Shame Your Unit: LAWS584 – Media Laws


Words || Steve Harwell

Congratulations! You’ve survived the formative years of your legal education, from here on in you’re granted the honour of choosing your electives and specialising your legal knowledge in the areas of the law you’re passionate about. Contracts and Criminal Justice couldn’t stop you, and surely nothing can be worse than Business Organisations, right?

Well my sweet law student, close your eyes and let me act as your spiritual guide through the world of media jurisprudence.

First and foremost, prepare to undergo four foundational quizzes – the content of which is to inform you of the unit guide’s existence. Mustered the energy to complete those? Well, prepare to answer weekly quizzes full of questions concerning a singular sentence buried somewhere within a two hour lecture. At this point I’d love to offer a word of advice from a well-travelled media student: do not ignore these quizzes as though they are insignificant 2% quizzes – they will add up and you will hate yourself for not doing them properly.

Now, I’d like to preface the next stage of our journey by stating that the content of this unit is well presented and informative. In saying this, the glaring problem with LAWS584 lies in that the content, much like the law itself, hasn’t seemed to have adapted to the current media climate. With pre-recorded lectures and pre-established quiz materials, you’ll learn more about the jurisprudential foundations for why we regulate the media as opposed to really discussing contemporary examples of media regulation. Not that I’m particularly surprised by this point, given that the students in my tutorial had to explain what Netflix and Spotify were to the convenor and tutor of this unit. You would think that a requirement to convene such a unit would be a grasp on the current forms and regulations of media, and that it would be more important for young lawyers to understand the regulations of streaming services than  broadcasting regulations of radio and television.

In making this last point, I could just be an overly politically correct millennial and be expecting too much from a convenor who comes from a different socio-political context. However, in my opinion, law convenors should be aligning their teaching with an understanding of the modern socio-political contexts and the changing notions of language deemed acceptable for use in the contexts they are teaching. Units focusing on racial vilification should be seeking to refer to People of Colour (PoC) as such, given that ethno-diverse communities have expressed this is their preferred term. They should not refer to these communities as “Black People” in any and all examples used to discuss racial vilification. Moreover, when a student informs their tutor of the existence of micro-aggressions and the role that they play in the lives of PoC, it would be expected that the class discussion wouldn’t concern that micro implies they are less offensive to PoC

LAWS584 will see you explaining that revenge porn reforms have in fact occurred, and that regardless of the ideologies of old white male academics, it probably would be more offensive for PoC to be denied service at a bar than it would be to see or hear vilifying speech broadcasted on the radio and television. Although, I guess that is because we’ve seen enough racially insensitive content to feel numb to its effects. Regardless my fellow law student, and in particular students of colour, be wary.

[Macquarie Law School has been contacted for comment. Neither the Acting Dean of the Law School, or the Convenor of this Unit provided comment for publication.]