Press Council boss in push to regulate reader comments and sign up ‘serious bloggers’

The chairman of Australia’s journalism watchdog is to focus on persuading bloggers and online publishers to agree to be regulated by the organisation, and to demand better standards of reader comments online.

In an interview with Mumbrella editor Tim Burrowes, Prof Julian Disney, who chairs the Australian Press Council said that newspapers and digital publishers needed to boost their online standards.

He also called for reader comments to be pre rather than post-moderated.  

He said: “We’ve had a number of complaints about that. One of our earliest projects… will be looking at to what extent newspapers should be careful about what they allow from readers to go onto their websites.

“There’s an assumption that the rules of the game are the same as for putting it into a newspaper, but realistically I don’t think that’s quite true and certainly isn’t what happens in practice.

“More abusive comments, more incoherent comments, more off topic comments will be put into a comment stream on a website than would ever go into a letters to the editor.”

The APC is funded by Australia’s newspaper publishers, but Disney said he hoped that “serious bloggers” would also sign up.

He said: “We’ll certainly be encouraging the online only publishers to come with us.”

He warned that those who chose not to join might not have access to such journalistic privileges as the shield law around sources and access to press conferences. He said: “The only penalties as it were will be that some of the protections made available for traditional journalists… where we do need some criteria. There’s a risk that if we don’t provide an opportunity for serious bloggers to be recognised as serious journalists…they will be permanently discriminated against.”



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