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July 01 2010

15:26

PCC director speaks out over Lord Puttnam’s criticisms of regulatory body

The director of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) Stephen Abell has come out fighting in an article on Index on Censorship after Labour peer Lord Puttnam said earlier this week that the regulatory body should be shut down.

Speaking in a speech on parliament and young people on Tuesday, Puttnam said the PCC should be scrapped if newspapers failed to improve their behaviour within a year. In comments made to MediaGuardian, he said the PCC should work to prevent “the slow reduction of politics to a form of gruesome spectator sport” and “ensure the general representation of young people is more representative of reality”.

Abell says Puttnam’s remarks were not based on “well-informed and considered comment” about the PCC’s role and work, but says they are a starting point for debate:

Lord Puttnam is keen to assert that the PCC “cannot” instruct newspapers to be nicer to politicians and young people (two items on his wish list) without pausing to ask the question: should it? There must be the argument that if any body – even a self-regulatory body like the PCC – were to dictate the tone of political coverage, or suggest that there should be more positive stories on youth issues, the result would be a very significant restriction on freedom of expression.

(…)

However, and this is very important, he is right that the PCC must be active agents in maintaining newspaper standards. The coverage of politics, or of issues affecting the young, are two important areas. The PCC must ensure that we hold editors to account for what they report and how they report it. We must ensure that inaccuracies are corrected, intrusions and distortions prevented.

Related reading on Journalism.co.uk: Stephen Abell’s first interview as the new director of the PCC.Similar Posts:



May 19 2010

15:24

March 29 2010

17:09

PCC upholds complaint over Rod Liddle’s Spectator post; first ever blog censure

Just in from the Press Complaints Commission: its first ever magazine/newspaper blog censure – for Rod Liddle’s 92 word Spectator post on 5 December 2009, that claimed an “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”. A reader’s complaint of inaccuracy was upheld.

“This is a significant ruling because it shows that the PCC expects the same standards in newspaper and magazine blogs that it would expect in comment pieces that appear in print editions,” said PCC director, Stephen Abell.

“There is plenty of room for robust opinions, views and commentary but statements of fact must still be substantiated if and when they are disputed.  And if substantiation isn’t possible, there should be proper correction by the newspaper or magazine in question.”

Here’s the PCC’s statement:

The Press Complaints Commission has upheld a complaint about an entry by Rod Liddle in his blog for the Spectator.  This is the first time that the PCC has censured a newspaper or magazine over the content of a journalistic blog.

The piece in question was published on 5 December 2009 and claimed 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”.  A reader complained that the statement was incorrect.

In concluding that the article was indeed in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, the PCC recognised the magazine’s argument that the nature of a blog post is often provocative and conducive to discussion.  It was certainly true in this case, for example, that a number of readers had taken issue with Mr Liddle’s claim and had commented on the blog.

However, the Commission did not agree that the magazine could rely on publishing critical reaction as a way of abrogating its responsibilities under the Code.  While it had provided some evidence to back up Mr Liddle’s position, it had not been able to demonstrate that the ‘overwhelming majority’ of crime in all the stated categories had been carried out by members of the African-Caribbean community.

Nor could it successfully argue that the claim was purely the columnist’s opinion – rather, it was a statement of fact.  As such, the Commission believed that ”the onus was on the magazine to ensure that it was corrected authoritatively online”.  In the absence of such remedial action the Commission upheld the complaint.

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March 23 2010

17:04

December 21 2009

10:09

Stephen Abell officially takes over as PCC director

It was an appointment announced in November 2009, but today Stephen Abell starts as director of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC). In a release issued today, the PCC says:

He assumes responsibility for the day-to-day running of the Secretariat, succeeding Tim Toulmin who announced he was standing down from the role earlier in the year. Stephen was previously deputy director.

Background: PCC appoints Stephen Abell as new director

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