Not available in 2020/21
LL4H2      Half Unit
Freedom of Speech, Media and the Law

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Andrew Scott NAB 6.25


This course is available on the LLM (extended part-time), LLM (full-time), MSc in Media and Communications (Media and Communications Governance) and University of Pennsylvania Law School LLM Visiting Students. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

The course examines freedom of speech and the legal and administrative regulation of mass media publication that bears upon it (principally the press, the broadcast media, and institutionalised Internet publication). The course is introduced with consideration of a number of themes that underpin the rest of the syllabus: the role(s) of the media in society (including conceptions of the 'public interest'); the main social, technological and regulatory influences that shape media publication practise, and rights jurisprudence (in particular, the freedom of expression and freedom of the press in national and international law). The course then examines potential restrictions on publication that are aimed at promoting or preserving specific private and/or public interests. The key private interests considered are those in reputation (defamation), privacy, and confidentiality. The key public interests considered are the integrity of the judicial process (contempt and reporting restrictions), the impartiality of political representations, the avoidance of offence (obscenity and religion), and national security.


20 hours of seminars in the LT.

There will be a reading week in week 6. 

10 weekly two-hour seminars in LT. The course is also supported by a series of specialist seminars with outside speakers, and by an online discussion forum.

Formative coursework

Students must submit either a formative essay of 1,500 words or an essay plan and working bibliography for the assessed essay.

Indicative reading

Supporting texts for the course include Greenawalt, ‘Free Speech Justifications’ (1989) 89 Columbia Law Review 119; Parkes and Mullis (eds), Gatley on Libel and Slander (Rev 12th edn, Sweet & Maxwell, 2015); Waldron, The Harm in Hate Speech (Harvard University Press, 2012); Millar and Scott, Newsgathering: Law, Regulation and the Public Interest (OUP, 2016), Kenyon and Scott (eds), Positive Free Speech: Rationales, Methods and Implications (Hart Publishing, 2020), and Barendt et al, Media Law: Texts, Cases and Materials (Pearson, 2013). Most materials relevant to the course are made available via the BLPES electronic resources or online.


Essay (100%, 8000 words).

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Law

Total students 2019/20: 30

Average class size 2019/20: 31

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Communication
  • Specialist skills