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Media Law (LAWS50096)

Graduate coursework level 5Points: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2018
Subject levelGraduate coursework Level 5
Subject codeLAWS50096
Semester 2
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

This subject examines the core legal constraints imposed on the media in their publishing activities. The first part of the course requires students to analyse and evaluate broad principles relating to freedom of speech and public interest and their application to the media. It also examines the greater role that the legal protection of human rights, especially in the international context, has played in the development of media law. The second part of the course explores the constraints that are imposed on the media in their reporting of court proceedings, including contempt of court and the issuing of suppression orders by the courts. The third part of the course comprises a comparative, in-depth examination of the law of defamation across Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. It also draws on case studies from other jurisdictions, such as Canada and South Africa. The final part of the course looks at privacy and the media. It considers the current state of privacy protection in Australia, and requires students to undertake a critical, comparative analysis of the position in Australia and recent developments in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Intended learning outcomes

A student who has successfully completed this subject will:

  • Have a detailed and sophisticated understanding of the general principles governing freedom of speech, the public interest and the media;
  • Have a detailed, technical and specialised understanding of the constraints imposed on the media in the reporting of court proceedings;
  • Have developed expert knowledge of the practical operation of the law of contempt of court in Australia;
  • Have a detailed, technical and specialised understanding of defamation law in Australia and comparatively;
  • Have developed expert knowledge of the practical operation of defamation law in Australia and comparatively;
  • Have a detailed, technical and specialised understanding of privacy law in Australia and comparatively;
  • Have developed expert knowledge of the practical operation of privacy law in Australia and comparatively;
  • Have developed the ability to independently understand, research and critically analyse legal and scholarly developments that contribute to professional practice in the area of media law; and
  • Have developed the ability to communicate their analysis of the law and its application to specialist and non-specialist audiences in appropriate scholarly and professional formats.

Generic skills

On completion of the subject students should have developed the following skills:

  • Mastery of the principal areas of media law (such as defamation, contempt, privacy and freedom of speech) as well as associated theoretical material;
  • Expert, specialised cognitive and technical skills for critical and independent thought and reflection in the area of media law and practice;
  • Mastery of technical research skills relevant to media law;
  • Expert, specialised cognitive, creative and technical skills to solve problems, including through the critical evaluation of research relevant to the area of media law and practice; and
  • The ability to expertly communicate specialised and complex information, ideas, concepts and theories relevant to media law and practice.

Eligibility and requirements


Successful completion of all the below subjects:

Code Name Teaching period Credit Points
LAWS50023 Legal Method and Reasoning
Summer Term
LAWS50024 Principles of Public Law
Semester 1
LAWS50026 Obligations
Semester 1
LAWS50027 Dispute Resolution
Semester 1



Non-allowed subjects

Students who have completed any of the below subjects are not permitted to take LAWS50096 Media Law:

Code Name Teaching period Credit Points
LAWS70181 Defamation Law
LAWS70082 Privacy Law
LAWS70184 Media, Free Speech and the State 12.5

Core participation requirements

The University of Melbourne is committed to providing students with reasonable adjustments to assessment and participation under the Disability Standards for Education (2005), and the Assessment and Results Policy (MPF1326). Students are expected to meet the core participation requirements for their course. These can be viewed under Entry and Participation Requirements for the course outlines in the Handbook.

Further details on how to seek academic adjustments can be found on the Student Equity and Disability Support website: http://services.unimelb.edu.au/student-equity/home



  • A 3-hour examination or an independent research essay of 6,000 words (100%).

Research essays are expected to demonstrate a highly advanced understanding of media law. In particular, it will be expected that students will generate complex argumentation, evaluate the forms and values of knowledge relevant to the area, as well as demonstrate creativity and initiative in the development of their advanced understanding of the matters at issue in the essay. Students will be given the option of writing on a topic formulated by them and approved by the coordinator, or writing on a topic set by the coordinator.

The due date of the above assessment will be available to students via the Assessment Schedule on the LMS Community.

Dates & times

  • Semester 2
    Principal coordinatorJason Bosland
    Mode of deliveryOn Campus — Parkville
    Contact hours36 hours
    Total time commitment144 hours
    Teaching period23 July 2018 to 21 October 2018
    Last self-enrol date 5 December 2017
    Census date31 August 2018
    Last date to withdraw without fail21 September 2018
    Assessment period ends16 November 2018

    Semester 2 contact information

    Email: law-aso@unimelb.edu.au
    Phone: +61 3 8344 4475
    Website: law.unimelb.edu.au

Additional delivery details

This subject has an enrolment quota of 60 students. Your subject enrolment will not be confirmed until the selection process has been run. Selection is conducted on a random basis with outcomes communicated to students shortly after re-enrolment closes. Please refer to the Melbourne Law School website for more information on the JD Quota Elective selection process.

Further information

  • Texts

    Prescribed texts

    • David Rolph, Matt Vitins and Judith Bannister, Media Law: Cases, Materials and Commentary (Oxford University Press, South Melbourne 2015);
    • Specialist printed materials will also be made available from the Melbourne Law School.

Last updated: 23 January 2019