Tag Archives: press complaints commission

As Leveson reports… Why I’m sticking up for ‘Press freedom with no buts’

Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal will report this week. His recommendations on the future of press regulation are the subject of intense speculation, with essentially three positions being staked-out:

What’s being proposed

‘Independent regulation backed up by statute’
Advocates, who include Evan Harris and the Hacked Off campaign group, argue that the only way to ensure the press does not abuse its position in the future is for it to be regulated. But, they insist, this should be independent both of government and the press, the two main …

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A five point plan to reform the media post-Leveson

As investigative theatre goes, the Leveson Inquiry has been top-notch. As a route to embarrassing individuals for their past performance, it has excelled. As a way of unearthing previously secret information, it has been gripping.

But as a route for reforming the media? That’s a rather different story.

Some things have already been achieved. The Press Complaints Commission has already been sent to the retirement home for failed regulators and politicians have already been shamed into distancing themselves from newspaper moguls. It will be a long time before Ed Miliband repeats this sort of photo op, for example.

There is, however, an awful lot left to do, especially as Lord Leveson has not been looking at the underlying causes. As I wrote much earlier in the proceedings:

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The flaws in Ed Miliband’s media policy are no cause for rejoicing

It isn’t often that the members of one party should be worried about a proposed policy from a rival party’s leader collapsing under examination. However, David Elstein’s demolition of Ed Miliband’s proposal to limit ownership of newspapers by circulation should not provide more than a passing smile to Liberal Democrats, for it highlights the difficult of coming up with any meaningful change in the rules over newspaper ownership.

As David Elstein puts it:

Ed Miliband has proposed a 20% limit on ownership of national newspapers, measured by circulation. As the Sun’s circulation is more than 20% of all national newspaper sales, that would require News International to close The Times and either sell the Sunday Times or reposition it as a non-national newspaper (by ceasing to publish in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, where would-be readers would have to subscribe digitally). Even then the Sun’s circulation would need to be forced down, perhaps by restricting access to newsprint. In all likelihood any such measure would result in the combined circulation of the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday rising above 20%, so requiring similar measures to be targeted at them.

Banning a newspaper from appearing in parts of the UK? Making it illegal for a newspaper group to buy ‘too much’ paper? There are just too few newspaper titles with a mass audience for restriction on ownership by circulation to be practical.

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LibLink Nick Clegg: Regulating media, empowering citizens

Nick Clegg has a piece in Huffington Post UK today, on media regulation, responsible reporting and replacing the Press Complaints Commission.

He calls new news outlets, such as the newly-launched UK version news and comment website Huffington Post, “a welcome breath of fresh air” at a time when public confidence in the media establishment is being rocked by phone-hacking allegations.

Here’s an excerpt:

The hacking scandal throws up an array of insights. But one in particular stands out to liberals: information is power. It always has been. When elites deploy secretive and opaque practices, it is nearly always to protect their own

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Opinion: Liberal Democrats didn’t just avoid Murdoch, we tried to cut him down to size

In my last post for Lib Dem Voice, I pointed out that Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems had never courted Murdoch and his cronies.

Actually, that was just the half of it.

We didn’t just avoid him. We have tried, in different ways over a number of years, to cut the media mogul down to size and clamp down on the sort of abhorrent media practices that have been exposed of late.

As far back as 1994, the year before Tony Blair chose to fly to Oz to lick Rupert Murdoch’s boots, we were calling for the OFT …

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“The pillars of the British establishment are tumbling” – Clegg

The Independent features an interview with Nick Clegg, given on Friday during his visit to Paris.

He speaks of “politicians falling to their knees ingratiating themselves with media moguls”, “too many vested interests tied up with each other” and “a culture of arrogance and impunity” as he lists the casualties of recent crises: journalism and hacking, MPs’ expenses, and banking.

Here’s an extract:

The deputy prime minister senses a rare opportunity in the hacking scandal to carve out a separate niche. The Liberal Democrats have never wooed or been wooed by the media moguls. Unlike David Cameron and Ed Miliband, Mr Clegg

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Video: Clegg says PCC is “a busted flush” and “needs to be replaced”

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Adrian Sanders MP compares the PCC to a “fishnet condom”

Enduring image of the day, and, I’ll warrant, its first entry in Hansard*, goes to Liberal Democrat MP Adrian Sanders for his contribution to yesterday’s emergency debate on phone hacking at the News of the World:

…when one considers the Press Complaints Commission, the phrase “chocolate teapot”, or indeed the phrase “fishnet condom”, comes to mind.

