Q. When is a blog not a blog? A. When it falls under the post-Leveson regime
Then it's a news business subject to the new independent regulator
Following stints with Reuters and the Press Association, Martin Hickman joined The Independent as a news editor in 2001. He became the Consumer Affairs Correspondent in September 2005 and has run the paper's trenchant campaigns on packaging, bank charges and factory-farmed chicken. He writes on subjects as diverse as food, finance, energy and fashion. With Tom Watson, he is author of a new book on the phone hacking scandal, Dial M for Murdoch - News Corporation and the Corruption of Britain.
Tuesday 19 March 2013
Will bloggers come under the terms of the new rules agreed by the press? Only if they are a news business.
Websites will be subject to the new regulatory regime for the press thrashed out by politicians.
Under that deal, any news publisher who stays outside the new independent regulator will face exemplary damages if libel complaints go to law.
However the Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, has made it clear that the rules are designed to capture large news websites rather than amateur bloggers.
Anyone affected would have to be running a business publishing news-related material, she said. The news material would have to be written by a range of authors and be subject to editorial control.
The vast majority of Britain’s bloggers ranging from restaurant critics to conspiracy theorists would not fall under that definition.
However Index on Censorship warned that by extending regulation to the internet Britain had “abandoned a democratic principle.”
The Royal Charter’s definition of a relevant publisher as a website containing news-related material “means blogs could be regulated under this new law as well,” it said.
Index on Censorship said: “This will undoubtedly have a chilling effect on everyday people’s web use.
“Bloggers could find themselves subject to exemplary damages in court, due to the fact that they were not part of a regulator that was not intended for them in the first place. This mess of legislation has been thrown together with alarming haste: there’s little doubt we’ll repent for a while to come.”
Carla Buzasi, editor-in-chief of Huffington Post UK – which competes online with newspapers currently regulated by the Press Complaints Commission and subject to its successor – joined the uproar.
Huffington Post UK heavily relies on content provided free by a mass of contributors.
Ms Buzasi said: “We are concerned that new regulations appear to have been rushed through by politicians with little thought given to defining the terms. We know that ”news-related websites“ are covered, but we are told blogs are not.
”We have over 6,000 bloggers, so are they covered by the regulation? No politician seems to have had this discussion, and it appears to be paving the way for legal challenges across the industry.“
The Conservative commentator Iain Mr Dale expressed his fears that his blog – iaindale.com would fall under the terms of the new rules.
He wrote online: “I don’t make money out of my blog, but it is all part of Brand Dale. Without it I wouldn’t do all the media stuff I do, so on that basis I could be said to make money out of it.”
Mr Dale – who did not mention Maria Miller’s more detailed guidance - continued: ”I think my blog would certainly fall under the remit. And it stinks. If I don't sign up and I am successfully sued, a judge would award exemplary damages against me.“
Fellow right-wing blogger Paul Staines warned liberal and progressive bloggers not to be too pleased about press reform because they would be affected too.
Under the headline ‘Don’t let Murdo-phobia kill press freedom’, Mr Staines wrote: “One thing that surprises Guido is that his comrades in the liberal, progressive blogosphere have seemingly not noticed that the proposed Royal Charter aims to control and regulate them as well as the tabloids.”
However his assistant Harry Cole does not believe the Guido Fawkes site will be affected because it is run through foreign servers.
Mr Staines, who has a column in the Sun – one of the Rupert Murdoch titles which oppose the new press regulator - has long boasted of his ability to avoid UK defamation and w.
Pressed on the detail of the changes on Monday night, Mrs Miller said that the new regime would protect ”small-scale bloggers“.
She said that others excluded from it would be hobby and trade titles, student newspapers, not-for-profit community newspapers, and scientific journals, periodicals and book publishers.
The Campaign for Media Reform said that small news publishers could benefit from expensive libel actions by joining the new press regulator, but called for clarity on which exactly websites would be affected.
It said: “It is crucial that the Royal Charter apply to online organisations – but equally important that we know exactly who is in and who is out.”
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