Is the Press Complaints Commission corrupt as well as useless?

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.

12 thoughts on “Is the Press Complaints Commission corrupt as well as useless?”

  1. That’s appalling, terrifying and shocking.

    No wonder the PCC remain generally uncriticised.

  2. They couldn’t have picked a better time to make this fuck up. I hope to God this news goes national.

  3. have had a positive response that my MP Steve Brine will be investigating this on our behalf.
    this is surely corruption in my humble view

  4. Wow, I just thought that the PCC’s real job was to reject as many complaints as they could while pretending the ones left weren’t really all that bad. I didn’t realise they actually went to that much effort. Actually building the newspapers defence for them? Didn’t think I could be surprised by how bad the PCC were, turns out I could.

  5. I assume the only objection that Mr Reynolds has to the PCC’s conduct is that they have included part of a Lancet article in the bundle sent to the paper. When an investigating body receives a complaint, it is standard practice for a copy of the complaint to be sent to the person or organisation against whom the complaint has been made inviting them to comment. Statutory Ombudsmen do this; elected Members do it when they receive a complaint from a constituent. It would have been bad practice for the PCC not to have invited the Burton Mail to comment on the complaint. So the only issue here really is why the Lancet article was included. You could look at it two ways. It could be saying “Oh god, here’s another cannabis bore wittering about biased press coverage, just quote this and we will say that your report might have been couched in local newspaperese but it is still a valid way to report the evidence. Don’t worry, we’ll tell him to go away.” That is obviously how Mr Reynolds saw it. Or it could be saying “Here is some evidence of which the complainant is obviously aware, perhaps you ought to have a look at this and consider whether your report was maybe just a bit slanted”.

    I am not sure there is enough here to conclude that the PCC is corrupt.

  6. I have copied and pasted this from a website;

    The PPC’s ‘decision’
    The failure to respond to a direct complaint was, of course, regrettable and the Commission took the view the inaccuracy could have been corrected sooner. It accepted the newspaper’s explanation that a genuine human error had resulted in an oversight and remained satisfied that the action – taken on the day the complaint was received via the PCC- represented a sufficient remedy to the complaint under clause 1 (ii)”.
    You might even notice, “…that the action – taken on the day the complaint was received via the PCC”, that the ‘Barmy Army’ ignored the fact that my twelve emails were sent almost six weeks earlier. Oh yeah, human error’ you won’t find that in any of the ‘rule’ books either, I’ve looked!

    Want to know more;

  7. Did someone say the PCC were honest and work within the EDITORS’ CODE OF PRACTICE!
    Copied and pasted from a ‘well known’ website: –

    “The Journalist and the Guardian have failed to honour their own codes of practice, the PCC has stepped outside of the EDITORS’ CODE OF PRACTICE which, in my opinion, makes the Commission guilty of ‘Maladministration’, add to that Sir Michael Wilcocks sitting on his hands for nine weeks I believe gives me the right to refer my complaint to the Ombudsman which I will be doing in the coming week”.

    Read more?

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