Reviewed by Tamsyn Badland
Burrows and Cheer Media Law in New Zealand has long been recognised as New Zealand’s leading guide on media law, and the seventh edition consolidates and continues this legacy.
The sole author of the seventh edition is Ursula Cheer, Professor of Law at Canterbury University, building on the blocks set down by Emeritus Professor John Burrows QC in the first edition in 1974.
The book aims to be a useful resource not just for lawyers, but also for law and journalism students, and editors and other media personnel. The new advertising chapter may also attract those in the advertising industry. Accordingly, the book sets out to be accessible by the use of clear language, and is light on legal jargon. Common legal concepts are explained briefly (for example, the differences between civil and criminal proceedings) and while well-referenced, citations and other extraneous yet useful details are confined to the footnotes. The index is functional, but it can be difficult to find information if you are looking for information on a small specific point.
This edition delivers the welcome addition of a chapter on the regulation of advertising in New Zealand. The chapter describes the mechanics of the Advertising Standards Authority and Complaints Board, and their processes, but the bulk of the chapter covers decisions made to date under the advertising codes. There are plenty of practical examples given, along with intelligent commentary illustrating each point.
The book has been updated to reflect events and cases from the last few years. For example in the defamation chapter you’ll find a detailed discussion of everything from the Artemus Jones case of 1910 to Colin Craig’s crusade against the Civilian in 2014.
The chapter on reporting court proceedings has a thorough discussion of the new name suppression laws under the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 and cases under those provisions, although still referring to cases under the old law that may be of interest to media – such as the Slater case involving the breach of a name suppression order by a blogger. The section on in-court media coverage has been updated with a good section on the orders made against TV3 in its coverage of the Banks trial.
One of my favourite aspects of this work is that the author does not simply recite the law and the cases and leave it at that. She is not afraid to critique decisions, and from time to time there will be musings on potential developments in various aspects of the law – which makes the book more than a dry text for practitioners.
Of course, one of the realities of media law is how quickly it moves and grows. Since January 2015 when the book went to press, there have been changes in a few key areas – for example, recent amendments to the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993, and new draft in-court media guidelines. The recent Green Paper Exploring Digital Convergence may also have implications for media law, and it will be interesting to see what commentary the eighth edition may bring on these points in the years to come.
Burrows and Cheer: Media Law in New Zealand, 7th edition, LexisNexis NZ Ltd, July 2015, 978-1-927248-09-6, 995 pages, paperback and e-book, $175 (GST included, p&h excluded).
Tamsyn Badland is a senior solicitor at the Department of Internal Affairs, specialising in public and regulatory law and prosecutions. She is currently the Secretary of the Departmental Prosecutors’ Forum. Opinions in this review are those of the reviewer only and not of the Department of Internal Affairs.