Programme for Media & Communications Law at SLS 2014

This is my third and final year as convenor of the Media & Communications subject section of the Society of Legal Scholars.  Here’s the programme for the section’s stream at this year’s annual conference, being held in Nottingham in September.  Registration is now open (with early booking discount until the end of July).

1: Tuesday 9th September, 2-3.30pm (Defamation Reform)

1A The Defamation Act 2013: We Need to Talk about Corporate Reputation – Peter Coe (Buckinghamshire New)
1B Qualified Privilege in Defamation and the Evolution of the Doctrine of Reportage – Sarah Gale (City)
1C Five Years After Grant: The Scope of Canada’s Responsible Communication Defence - Hilary Young (New Brunswick)

2: Tuesday 9th September, 4-5.30pm (Rights and Theory)

2A Liberty and the Press – Paul Wragg (Leeds)
2B The Finnish model of media self-regulation and freedom of speech from the legal point of view – Päivi Korpisaari (Helsinki)
2C How to be Positive: Respecting and Protecting Free Speech – Andrew Kenyon (Melbourne)

3: Wednesday 10th September, 9.30-11am (Broadcasting and Competition)

3A Strasbourg’s U-turn on political advertising bans in the broadcast media: Animal Defenders International v United Kingdom – Tom Lewis (Nottingham Trent)
3B The EU and Public Service Broadcasting: From Foes to Friends? – Irini Katsirea (Middlesex)
3C ‘Deciding who Decides’: Is Ofcom best-placed to rule on UK media ownership? – David Reader (UEA)

4: Wednesday 10th September, 2-3.30pm (Internet)

4A The Get Guido clause? A comparative analysis of online news regulation in the UK and Australia – Denis Muller (Melbourne) and Judith Townend (City)
4B U and non-U tube: creativity, reputation and Internet take-down - Alan Durant (Middlesex)
4C U. S. Constitutional Protections Under the 1st Amendments, Differences Between States – Clifford Fisher and Saran Mishra (Purdue)

SLS Media & Communications Section: Call for Papers 2014

Due to issues with the SLS email system, the deadline is now 4th April.

This is a call for papers for the Media & Communications section of the 2014 SLS Annual Conference to be held at the University of Nottingham from 9th – 12th September.  The overall theme of the conference this year will be ‘Judging in the 21st Century’. Calls from other subject sections are also available.

This section will meet in the first half of the conference on Tuesday 9th and Wednesday 10th September (Section A).  If you are interested in presenting a paper, please e-mail a proposed title and short abstract to me at daithi.mac.sithigh AT ed.ac.uk by Monday 17th March 4th April. Proposals are invited on any issue relating to media and communications law, including those addressing this year’s conference theme.  Last year’s conference saw a very wide range of papers presented in this section, at well-attended sessions, and proposals are welcome from scholars at all stages of their careers.

Academic papers are invited on any area of media and communications law, including (but not limited to):

  • the regulation of broadcasting (in the UK, Ireland and/or elsewhere)
  • defamation and reputation, including the Defamation Act 2013
  • privacy / breach of confidence
  • freedom of expression and information in the context of media and communications (for example, content regulation)
  • advertising, sponsorship and promotion
  • regulatory challenges associated with new or emerging forms of distribution
  • telecommunications law and policy
  • media ownership and pluralism
  • the debate on forms of press regulation
  • competition and the media and communications industries
  • the laws, practices and codes affecting journalism (e.g. contempt of court, subterfuge, court reporting, recognition/status of journalists)
  • the control of marketing, advertising, and sponsorship
  • contract and rights issues affecting the media and communications sectors
  • universal design / access in relation to communications

As the SLS is keen to ensure that as many members with good quality papers as possible are able to present, speakers are strongly discouraged from presenting more than one paper at the conference. With this in mind, I would be grateful if you could let me know if you are also responding to calls for papers from other sections.

Please note that whilst you need only send a proposed title and abstract at this stage, speakers are encouraged to submit a full paper to the SLS paperbank before the conference.   The SLS offers a Best Paper Prize which can be awarded to academics at any stage of their career.  The Prize carries a £250 monetary award and winning papers are published in Legal Studies.  Further details about the Prize are available here. The following three conditions must be met: (1)  all authors must be fully paid-up members of the SLS; (2) the paper must have not been published previously or have been accepted or be under consideration for publication; (3) the paper must not exceed 10000 words.

All speakers will need to book and pay to attend the conference.  Booking information will be circulated in due course. If your participation in the conference is dependent on funding and/or a visa, I would be very grateful if you could let me know at an early stage.

