Friday, September 26, 2008

Blogs: we're not clear yet

Thursday in Brussels (the roof still hasn't been built again in Strasbourg but I understand they'll go back and waste some more money in October again) the two reports concerning the media were voted on by MEPs.

One was very dull the other one has been written about a few times and concerned a former hack trying to stop anonymous bloggers.

The bastion of EU reporting, EU Observer, reports:

MEPs kill EU 'blogger registry' that never was

Calls for Europe to initiate a process clarifying the legal status of bloggers - a discourse many across Europe had erroneously believed was in fact EU legislation that would have seen a European 'registry of bloggers' - died on the floor of the European Parliament on Thursday (25 September).

I think with that opening para we pretty much know where our scribe stands on this situation. As I said before, many was the occasion I read own initiative reports in committees, only to find that the European Commission then released legislation on it. It's not difficult to work out why these pieces of legislation are written: if they're not legislative at the time, the next time you see a similar report it's going to be. It also didn't 'die on the floor' if we look at Amendment 5 which was passed by 307 votes to 262 it quite clearly states in point 25 that:
25. Encourages an open discussion on all issues relating to the status of weblogs;

That isn't 'killing anything' that's encouraging a debate on blogs which will no doubt see MEPs like Mz Mikko saying that we need registration of blogs because too many of us are quite happy to say that we think the EU is a monstrous waste of money, an affront to democracy and that MEPs and Commissioners generally speaking don't know their arse from their elbow and under no circumstances should be allowed a say on legislation.
MEPs passed a resolution with 307 votes to 262 calling on the European Commission and member states to safeguard pluralism amongst newspapers, television programmes, radio and on the internet in an era of ever-concentrating media ownership.
That sounds like they want a nice, open and free media! Which we know isn't true given that what they object to is people like Murdoch owning lots of papers and thinking the EU is a disaster. After all, if they believed in freedom of speech why would they tell a reporter not to send his film of an interview with UKIP leader Nigel Farage anywhere because dissent was not to be reported, why are one side allowed to protest, and to be filmed doing so but eurosceptic and eurorealists aren't and tell people that 'politics is not allowed in the European Parliament'? (Vote on the European Constitution Mark 1 in 2005).
The resolution also called for "an open discussion on all issues relating to the status of weblogs" - much softer language regarding blogs than had earlier appeared in the report on which the resolution was based.
Refer to point above: giving statist politicians the chance to regulate something which in a majority doesn't like or agree with them is not a good thing, whether it's softened down or not. Because what they haven't done is categorically state that they will leave blogs the fuck alone.
Estonian centre-left MEP Marianne Mikko - the report's author - had wanted to call for full clarification of the legal status of webblog authors, disclosure of bloggers' interests and the voluntary labelling of blogs, all of which had been supported by MEPs across the political spectrum at the committee level.
Were I to be cynical, I would suggest that former journalist Marianne Mikko wanted to strangle blogs because they were taking some power away from the MSM, are more equipt to report events quickly and back up their stories with facts and examples which some journalists don't feel obliged to do.
MEPs had been worried that the legal situation of bloggers regarding source protection is unclear, as was where liability should be assigned in the event of lawsuits. The Euro-deputies had thus recommended that blogs and their authors be taken out of this legal limbo.
I would argue that the Commission document on this subject is much more telling for the reason they wanted 'something to be done':
A recent internal European Commission report, leaked three weeks ago, found that the EU was losing the battle for hearts and minds online. "Blog activity remains overwhelmingly negative..."

Such language however produced a firestorm of reaction in Sweden when the report emerged in the Swedish media in June.
At the time, the Swedish government had recently narrowly passed legislation that gave officials the power to open all emails and listen to any telephone conversation in the country, and Ms Mikko's proposals around blogs seemed to be of a similar nature to the government's surveillance bill.

