Saturday 25 September 2010

'Lack of care'

On 15 July, the Star put this on its front page:

The story was about a plan for a few 'squat toilets' to be installed in a shopping centre in Rochdale.

There were several problems with the story - the most obvious being that two of the claims on the front page were clearly inaccurate: the toilets weren't 'Muslim-only', and they weren't to be paid for by the taxpayer.

Jamie at Exclarotive blogged about the story at the time, including how a Rochdale Councillor denied the 'inaccurate reports in some national newspapers'. The Star then claimed they had 'blocked' (see what they did there?) the 'Muslim-only loos' when an anonymous source said the plan was being reconsidered.

Now we learn that the PCC has upheld a complaint against the Star, which has published the adjudication on page 2 of today's paper (there appears to be no mention of it on the front page, where the original appeared):

The complainant - who did not represent Rochdale Council or the Rochdale Exchange Centre, neither of whom had complained to the Commission - said that it was inaccurate to say that the toilets were “Muslim-only”: the facilities, which were common to many countries, would be available to all.

In addition, the decision to pay for the ‘nile pans’ was taken by the shopping centre itself, rather than the local council. It did not therefore involve taxpayers’ money.

The newspaper said that - while non-Muslims could have used the loos - they were designed with Muslims in mind.

Nonetheless, it accepted that the headline was inaccurate in that non-Muslims would be free to use the toilets.

It also accepted that the loos were paid for by a private developer. It suggested the publication of the following correction on page 2, in addition to the removal of the article from its website:

"Our 15 July article said that squat style loos at Rochdale Exchange Centre were for Muslims only and were a waste of the council’s money. We are pleased to make clear that the loos may be used by non-Muslims and that they were paid for by the developer."

The complainant asked for the newspaper to publish an apology.

That first sentence is interesting because it seems that although the PCC regards this a third-party complaint, where there are two organisations that could be considered a 'first party', it has upheld it anyway.


Here's the PCC's adjudication:

In this prominent story, there were two clear errors of fact which, in the circumstances, would have misled readers in a significant manner: the toilets could not be described as “Muslim only”; and were not paid for by the local council.

While the newspaper had accepted that the article was wrong - and offered to correct the item - the Commission was particularly concerned at the lack of care the newspaper had taken in its presentation of the story.

This led to a breach of Clause 1 of the Code which makes clear that newspapers must “take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information”.

The complaint was upheld.

But the Star still doesn't seem to have actually apologised.

And for the PCC to be concerned about the 'lack of care' the Star takes over its front page headlines? That suggests this headline was, somehow, a mistake, rather than calculated to whip up resentment and hatred.

Surely they know - after the McCanns, Peaches Geldolf, the ash cloud, GTA: Rothbury, 'Lamps and Bleakley', Cheryl Cole, Big Brother and countless other examples - that the Star's presentation of stories show (what can generously be called) this 'lack of care' far too often?

(Hat tip to James)


  1. thought the pcc had decided not to take action over headlines as long as the article itself wasnt against any rules?

  2. Is this the beginning of a new phase of PCC with teeth?

  3. Nice to see some effort is being made against rags like the Star but its just a matter of time until they print a similar story.

    They can't help themselves.

  4. Ludicrous innaccuracy aside, the worst thing about this story for me was the underlying 'otherism' - the Muslim-only toilet payed for by YOUR money, totally seperating Muslims from tax-payers. Eurgh.

  5. I fail to see why squat toilets should be associated with Muslims anyway, they are quite common in France and many other countries. I really think it is time that the PCC (or someone, anyone!)did something serious about protecting us from this sort of xenophobic rubbish. It isn't harmless it is dangerous and inflamatory and unless it is stopped very soon, free speech itself will be under threat.

  6. Very narrow minded. Squatting is actually supposed to be a healthier and more natural position for relieving yourself. A lot of the colorectal illnesses are a result of the 'western style', sitting toilets.

    Similarly, hand-held bidets are often associated with Muslims, but are used in many parts of the eastern world. Again, extremely hygienic!


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