March 29, 2007

Panel to discuss movies, reality TV and related laws

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — A panel discussion at Southern Illinois University Carbondale next week will examine reality television and movies and their relationship to laws governing privacy, consent and media freedom.

"Stupidity, Privacy, and the First Amendment: What Every Frat Boy Should Know After Borat," is set for 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 4, in the SIU School of Law Room 102. SIUC's College of Mass Communication and Media Arts, the SIU School of Law, and the Southern Illinois Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union are sponsoring the forum.

The event is free and open to the public. A question-and-answer session will follow the panel discussion.

A group of four panelists will discuss issues arising from Borat's "presentation of real individuals in unflattering lights," and what, if any potential recourses there might be for those in similar situations, said Mark A. Schneider, an assistant professor in sociology at SIUC.

The panelists are:

  • William H. Freivogel, interim director of the School of Journalism.
  • Laura E. Hlavach, assistant professor in the School of Journalism.
  • Mark Schultz, an assistant professor in the SIU School of Law.
  • Jak Tichenor, a producer with WSIU-TV.

Schneider noted that a recent Pew Research Center poll reported in USA Today indicates that 51 percent of 18-24 year olds "believe becoming famous is an important goal, second only to becoming rich."

That fame, however, can sometimes carry a price in later life that might result in embarrassing moments. Schneider noted that a court in New Jersey has accepted a class action lawsuit brought by a group of patients filmed in an emergency room for the production, "Trauma: Life in the ER." The lawsuit claims the filmed patients did not understand the nature of the film and were in no condition to understand the releases they signed, Schneider said.

The panelists will outline the legal framework for such lawsuits and the defense available to filmmakers, Schneider said.

For more information, contact Schneider at 618/549-4880 or 618/453-7627.