Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The PCC speaks!

Three months after The Guardian published a front page story on our secretly filming tabloid journalists trying to buy medical records, the PCC has finally engaged with us. In early january, I did an interview with the Belfast Telegraph ahead of the screening of Starsuckers at the QFT Belfast, in which I made some disparaging comments of the PCC. A few days later, Stephen Abell - director of the PCC - responded in a letter which sidesteps all the accusations levelled at his regulator. I've just fired off a response back - full letter is below.

Other news in brief. We've just agreed a deal with a major international sales agent, which is great news. more details soon. TV version is well underway, hopefully we won't have to lose too much. And DVD extras are also being put together, and I think we're going to need more than 1 disc...

To: The Editor, Belfast Telegraph

Dear Sir

In his letter of the 11th of January, Mr Abell (head of the PCC) made 2 misleading criticisms of my interview in your paper on the 7th, and fails to address the substantive accusations made about the PCC in my film, STARSUCKERS.

He claims that I suggest that Paul Dacre has "involvement in the consideration by the PCC of the Daily Mail complaints", by making a comparison to Mugabe sitting as judge on his own war crimes. Mr Abell may claim that Dacre has had no direct involvement with that individual complaint, but the problem in one of public perception. The fact remains that the editor of The Daily Mail is involved at a senior level of the regulator that is investigating the very newspaper that published the offending article. It is also the view of some of the journalists who write for the newspapers he regulates. He has no doubt seen the clip from STARSUCKERS when a tabloid journalist from The People newspaper caught on undercover camera explained that "The PCC is run by the newspaper editors".

He also criticises my comment that "no other industry in the world has this type of involvement in its own regulation". This is a minor misquote - I did in fact say that new other newspaper industry in the world has similar regulatory system. This is based on having spent the past 3 months giving interviews to foreign journalists about the STARSUCKERS revelations, and I can confirm that the PCC is seen as a laughing stock internationally. He interestingly cites the example of the ASA (who many criticise as being similarly toothless) rather than other closer examples of self regulation in the UK: the banking industry, the Police and the MP's expenses system.

Mr Abell still has yet to publicly comment on the real issues that STARSUCKERS raises about the PCC. When I cold called four sunday tabloids offering to sell medical records, without any public interest reasoning, only one of them refused to engage further. The journalists for three newspapers he regulates agreed to meet me, which I secretly filmed. The News of the World journalist was reasonably cautious in her approach, but the journalists from the The Sunday Mirror and The People both offered money for medical records (without public interest) in clear breach of the PCC code. When the possibility of a PCC complaint was discussed with The People journalist, she explained that "most newspaper editors just brush it aside" and that they were viewed by the newspaper industry as a "slap on the wrist". The PCC claims to act in the interests of the public, but since these clips appeared on the Guardian website three months ago, the PCC has yet to publicly comment on these extremely serious matters. Perhaps Mr Abell would like to take this opportunity to rectify this?

Chris Atkins

No comments:

Post a Comment