Will hyperlocals be hit by the post Leveson rules?

Update at 11.30: There’s been more comment on this throughout the morning. The culture secretary Maria Miller is reported in this post on The Guardian to be saying the “one-man band or a single blogger” would not be affected by the legislation because of the definition of “relevant publisher” in relation to exemplary damages.

The piece goes on to say:

Miller said “student and not-for-profit community newspapers” will not be caught under the new rules and that “scientific journals, periodicals and book publishers will also be left outside the definition and therefore not exposed to the exemplary damages and costs regime”

Thanks to @gazthejourno on Twitter for sending through a link to the full document if you want to read up on it…….and we’re expecting Tom Watson MP to pop by here this afternoon to add his thoughts. In the meantime there’s a poll on this issue now running here http://www.facebook.com/n0ticenearby.

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The straight answer to that question is that nobody actually knows yet but there’s a great deal of confusion around the whole issue because the wording refers to websites which have some news content.

One of the key definitions highlighted here says a ‘relevant publisher’ includes:

“a website containing news-related material (whether or not related to a newspaper of magazine)”

The ‘news-related material’ is defined as:

i. news or information about current affairs;
ii. opinion about matters relating to the news or current affairs; or
iii. gossip about celebrities, other public figures or other persons in the news.

Today’s Metro quotes a campaign group which says that bloggers could be hit by damages claims if they’ve not signed up to be covered by the regulator.

The politicians put up to answer questions on the issue haven’t provided any clarification either.

On last night’s Newsnight, Tory chairman Grant Shapps suggested that people’s common sense meant they understood what was meant by a news website. That doesn’t really clarify it for those of us who publish sites and blogs which have some content that could be seen as ‘news’ but are not associated with a news organisation.

There’s also been talk about the rules only covering  multi-author blogs but again, the devil’s going to be in the detail. How many people need to be involved to be classed as a multiauthor blog? If it was simply more than one person, then just about every hyperlocal in the UK would be included alongside giants such as the Huffington Post with its hundreds of contributors. But would the columnist bloggers associated with major news organisations but situated on external platforms sit outside the rules then?

BBC Radio 4 Today programme discussed this issue at 07:41.

If the regulations did include your website or blog, what, in practice, would it mean? There’s a summary of the main points here.

So how would that impact on your day-to-day? Does it change anything for you? Maybe you feel comfortable with what’s planned? Or fear its a fundamental attack on free speech and the principles of the open web?

While the newspapers consider their responses (some already going to law) and figure out whether they will accept the proposals, hyperlocals are unlikely to feature highly in their thinking .

To use an old journalistic cliche, time will tell whether this is an issue for hyperlocals…….in the meantime we’d welcome your thoughts here.