Defamation Law's Chilling Effect: A Comparative Content Analysis of Australian and Us Newspapers

Media and Arts Law Review, Vol. 9, No. 89, 2004

U of Melbourne Legal Studies Research Paper No. 94

39 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2004

See all articles by Chris Dent

Chris Dent

Murdoch University - School of Law

Andrew T. Kenyon

University of Melbourne Law School

Abstract

This article reports on a comparative content analysis of more than 1,400 Australian and US newspaper articles. The study suggests that in the US - where defamation plaintiffs face much heavier burdens than under Australian law - defamatory allegations are made more frequently against both political and corporate actors than in Australia. The US articles contained apparently defamatory allegations at nearly three times the rate of the Australian sample. In particular, the Australian media appeared to be less comfortable making allegations in relation to corporate affairs than its US counterpart. In addition, some US articles included far more extreme commentary than the Australian sample, which suggests a less restrained style of public debate may be fostered under US law. Through introducing comparative content analysis to Australian media law research, the article supports the idea that Anglo-Australian defamation law has a chilling effect media speech.

Keywords: defamation, Australia, United States, media, newspaper, chilling effect of defamation law, content analysis, comparative, defamatory allegations, media speech

JEL Classification: K19, K39

Suggested Citation

Dent, Chris and Kenyon, Andrew T., Defamation Law's Chilling Effect: A Comparative Content Analysis of Australian and Us Newspapers. Media and Arts Law Review, Vol. 9, No. 89, 2004; U of Melbourne Legal Studies Research Paper No. 94. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=586684

Chris Dent

Murdoch University - School of Law ( email )

United States

Andrew T. Kenyon (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne Law School ( email )

University Square
185 Pelham Street, Carlton
Victoria, Victoria 3010
Australia
61 3 8344 9972 (Phone)
61 3 9348 0973 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.unimelb.edu.au/cmcl/

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