Media Law

Topics that will be covered this semester:
  • Outline of the legal system of England and Wales.
  • Crime reporting and the Courts.
  • Libel and Defamation.
  • Investigative journalism and Privilege.
  • Confidentiality and Privacy.
  • Freedom of Information.
  • Copyright and Codes of Conduct.
  • Reporting Elections.
Generally this term is to re-touch upon our media law issues. The laws are changing every year and we're as journalists in a difficult time where we are under scrutiny about how a journalist should ethically act? Yes we have our qualified privilege to report exactly what has been said in court but the power of a shocking headline is immense. 

With the Leveson Inquiry in full underway the huge debate is whether the press should have their own regulator or should it be private. Who polices the press? Broadcast journalism however is in much safer place with it's regulations in place and working well. 

The court provides journalists with stories due the qualified privilege right to accurately report from the court. And with three of  Britain's top celebrities are currently in court for charges of sexual assault on minors. It's important to remember what rights a journalist does have when reporting it. Innocent when proven guilty. 

Following the Jimmy Saville case the police have investigated many more cases.

All three cases that investigate the sexual accusations made against women that are currently in trail are  Dave Lee Travis (DJ and Top of the Pops presenter) , Rolf Harris (tv personality) and William Roache (Coronation Street's Ken Barlow), have pleaded innocent. 

When the trial begins with the prosecution opening. A round up of the case will be explained to the jury. Obviously for reporters this will provide us with all the bad parts. But the defence side will get a chance to speak later in the trial and the journalist must report this.  

Many issues surround the defaming the person on trial and I will go into more detail about this in the upcoming weeks. 

Should Witnesses be protected? 
The former assistants of Nigella Lawson were under trial for fraud. Nigella was there as a witness to the case but a big issue that came out of this was whether or not Nigella could of been protected? Lawson underwent a lot of scrutiny about her private life. Because she is a celebrity this will effect her more than the average person. The press reported the accusations being made about her lifestyle.. drug taking etc. One might argue that a witness in court should be allowed a lawyer?  

Another part of the law that I will look at is Libel. A change in libel took place last year so i'll be catching up on that. It's basically that a person can only plead libel if the press have 'bought them harm' The person would have to prove that. 

A big libel case was McLibel. McDonalds libelled a couple that were campaigning against their food. Yes it's defaming the company but should McDonalds of taken this to court? This is an unlikely case that we would see again. Small campaigners against a world corporation is an unlikely battle we will see again. Which is good for small hyper local news corporations. 

The hierarchy of the UK courts: 
  1. At the top is the Supreme Court 
  2. Court of Appeal which is spilt into: Criminal Division Civil Division 
  3. High Court of Justice split into: Queens Bench Division, Family Division, Chancery Division. 
  4. Crown Court (Criminal Division)
  5. Magistrates Court  ( Criminal Division) 
  6. County Courts (Chancery Division) 

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