The PCC is not fit to regulate blogs

This discredited body would not act as an impartial regulator

On Monday the alarming news emerged that Baroness Buscombe, the new chair of the Press Complaints Commission, is considering extending the PCC's remit to cover the blogosphere.

"Some of the bloggers are now creating their own ecosystems which are quite sophisticated," she told the Independent's media editor, Ian Burrell. "Is the reader of those blogs assuming that it's news, and is [the blogosphere] the new newspapers? It's a very interesting area and quite challenging."

In response, the Liberal Conspiracy blogger "Unity" has drafted an open letter to the commission, warning against any intervention.

Here's the key passage:

While we are grateful for your interest in our activities we must regretfully decline your kind offer of future PCC regulation. Frankly, we do not feel that the further development of blogging as an interactive medium that facilitates the free exchange of ideas and opinions will benefit from regulation by a body representing an industry with, in the main, substantially lower ethical standards and practices than those already practised by the vast majority of established British bloggers.

The PCC's status as the self-regulatory body of the newspaper industry undermines any ambition it has to act as an impartial regulator of the blogosphere.

Many of the newspaper editors who sit on the PCC (including the Mail on Sunday's Peter Wright and the Sunday Telegraph's Ian MacGregor) have a vested interest in penalising those bloggers who highlight their papers' misdemeanours.

It is disingenuous to present bloggers as entirely unregulated. Those who wish to challenge claims made on blogs already have recourse to Britain's draconian libel laws (as many have learned to their cost).

If Baroness Buscombe wants to salvage the reputation of an increasingly discredited institution she would be wise not to make any more concrete proposals.

 

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Tom Watson rouses Labour's conference as he comes out fighting

The party's deputy leader exhilarated delegates with his paean to the Blair and Brown years. 

Tom Watson is down but not out. After Jeremy Corbyn's second landslide victory, and weeks of threats against his position, Labour's deputy leader could have played it safe. Instead, he came out fighting. 

With Corbyn seated directly behind him, he declared: "I don't know why we've been focusing on what was wrong with the Blair and Brown governments for the last six years. But trashing our record is not the way to enhance our brand. We won't win elections like that! And we need to win elections!" As Watson won a standing ovation from the hall and the platform, the Labour leader remained motionless. When a heckler interjected, Watson riposted: "Jeremy, I don't think she got the unity memo." Labour delegates, many of whom hail from the pre-Corbyn era, lapped it up.

Though he warned against another challenge to the leader ("we can't afford to keep doing this"), he offered a starkly different account of the party's past and its future. He reaffirmed Labour's commitment to Nato ("a socialist construct"), with Corbyn left isolated as the platform applauded. The only reference to the leader came when Watson recalled his recent PMQs victory over grammar schools. There were dissenting voices (Watson was heckled as he praised Sadiq Khan for winning an election: "Just like Jeremy Corbyn!"). But one would never have guessed that this was the party which had just re-elected Corbyn. 

There was much more to Watson's speech than this: a fine comic riff on "Saturday's result" (Ed Balls on Strictly), a spirited attack on Theresa May's "ducking and diving; humming and hahing" and a cerebral account of the automation revolution. But it was his paean to Labour history that roused the conference as no other speaker has. 

The party's deputy channelled the spirit of both Hugh Gaitskell ("fight, and fight, and fight again to save the party we love") and his mentor Gordon Brown (emulating his trademark rollcall of New Labour achivements). With his voice cracking, Watson recalled when "from the sunny uplands of increasing prosperity social democratic government started to feel normal to the people of Britain". For Labour, a party that has never been further from power in recent decades, that truly was another age. But for a brief moment, Watson's tubthumper allowed Corbyn's vanquished opponents to relive it. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.