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