(LifeSiteNews) — In a consultation paper published on September 20, the British government has announced it is preparing measures which will severely limit the freedom to post user-created video online.
The document urges the need to “protect audiences from harmful content” appearing in independently produced online video. Measures are proposed which threaten to regulate independent media out of existence, forcing the same regulatory compliance on individuals, citizen journalists, and small-scale operations as those of the media giants.
The government paper, which opens a consultation period due to close in November 2023, identifies a “clear regulatory gap within the existing statutory regime, which could result in inconsistent protections for audiences.”
In language which recalls the Online Safety Bill, which passed its last reading on September 19, the proposed Media Bill aims to reduce public exposure to “harmful” content – created by non-mainstream sources.
Death by regulation?
A report by one British-based independent news outlet framed the move as the elimination of online competition to the mainstream media.
UK Column’s Mike Robinson on September 22 argued that the real purpose of the legislation is to crush independent video reporting by introducing regulations with which small or individual content creators could not feasibly comply.
To compel small media producers to comply with the same conditions as “multi-billion pound” operations like the BBC would place them “under a regulatory burden that they couldn’t sustain.”
Robinson’s claim that this is no accident is supported by his mention of the Cairncross Review, which began in February 2019. This U.K. government study was concerned with the threat to print journalism – newspapers – presented by digital media.
The threat of fake news
Alongside government fears that national newspapers “may go out of business,” Robinson cites former government minister Matt Hancock’s view that “we are seeing real threats to our media, to our society as a whole.”
Matt Hancock, who as minister for health played a leading role in the management of information during the COVID pandemic, said this threat was presented by “disinformation, also known as fake news.”
Robinson went on to claim that “these measures are proposed to preserve a legacy media that should not exist,” concluding that the latest U.K. government measure to control information is not about protecting the public. He claims its purpose is to defend the mainstream media from competition the state cannot – yet – control.
UK Column itself once faced the prospect of significant fines from the former regulatory body, ATVOD. Following a campaign by viewers, resulting in thousands of telephone calls and messages to the regulator, ATVOD was abolished and its duty of oversight reabsorbed into the government communications watchdog, Ofcom.
UK Column’s success in avoiding ruinous fines and the closure not of their operation, but the abolition of the regulatory body which threatened it, demonstrates the power of an organized fightback.
The Online Safety Bill itself has been subject to sustained criticism which resulted in the removal of the notorious “harmful but legal” clause. Without this amendment, the result of a long campaign of protest, the bill would have permitted the censorship of any content that was not illegal – but which was deemed by the regulator to be a potential source of online “harm.”
It is for this reason that Robinson calls for a campaign against the proposed U.K. Media Bill. With consultation ongoing, now is the time to make your voice heard against new measures which may effectively limit broadcast media to mainstream providers.
You can add your voice to the consultation by email, by post, and online on the U.K. government’s own website here.
Television and Broadcasting Team
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