University of Technology Sydney

52640 Media Law and Ethics

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2023 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Communication: Journalism and Writing
Credit points: 6 cp
Result type: Grade and marks


Knowledge, empathy and integrity combine in a journalist's daily working life. Using contemporary legal cases and news stories this subject looks at Australian and international media law and ethics, and traces the dilemmas and decisions impacting journalism and the communication industries. Students examine the legal parameters within which media professionals operate and the increased sophistication of and citizen interaction with digital and social media technologies. Students consider the commercial, social and political underpinnings of legacy media as contributing factors in the news media’s contemporary issues, alongside the new ethical boundaries being drawn to accommodate the production of media content in a digital world. In this subject, students learn about developing their own set of values when reporting the news. The course includes discussion of the latest verification tools being used to combat misinformation, disinformation, and examines miscontextualisation of media stories.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

a. Identify ethical codes of practice in journalism and the communication industries in Australia and globally
b. Evaluate and explain key media laws
c. Apply relevant laws and ethical frameworks to contemporary problems emerging from professional practice
d. Reflect on their own practice
e. Construct clear and persuasive arguments
f. Respect cultural protocols and professional obligations

Course intended learning outcomes (CILOs)

This subject engages with the following Course Intended Learning Outcomes (CILOs), which are tailored to the Graduate Attributes set for all graduates of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences:

  • Act in a professional manner appropriate to communication industries (1.1)
  • Employ appropriate research and inquiry skills to independently gather, organise and analyse information across diverse platforms (2.1)
  • Act as reflexive critical thinkers and innovative creative practitioners who evaluate their own and others' work (2.2)
  • Demonstrate a strong awareness, knowledge of, and sensitivity to, diversity, equity and global contexts (3.1)
  • Apply knowledge of Indigenous issues in professional practices and engage responsibly in communicating with and about Indigenous people and communities (4.1)
  • Analyse and act ethically in the personal, political and professional contexts of civil society (5.1)

Teaching and learning strategies

This subject integrates fundamental legal and ethical concepts, as they relate to media, with practical skills to determine the boundaries of individual practice. Teaching strategies incorporate interactive, collaborative learning through the use of online learning platforms and in- class activities. The subject program includes lectures, tutorials, pre-class online discussions, collaborative problem-solving and peer-learning activities as well as discussions of readings and case studies. There are opportunities for formative and summative feedback on learning.

Content (topics)

This subject introduces students to the basics of media law and ethics, with special attention to defamation law, copyright, privacy law and contempt, as well as the codes of ethics as applied by individual media entities and journalism oversight bodies globally. In addition, the subject explores the function and role of journalism in society, media freedom and its legal limitations and the changing ethical demands on media professionals, the impact of technology on news content and the critical importance of verification and fact-checking as legal protection in a social media driven environment. Students gain an understanding of basic media law and the ethical parameters governing professional practice in journalism and the communication industries.


Assessment task 1: Indigenous Ethics Presentation


a, c, e and f

Weight: 20%

300 words for essay excluding references

100 words reflection on peer feedback

Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
Depth of research 20 c 2.1
Integration and analysis of principles of ethics and diversity 20 a, c 5.1
Strength of argument and depth of reflection 20 e 2.2
Application and understanding of professional codes of practice 20 c, f 1.1
Sensitivity to Indigenous issues and cultural awareness in reportage 20 c, f 4.1
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Assessment task 2: Ethical Conflict Essay


b, c and d

Weight: 30%

1200 words

Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
Depth of research 20 c 2.1
Comprehension of legal reasoning 20 c 2.1
Strength of argument 20 d 2.2
Evaluation and explanation of key laws and equitable remedies 20 b 3.1
Application of relevant law to case study 20 c 2.1
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Assessment task 3: Stranger Story


b, c and d

Weight: 50%

500-word story

1200-word essay

Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
Depth of research 25 c 2.1
Comprehension of legal reasoning 25 c 2.1
Strength of argument 25 d 2.2
Evaluation and explanation of key laws and equitable remedies 25 b 3.1
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Minimum requirements

Attendance at classes is essential in this subject. Classes are based on a collaborative approach that involves essential workshopping and interchange of ideas with other students and the tutor to build capacities towards meeting the subject learning objectives. A roll will be taken at each class (whether on campus or online). Students who have more than two absences from class will be refused marking of their final assessment (see Rule 3.8).

Required texts

Pearson, M. & Polden, M. (2019). The Journalist's Guide to Media Law: a Handbook for Communicators in a Digital World, 6th edition, Allen & Unwin Crows Nest, NSW.

(Item available as an e-book in the UTS Library catalogue)

ABC Editorial Standards.

MEAA Code of Ethics.

Recommended texts

Bradshaw, P. (2017). The Online Journalism Handbook: Skills to survive and thrive in the digital age 2nd Ed, Routledge, Oxon

Ess, C. (2013). Digital Media Ethics, Wiley Blackwell.

Forsberg, A. (2019). Violated or Comforted - and Then Abandoned: Ethical Dimensions of Relationships Between Journalists and Vulnerable News Sources, Journal of Media Ethics, 34:4, 193-204, DOI: 10.1080/23736992.2019.1673756

Lamble, S. (2016). News as it happens: An introduction to journalism 3rd Edn, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne, Vic. (pp 121-146)

Lim, L. (2019). How Australia became the defamation capital of the world. The New York Times. Available at:

Malcolm, J. (1990). The Journalist and the Murderer, Knopf, New York.

Media Diversity Australia: Who Gets to Tell Australian Stories:

Media Diversity Australia: Reporting on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Issues and People:

Rolph, D.; Vitins, M.; Bannister, J. and Joyce, D. (2015) Media Law: Cases, Materials and Commentary, 2nd Edition, Oxford University Press, Oxford

Stewart, D. R (2017). Social Media and the Law: A Guidebook for Communication Students and Professionals, 2nd Ed, Routledge, London

Ward, S. (2013). Global Media Ethics: Problems and Perspectives, Wiley Blackwell.