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Online-only news to be overseen by press watchdog

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Internet-only publications are to face the same regulations as newspapers for the first time under an extension to the powers of newspaper industry self-regulator body the Press Complaints Commission (PCC).

After a consultation with industry, the Press Standards Board of Finance (PressBoF), which controls the remit of the PCC, it has decided to allow online news operations to join the voluntary regulatory scheme.

It said that the decision was taken because magazine publishers are increasingly creating web-only publications that have no print equivalent.

"While online versions of newspapers and magazines available in printed form come within the remit of the PCC, there is a gap to the extent that online-only publications do not," said PressBoF chairman Guy Black. "This decision is a logical development in self-regulation, recognising the moves in the magazine sector towards online-only titles, and underlines the effectiveness of our system."

To become part of the PCC system, websites "must be recognisable as UK based newspapers or magazines which, if in printed form, would come within the jurisdiction of the PCC," said a PressBoF statement. Editors of the publication must agree to abide by the PCC's editors' code of practice.

“We welcome the decision by the industry," said PCC chairman Baroness Buscombe. "The PCC needs this freedom to develop rapidly to meet the challenges and the opportunities presented by media convergence."

"One clear strength of the self-regulatory system is its flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances, while still providing a service that is free, fast, discreet and which involves the public in its decision-making," she said.

PressBoF, which collects the fees from publishers that pay for the PCC's activities, said that it had also considered extending the PCC's remit to local authority publications.

"It has decided against doing so on the basis that such publications tend to be marketing material," a PressBoF statement said.

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