Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Damp Squib

Right, had a letter informing me of the Commission's decision - sadly not yet on their website (neither is the previous adjudication) - and it is somewhat disappointing.

In relation to Amanda's first claim, that of an 'increasing weight of academic evidence', the Commission accepts that this was misleading, but felt that the remedial action offered by the newspaper (removing the claim from the online version and noting on their library database that the claim had been challenged) was sufficient. It was not felt that anyone misled by the statement needed to be disabused of their misconceptions through a correction in the newspaper. The justification for this was:

"In the context of a comment piece - albeit that the part in dispute was a factual statement - and in circumstances where there was still debate about the academic evidence that did exist, the Commission concluded that this was a sufficient remedy to the complaint."

Which is baffling.

In relation to the second complaint:

"It was clear that the context of the piece was about adoption. Nonetheless, the disputed sentence was slightly more general, suggesting that 'repeated academic studies' showed that children fare best when they have a married mother and father in the home. This was not necessarily about adopted children only."

The disputed sentence, in context, was:

"Or how about the boss of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, David Holmes, who described as 'retarded homophobes' those who believe that heterosexual couples make the most suitable adoptive parents. This, despite the fact that most ordinary families recognise that a child fares best when it has a married mother and father in the home - a belief that is backed by repeated academic studies."

The Commission felt that it was not its position to make "an objective assessment of each piece of evidence provided by both sides" but that "it was legitimate for different people to cite certain evidence in support of their position at the expense of other evidence - particularly in the context of a comment article". On this basis, no remedial action was felt necessary. There is no appeals process.

It would appear that the plan of using the press watchdog to ensure accuracy was a little over-optimistic. The question now is whether we carry on in the hope that eventually they'll change their minds or we seek other means.

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