The Law Commission report into New Media

The Law Commission has released their Issues PaperThe news media meets ‘new media’: rights, responsibilities and regulation in the digital age. I was asked to contribute my thoughts and ideas and it looks like they have consulted widely amongst the new media.

Unusually for me this is a Law Commission report that I largely support.

Chapter 4 outlines the philosophy underpinning the issues paper. Pages 77 – 94 paragraphs 4.43 – 4.174, are of particular interest.

This is a hugely positive step int he right direction. In order to qualify as a “news media” though the Law Commission proposes a number of criteria by which a publisher is measured:

  1. has a significant proportion of their publishing activities being the generation and/or aggregation of news, information and opinion of current value
  2. disseminates this information to a public audience
  3. regularly publishes
  4. is accountable to a code of ethics and a complaints process

This blog easily qualifies under points 1 to 3, But I would need to add the accountability and complaints process to qualify. There needs to be a bit more exploration of the details surrounding this but I am broadly in support of this.When I discussed issues with the Law Commission I told them how I had tried to join the Press Council and was basically told to go away. Under this regime so long as I agree to submit to the rules, process and responsibilities as outlined then it is very simple, I will classified as “news media”.

It does need to be voluntary though. When I was asked about this by the Law Commission and subsequently by journalists my answer has been the same. By having it voluntary bloggers can choose to seek “certification”, so to speak, and in doing so they are signalling that they are prepared to be responsible news  and commentary providers. Likewise a blogger can choose to remain outside of the regime and suffer the impression of a lack of responsibility and the accompanying diminishment of the value of what they have to say. Professionalism and competition will ensure that bloggers and other new media people will voluntarily join the regime. Remaining outside will eventually marginalize those who opt to stay outside of regulation.

Chapter 6 outlines the preliminary proposal for a new independent news regulator.

I really like the idea of the new independent news regulator. Insofar as it remains voluntary. I oppose compulsion where it isn’t needed. By merging the Press Council and the Broadcasting Standards Authority into a new truly independent media watchdog there exists an opportunity to modernise the regulatory environment to match the reality of convergence.

Broadcast media, I would think, will be welcoming this proposal with open arms because it removes them from the tyranny of the Broadcasting Standards Authority and applies the same standards across all forms of news media, eb it print, online or broadcast.

Likewise the print media should be happy too in that proposed new regulatory body would have far more teeth than the Press Council, which largely existed as a patch protection organisation.

Of course having this sort of regulatory body and the associated “certification” that bloggers are in fact news media will mean the barriers to joining the Press Gallery would be diminished significantly. These changes are refreshing and welcome.

The second part of the paper deals with the larger legal framework which governs all speech/communication , irrespective of the medium or who is communicating. It looks at the type of problems which are emerging within the web environment, including issues like cyber-bullying, harassment and defamation in social media, and asks whether the law can be better adapted to this new publishing environment and whether the courts are the best forum for resolving these sorts of disputes between free speech and rights to privacy, reputation etc. Chapters 7 and 8 are the relevant chapters.

It is important to stress that this is a preliminary paper designed to garner wide public debate and feedback on the scope of the problem and best solutions. It will be followed by a Final Report and recommendations to government in late 2012.

Submissions and comments can be made via their website or email [email protected] . They will be hosting online forums around the questions posed in the paper in February.

I will certainly be submitting and I encourage others to submit also.



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  • MrV

    If this new body finds against you (lets say hypothetically – gross bullying of Trevor Mallard), would you abide by it’s ruling? :-)

  • Petal

    Come on now Cam.  Admit it.  You just want a Qantas Award!

    • Super Guest

      Hell, he breaks more news than Gower.

  • Anonymous

    I think you nail #4 as well Cam:
    “is accountable to a code of ethics and a complaints process”

    We all know your code of ethics (stick it to all who need it) and you complaints process follows along these lines:
    “Wa wa wa…” = “Have sex and travel”.

  • Alex (not the Leftist twat)

    Prof John Burrows QC was the Commissioner in charge of the project — you could ask for a better guy.

    • Alex (not the Leftist twat)

      meant “couldn’t ask for a better guy”

    • Yeah was very good int he half day session i had with him. No dummy and asked very good questions.

  • Pearldiver

    How do they propose to control Bloggers and Freelancers that publish offshore and are read in 180 countries but not NZ Cameron?  Sooner or later NZ has to wake up and get more savvy with ‘our industry’ as this (while it may justify a 6 figure pay packet for some & their Ducks!) it really is too belated by Real World Standards.

    However, for kiwis in a solely kiwi market… yes, I believe that some regulations do need to be established in principle… but to enforce them?  Good Luck… wonderful dreams, but in real world terms, NZ missed the boat on this 5 years ago… And I’m sure some of us can make a great income selling the antidote to such an enforcement process, simply because our sites do not recognize NZ Net Laws!  Why should they if they are US registered sites?  I mean look at the BIGGER Picture… The Internet is BIGGER than these guys really know… How do they propose to stop or control offshore freelancers… In Reality?  Don’t you dare give up your freedom or your status… Factually Adsence regulations have more clout.. and certainly have the ability to ‘self regulate’… don’t they?

    I will add though that there seems to be a bit of similarity here with this proposal to the US Government’s efforts to set up US internet controls (Links available, if you wish to contact me).. Overall, Good on you mate.. fly the flag.  I do the same for my audience… AND I feel Kiwis Deserve More!  Hahaha.. Doug Bracewell should have at least received MOM!

    Take Care