Bloggers whose online scrawling earns just 41 page impressions a day could be forced to apologise to those they wrong on their sites and issue corrections, under a proposed new model of media regulation for Australia.
The 41 a day recommendation comes from the so called Finkelstein report, formally known as the Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Media and Media Regulation.
Commissioned by the Australian Government in the wake of the News of the World phone hacking scandal, the Inquiry got up thanks to in no small measure to the the Greens, who felt that News Ltd was out of control when The Australian declared in an editorial that the party should be “destroyed at the ballot box.”
The report’s central suggestion is that the government should create and fund a new central body , called the News Media Council, to handle all complaints about media. Such a body is needed, the report argues, because Australia currently has multiple overlapping media regulators, most of which are ineffectual. There’s also no regulator at all for online media , which means if you want to complain about The Register there’s no-one to approach.
“In this environment, there are considerable benefits for media organisations, consumers and government in the establishment of a ‘one stop shop’ regulatory arrangement that applies to all news producing media, regardless of delivery platform,” the report argues. The report also says that a government-funded body is necessary because publisher-funded organisations are either toothless due to self interest, or publisher opt out to save a few bucks or when it’s convenient to escape oversight.
The authors try to define just what media should be subject to the new body’s oversight and decides that publishers must be in the business of creating news, a definition it says could include bloggers because “there are many newsletter publishers and bloggers, although no longer part of the ‘lonely pamphleteer’ tradition, who offer up-to-date reflections on current affairs.”
The report then says “If a publisher distributes more than 3000 copies of print per issue or a news internet site has a minimum of 15 000 hits per annum it should be subject to the jurisdiction of the News Media Council, but not otherwise.” The report adds that “ These numbers are arbitrary, but a line must be drawn somewhere.”
15,000 hits per anum translates to just over 41 a day. The report is silent on whether or not a micro-blogs could be included in its definition. It is also silent on why a blogger deserves the same oversight as a newspaper publisher.
Reaction to the report has been vivid and varied, but a decent summary and analysis can be found here.. The Federal Government says it is considering the report.