Westminster Media ForumA newspaper executive has told an industry forum that traditional media is in fear that 'buccaneer' online publishers have brought the prospect of media regulation a step nearer.

Speaking at the Westminster media forum, in London, Sven Egil Omdal, CEO of Norway's Aftenbladet multi media, said saturation of broadband and the restraints imposed by a self-regulating press (similar to the British PCC code of conduct system) had led to a two-tier press system in Scandinavia.

"There are so many websites that fall outside the jurisdiction of the press council that, when a story breaks, the mainstream media sticks to the code of practice but as soon as the public is aware that a story is out they go hunting for the pictures or additional material on blogs, community forums with links, and websites," he later told Journalism.co.uk.

"There is a two-tier system now with a mainstream media that sticks to the rules and a growing number of outlets that don't."

Mr Omdal said that mainstream media was fearful that the ease at which tech-savvy readers in Norway, and surrounding countries, knew how to find material online that is not allowed on mainstream news sites could have the knock-on effect of rendering self-regulation redundant and lead to Government intervention.

"There is growing fear that parliament will act and introduce laws that will also harm the traditional media.

"We saw that in France last week with the proposed new law that would make it illegal for non-professionals to transmit pictures of violence.

"This was an act to stop happy-slapping incidents but what it could do is stop people taking videos of street fights, that police don't want coverage of, or police brutality.

"The problem of making laws in this field is that they prohibit things that should be perfectly legal, and for the public good, in an attempt to stop something that everyone agrees should be illegal.

"The difficulty is also that this new phenomenon falls between self-regulation and the judicial system. At the moment we are in limbo where people don't know whether to look for stronger legislation or try to expand the self-regulatory system.

"The point is people who run these websites do not want to be inside the regulatory system. These are buccaneers who build a business on being outside the mainstream.

"There are many problems to address but people are totally amiss at how to cope with these things."

Paul Staines, who blogs about politics as Guido Fawkes, told the forum that it was the zeitgeist in the UK to talk about regulating blogs.

"The best form of regulation is accuracy. If I get things wrong then I lose the audience," he said.

Attempts at regulation would result, he added, in sites moving to countries beyond any jurisdiction.

He said that his blog was hosted in the US where it had first amendment protection.

Camilla Wright, founder of celebrity gossip site Popbitch, told Journalism.co.uk that the audience was capable of making up its own mind about what was acceptable.

"I'd only look at legal grounds, I don't really care what the PCC says as long as I'm legally acceptable… If people feel like you have got the tone wrong or gone outside what they want they just won't read you. I'm regulated by the audience.

"We get contributions from thousands of different people every week, a lot of it is feedback saying: 'that story is shit, that's great or how dare you do that, it's beyond the line'.

"You get a sense of what your audience feels. People have a generosity of spirit but they don't want to be told what is right and wrong, what is acceptable and what is not.

"It's nice to get that feedback as it's a sort of community self-regulation."

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