It is heartening to read Alan Rusbridger’s editorial in The Guardian of 25 March 2013, as he seems to have become more aware of some of the serious weaknesses in the proposed press regulation, which has changed in ways that may have undermined his early support. See: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rics20/current He calls attention to the private meetings with Hacked Off, the imposition of punitive damages on those who don’t sign up to the regulator, and the power of the regulator to direct papers to print apologies – even where to place them. Hardly an independent press nor an independent regulator. He notes: “The advocates of reform – including the Guardian – should be unenthusiastic about endorsing a messy compromise with unintended consequences and with the prospect of years of stalemate in the courts and with the regulator itself.” Mr Rusbridger does complain that few people raised concerns over freedom of the press during early private meetings among editors, but I should hope that all of the stakeholders see the value of public debate on issues that threaten the independence of the press, and freedom of expression online. Perhaps there is hope that politicians will get off this escalator towards inappropriate press regulation and take the time to find a resolution that does not threaten the independence of the press and impose governmental controls on bloggers and expression online.
I’ve expressed my own worries online: http://people.oii.ox.ac.uk/dutton/2013/03/20/how-politicians-can-endorse-a-statutory-press-regulator-and-what-can-be-done/
William H. Dutton (B.A. University of Missouri; M.A., PhD. SUNYBuffalo, 1974) is Professor of Internet Studies, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, and Fellow of Balliol College.