Media Law and Ethics notes

Topics: Journalism, Defamation, Mass media Pages: 8 (1925 words) Published: May 28, 2014
Media Law and Ethics Open Book Exam

Question 1 – 2 points
Where do the laws in Australia come from? 
Present a succinct answer with reference to historical facts. In 1788 when Australia was discovered, we adopted the British legal system from Sir Arthur Philip; that each state was a separate colony. In 1901 when the Commonwealth of Australia was founded we attained our own Constitution with federal levels of government and a High Court to be used for appeals from the Supreme Court and as an adjudicator of constitutional questions (Week 2 MLE Lecture Notes). Referendums are “a vote of the Australian people on measures proposed or passed by the Australian Parliament” (Australian Electoral Commission, 2014). Any proposed change to the Australian Constitution must be put to a vote of all Australian voters in a referendum. In relation to media, the laws come from the regulators, the industry bodies and the broadcasters. They are “independent statutory bodies given powers under federal government legislation” (Week 1 MLE Lecture Notes). The Constitution gives the Commonwealth control over corporations and their trade, to regulate print media and foreign ownership of media. (Week 1 MLE Lecture Notes). In October 2006, Australian Parliament passed legislation for new media laws, which subsequently commenced in 2007. They reformed the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, which regulates newspapers, subscription broadcasting and ownership amongst other things (Week 1 MLE Lecture Notes). Australian Electoral Commission,. (2014). Referendums. Retrieved 7 May 2014, from

Media Law and Ethics. (2014). University of Western Sydney.

Question 2 – 10 points
400 words
A. What is defamation?
Defamation is a statement: spoken or written that tends to disparage a person’s reputation or display a person in a ridiculous light or make others shun or avoid him or her (Butler and Roddick, 2011, 2009; Armstrong et al, 1998) (Week 3 MLE Lecture Notes). It is the law that is supposed to offer some solace to those who have had their reputations damaged (Pearson & Polden, 2011). It can be in many forms and intention is irrelevant (Pearson & Polden, 2011). There are two types of defamation; libel and slander. Libel is written in permanent form (newspapers, magazines, Internet) and the plaintiff does not have to prove damages. Slander is spoken and the plaintiff must prove loss; of income or other (Week 3 MLE Lecture Notes). Ignorance is no defense to defamation but truth is the best defense for defamation.

Media Law and Ethics. (2014). University of Western Sydney.
Pearson, M., & Polden, M. (2011). The Journalist's Guide to Media Law (4th ed). Crows Nest, NSW, Australia: Allen & Unwin.

B. Explain when and how defamation occurs by citing recent cases from Australia. In 1991, Australian Rugby League player Andrew Ettingshausen filed a defamation lawsuit against photographer Brett Cochrane and HQ magazine. HQ published a photograph of three NRL players in a shower after a match without their permission. “In the photograph his body was facing the camera, his head turned and arms crossed. Between his legs in the grainy shadowy photograph was a shape the court decided was ‘capable of being interpreted as his penis’ (Pearson & Polden, 2011). Ettingshausen claimed the photo ridiculed him and was detrimental to him as a fashion model and junior development officer with the NRL. Defamation did occur, the publication of the photograph “subjected the plaintiff to ridicule,” (Pearson & Polden, 2011). The court decided that having his genitals shown to the magazine’s audience was defamatory, however the amount of damages was downgraded from $350, 000 to $100, 000 after appeal. Another case recently in Australia was student Andrew Farley posting comments defaming his music teacher (Christine Mickle) on Twitter and Facebook. He was ordered to pay 105, 000 in compensation. This was the first twitter...
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