PCC – good with words…crap at figures

I have started to take on the Press Complaints Commission. That is: a first shot across their bows a month or so back in respect of a complaint about a piece by Richard Littlejohn on electrolysis and trans women – and a number of complaints since.

Distance shots. Bracketing shots. Because before you open fire on a target, you are supposed to take a few shots first to gauge distance, altitude and so on. Or in this case, goodwill, honesty, and the like.

My first engagement with them, for the record, was through the auspices of Trans Media Watch. So I’ll add a disclaimer here. I fully support TMW in their aims: but I remain detached, or at very least semi-detached (I’m a suburban girl, after all) from that organisation.

By all means let them do their pleasant stuff, chatting to organisations, buttering up the adults. But I realised, after that first meeting, that I can’t really go in with them. I’m too much the journalist. Too much the activist.

So three cheers for TMW…but i’ll keep my distance when it comes to fireworks time.

And here’s the first of the results. I had a pop at Littlejohn in the Mail on grounds of accuracy. I’ll link to the reply when it goes up…but pedant that I am, on most grounds, I can just about let the PCC have it.
There is wiggle room and much as it pains me to admit it, journalists need that room else they’d be forever subject to the censor’s blue pen.

In most of their response. The one place where there is not only no wiggle room, but downright bad faith, is in the treatment of Littlejohn’s assertion that there are just the 400 re-assignment cases every year. No. There are about 10k cases in the system right now.

At least, that’s the figure according to a presentation delivered to the PCC just days before I made the complaint, which I believe TMW pulled from research by Gires, which is probably the most authoritative body in this area.

Let’s get this clear.

Littlejohn wrote: “There are only around 400 gender reassignment cases a year across Britain”.

I complained: “unsure where he obtains his figure of just 400 transgendered individuals receiving treatment each year in the UK: as we explained yesterday, the numbers undergoing some form of treatment is well, well in excess of that number”.

That complaint was not submitted blind: it was passed thru one of the individuals attending the meeting at which the TMW presentation was given. In that presentation, the statement made was: “currently 10,000 trans people are receiving medical support in the UK”.

And in respect of my complaint? The PCC tell me “the Commission noted that the article had clearly presented the figure as an estimated number, stating that there were “around” this number each year. The Commission was satisfied that readers would be aware that this was not an exact number and, in the absence of evidence to suggest this estimate was significantly inaccurate, it could not establish a breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code of Practice”.


Yes. In some weird sort of way, I guess there’s still wiggle room. But the gap is seriously narrowing. The PCC absolutely had the 10k figure…unless they weren’t listening to the TMW presentation.

One of their staff advised that my complaint was properly formulated for the accuracy criteria.

Yet the adjucating body claims EITHER that 400 is a pretty good estimate of 10,000 OR despite them being officially notified of a figure a few days earlier, they still didn’t know.

That starts to move into seriously disingenous territory. I hesitate to say dishonest…but it doesn’t half look that way.


After thought: Hey, folks: there’s only about 200,000 non-white persons in the UK…so why do we need all this ethnic diversity spend.. Guess what! There’s only around a million women in the UK…so we can drop maternity services too.

What do you mean? The figure is wrong. I’m only out by a factor of 20 and the average reader will just see the word “about” and instantly multiply by 5 or 10 or 20 or… Hmmmm.


About janefae

On my way from here to there
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