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Thursday, 18 February 2010

PCC rejects complaint over Jan Moir article on Stephen Gately's death

Back in October last year following the tragic and very sudden death of Stephen Gately, Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir stuck the knife in and kicked out making some wild and unjustified accusations.

I, among many of my friends, colleagues and many others blogged about this at the time, you can read the posting here.

At the time, emotions were running high and Jan Moir said;
"In what is clearly a heavily orchestrated internet campaign I think it is mischievous in the extreme to suggest that my article has homophobic and bigoted undertones."

This was her understanding of how the Social Media arena responded.  What this showed in fact was not an orchestrated campaign but in fact a heavy out pouring of grief for Stephen, Boyzone, his partner Andrew and Stephen's family but also a group united against a fairly solitary voice attacking Stephen Gately and making some wild accusations.

Jan Moir misread the public mood.

Following her article, 25,000 people including Andrew Cowles and Polydor complained to the Press Complaints Commission, a number never seen before complaining about one article or even a TV show, such was the anger of people out there.

Well, now the PCC has published it's findings - here.
I have read the adjudication and the Commission's ruling in full under each of the three relevant parts of the Code - Clause 1 (Accuracy); Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock); and Clause 12 (Discrimination) this you can find here.
I think the PCC had a difficult role here, but could have proved their worth and showed they even had some teeth, but they failed.  Instead they have backed a journalist columnist who made homophobic comments at an insensitive time and made allegations, proved to be untrue, about Stephen's death.
I will be honest, I think the adjudication is a load of tosh, I just found my self shouting at my laptop, (it's okay, it didn't talk back).
Take their ruling on Clause 12.
Clause 12 makes clear that the press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's sexual orientation. The question of whether the article was homophobic or discriminatory to gay people in general did not fall under the remit of the Code.

That paragraph to me is completely bonkers, so the PCC doesn't rule on homophobic statements, is that what they are actually saying?
While many complainants considered that there was an underlying tone of negativity towards Mr Gately and the complainant on account of the fact that they were gay, it was not possible to identify any direct uses of pejorative or prejudicial language in the article. The columnist had not used pejorative synonyms for the word "homosexual" at any point.

The Commission made clear that this part of the Code was not designed to prevent discussion of certain lifestyles or broad issues relating to race, religion or sexuality. There was a distinction between critical innuendo - which, though perhaps distasteful, was permissible in a free society - and discriminatory description of individuals, and the Code was designed to constrain the latter rather than the former.

The Commission may have been uncomfortable with the tenor of the columnist's remarks on the topic; it did not consider, however, that the column had crossed the line on this occasion such as to raise a breach of the Code
So, Jan Moir and the Daily Mail walk free to make any comments they like, mostly because, apparently it was obviously the view of the columnist not the newspaper.

To me, the PCC got this ruling wrong - as Jan Moir got her article wrong and the timing even more wrong.

A sad day today.

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