Media Law Academic Essay


The purpose of this assignment is to enable you to achieve a deeper level of learning in an area of Media Law.
It offers a broad scope for you to write in a style of your preference about a topic of interest in the field you intend to enter. It is an opportunity to explore areas of law that are evolving, debates that are current in Australia and issues that are impacting on professional communicators. In addition to identifying and explaining legal concepts, you are being asked to develop skills in research, writing and referencing. Each student will use the genre of their choice – academic essay or law reform submission – to take up an area of media law of importance to a journalist, lawyer or professional communicator. The piece of writing will need to conform to the requirements of that genre in all aspects explained in the criteria rubric attached. The task involves exploring that area of media law and showing through your research and writing you are offering your audience a fresh perspective and analysis addressing some problem arising from that area. Possible topics will be discussed as the deadline approaches. More information on this is provided below. The essay and law reform submission options require full referencing throughout.


Essay (Professional communication context)

Style: A standard essay totalling 1000 words

Topic: Take up a topic of media law and explain how it affects the work of professional communicators in a field of your choice such as journalism, public relations, advertising or social media moderation. For example, you might choose to look at the law of defamation and its impact upon social media editors whose work involves the moderation of comments on a company’s Facebook page. Which areas of defamation apply? What would be a safe work practice for such a social media editor to adopt? What legal cases might offer guidance? What have the academic experts said about this type of situation in their scholarly articles? Or perhaps you might like to explore the law of confidentiality from the perspective of a public relations practitioner who deals frequently with reporters on an ‘off the record’ basis. What risks are involved to both parties? What cases have been decided in the area? How might work practices be adapted to navigate this area safely? The laws of breach of confidence, disobedience contempt and shield laws would all be relevant here, along with both journalists’ and PRIA ethical codes.

It might help to imagine your essay is appearing as the lead item in a scholarly professional communication journal, with a mixed audience of academics and high level professionals so that it requires full academic referencing of your sources but is written in an accessible and interesting style for the professional readers.


Essay (Media law reform submission)

Style: A standard essay totalling 1000 words

Topic: Find a topic of media law that is currently subject to review by a law reform body or a parliamentary committee at state or Commonwealth level. Equally suitable would be a topic that has been subject to a recent review, such as racial discrimination, privacy, journalists’ shield laws, computer game classification, or anti-terrorism laws. Read any discussion and issues papers associated with the topic, and the submissions made to the reform body by interested parties. Select one aspect of the reform proposals that interests you and draft your own submission to this reform body in the form of an academic essay developing your argument for or against the particular proposal. For example, the proposal for a shield law protecting journalists from having to reveal their confidential sources in court has been passed recently in some states and at Commonwealth levels. A key issue was whether such a shield law should protect news bloggers/citizen journalists in addition to journalists working for the traditional media. You might wish to support the extension of such a privilege to bloggers, so your essay would explain the problem, review the arguments and selected submissions, refer to academic sources, and outline your preferred reform. (You are not required to detail the exact wording of any proposed legislation.)



All assignments, regardless of topic, should include the following:

  • A minimum of six quality sources, including the textbook, cited.Generally speaking, the more research you do, the deeper your understanding of the issues. Only credible sources should be used, but in this subject you are not limited to academic sources. Quality sources may include books, journal articles, government or law reform reports, MEAA documents and judicial speeches. In addition to these kinds of sources you may want to look to TV/radio transcripts, newspaper articles and the blogs of academics, lawyers and journalists for the most up-to-date information about cases.  Wikipedia and dictionary definitions do not count as one of your six sources.
  • A minimum oftwo recent case law examples. These examples may be drawn from secondary sources such as the textbook, journal articles and news reports. There is no requirement that you look up the primary source material (e.g. judgements on austlii) but this might enhance your understanding. There are ample Australian case precedents that you can use in your discussion. You may also look for relevant “examples” that may not have gone all the way to a court decision, either because they have only recently commenced or because they were settled out of court. Do use discretion with overseas cases, though, as the law of that country may be different to Australia’s. In particular, US cases may give little indication of how things might go in Australia in the future.
  • ReferencesAssignments must be thoroughly referenced, both in text and in a formal List of References. Ensure that every fact, opinion, and case is carefully documented.
  • List of Cases Cited. This should list all cases cited in your essay with full legal citations if available and the details of where you located them.
  • List of Legislation Cited. If you have mentioned legislation in your essay you should document, it by its full name and state where you located it.
  • Page numbers(or paragraph numbers in the case of some legal documents such as reports and judgements) in your text references. It is not necessary to cite page or paragraph numbers if none are stated e.g. short web page. However, books, .pdf files, journal articles and other lengthy documents will usually state page numbers, and these should be cited.
  • Word Limit observedBasically, the 1000 words should be your words. It INCLUDES words you have written plus short reinforcing quotes. It EXCLUDES lengthy quotes (which should be formatted as block quotes), bracketed in-text references and List of References, List of Cases etc. The 1000-word limit should be strictly observed, but there is a tolerance of plus or minus 10%, meaning the assignment should be between 900 and 1100 words excluding references and block quotes. Assignments that are significantly over or under the limit can expect a deduction in marks.


Marking Criteria

Please look over the attached Marking Criteria cover sheet on the attached rubric to gain an understanding of the aspects that will be considered when determining your grade.

When marking essays the first things we look at are: Was it in on time? Has the research requirement been met? Does it meet the word limit? Is the referencing OK? If yes to all of these, then the essay is well on the way to a Pass. The rest of the grade is determined by assessing whether you have stayed focused on the task, understood the relevant legal concepts, selected good sources, argued logically, and written clearly with insight.


Academic Integrity

It is during a close reading of the essay that questions may arise in relation to referencing. Has anything been “cut and pasted”? Are quotes accurate? Have all facts and arguments been acknowledged to their sources? If significant integrity issues are identified, your grade will be returned as “TBA – To be advised” and forwarded to the Course Convenor to determine whether further action is warranted. A TBA grade is unlikely to be resolved before the exam. See the Referencing Guide for more detail about the Academic Integrity process and pay careful attention to the Turnitin report on your draft.

ALL students should undertake the Academic Integrity tutorial available via the course site menu to ensure you understand the requirements for referencing, quoting and paraphrasing.


To ensure a Grade 4 (Pass result), you must:

  • Demonstrate an adequate understanding of the relevant legal principles.
  • Answer the question.
  • Cite a minimum of three quality sources, including the textbook and prescribed readings.
  • Use case law examples to support your discussion and conclusions
  • Show integrity by, for example, fully referencing all facts and arguments in the text of the essay or reflection, disclosing all sources and checking quotes for accuracy.
  • Provide a List of References, List of Cases and List of Legislation.
  • Demonstrate an adequate understanding of referencing style.


To achieve a Grade 7 (High Distinction result), you must do all of the above, as well as:

  • Show a commanding understanding of the relevant law.
  • Provide high level analysis and insight into the issues to a level normally only found among the top 5-7% of students.
  • Show initiative in the search for and selection of sources.
  • Present an essay that is well structured with a clear underlying argument, an introduction that intelligently contextualizes the issue, a conclusion that offers insight, and a body that flows clearly in response to the topic.
  • Present written work that is lucid and free (or very nearly free) of grammatical error.
  • Present written work that is thoroughly documented and shows precision in referencing technique.
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