If the press and the Press Complaints Commission want to regain the public's confidence, they need to stop claiming they know their readers' minds better than the readers themselves - and start listening .
That is the conclusion of writer and sexual rights campaigner, Jane Fae, in a written submission to the Leveson Inquiry, looking at the way in which the press deal with complaints about inaccuracy and misleading copy.
On the basis of complaints submitted over the last two years, Ms Fae provides an analysis of clause 1 of the PCC's editorial code of conduct, which requires media not to publish inaccurate or misleading material and to rectify inaccuracies as
these are drawn to their attention.
She concludes that despite an ability to publish stories with remarkable speed, once they have published, the UK press is exceedingly reluctant to correct any aspect of a story: responses to any questioning tend to be slow and exceedingly
Ms Fae also notes a carelessness in respect of sources used to stand up stories, with comment regularly sought from individuals whose knowledge of an area is slight or non-existent and reliance on secondary sources (so once a story has
appeared in one newspaper, it will be repeated very closely by others, with little checking carried out)
There also appears to be a reluctance to take correction from individuals better qualified to provide fact or opinion in an area.
Above all, however, she is highly critical of the PCC approach that suggests that it is capable of determining whether or not the public has been misled by an item with reference only to editorial opinion on the matter.
She said: The PCC have in the past treated with utter incredulity the idea that they should survey public opinion in respect of stories claimed as misleading. Yet it is the PCC's view that lacks credibility.
Other regulatory bodies -- such as the Internet Watch Foundation and the British Board of Film Classification go out of their way to involve independent and expert views in moderating their decision: yet when it comes to determining
what the public have understood from a story, the PCC wholly refuse to hear anything from the experts on this matter -- the public themselves.
The new PCC chairman Lord Hunt has told journalist David Hencke in an interview: At the moment, it is like the Wild West out there. We need to appoint a sheriff.
He's referring to bloggers. His plan is to invite political bloggers to volunteer for regulation by the PCC's replacement. Blogs who promise to abide by the new code will get a kitemark of approval.
The PCC will be replaced with a body more independent of newspapers, David Hencke is told, and the plans will be presented to the Leveson Inquiry.
Lord Hunt tells him:
I want accuracy to be the new gold standard for blogs. Once they have agreed to be accurate, everything would follow from that. I would like to see a Kitemark on the best blogs so the public can trust what they read in them.
And there's a catch, bloggers will have to pay to be regulated, like newspapers, reports Jon Slattery.
So is the current press 'accurate'? They just add a final paragraph to a piece saying something like the government refutes all accusations. The PCC kitemark doesn't seem to stop newspapers from claiming 40,000 trafficked sex workers turn
up at world sports events, or that computer games are the root of all evil, or that sexy adverts undermine civilisation, or that a couple of tweets represent an 'outraged' nation.
Perhaps I should add that all so important balancing paragraph...
Mr Man-in-the-Street says that the British press accuracy i s the best in the world and is 2nd to none.
Four nutter groups: End Violence Against Women, Equality Now, Object and Eaves -- are calling on the Leveson inquiry to move away from addressing the concerns of celebrities and other victims of alleged phone hacking by News International and
look at the daily treatment of women, which they claim contributes to a society where rape can only be committed by evil strangers down darkened alleyways and where a woman is valued only because of her body.
In four detailed submissions the groups lay out what they see as the worst culprits. The organisations say they took a small sample of sexist, and often misleading, articles from a vast number of supposedly offensive reports.
End Violence Against Women (Evaw) pulled out 10 examples which they say provides a snapshot of poor reporting of violence against women stories which were either intrusive, inaccurate, which misrepresented or were misogynistic,
victim-blaming or condoning violence against women and girls . The portrayal of prostitutes in the media was also damaging, according to the Evaw submission. It feeds into myths about prostitution, which at worse lead to attitudes that
tolerate violence against women in prostitution or regard it as inevitable, it said.
A joint submission from anti-sexualisation campaign group Object and Turn Your Back on Page 3 charted a week in the life of the Sun, the Daily Star and the Sport . It highlighted an article on 14 November when the Sun trialled invisible
shaping bum boosters by testing men's reactions when a woman bent over at work, and, according to the groups, eroticises a form of sexual harassment making it appear that it is what women should, and do, seek from men .