Commentators across the political spectrum confused the report, which has no legal weight, with binding legislation, and claimed it would have produced a "blogger registry." One Swedish politician condemned it as "another example of Big Brother snooping into people's daily lives."
That's because if the idea is in their head then they will do it. This report was tabled under Rule 45(2) which has to get approval from the Conference of Presidents. So it's not like a group of MEPs sat there and said 'what shall I try to regulate the life out of today. Well, okay, it is like that but then they asked another group of MEPs, all turds with the exception of one and possibly a sensible rep from the non attached who don't have voting rights who are responsible for the Parliament's links with relations with other EU institutions, the national parliaments and non-EU countries.
"I've been subject to a lot of attacks from bloggers all over Europe," Ms Mikko told reporters after the passage of the resolution. "I've been called Mao Tse-Tung, Lukashenko, Ceauscescu - it's not very pleasant."
I can imagine it's not very nice, but the thing is, by trying to stop people writing things because you don't know who they are and you don't like what they are saying is rather dictatorial. If they break the law then there is already legislation covering this, but I don't believe you are doing this to clarify any legal position. I believe you and the EU are trying to regulated blogs so they can close down the ones they don't like because they are being far too good at getting across the other side of the argument which you and the MSM, with many notable exceptions but who are still in the minority, don't want to be seen.
"I understand and yet I don't understand the reaction of bloggers," she said. "Nobody is interested in regulating the internet ... But I understand how a sensitivity was touched. I'm sorry that's the playground we're dealing with at the moment."
It's not a fucking playground, it's about freedom of speech. People died to retain that right and people will continue to do so. I think maybe living under communism for some time and then working in the EU which is trying its best to bring that back, has made you forget that vital fact.
She pointed out that while print and online journalists in various jurisdictions are restricted by slander and libel legislation, the status of bloggers as reporters is unclear.
As far as I am aware, but please feel free to correct if I am wrong, bloggers are covered by the same law as journalists and anyone else who writes or says something which damages a reputation unjustly. Blogger might be hosted in the US but the impact of this blog is, whilst being small, going to be mainly in the UK which means that I am governed by the 1996 Defamation Act.
"Are bloggers equally trusted [as journalists]? I'm getting a little bit concerned."
Firstly, I don't care and you shouldn't because it's really rather irrelevant. Someone can believe what I write on here, or not. I tend to back up what I write with examples and links which I notice MEPs don't like to do. Don't like it, don't read it. I'm not forcing you to, am I. I'm not forcing anyone to. Quite why you are concerned is more a reason for you to go get a hobby than bugger around with freedom of speech. On another line, when I was studying politics at uni there was a survey in my text book which showed that only 30% of people believed what they read in newspapers. Should something be done about that?
"All you journalists know how powerful the web is," she said, speaking to reporters at a press conference. "But do all bloggers think the same? The web is a weapon in your hands. You can kill someone with your words."
Er, no you can't. If I walked up to you and said "Marianne Mikko, you are a perfect specimen for a Richard and Judy makeover" you might be slightly insulted, but I'm not actually going to kill you by saying it. Moreover, I think bloggers, by virtue of the fact they exist only on the internet or at events where free alcohol is present, are more aware than most about the power of the internet. In much the same way, a soldier is more aware of the power of his gun than Mrs Tibbs who lives at No. 6 is. They use it more, it's their medium.
The brou-ha-ha over the supposed blogger registry has overshadowed the main elements of the resolution, which focuses on corporate concentration of the media.
Bitter? You?
While there has been a proliferation of new commercial outlets in recent years around the world - particularly within broadcasting and on the internet - a slew of mergers have sharply narrowed the number of companies in the media business to the point where the majority of outlets are owned by just a few major conglomerates, such as Bertelsmann, Vivendi, News Corp, Viacom and Time Warner.
That's a reason for not regulating blogs, you dumbass.
Media critics worry that these conglomerates lean toward a single centre-right political perspective, crowding out other views.
Newspapers are in the business of shifting copies. If people don't like what they write, or the angle that they take they don't like the papers.
I don't read the European Voice because I find it's a one sided, inaccurate report of the EU which distorts the truth. Ergo, I don't buy it. I buy a paper which I generally agree with the editorial line of (hence these days I don't actually read newspapers) because it will make me less angry. What does that tell us? That most people are of a centre right persuasion. They don't like paying tax and they don't want a state which controls all the aspects of their lives and gives more 'rights' to minority groups than the man on the Clapham omnibus. The EU might not like that but then the EU should be lucky that most people ignore them or they would never get half their socialist manifesto through.
Further, to prevent owners, shareholders or governments from interfering with editorial content, MEPs called for the creation of editorial charters.
Why? Who decides what the truth is? You guys? No thanks.
The resolution also encourages the disclosure of ownership of all media outlets. In a veiled reference to Italy, it says that within Europe, competition law and media law should be interlinked to avoid conflicts between media ownership concentration and political power.
In Italy, media watchdogs are concerned that Silvio Berlusconi is not only prime minister and ultimately the boss of the public broadcasters, but is also the owner of much of the country's private media outlets.

They don't have to watch his TV or read his newspapers, just as they didn't have to vote for him. I wouldn't say it's an ideal situation but I would say that the people who should not have anything to do with it are the European Commission and MEPs, particularly as the former President of the Commission is Burlusconi's opposition Romano Prodi and the EP are rather unhappy with how Italy and Burlisconi's party have dealt with the Roma in Italy.


Dave said...

On the Register today

Apparently some judge in Italy has decreed that a blog is a newspaper because it has a headline. And if it is a newspaper then according to an Italian law passed in 1948 (to deter Mussolini supporters or somesuch) it has to be licenced and regulated.

James Higham said...

This must not stand under any circumstances.

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