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UK Press Censor News


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30th December   

Update: Misery Objects...

Page 3 nutters make submissions to the Leveson Inquiry
Link Here
Full story: Leveson Inquiry...Considering UK press censorship and regulation

Four nutter groups: End Violence Against Women, Equality Now, Object and Eaves -- are calling on the Leveson inquiry to move away from addressing the concerns of celebrities and other victims of alleged phone hacking by News International and look at the daily treatment of women, which they claim contributes to a society where rape can only be committed by evil strangers down darkened alleyways and where a woman is valued only because of her body.

In four detailed submissions the groups lay out what they see as the worst culprits. The organisations say they took a small sample of sexist, and often misleading, articles from a vast number of supposedly offensive reports.

End Violence Against Women (Evaw) pulled out 10 examples which they say provides a snapshot of poor reporting of violence against women stories which were either intrusive, inaccurate, which misrepresented or were misogynistic, victim-blaming or condoning violence against women and girls . The portrayal of prostitutes in the media was also damaging, according to the Evaw submission. It feeds into myths about prostitution, which at worse lead to attitudes that tolerate violence against women in prostitution or regard it as inevitable, it said.

A joint submission from anti-sexualisation campaign group Object and Turn Your Back on Page 3 charted a week in the life of the Sun, the Daily Star and the Sport . It highlighted an article on 14 November when the Sun trialled invisible shaping bum boosters by testing men's reactions when a woman bent over at work, and, according to the groups, eroticises a form of sexual harassment making it appear that it is what women should, and do, seek from men .

It criticised the same newspaper for presenting itself as a family product, offering a free toy on its front page while containing adverts for XXX DVDs and Page 3 imagery , and highlighted a article the day earlier which provided tips for women on how to stop your man having affairs which included the advice: Men have three basic instincts -- food, shelter and sex. If you nail that as a woman, there's no need for him to look elsewhere.

The organisation's campaigns manager Anna van Heeswijk said: Sexualised images such as 'Page 3' are banned from the workplace due to the intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment that these images can create. Yet, in a situation unusual to the UK, these images saturate national tabloids which are sold without age-restriction in newsagents and supermarkets and which are read and left lying around in the public domain.


16th December   

Comment: Worthless Kitemarks...

PCC to suggest that bloggers should buy into press accuracy standards
Link Here
Full story: Leveson Inquiry...Considering UK press censorship and regulation

The new PCC chairman Lord Hunt has told journalist David Hencke in an interview: At the moment, it is like the Wild West out there. We need to appoint a sheriff.

He's referring to bloggers. His plan is to invite political bloggers to volunteer for regulation by the PCC's replacement. Blogs who promise to abide by the new code will get a kitemark of approval.

The PCC will be replaced with a body more independent of newspapers, David Hencke is told, and the plans will be presented to the Leveson Inquiry.

Lord Hunt tells him:

I want accuracy to be the new gold standard for blogs. Once they have agreed to be accurate, everything would follow from that. I would like to see a Kitemark on the best blogs so the public can trust what they read in them.

And there's a catch, bloggers will have to pay to be regulated, like newspapers, reports Jon Slattery.

So is the current press 'accurate'? They just add a final paragraph to a piece saying something like the government refutes all accusations. The PCC kitemark doesn't seem to stop newspapers from claiming 40,000 trafficked sex workers turn up at world sports events, or that computer games are the root of all evil, or that sexy adverts undermine civilisation, or that a couple of tweets represent an 'outraged' nation.

Perhaps I should add that all so important balancing paragraph...

Mr Man-in-the-Street says that the British press accuracy i s the best in the world and is 2nd to none.


2nd December   

Comment: Self Misleading Regulators...

Time for the PCC to consult the public
Link Here
Full story: Leveson Inquiry...Considering UK press censorship and regulation

If the press and the Press Complaints Commission want to regain the public's confidence, they need to stop claiming they know their readers' minds better than the readers themselves - and start listening .

That is the conclusion of writer and sexual rights campaigner, Jane Fae, in a written submission to the Leveson Inquiry, looking at the way in which the press deal with complaints about inaccuracy and misleading copy.

