Friday, December 22, 2017

Impress gets one right ...

I am not a fan of the "Impress" press regulator established under the Leveson rules.

However, credit where credit is due.

The left-wing website "The Canary" has been publishing articles attacking BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg which were sufficiently nasty that the New Statesman - which is hardly part of the "Tory Press" - wrote it up in the words,

"The Canary is running a sexist hate campaign against Laura Kuenssberg."

(Diane Abbott, who I do not often agree with, and the Guardian, have made similar comments.)

"The Canary" is one of the very few media organisations which has chosen to be regulated by Impress, unlike all the major mainstream newspapers and news websites which, instead of signing up to Impress, have opted instead to be regulated by the Independent Press Standards Organisation, or IPSO.

This autumn there was a particularly egregious Canary article, which stated that the BBC's political editor was "listed as a speaker" at the 2017 Conservative Party conference. The Canary went on to claim that this raised questions about her impartiality and that of the BBC.

This story was rubbish. She was not a speaker at the conference, she had been invited to speak at a fringe meeting, something it is not unusual for journalists to do, but had declined the invitation. The BBC made it clear she would not be speaking and was at the conference "to report impartially for BBC News".

The Canary article was the subject of "dozens" of complaints to Impress.

Credit where credit is due. First, Impress recused two members of its board whose social media activities and retweets gave grounds for concern that they might not be impartial about the BBC  from taking any part in the investigation into the complaint.

I don't know what on earth those individuals are doing on the board of Impress in the first place, but at least it is a good thing to know that the body has and actually uses due procedures to ensure that people who may have preconceived ideas about a party involved in a complaint do not rule on that complaint.

Impress duly found that The Canary had breached its code by "misrepresenting facts" and "failing to take all reasonable steps to ensure accuracy prior to publication". It also found that the website "did not correct this significant inaccuracy with due prominence" in an updated version of its article. Details of the ruling as reported by the BBC can be found here.

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