Welcome Back, Folks,
This is just a short post today, and whilst I appreciate it’s not related to extreme cinema in any way, shape or form, I hope you will forgive me this minor indulgence. On the 26th April 2013, the following allegation headline was posted on the Front Cover of the DAILY MAIL newspaper:
Note, the very large, very visible headline, that is bigger than the name of the paper itself! Even if you didn’t purchase it, you may have seen the story as you walked past your local newsagent. (Note the use of quotation marks around the word “raped”. That’s to avoid any potential libel proceedings from the alleged rapist, in case the Daily Mail story is wrong, inaccurate or unfair.)
Last Friday, on Page 34, concealed in the top right-hand corner, was this:
In the article, the alleged “rapist” has been fully-cleared of any and all wrongdoing, by a jury. Which is great, except that this poor man’s name and character has been utterly destroyed, thanks in-part to the editor of the Daily Mail!
The Tabloids, and most of the current UK newspaper industry, are happy to plaster someone over their front-pages to blacken their name, but when it comes to reporting that that same individual has been cleared of all charges, and is 100% innocent, they bury the response in the back of the paper in tiny, bible-sized print. (The apology was about 1/8th the size of the original headline, and buried towards the back of the paper!)
The Mail is not the only paper guilty of this, but it is this kind of insidious behaviour that makes me feel that we need Leveson more than ever before. (See this previous blog article of mine, for more background info on the Leveson Inquiry.) We need an organisation, that has the power to force all newspapers to admonish the editors that don’t play by the rules, and that gives anyone – famous or ordinary mere mortal – the right to have their name cleared in the same fashion that it was originally besmirched.
In other words, if you do as the Daily Mail did, and plaster your front cover with an allegation, then the person who has had their name defamed all over the front cover, should have the automatic right to see the apology and evidence that the same individual has been cleared of all wrongdoing, plastered in the same manner: on the same page as the original story; in the same size font; with the same size prominence!
None of this “report the allegation on Page 1 for everyone to see”, and then “bury the outcome that the allegation was false, wrong, inaccurate, on Page 34 in tiny print, where only readers of the paper will see it”.
Leveson was right to demand a Royal Charter that recommends a new and totally independent organisation which would have the right to impose a range of sanctions, including but not limited to fines and forcing editors to place prominent apologies and corrections in a similar manner to the way the original story was published. Sadly, what has happened, has seen the Press moan and whinge that they are unwilling to sign-up to any organisation or committee with any actual teeth or power, and instead, what we now have, is nothing more than another variation of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC): a toothless, useless organisation run by the Press, for the Press. And this new PCC, will not force editors to correct errors and fallacies. It will not fine editors or publications. It will not be neutral. It will be an organisation that the Press run for their own benefit.
How utterly worthless, and what a waste of two years worth of time, and hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers money, to arrive back exactly where we started: with a Press who don’t care how they get stories, and with editors who don’t care if a story they publish about a victim is not actually true.
Considering that the Jimmy Savile scandal – see here for the time-line, or here for the overview – is still running, with numerous celebrities being caught-up, then named and shamed as being “alleged sex offenders”, then it defies belief that the Press are happy to allow others to be blackened, but woe betide anyone who dares to point out the Press’s own hypocrisy, lies, deception and failings, (just as the Leveson Inquiry did). And we’re not talking about ordinary members of the public being interviewed by the police on potential sex offences and charges of alleged paedophilia. We’re talking here of some major names, being questioned (though I should state NOT CHARGED) by the Metropolitan Police. Names such as Rolf Harris, Jim Davidson, Max Clifford, Jimmy Tarbuck and Bill Roach.
A few days ago, we had Stuart Hall – presenter of the UK edition of 1970’s and 80’s TV game show IT’S A KNOCKOUT – admit in court to 13 separate charges of Indecent Assault against 13 young women, aged from a 9 year old girl, up to women in their late-teens, despite him previously saying that all of the allegations were lies!
Since the Savile Scandal broke at the end of 2012, the Press is happy to name-and-shame anyone – celebrity or not – at the merest whiff of a sensational “story”, even if that “story” turns out to be false, incorrect or just an outright lie. The results of the Leveson Inquiry aren’t over yet, though, but right now, it does look like the Press can have their cake and eat it, if last Friday’s Daily Mail is anything to go by!