To fly a kite is an expression for gauging opinion before implementing a policy. I see via Liberal Conspiracy that Lord Hunt, incoming chair of the thoroughly discredited PCC is doing just that regarding the little matter of teh interwebs. According to Sunny:
The new PCC chairman Lord Hunt has told journalist David Hencke in an interview: “At the moment, it is like the Wild West out there. We need to appoint a sheriff.”
That’s right – he’s referring to bloggers. His plan is to invite political bloggers to volunteer for regulation by the PCC’s replacement. Blogs who promise to abide by the new code will get a ‘kitemark’ of approval.
The PCC will be replaced with a body more independent of newspapers, David Hencke is told, and plans will be presented to the Leveson Inquiry.
The old wild west canard is trotted out again – I really must get myself a Stetson and spurs sometime – I’ve already got the boots. And, no, we don’t need a sheriff.
There is nothing inherently new about blogging. In earlier times the medium was different, but the principle was the same; the Samisdat of the old Soviet Union or going back further to the 17th and 18th Centuries, the authorities’ egos were routinely pricked by the pamphleteers who thought nothing of saying just what they thought. Blogs are merely a modern medium by which people exchange ideas, information and opinions.
We do not need the approval of the authorities – any authority – to do that. Yet it is the free nature of this medium that upsets those in authority. They have a love/hate relationship with it. They clearly love what it is capable of doing – the spread of information simply and quickly is a gift to governments. Yet on the other hand, that same benefit is a nemesis because the great unwashed can do exactly the same and without some form of regulation can say exactly what they please and this is not good at all, it’s very ungood. The proles might just see the emperor’s new clothes for what they are and, worse, tell everyone about it. They might organise and rebel. Indeed, in some countries recently, they have done just that.
Lord Hunt has a solution of sorts. He’s flying a kite.
I want accuracy to be the new gold standard for blogs. Once they have agreed to be accurate, everything would follow from that. I would like to see a ‘Kitemark’ on the best blogs so the public can trust what they read in them.
Not only that, he will send us a bill for the privilege.
He made it clear that, unlike newspapers and magazines, he wanted “light-touch regulation” of the blogosphere, which he hoped would be acceptable to leading bloggers.
Well, he’s off to a flying start. Guido, the only blogger the media seem to have heard of, has already said he won’t be signing up. Back to the drawing board, eh?
Coming as it does from someone who is in the business of regulating (badly) the newspaper industry, I would risk engaging in a tu quoque and ask just how many bloggers have been tapping into mobile phone messages of late? Or how about using deception to get hold of private information? What about setting up sting operations to film people engaging in purely private sexual peccadillos? How many of us have perverted the course of justice or hounded an innocent man wrongly accused of murder? And how many of us are in contempt of court as a consequence of our activities? Or make up stories about people merely to further our readership? Given that the press is routinely guilty of all of these, the PCC has plenty on its hands as it is, without worrying about us. So here’s a radical suggestion for Lord Hunt; how about doing absolutely nothing – not even a “light touch” because it ain’t broke so doesn’t need fixing.
Now, you might think – although if you are here, you probably don’t – what is so wrong with a PCCesque code with a kite mark? It is, after all, voluntary and some might see it as a selling point for a quality publication. Sunny, in the comments to his article, voices something very similar. He has no problem with a voluntary arrangement; providing it is voluntary.
Well, as we have seen, voluntary has a nasty habit of becoming defacto compulsory (ID cards, anyone?) and then actually compulsory. If enough people do not volunteer, the state will make it difficult to operate without and eventually use force on the remaining refusniks. They have already used this tactic in other areas and are planning to do just that with such things as food labelling. Therefore the plan should be treated with extreme suspicion. It is the brainchild of someone who either does not understand the principle of freedom of expression or someone who understands it perfectly and wishes to curtail it.
OoL will not be displaying a government approved kite mark. Indeed, if there is a kite mark to show that we are actively disapproved of by the authorities, I’ll be more than pleased to display it in the sidebar.