It criticised the same newspaper for presenting itself as a family product, offering a free toy on its front page while containing adverts for XXX DVDs and Page 3 imagery , and highlighted a article the day earlier which provided tips for
women on how to stop your man having affairs which included the advice: Men have three basic instincts -- food, shelter and sex. If you nail that as a woman, there's no need for him to look elsewhere.
The organisation's campaigns manager Anna van Heeswijk said: Sexualised images such as 'Page 3' are banned from the workplace due to the intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment that these images can create. Yet,
in a situation unusual to the UK, these images saturate national tabloids which are sold without age-restriction in newsagents and supermarkets and which are read and left lying around in the public domain.
A coalition of women's groups have argued that such highly sexualised images presented as part of their submission to the Leveson Inquiry were ubiquitous in the UK media, and called for press censorship to tackle relentless sexism in some
areas of the press.
Four nutter groups, Eaves, End Violence Against Women, Object and Equality Now called on Leveson to back a ban on sexualised images in newspapers, arguing they would not be broadcast on television before the 9pm watershed.
The groups also accused some media outlets of perpetuating myths about rape, which they argued could prevent victims reporting the crime, and called for a tougher regulatory body.
Papers including the Sun, Daily Star and Sunday Sport persistently objectified women, portraying them as a sum of sexualised body parts , claimed Anna van Heeswijk, from Object, a lobby group against the objectification of women.
We have to ask ourselves what kind of story does it tell young people when men in newspapers wear suits, or sports gear, are shown as active participants, and women are sexualised objects who are essentially naked or nearly naked, she said.
The groups are want legislation banning pictures of naked or semi-naked women in newspapers, arguing the images would not be allowed in the workplace because of equality legislation, and should not be sold in an unrestrained manner at children's eye-level
. Leveson said his powers were limited and such a change would require rock-solid legislation .
The groups also called on Leveson to recommend the replacement of the Press Complaints Commission with an independent body with teeth that women and women's groups could complain to directly. The reporting of violence against women and
girls needs to be more balanced and more context needs to be provided about its frequency, they added. Journalists should also receive training on the myths and realities about violence against women and girls, and there should be a code
of practice for the way case studies are dealt with, the groups said.
Jacqui Hunt, of Equality Now, said the groups did not want to curtail press freedom ...BUT... wanted the media to behave more responsibly.
The ever censorial Harriet Hatemen claims to be a champion of press freedom
Newspaper proprietors need urgently to agree a common new system of redress and regulation to put to the Leveson inquiry, according to Harriet Harman, the shadow culture and media secretary.
She said the new system should be independent, apply to all newspapers and be citizen-centric. [Maybe just a slip of the tongue, she probably meant women-centric]. Harman said:
I balk at the notion of press regulation. There should be redress for complaints. I don't think there should be prior restraint, or general ruling on ethics. I also certainly don't think we need a register of approved journalists. Doctors and
journalists are not analogous.
Despite the personal battering she has taken from the rightwing media over pursuit of women's equality, she said she was not interested in settling old scores:
My discussions and arguments have been with the public as much as newspapers.
I am going to be a champion of press freedom.
Offsite: Killjoy Clare Short revives anti-page 3 rant
Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry into the ethics of the press heard some impressive, if depressing, evidence this week from women's groups about the continued use of sexualised imagery in some newspapers and about a culture of relentless sexism in
some sections of the press.
In response, he said that his terms of reference did not stretch to such issues. But surely the depiction of half the population in a way that is now illegal on workplace walls and before the watershed in broadcasting, is an issue of media
ethics? Interestingly, the evidence put to the inquiry was censored before circulation to remove the images that are perfectly legal in millions of newspapers that spread across society.
The Leveson Inquiry should also take note of my experience to learn how the media can censor public debate. The deliberate bullying I endured was designed to stop me discussing an issue of public concern and to frighten other women off. This is
not a question of phone hacking or intrusion of privacy, but in some ways it is worse.
