Notes for February 10, 2000.


Shaping News Content: Mass Media and the Law

1. Government Censorship.

Limited by First Amendment. Key issue: wartime.

2. Libel.

Libel basics.

Media fears

Libel Law: Public People (Public Officials, Public Figures)

Libel: Public Proceedings (e.g., trial, city council meeting,etc.)

Participants have absolute privilege

Press report on proceedings: qualified privilege.

Report must be balanced/fair, accurate.

Libel: Public Performance (play, book, restaurant)

Inviting assessment.

Wide latitude for opinion if reasons given.

3. Privacy

Truly private issues don't merit publication or broadcast without the permission of the person whose privacy has been invaded.

Is it private?

No privacy in public. Intrusion: Paparazzi

Publicity about private facts

4. Obscenity.

Definition of obscenity (Miller test):

(a) Average person, applying contemporary community standards, finds the work, taken as a whole, appeals to prurient interest.

(b) The content is patently offensive, dealing with sexual conduct.

(c) The work has no serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

Pornography not the same as obscenity.

Pornography: OK legally.

Variable obscenity:

Different rules for children.

Much more restrictive.