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Guest blogs: could we all fall foul of new press regulation rules?

(7 Posts)
JessMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 20-Mar-13 10:28:47

Following a deal struck by the three main political parties in the early hours of Monday morning, the government has committed to creating an independent press regulator, set up by Royal Charter.

Today's guest blogs look at the possibility that the new regulator might affect not only newspapers, but virtually anyone who writes on the internet.

First, Padraig Reidy of Index On Censorship outlines what we know so far about the new regulator - but warns that we should worry more about what we don't know. Further down, Mumsnet Blogger Glosswitch considers whether she, and any other writer who posts publically, will be expected to play by the same rules as professional journalists.

Do read the blogs, and tell us what you think - and if you're a blogger and post on this topic, don't forget to leave your URL on the thread.

FloatyBeatie Wed 20-Mar-13 10:54:20

I feel rather wary of this issue being exploited by the vested press interests to generate a wider coalition -- or the appearance of one at any rate -- to buffer their egregiously self-interested and corrupt posturing about free speech in response to tougher regulation.

Sure, there are concerns and more clarity is needed. But it also seems to me that content that is news related, not produced by a one-person outfit and (perhaps crucially) subject to editorial control might quite reasonably be held to the same standards of fair treatment (of those about whom they write) as the press itself.

Take mumsnet, for e.g.. At first glance it seems likely that it would be held to fall under the regulations in respect of its centrally produced content (which is subject to editorial control) but not the talk board stuff or the bloggers network (other than guest blogs perhaps). That seems fair enough?
And regarding the penalty of exemplary damages for those not signed into the regulation, this will only come into play where a content publisher has been found guilty of libel? So its acceptability or otherwise stands or falls with the adequacy of the libel reforms. If we get libel law right, exemplary damages will only affect wrong doers (and could there be guidelines about the extent of these damages which reflect the differing economic status of amateur and for-profit news-related entities?)

There has been so much unutterable conscious EYEWASH from the press about free speech. Don't let's add to that without thinking really hard about the detail.

HippiTEEHoppoTEE Wed 20-Mar-13 11:13:20

It's so vague, IMHO, it could cover anyone.

But, let's remember, it's the world wide web. They can't police the entires Internet. My blog is hosted in the US, am I exempt? I think they are trying to fix a huge hole with a very tiny band aid.

It's time to start thinking globally on all of these issues.

FloatyBeatie Wed 20-Mar-13 11:20:56

Oh, just a supplementary mini-rant ... I guess uncertainty is what bloggers and other non-standard news-related content publishers are objecting to in relation to this new structure. And uncertainty is bound to persist for a while given that the details in relation to exemplary damages have presumably to be filled in by case law? But how could we be anything other than uncertain at a time of such transition in the nature of news publishing? And might the resolution of uncertainty during the hearing of individual legal cases be the best path forward?

I wonder whether judges might not be able to operate with perfectly sensible considerations such as taking into account, in the case of defendants guilty of libel who are not signed up to the regulator, whether they in fact abided by the resolution procedures that regulation recommended? So that news entities that might not have considered themselves as ones that should join the regulatory structure officially could minimise their liability for exemplary damages just by treating complainants fairly according to the industry code of practice. Which they should do anyway.

There seem to be lots of considerations like this which make the new system seem like a good path forward, admittedly with lots of perhaps unavoidable uncertainty.

HippiTEEHoppoTEE Wed 20-Mar-13 11:37:19

Also, I haven't read it completely, but I know it says something about UK readers. So, what are they going to do? Try to regulate US/European press online because UK people read it?

How exactly are they going to do that?

This whole thing seems as well thought out as most of the stuff that's come out of the government since the Coalition took power...

FloatyBeatie Wed 20-Mar-13 13:44:56

Is there anything in the charter that codifies that fact that it is specifically commercial activity that is being regulated? So that non-commercial entities would fall outside its remit? You'd think there would be -- or at least will be in the finalised document -- since it is an industry that is being regulated, not speech as such.

If there is or will be, concern seems misplaced, just as it would be wrong to imagine that food industry regulation threatens to penalise me for the shoddy way I produce meals at home.

Google ads on blogs would be enough to make an activity commercial, admittedly. But an easy solution to that would be blogging software that let you opt out of hosting ads. Blogs that are actively seeking to make money from ads (and which satisfy the other criteria for being liable to regulation) do seem like reasonable candidates for regulation as members of an industry.

lifeafterdebt Fri 22-Mar-13 15:15:08

I too am now seriously wondering if the new rulings make me vulnerable to exemplary damages if I continue to write and publish my banker bashing posts on Mumsmnet. It will be an outrageous infringement of free speech if it does and will provide yet another opportunity for those trying to conceal the extent to which the avarice of the banksters continues to impact on the majority of us to batten down the hatches. Hey ho... I may as well be hung for she as a lamb!

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