Is the ban on tainted stars justified?
With the Spring Festival round the corner, HaWen, director of the Spring Festival gala telecast by China Central Television, has said celebrities who have violated the lawor moral and social values have been banned from taking part in the annual show. Earlier, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television had said that celebrities who have broken the lawshould not be invited to appear in TV programs. Besides, the Beijing Trade Association for Performances has signed an agreement with 42 agencies not to hire or invite celebrities who have been booked for drug abuse to perform in any program.
These are bad news for tainted celebrities whose career relies on public exposure. But by being prohibited from appearing on any programs are such celebrities being discriminated against in terms of “employment”?
Some say keeping them away from programs is the right thing to do to keep the industry clean and healthy because celebrities involved in drug or sex scandals have had a negative impact on society, particularly the youth. Besides, the program producers are free to decide who they want to work with.
But some lawyers claim that banning tainted stars from taking part in TV productions and films is extra-judicial punishment after they have paid the fines and served time in prison for their deeds. This also could constitute discrimination in employment according to the Anti-Drug Law, Labor Lawand Employment Promotion Law, because these laws proclaim equal employment opportunities and prohibit any discrimination against people who have committed an offense and have been punished according to the lawfor it.
People guilty of committing an offense are entitled to get a second chance to live a normal life in accordance with the spirit of human rights. Lawenforcement is not just about cold and ruthless punishment but also about rectification. Therefore, the laws stipulate that once a person has been punished for violating the law, he/she should not be discriminated against in any field of life, whether it is education, employment or social security. It is thus important that people understand the role of tolerance in building a harmonious world.
According to the principle of fair treatment, people should be judged only on their merits. A potential employer should select candidates only on the basis of their skills and experience, without judging them on their misdeeds if they have atoned for them. Obviously, a person’s “image” does not affect his/her ability to perform excellently at a job.
But even if it is not fair to ban tainted celebrities from taking part in shows, let’s not rush to conclusions.
First, there are no rights without limitations. Some professionals who violate the lawhave to be banned from public life. For example, stock traders guilty of inside trading do not deserve a second chance and athletes who take drugs should be banned from competitions, because their actions seriously violate basic professional ethics.
But because of the lack of universally accepted professional ethics for actors, film and TV program directors, and other artists associated with the performing arts, there still exists a large gray area for discussion.
Second, given that the value of celebrities who have a negative public image is substantially reduced, it is understandable that agencies will think more than twice before inviting them to perform in the programs because of costand-benefit analysis. In addition, a number of celebrities are individual contractors, not typical employees according to the Labor Law. An independent contractor is a business entity that enjoys the same legal status as any showbiz company or agency. By this token, both parties have liberty to choose to work with whoever they think suits their needs and business.
It is thus hard to determine whether banning tainted celebrities from taking part in shows constitutes employment discrimination. Each case should be judged on its merit and according to the facts and evidence related to it. The author is a fellow with the research office of Shunyi district people’s court in Beijing.