Bet you never thought you'd see 'PCC' and 'forced to apologise' in the same sentence. Particularly in the sentence "A newspaper who told a lot of lies has been forced to apologise by the PCC".
But anyway, this isn't the body itself but its grande fromage, Baroness Luscombe, who was caught saying something unsubstantiated, which hadn't been checked, and which couldn't be stood up. It's tempting to think that this might have been the result of presiding over a body whose job it is to let people off and not punish them when they say things which are unsubstantiated, which haven't been checked and which couldn't be stood up; but that would be the depiction of crude stereotype, and we really ought to be above such things.
Even so, pfffffffffffffft.
It's quite pleasing to see that the PCC have decided to give AA Gill the most terrifying punishment they can mete out - a tickle on the back of the legs with a feather duster - for calling Clare Balding a 'dyke on a bike'.
As I wrote at the time, the worst bit I found about the whole thing was that Balding had politely complained to Gill's boss, who essentially told her to get on her bike (do you see what I did there? Oh, please yourselves). Had anyone acted like an adult rather than a bunch of silly schoolboys then it could all have been resolved without troubling the scorers. But no, the Sunday Times decided to dig in.
I know that Roy Greenslade slightly disagrees with the judgement of the PCC, saying that there's a 'right to be wrong', but I don't. I think either you sign up to the PCC, and abide by the code, or you don't, and you don't have to. You can't get away with saying "Well, I did say I would abide by this code, but I don't agree with this bit of it, so I'm going to ignore it" because that kind of defeats the whole point of it. The PCC code isn't a buffet where you can pick and choose the bits you like (to complete the analogy, if I were at a buffet, it would be the cheese-and-pineapple and the chicken drumsticks) and ignore the bits you don't (quiche, obviously). That isn't the way these things work, I think.
If you accept that there needs to be regulation of the press - and that's the situation we have at the moment, with self-regulation through the PCC - then I don't think it makes sense to disagree with decisions that apply the code of regulation correctly. You can complain that the code is wrong, but the decision is right; or you can complain that the code is right, but the application of it is wrong in this instance; but I don't think it makes sense to complain that decision isn't right, if it's applying the code correctly. If we want to have an unregulated press or we would like the 'right to be wrong' enshrined in regulation to the extent where all PCC complaints might feasibly be made irrelevant, then that's another matter.
And besides, no-one has been 'denied' the right to be wrong in the slightest. AA Gill was stupid, and wrong, and infantile; but no-one stopped him from having his say. It's just that now his newspaper will have to print the PCC's decision. Will it put others off from being stupid, and wrong, and infantile? Probably not. And you'll excuse me if I don't shed too many tears if it does mean people can't chuck the word 'dyke' around without expecting to be pulled up for it.
It's a bit of a cliche to describe the PCC as toothless, or a "toothless bulldog", or ineffectual, or feeble, or a cargo cult construction, or pointless, or a verisimilitude of regulation that doesn't actually do the regulating it claims to, or meek, or a mild-mannered knee-knocking milquetoast knocking on the dragon's door and asking it to please not set fire to the village again, or a waste of time, or hopeless, or like trying to fight off a knife-wielding maniac with a cream bun, or depressingly predictable, or like asking footballers to decide whether they were offside or not rather than a referee, or useless, or not fit for purpose, or a man with a bucket and spade trying to clear away the Sahara, or dismal, or shit. All of this is a cliche. And wrong. Well some of it's wrong.
Anyway, today it appears to have found a milk tooth, with what might turn out to be a rather radical decision, upholding a complaint against Rod Liddle. Then again, it might also be a decision that augurs very ominously for some of the rest of us. But more of that later.
In what will hopefully never be called 'Goat currygate', Liddle typed in a late-night Friday evening rant on his Spectator blog saying that "the overwhelming majority of street crime, knife crime, gun crime, robbery and crimes of sexual violence in London is carried out by young men from the African-Caribbean community". He was wrong. Lots of people got annoyed by him saying this; others got annoyed that people got annoyed by it.
The Spectator did attempt a defence against the complaint under Clause 1 (accuracy), using as its sources the Daily Mail and the Sunday Times. Scoff at that choice if you like, but the key thing is that these articles mentioned 'accusations' and 'proceedings' rather than convictions. An important distinction when you're trying to claim proof for an assertion like the one Liddle made. Have a look at Five Chinese Crackers's stellar post 'Rod Liddle - more racist than the BNP?' from 2009 for a good analysis.
