DCU Home | Our Courses | Loop | Registry | Library | Search DCU

Module Specifications..

Current Academic Year 2023 - 2024

Please note that this information is subject to change.

Module Title Legal, Ethical & Social Issues in PR
Module Code CM50150
School School of Communications
Module Co-ordinatorSemester 1: Martin Molony
Semester 2: Martin Molony
Autumn: Martin Molony
Module TeachersMartin Molony
NFQ level 9 Credit Rating 5
Pre-requisite None
Co-requisite None
Compatibles None
Incompatibles None

This module will equip students with a working knowledge of the ethical, legal and societal issues related to the practice of Public Relations. The module will create an awareness of the need to understand and manage the ethical and legal dilemmas associated with professional work in a Public Relations environment.

Learning Outcomes

1. Apply ethical theory to professional Public Relations practice.
2. Discriminate between the key ethical issues involved in working professionally in Public Relations.
3. Demonstrate an understanding of the key aspects of the professional codes of ethics in Public Relations.
4. Demonstrate an awareness of legal issues related to the practice of Public Relations.
5. Construct approaches to managing within ethical and legal parameters.
6. Develop a philosophical and legal outlook that will be transferable to academic study and work generally.

Workload Full-time hours per semester
Type Hours Description
Lecture22Weekly classes
Online activity28Engagement with digital material and discussion forums on Loop.
Assignment Completion30Researching and completion of course assignments.
Independent Study45Sourcing, researching and reading module-related materials.
Total Workload: 125

All module information is indicative and subject to change. For further information,students are advised to refer to the University's Marks and Standards and Programme Specific Regulations at: http://www.dcu.ie/registry/examinations/index.shtml

Indicative Content and Learning Activities

Philosophical Frameworks
The theoretical foundation supporting ethical decision-making. What are ethics?; Definitions of ethics and social responsibility; Classical theories: Socrates, Aristotle, Deontology, Utilitarianism; Decision-making (Potter, Sims); Parson's Pillars; The Four-Way Test.

Professional Standards & Codes of Ethics
Code of Lisbon; Code of Athens; PRII code of practice for Public Affairs & Lobbying.

Issues in Public Relations ethics
Personal ethical decisions; Relationships with clients and other practitioners; Loyalty to whom?; Choice of a client or organisation; Advocate and counsellor roles; Secrecy and openness.

Public Relations & the Law
Defamation: libel and slander; Privacy; Copyright; Obscenity; Indecency; Blasphemy; Racial Hatred; Intellectual Property Rights; Data Protection; Freedom of Information Act; Regulation of the media in Ireland.

The regulation and practice of lobbying.

Social Media Ethics
The ethical use of Social Media in Public Relations

Case studies
Case studies in Public Relations ethics

Assessment Breakdown
Continuous Assessment100% Examination Weight0%
Course Work Breakdown
TypeDescription% of totalAssessment Date
EssayCase study in Public Relations ethics.50%n/a
Loop QuizOnline quiz relating to ethical codes of conduct and elements of media law relating to the practice of Public Relations in Ireland.25%n/a
Reflective journalCompletion of online journal entries reacting to the participation of industry figures discussing ethical and legal issues that have impacted on the practice of Public Relations in Ireland.25%As required
Reassessment Requirement Type
Resit arrangements are explained by the following categories;
1 = A resit is available for all components of the module
2 = No resit is available for 100% continuous assessment module
3 = No resit is available for the continuous assessment component
This module is category 1
Indicative Reading List

  • Morris, Trevor; Goldsworthy, Simon: 2021, Public Relations Ethics: the real-world guide, Routledge, New York, 0367612275
  • Chari, R., Murphy, G. and Hogan, J.: 2010, Regulating Lobbying: A Global Comparison, Manchester University Press, Manchester,
  • Cooney, John & McGarry, Tony (Editors): 1994, Spin Doctors: A threat to democracy?, Humbert Publications, Dublin,
  • Cottle, Simon (Editor): 2003, News, Public Relations and Power, Sage, London,
  • Davies, Nick: 2009, Flat Earth News: Distortion and Propaganda in the Global Media, Vintage, London,
  • DeStatso, Marcia W. & Bortree, Denise Sevick (Editors): 2014, Ethical Practice of Social Media in Public Relations, Routledge, New York,
  • Martin, Andrea: 2011, Media Law Ireland: Answers to Your Top 100 Media Questions, Oak Tree Press, Cork,
  • Murphy, Yvonne & McGuinness, Donal: 2011, Journalists and the Law, 3rd, Round Hall, Dublin,
  • Parsons, Patricia J.: 2015, Ethics in Public Relations: A Guide to Best Practice, Second edition, Kogan Page, London,
  • Solove, Daniel J.: 2009, Understanding Privacy, Harvard University Press,
  • Welch, David: 2013, Propaganda: Power and Persuasion, The British Library, London,
Other Resources

Programme or List of Programmes
GDPRSCGrad Dip in Public Relations&Strat Comms
MSCPRMSc in Public Relations & Strategic Comm

My DCU | Loop | Disclaimer | Privacy Statement