The EU, blogging, community and ownership

Isn’t twitter great (when it’s working). Mark Comerford shared a link to a report on an EU report – no, no, keep reading, honest it’s good (and not about the Irish referendum.)

The report goes under the title of DRAFT REPORT on concentration and pluralism in the media in the European Union (PDF link) that’s (2007/2253(INI)) if you are interested.

It’s got some great stuff in there. Here are a few of the recommendations and my immediate thoughts on the thing.

Proposes the introduction of fees commensurate with the commercial value of the user generated content as well as ethical codes and terms of usage for user-generated content in commercial publications;

Suggests clarifying the status, legal or otherwise, of weblogs and encourages their voluntary labelling according to the professional and financial responsibilities and interests of their authors and publishers;

Think about the implications of that for community and professional alike. Fees for citizen journalism and full disclosure on ‘professional’ blogs.

The draft report was authored by “Estonian Socialist” Marianne Mikko. Mikko told the EU news service “the blogosphere has so far been a haven of good intentions and relatively honest dealing. However, with blogs becoming commonplace, less principled people will want to use them”.

But here is the headliner.

Asked if she considered bloggers to be “a threat”, she said “we do not see bloggers as a threat. They are in position, however, to considerably pollute cyberspace. We already have too much spam, misinformation and malicious intent in cyberspace”. She added, “I think the public is still very trusting towards blogs, it is still seen as sincere. And it should remain sincere. For that we need a quality mark, a disclosure of who is really writing and why. ”

So be careful next time you blog.

Later: Craig McGinty has a suggestion for Mikko:

if Marianne Mikko wants to see some fine examples of where people have made available information to others in an open and transparent manner drop in on some case studies of Creative Commons projects.

Ownership and diversity

The basis of the report though is not blogging and user generated content. The report identifies those as key parts of the growing richness and diversity of the media landscape. It’s that diversity (the pluralism of the title) that needs defending.

The draft notes:

whereas the primary concern of media businesses may be financial profit, media remains an ideological and political tool of considerable influence, which should not be treated solely on economic terms,

and it isn’t long before the issue of public service crops up.

The report recognises that the public service media needs a sizable and stable market share to fulfil its mission but urges it to avoid unfair competition and pursuit of the market share for its own sake. It point out that whereas in certain markets the public service media is a leading market participant, it mostly suffers from inadequate funding and political pressure.

Isn’t that just made for the current BBC Vs. regional press debate.

But whilst the report:

Recommends that the regulations governing state aid are implemented in a way allowing the public service media to fulfill its function in a dynamic environment, while avoiding unfair competition leading to impoverishment of the media landscape;

The UK newspaper industry continue to be bullish despiet the offer of an olive branch from the BBC. David Newell, director of the Newspaper Society told Journalism.co.uk

“The BBC’s 60 local websites already compete head-to-head with regional newspaper websites and its expansion plans, combined with its cross-promotional power, threaten to steal away audiences and undermine the ability of publishers to pursue their own digital development strategies, which are so important to the future of local media in the UK,”

Perhaps the EU may give the newspaper industry the leverage it needs.

Will regulation protect diversity?

Whatever the result it seems clear that the EU see regulation as the best protector of pluralism. The report…

Stresses the need to institute monitoring and implementation systems for media pluralism based on reliable and impartial indicators;

Part of me can’t help but feel uncomfortable with that. Whilst the report is pretty intellegent (if brief) it seems that the weight of regulation will be on freedom of expression where the only plurality that will be protected would be the plurality of commercial interests.

But what do you think.

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