On the basis of complaints submitted over the last two years, Ms Fae provides an analysis of clause 1 of the PCC's editorial code of conduct, which requires media not to publish inaccurate or misleading material and to rectify inaccuracies as these are drawn to their attention.

She concludes that despite an ability to publish stories with remarkable speed, once they have published, the UK press is exceedingly reluctant to correct any aspect of a story: responses to any questioning tend to be slow and exceedingly defensive.

Ms Fae also notes a carelessness in respect of sources used to stand up stories, with comment regularly sought from individuals whose knowledge of an area is slight or non-existent and reliance on secondary sources (so once a story has appeared in one newspaper, it will be repeated very closely by others, with little checking carried out)

There also appears to be a reluctance to take correction from individuals better qualified to provide fact or opinion in an area.

Above all, however, she is highly critical of the PCC approach that suggests that it is capable of determining whether or not the public has been misled by an item with reference only to editorial opinion on the matter.

She said: The PCC have in the past treated with utter incredulity the idea that they should survey public opinion in respect of stories claimed as misleading. Yet it is the PCC's view that lacks credibility.

Other regulatory bodies -- such as the Internet Watch Foundation and the British Board of Film Classification go out of their way to involve independent and expert views in moderating their decision: yet when it comes to determining what the public have understood from a story, the PCC wholly refuse to hear anything from the experts on this matter -- the public themselves.


14th November   

Maintaining a Free Press...

Chris Patten of the BBC speaks against Ofcom style censorship for the press
Link Here

Speech by Chris Patten, Chairman of the BBC Trust, to the Society of Editors Annual Conference on 13th November 2011.

Why the BBC needs a free press

I may have in due course to explain the standards we apply to our journalism at the BBC to the Leveson Inquiry. If so, I hope I can make a convincing case that the sort of regulation that covers us is appropriate for broadcasters but would not work for newspapers.

There is a kind of symbiosis between the BBC and the press. We do different but complementary things. The BBC depends on the press for some of its news agenda and it gives some stories back to the press to pursue further. The style of the tabloids is not something we could or should try to match. But nor should we be snobbish or squeamish about it. The Sun under Kelvin McKenzie added (to use the word in the old-fashioned sense) to the gaiety of the nation. I still have a copy of The Sun's front page Up Yours Delors , written of course by our Diplomatic Correspondent . Trevor Kavanagh is plainly one of the outstanding political writers of his generation. I have not always agreed with The Daily Mail (perhaps I am guilty of understatement) but I greatly admired its brave campaign in pursuit of the murderers of Stephen Lawrence and -- which I trust won't annoy him too much -- I try not to miss Quentin Letts. It may be that I have always been more relaxed about the tabloids than some former political colleagues because I have never been convinced that they set the political agenda decisively. I used to be the Chairman of the Conservative Party. When after the election in 1992 we heard that it was the Sun wot won it , I reflected on the fact that our polling throughout the election campaign had shown that most of the public and its readers thought it was a Labour newspaper. Max Hastings is right to argue that political leaders demean themselves by the amount that they court the press. Looking back over the years it is clear that at least one very famous proprietor waited until it was pretty plain who would win an election and then threw his weight behind the predicted victor.

So I have no wish to turn our tabloids into trimmed down versions of The Church Times. Their vigour is an important part of the liveliness of our democracy. Free speech, and therefore that vitality, would truly be damaged if a single group of people, beholden to and perhaps even appointed by politicians, were to have the power to decide what should or should not be published. Statutory regulation of the press would in my view be more than wrong-headed, it would pose a real danger to the public discourse that underpins our democracy.

Only the press can reform the press

So the responsibility to ensure high standards of professionalism rests with journalists, their editors and their proprietors. My rather prosaic conclusion is that newspapers have to be given the chance to find their own solution -- although I note that already there is talk of Ombudsmen and backstop powers to help make any new system work.

But how can you give a system of self-regulation -- a form of accountability that newspapers invariably scorn when others advocate it for their own industries and professions -- the credibility that the public seek?

It is particularly important because newspapers have played and continue to play a fundamental role in our democratic life. They can continue to do so - in particular if they can carve out a distinctive role and a position of trust in and amongst the din of the internet. They can help to close the democratic deficit that risks opening up in that new online world of endless unmediated opinion and information.


