Blogs and Leveson

April 18, 2013

Proposals for incentives as part of a new system of independent, self-regulation of the press have been refined to make sure ‘micro-business’ blogs are outside of the scheme.

The government’s Royal Charter proposes a new system of independent, self-regulation of the press which is one of incentivisation rather than compulsion. Those proposals are now being taken forward in the Crime and Courts Bill.

Following the initial debate in Parliament, the DCMS have decided to ‘refine the clauses to make it absolutely clear that small blogs are outside of the scheme’.

The amendments, which are said to have cross-party agreement, make clear that small blogs (as defined) will not be classed as ‘relevant publishers’. The proposals will be considered by the House of Commons on 22 April.

Publications classed as a relevant publisher will be subject to incentives to join a press self-regulator. The incentives relate to exemplary damages and the awarding of costs in civil legal cases.

The amendments clarify the government’s position on small blogs by further defining the exemption for blogs that are classed as ‘micro-businesses’ – business with fewer than 10 employees and an annual turnover below £2 million. This is the definition used by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Despite not falling under the definition of relevant publisher, any publication that is exempt as a micro-business as a result of these amendments could still choose to join a regulator and receive the legal benefits otherwise only available to relevant publishers in the regulator. That means protection from exemplary damages. It also means that use of the arbitral arm in the regulator will be taken into account by the court when awarding costs.

The clauses also list certain categories of publications which are exempt, even when those tests are met. These exemptions include special interest titles, scientific or academic journals, broadcasters and book publishers as well as a public body, charity or company that publishes news about their activities.