Friday, 16 October 2009

The Press Complaints Commission, the Daily Mail and Jan Moir

I submitted a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission about the Daily Mail article by Jan Moir ‘A strange, lonely and troubling death …’ on 16 October 2009. My complaint, under clauses 1, 3, 5 and 12 of the Code of Practice ran as follows:

“This article is speculative without any attempt to find out the facts, intrusive into private issues and a family grief without any relevance to issues which are in the public interest, and outrageously homophobic in both content and tone. If this kind of abusive and ill-informed comment is allowed to proliferate, we will have a press full of insinuations against anyone in the public eye, full of poisonous innuendo, pretending to preach warnings and caution to a public intended to be terrified, but based on absolutely no research, knowledge or intention to inform. It is not sufficient to sanction the author, who appears to be simply a big mouth looking for attention. A national newspaper which publishes such material, without any attempt to verify its insinuations and without any regard to the insult which it gives to the gay community which it belittles and demonises, should be publicly upbraided for its shockingly low standards of taste and banned from carrying any advertising for a period of at least a month, to ensure that it suffers an economic sanction for its lapse of standards.”

I very quickly received the following reply:

“Dear Tony Bovaird

Thank you for sending us your complaint about the Daily Mail article on the subject of the death of Stephen Gately. We have received numerous complaints about this matter.

I should first make clear that the Commission generally requires the involvement of directly affected parties before it can begin an investigation into an article. On this occasion, it may be a matter for the family of Mr Gately to raise a complaint about how his death has been treated by the Daily Mail. I can inform you that we have made ourselves available to the family and Mr Gately's bandmates, in order that they can use our services if they wish.

We require the direct involvement of affected parties because the PCC process can have a public outcome and it would be discourteous for the Commission to publish information relating to individuals without their knowledge or consent. Indeed, doing so might unwittingly add to any intrusion. Additionally, one of the PCC's roles is dispute resolution, and we would need contact with the affected party in order to determine what would be an acceptable means of settling a complaint.

On initial examination, it would appear that you are, therefore, a third party to the complaint, and wemay not be able to pursue your concerns further. However, if you feel that your complaint touches on claims that do not relate directly to Mr Gately or his family, please let us know, making clear how they raise a breach of the Code of Practice. If you feel that the Commission should waive its third party rules, please make clear why you believe this.

Press Complaints Commission”

Somehow, this doesn’t seem very convincing, does it? I find it hard to believe that this very weak response has anything to do with the fact that the Chairman of the Press Complaints Commission is Paul Dacre, who is editor of the Daily Mail. However, I’m thinking about what else might explain it and haven’t managed to come with anything very plausible just yet. Can you help?

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