14th October   

Facing the Press or Facing the Music?...

Lord Hunt is appointed Chairman of the Press Complaints Commission
Link Here

Former Conservative Cabinet Minister David Hunt (Lord Hunt of Wirral) has been named as the next chairman of the Press Complaints Commission.

Current PCC chair Peta Buscombe had been expected to complete her three-year-term as head of the press watchdog and step down in the New Year. But it was announced today that Lord Hunt will take up his new role as of Monday.

The PCC is currently under huge scrutiny with the whole system of press self regulation under review as a result of the phone-hacking scandal. The regulator is expected to be radically reformed, and may even be abolished and replaced with a new body, once the Leveson Inquiry has finished its deliberations.

David Hunt said:

I am delighted I shall be leading the crucially important process of wholesale regeneration and renewal of the system of independent self-regulation of the press. My job is to ensure we create in due course an effective, genuinely independent standards body, which enjoys the overwhelming respect and support of the media, our political leaders and the general public.

Throughout my political life I have fought for freedom of expression; and a free press is the distinctive and indispensable hallmark of any truly free, civilised society. I have no desire to live in a country where the legitimate, lawful investigative activities of the press are fettered at the whim of politicians. That would not be freedom at all.

Those who work for newspapers or their digital off-shoots are, however, rightly bound by the law of the land, just like everyone else. They should also abide by recognised standards of professionalism, consideration and common decency.


18th September   

Jigsaw Identification...

PCC warn newspapers not to give clues that may add together to identify victims of sex offences
Link Here

The Press Complaints Commission has published a new Guidance Note for editors and journalists on the reporting of court cases involving sexual offences.

The Note reminds editors of the provisions of the Editors' Code of Practice in this area (namely, Clause 7 (Children in sex cases) and Clause 11 (Victims of sexual assault); and explains how the requirements of the Code can best be met. The guidance includes specific reference to the dangers of jigsaw identification and contains links to relevant rulings to remind editors of the Commission's case law in this area.

Stephen Abell, Director of the PCC, said: The anonymity of victims of sexual assault is absolutely paramount under the Code. Following several recent cases in which the Commission has found breaches of the Code, it felt it was important to produce the Note to minimise the risk of further mistakes being made. Although breaches are almost always inadvertent (and can result from the inclusion of a seemingly innocuous detail), the consequences can be so severe that it is right that the Commission has taken the initiative to draw together its thinking in this area. This forms part of the Commission's ongoing work to raise standards throughout the industry .


30th July   

Complaints Against the PCC Upheld...

Baroness Buscombe to quit Press Complaints Commission over mishandling of phone hacking scandal
Link Here

The phone-hacking scandal claimed another high-profile name when Baroness Buscombe announced she is to quit as chairman of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC). The Conservative peer will step down from her role following widespread criticism of the watchdog for mishandling the scandal.

Lady Buscombe will relinquish her post once a replacement is found.

Lady Buscombe's tenure has been marred by criticism that she has failed to deal convincingly with the phone-hacking allegations at the News of the World, an impression that was backed up by a recent unconvincing performance when she was interviewed by Andrew Neil on the BBC's Daily Politics Show .


17th July   

No Such Thing...

The Press Complaints Commission to review media ethics
Link Here

The Press Complaints Commission has welcomed the announcement of the terms of the inquiry into media ethics.

Last week, the Commission issued a statement making clear its intention to review its own constitution and funding arrangements, the range of sanctions available to it, and its practical independence.

The PCC remains committed to the establishment of a more effective system, one that supports appropriate freedoms, but demands the highest ethical standards. The PCC, and its independent members (who are in the majority), has led the call for appropriate reform. We welcome the consensus of Parliament that the model of regulation for the press should continue to be a non-statutory one.

We look forward to contributing to the work of Lord Justice Leveson.


17th June   

Update: Libel Arbitration...

Government considers the Press Complaints Commission for a first stage arbitration step before libel cases can go to court
Link Here
Full story: Censorship by Libel...British libel law allows the rich to censor the truth

Ken Clarke's Justice Department is considering sending rich and famous claimants to the Press Complaints Commission for arbitration before they are allowed to take their case to court.

