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Leveson should not apply to the not-for-profit blogosphere

Mark Ferguson raises an important issue which has been neglected in the last minute deal-making and it is important albeit not what most politicians are currently hacked-off about — on the important question of whether the deal meets the requirement of adequate statutory backing see the Spectator or Labour List, although be warned that they broadly reflect the (convenient) stance of the Leaders of their own side. Nor is it the question of media ownership, which politicians fail to raise but Mark Seddon does so here.

The issue is the internet – to which Leveson devoted just one page in his very lengthy report, though he has since spoken about the issue. In the long run, when the importance of print mdeia diminishes, it is what matters most and it concerns not only the so-called freedom of the press (aka the unregulated freedom of the rich press barons) but the more important freedom of speech.

What Leveson said about the internet was:

The internet does not claim to operate by any particular ethical standards, still less high ones. Some have called it a ‘wild west’ but I would prefer to use the term ‘ethical vacuum’.

If it neither has nor claims to have ethical standards, it is unlike the media and doesn’t need regulation. The view has been challenged as “naive” and Timothy Garston-Ash has argued it is an “ethical battlefield” rather than a vacuum. But it was clear that his recommendations had to apply to Newspapers online versions and so we have arrived where we are. Although we haven’t seen the detail of royal charters or bill amendments, Labour’s proposed charter was to affect “publishers” who publish:

i)  a newspaper or magazine containing news-related material, or
ii)  a website containing news-related material (whether or not related to a newspaper or magazine)

That appears to me to include any political blogger and most non-political ones (given how “news-related” some of the things called “newspapers” are). Does it cover tweets or facebook pages? It’s less clear but all my tweets are just like pages of a website whose root lies at https://twitter.com/jonlansman/ so it’s possible. Now, like Mark Ferguson, I’m not claiming that, as a blogger or website publisher I have no responsibility. I do. Tweeters like Sally Bercow and George Monbiot have already discovered as much. But the question is how much control & regulation should I face? Not, perhaps, as much as Murdoch’s empire. And others perhaps should face even less.

The boundaries are important. And I’m not happy for the niceties of where the boundary lies to be subject only to the legislative scrutiny that goes into a royal charter (i.e. none). Sorry, Ed and Harriet, your deal won’t wash with me.

2 Comments

  1. John p Reid says:

    If progress is funded by a millionaire ,it must run at a loss, so that’s safe then.

  2. Dave says:

    j p reid: “it must run at a loss”

    Undoubtedly. Sainsbury has form – during his chairmanship of the supermarket chain three profit warnings were issued and, on the day he announced his retirement, Sainsbury share prices increased.

    Frankly, one must wonder what the attraction is – but then, he does have money to waste.

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