Our 2007 inquiry had elicited a response from News International that it had carried out a full inquiry itself and was satisfied that the Mulcaire-Goodman case was isolated. That was patently untrue. Our second inquiry encountered more obstacles: Goodman and Mulcaire refused to present

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Opinion: Unfair and unbalanced – the scandal of print media referendum coverage

Buried amongst the furore caused by #harigate this week was a pretty damning ruling by the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) against the Sun and the Daily Mail. The complaint in question was made in relation to the AV referendum nearly two months ago by Electoral Reform Services – the business arm of the Electoral Reform Society (ERS).

The Sun and Mail were asked by the PCC to print letters apologising for some articles run during the AV referendum campaign. The article which ran on page 2 of the Sun and the front page of the Mail quoted George Osborne after he stood up in Parliament to claim that the ERS, one of the major funders of the Yes campaign would benefit financially from a ‘yes’ vote. This story was then re-run by Sky News and the BBC – subsequent rebuttals gave the story legs across a range of national media outlets.

You can be forgiven for not noticing since few journalists like to turn the spotlight on their own profession’s sometimes questionable practices.

Let’s just think about the context in which this fallacious claim was printed:

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Opinion: The PCC are to blame for the Ryan Giggs fiasco

At Conference last September, I proposed a motion that called for new rules to beef up the PCC, making it more independent of newspaper editors and giving it real powers to regulate the wilder elements of the press. The motion called on Lib Dem ministers to act now in the face of a growing number of legal injunctions that were being fuelled by lack of confidence in the regulator. In the long run lack of action would stand to restrict press freedom, I argued, because it would give weight to calls for an illiberal privacy law whereby politicians could …

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PCC rules against Daily Telegraph’s sting operation

Via the BBC:

A newspaper’s decision to secretly tape Liberal Democrat MPs breached press rules on “subterfuge”, a watchdog says.

The Press Complaints Commission said the Daily Telegraph had produced material “in the public interest”.

But it said the paper had not had enough evidence to justify what it called “a fishing expedition”.

Among those taped by reporters posing as constituents was Business Secretary Vince Cable, who was recorded saying he had “declared war” on Rupert Murdoch…

The PCC ruled the newspaper launched the “disproportionately intrusive attention” without sufficient reasons and said it would issue fresh guidance over the acceptable use of subterfuge.

Liberal Democrat …

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Press Complaints Commission toughens up correction rules for websites

As I’ve commented on before (such as here), there has often been a problem with the Press Complaints Commission upholding a complaint about a story but the news outlet’s website not being fully updated to reflect this. For example, the complained about story might continue to appear on a newspaper website without any indication in the story that it was subsequently the cause of a ruling against the newspaper.

Now however the Press Complaints Commission has issued new rules:

When a complaint is upheld by the PCC, the editor is obliged to publish it with “due prominence”. Here is some

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Press Complaints Commission upholds MP’s complaint over expense reporting

Here’s the main part of the ruling against the East Kilbride News:

The complaint was made by the MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow, Michael McCann. The article related to his Parliamentary expenses, which had been published following the release of the figures by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA). Mr McCann argued that a claim made in the article – that his expenses “include £1150 in hotel bills to fund his trips to Westminster, while he also claims for a rented property in central London” – was misleading because it suggested that he had claimed for hotel rooms at

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Farron triggers PCC probe into Telegraph’s Lib Dem MPs undercover sting

The BBC reports:

The press watchdog is investigating the Daily Telegraph’s use of undercover reporters to record Lib Dem ministers’ thoughts on the coalition government. It reported comments made by Business Secretary Vince Cable in a meeting with people he thought were constituents.

Lib Dem President Tim Farron asked the Press Complaints Commission to investigate. The PCC said 200 people contacted them over the story. The Telegraph said it was satisfied it acted within the PCC’s rules. …

A PCC spokesman said: “We have now received a letter from the Liberal Democrats asking us formally to investigate. We will do so under

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Meanwhile, in other news…

Let’s start with some updates on stories we’ve previously covered here on The Voice.

Conservative London Assembly member Brian Coleman has backed down from his attempt to ban questions to him at London Fire Authority meetings.

