I blogged last month about the letter above. I was so incensed by it, I contacted the Press Complaints Commission (PCC). The main thrust of my argument was:
By printing a letter they [METRO] have undue influence in an important referendum. METRO wouldn't publish a letter saying a vote for Ken Livingstone next year is wasted because of changes to the Greater London Authority Act 2007. Why? becuase it's complete nonsense, BUT apparently it is acceptable to publish a letter that is nonsense, yet can pass as fact to influence voters in a referendum. Is this fair?The Complaints Officer replied with the following:
[Mr Khan] The Commission members have asked me to thank you for giving them the opportunity to consider the points you raise. However, their decision is that there has been no breach of the Code in this case. A full explanation of the Commission’s decision is attached (below).
Although the Commissioners have come to this view, they have asked me to send a copy of your letter to the editor so that they are aware of your concerns.
Commission’s decision in the case of
Khan v Metro
The Commission was concerned that the newspaper had published a letter which included inaccuracies. He was concerned that the publication of such a letter would influence the votes of readers.
The letters page of a newspaper has traditionally been a forum in which readers can express their views freely. Readers of this page would understand that the opinions expressed in the published correspondence would not necessarily be impartial or represent statements of facts, but rather the personal views of the correspondent. In regard to the letter in contention, the Commission considered that readers would understand that the complainant was expressing his position on the concept of AV generally, rather than making any specific statement about the voting system and the number of candidates you were required to vote for. In light of this, the Commission could not establish a breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
The complainant had pointed out that the newspaper had failed to publish his letter in response. The selection of material, including readers’ letters, for publication is matter for the discretion of individual editors and, as such, it could not comment on the matter further.
Reference No. 112***
I would argue that unless METRO clearly carried a disclaimer - using similar wording to the above sentence taken from the decision - then such letters can be influential.
"Readers of this page would understand that the opinions expressed in the published correspondence would not necessarily be impartial or represent statements of facts, but rather the personal views of the correspondent."
Tags croydon, greenparty