I look forward to your proposals, but please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of any assistance, or to discuss a proposal in advance of formal submission.

Regards,

Daithí Mac Síthigh
Convenor, Media & Communications Subject Section

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away

I’m happy to announce the online release of my article ‘Principles for a second century of film legislation‘, as online “early view” in advance of later publication in print. It’s in the journal Legal Studies (website). Open access versions will appear in due course.

Following a century of legislation about film and the film industry in the UK, and the latest in a series of reports on ‘film policy’, this paper investigates the relationship between law, policy and film. Case studies on the definition of ‘film’ in a time of technological and cultural change consider the privileged position of the cinema in terms of censorship and tax, including the new phenomenon of ‘alternative content’; that is, live relays of theatrical performances. Institutional change is assessed and criticised, particularly the abolition of the UK Film Council and the steady move from statute to executive action. The paper sets out a case for the role of the state to be set out in legislation and the cultural consequences of legal definitions to be taken more seriously.

Normally I would just put up the link and a blurb. But given how this article developed, and how the publication process is something I’m asked about by students and colleagues a lot, I thought it was a good opportunity to say something more about how these things go. I’ve tried to be careful not to do anything that compromises the peer review process here, and to be honest about my experience of it.

I presented a first version of the paper at the Society of Legal Scholars (annual conference) in September 2010. I had been working on it during the summer, bringing together my interests in film history and in media regulation. It was fun to write, although much of that version didn’t end up in the article. Also, no-one came to hear me present it, other than a colleague from UEA. Oops. But the ‘second century’ idea came at that stage, provoked by the Cinematograph Act 1909 having had its birthday the previous year.

The next stage was a different paper at the MECCSA annual conference in Manchester, in January 2011. This also wasn’t a smooth road as I broke my arm a few weeks before the conference and ended up giving the paper from a handwritten text (and also navigating my way around the conference rather awkwardly). It was one of that I attended and I met some fantastic people who have kept in touch – but there was only so much I could do.

So in summer 2011 – having caught up on the various things that had been shifted around on account of the injury – I was able to return to the two source papers, merge them, and come up with a draft journal article. This was where the core arguments started to take shape. And I decided that I was going to aim to submit it to Legal Studies. This meant two things: writing for a ‘generalist’ audience, and adapting to the journal’s style guide. (The first was more difficult).

At this point I started to have people read it in full (at the end of the summer). Some of the comments were contradictory, but the crucial bit was having readers from different backgrounds – a terrific film historian who knows his way around technology (and who I went on to work with on other projects), a personal friend who is interested in both law and film and is a particularly good writer, and some colleagues in my then School – from different areas of law. And I rewrote the paper a few more times, start to finish, that autumn. And in November I took a section of it to a film studies workshop, where I talked about ‘alternative content’ or ‘livecasts’ alongside one of the giants of film studies, Martin Barker (this ended up as a key point in the article).

In November 2011, I submitted it to Legal Studies for the first time. The editors thought that the original arguments were stacked at the end of the paper and the earlier sections were quite textbook-like. A remark in the email telling me this (which was obviously a bit of a disappointment in some ways) turned out to be important in terms of restructuring. Anyway, I put this down for second semester (post-January) work.

Then in January 2012, the Government intervened by publishing the report of a new review of film policy. Oops. This, and the need to rethink the focus of the piece, meant a full rewrite, letting go of some whole sections in particular. This was painful as they had been sections that took a long time to assemble – but the new question was how each paragraph or section contributed to the overall arguments, which had crystallised as being about coherence. But as is often the way, I had already planned out what I was going to write and it took a while longer to get to something I was happy with. I framed it as a discussion of the relationship between law and policy using the film sector as an illustration. Most of this research and writing was done in April/May.

In August 2012, having finished working on it while also changing job and moving north of the border, I crossed my fingers and submitted the article to Legal Studies. On this occasion, the editors accepted it for review and sent it out to three (!) peer reviewers. Legal Studies operates a three-month review period and, as expected, I got the decision in December 2012…days before going on honeymoon. The reports were mixed. Two reviewers liked it, one giving minor comments and another giving positive comments which would mean a bit of new work. A third thought that the piece didn’t work as it was and that there was, in essence, too much going on (and various other criticisms). The editors decided to classify it as ‘revise and resubmit’.