Yes, it was a poisonous, vile little rant from an awful little man; but the important point to make is that he was wrong, wrong, wrong. Yes, he may be a polemicist, and yes, he may be trying to provoke rather than inform, and yes yes yes, all of that. But he said something was true when it wasn't, something which could bring about a misleading perception of one racial group in society. Toxic, destructive and dirty. But also wrong.
Interestingly, the PCC have previously ruled against complainants who have accused newspapers of inaccuracies vis-a-vis comment pieces, saying that because these are columns, they won't be taken seriously as sources of factual information by readers. The PCC said last June:
While the column had been phrased in stark terms - the journalist had made one claim which was prefaced by "the fact is", for example - the author's claims would nonetheless be recognised by readers as comment rather than unarguable fact.
So is this a sea change from the PCC, then? Or is it simply a case of there being two different adjudications in two slightly different articles? A blogger in that instance had complained about articles regarding gay adoption, so it's a similar complaint about potentially discriminatory inaccuracy. It's a similar argument: present something as a fact in a column, reader complains about accuracy.
There is another possibility: that if the Spectator had defended its article by dint of it being an opinion piece, rather than on factual grounds, it may well have succeeded. But it didn't: as well as the factual evidence they used to defend it, they said that Liddle's article was a blog, and that meant that the factual dissection could take place in the comments rather than in the article itself.
Now, blogs as such - like this one, or yours, or any - aren't covered by the PCC at present. But I wonder if this decision might be leading us up that path. Look back to November of last year when the PCC's Baroness Luscombe said:
Rather, a system of self-regulation (such as exists by the PCC for newspapers) would be more appropriate, if any bloggers wished to go down that route.
And now, here's the PCC dealing with a complaint about a 'blog', or at least what the Spectator called a blog rather than a paid column by a salaried journalist which happens to support comments and be regularly updated by the authors themselves.
I wonder if there might be some mission-creep going on, or whether we're in the foggy world of "What is blogging and what is journalism?" which, frankly, I'd rather not go down again if it's all the same to you, for the sake of my sanity. Perhaps I am a little paranoid and there's nothing in this. But perhaps the line between 'blogs' on sites like the Spectator's and elsewhere is a little more blurry. Who decides who should be covered by the PCC and who shouldn't? It's voluntary as far as I am aware, but voluntary so that regulation isn't enforced.
At present, we don't subscribe to the PCC or an equivalent regulatory body. Should we? Who should and who shouldn't? Does it make you a better blog if you are? But who can afford the time to answer dozens of PCC complaints that might arrive in your inbox, possibly vexatiously from people who simply don't like you, without the time and resources of a professional publishing outfit to do it?
Some might say the bloggers who rejoice in Liddle's discomfort the most might want to look over their shoulders, because they could suffer the same kind of thing themselves soon. I don't think it's quite time to panic. Not just yet. But as the delineation between the big shots and the little shots gets ever more confused, might the pressure not grow for there to be a regulatory body for blogs? And might, then, those of us who cheerily demand teeth for the PCC be walking into a ruddy great bear trap?
So has the PCC found a tooth? And is it ominous for bloggers? I'm not so sure, on either case. Liddle has been correctly told off, but it's not so much a stinging slap on the wrist but a wagging finger. Hmm. For now, I can't help being delighted that Liddle's been made to look like the odious little man he is.
Will it make a difference to his output? I should cocoa. It might make him think twice. Will there be an apology, a correction, anything like that? We'll see. The PCC has no powers to enforce one. Remember, it's the 'shame' of being ruled against that is meant to be such a big deterrent from getting things wrong (not just wrong by mistake, but let's make it clear this Liddle's post was wrong, misleading and highly offensive). Let's see how much shame the Spectator suffers, if any. And then let's see how worried we should be.
There will be those, in the wake of the PCC's breezy rejection of 25,000 complaints about Jan Moir's despicable article about Stephen Gately, who think this is some kind of triumph for free speech, and a crushing defeat for the evil Twitter Mob. But that's missing the point entirely.
I don't think most of the thousands who complained about the pitifully nasty column did so in order to clamp down on the freedom of expression so enjoyed by Her Majesty's Press in this country. They didn't do so deliberately, and they didn't do so accidentally, not realising what they were doing, either. I think they were just exercising their own freedom of expression - to say they felt this article had offended them, and that it was patently horrible. Which it was.
