Given what I’ve said in the past about the Press Complaints Commission, I’ll admit I was pleasantly surprised by this ruling just out over Rod Liddle’s comments about crime in London:
The Press Complaints Commission has upheld a complaint about an entry by Rod Liddle in his blog for the Spectator. This is the first time that the PCC has censured a newspaper or magazine over the content of a journalistic blog. The piece in question was published on 5 December 2009 and claimed that “the overwhelming majority of street crime, knife crime, gun crime, robbery and crimes of sexual violence in London is carried out by young men from the African-Caribbean community”. A reader complained that the statement was incorrect.
In concluding that the article was indeed in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, the PCC recognised the magazine’s argument that the nature of a blog post is often provocative and conducive to discussion. It was certainly true in this case, for example, that a number of readers had taken issue with Mr Liddle’s claim and had commented on the blog. However, the Commission did not agree that the magazine could rely on publishing critical reaction as a way of abrogating its responsibilities under the Code. While it had provided some evidence to back up Mr Liddle’s position, it had not been able to demonstrate that the ‘overwhelming majority’ of crime in all the stated categories had been carried out by members of the African-Caribbean community. Nor could it successfully argue that the claim was purely the columnist’s opinion – rather, it was a statement of fact.
Given the PPC’s ruling in the Jan Moir case where a statement that people don’t just die suddenly was ruled not to be a breach of the Code (even though it is untrue – there are such tragedies) it’s a pleasant surprise to see that on this occasion the PCC has decided that a factually incorrect comment is a breach of the code.
The full ruling is here and credit to the Spectator for clearly marking the piece as having had this ruling made against it.
UPDATE: There’s a good analysis of the ruling over on Enemies of Reason.