LL4H2      Half Unit
Freedom of Speech, Media and the Law

This information is for the 2023/24 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 demand is typically high. This may mean that you’re not able to get a place on this course.

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 also considers content-related dimensions of social media regulation. 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, data protection, intellectual property, and confidentiality. The key public interests considered are the integrity of the judicial process (contempt and reporting restrictions), the impartiality and diversity of political representations, the deterrence of disinformation, fabrication and ‘fake news’, the avoidance of offence (based on obscenity, social difference and religion), and national security.


This course will have 20 hours of teaching content in Autumn Term. There will be a Reading Week in Week 6 of Autumn 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 Busutill (eds), Gatley on Libel and Slander 13th edn, Thoson Reuters, 2022); 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).

Key facts

Department: Law School

Total students 2022/23: 30

Average class size 2022/23: 30

Controlled access 2022/23: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

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.

Personal development skills

  • Communication
  • Specialist skills