We do have self-regulation of the press in this country, and it's right that people may use that route to challenge articles in the press they feel have broken the rules. We can argue about how many teeth the PCC really has, and whether it really wants to use them; and we can speculate, though we'll never really know, that it appears to be a cargo-cult construction that whirrs through the motions in order to produce a verisimilitude of regulation, while simultaneously never giving anything much more than a stinging slap on the wrist to the very worst transgressors. We could point out that it's powerless to punish, even when an offender has stepped right over the line, pulled down its pants and waved its hairy bum in the regulators' faces.
No matter. The PCC exists, and it's not an attack on the freedom of expression for people to choose to use that route to voice their displeasure over what's been written in the press. You could even argue - and call me naive if you want to - that that's precisely what it was established to do in the first place. (Or at the very least, to look like it was established to do. You could say, looking at this article by Malcolm Coles for example, that the PCC appears in this instance to have made a rather bizarre decision, but we can argue about that too.) If you feel that thousands of people complaining to the PCC was an attack on free speech, then by all means call for the dismantling of the PCC itself. Self-regulation is, after all, self-censorship, of a kind. To hell with anyone who has a complaint about what's been in the papers! Free speech trumps everything!
Or... maybe it's a bit more complicated than that. Perhaps there are occasions when free speech doesn't beat everything else. Perhaps there are times when the press - or ordinary citizens who happen not to work for the press - shouldn't say everything they want to say. We can argue about that too. But let's not pretend, as some will, that the Jan Moir affair was an attack on free speech, and that the PCC have bravely defended it. Because that's certainly not what it was.
As a fully paid-up member of the Twitter Mob, I am of course a bloodthirsty idiot who has a pitchfork and flaming torch kept in a steel box by the side of my computer - I simply break the glass in the event of being mildly offended by something. I am just a numbskull, unable to think for myself, an electronic sheep who needs to be whipped up into a frenzy of outrage by those meddlesome troublemongers Fry, Linehan et al. I am but a mere pawn in their empire-building game, taking power away from the responsible journalists who look after it so well and handing it over to the sans-culottes of the so-called Twitterati, who will only break it or something, and who can't really be trusted. And look, they will say, for all the huffing and puffing of people on Twitter, they failed in what they set out to do. It's good for getting people worked up, they will tell you, but not for getting things done.
Or you could look at it another way. You could say that until something as instant as Twitter arrived, it was hard to register the retching disgust at reading something as unpleasant as Moir's vile dribbling, and that it happened to be an efficient medium to express and channel this legitimate anger and frustration with the mainstream media. The protest failed to get Moir the sack, and failed to get the PCC to accept that a transgression had taken place, because this was never going to happen, but maybe that wasn't the point. Was it pointless to protest against the Iraq War, if it then took place? Is there no point in protesting about anything, if you aren't listened to the first time? Protest and dissent isn't a matter of getting your message across and then, because you're right, achieving all your goals and getting home before teatime. Protesting about things is quite often a matter of frustration, of meeting resistance, of those who have the power pulling up the drawbridge and hoping you'll go away. The Twitter anger over Jan Moir wasn't trying to break down the door. It was just politely knocking to let those inside know there was someone outside. These things take time.
The history of these things is already being written. Some will say this result just goes to prove that there's no value in Twitter, or in people other than the clever journalists being allowed to think about things, because the rest of us are silly billies who should just stick our thumbs in our mouths and let the big boys tell us what to think and how to think it. They're wrong. The anger over the Moir column was righteous, and right. Reading it even now still makes me angry. It was right to be angry about it. It's important to let people who have a million readers know that they need to be careful about what they say, because they may well upset a lot of people if they get it wrong, and that doesn't in any way clamp down on freedom of speech.
There are more voices out there now. Time was when it was a one-way conversation between our masters in the Fourth Estate and the rest of us; they shouted and we had to listen. Now, we can shout back, if we like. More voices means more freedom of expression, and more freedom of speech. If the press choose to have self-regulation - and they do - then they should be prepared for the public to call them out when they get things horribly wrong. Perhaps this ruling just shows how irrelevant and pointless the PCC really is. Perhaps it shows that it was never going to give the answers that people wanted. Perhaps the PCC may listen to the consultation with the public it recently opened up, or it may simply shake its head and say, No, we don't want your input, but thanks all the same. In which case, it's not regulation at all, merely a pretence of regulation.
