Wednesday 18 November 2009

Fact-check for Guido on PCC

There has been a good deal of excitement over the idea that the Press Complaints Commission is musing about whether its remit should extend to the blogosphere, a kite flown by PCC chair Baroness Buscombe in an interview with The Independent's Ian Burrell, as reported in his blog on The Independent website.

Well, this could be fun, judging by the letter which Unity has drafted on Liberal Conspiracy, and which about 200 bloggers have agreed to sign. (Full disclosure: including me). If it is going to be a debate about ethical standards, then a good deal of the blogosphere appears confident it could teach the tabloids a thing or two. The message is not just "hands off our blogs" but also "we're here to help" should the mainstream media aspire to making higher standards of accuracy, transparency and accountability the norm. [Correction: "we're hear to help" slipped through earlier!]

Meanwhile, Paul Staines/Guido Fawkes is pouring cold water on the whole thing, suggesting that the Independent's media editor and assistant editor - curiously renamed "Iain Burrell" by Staines - had failed to check his facts, as our leading libertarian anarchist blogger once again provides helpful assistance to a Tory establishment figure.

Next Left put Fawkes' claims to Ian Burrell, and received this response:

On the Baroness Buscombe point, I had a long phone interview with her on Friday, for about 40 minutes across a range of areas. So, I'm not sure what Guido Fawkes is saying when he makes his comments about double-sourcing and fact-checking - I spoke directly to the PCC chairman. I see his own fact-checking didn't extend to getting my name right.

I think this is not so much an attempt at a land grab by the PCC as an attempt to start a debate, a legitimate one I think. The response from bloggers coordinated at Liberal Conspiracy forms part of that, and is a well-argued contribution. With news being increasingly read online and bloggers wanting to be credited as sources of breaking news, as well as commentators, then I think it is understandable that the PCC is looking to see what it's future role should look like. Any relationship would have to be voluntary and, judging by the initial reaction, there doesn't seem to be much appetite for that. Nonetheless, it's not inconceivable that some news based sites might in future see a value in working within the PCC umbrella.

As for exaggeration, well I did it as a short posting on my blog, if anything maybe I should have given it greater prominence given the level of interest.

I've spoken to the PCC today and the suggestion that they would be complaining over my posting is a nonsense. And I don't think there's a climbdown by them, they just don't want to get into a war with bloggers, quite the opposite.

The PCC is indeed keen to clarify that it is not picking a fight, with Baroness Bascombe telling inquirers this:

My point was that, as there is already pressure to increase regulation of the internet, it is important to make clear that this must not lead to some form of statutory interference. Rather, a system of self-regulation (such as exists by the PCC for newspapers) would be more appropriate, if any bloggers wished to go down that route.

I say “wish”, because any advance in this area would have to be consensual. Self-regulation is about collaboration between willing parties. The PCC is not in any way constituted to impose its views on the unwilling and cannot simply extend its remit to cover non-newspaper sites.


Meanwhile, views differ widely about the quality of Baroness Buscombe's speech as new Chair of the Press Complaints Commission to the Society of Editors.

She must have been gratified by the glowingly deferential write-up in the Daily Mail, where Mr Paul Dacre appears to have spotted the occasion to experiment with 1950s-style paper of record reporting of public speeches. (The rather bashful by-line "Daily Mail Reporter" could even lead to idle speculation as to whether the Mail editor, who is also chair of the PCC editorial code committee, might have helped to pen the report himself: a tiny example of how too little transparency can needlessly fuel suspicion?).

Others have found the argument rather weak. Mark Pack has a good critique.

Given the central challenge for those involved in a system of media self-regulation in demonstrating the ability to rise above partiality, the distinction made by the Peer between lauding the press' challenge to the Commons over expenses but warning against knocking the House of Lords "“Is it really in anyone’s interests for the media to be party to the undermining of our Second Chamber…?” was just one of the odder pieces of stream of consciousness appearing to overcome any attempt at logic or coherence in the speech.


jwatson1 said...

We're HERE to help. Better put that right quickly (in para 2) as it undermines your point about accuracy!

Guido Fawkes said...

The message is not just "hands off our blogs" but also "we're hear to help".

Those in glass houses...

You are not here to help me. You only speak for yourself and I don't want regulating by you, the PCC or legislation because I believe in free speech tempered only by laws against inciting violence and defamation.

13eastie said...

Sunder ("AKA the worlds [sic] worst speller"),

Which is it to be?

Spelling mistakes are either worth getting one's knickers in a twist over (see your post above) or they are not (your post here).

Are we to expect a third post from you this month re. spelling — this time to make the Fabian position on spelling mistakes clear once and for all?

Whatever the case may be, certainly the ping-pong of whinges about spelling is far more interesting to readers than the silly, unfounded hysteria and waffle about the PCC.

Anonymous said...

Her name is Buscombe not Bascombe.

What was it about bothering to get the name right?

Martin said...

Correct me if I am wrong here, but is this the story about 200 bloggers putting their name to a petition that will never get sent? Instead of "appears confident" shouldn't you be saying "is full of piss and wind"?

Hamish said...

Alright Ia(i)n knows how to spell his own name.
But he is careless about the difference between it's and its.