Many other blogs have covered the story from the Financial Times that the Government is planning to extend the remit of the Media Monitoring Unit (MMU) of the Central Office of Information to include scrutiny of blogs.

The MMU has as part of its task the job of providing a summary of all newspaper and broadcast media stories it feels are relevant and providing that summary to individual departments and ministers. This is not something to which anyone could, in principle, take any exception. It must be right that a Government keeps its ears to the ground in any number of ways and it would be a short-lived government that paid no mind to what the press was saying, though when overdone this can become a source of great weakness. The John Major government, of which I was no fan at all, daily gave the impression that government policy was being driven from the editor’s office of one or other national newspaper. Today it would be The Sun; tomorrow the wind would blow in another direction and it would be the turn of the Daily Mail to have its policies adopted; the next day The Daily Express would huff and puff about something and John Major would be there genuflecting as fast as his knees would bend.

Now, according to the FT:

The COI, the UK government’s communications agency, is working on a way to monitor what people say about policy on blogs and internet forums for the media briefings it sends to ministers.

A project by the COI’s Media Monitoring Unit is considering how to add blogs to its regular summaries of government coverage in mainstream press or television.

I have no problem at all with this: there being nothing evidently sinister in it, I would expect them to do this given that the blog is rapidly coming of age as a medium.This is clearly recognized:

The blog project was in part prompted by departments’ concerns at being caught unawares by debates spread on the web.

It reflects the growing media profile of the format and the fact some individual bloggers are moving from niche self-publishers to establishment opinion-formers.

There was a little flurry of concern at one quote but I again I see nothing sinister in it:

Clarence Mitchell, director of the MMU, said though there was debate about the objectivity of some bloggers, several were taken increasingly seriously within government.

Mr Mitchell said: “There’s a whole level of debate taking place online which simply didn’t exist before and departments feel they need to be fully engaged in that.”

Rather one is puzzled that there needs to be a debate about the objectivity of bloggers. We are not Public Service Broadcasters with a duty of impartiality but people taking advantage of our right to free speech. In respect of many matters I do not do ‘objective’. If they are worried about ‘objectivity’, they might care to spend some time cleaning up the much-fouled viper’s nest that is the BBC. So one is puzzled that they should think we ought to be doing ‘objective’.

It will be interesting to see if they now start setting the attack dogs of the rebuttal unit on to us. I hope so because I like to know that something one has said has inflicted a wound, however small, on this utterly awful Government. And prodding them into rebuttal gives the chance to respond with a suitably excoriating response.

That blogs have moved into the radar net of the MMU is a sure sign that this medium has reached a way point on the voyage to being mainstream.

Whether they will like what they read is another matter altogether.

Advertisements