The Daily Mail is, to no surprise at all, more than keen to kick broadcasters, and especially the BBC and Channel 4. This week it has been honing its act – along with the odd slice of forthright dishonesty – by laying into the hated Beeb over its coverage of Nelson Mandela’s memorial service and lying in state, and getting very upset with Channel 4 over the British Comedy Awards.
What's wrong with f***ing off complaints, c***?!?
But what the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre are not telling their readers is that they are not comparing like with like, and want to keep in place a complaints system that allowed them a significant advantage over the broadcasters. For starters, if the Mail doesn’t want to accept a complaint, it just leans on the regulator and – Barry says bang! – the complaint is gone.
Yes, it really is that simple. Moreover, when the Mail tells that “1,834 viewers and listeners complained over 'excessive' coverage” of Mandela’s death and the following days, what they don’t tell is that this is 1,834 complaints that they would have managed to bodyswerve, had they been directed at the Mail. Why so? Well, these are all third party complaints. They don’t involve the subject of the broadcast.
Unless complaints come from the subject of an article – pace Stephen Gately getting his memory hatcheted by Jan Moir – they are not admissible under the PCC code. The Mail, by backing the supposedly “new” press regulator IPSO, wants to keep it that way. IPSO would continue to dismiss all complaints made by third parties. So where did the Channel 4 complaints come from?
You guessed it, the complaints following the British Comedy Awards, of which the Mail said “The two-hour broadcast was described as a ‘car crash’ after a series of comics slurred their way through rambling, expletive-laden speeches”, were all from third parties. So “more than 50 official complaints to the broadcaster and its watchdog, Ofcom” would have read zero for the Mail.
But what about the dishonesty, for example the claim that “the BBC has flown a total of 140 journalists and production staff to South Africa since Mr Mandela died aged 95 last Thursday”? It was then conceded that “The BBC said it expected to have deployed about 120 journalists, technicians and support staff to work on the story over a ten-day period”, plus 20 for the World Service, which does not mean “sent”.
That, for the Mail, would be Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy: the Beeb would have to complain, for such a complaint to stand a chance of being accepted. And if that happened, the Dacre doggies would lean on the PCC to kick it into the long grass while running lots of stories about the BBC wasting money complaining. Dealing with complaints is so much easier when you make up your own rules.
And remember, the Mail wants to keep it that way. No surprise there, then.