Media Law Handbook: A Guide for Canadian Journalists, Broadcasters, Photographers, and Writers


136 pages
ISBN 0-88908-094-1




Reviewed by Dean Tudor

Dean Tudor is a journalism professor at the Ryerson Polytechnical
Institute and founding editor of the CBRA.


The Robertson book is a good, basic outline of some of the issues dealing with the rights and responsibilities of the media in Canada. As a lawyer, Robinson has clients in this area of specialization for his private practice, and as well he has written some legal texts on media law. The audience here is mainly newspaper reporters, but there is also coverage for publishers, writers and authors, and broadcasters. Selected topics include privacy and the recording of telephone calls for interviews, national security and official secrets, copyright and photocopying (as well as rights and permissions and releases), photographs, defamation and libel, sources and notes, and the important matter of reporting on court cases. Material in the appendix covers a sample book contract, excerpts from the Broadcasting Act of Canada, certain CRTC Regulations, and the libel portions from the Criminal Code. The lack of an index, though, does hamper retrieval if you are looking for something specific, and very few cases are cited. In addition, there are some typographical errors. The key sentence, though, is buried on p. xi: “Often such things as delay, research, rewriting, or rethinking an approach to a news item will assist you in overcoming any legal hurdles.” What this means, apparently, is: don’t be impetuous, since most legal hassles stem from a lack of documentation.

Beckton’s book, created with support from the well-known Canadian Law Information Council in Ottawa, covers similar topics (libel, slander, copyright, privacy) but it is more scholarly (and more pedantic in tone). Also, it does cover other material such as malice, the question of apology and damages, obscenity, the right to a fair trial. There is a curious reference here to Leon Uris’s QB VII but that book, of course, is a fictionalized account.

Although the Beckton book is more complete, both books are relatively short. More case law could have been included, but that would have expanded the books and probably would have raised the prices. As it is, the Beckton book is fairly expensive, though the Robertson book is cheap enough. Certainly, every working journalist should own the Self-Counsel paperback, while libraries might need both, for two audiences: academic and popular. Is it just a coincidence that both books have screaming red covers?


Robertson, Stuart M., “Media Law Handbook: A Guide for Canadian Journalists, Broadcasters, Photographers, and Writers,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 20, 2024,