Everton fan Andy Burnham is “in charge” of the media in the UK since he is the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport. However, rumours reach me that he is considering setting up the equivalent of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) for the Internet.
The PCC is an independent body which handles complaints made against newspapers and magazines in the UK. Last year it dealt with more than 4,300 complaints, up 70% on 10 years earlier. But these complaints were mostly made about British newspapers. Consider for a moment the staggering number of complaints that might be made about web sites.
Apparently Mr Burnham’s idea is that web sites would agree to the code of conduct of the new body, in the same way that newspapers and magazines sign up to the PCC rules. Once again, the UK Government is demonstrating its complete lack of understanding about the Internet.
Apart from the fact that the sheer number of web sites and potential complaints would make the whole thing unwieldy and difficult to administer, the whole notion goes against the very principle of the Internet. Having a Government sponsored body censoring our online activities would not get off the ground simply because too few web site owners would sign up to the idea.
Lack of control
As before, this is a Government flailing around in a hapless attempt to get control of the Internet. Swedish politicians were at it the other day as well; they wanted to be able to read everyone’s international emails…! Politicians are finding it difficult to come to terms with the fact that the Internet is reducing their power. They can’t even control our fears over rising oil prices because no matter how much propaganda they put out about it being a “blip”, there are thousands of blog entries and social networking notes making us all worry. In the past, Government statements would have helped stabilise things more easily – not any more.
And if, as a Government minister, you come up with a mad-cap idea on some new “blogging police” you are bound to have it shot down in flames by the very bloggers you want to keep in check.
There’s a lesson for all of us in this – especially businesses. Gone are the days when you could control information and its flow to people. The people are now in control – and politicians don’t like that. And neither to “old world” chief executives.