LL4H2      Half Unit
Freedom of Speech, Media and the Law

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Andrew Scott


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.

This course has a limited number of places and we cannot guarantee all students will get a place.

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, theories of free speech 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 speech and 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, intellectual property, 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. The course concludes with consideration of ‘positive’ aspects of free speech (including access to information and the valorisation of newsgathering).


This course will have two hours of teaching content each week in Michaelmas Term, either in the form of a two hour seminar or an online lecture and one hour class. There will be a Reading Week in Week 6 of Michaelmas Term.

Formative coursework

Students must submit 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).

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 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 differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching 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 2020/21: Unavailable

Average class size 2020/21: Unavailable

Controlled access 2020/21: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Communication
  • Specialist skills