Wednesday, 18 November 2009

PCC Gone Mad?

Media industry watchdog, the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) has come under heavy fire over the past couple of days as a new row over freedom of speech has broken out.

At the annual Society of Editors lecture PCC chairperson, Baroness Peta Buscombe, called the use of  so-called super injunctions "a constitutional outrage."

She argued that developments in technology have created an irrevocable shift in favour of the freedom of speech, but this required conscious restraint by those who value that freedom in order that it is protected from future changes in the law.

The former parliamentary candidate for Slough criticised the use of hyperbole and "shouty headlines" by newspapers and warned that they may prove counter-productive and lead to bad legislation as organisations and individuals try to protect themselves from any detrimental impact.

She described it as symptomatic of a 'dysfunctional democracy' that the media was forced to fill the 'democratic deficit' during the expenses affair.

You can read her full speech here (and quite entertaining it is too).

The speech came as Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger resigned from the PPC's code committee after it emerged a parliamentary inquiry was misled during the News Of The World 'phone-hacking' investigation and calls have been made for the Baroness to resign.

Lines have been drawn between the former Conservative party Vice-Chairman and Labour-supporting Guardian (part of the same company which owns our local Reading Post) as this media battle underscores the general election contest.

All this may seem somewhat distant, but it matters for anyone with a blog.

Media correspondent Roy Greenslade explains that the PCC hopes to regulate the blogosphere.

He also reports on the efforts to resist the suppression of free speech, reprinting a draft open letter of complaint which you can sign online at Liberal Conspiracy.

Local reaction

It is interesting to watch how this overtly political debate provides a clear dividing line across the blogosphere - liberals and left-wingers are clearly more concerned than conservatives and right-wingers.

Jane Griffiths is obviously concerned about the potential impact on restricting criticism, although there is clearly a distinction between news reporting and comment.

Mark Reckons is more imaginative - he raises the important point about legitimacy: that all regulation should be matched by representation... so if the PCC wishes to regulate blogs then bloggers must be represented on the editorial board to stand up for bloggers' concerns.


Update: Matt Blackall is concerned about how the media can be targetted as a means to silence opposition.

Oranjepan asks:
What do you think?

If you have a blog please comment below to say how you feel about the prospect of being regulated and potentially taken to court for what you publish.

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