Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Roy of the regulators: What should the PCC do about Hodgson harranging?

The furore over today's Sun page has rumbled on throughout the day. Not only was the FA narked enough to let their displeasure be known to the red top, but according to reports, the issue has been raised with the Press Complaints Commission.

To be honest when I saw the page I was hardly enraged enough to dust off my pitchfork and head to Wapping. But nevertheless a few points on the reaction it prompted:

Is this in any way a breach of the Code?

Looking at the PCC Code it's hard to see where a breach has occurred.  Clause 12 states:

"The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability."

But I sincerely doubt even the most sympathetic complainant would class an apparently inability to pronounce the letter 'R' properly as a disability.

Even if there was a code covering mockery of funny ways of talking, the PCC also has a third party rule, which essentially says that only the subject of stories can pursue complaints. They do waive this rule for things like basic points of factual accuracy, which this is not.

Good as it is to see Sun readers (assuming they were readers) taking action to let the paper know that they thought that the coverage was in bad taste. But it is hard to see the PCC doing anything, since the Commission could never be accused of being over-zealous.

Is any remedy really worth it?

Even if action were in the offing, what kind of response could there be that would not heap further scorn on Hodgson?

I strongly believes that when paper gets it wrong, a printed correction/clarification/apology is the absolute least the paper should do, so it is funny to come across a case where this doesn't seem the best way forward

Every time I heard defenders of the PCC argue that corrections can't be the solution in every case, I dismiss it as mere bluster to let publishers off with offering pitiful offers of corrective action like amending the online archive that few people will read again.

Even though the PCC complaints are not coming from the new England manager, nor has there been any indication of him being that bothered, an apology risks making him look like a thin skinned wimp even if he didn't care.

But as it stands, the reaction against The Sun seems to have got people more on Hodgson's side. Is there really any more that can be done that wouldn't turn this good will turn into a sympathy vote?

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