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Tim Montgomerie: Technology will overtake media regulators but competition will protect consumers

By Tim Montgomerie
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I was on the Today programme earlier with Paul Waugh and Jim Naughtie to very briefly discuss regulation of the internet. You can listen again to it here. These were the points I either made or didn't have time to make...

  • Regulation simply isn't go to keep pace with technology. We are entering a world where the differences between TV, newspapers and blogs will increasingly dissolve to the point where the difference between, say, Daily Mail Video, BBCtv and Paul Staines' Guy News will be hard for users to discern (I obviously mean as products rather than as ideology). The iPad and other tablet-style computers will be replaced by electronic paper of some kind. Think of something like a very sturdy form of tin foil. This foil could be hung on your wall or rolled up into your ruck sack. You'll be able to download newspapers, TV, radio, Twitter, Facebook and new products we haven't yet encountered on to this device. Who should regulate this product? How should it be regulated? We'll all be using the same technology and platform but blogs won't be able to afford the compliance regimes that a traditional newspaper or broadcaster can afford.
  • The best regulation is competition. It wasn't a regulator that unearthed abuses at the News of the World but a competitor newspaper - The Guardian. We need competition in the media to ensure that no media company with a certain perspective becomes dominant - just as competition between banks so none is too big to fail is a better way forward than endless regulation (where, again, regulators are outwitted by innovative (and much better-paid) bankers).
  • If blogs or other media want to opt in to some form of self-regulation that could be an option. Such blogs could fly some sort of kite mark if they join a body which has a certain code or an appeals procedure for people who feel aggrieved at coverage. That must be voluntary, however, and I agree largely with Charlotte Henry; "I don't have objection to blogging kite mark per se, just feel reputation and readers do same job." That's true but some new blogs might feel some authentication is useful. 
  • Aside from ensuring competition the crown via the courts has a role to protect people from indecency (eg child pornography) or libel or illegal surveillance but not much else.

Grateful for your views.

> Earlier today Lord Ashcroft warned that the "quality press" might get some unwanted scrutiny from Leveson.


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