23 January 2011

Well, we can always turn to the Press Complaints Commission... can't we.... ?

It appears that more and more people are complaining about what is and what is not appearing in the newspapers, the emphasis placed up on it and how news is reported on tv with suggestions that 'this just isn't fair'.

What if allegations are made in the press that are deemed untrue?  Who would an injured party turn to...  presumably their solicitor which is what is happening more and more these days. But what about the Press Complaints Commission which is there to handle cases of injustice. On its website it cites recent cases from Kerry Katona who had complained about allegations in The People about her private life to Dr. Tonge who noticed in The Sunday Telegraph that a particular 'thumb sucking clinic' was reported to be the first of it's kind in London - not so, Dr. Tonge had already opened one such clinic ! The PCC took up their complaints and were successful. There are others too   http://3.ly/pFyt some would say not too serious.

But what happens if you feel that biased reporting, or even lies, is taking place by either one journalist, one tv programme, or perhaps a whole network ? What facilities are available to make a complaint and to whom ? Many of us felt most aggrieved at the way Jody McIntyre (the young man in the wheelchair at the recent protests) was interviewed by Ben Brown and the BBC responded  http://is.gd/KXGBLi   I gather the BBC received thousands of complaints. But that appears to be the end of the matter ! Maybe Jody received a personal apology...

I've read that over 1,000 complaints were sent to the PCC, about an article in the Daily Mail written by Richard Littlejohn. Here is a report which was written on the blog Liberal Conspiracy - it gives a flavour of the reporting at that time http://is.gd/51D3zt.  However, when I search for apologies to Jody McIntyre I've been unable to find a response/decision about these complaints and when I searched on the PCC website I received "0 results".  The alternative action would be to take your case to a solicitor but not everyone has the resources to go to a solicitor of course...  Then there's the handling of the situation - not a word of apology from the Police who, certainly in my eyes, got it so wrong...  Maybe Jody received an apology,  was there a public one?

So what is the PCC, under whose jurisdiction does it operate and who funds it ? Well, here lies a story...

For starters I find that "The independent Chairman is appointed by the newspaper and magazine publishing industry" according to the PCC website. Independent ? Really ? Why would the newspaper and magazine publishing industry appoint the Chairman... I can see that such an action would be in their interests... Aaaah, I get it... on further investigation I find that the PCC is funded by... the press ! Yes, the press ! I suppose this is where the term 'self-regulation' comes into reality.

How can it be right that the press can fund a Commission to investigate complaints about the press ? How can the press insist that the only option available to complainants is for them to complain to a body which has been created by the press and is based on a Code which the press drafted. Yes the Commission drafted it's own code - by members of the Press ?  The press of course has access to lawyers to defend their case. Many individuals do not ! And there appears to be no element of appeal ! Here is the editors' code of practice http://is.gd/5UyplF

You'll be comforted to know that the editors' code of practice is periodically reviewed by "a special committee of editors" ! Yes editors ! The Chairman of that special committee I gather, is Paul Dacre from the Daily Mail  http://is.gd/6t1bZ6.  The Chair of the PCC itself is Baroness Peta Buscombe, a Conservative Peer. There's an article relating to her and the PCC here http://is.gd/AZFzCE and it's an interesting little story!

I began to search to find out how and why the PCC was established in the first place. It seems that it replaced a body called The Press Council which was considered not to be fulfilling it's role from what I can gather. So the PCC was formed in 1991. Seems a long time ago and the media and press has changed since those days... one example being that there wasn't the incessant coverage of 24 hour news that we have today. Don't think the 'paparazzi' was around either?   It seems to me, and I know to many, that the press just appear to get away with whatever they wish to write...  Once the headline is there, it's there.  If an apology is ever given it's usually on page 17...  hidden away.  Broadcasters seem to believe that we'll believe anything they spout forth !  That really isn't the case at all...  We've all become media savvy and it's time the press woke up to it !  They treat us as though we've just landed on planet earth...

And finally who is the PCC accountable to ? I'm afraid that is an answer I cannot give as I've not been able to find any reference to the PCC being accountable to anyone but itself !

And if you're really interested here's some further information :
Website of the PCC http://is.gd/TBtOaB.
The governanace of the PCC : An independent review http://is.gd/TBtOaB
er.. who undertook the review ? Hmmm...

This week-end has seen the unfolding of criminal activity that cannot be ignored however much the press would like to ignore it...   The press of course are usually the one's to break the news where unfairness is seen to be playing a part or where criminal activity takes place and is of public interest.  But this story is about them!!   And it has taken months to receive the tiniest smattering of coverage. Now we are beginning to find out why... 

More newspapers appear to have been caught out in the phone-hacking saga - the first person to break this news was a lawyer. Since then others have come forward...  Are people frightened of the press for some reason ?  And let's not forget that phone-hacking is illegal..   This is a very serious matter.  We have No 10 involved, the judgement of the PM, a former Prime Minister who believes his phone was hacked, members of the Royal Family, various celebrities, other Members of Parliament, Vodafone is in there somewhere...     Have I left anyone out....   I'm sure there's someone else...  of course, one Mr. Rupert Murdoch, for whom all roads seem to lead  in this issue.   So where does this leave the BSkyB application ?...  Are we really confident that Mr. Murdoch's application should go through without a blink ?  I, for one, am certainly not ?

This week-end has seen news uncover that makes it apparent that 'things have been going on' for a long time. One question that springs to my mind is - who holds the power - and who exactly runs this country ? 

But not to worry - we can always turn to the PCC !

Let us know what you think ?  Your views are important...