Ministers say the system would be cheaper and quicker, and hope it could deter foreigners from flocking to our courts in so-called libel tourism .

At a meeting of a Parliamentary Committee investigating changes to defamation laws, Justice Minister Lord McNally told MPs that he was tempted to make complainants go to the PCC first: I do think that a credible Press Complaints Commission -- one that had general respect and could deliver non-legal fast justice in areas where people complained of press abuse -- is preferable to the law. If complainants want a rapid correction then mediation does offer a cheap and speedy way of addressing that.

Clarke said that the PCC would have to beef itself up to be able to take on the role, and would have to do more to ensure it had the confidence of the public.


28th May   


Press Complaints Commission review of 2010
Link Here

Claims of inaccuracy or distortion remain the overwhelming cause of complaint to the PCC. Just over 87% of complaints with merit in both of the last two years have referred to such issues. Similarly, the proportion of complaints made against national newspapers has remained almost exactly the same: 50.3% in 2010, set against 51.5% in 2009.

The PCC did not see campaign-type complaints on the scale of 2009, when we received over 25,000 emails and letters about a single article. And the number of complaints about matters of taste and offensiveness also fell dramatically, from 196 in 2009 to 78 in 2010.

Overall, the key figures show that the PCC remains successful in obtaining redress for those who have been wronged by newspapers and magazines. The PCC received over 7,000 complaints, a large number of these fell outside our remit (for example, complaints about adverts) or because the complainant did not respond to requests for further information about their concerns. The figure also includes multiple cases where the PCC would make one ruling to cover a number of complaints.

1,687 cases fell within the actionable jurisdiction of the PCC. 750 raised likely breaches of the Editors' Code of Practice. And in all but 18 cases, the PCC obtained suitable offers to remedy the concerns that had been raised. In those remaining 18 instances, the Commission formally ruled against newspapers or magazines which had breached the terms of the Code. Those rulings were published by the offending titles with due prominence and are available for public view on the PCC's website in perpetuity.

A statistical analysis also shows that the PCC's proactive, pre-publication work has substantially increased. Last year the PCC issued desist requests on just over 100 occasions, enabling individuals to inform the media that they did not wish to speak to journalists (often about distressing matters).


9th May   

PCC Tweet Tweak...

Newspaper censor set extend its remit to cover tweets from accounts associated with newspapers
Link Here

Reporter and newspaper Twitter feeds are expected to brought under the censorship of the Press Complaints Commission later this year, the first time the body has sought to consolidate social media messages under its remit.

The PCC believes that some postings on Twitter are, in effect part of a newspaper's editorial product , writings that its code of practice would otherwise cover if the same text appeared in print or on a newspaper website. Last year the PCC found it was unable to rule in a complaint made against tweets published by the Brighton Argus.

Its plan, though, is to distinguish between journalists' public and private tweets. Any Twitter feed that has the name of the newspaper and is clearly an official feed -- such as @telegraphnews or @thesun_bizarre -- will almost certainly be monitored. However, that principle could be further extended to cover a reporter's official work account, whilst leaving personal accounts as outside its ambit.

The PCC wants each newspaper to develop a Twitter policy , to tell its reporters which accounts are considered part of its editorial product and which are not. But with many newspapers, including the Guardian, republishing tweets on their site, many journalist musings are likely to be drawn in.

An online working group of the PCC has already recommended that the body undertake a remit extension , after consulting with the newspaper industry as to how Twitter regulation can be implemented. That consultation is due to finish in the summer and the new rules are likely to be in place by the end of the year.


18th February   

Prominent Corrections...

The Press Complaints Commission outline the prominence of online apologies, corrections and adjudications
Link Here

One of the key functions of the Press Complaints Commission is the negotiation of published remedies to complaints, in the form of letters, corrections and apologies. Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code requires that corrections and apologies be published with due prominence .

