Today Media Reform is launching a consultation for small publishers, online bloggers and journalists to speak up on the new press regulation deal.
On April 15 the House of Commons will return from Easter recess, and soon after that will consider the Crime and Courts Bill – a crucial part of the statutory backing to the new Royal Charter which provides for independent media self-regulation.
But the Bill as currently drafted has some big problems: it doesn’t adequately protect small publishers from punishments intended for media moguls and it doesn’t provide the legal backing for them to join or form a regulator further down the line.
The House of Lords has shown clear intention to solve these issues by adding a holding amendment excluding “small-scale bloggers”, but we need to lobby the Commons to transform this into something clear, versatile and workable. That’s why we want your input.
Maria Miller, the relevant Secretary of State, has made noises about consulting with the ‘newspaper industry’ over the Easter recess. She has said nothing about engaging with other kinds of news organisations – hence this consultation.
We hope to rally small publishers, online news sites and bloggers behind a set of proposal so that we can collectively lobby all three parties to make sure the C&C Bill does the job it should.
The consultation comes in three parts:
- An online survey which you can access by clicking here. Your answers can be submitted anonymously but we ask you to identify the type of publication on whose behalf you’re responding.
- A comprehensive briefing document which clarifies the current legal situation, entitled “Small publishers, online journalism and the new system of press regulation” [pdf]. We know the Royal Charter and its associated laws have been the subject of serious misreporting by the mainstream press, and our document provides a clear, detailed summary.
- Supporting information for your reference, including extracts from the Bill’s current drafting.
The survey focuses primarily on who you think should be liable for exemplary damages and cost penalties, and who you think should get the benefits It lists several options for the protection of small publishers, such as excluding non-profit organisations or setting an income threshold for inclusion as a “relevant publisher”.
It also asks whether the costs benefits of joining a recognised self-regulator should be available to anyone who joins, regardless of whether they are a “relevant publisher” – and whether respondents would join an affordable regulator if it made costs protection available to them.
The responses to the consultation will be used to provide the political parties with input on the clauses going through Parliament after the Easter recess that will affect small news organisations.
If you are a small publisher, online writer, or blogger of any kind, we want to hear from you. Please do look over our documents and take our survey – and spread it around to as many people as you can!