The Press Council is considering a tiered membership structure for digital media and bloggers as part of changes to the organisation to take effect in May.
The new category of membership is for non-newspaper digital media that agree to the council’s Statement of Principles and complaints procedure.
The council’s executive committee chair Rick Neville, the editorial director for the Newspaper Publishers’ Association, said he envisaged a fee starting in the hundreds of dollars for non-commercial bloggers and rising to around $10,000 for a “full, commercial” new media organisation.
“The balancing act the Press Council needs to do is make sure these new members pay their way, because we don’t want to have newspapers funding digital media, but we don’t want to drive them away because they can’t afford it,” Neville says.
He adds he plans to meet with bloggers next week.
Bloggers and new media organisations would benefit from council membership if they wanted to report on court proceedings, Neville said. The Criminal Procedure Act defines a member of the media as a person employed by an organisation subject to the complaints procedure of the Press Council or the Broadcasting Standards Authority.
The new form of membership for bloggers and new media follows a review of the Press Council by the Newspaper Publishers’ Association, the council’s main funder.
Newspaper organisation members’ fee is circulation-based, with bigger papers paying more. The Magazine Publishers Association and the EPMU also fund the council.
Neville said he didn’t see bloggers being appointed as press council representatives right away but said that would be considered over time. “If digital media become a significant part of the membership and a significant contributor in terms of funding, it’s only fair they should be considered for membership.”
Neville said extending the council’s powers to handle complaints against digital media and bloggers reflected change and fragmentation in the media.
Bloggers that gained council membership had to be operating in news and media, he said. “You can’t define news media as it was defined 30 years ago. A lot of bloggers now are news media. They key will be to abide by the code of principles and by the complaints process. That means if someone makes a complaint and it’s upheld, they have to publish that on their website.
“I don’t see bloggers being too far removed from a strong opinionated column or an editorial column in a magazine. The difference is in degree.”
Current chair, former High Court judge Sir John Hansen, said covering digital media and providing more tools to deal effectively with complaints gave consumers of all media an avenue for complaint and to believe their complaint had been handled fairly and professionally.