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The Limits of Press Accountability

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SR 1.09

Liberty Building

Belle Vue Road

Leeds

LS2 9JT

United Kingdom

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The Limits of Press Accountability

Dr Paul Wragg, Associate Professor, at the Centre for Business Law and Practice, presents a working paper which aims to challenge conventional thoughts about the term ‘press accountability’.

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Abstract

This paper speaks to a monograph I’m working on during study leave. The book challenges conventional thoughts about the term ‘press accountability’. The orthodox view is that the term includes a ‘duty’ or ‘responsibility’ upon the press to realise social goals, such as to aid democratic participation or to act as a check on power. It is rarely, if ever, seriously questioned. But, considering the UK government’s plans to implement an enhanced, coercive scheme of press regulation, serious critical engagement with the theory is past due. The monograph will reject the orthodox view. It will argue that there is no such duty on the press. Further, by treating ‘accountability’ as an obligation to ‘make good’ and ‘responsibility’ as an obligation to ‘do good’, it is argued that the press can be forced to do no more than account for the breaches of the code of conduct that govern it. It follows that the code itself can only be derived from the harm principle and not any claim of ‘moral responsibility’. I am particularly interested in the views of colleagues specialising in corporate social responsibility theory given the similarities in that literature (as I understand it) with the orthodox view on press accountability. I am interested to learn the normative claims that, amongst other things, justify the imposition of public obligations on private companies.

About the Speaker

Dr Paul Wragg is Associate Professor of Law at the University of Leeds, School of Law. His research interests are principally in free speech theory and its application to contemporary legal problems, particularly in relation to press freedom, offensive social media expression and employee free speech rights. His current work focuses on press regulation and the implementation of Leveson’s recommendations for press reform.

As a member of the IMPRESS code committee Dr Wragg provides advice to the board and the public about its code of conduct and its compatibility with press freedom. Guidance produced by the committee will be used by the public when contemplating complaints about the press. Dr Wragg is the lead editor for Communications Law (Bloomsbury Press), one of the leading specialist journals devoted to media and technology law. He is an Associate Academic Fellow of the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple and the Media and Communications section convenor for the Society of Legal Scholars.

Dr Wragg joined the School in September 2009, having previously taught at Durham University and the University of Birmingham. He qualified as a solicitor in 2003 and worked in practice in London, Leeds and Birmingham. He has held visiting fellowships at the University of Sydney and University of Melbourne. He teaches on a number of courses on subjects relating to Media Freedom, Contract Law and Employment Law.

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SR 1.09

Liberty Building

Moorland Road

University of Leeds

Leeds

LS2 9JT

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The Liberty Building is number 16 on the campus map.

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SR 1.09

Liberty Building

Belle Vue Road

Leeds

LS2 9JT

United Kingdom

View Map

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