First and foremost let me say I backed Leveson and the Royal Charter proposals.
The only way regulation was going to work for the press was for it to remain self-regulated. Cameron, Clegg and Miliband all drafted a sensible proposal which in time most papers will end up signing too. They’ll stamp their feet and have a moan but they realise it’s not state regulation.
But an amendment to the Crime and Courts Bill that could pull bloggers into regulation is just unworkable.
The amendment, which was passed by the Commons on Monday, defines a “relevant publisher” as:
“a person who, in the course of a business (whether or not carried on with a view to profit), publishes news-related material –
- which is written by different authors, and
- which is to any extent subject to editorial control.”
Those who refused to be covered by the regulation system would be liable for “exemplary damages” and the award of costs should a person or organisation seek damages through the courts.
The fact is bloggers don’t really make money. They mostly do it for fun. Ok, Guido might make some from ads but it’s mostly used as means to get money from more mainstream media ventures, such as his Sun on Sunday column and his Messagespace online advertising company.
From my experience, bloggers are more than happy to make amends if they’re wrong. In fact, they tend to do it an awful lot faster than mainstream media.
So I support the Blog Off campaign (in fact I came up with the name). And though I think the wording of the petition is a bit harsh and personal towards some of the Hacked Off time, the spirit of Paul Staines campaign is something we could all sign up to.
So it’s good to see that it’s worked. Lord Lucas’ has tabled an amendment for Monday which is quite sensible.
Exclusions from definition of “relevant publisher”
“A publisher who does not exceed the definition of a small or medium-sized enterprise as defined in Section 382 and 465 Companies Act 2006.”
That will exempt most multi-author blogs and go a long way to prove that politicians are listening to the blogosphere.
In fact, more and more MPs and politicos are using these blogs to get stories out that the mainstream media channels don’t want to touch.
Ok, they can be a bit edgy and gossipy. And sometimes when you speak truth to power, the language can get somewhat colourful.
But as Abe Lincoln said “debate stirs the soul of democracy.”
And there’s nothing wrong with a good stir from time to time!
Update: Looks like there’s another sensible amendment! This one from Labour Peer Wilf Stevenson says that “small blogs” will be excluded:
“if that person publishes material on an online site written either by one person, or edited with a series of contributors, where the financial turnover produced from the site is small or the site is not run primarily for profit.”