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Power of celebrity?

Stephen James-Yeoman | 11:20 UK time, Thursday, 23 August 2007

Celebrity endorsement is nothing new. A quick search of Wikipedia reveals even Pope Leo XIII and Queen Victoria were at it as far back as the 19th century. In their cases it was testimonials to heighten interest in patent medicines.

Breakfast logoIt was probably Band Aid in 1984 which first harnessed the power of celebrity on a mass scale to highlight a particular cause. And since then, charities have become ever more sophisticated in getting their message to a wide audience by tapping into society’s obsession with celebrity.

Breakfast is frequently offered a famous name using their A-list status to draw attention to others less fortunate than themselves. Many of those offers are politely declined but some do end up on the sofa, as did the British-born Hollywood actress Sienna Miller. She’d been to India to highlight the issue of global warming and was interviewed by us, Radio Four’s Today and BBC News 24 as she encouraged society to think about the environment.

Sienna MillerNobody is pretending that her opinion is worth more than others but that doesn’t mean I’m not interested in what she has to say. She wasn’t gifted six minutes of BBC One air time to preach on the social injustices of climate change.

In fact, she had to defend why we should listen to her opinion and were her actions of flying to India hypocritical, actually increasing her carbon footprint.

On Breakfast, Bill and Kate challenged her repeatedly on her beliefs; she gave an illuminating, insider’s description of how Hollywood, a major, global industry, was adjusting the way it operates in response to concerns over the environmental threat to our planet.

You can’t escape from the fact that Sienna is one of our most in-demand actresses. This doesn’t give her automatic and unchallenged access to our viewers but it does make her well placed to outline the movie industry’s reactions to a worldwide phenomenon.


  • 1.
  • At 11:45 AM on 23 Aug 2007,
  • kate wrote:

She was on the Today programme as well - and I switched it off. A complete waste of airtime, and deeply patronising to boot.

  • 2.
  • At 11:48 AM on 23 Aug 2007,
  • Rockingham wrote:

"she encouraged society to think about the environment"

Yeah, coz without do nothing hollywood actors we wouldn't have a clue about the environment would we? What a lot of words you have used to justify this appalling freebie.

  • 3.
  • At 12:14 PM on 23 Aug 2007,
  • Rvvm wrote:

"tapping into society’s obsession with celebrity"

I think it's more a case of the media's obsesssion with celebrity and society having no choice but to put up with it.

If you don't think her opinion is worth more than others, why did you interview her?

"It was probably Band Aid in 1984 which first harnessed the power of celebrity on a mass scale to highlight a particular cause."

Well, it depends upon what you mean by a mass scale, but I would have thought George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh in 1971 was a more obvious contender for the event which first harnessed the power of celebrity on a mass scale to highlight a particular cause.

And if one goes back to a different era, Charles Dickens's speech at a dinner for 'the great and the good' at the Freemasons’ Hall in 1858 in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital raised over £3,000 (over £200,000 in today’s money, which is quite impressive) - enough to buy a house next door to the hospital and double the hospital's bed spaces. Perhaps not quite celebrity on a mass scale, but not bad for 1858.

As Bill really trashed the duck joke this morning, I had to seek it out to find the correct version. You might want to repeat this for your perplexed viewers.

Then again, maybe you might feel inclined to to do some serious investigative reporting and drop the duck jokes, surfing bimbos, and cuddly animals? No? Oh well, here's the duck joke:

A duck walks into a bar and asks the bar man "you got a grape?". The man replies "sorry but we don't sell grapes", the duck sighs and walks out.

The next day the duck returns back to the pub and asks the same question, "you got a grape?", the bar man replies "i told you yesterday that we don't sell grapes here, now get lost". So the duck turns and walks out!

The following day the duck enters the bar again, but before he can ask his question the bar man shouts at him "if you ask me for a grape again i will nail your beak to the bar, you got that?".

The duck looks up at him and says "got any nails?", "no" replies the bar man.

The duck pauses, "you got a grape?"

It's ridiculous to interview actresses about global warming. It's like letting untrained, but nice looking, amateurs forecast the weather. And the BBC would never allow that...

Have you heard of scientists? You know: the people who do science. That stuff you gave up at 14 because it was too hard and not an obvious path to a media career. They actually know about these things. Talk to them. Please.

