Libel and the Media: The Chilling Effect

Libel and the Media: The Chilling Effect

Libel and the Media: The Chilling Effect

Libel and the Media: The Chilling Effect

Synopsis

This accessible and jargon-free book, based on Eric Barendt and his collaborators' interviews with editors of national newspapers, journalists, and their lawyers, uncovers the extent to which libel laws stifle press freedom. The authors examine the present state of libel law (including the Neill reforms and the law in Scotland) and then explore the impacts of libel law upon national and regional newspapers, broadcasters, and book and periodical publishers. This is a lively study which will appeal not only to journalists and lawyers, but to all who are interested in the freedom of the press in the UK or media studies in general.

Excerpt

This book is a study of the impact of defamation law on various branches of the mass media in Great Britain. The media, particularly national newspapers, have long complained about the deleterious repercussions of this area of law for their work, arguing that frequently they are deterred through fear of libel proceedings from publishing material which should see the light of day. Our initial objective was to examine this claim, and to see whether the deterrent or 'chilling' effect of libel law applied equally to all branches of the media. However, the study is concerned to explore a wide range of other issues: what, for example, are the arrangements made by the media to handle libel risks, to what extent do they rely on outside legal advice, and how far do they seek insurance cover? Further, we wanted to find out whether defamation law is more or less significant to the media in Scotland compared with those south of the Border.

This is a study of an area of law which hitherto has been strangely neglected by both academic lawyers and by socio-legal scholars. As a consequence the agenda for law reform seems to have been drawn up almost exclusively by libel law practitioners and by the Lord Chancellor's Department. We hope that the results of our research will lead to wider and better informed discussion of the relationship between libel law and freedom of the media. We should however emphasize that further research is necessary, in particular into the costs of libel proceedings. In this context it is only right to add that none of us is an expert in sociolegal work, and we are conscious that other studies could add much to our account.

We are grateful to a number of institutions and individuals who made this research possible. In the first place, we are pleased to acknowledge the receipt of a grant from the Economic and Social Research Council . . .

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