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Title: A crisis of democratic accountability : public libel law and the checking function of the press
Author: Stephenson, Randall
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis undertakes a comparative analysis of public libel law in the United States, Australia, Britain, New Zealand, and Canada. It is comprised of nine chapters structured around four interrelated themes. Part A introduces the problem of public libel law. After outlining its main sources and principles in our five comparators, Chapter One concludes by highlighting a more troubling concern than presently acknowledged in constitutional law scholarship. That is, the recent liberalisation of public libel doctrine appears to have happened without any 'selection theory' to justify its doctrinal variability. Chapter Two then surveys two methodological barriers to principled public libel regulation before reviewing Alexander Meiklejohn's 'self-governance' rationale and Vincent Blasi's 'checking value' of the press, the two democratic models anchoring our present enquiry. Part B provides a comprehensive comparative law analysis of public libel doctrine. Chapters Three, Four, and Five reveal that its foremost deficiency is a pervasive disregard of accountability concerns and the checking function of the press. Part C responds with a new approach for addressing the theoretical and comparative law errors revealed in Parts A and B, and for reintroducing the checking function into public libel jurisprudence. Chapter Six identifies the root of public libel law's undertheorising in the complex relationships between democracy, representation, and accountability. Chapter Seven then proposes an innovative analytical framework for improving the design and customisation of public libel doctrine based on recent advances in public accountability theory. Part D tests our revised analytical framework by applying it to the United Kingdom and its newly-updated public libel doctrine. After reviewing Britain's accountability profile in Chapter Eight, Chapter Nine then provides our project's law reform recommendations. I conclude by emphasising the relevance of the present-day 'crisis of journalism' and the broader significance of contextual challenges to prospective public libel law reforms.
Supervisor: Young, Alison Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available