When the publishers of the Daily Mail saw a chart showing that theirs was by far the most complained-about paper in 2013, they took exception. The chart, they said, gave a “wildly inaccurate” picture of the number of Mail stories “about which the PCC received valid complaints”.
We’ve already commented on this challenge, which in its way is just as slippery as the PCC’s data. But we decided to have a go at doing the calculation on their terms – that is, we went back to the PCC figures and asked: how many ‘valid’ complaints did the PCC receive about the Daily Mail and the other major papers?
From the 2013 complaints for nationals and the main regional newspapers we sifted the ones where an actual or ‘presumed’ breach of the Editors’ Code is recorded. (Bear in mind that the PCC system bends over backwards to avoid clearly recording breaches; that’s why the numbers are so low.)
Lo and behold, once again the Mail comes out top by a mile:
In fact these are the same five chart-topping papers, ranked in the same order, as our original table of most-complained-about publications.
The numbers are even more illuminating when you sort them by publishing company. (This table excludes some regional and local papers, focusing only on the main titles detailed above.)
The top four groups, you will not be surprised to learn, are the chief backers of IPSO, the son-of-PCC system being set up in defiance of the Leveson Report and the Royal Charter on Press Self-Regulation. It is clear that the last thing these groups want is clarity about who is breaking the rules.
In their response to our earlier chart, and referring only to that rarest of beasts among code breaches, the “Upheld Adjudication”, the spokesman for the Mail’s publishers asserted that “Neither the Daily Mail nor Mail Online had any PCC complaints upheld against them in 2013”.
This is absolutely true, but surely not something to which the Mail should be drawing attention if it wants anyone to believe the PCC and its offspring IPSO are in any way independent or effective.
The Mail is top of the charts for complaints overall in 2013 by far, and also top of the charts for code breaches by far, yet not a single adjudication – in other words not a single formal ruling by the Press Complaints Commissioners – went against the paper. That is an achievement of which North Korea’s election organisers would be proud.