Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Saturday, 17 October 2009

The Jan Moir case and the PCC

Mark Pack has a great post on Lib Dem Voice today where he dissects the Press Complaints Commission's remit and explains why he thinks their oft-used criteria of "normally" requiring the person or family of the person directly affected to complain should not apply in the Jan Moir, Stephen Gately article case.

He suggests the following reasons:

(a) The widespread public reaction to the publication of the piece, resulting in the crashing of your website, a special page being added and your staff going on the record that they have received a near record number of complaints. That by itself is not a “normal” case.
(b) When someone’s relative has died there are all sorts of reasons as to why they may not wish to take up any regulatory actions. People may wish to grieve in private. They may have bureaucratic complications to deal with. They may wish to think about the media coverage of their personal tragedy as little as possible. Whatever the reason, these are precisely the sort of circumstances in which normal rules about requiring them personally to complain should not automatically apply.
(c) The nature of the complaints about the article, particular on the grounds of discrimination, is one that affects the wider population. For example, if a newspaper piece was to incite racial hatred, that could have an impact on people other than those named in the piece.
(d) Your remit explicitly provides for considering complaints from people other than those directly affected – hence the use of “normally”. If this is not such a case, what is?

I think all his points have merit but for me, point b) is the strongest. Why should his grieving family have to cope with pushing the complaint through? I also think point c) is strong as well as I think it could well have the effect of spreading discriminatory sentiment more widely.

The PCC has seemed largely toothless to me over the last few years. They need to grow some quickly.

If you want to lodge a complaint with the PCC yourself, you can do so here. You should make sure that you address the remit question in your complaint, perhaps using one or more of the above (in your own words!) or other criteria if you see fit.


Dippyness. said...

Can we not allow his family, husband & friends to grieve in peace.
Is Jan Moir worth any sort of recognition?
How hurtful, it must be for his family to have this being dragged out.
Boycott The Mail. Simple.
Celebrate his brief but happy life. #RIP Stephen Gately.

Mark Pack said...

Thanks for the write-up! I didn't put (b) top of the list as it's a bit nuanced: people should have the right to grieve as they see fit, so have to steer a careful path to avoid going against what they want. But sometimes there is a legitimate wider interest.

Adrie van der Luijt said...

Moir's column affected all gay people directly, for a start. It was not just about Gately, but about civil partnerships and a 'gay lifestyle' in general. That means that her article affects and offends gay people directly and as a consequence the PCC should take their complaints as seriously as those that may be received from Gately's relatives.