.
However, it should be borne in mind here that there might be other factors which Channel 4 considered before airing the documentary. These other factors may possibly range from improving ratings, to generating income from the in-between commercials, to simply just starting an intrigue. Whatever these other factors are, they will not be considered in this discussion because we do not have enough facts from which we could draw a decent assumption. And finally, Spinoza’s view on ethics is that nothing is intrinsically good or bad, except to the extent that it is subjectively perceived to be by the individual.
He therefore suggests that whether an act is ethical or not depends on the perspective of the person doing the act. Spinoza’s view makes my argument so simple: if Channel 4 thinks it is right and ethical to air the documentary, then airing it is right and ethical. As aforementioned, the motive behind airing the documentary is responsible reporting. If responsible reporting is an ethical thing to do in the opinion of Channel 4, then it is so. Did the public need to know or want to know? I will not presume to know what is the opinion of the general public regarding the matter.
So I will just hazard a guess to answer this question. And I will assure you that it will be an intelligent guess. So let me proceed. Considering the facts that Princess Diana is a public figure, that the media is an industry impressed with public interest, and that the wrongful detention of persons is contrary to public policy, then I would dare say that the public should see the documentary. They need to know what is in it. In fact, it is their constitutional right to know. The Constitution guarantees that the people should be informed on matters which are of public concern.
It need not be belabored that the circumstances surrounding the death of Princess of Diana are matters of public concern. She is a celebrity and part of the royal family, which is the public head of England. This makes her a public figure. Moreover, certain members of the media were wrongfully detained because of her death. This is also a matter of public concern. Therefore, the general public should be informed whether the rights of these people, which rights are zealously protected by no less than the Constitution, were violated or not. So yes, the public needs to know about the documentary and what is in it.