And have we really changed anything, those of us who complained, who tweeted, who wrote annoying blog posts about the Jan Moir saga? Perhaps changing anything wasn't the point. Perhaps by protesting, by announcing we were there at all, that was an achievement in itself. You can be sure that many journalists will simply turn away as if nothing happened; they will write valedictory columns about Moir and doing down the protesters, as Stephen Glover already did some time ago - at a time, incidentally, when the Daily Mail officially said it couldn't comment on the matter because it was waiting for the PCC adjudication.
But I think they would be wrong to do so. This was just a first skirmish. I've said before the tide was coming in - and got roundly slapped round the chops by a crusty old newspaper columnist, in a badly written and poorly researched piece that didn't do him any favours, for doing so, which if anything confirmed my suspicions. I think that kind of recalcitrance indicates something beyond mere contempt for us, the great unwashed, daring to speak out for ourselves on the issues we want to talk about rather than leaving it to our beloved journalists to do it for us, important and vital though real quality journalism is. I think it indicates fear that the tide really is coming in.
This, then, was just the beginning. It may be business as usual, for now, but things are changing. We are on the horizon. Not a mob. Just people, who don't want to be quiet any more.
Here's an interesting decision from the Pathetically Craven Commission, about an article by Christopher Booker in the Telegraph:
The article [headlined Rise of sea levels is ‘the greatest lie ever told'] was a column by Christopher Booker on the subject of climate change. The complainant said that this piece - which was primarily an account of the views of Dr Nils-Axel Mörner - contained a number of inaccurate and misleading statements, including that sea levels had dropped around Tuvalu in recent decades, when the scientific evidence indicated that they had, in fact, risen (this was repeated in a second article published on 25 July 2009).
The complainant argued that Dr Mörner's visits to the Maldives ‘to confirm' the position had subsequently been disproved by other scientists. The article had also inaccurately stated that the satellite-based evidence of the IPCC (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) had been altered to show a global sea-level rise based on the findings of a single tidal gauge in Hong Kong. In fact, this alteration had been scientifically justified, and the final conclusion on the global sea-level rise was based on multiple measurements from satellite altimetry and tidal gauges based around the world.
The PCC made it clear they couldn't judge accuracy or otherwise in sources' comments or arguments, which is fair enough. Imagine how much work they'd have to do if they did:
In this particular case, the Commission started from the position that a complex issue such as climate change will inevitably lead to robust and ongoing debate. It is not of course for the PCC to make findings of fact on where the truth about climate change lies, but to consider whether newspapers have abided by the terms of the Code when presenting information to their readers. For instance, they have the right to publish controversial or minority opinions, but they are obliged to distinguish between comment, conjecture and fact.
But did Brooker's article do this?
Similarly in Tuvalu, where local leaders have been calling for the inhabitants to be evacuated for 20 years, the sea has if anything dropped in recent decades. The only evidence the scaremongers can cite is based on the fact that extracting groundwater for pineapple growing has allowed seawater to seep in to replace it. Meanwhile, Venice has been sinking rather than the Adriatic rising, says Dr Mörner.
Is that fact or opinion? Only the third sentence is couched in "Dr Morner said". You could argue that the first two are covered by that, but I don't think so.
Also interesting is how the Telegraph offered to remedy things. Initially:
The complainant had submitted a letter for publication after these articles appeared, which the newspaper had declined to publish.
Then, much later, when the PCC had become involved:
At a late stage, it offered to publish a letter from the complainant, and to mark its cuttings with it in relation to the Tuvalu issue.
So there's the power of the PCC. To make newspapers publish letters they wouldn't otherwise publish. Long after the initial article has appeared. Good skills, too, from the Telegraph, really maintaining its position as Britain's top quality paper.
I'll have to confess something now which I imagine a lot of people who read this blog may well disagree with, but I'm going to say it anyway.
I can't bear reading Roy Greenslade.
I know I'm supposed to read him and enjoy him, but I can't. Not a bit. Well, I think to be fair there was one thing he wrote this year that was quite interesting for a couple of paragraphs, but reading his usual output, to me, is a bit like plodding through a muddy field in high heels - awkward, embarrassing and demoralising, particularly if your dad happens to be driving past.
I can't adequately explain why I should feel this way and I'm sure he's a lovely man who, to most other people interested in the media, is a riveting read. Maybe he's just a much more successful and remunerated version of someone doing the kind of things I do, yet doing them much more articulately and more precisely, with less swearing, and that annoys me. That could be it, but I don't think so.
