Media Standards Trust continues spat with PCC

The Media Standards Trust has continued its public spat with the Press Complaints Commission, accusing it of an “unjustified attack”.

The disagreement began in January, when the Trust – a journalism ethics charity – used a report to label the PCC “unaccountable and opaque”.

The outgoing PCC chairman, Sir Christopher Meyer, said the MST’s report was a “cuttings job masquerading as a serious inquiry” and “astonishing in its ignorance”.

Now, in round three, the Trust’s Anthony Salz has hit back at Meyer.

In a letter, copied to Press Gazette, Salz wrote: “You suggest the review is not being undertaken in good faith. This suggestion of bad faith is entirely unjustified.”

Salz said the MST’s initial criticism was part one of a two-stage review, and was designed to “start a debate and provide a basis from which we could consult widely”.

He added: “Consultation with the PCC alone in advance would have been inappropriate.

“We felt it important that part one should not be influenced by a key body with a particular interest.”

In February, Meyer said the MST had “fundamentally misrepresented the PCC’s statistics” in suggesting the commission upheld less than one in 250 complaints.

Meyer argued only a third of its total complaints do, in fact, fall under its jurisdiction

But Salz wrote: “As your letter illustrates, the PCC’s figures and terminology are somewhat difficult to follow.

“The explanation in your letter is helpful, as is the recent addition to your website, ‘the facts behind the figures’.

“Both show why readers of your published materials have had a hard time understanding what is going on.

“However you explain your terminology, 32 adjudications from 4,340 complaints is, to me, a small number of adjudications.”

Salz’s letter does make one correction. “You cite the statement that the ASA was modelled on the PCC,” he wrote. “You are right: it was, in fact, modelled on the Press Council, the predecessor to the PCC.

“The substance of the point still stands but we will, of course, correct the reference.”

Salz concluded: “Though I welcome your response, I do not accept your characterisation of our report.”

Meyer, a former diplomat and press officer for John Major while prime minister, is leaving the PCC this month.

His replacement is Peta Buscombe, the Advertising Association chief executive.

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