Well. It’s finally happened:
As Roy Greenslade reports:
Richard Desmond’s newspapers and magazines have been formally excluded from the system of press self-regulation.
It follows the refusal of Desmond’s company, Northern & Shell, to pay the fees to the body responsible for funding the Press Complaints Commission, known as PressBof.
So PressBof – the Press Standards Board of Finance – today announced the exclusion of all N&S; titles from its self-regulatory system.
They include the Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Star, Star on Sunday and OK! magazine.
PressBof’s chairman, Lord (Guy) Black, called it a “deeply regrettable decision” that was “taken only as a last resort following the publisher’s decision not to pay the industry levy.”
He added: “Payment of this levy is a vital sign not just of a publisher’s commitment to the [editors'] code of practice and the ethical standards contained in it, but also of a commitment to the protection of the public, as it is the levy which allows the PCC to deal with complaints it receives free of charge.
“The rest of the industry – covering the overwhelming majority of the newspapers and magazines produced in the UK – remains totally committed to effective self regulation.”
Yesterday, I said that Richard Desmond’s habit of using his newspapers as a promotional tool for his recent acquisition, Channel Five, at the expense of news, shows the contempt he has for his readers.
Surely, Desmond’s refusal to cooperate with and be a part of press self-regulation is a further demonstration of his contempt for his readers. Where will readers who wish to complain about an Express or Star article now turn? What right of reply do they now have? What recourse do they have?
Aside from libel laws, there’s very little (perhaps even nothing) stopping the Express and Star titles from becoming far more flagrant with their lies and distortions.
A perfect example of the kind of thing Desmond’s newspapers will now be able to get away with is demonstrated here:
In this article, published on Monday, the Daily Express made the following claim:
Official figures had previously shown that two million long-term sick-pay claimants were well enough to work as were almost eight in every 10 of those applying for incapacity benefit, worth up to £91.40 a week. The findings will dismay millions of taxpayers who have to fork out more than £13billion a year to pay for the 2.6 million people claiming incapacity benefit.
However, as Full Fact have said:
When we investigated, we found not only that no such figures exist but that the calculations done by the Express to arrive at their figure did not stand up to scrutiny.
Newspapers certainly do like to speculate about the proportion of people claiming Incapacity Benefit (IB) that may actually be well enough to work after all. Interspersed with anecdotes about people such as the X-Factor’s Wagner, we get statistics such as those quoted above.
But the claim that two million of the people on incapacity benefit are actually well enough to work, is about as credible as a break-dancer being eligible for such payments.
It’ll be very interesting to see how N&S;’s withdrawal from the PCC affects those papers’ output over the coming months. I expect there will be plenty of material for blogs like mine to examine.