Friday, 19 April 2013

New "Small Blog" amendment

So we now have a new amendment to help "protect" small blogs from being expected to submit to regulation that larger organisations will be expected to do.

Amendment text can be found here. The amendments are reproduced below.

‘Micro-businesses
7A
(1) A person who, in carrying on a micro-business, publishes news-related material where either condition A or condition B is met.

(2) Condition A is that the news-related material is contained in a multi-author blog.

(3) Condition B is that the news-related material is published on an incidental basis that is relevant to the main activities of the business.

(4) “Micro-business” means a business which—
(a) has fewer than 10 employees, and
(b) has an annual turnover not exceeding £2,000,000.

(5) The number of employees is to be calculated as follows—
(a) find the total number of hours per week for which all the employees of the business are contracted to work;
(b) divide that number by 37.5.

(6) “Employee” has the same meaning as in the Employment Rights Act 1996 (see section 230 of that Act).

(7) “Multi-author blog” means a blog that contains contributions from different authors.’.

And

Line 25, at end insert—


‘(7) But a person who is not a “relevant publisher” as a result of paragraph 7A of that Schedule (micro-businesses) is nevertheless to be regarded as such if the person was a member of an approved regulator at the material time.’.

The last amendment is simple enough, it basically says that all of the rights conferred to someone for being a member of an approved regulator will continue even if they are "exempt" from the responsibilities or punishments of a relevant publisher normally. This is, it would seem, to ensure that blogs can still join to be regulated if they wish.

The first one is wordy but essentially defines a new exempted group from the "relevant publisher" definition. You are a "micro-business" that publishes news related material if you specifically publish within a multi-author blog OR you are a small business that may reference news that is relevant to your business.

The latter condition is a little confusing, since there is already an exemption for ANY business (small or otherwise) that publishes materials that has the "incidental" basis that is relevant to the main activities of the business. The question that comes to mind for me is that by including this condition, are they saying that businesses that write news posts for their website aren't covered by the previous amendments after all, if they are a larger organisation?

The main condition though, bloggers, seems to me to be utterly too broad. The definition of "employment" is loose, with blogs tending to have open platforms for people to write when they want without obligation or requirement. Even if we reasonably take adding someone to the blogging roster as "employing" them, their working hours are going to be next to nothing.

A blog could feasibly operate posting 3 or 4 blog posts a day, with a roster of hundreds of bloggers, and yet still get nowhere near the "10 employees" that essentially means 375 hours of work each week. Interestingly it also penalises blogs that put an emphasis on research and quality of output, this to me seems to be in opposition to the aims of Leveson.

Then there is the turnover, even if you did employ lots of bloggers, putting out good quality work, and your reader figures were up there with the middle articles of a Mail Online article on your good days, your turnover is unlikely to be anywhere near £2m!

I think this is a real shame, some may claim that it does the right thing by drawing a high line between the media companies and those practising hobby journalism; but unfortunately I think that this amendment will allow a multitude of influential and well received blogs to be able to undertake some of the practices that have put larger corporations under the limelight, without any of the same level of recompense for those wronged. Disappointing.

(For a more detailed look at my views, check this comment out on Liberal Conspiracy)