January 19, 2010 • 12:00 am

A group of bloggers have launched a petition to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) calling for changes to improve transparency and accountability.

The petition, launched yesterday, has been signed by over 500 supporters. Its five suggestions include calls for the code to specify like-for-like placement of retractions, corrections and apologies in print and online and for headlines to accurately indicate what the article contains.

The five suggestions are part of a submission to the annual review of the Editor’s Code of Practice and to the PCC’s governance review.

As Mark Pack, one of the key figures in the campaign, explains public trust in journalism is low – only one in five people trust journalists to tell the truth and only politicians are less trusted  (Ipsos Mori poll). He believes the future of journalism is under threat unless “journalists collectively don’t rise to the challenge of earning the public’s trust”.

The PCC has had its critics. The Media Standards Trust has accused it of failing to adequately protect both the press and the public.

The PCC has responded vigorously to criticism. In its annual report it cited higher customer approval ratings and the fact that in 2008 over 85% of corrections and apologies printed in newspapers were published either in the corrections column, on the same page as the original article or further forward. The PCC has also issued clarifications over the use of its statistics.

But, for bloggers like Tim Ireland, this does not go nearly far enough. In an interview with Full Fact, he said there is not nearly sufficient public awareness of the role of the PCC.

Responding to the PCC facts on placement of corrections, Ireland made the point that, “its not just placement, its prominence that’s the issue”.

This view seems to be accepted by the PCC chairman Sir Christopher Meyer who stated “what people want above all are quick, effective remedies in the form of prominent apologies and corrections.”

Ireland, the primary sponsor of the petition and involved in the controversy around a later retracted Sun newspaper story, believes the five suggestions represent a “bare minimum” case for improvement and describes the petition as a “win win”.

The Culture Media and Sports select committee is currently inquiring into ‘Press Standards, Privacy and Libel’ and is likely to report in the spring. You can click through to read the PCC and Media Standards Trust submissions.

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