  • 8.
  • At 04:10 PM on 23 Aug 2007,
  • Jonathan Michaud wrote:

If, as you say, her opinion is not worth more than others why not just pull in a taxi driver from outside the BBC offices working outside and ask him his opinion? You gave her the time because she is a celeb, not because her opinion has weight on this issue. You should be interviewing people whose opinion IS owrh more than others....i.e experts!!!!

"Breakfast is frequently offered a famous name to offer their A-list status to draw attention to others less fortunate than themselves."

In fact the A-list celebs want to draw attention to THEMSELVES with free publicity.

  • 9.
  • At 10:17 PM on 23 Aug 2007,
  • Pat Toohie wrote:

Sienna Miller as a free thinking adult as every right to promote and be interested in Global warming and its effects, she is at least doing something positive regardless of her celebrity status, she is an actress so what ? she has a vote and an opinion. I'm not a celebrity but I believe that we are all entitled to learn something new, so well done Sienna celebrity or not at least your doing something. Stop moaning and support her instead.

  • 10.
  • At 10:56 PM on 23 Aug 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

I've been watching celebrities beg for charity for starving third world people all of my life. Care, Save the Children etc. Between government aid and NGOs they have probably saved countless tens of millions who otherwise would have died of disease or starvation. These people went on to procreate more hungry mouths, more consumers and producers of greenhouse gases. Despite all of the enormous sums of money and endless effort, there are surely more impovrished desperate people in the world today than there ever were and they are contributing to global warming among other problems. You have to wonder if it ever crosses the minds of these celebrities that the results of their effort actually exacerbates the very problems they say they are trying to help solve. Nah, most of them have probably never had an original thought in their heads in their entire lives. They just pose and read lines for the cameras trying to remember what was said to them 15 seconds earlier before the film started rolling.

  • 11.
  • At 03:51 AM on 24 Aug 2007,
  • Disillusioned wrote:

I also listened to the Today programme and was utterly baffled by the airtime Sienna Miller was given. What on earth does she have to contribute to this topic other than a very large carbon footprint?

You can question her motives all you like, but the simple fact is that she shouldn't be on a serious news show. I can understand her appearance on the Breakfast show on BBC One as it gave up serious news a long time ago, but what were the editors of the Today programme thinking?

As far as illuminating the way in which Hollywood is adapting, who cares? It is an insignificant part of the climate change debate and is just part of the ridiculous cult of celebrity that seems to have taken over Britain.

You wouldn't be making excuses in this blog if it was anything other than ridiculous. I agree with Malcolm - ask a scientist next time.

  • 12.
  • At 10:49 AM on 24 Aug 2007,
  • Sam wrote:

Given the appalling level of accuracy in most media reporting (the BBC included) i think it is important to interview real experts on such issues.

You know i always tooks reports as fairly factual, that was until i saw somthing reported about somthing i actually know about, network security and hacking.

Having seen the BBC's interpretation, the level of factual inacuracy and total ignorance was really quite staggering. Your left thinking 'if the accuracy is so poor on this issue what does that say about the level of acuracy generally in there reporting?'.

So no interviewing a celebrity on any serious issue is pointless and demaning to the subject discussed and raises the profile of the celebrity suggesting we should care what they think. Take Bob Geldof? Who's he to talk to me about climate change or africa? Who is he to go the G8 summit? I didn't vote for him and he has no profesional knowledge of the subject so i'm not interested in his opinion and your suggestion that i should is insulting to my intelligence.

As for this woman? I am pleased to say i haven't the slightest idea who she is despite being a 20 somthing which is i assume your target audience.

  • 13.
  • At 04:04 PM on 24 Aug 2007,
  • Clark wrote:

This fellow might have provided more useful context:

Sir - Last week rain fell not only on the rag-bag of climate-change activists camped outside Heathrow, it also poured on the whole global-warming parade.

First, new research indicates that our climate may be only one third as sensitive to C02 as has been assumed.

Secondly, corrected temperature figures for America from Nasa indicate that the hottest year in the 20th century was 1934, not in the 1990s.

Thirdly, recent satellite figures from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration demonstrate no mean global warming since 1998. Indeed, the curve has flattened to below 1998 levels.

And finally, our British weather continues to contradict all predictions.