So come January 2013, I picked it up again and tried to put some manners on it. I abandoned the law/policy point of entry and tried to find a way of justifying the focus on film in its own terms. I came up with a better way of thinking about ‘definitions’ and wrote a few new sections; as I was already at the limits of the word count, other things had to go. I wrote a whole new conclusion (I always struggle with conclusions) and I had another go at trying to explain the technological dimension (which was the most fun bit of the rewrite). At the start of March I crossed my fingers again and resubmitted. Back out it went to reviewers. Come June, the decision came, and this time it was positive, accepted without further changes required. A few rounds with a lovely copy-editor (who also explained the history of the distinction between first- and third-person writing in academic journals) and here we are.

My point in explaining all this is, in particular for those who have articles knocked back, is that it takes time. I certainly thought of abandoning it more than once. And the paper can end up as a different thing. And rewriting to address an audience is really tricky. And things happen, like broken arms and honeymoons. And the Legal Studies editors were very supportive – which made a big difference.

Anyway, between all of these steps it took me about three years to write (which is about as long as it took me to do my PhD, although obviously I have been doing other things in this period), so I hope you enjoy the result.

Un-conventional

Here’s a paper by me on the European Convention on Transfrontier Television. Not perhaps the most familiar of legal instruments, but I promise you that it is a story full of mystery and excitement. The background to the work is that the Council of Europe has (had?) a convention on broadcasting, which came out of a great deal of interest in the subject in the 1980s. (The Television Without Frontiers directive of what was then the EEC emerges from the same period). However, after the EU revised its law (the Audiovisual Media Services Directive), the Council tried to do the same.

What happened next took me a long time to unpick (unpack?) and involved a lengthy FOI process with the UK government, a (fortunately more straightforward) access to documents request to the EU, research on the EU’s external powers, and quality time with Council of Europe minutes. And then I presented it (to three different audiences), and had some wonderful colleagues volunteer to read it and give detailed comments.

This version (the ‘Accepted Version’, on SSRN) appears in the Edinburgh Law School Working Paper Series.

Death of a Convention: Competition between the Council of Europe and European Union in the Regulation of Broadcasting

If you have access via, for example, a university library, the published version is available here, in volume 5(1) of the Journal of Media Law.

This article considers a dispute between the European Union and Council of Europe regarding their respective roles in the broadcasting field, so as to explain and assess its relevance for the development at the international level of media law and policy. The dispute is a long-running one and dates back to the adoption of the first EEC Directive and Council Convention on this subject in 1989. It is argued that the expansion of the scope of EU broadcasting law and the consolidation of the European Commission’s role in external affairs left little room for the Council to continue to exercise influence over the regulation of the electronic media in the way it has done for some time. The exact nature of the dispute between the institutions, and the response of a vocal member state, is ascertained through consideration of published minutes and internal correspondence, set in the context of doctrinal and political developments. The article concludes with analysis of possible future actions for the Council.

Preview: media & communications at SLS 2013

The 2013 conference of the Society of Legal Scholars takes place here in Edinburgh this September. I continue as convenor of the Media & Communications section, and we have a particularly exciting (and packed) programme this year. An EU session, a set of responses to Leveson, and two general sessions (one with a social media flavour and one with a human rights theme).

Registration is now open; ‘early bird’ discount until the end of July.

Tuesday 3rd September

A1: 14.00-15.30 (Special session on conference theme)

Ewa Komorek (Trinity College Dublin):
The problem which will not go away. Recent developments in the EU approach to media pluralism issue

Dimitrios Doukas (Belfast):
The Sky is not the (Only) Limit – Sports Broadcasting without Frontiers and the European Court of Justice

A2: 16.00-17.30

Alan Durant (Middlesex):
The DPP’s Interim guidelines (December 2012) on prosecuting communications via social media

Damien McCallig (Galway):
Intrusion into private grief: regulating the reporting and presentation of deceased persons in the modern media

Paul Bernal (East Anglia):
Defamation on Twitter: a defence of ‘responsible tweeting’

Wednesday 4th September

A3: 9-10.30

Yik Chan Chin (Hong Kong Baptist) & Yanbin Lu (Nottingham):
Defenses of Freedom of Expression in Chinese Right to Reputation Lawsuits

Päivi Tiilikka (Helsinki):
Margin of appreciation and balancing-criteria in the practise of the ECtHR when balancing the freedom of expression and right to private life – is there any consistency?

Jason Bosland (Melbourne)
Defamation, Statutory Reform and the Protection of Opinion in Australia and the United Kingdom

A4: 14.00-15.30 (Leveson Inquiry session, chaired by Tom Gibbons, Manchester)

Paul Wragg (Leeds):
Freedom of the Press after Leveson

Judith Townend (City):
An uncertain climate: Defamation, privacy and the resolution of disputes outside the courtroom

Karen Mc Cullagh (East Anglia):
Regulation of Investigative Journalism post Leveson