Friday, 24 September 2010

Another victory for press regulation

A lesson in media studies: what matters is how you write the rules.

I complained about the local paper, the Express and Swastika, describing Travellers as 'plaguing' the area. I felt that this was discrimination and incitement to racial hatred.

There are problems with this - Irish Travellers are a recognised racial group under the relevant legislation, but not merely Travellers. Fair enough.

What I wasn't expecting was to be told that under Press Complaints Commission rules, Clause 12 (banning discrimination) only applies to individuals. This means that you can't publish an article which reads

Joe Bloggs is mean because he's black/Jewish/Northern/insert stereotype of your choice here

but it's perfectly acceptable to publish an article which reads

All Jews/Blacks/heterosexuals/Northerners are mean.

The only recourse is to challenge the article on grounds of accuracy, as the PCC told me when I proposed this formulation:

The phrase 'all Jews are mean' could be challenged under accuracy but, insofar as Clause 12 goes, it could not be considered a breach.  This is the same for all groups, be they ethnic, religious, gender etc etc.

Got to admire the newspaper industry's skill at setting its own rules. As far as I can see, this means any newspaper can be as racist/discriminatory as they like, as long as they don't single out individuals.

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