Yes, the newspaper regulation bill is even worse than you thought it was

Over here.

For the jurisdiction of publication is not where the servers or printing presses are. It\’s where the reader is. Meaning that the entire world\’s online press is now caught in UK regulation.

26 thoughts on “Yes, the newspaper regulation bill is even worse than you thought it was”

  1. It’s an odious proposal but if the servers are based abroad, how are they going to enforce any action?

    The US courts won’t enforce any damages claim since any US-based website would simply invoke the First Amendment rights.

    And for those naive enough to believe that this is all about protecting the victims of hacking we have Jim Sheridan today announcing that the press should be kept away from Westminster. Ah yes – how dare the plebs be told what our representatives are up to!!

    Bastards, the lot of them.

  2. Which is why us crazy paranoiac libertarian conspiracy theorists insist that this whole “modern” model of governance simply doesn’t work. It’s not that there are problems that need ironing out. The fundamental paradigm is unsound.

    The initial problem here was not a regulation problem. If specific journalists and specific businesses broke the law, take them to court and punish them as criminals. That’s all you need to do, and all you should want to do.

    Instead, we’re now into the absurdity that arises with all formal systems, which is that they don’t map well onto messy reality. Which is why you need to minimise your formal systems as much as humanly possible; in other words, the libertarian approach. Keep your laws simple, and only pass one when you really have to, and always be looking for ones you can repeal.

    Whole thing’s ridiculous.

  3. Ian,

    It’s a bit more complicated than that. Because alongside the criminal activities problem, there was a massive regulatory failure. Not just the “regulatory capture” you quite rightly (iirc) complain about in the finance industry but that the regulator was to a massive extent, those actually working in regulated entities.

    The ineptness of the PCC and its dismissive approach not to the great and the good, of course, not, but to the little people who were trampled under in the press-herd rush to “the exclusive”.

    As a libertarian, I would take a leaf from Irish traffic directions and not start from here – but “here” is, unfortunately, where we are. There is no public or political desire for the elimination of the press regulator.

    Who is supposedly there to stop things having to get to the level of law suits. Expensive things for ‘little people’. Perhaps a libertarian attitude might be mandatory arbitration? But you’d want an avenue for the most vapid complaints to be rejected at very low cost and the most egregious to be allowed to proceed directly to court if the complainant wishes.

  4. SE-

    Well, a libertarian answer would be “get rid of the PCC”. The statist answer is always to pile more regulation on top to fix the initial failed regulation; obviously as a libertarian I would reply “get rid of the first layer”.

    My own cynical view is that very little can help the “little people”. In general, libel laws and speech regulations help the bigwigs. We may be as well to just do away with it all, and take the consequences. Yes, harm will occur. But harm happens anyway. At least we wouldn’t be conning ourselves that we have systems that reduce it.

  5. Why not Rockall?

    And on the libertarian side – okay, but that’s the reason libertarianism in the UK is going to remain intellectual masturbation. I’m afraid if we actually want to get the country moved libertarian-wards or even just stopping the slide in to statist repression that we are going to have to don the clothes-peg and exercise some pragmatism.

    Cameron, not the least statist PM of the last 30 years, clearly didn’t want this but has been held up against the flames by his coalition partners, the labour statists and the ‘for your own good’ paternalists that infest his own benches.

  6. Well, we won’t get anywhere towards libertarianism or any other ism while the political sphere is dominated by something different, in our case proggressive style statism.

    This is a *shrugs* moment. You can’t get a better result within the current paradigm. You can get *different* results, but that’s all. A variety of bad outcomes, basically. So, I fully understand and agree that most people will not contemplate libertarian ideas, but the price they pay for that is things staying bad and getting worse. None of the levers that is it currently acceptable to pull are the right ones.

    Your car won’t start. Only two strategies are acceptable; changing the tyres or changing the battery. The actual problem is it has no petrol. You’re not allowed to fill it with petrol. The car still won’t start. The two gangs ideological gangs argue deep into the night about tyres or battery, tyres or battery. The car still won’t start.

    So, *shrugs*.

  7. SE- one more thing. I am actually a pragmatist anyway. From my perspective, part of the reason we’re not getting anywhere is people on “the right” being pragmatic about the wrong things. So the things that are long term- which would take decades to move towards libertopia, like welfare and the NHS- we get people ranting about getting rid of them and let the poor starve and if their hips need replacing fuck’em that’s the free market. And then stuff you could get rid of in the blink of an eye- like the PCC, or censorship laws, or drink licensing laws- or in the medium term- like the drug laws- these are things we dare not question and have to be “pragmatic” about.

    It’s arse about face. And I think it’s one major reason that the Proggie Left has won. Seriously, abolishing press regulation is not a big deal. It’s easy.

  8. Surreptitious Evil

    Seriously, abolishing press regulation is not a big deal. It-s easy.

    In the IanB utopia, perhaps. In Britain, today? With a coalition government? It would never pass muster. You may be being un-pragmatic about the wrong things.

  9. when I was younger I had a book called how to say f*** **f in 50 different languages. Someone might find this useful to understand what all those foreigners are saying to us when they try and implement this.

  10. Well, I think that’s part of the problem. There’s an inversion. We think the easy things are hard, and the hard things are easy. Hence, we lose.

    I think maybe there are two pragmatisms here; two contexts. What could be done in the general sense, and what the establishment are willing to do. They can be quite different.

