Australian Press Council set to welcome bloggers

The Australian Press Council is hoping to attract bloggers and smaller publishers to sign up for the regulatory body, chairman Julian Disney has said.

“Certainly I would hope that a significant number of online-only publishers, including bloggers, will either join the council or acknowledge its standards and try to adhere to them,” Disney told the Mumbrella360 conference.

Disney was speaking on the panel on press regulation, where he was joined by Res Publica managing director Gabriel McDowell and ninemsn editor-in-chief Hal Crawford.

Disney pointed to comments by blogger Tim Dunlop on The Drum that suggested that bloggers could form “a loose association”, and said that this would make it easier for them to join the Australian Press Council.

“I hope that membership will increase whether they’re bloggers or otherwise. I hope people will feel that it is worth being part of us,” said Disney.

McDowell suggested that membership to the industry’s self-regulatory body should be tied to protection under shield laws, as a way of encouraging responsible conduct among emerging “citizen journalists”.

‘I do think as a matter of principle if you haven’t played with the self-regulatory system then maybe you shouldn’t have the protections that journalists enjoy,” he said.

Crawford, who signed up ninemsn as a member of the APC late last year said: “I think you have to commit to something and give something up in order to be able to be part of the industry, and not just pay the membership fee”.

“I think that there is worth in having a distinction about who is in the media and who isn’t. How do you get that kind of tick – that seal of approval? What I’d like to see is that the Press Council became one of the unifying things that indicated that you are a part of the media.”

Disney rejected the idea that new platforms have brought a level of media diversity that might let traditional media players off the regulation hook.

“I don’t think it’s sufficient to say that there are a lot of people now producing thoughts online. None of them really can get anywhere close to capturing mainstream opinion,” he said.

The argument that diversity of platforms removed the need for regulation was put forth by News Limited chief executive Kim Williams last year in response to the Finkelstein review.

Disney also spoke about the opening of The Guardian’s Australian edition and how the council would approach foreign media outlets opening similar local operations in future.

“I think it’s going to change the game very profoundly, it’s happening already in the UK with the Huffington Post and people of that kind, and we’re going to have to face it here,” he said.

“I hope that Guardian Australian will join, but when they do join – if they join – there will still be a question of what elements of what’s on their website are subject to us.”

Referring to Fairfax Media’s use of content from AAP and The Washington Post, Disney made it clear that all content syndicated by council members from overseas would remain subject to the council’s adjudications.

“If you apply the same approach to Guardian Australia, if they are just republishing something off their website back in the UK, then it would be subject to us.”

Jack Fisher 


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