Online corrections and apologies

The following points are relevant:

  • Negotiation: in cases involving the Commission, prominence should be agreed with the PCC in advance .
  • For stand-alone corrections and apologies, editors should give consideration to appropriate placement on the relevant section where the original article appeared (such as the news or showbusiness section, for example).
  • If the resolution to a complaint is a stand-alone text (an apology, correction or letter), it will generally be appropriate to link to the original article under complaint (should it still be published online) and for the original article to link back to it. If the original article has been removed, then how long the apology, correction or letter should remain online should be the subject of negotiation with the PCC.
  • Corrections or apologies that appear on the original article should be clearly marked.
  • If the outcome of a complaint is that the text of the article is significantly amended, then consideration should be given to the publication making explicit reference to the existence of the alteration. How quickly the text has been amended will be a factor in this consideration.
  • Care must be taken that the URL of an article does not contain information that has been the subject of successful complaint. If an article is amended, then steps should be taken to amend the URL, as necessary.
  • Online corrections and apologies should be tagged when published to ensure that they are searchable.

Online prominence of upheld adjudications

  • Consideration must be given to the adjudication appearing in the relevant section of the website. This can be discussed in advance with the PCC.
  • If an article has been found to be in breach of the Code by the PCC, it should either be removed from the archive and replaced by the adjudication, or a link to the upheld adjudication should be prominently displayed on the article itself. This can be discussed in advance with the PCC.
  • The adjudication, when published, should be tagged to ensure that it is searchable.


9th February   

Think Before You Drink and Tweet...

Press Complaints Commission finds that there can be no expectation of privacy over public tweets
Link Here

The Press Complaints Commission has made its first ruling about the republication of information originally posted on Twitter.

In response to complaints about articles published in the Daily Mail and the Independent on Sunday, the Commission concluded that there had been no breach of Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Editors' Code of Practice.

The complainant was a civil servant working at the Department for Transport. The articles reported on a number of messages she had posted on her Twitter account about various aspects of, and her feelings towards, her job. In the complainant's view, this information was private: she had a reasonable expectation that her messages would be published only to her 700 or so followers; she had included a clear disclaimer on her Twitter feed that the views expressed there were personal, and were not representative of her employer.

In their defence, both newspapers argued that the complainant's Twitter account was not private. The posts could be read by anyone and not just those individuals who actively chose to follow her. The complainant had taken no steps to restrict access to her messages (although she did so after the Daily Mail article appeared) and was not publishing material anonymously. In addition, the newspapers argued that it was reasonable to highlight the messages in light of the requirements of the civil service code on impartiality. It was also reasonable for newspapers to give a view on whether it was acceptable for the complainant to have talked about such things as being hungover at work and to consider what this said about her judgement.

In reaching its decision on the case, the Commission judged that the publicly accessible nature of the information was a key consideration . It was quite clear that the potential audience for the information was actually much larger than the 700 people who followed the complainant directly, not least because any message could easily be retweeted to a wider audience. It also took into account the type of information that had been published by the newspapers, which in this case related directly to the complainant's professional life as a public servant. In all the circumstances, the Commission concluded that the newspapers' actions did not constitute an unjustifiable intrusion into the complainant's privacy.

PCC Director Stephen Abell commented: This is an important ruling by the Commission. As more and more people make use of such social media to publish material related to their lives, the Commission is increasingly being asked to make judgements about what can legitimately be described as private information. In this case, the Commission decided that republication of material by national newspapers, even though it was originally intended for a smaller audience, did not constitute a privacy intrusion.


12th January   

Not Getting their Facts Straightened...

The Daily Express and Daily Star opt out of PCC regulation
Link Here

The publisher Richard Desmond has effectively withdrawn the Daily Express, the Daily Star and OK! magazine from Press Complaints Commission (PCC) regulation.

The chairman of the Press Standards Board of Finance, Lord Black of Brentwood, said:

This deeply regrettable decision to exclude Northern & Shell from the system was taken only as a last resort, following the publisher's decision not to pay the industry levy which funds the work of the PCC. Payment of this levy is a vital sign not just of a publisher's commitment to the Code of Practice and the ethical standards contained in it, but also of a commitment to the protection of the public, as it is the levy which allows the PCC to deal with complaints it receives free of charge.

Lord Black said that other publishers would make up the shortfall to PCC funding.

A source indicated that Desmond's organisation no longer saw value in remaining in the regulatory system:

They feel they can operate the principles of self-regulation themselves and don't feel they need to do that by being a member of the PCC. They employ lawyers to check the facts on stories and will continue to do that.

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