Though it is doubtful anyone actually noticed, this blog was no longer listed as among those participating in the media council which was officially launched today. This is by no means an indication that this blog does not wholly applaud and encourage the media council and its efforts, however, in the time leading up to the launch, this writer concluded that participation of this blog in the council itself would not longer meet the aims originally intended.
The original intent in supporting the media council was to set a precedent encouraging online opinion writers to voluntarily uphold its proposed principles. As a secondary notion, I felt it valuable to participate as a means to avoid a situation where the government felt blogs should be regulated and chose to use the non-participation of blog sites in the council as a reason to move to regulate blogs.
Quite unfortunately during the process of the founding of the media council it was decided that all minor media outlets, more specifically small websites and blogs, should be required to pay a minor fee of $100 a year. This fee was determined as a token of support as well as a means to help fund any investigations undertaken by the council into the blog’s conduct. While entirely understandable that such a fee should exist, it ran counter to the original intent of joining the council in the first place.
As Jonathan Starling suggested in his blog, it is quite a stretch to consider personal opinion sites, aka blogs, as falling under the guise of traditional media. As he suggested, “our sites are little more than glorified letters to the editor, just our opinions and reactions to developing stories and events”, and that most “do not claim to be media in the traditional sense”. Thus, it is quite a leap to even associate the Media Council code of conduct with opinion blogs. Thus, Jonathan suggested his hesitance towards encouraging regulation of blogs while I took a stance that voluntary regulation is better than forced, at least until there was a fee involved.
As suggested earlier, the intent had been to encourage a higher standard held among the local online opinion writing community and ensure that freedom of speech could remain protected through voluntary participation in regulation. Unfortunately however, the issue that arose with the introduction of the fee is that it runs counter to the original intent in that it effectively could set a precedent that would put a price on freedom of speech should government move to require bloggers to subscribe to the media council. This unfortunately ran counter to the original intent and as such, I opted to retract my involvement.