Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
London SW1P 4QP
6 September 2011
to follow reasonable rules in procedures and administration
delay in taking action or failing to take action
treating someone unfairly compared to others
|Please find enclosed: -|
3 The PCC's Decision.
"Clause 1 (ii) states that a significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence". Of course when the 'Commission' make a 'distortion' of the facts to favour their newspaper members that then becomes acceptable and the Commission will covertly add it to the 'EDITORS' CODE OF PRACTICE'.
The second point (fourth paragraph of the Decision) "The failure to respond to a direct complaint was, of course, regrettable..." Of course it was 'regrettable' but the Commission 'distorted' the facts by giving the impression the newspaper acted 'promptly' by saying they were "...satisfied that the action - taken on the day the complaint was received..." The Guardian and others received in all six emails on the 30th March a second set of six emails were sent again on the 15th April for which I received automated replies. I sent a complaint to the PCC on the 4th May and I understand Rebecca Hales contacted the newspaper on the 9th with my complaint and by clever use of wording the PCC disguised and 'distorted' the meaning of 'promptly' by saying "taken on the day the complaint was received" (six weeks after the complaint was actually made to the newspaper).
'Regrettable' is not part of the "Editors' Code", 'Promptly' is written in there which the Collins Dictionary states "acting or done at once or without delay; punctual". The "direct complaint" which the PCC advise you to do in the first instance was made to the Guardian and others on the 30th March the response came on the 9th May, six weeks later and not in 'response' to the "direct complaint" but was "via the PCC" to which I had been forced to make a complaint to get the attention of the newspaper.
The PCC say in the Editors' Code "1(i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information..." but when the Commission are defending the news media "inaccurate, misleading or distorted information..." is used by the Commission in their defence of the newspaper.
Third point (again, fourth paragraph of the Decision) "It accepted the newspaper's explanation that a genuine human error had resulted in an oversight..." As we know most complaints will stem from somebody's 'error' which was, in the first place, the Editor of the Guardian, Elisabeth Ribbans, let me quote Mr Justice Tugendhat "... you are a publisher and anyway you didn't take reasonable care in relation to the publication" and, in the second place, the Letters Editor at the Guardian, Chris Elliott, who ignored emails for six weeks because he thought the problem was 'more complex'.
Back to the Commission accepting "that a genuine human error had resulted in an oversight", you will find there is no mention of 'genuine human error' or any other type of 'error' in the "EDITORS' CODE OF PRACTICE", but what the PCC do say is; "It is essential that an agreed code be honoured not only to the letter but in the full spirit". You will notice when the Commission act within the 'Code', even when adding in a 'distorted' twist, they quote the 'Code' but when they 'step outside' there is no sign of it being quoted. I think it's quite clear the Commission want their cake and to eat it too.
Error! In my case a "genuine human error"
was, in the opinion of the Commission, a legitimate reason/excuse for
the Guardian's Editor to totally ignore a complaint, make an 'erroneous'
publication and call an innocent party "The
scourge of all lawyers, good and bad". Let us look at
when a complaint by the Hampshire Constabulary v Aldershot News &
Mail was referred to the Commission in which a 'human error' was
'Human error' and a 'genuine human error', very confusing that the Commission find that one is a 'genuine' excuse and the other is not. In the Hampshire Constabulary complaint, mentioned above, against the Aldershot News & Mail the newspaper "expressed sincere regret that this had happened" through "human error" Decision: Upheld. The complaint I brought against the Guardian the Commission find it "was, of course, regrettable" and "It accepted the newspaper's explanation that genuine human error had resulted in an oversight" and "remained satisfied" it "represented a sufficient remedy to the complaint under Clause 1 (ii)". Ok, I'm in my mid 70's and to all intents and purposes a little 'senile' (some might think) and don't quite understand the younger generations thinking, the "EDITOR' CODE OF PRACTICE" needs writing in a language that I can understand i.e. it appears "genuine human error" is covertly hidden in the 'Editors' Code' and as we know by the Hampshire Constabulary that it is probably "regrettable", for the Commission, that "human error" is not part of the Editors' Code so the complaint could be 'Upheld'! Confused? Who wouldn't be?
question that I believe needs an answer is 'is the Commission guilty
of 'discrimination' when they look at who is making the complaint and
then markedly treat one far less favourably than the other'?
