Guardian

“Comment is Free” Subject to PCC Jurisdiction


There’s been a positive development over at the Press Complaints Commission, the self-regulatory body which deals with complaints about the editorial content of newspapers and their websites.

In a case involving a Spectator blog post on the Benefits of multicultural Britain, Rod Liddle made the following statement which triggered a PCC complaint by a private individual, Mr. Oli Bird:

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.

In its adjudication, the PCC upheld the complaint which was predicated on a claim that the offending statement above was in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors Code of Practice.

In finding for Mr. Bird, the PCC found that the Spectator was unable to demonstrate that the ‘overwhelming majority’ of crime in all the stated categories had been carried out by members of the African-Caribbean community.

Most significantly, the PCC opined that the nature of the blog post was one of fact rather than opinion even though blog posts are often of a provocative nature and despite the fact that the Spectator later published a separate blog post calling into question Liddle’s statement. As the PCC stated:

It was difficult to argue that the sentence in question represented purely the columnist’s opinion, which might be challenged. Instead, 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. It could not rely merely on the carrying of critical reaction to the piece.

The clear implication of this decision is that blog posts published in “Comment is Free” and in other blogs of the broadsheets are squarely within the jurisdiction of the Press Complaints Commission, an issue that up until now was the subject of some speculation.

Amplifying this point, PCC director, Stephen Abell, said:

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. 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.

With the shoddy level of “journalism” in the Middle East section of “Comment is Free”, it will be interesting to see if there will be any heightened level of scrutiny in the editorial process as a result of this decision.

Of course, if “Comment is Free” continues to pay short shrift to facts and context in its one-eyed coverage of Israel, its my prediction that given the ease of filing a PCC case, it won’t be long before the PCC will be faced with a case against the Guardian resembling that of the Spectator.

Categories: Guardian

9 replies »

  1. Hawkeye – I wonder if this case would also cover the insidious attempts to rewrite Jewish history that is now part and parcel of the daily diatribes on CiF?

    When historical and other well-authenticated facts can be simply brushed aside and replaced with completely imaginary versions of Jewish history, and the comments left there, with the obvious intention of creating a false version of history, is the Guardian then subject to the PCC ruling even on comments by its readers that it leaves standing?

    For example – the false claim that Arabs cannot build houses in E. Jerusalem when in fact , they can and do if they have building permits? The claim that Israeli is an “apartheid state” when it has no laws remotely resembling the SA apartheid regime’s? etc.

  2. @AKUS

    “Hawkeye – I wonder if this case would also cover the insidious attempts to rewrite Jewish history that is now part and parcel of the daily diatribes on CiF?”

    I would think so particularly with respect to historical events that can be easily verified.

    “is the Guardian then subject to the PCC ruling even on comments by its readers that it leaves standing?”

    You raise an interesting question here. I doubt the PCC would extend its jurisdiction at this stage to user comments despite the fact that the Guardian bears responsibility for their content.

  3. the PCC found that 52 % is not an OVERWHELMING majority (says the spectator) which implies to me that it might turn into a war of adjectives i.e. would DEFINITE majority have been OK?
    my bet is yes and if that is the gist of it there will not be much honey to be had from the thing.

  4. Interesting that the IPCC did not conclusively show that Liddle’s statement was inaccurate. In the Metropolitan Police area, according to Ministry of Justice figures: “In categories defined as ‘violence against the person’ and ‘sexual offences’, black people made up 32% of arrests. 58% of arrests for robbery were of black people but that was not an ‘overwhelming majority’. The MoJ statistics did not give specific figures for knife crime or gun crime.” Call me cynical but I suspect that a similar complaint about allegations against Jews, rather than black people, might not have been upheld.

  5. A campaign to bring CIF to account before the PCC should be the next step for CIFWatch. There are plenty of above the line articles which contain inaccurate and misleading information and in breach of the Accuracy clause.

  6. “For example – the false claim that Arabs cannot build houses in E. Jerusalem when in fact , they can and do if they have building permits?”

    This is a transcript of a speech given by the Mayor of Jerusalem at a meeting at Chatham House held on 22nd March 2010. It is very good because it not only gives his vision about how he’d like Jerusalem to develop but he does take and answers all the usual questions about , sovereignty and demolitions etc.
    Worth reading and saving as it answers a lot of the BS and drivel Guardian&Co put out

    http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/files/16214_220310barkat.pdf
    BTW I heard that the BDS nutters went ballastic over it

  7. Andy Gill

    A campaign to bring CIF to account before the PCC should be the next step for CIFWatch. There are plenty of above the line articles which contain inaccurate and misleading information and in breach of the Accuracy clause.

    My problem with CiF is that it continues to provide a platform for rank anti-Semites camouflaged as anti Zionists. It claims that this is not so. But it also claims that it is ‘fair and balanced’.

    Don’t laugh. Georgina wrote that in a letter to the Jewish Chronicle.

    So. If the Guardian was brought before the PCC and a lot of difficult evidence was presented, The Guardian would simply say that they will improve their ‘vetting’ of the articles.

    What is needed is something that hurts The Guardian financially and ’causes a ruckus’. I imagine that all the other major newspapers hate The Guardian with a special hate and would love to see the Guardian chastised by a court of law with appropriate ‘exposure’. This would further affect the Guardian’s precarious financial position.

    And Rustbucket has to go. He has been there, ‘presiding’ over this circus which has culminated in a site that is ‘anti Semite friendly’. (And he can take his daughter with him).