Tuesday, 7 July 2009

That second adjudication in full

Right, still no announcement on the PCC's site of the second adjudication, so here it is:

http://www.mediafire.com/file/3myt0kmnndz/Adjudication 2.pdf

As before, contact details are blacked out. Also helpful might be the results of the literature review:

http://www.mediafire.com/file/g4dzrtj2ny1/Same-sex adoption - Literature review.pdf

This is name-checked in the adjudication as the 'over twenty studies' I cited - the interesting thing here is that, for all their love of context, the Commission didn't get the point of these studies in relation to my argument. It's not weight of numbers which is important, it's the lack of 'repeated academic studies' or 'an increasing weight of academic evidence', i.e. that accuracy that I'd been complaining about.

Also interesting is the claim that the newspaper cast doubts on these studies - I was never shown their criticisms, although I trust they will be weighty and peer-reviewed. The Commission also fails to note my concern that the one paper the Mail cited wasn't itself peer-reviewed, and so had roughly the same authority as the newspaper itself does.

I'd also note again that the Commission agreed that the Mail had been misleading, but not that anyone misled needed to be told that they had been. Which brings me back to the conclusion that I drew from the last adjudication - there is no point seeking correction from the PCC. Their adjudications fail to engage with the arguments which have been made, their rules flex to accommodate what has been written, their sanctions are inconsistent with their rulings.

So where now? I think we need to find more public ways of dispelling media inaccuracy, both through direct engagement on a personal level with those the media has misled but also through wider fora. The Internet is a useful tool, but no substitute for direct, participatory action - one of things that's come out of this is the need for a greater communication between interest groups, single mothers coming under the same attacks as the LGBT community from the same shoddy 'academic' data, the scientific community being smeared by the misrepresentation of their methods, religious groups having their faith hi-jacked by special interests. Introducing this blog on another site I described it as an attack on us all, and it is. We need to bring misreporting and misinformation in general into our more established criticisms of society and the state because it's causal, not symptomatic.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

PCC ruling in full

Right, in the absence of any movement on the PCC's website, I've uploaded the adjudication of the Melanie Philips complaint (which pre-dates this blog) here:


There are a couple of things to note. The first is that the complainant is the same as for the two Amanda Platell complaints - me. I apologise for the slight subterfuge previously - I didn't want this blog to prejudice the complaints with the Commission, so didn't want to make public that the author of this blog and the supplicant to the Commission were the same person. As it transpired this was slightly over-cautious, as the Commission ruled principally in the newspaper's favour anyway. I hope I can be forgiven this. The other thing is that I've blacked out the contact details of myself and the name and contact details of the person I dealt with at the Commission. Finally, the 'Esq' is not my chosen affectation, it was granted by the PCC and it seemed churlish to refuse it.

The adjudication allowed for the publication of a letter outlining my position. My proposed text was this:

http://www.mediafire.com/file/e0l0hodcmml/Proposed text of 'right to reply'.pdf

the Mail's response was this proposed text:

http://www.mediafire.com/file/ejiozw2wdwm/Mail's proposed right to reply.pdf

and the resulting letter was one originally proposed by the PCC, published today in the Mail:


Unfortunately, I don't feel I can publish the correspondence between myself and the newspaper in the earlier stages of the complaint - fun though it is. Unlike the proposed letter, it was not intended for publication and is stamped 'Private and Confidential', which I feel I should honour. I should also mention that the contact details for the correspondent at the Mail have been removed.

So where does this leave us? From my point of view, I've started to reconsider my position on the feasibility of the PCC as a forum for resistance to the inaccuracies of the Mail and print media in general. The moment came when the adjudication reached 'The column had made it clear that there was research which concluded that gay adoption did not affect children negatively'. What the column had said was, in fact, '
Such people routinely claim that research shows there are no adverse outcomes for children from same-sex adoption. These claims are totally untrue.' The PCC took a statement denying the existence of evidence to be 'making it clear' that evidence existed. Reading that rather tortuous re-imagining of the text, it strikes me that the PCC is not so much a body to hold the Press to account as one to justify their actions within the Code. It becomes a way of legitimising press coverage, rather than scrutinising it.

On that basis, a mass movement to protest at inaccuracy becomes counter-productive. The Mail continues as before to tout their single, non-peer-reviewed, partisan 'study' as evidence of a flat-earth, but now do so with the feather in their cap that an outside body has approved the accuracy of their position.

This presents a problem - how do we prevent the systematic misleading of a readership of 1.6 million people which preaches a doctrine of division within the community and seeks to harm children in care by denying them the opportunity of a stable family? I'm not at all sure I have an answer to that yet.