Freedom Index:Current events

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When Leveson LJ set out on his inquiry he referred to the Internet as "the gorilla in the room" but having said that devoted only a few pages of his 2000 page report to the topic. He completely ignored the nature of convergence and the issue of differing regulatory or ethical standards that have developed for different media. The reason for the differing standards is that historically all forms of "news media" with the exception of print have been regulated from inception and indeed radio and TV were and to some degree still are State run. Be that as it may, I believe that Leveson wanted to focus entirely upon mainstream (essentially print-based) media, and has treated their internet activities as subsets of their overall publishing activities, suggesting that perhaps the same ethical standards that apply to print be applied mutatis mutandis to the on-line side, ignoring convergence entirely.

This is not to say that he has forgotten the Internet entirely and he recently spoke about this at a lecture he delivered in Sydney on 7 December at a Communications Law Seminar at UTS - see http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/Resources/JCO/Documents/Speeches/lj-leveson-speech-privacy-internet-07122012.pdf

Interestingly enough the NZ law Commission Issues Paper - News Media meets New Media - was submitted to Leveson's enquiry and in my opinion directly confronts Leveson's gorilla. But I think Leveson was looking for immediate solutions to outstanding problems of media ethics (or lack of them) rather than looking at an overall issue of "where the media is going". But in dealing as he does with MSM he totally ignores the developing field of citizen journalism, the most striking example of which may be seen in the blogger who "outed" the social welfare kiosk privacy problem. In his paper he refers to the internet and its possible impact on shifting norms of behaviour, but once again he limits his consideration to the impact upon MSM rather than upon society as a whole. It is almost as if he has totally overlooked Prensky's "digital immigrants" and "digital natives" and the expectations that the latter will have of their expectations of information. There is a far greater engagement with information sources than there was before and convergence will serve only to increase this.

DJH

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