Let's get to the 'slap on the wrist' that is their standard grand finale of their 'Decision' making; "That said, the Commission trust that steps would be taken where possible to avoid similar oversights in future". That sentence alone, in anyone's eyes, clearly puts the Guardian's Editor at fault for not taking "reasonable care in relation to the publication" (Mr Justice Tugendhat) but not in the 'eyes' of the Commission. It sounds more like a Sid James's 'Carry On' comedy than a 'Complaints Procedure'.
At this point I must quote the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg who said "that the Press Complaints Commission has to change", calling it "toothless" and a "complaints body at best run by the Newspapers for the Newspapers". This Press Complaints Commission is the biggest, loudest 'Rottweiler' you would ever want to meet which as Nick Clegg states is "toothless" and is only there to protect it's 'Masters'.
If I sound annoyed it is because I am very annoyed that the Guardian ignored me for six weeks and my twelve emails, allowing the situation to spiral out of control and the Commission distorted the facts to give the impression the Guardian acted 'promptly' when they responded to my request. Oh I forgot, they did not 'respond' did they, they only did that six weeks later after the PCC contacted them on the "9th May". Don't let us forget the fact of why I was ignored until the PCC contacted the newspaper was that the Letters Editor, Chris Elliott, who received two emails said he "...read it quickly and didn't realise he wanted a simple correction to a web address. I thought the issues were more complex and thought I would return to it". Of course Elisabeth Ribbans', the Guardian's Managing Editor, excuse for Chris Elliott was "that a genuine human error had resulted in an oversight" from which the members of the Commission decided "human error" should be part of the 'EDITORS' CODE OF PRACTICE' and "honoured not only to the letter but in the full spirit".
Don't let me forget Sir Michael Wilcocks sitting on his hands for nine weeks looking for some way to 'appease' the 'honourable' members of the Press Complaints Commission.
Finally, Rebecca Hales, Complaints Officer at the PCC, stated in her letter to me on the 25th May '11 "The Commission will now consider the matter formally under the terms of the Editors' Code". The 'Editors' Code' on the surface appears straightforward with no 'distortion' of the facts so one would believe, but the Commission adds in factors like 'regrettable', 'human error', 'oversight' and their interpretation of 'promptly' (which in the eyes of the Commission means at least a six week delay) rules that they covertly add to the Editors' Code so Complainants will not be aware of their relevance!
. . . . . Record of events from the 4th May
to the 12th
the email I received from the Rebecca Hales, PCC Complaints Officer,
dated 9th May (enclosed) under "...points
about our procedures..." two words stand out, 'Speed'
it sounds like the Editor should be named "Usain Bolt" and
'Transparency' sounds a bit like "Collusion" to me.
imagine if the Referees had 'distorted' the rules on the day to 'appease'
the Sponsors', the TV companies and the Spectators who pay large amounts
to see Usain compete in the final(s) I'm sure the Guardian would be
the first to 'Shout' foul play. But due respect to the Referees, they
applied the rules as they stood at the time, as all others should do.
What am I 'Blabbering' on about? Well if the PCC want to legitimately make allowances for such as 'regrettable' - 'genuine human error' - 'oversight' - unfortunately not actioned - 'didn't realise' - 'issues were more complex' - 'high volume of correspondence' - 'in the process of switching email packages' - 'high volume of investigations during this period' - 'read it quickly' - giving 'promptly' a new meaning - 'distorting the facts', then the PCC must rewrite their EDITORS' CODE OF PRACTICE so Complainants know from the beginning that the 'Playing Field' is heavily tilted in favour of the PRESS COMPLAINTS COMMISSION's members of the news media. Then we can all remember "It is essential that an agreed code be honoured not only to the letter but in the full spirit".Who is to blame for the 'erroneous' publication? Let me quote from the Rick Kordowski recent prosecutions and the finger certainly points at Elisabeth Ribbans the Guardian's Managing Editor, but why has a supposedly Independent Self Regulating Commission covered her arse!