But reader, I have to tell you that given a choice between Greenslade and, oh I don't know, Clarkson, I'd go for Clarkson every time. I'm bound to agree with most things Greenslade says and disagree with most things Clarkson says; but I know who I'd rather read - Clarkson's words spark off the page and get your brain working - often to think "What the hell do you think you're saying, you donut? But that other thing you said did make me laugh, you naughty little guilty pleasure, you" - while Greenslade's make me feel like repainting the banisters instead. Sad but true, and like I say it's probably jealousy or something. But anyway, I needed to get that off my chest. Don't judge me.
Today, Greenslade ponders the Twitterstorms that have happened this year, with particular reference to the Jan Moir incident. Go there and read it if you must - I'll see you in a few hours' time, and don't blame me if you find yourself with your face in the keyboard, lightly moistened by drool that's lazily slobbered out of your mouth in your narcoleptic state.
Anyway, while I can kind of see some of the points he makes - that Twitterstorms aren't really that marvellous at effecting a great deal of change, and are going to lose their impact over time - I can't agree entirely. I think that the Jan Moir episode was a splendid reaction to being spoonfed the same sort of bollocks repeatedly by the mainstream media time and time again, and having things said that were just plain nasty and beyond the pale. It's a similar case when you look at what happened with the 'Should homosexuals be executed?' discussion on the BBC's Have Your say website. It's not a case of saying: "I don't think anyone should discuss this" - it's a case of asking: Why do you think it's a good idea? Why do you choose to host such poisonous views?
Let me explain a little more clearly - probably less clearly (this won't do my slagging-off of Greenslade any good, if I end up being even less interesting than him; it'll kind of make me look silly. But I'll press on anyway). If you owned a pub, and you found out that that nice group of lads who held a meeting upstairs every week were actually BNP, would you be happy for that to carry on? You might well. But you might not, and it would be your decision as to whether they met there or not. They couldn't say to you: "Wurrrrgh, freedom of speech mate, you've got to let us, or you're a fascist, though hang on a minute, that's something we aspire to, shit, haven't thought this through properly, bugger..." - or they might say exactly that, who knows? The point is, it's your decision. Society at large says you can't, for example, refuse to serve black people into your public bar; but you can do whatever you like with your own space. And it's the ownership and the publicness of the space that I'm talking about.
True freedom to say whatever you want without consequences doesn't really exist, and nor should it in every circumstance. (If you think that's a horrendous thing for a liberal to say, then you won't mind me popping this letter in the post to your boss, next-door neighbour and children's school, saying that you're a convicted paedophile, will you.) There's a balancing act when you're dealing with media with thousands and millions of viewers and readers; there's an implicit responsibility not to offend unless it's in the public interest, and not to offend at all in certain circumstances.
Which brings me to the Gately story. Now his partner has complained to the PCC, this does change things slightly. Whereas before the 25,000 complaints could be summarily dismissed with a pat on our heads and a "Sorry, you just don't understand what the clever adults are up to". They must take it seriously - and how they deal with it will determine what kind of PCC we have. I'm fairly sure what kind of PCC we have, but I'll reserve judgement on this particular occasion until they've decided.
A couple of things need to be added to the Moir story to bring it up to date. Firstly, one of the Sunday red-tops (and I forget which) carried an interview with the other person who was in the holiday home the night Gately died, giving fairly intimate details of the kind of thing which, he claims, went on. Secondly, Stephen Glover wrote in the Mail that that story therefore validated everything Jan Moir had said. I didn't link to it at the time because I didn't want the cunt to get any meagre dribble-through of traffic from here, as he didn't deserve a single page impression, let alone the 25-odd extra he'd have got. Incidentally, at around this time, the Mail refused to give a quote to Gay Times on a story they were running about the Moir debacle, using the defence that the PCC complaint was still going on - funny that didn't seem to matter when Glover sharpened his pencil (or had his butler do it).
But Glover was wrong, and it's worth reiterating a couple of things. Firstly, we have only this one person's view that that's what happened on the fateful night. You might say "Why hasn't Andrew Cowles sued him?" and I'd say "Oh, I don't know, something about being recently bereaved and not wanting lurid accusations to be thrown around in court, something like that". So you have to bear that in mind. But secondly, and most importantly, it still doesn't matter, even if there was a massive gay orgy going on in that holiday home on that night, with dozens of people involved and all sorts of spectacularly filthy things going on: that still doesn't make it right for Moir to have written what she wrote, when she wrote it, being nasty, saying his death was 'not a natural one by any yardstick', not waiting for the corpse to get cold, calling into doubt the involvement of drugs in the death - that was all wrong. Factually incorrect in the case of the doubts about the death, and just plain nasty in the case of the lurid speculation.
