Ursula Smartt ‘Media and Entertainment Law’, 4th ed (Routledge) Book Launch
4 December 2019 at New College of the Humanities, London.
On 4 December 2019, Ursula Smartt launched the fourth edition of Media & Entertainment Law in the Drawing Room of NCH. The book – now a staple diet on most British Universities’ reading lists on law and journalism degrees – is widely considered one of the most comprehensive textbooks on the subject, a mighty tome of some 700 pages. Baroness Helena Kennedy QC was in attendance, wrote the foreword to the book, and launched the book amongst some 65 guests from the legal world and world of journalism (Ursula is married to Mike Smartt OBE, retired BBC News Correspondent and ‘father’ of BBC News Online).
More than 30 of Ursula’s law students were in attendance and second-year law students, Tony Kyriakides and Marie Therese Gumpert introduced the speakers. The evening’s proceedings started with an introductory speech by Dimitrios Kyriazis, Head of the Law Faculty, who praised Ursula’s academic and teaching qualities, popular with NCH law students. Helena Kennedy, one of the most prominent criminal barristers in the UK, said in her 15-minute address that the Media and Entertainment Law could not be coming out at a more appropriate time since print journalism is under threat and so are international journalists. She said that Smartt’s book covers issues relating to harmful content and conduct online and continues her focus on media freedom in all chapters. Kennedy praised Smartt’s detailed research investigating how the internet and social media sites remain unregulated, encouraging youngsters like Molly Russell to self-harm and commit suicide. She praised Ursula Smartt’s user- friendly writing style and the wide-ranging topics covered in the book as well as the fact that the book does not leave out Scots law.
In her speech, Ursula Smartt focused on new chapters in the book which widely cover broadcast, internet, advertising and press regulation. “Without knowing we would soon be heading for the polls in – yes just 8 days – I added a new chapter covering election and party-political broadcasting laws,’ she said and added, “these laws are however vastly out of date and do not cover the digital age.” Smartt focused on the fact that political advertising is not regulated – “as we first experienced during the Brexit Referendum in June 2016, resulting in the Cambridge Analytica vote rigging-scandal and a number of prosecutions by the Electoral Commission.” – She explained, “my book explains how 87m records were obtained and used online to try and skew the 2017 General Election.” She then focused on the fact that Facebook is now controlling and censoring its own platform, stating, “An example is last month’s controversy over the company’s refusal to take down a Donald Trump advert attacking his Democrat rival Joe Biden. In response, US Senator and law professor, Elizabeth Warren, another Democrat hopeful, published an advert on Facebook suggesting that Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, had endorsed Mr. Trump – apparently untrue. This type of electioneering is now widespread in the UK where all political parties are currently engaged in overblown social media rhetoric.” Addressing her law students, Smartt sent a warning to the young hopefuls, “Facebook and all other social media platforms say they are committed to freedom of expression, but how do we know who is really posting and what they say is true? How can our students and those who vote for the first time, for example, know the scale of political disinformation? What do we make of Twitter’s recent decision to ban all political adverts?”
Photography: John Moreland ©
Book Cover: Suzanne Plunkett ©