When will our politicians, especially David Cameron, recognise that carbon claptrap, not global warming, is the danger for our economic future?

Philip Stott, Emeritus Professor of Biogeography in the University of London, Gravesend, Kent

But he's only an Emeritus Professor.

  • 14.
  • At 04:32 PM on 24 Aug 2007,
  • James S wrote:

To the various posts above stating that the Beeb should interview scientists; do you really think that this will happen?

Scientists may actually say something reasonable like, "the whole anthropegenic global warming con is currently being shot to pieces by some very good scientists and it looks like nobody really knows what is happening except that the climate is currently cooling and all of our models are incorrect".

But obviously the leftie fluffists in the Beeb don't want you to know that!

  • 15.
  • At 05:13 PM on 24 Aug 2007,
  • SimonK wrote:

>Scientists may actually say something reasonable like, "the whole anthropegenic global warming con is currently being shot to pieces by some very good scientists and it looks like nobody really knows what is happening except that the climate is currently cooling and all of our models are incorrect".

>But obviously the leftie fluffists in the Beeb don't want you to know that!

Don't be silly. The vast, vast majority of climate scientists (well over ninety-five percent) are completely convinced by the standard climate change models.

  • 16.
  • At 12:13 AM on 25 Aug 2007,
  • Greg Dance wrote:

I read that the so called "rag-bag of climate-change activists camped outside Heathrow had in their ranks engineering and other scientifically educated graduates as well as locals to Heathrow who would see an enitire village bulldozed to make room for the runway which is the cause of the protest.

Come on professor Stott, get your facts right if you want them to have credibility! The other points you make must be in doubt now.

  • 17.
  • At 03:33 AM on 25 Aug 2007,
  • Guy Fox wrote:

The power of celebrity is directly proportional to the ignorance of the people. The more ignorant and impoverished a person, the more likely that person will succumb to hero worship and celebrity ($ell-lie-brity) nonsense.

I lived in L.A. for a quarter century. During that time I met (and partied) with a number of celebrities; this includes Madonna who presently lives in London the culture capital of the world.

Celebrities are really just people; there are bad ones and good ones, smart ones and dumb ones, mean ones and kind ones.

Nonetheless... I have learned that the elevated $tatus of a celebrity person is generally not worth an opinion on anything. Celebrities live in a rareified world that separates them from the $truggles of common folks; their opinions are thus suspect. I am also amused how the alleged sagacity of a celebrity blinds people to their $uper-human failings... the chronic substance abuse, the shallowness of ego, endless sex without love or committment. The hypocrisy is astounding... and it even transcends that of politicians and used car dealers.

Yeah! Been there! Done that! Los Angeles (Hollywood), the $tar capital of celebrity indulgence and hypocrisy, is a cesspool where image always takes precedence over substance. Ronald Reagan was the paragon example of this. He was actually the hood ornament for the power behind the $cenes (George H.W. Bush, alleged EX-Director of the CIA during the Vietnam war years). Indeed! Old Coyote Knose! I was there! I was connected to some of that power. It is the reason why Rome is burning!

Its just our obsesssion with anything related to celebrity that the media is trying to promote each and every thing using some celebrity or the other.

They cant be blamed as the demand is for celebs and to get a higher viewership/promotion, they would just rope in any celebrity willing to spare their time.

  • 19.
  • At 11:12 AM on 27 Aug 2007,
  • mellie wrote:

So sick of celebrities - especially slim, blond, female airhead celebs who do my own wonderful teenage daughter's self-esteem no good - seeing as she's dark and on the chubby side. I'm trying to steer her away from Sienna and Kate and Lyndsey and Amy as role models. They collectively amount to a tutorial on promiscuous sex, drugs, mindless consumerism, unhealthy weight loss, pandering to unrealistic male fantasy and alcoholism. Not easy - when the media gazes on them so droolingly - and ignores alternative, thinking female role models who don't fit the Barbie template.

  • 20.
  • At 05:52 PM on 27 Aug 2007,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:

Movies ?

Are they a bit like 'films' then ??


  • 21.
  • At 08:47 PM on 28 Aug 2007,
  • Ann Hamilton wrote:

Why do you always put complain about this post after each item? How about congratulate the writer? OR
Agree with this writer?

This post is closed to new comments.

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