Sunday, March 06, 2011
PRESS COMPLAINTS COMMISSION DECIDE THAT THEIR RULES DON'T COUNT AND THAT ANY NEWSPAPER IS FREE TO LIE - No surprise
This was expected because the PCC have previous for saying that just because something in their Code is stated this does not mean they actually meant it. It is hardly surprising that, if they don't have any respect for their written rules, they will have equally little for precedents.
The dog that didn't bark in their response is their failure to condemn, or even mention, that fact that the Herald editor had quite blatantly and deliberately lied to them saying "in the past two years, we have published 20 letters from Mr Craig, the vast majority of which have been about renewables and other energy-related subjects". In fact I had only had 4 letters overall published and only 2 which could be considered on related subjects. I assume from the refusal to mention it that have acknowldged it was a total lie. A newspaper deliberately perjuring themselves in testimony to the PCC must obviously, in the PCC's eyes be more serious than merely deliberately lying to readers. By making not even the tiniest complaint about this the PCC have openly and deliberately given a green light to any publication to tell any lie in a PCC investigation and also in any newspaper story.
My thanks to the Press Complaints Council for proving, again, that they are, under no circumstances an honest professional oversight body and in fact are nothing but a newspaper funded lobby organisation.On top of that they have confirmed that any paper that accepts them as a referee of professional standards can, under no circumstances, honestly claim to have any professional standards that involve not lying.
I can't say any of this is surprising but since I believe in the experimental method, considered it worth proving.
The complainant was concerned that the newspaper had published three readers’ responses to a letter he had submitted on the subject of renewable energy (headlined “Renewable energy is more costly than other clean sources of electrical power”). One of the replies highlighted mistakes in the complainant’s correspondence and he had argued that the newspaper’s failure to print his response to that criticism both denied him an opportunity to reply and would have misled readers into thinking that he could not formulate a rebuttal.
The Commission recognised that the letters page provides, in many publications, a valuable platform for readers to engage in frank exchanges of robust opinion with other interested parties. While Clause 1 (iii) permits the publication of such comment, newspapers still have a responsibility to ensure that letters are accurate and, if a significant error does occur, a fair opportunity for reply is given when reasonably called for.
The Commission noted that when outlining his concerns, the complainant had cited an upheld adjudication by the Press Council in 1983 which stated that in circumstances where a letter named an individual and challenged him to reply to questions “there [was] no doubt that the editor was under an obligation to publish the complainant’s answers”. There were a number of reasons why the Commission could not rely on this particular adjudication when considering the complainant’s argument: 28 years had passed since it was issued; the Press Council was disbanded and replaced by the independent Press Complaints Commission in 1991; the Code has been revised approximately 30 times since the inception of the PCC; and each case must be considered on its individual merits.
On this occasion, the complainant’s response to Mr Hansen’s letter did not identify any inaccuracies: it merely accepted the author’s position that the figures he had given were incorrect and offered a further interpretation of statistics relating to the production of electricity.
The Commission made clear that the selection and presentation of material is considered to be a matter for discretion by individual editors provided, of course, that the Code of Practice has not been otherwise breached. In circumstances where Mr Hansen had not demanded a response from the complainant, the Commission took the view that the newspaper was permitted to make an editorial judgement as to whether its readers would be interested in the complainant’s further correspondence and when it was appropriate to bring the debate to a close.
Readers generally would have recognised that the subject of renewable energy and government plans for sustainable power was a matter of ongoing discussion. They would not have been misled into believing that the newspaper’s failure to publish the complainant’s further thoughts on the matter meant that he felt unable to respond or, indeed, that all parties had reached a consensus. No breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) was established by the complaint.
Finally, the Commission turned to the complaint under Clause 2 (Opportunity to reply). It noted that no inaccuracies had been determined as to raise a breach of Clause 1 of the Code and it therefore followed that there was no breach of Clause 2.