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UTS: Communication
Credit points: 8 cp
Result type: Grade, no marks

There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.

This subject examines the ways in which the production and distribution of media and cultural products are regulated, in the context of broader economic, political, historical and social processes. An underlying theme is a critique of the development of and contradictions among different ideas of free speech, and how these are used to promote or defend a range of communication practices, in particular historical and cultural contexts. The subject aims to develop a working knowledge of relevant areas of media law, such as defamation, copyright and contempt, with an emphasis on understanding the way the law works in practice and the policy issues which arise. A comparative approach is used to explore legal systems in different parts of the world.

Subject objectives/outcomes

On completion of this subject students are expected to be able to:

  1. analyse the substantive content of basic media law and relevant ethical codes and how these apply to journalism
  2. explain the historical and political contexts in which these have developed and are practised
  3. critically analyse the way notions of ‘public right to know’, ‘freedom of expression’ and ‘access to information’ are deployed in contemporary media practice
  4. develop an understanding of debates about freedom of expression in an international and cross-cultural context.

Contribution to course aims and graduate attributes

This subject contributes to the development of graduates who have:

  • a knowledge and critical understanding of the media
  • a knowledge of the historical, philosophical, ethical and cultural foundations underpinning journalism and who strive to promote the important role of professional and ethical journalism in the service of the public
  • an understanding of the role of the media in local, regional, national and global contexts
  • an understanding of the relationship between media theory and practice
  • a critical understanding of issues of gender, race, ethnicity, disability and class and the way these are linked to issues of media representation, production and reception
  • an understanding and commitment to ethical journalism professional practice.

Teaching and learning strategies

Learning activities include seminars, group discussions, reading and reading groups, independent research, simulation games and media monitoring.


The subject is delivered in modules selected from the following topics:

  • Freedom of expression in an international context
  • Debates around constitutional protection of freedom of expression
  • Contempt and court reporting
  • Confidential sources
  • Ethical self regulation
  • Regulation of new media
  • Copyright and digital content
  • Defamation
  • Whistleblowing and leaks
  • Censorship
  • Hate speech and racial vilification
  • Freedom of information
  • Privacy
  • Security issues and terrorism


Assessment Item 1: Minor take home exam

Objective(s): The learning objectives of this assignment are to:

  • test whether students have acquired a basic but working knowledge of the laws and codes which impact on the work of media and cultural producers
  • assess the development of research skills which enable media professionals to keep up to date in relation to relevant professional issues which arise during their careers and to contribute constructively and critically to discussions of the subject matter of the course.
Weighting: 30%
  • Evidence of understanding of regulatory and legal concepts being tested.
  • Evidence of ability to develop a concise analytical argument in response to question.
  • Evidence of ability to apply understanding of concepts to a particular situation.
  • Clarity of response.

Assessment Item 2: Research project

Objective(s): a, b, c
Weighting: 40%
Length: 3000 words
  • Demonstration of having read broadly on the topic.
  • Evidence of understanding of principles and concepts involved in the topic.
  • Evidence of ability to develop an analytical argument.
  • Evidence of ability to use scholarly conventions appropriately.
  • Evidence of clarity of writing and competence in written expression.
  • Evidence of original research extending knowledge and understanding of material introduced in lectures and tutorials.

Assessment Item 3: Online simulation game

Objective(s): a, b, c
Weighting: 30%
  • Evidence of understanding of relevant material introduced in this course.
  • Evidence of creative thinking in application of how regulatory legal processes work in process.
  • Evidence of understanding of how regulatory legal processes work in practice.
  • Evidence of clarity and competence in written expression.
  • Evidence of overall contnribution to the success of the game.

Minimum requirements

Students are expected to read the subject outline to ensure they are familiar with the subject requirements. Since class discussion and participation in activities form an integral part of this subject, you are expected to attend, arrive punctually and actively participate in classes. If you experience difficulties meeting this requirement, please contact your lecturer. Students who have a reason for extended absence (e.g., illness) may be required to complete additional work to ensure they achieve the subject objectives.

Recommended texts

The textbook for this subject is:

Pearson, M. & Polden, M. (2007) The Journalist’s Guide to Media Law, 4th edn, Allen and Unwin.

This book will be available at the Co-op bookshop. Additional materials will be provided in class or will be found on the UTS Library website under Subject Resources. Go to Regulation of the Media.

There is a well developed UTSOnline Regulation of the Media site which has a large library of links to cases, media items and other important research materials (these are organised into folders in course documents).

Students are advised to keep in touch with contemporary events by monitoring the media. There is a course blog — if you see something of interest, post it on the Media Regulation blog.

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