Industry talks could lead to self-regulation for websites

The Press Complaints Commission is in talks with new media representatives about extending editorial self-regulation to the internet.

Making the case for this, PCC chairman Sir Christopher Meyer said: "What chance is there of successfully applying a set of statutory rules to information transmitted online, where anyone can be a publisher and there is no spectrum scarcity? None.

"The only effective way of ensuring that online journalistic information is subject to certain standards is for those standards to be self-imposed.

"Improvements in technology and the proliferation of news sites make the case for self-regulation, because they expose traditional legal forms of media regulation — rooted in the days when the small number of television channels needed to be licensed — as hopelessly inflexible, and easily avoidable.

"What is more, there is a clear commercial advantage in news providers — newspapers and magazines in our case — voluntarily subjecting their online offerings to the Code of Practice. It helps consumers distinguish between the quality of publishers' information and that contained on sites where no such standards apply. It also helps build trust in the brand.

"But the internet also presents us with a great challenge. We cannot ignore the pace at which information provision is changing. In some ways the media, converging at an alarming pace, are at a crossroads. The technology is developing at bewildering speed."

He added: "My personal view is that this new and exciting area cannot be left in a regulatory vacuum. To the contrary, it cries out for the sound principles of self-regulation.

"I am pleased to report that there has been constructive dialogue between the industry and the PCC about this, the results of which will become clear before too long.

"I am optimistic about the PCC's ability to rise to this challenge."

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