With no fanfare, no news release and no accompanying narrative, in the last couple of days the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) has discreetly uploaded the Monthly Complaint Summary for January 2014 to their website.
Despite repeated calls from Parliament that they should publish clear statistics, the PCC still makes no effort to give the public a straightforward idea of which newspapers and media companies are the worst offenders when it comes to breaching the Editors’ Code.
Once again, therefore, we have crunched the numbers that the PCC doesn’t want you to see. Here is the Code breach ‘league table’ for January 2014, ranked by paper….
If you’ve been following these things, the identity of the table-topper won’t be a surprise. Just like the year-end tables for 2013, it’s the Daily Mail, off to a flying start in 2014 with 12 Code breaches to its name. This is more than a third of all the breaches across national and the main regional newspapers.
We’ve shown how the PCC exists mainly to protect their paymasters from censure, keeping the public at arm’s length with a cynical strategy of ‘complaint fatigue’ that means Code breaches are not properly recorded and adjudications are avoided at all costs.
It’s no different in 2014. Of its 12 breaches, the Daily Mail managed to ‘resolve’ away nine, with the PCC judging that a further two complaints had culminated in sufficient remedial action.
But January also included that rarest of beasts – an actual PCC adjudication involving the Mail. This involved a story and associated leading article where the Code was breached on the grounds of inaccuracy, the PCC ruling that the paper had offered ‘sufficient remedial action’ by publishing a correction and apology.
The PCC received, and rejected, multiple ‘third-party’ complaints about the Daily Mail’s ghoulish image of the bloodstained ski-slope where Michael Schumacher received his life-threatening head injury.
At least the PCC noted that dozens of people (including Jon Danzig) had complained about the controversial Mail story headlined ‘Sold out! Flights and buses full as Romanians head for the UK’. What isn’t clear, to the casual observer, is what has happened to the main complaint itself from the ‘lead complainant’.
Tucked away at the end of January’s summary, almost as an afterthought, is evidence of some third-party complaints about the Mail’s ‘Man Who Hated Britain’ attacks on Ralph Milliband. We suspect this was one of the most complained-about stories of the last 12 months or so, but of course that’s not really clear from the PCC data.