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Press regulation deal WON’T stifle bloggers


4:39 pm - March 19th 2013

by Sunny Hundal    


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Many of those opposed to any press regulation have now started scaremongering about how the Royal Charter will spell the end of blogging. Like their other views on the subject, I think this is unadulterated rubbish.

For a start, as Paul Bernal points out, the specific guidelines and details still have to be worked out. Looking at the draft Royal Charter alone for guidance is futile.

Secondly, libel law is already a big issue for most bloggers – the Royal Charter has no direct impact on that whatsoever. There may be added fines if you are proved in court to have libelled someone (and aren’t signed up to the regulator), but they aren’t the real problem – libel law is!

But most importantly, there is absolutely no political will to start regulating bloggers. I’ve heard from several senior Labour MPs that they had little chance to raise it in the debate because the draft agreement had been published at the last minute.

Their aim is to differentiate between behemoths like Guardian.co.uk, MailOnline, HuffingtonPost – and the rest of us. If anyone can suggest the wording to make that distinction I’d be interested…

There may even be positives to this. If the regulator can help bloggers resolve libel issues before they have to pay out for expensive legal letters, it may even help them.

I will be lobbying for bloggers to be given the voluntary option of signing up to the new regulator for free.

All this said, it’s important to stay vigilant, and some of us bloggers plan to lobby and meet Labour MPs to ensure they understand our concerns. I would suggest people ignore the scaremongering from those who were opposed to the Leveson Inquiry from the start.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


The idea of bloggers being able to sign up for free, or for minimal cost, is a good one and I’ll get on to my MP about it.

As you appreciate, he’s a Tory, but the more the merrier. It’ll have zero effect on the content I put out.

Attention all turkeys!

Sign up for Christmas here!!

PS it’s free!!!

You know the corporate media is getting desperate when they have to wheel out Paul Staines to peddle this nonsense. He was spinning like a demented top yesterday.

Still if the Mail and Telegraph have to issue corrections on their mistakes and lies they won’t be able to write about climate change any more. The corrections will take up to much space. RESULT.

I can’t get behind this notion that while regulating the press is good, that suddenly asking bloggers to adhere to the same standards is some outrage.

Um libel law already applies to newspapers too. It applies to anybody who writes anything (which is seen by more than one other person). Just because libel law already applies to you doesn’t mean that the new regulation doesn’t.

You state that there is “no political will to start regulating bloggers”, presumably because those Labour backbenchers you spoke to have said so. But what matters is what’s included in he Royal Charter, and the Crime and Courts Bill (which neither you nor Paul Bernal even seem to be aware of). Comments made to you by some MPs have no force whatsoever,as you really should be aware if you’re a publisher yourself!

Now you state that “press regulation won’t stifle bloggers” and that may well be true. It won’t stifle newspapers either, except for on those occasions when we actually want them to be stifled, ie when they behave like wankers.

But will it *apply* to bloggers? Well, some of them, yes. If their site has contributions from multiple authors and an editorial process of some kind and can loosely be described as a business (even non profit) and deals in some way with “news” – yes, it will apply to them.

Those are important qualifications and mean that the average person with a WordPress account need not worry. But many blogs will certainly be included in the new regulation. Including yours, probably.

If someone were to propose incorporating the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States into British law, I wonder what the response would be.

7. Shatterface

I can’t get behind this notion that while regulating the press is good, that suddenly asking bloggers to adhere to the same standards is some outrage

Especially since three years from now most ‘newpapers’ will consist entirely of online comment pieces indistinguishable from blogs.

If someone were to propose incorporating the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States into British law, I wonder what the response would be.

The first response would be bafflement about how you can amend the British Constitution when we don’t have a British Constitution.

The fact this is a Royal Commission tells you what you need to know about British democracy.

8. Laughing At You

Great start to the week for the Boy Hundal, coming out in favor of both the Cyprus bank raid AND press “regulation”.

I hope you think twice about signing up to being regulated because it won’t be your friendly MPs who are in control of who is appointed to control your output. It’ll be people who Hacked Off like.

But then you have been brought up to believe that regulation by someone else is the right thing. From being told how to learn, to being told how to eat, to being told how to drink, to being told how to enjoy yourself, to being told how to think, to being told how to write.

Have you ever thought that the person doing the regulation is just another human, with all the failings humans have. Such as personal opinion, bias, lack of objectivity, etc.

First of all we have to go back to the very basics. There has to be a clear differentiation between news and opinion.
If a blog or newspaper writes an article clearly stated as fact – ie news – then it should be regulated pretty fiercely.
If an article is clearly labelled as opinion – then there should be much less regulation – if any.
The above blog post for example is clearly opinion not fact but the Sun’s disgusting Hillsborough front page about Hillsborough ‘The Truth’ would be classed as news and as such should have been under strict regulation.
I agree about the present libel laws already being the most pernicious regulation because all they do is enable rich people to tell poor people to shut the f**k up.

11. Dislecksick

Of course, at a liberal website I find them fully backing censorship.

That’s the crazy world of politics today. The conservative PM backs gay marriage and the liberals back censorship. What on earth is going on?

If I don’t back censorship, what does that make me? Something with the prefix “neo” I assume?

12. Dislecksick

In addition, re comments above about the distinction betweeen “fact” and “opinion”, this is very dodgy ground.

Truth, and fact, is negotiable. That which is proven often is found to be wrong. Sadbutmadlad has it spot on – the truth is decided by the regulators own bias and opinions. Sometimes, the facts are protected for the percieved greater good.