    For instance, let’s take the 1970s. Privatisation was do-able in the general sense but not do-able in the Establishment sense until Thatcher came along and said (and did) otherwise. Prior to that, getting rid of the National Coal Board was literally unthinkable. And if we’d had blogs then and some mad libertarian was saying “we could just privatise it” somebody else would say, “it’ll never happen, they’ll never do that. It would never pass muster”. And be quite correct in that assessment. It took a particular person to get to be Prime Minister and make that “unthinkable” change “thinkable”.

    We’re just blog commenters. We have no power to do anything we advocate. All we can do is suggest ideas to one another, and maybe eventually sufficient head of steam will arise that some unthinkable things become thinkable.

    But we shouldn’t confuse the “what could be done” thing with the “what our current polticos would tolerate” thing. They can be quite different.

  11. I could’ve saved a whole lot of typing there by just saying there’s a difference between the impractical and the unthinkable.

  12. I’m bemused by this discussion. There is no newspaper regulation bill. There’s a draft Royal Charter, and a couple of amendments to existing bills, not yet law, including the Crime and Courts bill amendment Tim linked to.

    The online press worldwide is no more subject to UK regulation than before: if you’re overseas and the UK courts can’t get at your assets, it doesn’t matter what exemplary damages may be claimed here against you.

    I’m puzzled also as to what problem Ian B wants to solve by abolishing all press regulation. Is he saying that British politicians currently get away with all sorts of misdeeds because the press are too scared of the regulators to report on them? In reality, the libel laws here are something of a problem, but regulation, even as envisaged by the new Royal Charter, is not.

  13. Well Paul, as I said above, I’m primarily interested in getting rid of Paul Dacre. Just on principle really.

  14. PaulB,

    “I’m bemused by this discussion. There is no newspaper regulation bill. ”

    Yes it is. Quoting from Downing Street, via Guido:-

    “No newspaper or blogger would be forced to join the regulator, the Royal Charter system is a system of incentivisation. ”

    Right, so, if you go in with the Royal Charter, you get an incentive, if not, you don’t. What’s the Royal Charter rules on what you can and can’t print? We don’t know.

    So, what we’re saying is that any newspaper that finds the Royal Charter rules (which are undefined and not subject to any judicial process) difficult is going to find publishing more expensive than those that co-operate.

    What are these rules going to include? Anyone? Are we going to trust the sort of people that get on these committees to protect us and not nudge things towards establishment values? Because that’s exactly what organisations like the ASA and the BBFC do – they punish not on the basis of law, but on arbitrary decisions made according to vague charters, directed by establishment values at the time.

  15. Tim-

    Indeed. This form of slimy regulation has a long ignominious history in Britain. Some time back I read the Hansard “debate” on the awful Video Recordings Act, back in 1984. The worst part (other than the lack of disagreement, beyond a mild caution from Matthew Parris) was the politicians slapping each others’ backs across the House that it was “not State censorship”- because a faux-independent body, the BBFC, would be doing it.

    It is in many ways more pernicious than “proper” State censorship, because at least under that you have some small democratic influence over those making the rules, since they are elected. With this form, unelected persons make the rules and, if citizens object to the rules, the politicians just say, “we don’t do the rules, it’s not our problem”.

  16. Ian B,

    Absolutely. I’d feel much more comfortable if Leveson had come up with say, recommendations for legislation against specific behaviour, or ways to allow complainants easier access to gain legal redress.

    The US does film classification right, by having an industry body that classifies. It’s a brand, telling parents what they can expect for their kids. You’re not going to take your 6 year old into a film that turns out to be Audition. But, anyone can make a movie and flog it on DVD without paying the

  17. Maybe the best way to attack this iniquitous system, is not to oppose it, but to exploit it to its most perverse and wrongheaded conclusions.
    What I have in mind is making use of the fact that plaintif’s costs in any action against an unregistered “publisher” (eg a blogger), are automatically awarded against the defendant. Regardless of verdict. So there is no risk to the plaintif.
    The other is that if actions are mounted against overseas bloggers with overseas servers, the state has no means of recovering those funds.
    That kind of approach could really make the public hate this system, the way they hate the Human Rights fiascos.

  18. Maybe the best way to attack this iniquitous system, is not to oppose it, but to exploit it to its most perverse and wrongheaded conclusions.
    What I have in mind is making use of the fact that plaintif’s costs in any action against an unregistered “publisher” (eg a blogger), are automatically awarded against the defendant. Regardless of verdict. So there is no risk to the plaintif.
    The other is that if actions are mounted against overseas bloggers with overseas servers, the state has no means of recovering those funds.
    That kind of approach could really make the public hate this system, the way they hate the Human Rights fiascos.

  19. If (as I understand) anyone downloading “child porn” is deemed to have published it, then surely anyone reading a blog post from anywhere must also be deemed to have published it. Notwithstanding that no-one ever knows what is in a blog post without first reading (publishing) it. Does everyone have to sign up to this voluntary system to avoid costs and exemplary damages? And how much will registration cost? What if I use the public Library computer to read an article- does the local authority get exemplary damages too?
    And I’m confused- why are broadcasters specifically excluded?

  20. “And I;m confused- why are broadcasters specifically excluded?”

    Because nearly all of them belong to the government?

    FFS Tim!

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