Influencing the way people communicate

Jock Given

Words by Jerome Doraisamy, photography by Miles Standish

Jock Given on Brunswick Oval, where he first learnt what it meant to be a Victorian.

Jock Given on Brunswick Oval, where he first learnt what it meant to be a Victorian.

Engagement with media, across its myriad platforms, has permeated everyday life increasingly and inextricably over the years. As connectors, consumers, workers and thrill-seekers, we are never far from moving images, sound and text.

 In this interconnected, globalised world, it is fundamentally important for Australia to have effective and proper regulations around broadcasting and communications.

 “This is about the way people communicate, the way they exchange information and ideas,” Jock Given explained.

 “It’s vital that they work well, that communications networks operate effectively, that the tools of communication are available to people equitably – not just to those who can afford them in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane – but across the whole country.”

 It is, he surmised, not only an important cog in the machine that is a working, functioning society, but also an incredibly dynamic industry in which to participate.

 Jock, a professor of media and communications at Swinburne University of Technology, has been at the forefront of profound change over the years.

 He was an economics and law student initially interested in industrial relations and employment law, but has instead trodden a very different path to the one originally planned.

 The combination of economics and law proved an invaluable training ground, however, especially as the specific areas of law he has ended up in hardly cropped up in the course of his studies.

 “Areas like broadcasting, telecommunications, spectrum or radiocommunications law, trade law, privacy, these were areas where there was some legislation but they hadn’t really burgeoned in the way they have now,” he explained.

 Jock’s career is a shining example, for new law students and lawyers coming through the ranks, of how the study of law can equip you with the tools to make a practical, tangible difference in the day-to-day functioning of modern society.

 “In a field like media, the technology, ways people use media, the devices we use, and the players in the industry are all changing hugely and they have been for a long time,” he noted.

 “So the law has to keep up – the law one day is not quite what it was yesterday or a decade ago. And there’s just massively more law around media and communications than there was, say, 25 years ago.”

 Jock has contributed significantly to that.

 He played key roles in the treatment of media and culture in international trade agreements, including the Closer Economic Relations Agreement with New Zealand, World Trade pacts of the 1990s, Australia’s free trade agreement with the United States, and the now stalled Trans Pacific Partnership.

 Domestically, he was director of the Communications Law Centre in the late 90s, and wrote some prescient pieces on the implementation of our National Broadband Network almost a decade ago.

 Now a researcher, writer and teacher, Jock takes particular pride in seeing the accomplishments of his former students. ‘We know we are preparing students for “portfolio careers” where they do a number of quite different jobs – often at the same time - and it is hugely rewarding to see and hear about the work they go on to do.’

 And it is crucial that students like Jock’s create change and become influencers – just as he has done – as human interactions, and their sociocultural and political ramifications, continue to evolve. 

 “We’re never too far from media, moving images, sound, text. We spend so much of our time engaging with media, and the boundaries between our personal and professional lives have collapsed to a large extent,” he concluded.

 “This is a such a lively and important business to be working around.”


Copyright Doraisamy, Field and Standish 2016-2017