Archive for the ‘public confidence’ tag
The PCC has hit back at claims made by politicians that it lacks public confidence (‘PCC hits back at claims that public has lost confidence’, Press Gazette, 4th May 2011). Director Stephen Abell has defended the PCC, telling Press Gazette that the organisation:
- has never been more active or proactive
- has high satisfaction rates from the people that use its services
- is helping more people than ever before
It is important that the PCC robustly defends the system of press self-regulation. However, in its defence the PCC has used a number of statistics that are both unclear and difficult to substantiate. Without substantiation they risk further reducing public confidence in the PCC.
Number of complaints – Abell said that the PCC had issued 1700 rulings and resolved more than 550 complaints. It is hard to understand how the PCC reached that figure. The 2009 annual report did not use the term ruling and the 2010 report is yet to be published. In the 550 resolved complaints the PCC does not come to a ruling – and Abell’s language suggests that the numbers are distinct. The PCC only actually adjudicated 44 complaints in 2010, of which 24 were not upheld. The PCC’s website records complaints about just 527 different articles.
The PCC may be working hard, and it may have done something 1700 times. But by not telling people what the words mean or providing the data in a form that can be checked, it shakes confidence that the organisation is transparent and fair.
PCC’s powers – Abell said that the PCC had prevented intrusive information being published more than 100 times. That’s an odd choice of language. The PCC has no powers to prevent anything. Indeed, it resists powers to its pre-publication advice.
Public confidence – the PCC cited a poll from Toluna conducted last month which claimed that ’79 per cent of people have no concerns over confidence in the PCC’. Toluna is not a member of the British Polling Council, the self-regulatory organisation for opinion pollsters. Its services are not used by newspapers to commission opinion polls. Neither the questions asked of respondents nor the full results of the survey have been published.
There’s a valid argument to be had over whether the PCC is sufficiently proactive, or whether the satisfaction of those who uses its services (as opposed to those who don’t) is a useful yardstick for the organisation.
However, when the PCC chooses to provide data inconsistently and release only part of it, there can be no useful debate. In its defence, the Media Standards Trust has always found the PCC willing to answer questions to clarify its meaning. But not every member of the public can be expected to contact the PCC every time it is quoted in the press.
Abell closed by saying:
“We are also, of course, subject to comments from those with little knowledge – or little interest in knowledge – of what we actually do, and how we act to help people. It would be regrettable if such comments are allowed to distort the positive aspects of our work.”
If the PCC is going to attack the integrity of its critics, it should take care to make its defence more transparent and accountable.