It makes me almost want to vomit when I realise what the constructed and deliberate conspiracy of this Leveson inquiry has done and is doing. Motivate the left by giving the opportunity to give Murdoch a kicking. Murdoch, the all powerfull tyrrant who forces no one to buy his output (unlike the BBC). Murdoch, who sells papers based on reflecting the views of his readers (unlike the BBC). Murdoch, who doesn’t need the psuedo nationalism of putting “British” in the title of his organisation to elicit misguided nationalism from the masses to support it’s existence (unlike the BBC). Yeah right, Murdoch is a tyrant.

Oh, and the scores of rich and powerful using Millie Dowler’s name, over and over, to disguise their need to have their cake and eat it. The politicians and entertainers who abuse their position to f*** as many people as possible see a chance of having a European style protection for the oligarchy (ala Dom SK). Now, when your daughters go in to politics, they will be fully at the mercy of these men, and won’t have a leg to stand on, so they better start opening them if they want to get on.

The left have been used, under the carrot of finally getting some payback on RM, to protect the interests of the ruling elite, and sacrifice years of history of a free press.

Useful idiots.

Dislecksick – you have completely missed my point.
The division between news and opinion should be decided by the writer or publication itself. If the writer’s decision is that their article is news (factual) – he or she should then be prepared to be held up to regulation and stand by those facts.
If the writer or publication decides to label their work ‘opinion’ – then they are much freer of regulation.
A NEWSpaper for example would not be able to call itself that if it was just a mouthpiece for the opinion of its owners.

Dislecksick – you have completely misunderstood my point.
The decision whether something is news or opinion will be made by the writer or the publication itself.
If the writer decideds it is to be labelled as news – then he or she must be prepared to accept much stronger regulation over what they write.
If however the writer labels their piece opinion – there should be much looser regulation.
This will stop so-called NEWSpapers pretending to report facts while in fact being just the mouthpieces of their owners.

15. MarkAustin

Sunny,

Guido Fawkes got this statement from Downing Street:

“No newspaper or blogger would be forced to join the regulator, the Royal Charter system is a system of incentivisation. However, those ‘relevant publishers’ that choose not to join the regulator would be subject to costs and could be subject to exemplary damages if taken to court. ‘Relevant publishers’ are specifically defined and could include blog sites that are written by multiple authors, have editorial control and are published in the course of business.”

You’re covered.

16. Uncle Satan

Their aim is to differentiate between behemoths like Guardian.co.uk, MailOnline, HuffingtonPost – and the rest of us.

Not true. The proposals make no mention of the size of the organ. Local newspapers will be covered, and I’d bet that Liberal Conspiracy has more readers than some of the smaller local rags who will register with OFFGROT or whatever they’ll decide to call it.

The point of the exercise is to cover media publishers. As has been pointed out, you have different authors writing different articles, you have an editor and an editorial policy, you are a business – either non profit or profit, it doesn’t matter which, ergo you are included.

Given the inaccuracies I’ve seen in some pieces published here – remember, omission of a crucial piece of the story IS an inaccuracy and can completely change the impression given in a story – I think you may well find some complaints made about you in future. Best join the relevant regulator so that exemplary damages don’t get awarded against you.

You could of course get together with Guido, Conhome, Huffpo et al and start your own regulator. You could call it something like WEBCRAP.

@TomPride

I’d say that the Brit press lost it’s distinction between news and opinion a generation ago. News articles are filled with correspondent opinion, and opinion columns are based on traduced “news”.

There are scores a week just in our national papers.

Sunny did one just the other day here about the EDF vs Direct Action ‘peaceful’ protestors court action, where the protestors agreed to never return onto an EDF facility and our host called it an EDF Climbdown.

Is that Opinion or News? I’d say it’s a mix – Sunny has reported a news item in a way he likes and I would call ‘misreported’, and stated an opinion about it in pursuit of EDF-bashing (or demonstrator defending).

If the ‘news’ alleged-fact is wrong, it is wrong whether it is dubbed an ‘opinion’ or ‘news’ piece.

Blimey – I didn’t realise my idea for differentiating between news and opinion was so difficult to understand.
I’ll have one last go at explaining it before giving up.
Here’s an analogy.
Imagine you’re selling pullovers. Pullovers can be 100% cotton, 100% nylon or a mixture of the two.
Nothing wrong with a nylon jumper or a jumper with a mix. It’s only wrong if it was labelled by the manufacturer or seller as 100% cotton.
The onus is on the shop or producer to label their products correctly – just as I’m suggesting writers and publications do. And if they label their own products incorrectly – they can expect to be taken to court.
Of course ultimately it will be the courts which decide the seriousness of the mislabelling.
At the moment in the press we’ve got a bunch of cowboys selling us 100% jumpers which are in fact made up of cheap nylon crap.

19. Shatterface

Sunny did one just the other day here about the EDF vs Direct Action ‘peaceful’ protestors court action, where the protestors agreed to never return onto an EDF facility and our host called it an EDF Climbdown.

There was a rather more serious one a few years back when an OP claimed that a Tory councillor had been accessing a webiste called ‘fit kids’. It would be bizarre if Lib Con could publish articles like that when local newspapers could not.

And the fact that the site makes a claim to popularity on it’s homepage kind of contradicts the idea that it is too small for regulators to trouble themselves with.


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