Saturday 26 November 2011

Why the PCC Has to Go

The Leveson Inquiry into the press is drawing a fightback from the media, trying to claim, in the face of all the evidence to the contrary, that the Press Complaints Commission is an adequate body to police the press from within.

@Latentexistence has just blogged the reply he got from the PCC into a complaint he made over a recent attack on people with ME/CFS and a bunch of other disabilities by the attack columnist Rob Liddle writing on the Spectator's website.

Liddle claimed that ME is not a 'real' disability. The PCC admit this is inaccurate, but claim it is an acceptable view to publish because it is clearly his opinion. By extension journalists can get away with any kind of offensive assertion by making clear that it is their own opinion. The problem here is that people read columnists like Liddle precisely because they consider their opinions to have weight. Effectively the PCC have granted journalists complete immunity from telling the truth.

The PCC then looked at whether the claim was discriminatory, and their justification why it isn't just beggars belief. They don't deny it is discriminatory, they just say that only individuals are protected from discrimination by the Code and that groups are fair game. Because discriminating against the group someone belongs to is clearly nothing like discriminating against them.... Again the PCC are granting immunity to journalists by creating a simple way for them to work around the Code.

Nor is this the only instance where the PCC have articulated similar views. A stream of complaints from disabled people about the concerted attacks on disabled people over the past year have drawn near identical responses. Essentially the PCC's view is that minorities can legitimately be abused in any way, shape or form, using any made-up fact, just so long as it isn't directed against a named individual. When the only arbiter of press standards openly considers minorities to be fair game for press bigotry, then it is clear that it not just time to get rid of the PCC, but to impose regulation on the press from outside, because clearly they are not fit people to impose it from within.

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