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Decisions under Uncertainty in Child Protection

Decisions under Uncertainty in Child Protection

The insight from research into regulation, to the effect that that knowledge is important for legislative governance processes, point to the way the legislature and authorities find themselves faced increasingly with the question as to how situations of not-knowing do affect legal decisions. The PhD project took up this enquiry using the example of youth media protection and sets out concretely the leeway for assessment and prognosis the various actors have, verifiable legally only to a certain extent, at the levels of the legislature, of the responsible authorities and of the institutions of voluntary self-regulation – in the face of uncertainty.

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Project Description

The PhD project examined the forms of knowledge deficits concerning legal decisions in the German Law for Protection of Minors in Media [Jugendmedienschutzrecht] for broadcast and telemedia, as it is written in the Interstate Treaty on the Protection of Minors in the Media [Jugendmedienschutz—Staatsvertrag]. The analysis focused on determinants of legislative decisions, which means the general and specific constitutional requirements for decisions in cases of uncertainty. In the following course, the work lookd at the single decisions made on downstream levels: on the one hand, there are different causes depending on the kind of decision-making or its level, i.e. the level of the legislator, the approved authorities and within the scope of established bodies of voluntary self-regulation in the system of regulating self-regulation. On the other hand, an important category of legal decisions under uncertainty as a field emerged from the judicial review, namely the possible scopes of assessment and judgement and the relevant control density in the judicial review. This field is being controversially discussed/became the subject of a controversial debate in literature, especially since it is explicitly written in the Law for Protection of Minors in Media that the self-controlling bodies (under private law) have “scopes for judgement evaluation”. The combination of the following factors can deliver deeper results than it is possible in any other areas of law:

  • a relatively new/young form of regulation (regulated self-regulation/co-regulation)
  • the framework, which is necessary for the controlling approach,
  • the question for the leeway and its judicial control in a multi-level-system
  • and, eventually, a control area, in which academic research cannot provide explicit information about the reduction of uncertainty.

In the first part of this work, the subject and causes of uncertainty sheds light on within the scope of legal decisions – and how the law can and has to react to it. Subsequently, in the second part analyses what determinants of specific categories for decisions in the area of youth media protection emerge from the constitutional requirements concerning the protection of minors. The third part gives an overview of the sub-constitutional framework of youth media protection in Germany. Selected types of decisions under uncertainty and the guidelines and standards/criteria, which were presented in the first two parts for various situations of decision-making, will be examined in the fourth and last part. By doing so, a typology of decisions under uncertainty in child protection against harmful media was developed, so that relevant programmes for decision-making as well as their guidelines can be considered in a more differentiated way.

This project was finished in 2018 and published by Nomos:

Dreyer, S. (2018): Entscheidungen unter Ungewissheit im Jugendmedienschutz. Untersuchung der spielraumprägenden Faktoren gesetzgeberischer und behördlicher Entscheidungen mit Wissensdefiziten [Decisions under Uncertainty in the Protection of Minors in the Media. Analysis of the Factors Influencing the Scope of Legislative and Official Decisions with Knowledge Deficits]. Baden-Baden: Nomos, 431 p., paperback, ISBN 978-3-8487-5393-2, 114,- EUR, Publishing Information

Project Information


Duration: 2012-2017

Research programme:
RP3 - Knowledge for the Media Society

Involved persons

Dr. Stephan Dreyer

Third party

Cooperation Partner

Contact person

Dr. Stephan Dreyer
Senior Researcher Media Law & Media Governance

Dr. Stephan Dreyer

Leibniz-Institut für Medienforschung │ Hans-Bredow-Institut (HBI)
Rothenbaumchaussee 36
20148 Hamburg

Tel. +49 (0)40 45 02 17 - 33
Fax +49 (0)40 45 02 17 - 77

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