Express complaint: verdict

Here’s the result of my complaint about the Express and electrolysis. The complaint is sowhere on the pcc site, whilst the original artcle is over at the Express.

Make your own mind up. I’d actually go so far as to say i agree with them in respect of the comments by Laura Midgley and Emma Boon: sadly, if a journo can find someone to make a statement, however outrageous, on a subject, then it is usually admissible.

I absolutely don’t agree about the use of the razor illustration, particularly as, when the issue was first mentioned to the pcc, not one of those present were aware of why a trans woman might need electrolysis for medical purposes.

The problem i am beginning to sense here is that if you get close enough to the words, you can make them mean whatever you want them to.

I could, f’rinstance, write: “Richard Littlejohn is a total prick”, and then claim exemption from any consequence by arguing that no sane reader would mistake Mr Littlejohn for a penis…and therefore there was no case to answer.

Far fairer, i’d say, would be for the pcc to run articles past ordinary members of the public: I know, from talking to NHS staff, that some individuals have read this piece (and the one by Littlejohn) and concluded that cosmetic electrolysis IS offered as part of gender re-assignment and have complained about it.

That strikes me as far more significant than any amount of close textual analysis.

The Verdict

The complainant was concerned that the article was based on the misconception that the hair removal services offered by the NHS were cosmetic. She considered that this was enforced by the image of a razor accompanying the article – which implied that the procedures offered by the hair removal specialist could be done by a razor – and the publication of the comments which had been made on the premise that the procedures were cosmetic.

The Commission acknowledged the complainant’s concerns over the presentation of the nature of hair removal offered by the NHS. In regard to the image of the razor which accompanied the article, the Commission considered that it had been included for the general illustrative purpose of depicting a hair removing implement. It was satisfied that readers generally would not understand it to demonstrate the extent of the services that would be offered or instruments that would be used by the specialist. Indeed, the article made clear that the individual who attained the position would be required to administer electrolysis and laser treatment. The Commission was therefore of the view that readers would not be misled in such a way as to constitute a breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) if the Editors’ Code of Practice.

The complainant had also expressed concern that the comments attributed to Emma Boon and Laura Midgeley were misleading, as they had been made on the incorrect premise that the procedures offered were for cosmetic reasons. The Commission made clear that newspapers are entitled to express the views of individuals, provided that they are clearly distinguished from fact. In this instance, the comments had been clearly attributed to the individuals responsible for making them and, as such, it considered that readers would be aware that the comments represented the opinions of Ms Boon and Ms Midgeley on the matter at the time of publication, and were not necessarily statements of facts. Notwithstanding the complainant’s concern that they had not been fully informed of the necessity of the procedure, the Commission was of the view that the newspaper was entitled to report these bodies’ reactions to the creation of the role. The Commission had not received a complaint from either of the individuals mentioned that the newspaper had misrepresented their comments and, as such, it could not establish that the published comments would mislead readers as to the views of the “Taxpayers’ Alliance” or the “Campaign Against Political Correctness” on the creation of the role.

Furthermore, the Commission noted that the article had included a quotation from a NHS spokesman, which stated that the removal of hair was a “key part of the treatment” for individuals who undergo gender reassignment. It considered that this would demonstrate to readers that the NHS considered the removal of hair to be necessary. There was no breach of the Code.


About janefae

On my way from here to there
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