5.127 The fundamental weakness of both the Press Council and the BSA is the fact that both were designed to operate in a traditional media environment which no longer exists. In other words, neither was designed for the digital era and the convergence of media platforms. While the Press Council has a higher degree of flexibility due to its non-statutory constitution, our view is that neither model is sufficiently convergence-ready and a single converged standards body should deal with all complaints relating to news, current affairs and news commentary based on content provision rather than platform of delivery.
I would argue that the established reasons for state involvement in the regulation of expression have broken down. The digital future is one in which convergence will render delivery methods immaterial and the replacement of single-medium organisations with multimedia structures will be complete. As the future unfolds it will be increasingly difficult to clearly differentiate between print and broadcasting (streaming video and customised newspapers will be downloaded to one device) and, hence, the dichotomous treatment of print and broadcast will be increasingly questionable.
The creation of a single body for overseeing news content would also provide a level playing field across all media, ensuring fairness and consistency, promoting cost efficiencies and ensuring greater accessibility for consumers. In our view there is no longer any rational basis to support a multi- or dual-regulator model for news content standards. The basic journalistic standards remain the same regardless of the method of delivery. Convergence has meant that the boundaries between broadcasting, print media and online have become increasingly blurred. In our view the need for a level playing field is a compelling reason for the establishment of a single body to establish and enforce standards across all news content.
It has been observed that ‘[c]onvergence brings new stakeholders into market contact and can energise self- and co-regulation, which may outperform unaided statutory regulation’ for a number of reasons, such as lower compliance costs and a better grounding in expert information or market realities. It has been argued that in a convergent environment, media content should be regulated via a system that allows for self- and co-regulatory approaches and emphasises citizen participation and digital media literacy.
5.133It is these more difficult questions to which we now turn, including: