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Unit outline_

MECO3603: Media, Law and Ethics

Semester 1, 2021 [Normal day] - Remote

This unit will introduce students to the area of media, law and ethics through discussion of key legal, ethical, and cultural issues relevant to journalism and the professional fields of public communication. Students will be given an introductory survey of the main ethical theories in Western thought to establish a framework within which to examine specific ethical issues that relate to media. They will also be introduced to those aspects of the law that impinge on the work of media professionals.

Unit details and rules

Academic unit Media and Communications
Credit points 6
18 credit points at 2000 level in Media Studies or 6 Senior credit points in Media and Communications
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Tiania Stevens,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Presentation Comment piece & presentation
20% Ongoing 800 words + 10-15 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO5 LO3 LO2
Assignment Take Home Assessment
Students have 7 days to complete take-home assessment
35% Please select a valid week from the list below
Due date: 06 Jun 2021 at 23:59
1200 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5
Assignment Essay
45% Week 11
Due date: 17 May 2021 at 23:59
2000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4

Assessment summary

Detailed information for each assessment can be found in the Canvas site for this unit.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a High distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a Distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100



75 - 84



65 - 74



50 - 64



0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Introduction, overview Lecture (2 hr)  
Week 02 Discourse ethics: forms of judgement and deliberation Lecture and tutorial (3 hr)  
Week 03 1. Diversity & the limits of utilitarian theories of the press; 2. Rostered presentations commence Lecture and tutorial (3 hr)  
Week 04 The public interest Lecture and tutorial (3 hr)  
Week 05 Responsibility & accountability: regulation of the media Lecture and tutorial (3 hr)  
Week 06 Codes of ethics & self regulation Lecture and tutorial (3 hr)  
Week 07 Legal literacy for media and communications students Lecture and tutorial (3 hr)  
Week 08 Privacy Lecture and tutorial (3 hr)  
Week 09 Defamation Lecture and tutorial (3 hr)  
Week 10 Vilification, portrayal, taste & decency Lecture and tutorial (3 hr)  
Week 11 Copyright & creative rights Lecture and tutorial (3 hr)  
Week 12 Ethics & commercial media cultures Lecture and tutorial (3 hr)  
Week 13 1. Future issues for media practitioners; 2. Review for take-home assessment Lecture and tutorial (3 hr)  

Attendance and class requirements

  • Attendance: According to Faculty Board Resolutions, students in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences are expected to attend 90% of their classes. If you attend less than 50% of classes, regardless of the reasons, you may be referred to the Examiner’s Board. The Examiner’s Board will decide whether you should pass or fail the unit of study if your attendance falls below this threshold.
  • Lecture recording: Most lectures (in recording-equipped venues) will be recorded and may be made available to students on the LMS. However, you should not rely on lecture recording to substitute your classroom learning experience.
  • Preparation: Students should commit to spend approximately three hours’ preparation time (reading, studying, homework, essays, etc.) for every hour of scheduled instruction.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

All readings for this unit can be accessed on the Library eReserve link available in the Canvas site for this unit.

Required text: Pearson, Mark and Polden, Mark (2019), The Journalist's Guide to Media Law: a handbook for communicators in
a digital world, 6th Ed., Crows Nest, Allen and Unwin

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. recognise and identify legal and ethical issues for media practitioners
  • LO2. possess basic legal literacy, sufficiently to know where and when to seek further advice
  • LO3. identify and draw on ethical theories and principles to think through ethical dilemmas for the media
  • LO4. understand concerns, key thinkers and key legal and ethical frameworks for reflective, responsible and professional public communicators
  • LO5. work collaboratively to resolve legal and ethical concerns in specific case studies.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

No changes have been made since this unit was last offered.


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

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