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Media Law: General Principles - JURD7421
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Faculty: Faculty of Law
School:  Faculty of Law
Course Outline: See below
Campus: Kensington Campus
Career: Postgraduate
Units of Credit: 6
EFTSL: 0.12500 (more info)
Indicative Contact Hours per Week: 4
Enrolment Requirements:
Prerequisite: LAWS1001 and LAWS1011 and Corequisite: LAWS2311; Prerequisite: JURD7101 and JURD7111 and Corequisite: JURD7211
Excluded: LAWS3221
Fee Band: 3 (more info)
Further Information: See Class Timetable


This course focuses on the principal legal areas affecting media (press and broadcasting) content. An underlying theme of the course will be the relationship between free speech and the legal restrictions imposed upon the media. It is a companion course to JURD7322, Communications Law: Broadcasting and Telecommunications. You will find also that the course builds on your knowledge of a variety of legal topics already studied in your programme, such as, for example, torts, criminal law, and constitutional law, but requires you to rethink these areas from the perspective of how they impact upon media as they carry out their roles of reporting and commenting.

Recommended Prior Knowledge


Course Objectives

The aims of the course are to:
  • Enable students to develop an understanding of free speech protection in
  • Australia, and the claims of media to free speech protection
  • Provide students with an understanding of laws which can affect media
  • content
  • Enable students to develop an appreciation of how claims to free speech are
  • balanced with competing interests such as privacy and the proper
  • administration of justice
  • Become familiar with the policy debates and reform discussions relating to the
  • specific legal topics covered in the course
Having completed this course, students should be:
  • Familiar with the theoretical arguments for free speech, and have an understanding of how free speech is protected in Australia
  • Able to analyse critically the claims of the media to free speech protection
  • Familiar with the laws which affect media content
  • Able to form a reasoned view on the balance between free speech and competing interests
  • Evaluate the policy debates and approaches to reform concerning the legal issues covered in this course such as defamation and privacy
  • Apply their knowledge of the areas of law covered in the course to solve relevant legal problems

Main Topics

  • Freedom of speech and the media: free speech - basic principles; free speech and media freedom
  • Newsgathering and communications: defamation; breach of confidence and privacy; journalistic sources including FOI
  • Reporting legal and political matters: reporting of legal proceedings; contempt of court; reporting of Parliament and other political material


Class participation 20%
Research essay 40%
Take-home examination 40%

Course Texts


  • D Butler and S Rodrick, Australian Media Law, (Lawbook Co: Pymont, 2007, 3rd edition). This book will also be useful (but not prescribed) for JURD7322
  • Course Materials (2 vols) available from the Bookshop

As the course proceeds, additional references which you may find useful will be posted on the Blackboard course site. A number of web sites will provide useful resources for this course, and you will find links to them via Blackboard.

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© The University of New South Wales (CRICOS Provider No.: 00098G), 2004-2011. The information contained in this Handbook is indicative only. While every effort is made to keep this information up-to-date, the University reserves the right to discontinue or vary arrangements, programs and courses at any time without notice and at its discretion. While the University will try to avoid or minimise any inconvenience, changes may also be made to programs, courses and staff after enrolment. The University may also set limits on the number of students in a course.