The Daily Mail has told critics of its “Legs-It” front page to “get a life” as the story was slammed as sexist and out of touch but the real story is how the system of press regulation is so rigged that, even if such journalism was agreed to be a breach of standards, neither the public, nor the women directly affected, have any way of ever challenging it.
More than 300 people have, in what will inevitably turn out to be futile acts, reportedly complained to IPSO – the sham press regulator – including the Deputy Leader of the Green Party, Amelia Womack.
Writing in the Huffington Post, she says: “The article itself was about a meeting between Sturgeon and May about a possible second Scottish independence referendum – a decision that will impact the UK for generations to come. To bring the politicians’ appearance into this story is not only entirely irrelevant but incredibly disrespectful, both to the women, and to the people that they represent.”
As a result, Ms Womack has made a complaint to IPSO saying that the article breaches Clause 12 of the Editors Code, which bans discrimination against individuals:
12(i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s, race, colour, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.
12(ii) Details of an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.”
But this is not going to get her very far. For two reasons;
Firstly the Code allegedly enforced by IPSO does not cover sexism, however blatant.
Clause 12(ii) does not cover gender, or gender-related comments.
Clause 12(i) – with its reference to “prejudicial or pejorative” – is claimed by the newspapers most affected not to cover sexist references to women’s bodies.
Hacked Off does not take a position on whether the Code should cover such matters. This is because Leveson said that the question of what was in the code is one for an independent regulator to take, not for him, or for newspapers. Our priority is to see such an independent regulator.
IPSO is not independent. And even it was appointed independently of the press, and not run by the press, its rules mean that it cannot even control its own standards code. The Editors Code is instead agreed by a committee of newspaper editors currently chaired, and since 2008, by Paul Dacre – the editor of the Daily Mail.
Secondly, IPSO, which claims to be a regulator, is unable to take any action on a discrimination complaint unless it takes into account the views of the party directly affected (in this case Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon). This is solely to deal with the situation of intrusion into privacy where the party most affected takes the view that a complaint would exacerbate the problem. That does not apply here.
Ms Sturgeon has expressed her displeasure at the article but IPSO choose to take their rules even further than they have to in attempt to placate their industry bosses. They interpret the need to have regard to those directly affected as requiring such complaint to be approved by those parties or even to be made by them.
And whilst Nicola Sturgeon criticised the Daily Mail for taking Britain back to the 1970s she has not made a formal complaint.
Prime Minister Theresa May did not even comment, and this week’s revelation that she recently hosted Daily Mail editor and outgoing Editor’s Code Committee chair, Paul Dacre, for dinner might explain why.
IPSO refuses to consider complaints on their merits, but instead sifts the complaints based on who has made it.
This case demonstrates once again how this fake regulator is toothless and why 59% of the public said in January this year that they have no confidence in it.
This blog was amended on 12th April 2017 to better reflect our position on this issue.