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) is to investigate the Daily Telegraph, following complaints from Tim Farron and others that the newspaper had gone on a fishing expedition rather than having the sort of public interest case which justifies journalistic subterfuge. On the substantive policy issue at stake, Ofcom look set to recommend that the Sky bid should be referred to the Competition …

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Small step forward on press corrections as press code altered

A press release from the Editors’ Code of Practice Committee (the body that draws up the code with the Press Complaints Commission implements) brings the news:

From next year, corrections involving the Press Complaints Commission – which oversees press self regulation in the UK – will be agreed with the PCC in advance, under new rules agreed by the Editors’ Code Committee, which reviews the Code…

Code Committee secretary Ian Beales said: “This amendment is designed to help kill the myth that newspapers and magazines routinely bury corrections. Research conducted by the PCC has shown this to be untrue – nearly 85%

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A polite round of applause for the Press Complaints Commission

We’ve often covered the issue of press standards on Lib Dem Voice, including posts such as those from myself calling for the Press Complaints Commission to be reformed – which was also the subject of a speech I gave at party conference. So it is only fair to give credit where some is due – as it is in the case of the PCC ruling against the Daily Star:

The Press Complaints Commission has upheld a complaint against the Daily Star about an article titled “Muslim-only public loos”, ruling that it was inaccurate and

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The press and the right of reply

Here on Liberal Democrat Voice we’ve often covered the work of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), including the motion being proposed at party conference on it and a response to motion piece from the PCC itself.

It isn’t only on Liberal Democrat Voice that the PCC has been given a full column to express its views. Last week’s edition of the party’s newspaper, Liberal Democrat News, also contained a column from the Press Complaints Commission, this time in the form of its chair Baroness Buscombe.

On reading it I was moved to pen the following letter, which appears in the …

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Opinon: when will the Press Complaints Commission wake up?

On Friday, the Daily Mail splashed with a story headined “England Star’s Gagging Order”. The story concerned an unnamed member of the England football team who had used the courts to stop a story about him from being published.

It was the second such injunction granted in a week, the Mail reported. The injunctions were granted by a High Court judge on the grounds that the stories would breach the players’ right to a private life.

For Liberal Democrats, such injunctions will be seen as a worrying development.

Our party’s constitution emphasises that we must “defend the right to speak, …

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The Independent View: PCC responds to party motion on its future

The motion on the Press Complaints Commission which has been selected for debate at the Liberal Democrat conference is concerning. It contains a number of inaccuracies and appears to be based on several false premises. It is especially disappointing because the philosophy behind the PCC and its independent self-regulation of the newspaper and magazine industry is entirely in tune with the Liberal tradition.

The PCC exists to protect freedom of expression, while upholding standards by ruling on strict criteria of inaccuracy, intrusion, harassment (and so on), and by establishing case law and the acceptable boundaries of practice. It provides a public service which is easily accessible, free to use and which speedily …

Posted in Op-eds and The Independent View | 10 Comments

Reform of Press Complaints Commission to be debated at conference

The future of the Press Complaints Commission is up for debate at the party’s autumn conference in Liverpool. A motion from Truro & Falmouth echoes many of the criticisms made of the PCC by the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee in its recent report. The motion calls for a fully independent regulator to take the place of the current structure which is heavily staffed by people holding current senior newspaper roles.

The motion also supports a shift in the PCC’s role from handling individual complaints towards upholding and improving press standards more generally. That’s a question I wrote about

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New twist over News of the World phone hacking allegations

In an unusual and dramatic turn in the long-running story of the News of the World (editor at the time, Andy Coulson) and the hacking in to the voicemail systems of people in the public eye, a lawyer whose claims were initially dismissed as wrong by the Press Complaints Commission is now sueing for libel.

As The Guardian explains:

Peta Buscombe, the baroness who chairs the Press Complaints Commission, has been sued for libel by a solicitor.

Writs have also been issued against the PCC itself and the Metropolitan Police by a London-based solicitor, Mark Lewis.

He is claiming damages for libel, including

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The Press Complaints Commission: dealing with individuals or dealing with journalism?

A common thread running through the Press Complaints Commission’s defence of its work is that it has been primarily created to deal with individual complaints, rather than being a regulator whose role is to improve the press overall. That’s why, for example, the PCC emphasises the proportion of complaints made to it which are concluded with the complainant happy with the outcome rather than, for example, focusing on how widespread certain practices are and whether they are increasing or decreasing.