Should she be prevented from writing that kind of thing? If it's factually incorrect, then yes. For the nastiness, I don't think so - but if it offends a lot of people, you'd better have a bloody good public interest argument as to why you did it; and if it offends a person directly connected, then you're really in trouble unless you are terrifically sure that what you wrote benefits the wider reading population. Otherwise you end up looking like a pretty vile and malicious individual who has hurt someone at a time of great stress and grief, just to make a bitchy comment or two. Is that all right? My freedom of speech instincts (much as I'll be accused by my usual trolling friends of not having them) begrudgingly say yes, but I wonder how much damage can be done to a brand by causing such widespread offence. Maybe the Mail loved all the attention and hoped it would all die down, which it hasn't. Maybe they don't get it. Maybe they get it and don't care. Who knows.
But as ever with these things, we keep coming back to Trafigura, another Twitterstorm this year. As I wrote the other day, the BBC have taken down an article about Trafigura and toxic waste dumping under huge financial and legal pressure. If you're rich enough to afford top libel lawyers rather than go through the PCC process, you're in a much stronger position. As ever, it's money that really talks when it comes to 'freedom of speech'.
On the one hand, you have people genuinely fighting for the freedom to report, who are being squashed by the libel system and huge corporations who have knowingly poisoned people; on the other, the feeble-minded bastards who do nothing more than say offensive, vicious and disgusting things hide behind the 'freedom of speech' defence and demand the right to be heard without any consequences whatsoever.
Something strikes me about this as being a little bizarre. If we are to have free speech (within certain parameters, and balancing it within the right to privacy) then let's really have it. Otherwise, can we sort out the real bullies and real enemies to freedom before we go around protecting the rights of people like Jan Moir to be vacuous and offensive?
At the same time as the PCC is
going through the motions of representing public accountability reaching out to the readers of newspapers up and down the land and asking how the Complaints Commission can be made even better than it already is, with people getting their heads together about how best to do that, moves are afoot to try and reform libel law.
It strikes me that these things are connected. They both represent, in a way, the response that members of the public have when confronted with something they don't agree with written in the press. The first option - going to the PCC - is not the same as going to Ofcom or complaining to the BBC Trust, in that in some instances you can't make general complaints about the press unless you're directly involved in the story or are a relative of someone who is; the way in which complaints are handled is not the same either. The second, more nuclear, option, is suing for libel, which has its own costs, and own pitfalls.
At the moment, it's incredibly difficult for an ordinary member of the public who is appalled by what has been written about them to get anything other than a tiny retraction on page 94, unsatisfying even if the PCC rules in their favour, and often impossible for people not directly involved with a story to complain about factual inaccuracies or misleading rubbish. Meanwhile, it's disproportionately easy for massive corporations ruining people's lives to stop a single line of truthful and accurate reporting from getting out, if they use the libel laws to their advantage.
This situation seems deeply inadequate.
*update* A working group is to be set up by the Government following the publication of a forthcoming report by the Culture, Media & Sport select committee. I don't know whether this will address the issues raised by possible PCC reform or not but it might at least give an opportunity for something to be done.
The PCC, the people who
don't regulate our press, are asking for suggestions.
I think it would be worth telling them, and the chairman of the Code of Practice Committee Paul Dacre (Yes, that name does ring a bell for some reason but I can't quite work out why), what changes could be made to the editors' code of practice. As the Code Committee Secretary writes:
It welcomes suggestions from the public, civil society and the industry on how the Code might be revised to improve the system of self-regulation of the press, of which it is an essential component.
If you are inspired by this and would like to write a detailed, polite and respectful letter to the PCC to try and invite them to change their code for the better, please CC me in on it if you've got time - and we'll see how many of our suggestions are accepted by the committee, and how much they really do listen to the voice of the public.
I will of course be submitting my own suggestions in the fullness of time, which may include the following:
- For editors not to publish intrusive reports on the background of someone who is missing and may be dead
- For editors not to publish unpleasant polemic about people who have recently died, based on their sexuality
- For editors not to publish series of articles which manipulate statistics or simply use evidence that is factually incorrect to mislead readers on subjects such as religion, race and immigration
I wonder what the committee, and its chairman Paul Dacre (funny, but I'm sure I've heard of him somewhere before), will make of that? I'm sure they will give due consideration to the subjects at hand.