18 Mar A CLEAR Submission To The Editors’ Code Of Practice Committee
The wonderful news today is that Cameron and his cronies, Paul Dacre, Rupert Murdoch and the Barclay brothers have been outwitted, outnegotiated and trumped. We shall have a new system of press regulation, independent of the press and of politicians and, crucially, it will be underpinned by law.
The liars, cheats and abusers that form the Fleet Street mafia have been dragged kicking and screaming out of their ivory towers and Lord Leveson’s recommendations will be implemented in full. This is a great day for Britain!
The problem with press regulation has always been the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), a fundamentally corrupt institution that has always acted in the interests of the press and has proved itself worse than useless even in the most grievous cases of abusive journalism. In the last two years CLEAR has been one of the most prolific complainers as we have tried to rein in newspapers’ ‘reefer madness’ and sensationalist, misleading treatment of the cannabis issue.
Although the complaints officers and staff at the PCC are very helpful and Lord David Hunt, the chairman, is charm and reason personified, the commission itself is simply a sham for protecting the interests of editors and media owners. In around 80 complaints, many concerning the most ridiculously inaccurate and misleading articles, we have not had one upheld by the commission. We have resolved a large number by negotiation with newspapers, facilitated by the complaints officers but once a complaint goes to the commision the result is a foregone conclusion.
This is despite an Editors’ Code which is excellent in its scope and content. There is nothing the matter with the code at all, if only the commission would enforce it. In practice, the commission sees its role as to find excuses why the code should not be enforced and makes endless qualitative judgements that an article or a claim is ‘not sufficiently’ inaccurate, misleading or distorted – with no regard whatsoever for tautology or oxymoron.
Anyone with any knowledge of the reefer madness that British newspapers are hopelessly addicted to will realise that not to have even one complaint upheld is conclusive proof that the commission is corrupt and not fit for purpose.
However, the Editors’ Code can go on and with this in mind, CLEAR has submitted a proposal to the Editors’ Code of Practice Committee for two amendments to the code. We await the committee’s response with interest.
1. The PCC refuses to enforce the requirement not to publish ‘misleading’ information retreating only to the narrow test of ‘inaccuracy’. This means that, for example, if there is one scientific study showing that a camel can pass through the eye of a needle and this is presented as fact by a newspaper, despite dozens of other studies to the contrary, the commission will find there has been no breach of the code.
If the commission finds the code impossible to enforce then it needs to be re-drafted so that it can be.
2. The PCC refuses to accept complaints about headlines alone, stating that an article must be considered as a whole. This denies the reality that many readers read the headline only and that much journalistic effort is put into formulating headlines for precisely this reason. This is a licence for newspapers to publish ‘inaccurate, misleading and distorted’ headlines with impunity. It promotes sensationalism and must be changed.