Media law may seem daunting, but the key facts can be straightforward to learn.
Simply knowing the basics in the key subjects (listed below) will earn marks in the law test and make it very likely students will pass.
Working journalists also need to know how to apply and interpret the law, and the dangers it presents. The briefings on this website, and the archive of recent case studies, will help students gain that understanding – and higher marks in the law test.
Media law also offers protection for journalists and their rights to publish. Journalists sometimes have to defend these rights.
A key point to remember is that this site deals with law in England and Wales. Students are fond of looking up cases involving celebrities in Hollywood, but they are not relevant here. Some aspects of American law are very different to English law.
The law tests also cover media ethics – which can be stricter than the law. Stories relating to ethics and media regulation appear in the archive (see the listings on the left). Have a look at the Editors’ Code (for print) and the Ofcom Code (for broadcasting). Both are easy to read.
The BBC is covered by both the Ofcom Code and its own Editorial Guidelines, which are very helpful for gaining an insight into ethical journalism.
The law tests for both BA and MA Journalism students will include a number of questions relating to:
- Contempt of court
- Crime and court reporting
Some questions will also cover:
- Sexual Offences
- Data Protection
- The Freedom of Information Act
- Human Rights
- Children and the law
- Ethics (the Editors’ Code, the Ofcom Code)
- Open justice
Some of the questions will simply test basic knowledge of the law as it affects journalists: for instance, the grounds for bringing a legal action for defamation. Others will present scenarios and challenge students to consider how the law might come into play, and how an editor should respond.