Reform of the PCC – Any Ideas?

April 1, 2009 at 2:20 pm (Media) (, , , )

I’ve contacted the Media Standards Trust, who have been asking for suggestions on the reform of media regulation*. As it stands, I don’t believe the PCC is effective as a regulator and I think changes are needed.

Here’s my email:

I read recently that the Media Standards Trust are inviting comment on reform of the PCC. I have read various suggestions recently (and thought of a few myself) and list a few of these below:

Firstly, I think there is an argument that self-regulation isn’t working and that in the future the press could be more effectively regulated by a body made up of members of the public as well as those working in the trade.

Secondly, I agree with the following suggestions made by Martin Belam on his website:
End the requirement for personal involvement; end the requirement for a hard copy; update the code to reflect the reality of online; insist corrections be reported online by newspapers; hold monthly meetings in public; publish data –

Another idea I am in favour of is the idea of the regulatory body to have the power to recompense individuals/groups affected by the inaccurate, distorted, and/or misleading stories that currently pervade the mainstream media.

Two further ideas I have seen recently: 1. Class any newspaper that prints upskirt shots of low-rent celebrities as pornography, tax it accordingly and have it moved to the top shelf. 2. Remove the zero rating on vat for papers which print misinformation that endangers public health (e.g. the MMR debacle). The ‘no tax on knowledge’ line shouldn’t apply when the newspapers are printing untruths.

Some of these ideas were nicked from people on the internets. TomP and Martin Belam are two I stole from.


  1. dvnutrix said,

    Well, some strong views there jdc – I must admit the kerfuffle about up-skirt shots had escaped me but eugh – newspapers are doing that?

    I loathe and abhor the misinformation that is printed in newspapers. However, I am stumped as to how one arbitrates between a truth and untruth in a timely manner.

    Nonetheless, I do think that newspapers need to carry prominent corrections both in print and associated with the offending article if online.

    I shall read your recommendations and think some more.

  2. Gonzo said,

    I think it’s really good!
    Maybe Ben Goldacre’s latest story on suicide and his example of how press coverage of suicides are handled in Austria should be mentioned.

  3. jdc325 said,

    Thank you Gonzo Girl – I think Ben Goldacre’s piece on suicide reporting is excellent and that reporters ignoring guidelines on reporting suicide is unforgiveable*. The Samaritans have guidelines for reporting on suicide, as do the PCC (section 5 of the code). With regards the PCC guidelines on suicide, I will quote from Sarah Ditum:

    So, to review this cascade of twattery: the PCC has guidelines on how suicide should be reported. These guidelines were ignored in 12 cases. The PCC was especially critical of the manner in which the Telegraph’s online article breached the code, and “expected that the situation would not be repeated”. Two months later, the material is still there and still extravagently explicit. Excellent self regulation there. Fearsome and authoritative as ever. [Link.]

    *They also ignore guidelines on how to report on certain groups and individuals – for example Stonewall, Shift, and the National Autistic Society provide guidelines to journalists on recommended terminology etc, yet I still see media reports that use inappropriate terminology to refer to people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual, or people with an autism spectrum disorder. I’ve even seen references to people with mental health problems as being “nutters”.
    NAS Guidelines; Stonewall Dictionary; Shift have a page full of links to resources for journalists reporting on mental health issues or suicide.

    EDIT: Gimpy currently has a post up titled “Irresponsible journalism and mental health #119” – here.

  4. jdc325 said,

    Thanks for dropping by dvnutrix.
    “I loathe and abhor the misinformation that is printed in newspapers. However, I am stumped as to how one arbitrates between a truth and untruth in a timely manner.” According to Nick Davies in Flat Earth News, only 12% of key factual statements in media reports showed signs of having been thoroughly checked. [The figure also appears in this report of a speech made by Davies.] As far as I can tell, journalists aren’t even attempting to corroborate factual statements – because they are positively discouraged from doing so. Churning out the number of stories that are required from them nowadays leaves journalists with no time to check anything. What appears in our daily newspapers now is even less reliable than I had realised.

    “Nonetheless, I do think that newspapers need to carry prominent corrections both in print and associated with the offending article if online.”
    Absolutely. Given the seriously flawed reports appearing in our media, prominent corrections (both in print and online) are the very least that consumers of the modern media deserve. I think it is shameful that the PCC does not do more to encourage this.

    Nick Davies reports one interesting idea in the speech I linked to above:

    In an imaginary world I’d like the media to be put through the same sort of regulation as foodstuffs, so that you have to label the content of a newspaper, so you would need some institution to be funded and set up to test the extent to which a particular media outlet produces falsehood and distortion. So the Guardian would have to run its running average – over say the preceding six months, for example, and say, 56 per cent of this newspaper’s output turned out to be not true.

  5. 3-in-1 PCC Complaint « jdc325’s Weblog said,

    […] think that the PCC is ineffective and have called for reform. My letters to the editors of the Mail and Telegraph are here. My post about the red meat/blindness […]

  6. Sarah said,

    I think these are all excellent suggestions, and it feels hugely important that the PCC sorts itself out. Its approach to online material is so spectacularly weak: I emailed about the Telegraph story, and as well as there being no repercussions for the story being on the website (down to a “software error”, apparently), they’ve got no policy on internet editorial techniques like linking. Hopeless.

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