To give an example: if a blogger were to complain to the PCC about a newspaper taking their work and reusing …

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The Independent View: Why it’s time to replace the PCC

Surprise, surprise. The Press Complaints Commission rejected the complaints about Jan Moir’s nasty attack on Stephen Gately.

If there’s any good to come out of this affair, perhaps it’s that this case reinforces the case for wholesale reform of the PCC. Here’s why.

The PCC is not independent

The PCC claims to be independent. One of the advantages of self regulation ought to be that it keeps the press out of the hands of politicians while still holding newspapers to account.

The PCC fails on both counts.

The Chair of the 17-member Commission is Baroness Buscombe, a Conservative member of the House of Lords. Her party …

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“Report blows a gaping hole in the News of the World’s line that only a sole rogue reporter was involved in illegal hacking of phones”

Reacting to the DCMS select committee report on “Press standards, privacy and libel”, which has just been published, Chris Huhne has said:

This report blows a gaping hole in the News of the World’s line that only a sole rogue reporter was involved in illegal hacking of phones, and reveals enormous worries about the feeble response of the Metropolitan Police in investigating what was clearly widespread illegal activity.

There are very serious issues at stake here for the privacy of the citizen and the report highlights deep concern at the weak reaction to these illegal intrusions by News International, the Press Complaints Commission ,

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Opinion: PCC’s rejection of Jan Moir complaint shows it up as entirely toothless

The Guardian reports that the Press Complaints Commission has rejected a complaint from Andrew Cowles, the partner of the late Boyzone singer Stephen Gately, over a Daily Mail article by Jan Moir originally titled “Why there was nothing ‘natural’ about Stephen Gately’s death”. Moir stated that Gately’s death was not natural, despite official reports to the contrary, and claimed that the circumstances were “more than a little sleazy”.

Over 25,000 people complained to the PPC over the article, claiming that it was homophobic and slanderous. The article went on to compare Gately’s death to the suicide of Kevin McGee, …

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New poll shows strong public support for reform of the Press Complaints Commission

A series of proposals to reform the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) have won the backing of the public in a new IPSOS-MORI poll (8-17 January, 980 individuals) commissioned by the Media Standards Trust:

  • By a 61% margin the public believe the chief purpose of this body should be to monitor compliance with the code of practice and conduct investigations where there is public concern rather than its current chief purpose of mediating on complaints between newspapers and complainants (73% – 12%)
  • By a 44% margin the public back an independent regulatory body over the current industry-run arrangements (52% – 8%)
  • By a 43%

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A challenge to the Press Complaints Commission to improve its code

The Press Complaints Commission is currently reviewing its Editors’ Code of Practice so a group of bloggers, including myself, have got together to propose five changes – and we’re running an online petition which you can sign too.

Amongst any group of people, the exact reasons for supporting the suggestions will vary but for myself they are:

(a) All the suggestions are obvious and easy ones which ask no more of newspapers than to meet the sorts of standards many journalists and editors have long since said they should meet.

(b) They pass the “what if your kids asked…?” test, by which …

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Stephen Gately’s partner complains to PCC over Moir article as a “connected party”

From the BBC:

“Stephen Gately’s civil partner Andrew Cowles has formally complained to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) over a Daily Mail article about his death.

Mr Cowles claims Jan Moir’s column, published in October, breached guidelines on accuracy, intrusion into grief or shock, and discrimination.

A PCC investigation will also consider the 25,000 complaints about the piece.”

As Mark pointed out in October the Press Complaints Commission’s remit states:

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What should be done with the PCC?

That’s the question asked in today’s Media Guardian, following the controversies associated with the Press Complaints Commission in the last month.

First, there was the PCC’s ruling that the Daily Mail didn’t owe Iain Dale an apology for branding him ‘overtly gay’. Then there were the record-breaking 22,000 complaints submitted to the PCC following the Daily Mail’s publication of a snide piece by Jan Moir attacking Boyzone singer Stephen Gately’s lifestyle and implying it contributed to his death.

And then the PCC’s new Chair, Baroness Buscombe, delivered a lacklustre and confused address to the Society of Editors, before setting any number of hares running by suggesting the PCC might have a role in regulating blogging.

Finally, the Guardian’s editor Alan Rushbridger quit the PCC’s oddly named Code Committee after the regulator’s pusillanimous response into allegations of illegal phone hacking by a number of tabloid newspapers.

All in all, a busy month for the PCC.

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