The Press Complaints Commission are absolutely certain that they are an effective regulator and recently released an incredibly rose-tinted statement about how their ‘important work’ will go on and that:
Members of the public will still come to us for help, and our staff will offer it to them. Intrusions will be prevented and inaccuracies corrected. Newspapers and magazines will still be held to account by the Commission. We are pleased that all sectors of the industry (national, regional and magazines) have pledged their renewed commitment to adhere to the Code enforced independently by the PCC. Our work will go on.
You only need to read any of the well-established media blogs or indeed open any copy of a tabloid newspaper to see that the Press Complaints Commission has utterly failed in its role – and with the freedom from redress that the press currently enjoys it is no wonder the PCC still receives the backing of media organisations. As ever – like the PCC Twitter account that never acknowledges a single word of criticism but instead exists in some kind of bubble in which everything is hunky-dory – the PCC is completely out-of-touch with reality. They are supposed to work for and satisfy the public, not the industry they are supposed to be regulating. If they were doing their job properly the press would hate them, not pat them on the head like a loyal dog.
However, putting the uselessness of the PCC to one side for a moment, what if things were even darker, what if the PCC itself was inherently corrupt?
Cannabis Law Reform (CLEAR) is a political party registered with the Electoral Commission under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA). They recently contacted the PCC over an article in the Burton Mail that ‘published the wholly false statement that cannabis causes mental health problems’ – CLEAR argue that:
The issue is the old chestnut of whether cannabis causes psychosis. Those who are acquainted with the science will know that while there is clear evidence that cannabis use is a risk factor, there is no proof at all that it actually causes mental health problems.
So far, so straightforward. Where it gets interesting is that when CLEAR received a response from the PCC they got more than they were expecting:
A few days ago I received a letter from the Press Complaints Commission. However, when I opened it I realised it wasn’t intended for me. It was for the editor of the Burton Mail against whose newspaper I have recently made a complaint. It had been mistakenly sent to my address.
Inside the envelope was a covering letter, a copy of my complaint, a print out of the article concerned and one final item which has left me reeling in shock and disappointment. It was a page from the Lancet with a paragraph highlighted, clearly offered to the editor as ammunition with which to contest my complaint.
This is an astounding development which goes straight to the integrity of the commission. I have considered it carefully but I can interpret it in no other way. It is cast iron proof of corruption and dishonesty.
As Richard Peppiatt commented on Twitter after reading the CLEAR blog post: ‘This only backs up my belief that the PCC is a press pressure group masquerading as a regulator…’.
I will be Tweeting this blog post to the PCC’s Twitter account but I doubt I will get any kind of response from them. In the meantime I will keep an eye on the CLEAR blog and will keep you updated on whether they get a response to the follow-up letter they sent to the PCC on this matter – read their full blog post for details.