A chill went through the Australian blogosphere in Friday as the government released a report recommending that blogs with an annual readership of 15,000 or more be subject to the same regulatory body and rules as mainstream newspapers and other professional media. That’s 40 pageviews a day, for those of you who are counting. Welcome to the big time.

The Independent Media Inquiry stated:

There are many newsletter publishers and bloggers, although no longer part of the ‘lonely pamphleteer’ tradition, who offer up-to-date reflections on current affairs. Quite a number have a very small audience. There are practical reasons for excluding from the definition of ‘news media’ publishers who do not have a sufficiently large audience. If a publisher distributes more than 3000 copies of print per issue or a news internet site has a minimum of 15 000 hits per annum it should be subject to the jurisdiction of the News Media Council, but not otherwise. These numbers are arbitrary, but a line must be drawn somewhere.

Australia has an unusual media landscape. Approximately 70 percent of Australian newspapers are owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd, which has been embroiled in a widespread phone-hacking scandal, among other issues. Currently, newspapers are policed by the Australian Press Council, an association funded by newspapers, in which participation is voluntary. The new recommendations suggest making membership in a new agency mandatory for all significant media outlets, including blogs of moderate to major popularity, and handing the job of funding over to the government.

Predictably, newspapers raised concerns about government influence, while the government asserted that the existing agency hasn’t been doing an adequate job. It was not immediately clear how the proposed agency could enforce its rulings, other than by taking to the courts.

The report stated, “The News Media Council should have power to require a news media outlet to publish an apology, correction or retraction, or afford a person a right to reply. This is in line with the ideals contained in existing ethical codes but in practice often difficult to obtain.”

Especially if you have to monitor a few thousand blogs every day.

Photo by Hsilamot