There’s a slightly scrappy but nonetheless interesting discussion about new media regulations suggested by the Law Commission’s report The News Media Meets ‘New Media’: Rights, Responsibilities and Regulation in the Digital Age coming up on Russell Brown’s Media3 tonight on TV3 (or online later). I wandered along to the taping of the show yesterday evening. Time constraints and competing egos made for quite good TV but a once-over-lightly approach. Still, definitely worth a watch if you’re interested in media.


On the set of Media3 (click to enlarge) Pic: Peter Aranyi

The Law Commission’s report hardly seems like the shot heard around the world (although The Guardian‘s sometimes stringer Toby Manhire reported it for the NZ Listener online thus: NZ moves towards “one-stop shop” news media super-regulator

It would be a non-state body, with membership voluntary and available to all including bloggers, but privileges accorded to media, including many by law, would only be available to those who signed up. And if you’re not a member, no NZ on Air funding for you.

Carrot and stick? It’s a bigger topic than I propose to traverse in detail here at just now (let’s see how committed the government actually is — and how urgently — to implement the recommendations as law … and the final shape of that).

But a couple of aspects struck me …

Here’s the definition proposed for ‘news media’ which echoes the Commission’s earlier discussion paper:

We recommend amending the various statutes which currently confer privileges or exemptions specifically on the news media to ensure that in each instance the term “news media” is consistently defined as meaning entities which meet the following statutory criteria:
• a significant element of their publishing activities involves the generation and/or aggregation of news, information and opinion of current value;
• they disseminate this information to a public audience;
• publication is regular and not occasional; and
• the publisher must be accountable to a code of ethics and to the NMSA.

That seems a pretty low threshold — deliberately inclusive and fair enough. So, depending on price of ‘membership’ we’ll probably now have a bunch of pyjama-clad (oops) keyboard warriors grasping for the ‘legitimacy’ and privileges conferred by their membership of the News Media Standards Authority (NMSA) or whatever it will be called.

Also, does this seem toothless to you?:

It is intended that the NMSA would be able to provide speedy and effective remedies when standards have been breached. We recommend a wider range of powers for the new standards body. They would be spelled out in membership contracts between the standards body and the media agencies, and should include:
• a requirement, as at present, to publish an adverse decision in the medium concerned, the regulator having power to direct the prominence and positioning of this publication;
• a requirement to take-down specified material from the website;
• a requirement that incorrect material be corrected;
• a requirement that a right of reply be granted to a person;
• a requirement to publish an apology; and
• a censure.
We do not recommend, however, any monetary sanctions, either fines or compensation.

Those outside the tent will be ‘unregulated’ — cowboys or mavericks — which kinda gives them a compact version of a mission statement right there.

– P