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April 01 2011

11:58

Blocking content sites by ‘self-regulation’ – a recipe for easy censorship

At the start of this month I said that journalists were failing to “protect the public sphere”. Well, here’s just one example of this in action that we need to be watching.

Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, has confirmed to the Open Rights Group “that discussion are ongoing between rights-holders and Internet Service Providers about ‘self-regulatory’ site-blocking measures.”

For journalists any move in this direction should be particularly concerning, as it provides a non-legal avenue (i.e. without due process) for anyone to suppress information they don’t like.

The point is not blocking sites, but the ease with which it might be done. If distribution van drivers ‘self-regulated’ to stop delivering newspapers whenever anyone complained, publishers and journalists would have a problem. An avenue to appeal doesn’t solve it, because by then the editorial moment will likely have passed – not to mention the extra costs it incurs for content producers.

Here are some precedents from elsewhere:

If you want to write to your MP, you can do so here.

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September 07 2010

10:05

December 15 2009

09:30

Media release: PCC remit to include online-only publications

After an industry-wide consultation, the Press Standards Board of Finance Ltd (PressBoF) has announced it will extend the remit of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) to include online-only publications. This will mainly apply to online magazines, it said in its release.

Pressbof, independent of the PCC, is responsible for raising a levy on the newspaper and magazine industry to finance the Commission.

The extension has been agreed on these terms:

1. Such publications must be recognisable as UK based newspapers or magazines which, if in printed form, would come within the jurisdiction of the PCC.

2. The publisher and editor must subscribe to the Editors’ Code of Practice.

3. The publisher must agree to pay registration fees to PressBoF.

“The internet is an increasingly important platform for publishers to reach consumers. While online versions of newspapers and magazines available in printed form come within the remit of the PCC, there is a gap to the extent that online-only publications do not,” said Guy Black, chairman of PressBoF.

“This decision is a logical development in self-regulation, recognising the moves in the magazine sector towards online-only titles, and underlines the effectiveness of our system.”

Baroness Buscombe, chairman of the PCC, said she welcomed the decision by the industry:

“The PCC needs this freedom to develop rapidly to meet the challenges and the opportunities presented by media convergence. One clear strength of the self-regulatory system is its flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances, while still providing a service that is free, fast, discreet and which involves the public in its decision-making.”

Full release at this link…

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