Tabloid vilification helped kill off a debate that would have forced Page 3 images out of British newspapers and perhaps obliged the media to behave and report in a less sexist way. Twenty-six years on, Lord Leveson should seriously consider the
case that has been made.
The prudes trying to strip the tabloids of topless pics belittle women far more than any male reader could.
With the Leveson Inquiry currently insisting that the press bares all, campaign groups such as Turn Your Back on Page 3 have spotted an opportunity to force the tabloid's topless ladies to cover themselves up. And all in the name of protecting
girls like me from being terrorised by tits.
David Hunt, the new chairman of the Press Complaints Commission has unveiled a blueprint for a totally new newspaper watchdog which he hopes will eradicate bad journalism and practices that have brought shame on the industry.
He told the Leveson inquiry that he was, however, flatly opposed to statutory regulation of newspapers, arguing that it would open a Pandora's box which would give the opportunity to unscrupulous politicians to try to curb the freedom of
The new regulatory body proposed by Hunt would have real powers to investigate allegations such as phone hacking, illegal computer hacking or general press intrusion by reporters or paparazzi. It would also have the power to impose fines and
award compensation to victims of the press, he said, with newspapers signing binding contracts to adhere to its rulings for five years at a time.
The new body would be far more robust than the PCC and be independent of influence by present editors, according to Hunt, with a three-pronged structure involving units providing a swift complaints resolution service, a standards arm and an
arbitration operation which would assess damages.
Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail,proposed a fresh system of accrediting journalists. He told the Leveson Inquiry that the present system of press cards was haphazard .
Those guilty of the most serious misconduct could have their press cards removed, in the same way as doctors are struck off. But all newspapers and accredited freelance agencies would have to sign up for the scheme.
Dacre suggested that agencies using paparazzi should be encouraged to join a reinvigorated and strengthened Press Complaints Commission, and said the public should be consulted in an inquiry to determine the practical definition of legitimate
And he voiced his support for recommendations made last week by the PCC chairman Lord Hunt, who has suggested a separate unit working alongside the new regulatory body to uphold standards; contracts to lock newspapers into the new body; and an
arbitration system to settle privacy and libel complaints rapidly and cheaply reducing predatory legal fees.
Dacre said he accepted that the present PCC should be bolstered by a separate regulatory body to deal with abuses of standards. Such a body could be run by a Press Ombudsman with powers to investigate editors and journalists and impose sanctions,
including the removal of press accreditation.
In a paper submitted to the Leveson inquiry, the TV and radio censor, Ofcom, said reform of press regulation can be achieved if the body which takes over from the Press Complaints Commission is set up with a more robust framework and the power to
impose proper sanctions on errant newspapers. Ofcom added:
Properly constituted, effective and independent self-regulation could be the basis of a new model of press regulation.
But the censor said that in order for self-regulation to work certain elements of the new regime, such as rules governing membership, may need to be recognised by a statute.
In the areas of membership and governance, there could be concerns about whether self-regulation would be sufficient to develop a system with genuine legitimacy and capable of building public trust. A minimal enabling statute -- or recognition
in statute -- could be necessary in these areas.
New Labour bigwig, Peter Mandelson, is still banging on in favour of press censorship. He has written to the Financial Times (hidden behind a paywall):
Let us be under no illusion: how we come to grips with the fact that the internet is giving public access to a flood of uncorroborated, undigested and unmediated news , all in the name of free speech, is becoming one of the defining
issues of the 21st century. In my evidence to the Leveson inquiry I described this as a runaway train hurtling down the track towards us with no one in control.
The bigger question is how the domestic media market can be made economic and subject to any form of regulation in an era when, a click away, there is access to information that respects no national boundaries and the laws of no single national
parliament or the basic standards of conventional journalism.
The point is that the printed product now plays second fiddle to digital content. Newspaper revenues are competing not just with each other but against the social media, Facebook and Google, with the entire English-speaking world providing the
If regulation of content is going to have a future, is this where it will have to go?
Leveson's report is remarkably easygoing on the misjudgements of politicians and police, allowing for good faith even where bad decisions have been taken, especially by the police. By Kirsty Hughes of Index