SHE Level 3
SCQF Credit Points 20.00
ECTS Credit Points 10.00
Module Code M3P325468
Module Leader Tanya Thompson
School Glasgow School for Business and Society
Subject Media and Journalism
  • A (September start)

Pre-Requisite Knowledge

Completion of L2 of BAMN or BAMJ

Summary of Content

This course explores the constraints within which journalists, public relations consultants & officers, advertising agents and other communication occupations operate in Western society, and considers the ethical dilemmas which arise in their work and how these might be resolved.


What are ethics? What are media ethics? Moral-decision making: reactions, resistance, evasions, egotism, relativism, cynicism Theories of the media - libertarian & social responsibility; their origins & philosophical bases. Ethical theories and philosophical approaches: - Consequential theories - Kant. - Non-consequential theories - Utilitarianism. - Virtue Ethics - Aristotle's Ethics. The philosophical basis of codes of practice and regulatory / self-regulatory agencies; contrasting approaches/cases in the UK, Europe and North America. The economics of the media: the structure of the newspaper and broadcasting industries; audience size and audience taste; intervention in the market by government and government agencies. The structure and operation of the public relations consultancy industry & advertising agencies. Ethical dilemmas in practice: the tension between ethical and professional imperatives, drawn from contemporary examples in the press, broadcasting, PR, advertising; reconciling conflicting demands; self protection and self respect. Personal occupational and philosophical reflection on instances of moral decision-making

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module, the student should be able to:1. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the socio-economic and cultural contexts within which the western media operate2. Critically analyse the nature of ethical issues3. Critically analyse a range of ethical issues within journalistic and promotional communication practice, and consider possible solutions

Teaching / Learning Strategy

This module utilizes a combination of virtual / audio and print advance lectures / briefings, extensive readings, seminars, screenings and tutorials. Most class contact is within the weekly one-hour seminar. Assessment is via coursework: a seminar presentation and report examining an ethical dilemma in media practice. And, an essay analysing in detail a specific example of the relationship between journalism and social context from an industry, ethical or theoretical perspective. GSBS will continue to use the advancement of GCU Learn as a blended learning tool through its teaching and learning as well as through engagement with students. GSBS will ensure that all modules are GCU Learn enabled and with the support of the Learning Technologists at the cutting edge of development of online materials. Academic staff and the Learning Technologists will continue to work together to develop and operate all modules on GCULearn to ensure student support and information sharing. Students are provided with formative and summative feedback via a variety of mechanisms. Feedback on coursework is provided within 3 working weeks of submission.

Indicative Reading

Books and articles: Alia, Valerie. 2004. Media ethics and social change. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Baggini, Julian. 2003. Making sense: philosophy behind the headlines. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Bivins, Thomas. 2009. Mixed Media: Moral distinctions in advertising, public relations and journalism. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, second edition Comte-Sponville, Andre9. 2003. A short treatise on the great virtues. London: Vintage Fitzpatrick, Kathy, and Bronstein, Carolyn B. 2006. Ethics in Public Relations: Responsible Advocacy. London: Sage Ess, Charles. 2009. Digital Media Ethics. Cambridge: Polity Press. Frost, Chris. 2000. Media ethics and self-regulation. Harlow: Longman. Hallin, Daniel C., and Mancini, Paolo. 2004. Comparing Media Systems: Three Models of Media and Politics. Cambridge: Cambrige University Press Hobsbawn, Julia. 2006. Where the Truth Lies. London: Atlantic Books. Keeble, Richard, ed. 2008. Communication Ethics Now. Leicester: Troubador Kieran, Matthew. 1998. Media ethics. London: Routledge. L'Etang, Jacquie and Magda Pieczka. 2006, eds. Critical Debates in Public Relations. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Lumby, Catherine, and Probyn, Elspeth. 2004. Remote control: new media, new ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Mnookin, Seth. 2004. Hard news: the scandals at the New York Times and their meaning for American media. New York: Random House. Richards, Ian. 2004. Quagmires and Quandaries: understanding journalism ethics. Newcastle: University of New South Wales Press. Saunders, Karen. 2003. Ethics and journalism. London: Sage. Shannon, Richard. 2001. A Press free and responsible: self-regulation and the press complaints commission 1991-2001. Edinburgh: Spence, Edward John Murray, and Brent Van Heekeren. 2004. Advertising Ethics. London: Prentice-Hall Tannsjo, Torbjorn. 2008. Understanding Ethics. Edinburgh: EUP. Wilkins, Lee. (ed). 2009. The Handbook of Mass Media Ethics. New York: Routledge. Journals: Ethical Space: The International Journal of Communication Ethics Journal of Mass Media Ethics Online sources:

Transferrable Skills

By the end of this module students will have gained competence in the following key areas: Awareness of Strengths and Weaknesses Independence Ability to Reflect Integrity Ability to Prioritise Tasks Time management Presentation Skills

Module Structure

Activity Total Hours
Independent Learning 136.00
Lectures (FT) 12.00
Assessments 40.00
Seminars 12.00

Assessment Methods

Component Duration Weighting Threshold Description
Coursework 2 n/a 50.00 35% Essay 2,000 words WK12 TriA
Coursework 1 n/a 50.00 35% 2,000 word report WK6 TriA