Meyer calls for self regulation of the internet

The internet should be subject to a self regulation regime similar
to the Press Complaints Commission, according to PCC chairman Sir
Christopher Meyer.

Speaking at the launch of the Commission’s
15th annual report he 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.

“Newspapers and magazines can offer
increasingly sophisticated packages of audio-visual material – a trend
that will only deepen and accelerate.

“The industry is thinking
creatively about the implications of all this for the manner in which
journalistic content is regulated. 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.”

The PCC reported a record number of
complaints in 2005 – 3,654 – which Meyer claimed was down to increased
visibility for the organisation rather than lower press standards.

Former
government press officer Meyer said: “When you compare newspapers in
the 1980s and 1990s with now – I would say without any doubt they are
better behaved than they were. The 1980s was wild and woolly, it was
great reading them but it was pretty wild.

“I think it is a case of more visibility [for the PCC] than there being some great collapse in standards.”

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