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Module Code - Title:


Year Last Offered:


Hours Per Week:













Grading Type:


Prerequisite Modules:

Rationale and Purpose of the Module:

This course aims to make students fully aware of the legal framework and constraints within which the media operates, and to enable then to cover courts and other stories with legal implications effectively and with confidence. It also aims to make students fully aware of the major ethical issues that concern journalists. Students will be able to form judgments about ethical dilemmas and articulate a response to them.


The structure of the legal system, with specific relevance to the law as it affects journalists, including defamation, malicious falsehood, criminal libel, blasphemy, contempt of court, reporting restrictions, breach of confidence and copyright. The course will introduce students to major sources (individuals, institutions, campaigning bodies, government bodies, journalists, journals) on media law issues. Students will analyze complex legal issues and be able to apply them to specific legal dilemmas. The course will cover recent developments in the laws on privacy and in particular European human rights legislation. Students will be introduced to the ethical framework surrounding journalism, including the various codes of conduct, and touching on laws such as those of privacy. They will discuss issues of public interest and its bearing on private lives, and the importance of truth, fairness and objectivity. There will be discussions on reporting suicide, mental health issues, questions of taste and decency, and the use of subterfuge to obtain stories, and the questions of sleaze and sensationalism. Representation of women and minorities in the press will be covered, as will the impact of competition, ownership and advertising on journalism. Assessment will be by examination and coursework essay.

Learning Outcomes:

Cognitive (Knowledge, Understanding, Application, Analysis, Evaluation, Synthesis)

On successful completion of this module, students will be able to: Identify the key elements in establishing the legal and regulatory environment of journalistic reporting. Specify the criteria for defamation actions and truth in reporting. Outline the basic human rights provisions applicable to journalistic reporting. Differentiate between law and policy on issues such as privacy and public interest reporting. Distinguish issues such a copyright, communications received in confidence, ethical issues including sensationalism. Critique the limits of legally acceptable journalistic reporting standards.

Affective (Attitudes and Values)


Psychomotor (Physical Skills)


How the Module will be Taught and what will be the Learning Experiences of the Students:

The module is breaks down into succinct areas; an Introduction into the Irish Legal system, An Introduction to Rights and the Media, freedom of expression (emphasis on media), defamation, privacy, Media reporting (politics and the courts), copyright, ethics & sensationalism and regulation v self regulation. The areas will be taught through biweekly lectures, while each area will be subject to an additional discussion led tutorial on the area in question on a fortnightly basis. Given the evolving and face paced nature of the media, the module will attempt to promote practicality and relevance by encouraging students to engage with topical issues that occur during the semester by bringing relevant media articles to lectures and tutorials for class discussion. The module emphasises a student centred approach. As the module is not designed specifically for law students it adopts an accessible teaching style, enabling those without a law background to garner a clear understanding of the relevant case law, statutes and relevant to constitutional provisions for each area, thereby allowing informed discussion on the issues involved. The learning experience of the students should reflect a rapidly evolving and sensitive area that is Media Law, they should find the course relevant, informative and thought provoking.

Research Findings Incorporated in to the Syllabus (If Relevant):

Prime Texts:

Carolan, E & O Neill, A. (2010) Media Law in Ireland ,
McGonagle, M. (2003) Media Law 2nd ed. , Dublin: Roundhall Sweet & Maxwell

Other Relevant Texts:

Murphy, Y. (2002) Journalists and the Law 2nd ed. , Dublin: Roundhall Sweet & Maxwell
Gleeson, K. (2005) Consolidated Broadcasting and Media Legislation 1923-2005 , Dublin: Thomson Round Hall
Carey, P. (2007) Media Law 4th ed. , London: Sweet & Maxwell
Harcup, T. (2004) Journalism: Principals and Practice , London: Sage
Keeble, R. (2001) Ethics for Journalists , London: Routledge
Kelleher, D. & Murray, K. (2006) Information Technology Law in Ireland 2nd ed. , Haywards Heath: Tottel
Hadwin, S. and Bloy, D. (2007) Law and the Media , London: Sweet & Maxwell
Quinn, F. (2007) Law for Journalists , Harlow: Pearson Longman
Law Society of Ireland (2003) Information Technology Law Professional Practice Guide , London: Cavendish
Berry, D. (ed.) (2000) Ethics and Media Culture: Practices and Representations , Oxford: Focal Press
Kieran, M. (ed.) (1997) Media Ethics: A Philosophical Approach , Westport, CT: Praeger

Programme(s) in which this Module is Offered:

Semester - Year to be First Offered:

Autumn - 09/10

Module Leader: