I haven’t written much about last week’s “stakeholder meeting” on Internet lobbying, because I came away confident that the PDC had listened to our concerns, and is unlikely to make the mistake of attempting to regulate the political blogosphere. In fact, my hope is that in any new rule making, the PDC actually clarifies its current stance by explicitly exempting from reporting requirements bloggers like me.
The PDC’s current media exemption reads as follows:
“Persons who are working members of the print or broadcast media preparing news reports, feature articles or editorial comment.”
Obviously, both times and technology have changed to the point where this definition needs to be expanded to included “print, broadcast or electronic media,” and I doubt there would be any opposition to such a change. But there is also a need for the PDC to clarify what they mean by “working members,” and I would hope that they would construe this term as liberally as possible, for to do otherwise would create an untenable and unfair legal disparity between traditional and new media.
For example, consider my dual role as both an independent blogger and a paid talk radio host. Does it make any sense that my direct advocacy in one medium would be exempt from PDC reporting requirements while the same advocacy in the other might result in a reporting violation and a fine? No, of course not. But unless the PDC explicitly grants bloggers a media exemption, our status will eventually be challenged via a complaint, or before the courts.
The PDC can avoid this hassle and expense for all parties, by proactively expanding the old media exemption to fit the new media reality. And my hope is that this is exactly what they will do.