20 Jun 2011

Press Complaints rule on library cuts video

Some might remember I made front page of the Echo back in February and various other articles in other papers including even a small piece in The Daily Telegraph. What did I do? Well I made a comment on a video about Gloucestershire libraries - and put a warning note - see here. Well the Conservative leader of the county council, Mark Hawthorne, condemned me for posting a comment  saying that the video compared library cuts to the holocaust.

Well I understand that the Press Complaints Commission has now found the editor of the Gloucestershire Echo in breach of the press code of conduct following a complaint by the campaigning group Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries over the newspaper's coverage of the video.

Interestingly the huge majority of comments left on The Citizen/Echo website were also very critical of Hawthorne: many claiming the move was designed to try and deflect criticisms away from the cuts to library services. The vast majority of the comments have since been removed.

The video replaces subtitles from the German-language film "Downfall" about the last days of Adolf Hitler's regime at the end of World War II with words purporting to be county councillors making the decision to cut library services.  The Daily Telegraph have listed the Downfall video as one of the top 25 spoof videos.

Anyhow I understand that Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the article suggested the group was comparing the library cuts to the Holocaust: "As the Chair of Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries, whilst I do not condone the video, I was upset about the way the Echo misleadingly reported that it compared library cuts to the Holocaust - this caused a lot of distress for our members. I made a complaint to the press complaints commission who found the
Editor of the Echo in breach of the code of conduct."

The reply received by Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries is as follows: "In regard to the concern that the article under complaint described the video as comparing library closures to the 'Holocaust', the
Commission found that this was indeed a breach of Clause 1 of the Code. The video was not comparing library closures to the Holocaust: the scene in the film depicts Hitler’s reaction to news about Germany’s failing war efforts; in the YouTube spoof, it depicted Hitler reacting to news about his failing library closure efforts. There was no Holocaust reference and, as such, the article was incorrect on this point. Clause 1 (ii) states that a significant inaccuracy, once recognised, must be corrected."

I understand that the editor told Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries he would print a correction, but the group is unhappy that the one he offered passed responsibility for the misrepresentation to Cllr Hawthorne. Indeed the articles remain on The Citizen's website with claims I am using the holocaust to score political points. It is a sad that politicians and our media chose to misrepresent the facts.

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