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Complainant Name:
Dafydd Wigley MP

Clauses Noted: 12

Publication: Daily Express


Dafydd Wigley MP complained that an article in The Express on 7 August 1998 headlined "Waste of money, so to speak" was prejudicial and pejorative in breach of Clause 13 (Discrimination) of the Code of Practice.

The complainant objected to an opinion piece in which the columnist Stephen Pollard expressed his views on the Welsh Language Society's apparent demand that Welsh be given equal status to English in the new Welsh Assembly. The columnist described the Welsh Language Society as "nutters" and claimed that Welsh is an almost dead language. He expressed the view that the costs of translation from English to Welsh, and the Welsh Assembly itself, were a "waste of money" and said that English is the only official language of the UK. The complainant said that the article was racial and totally unacceptable.

The newspaper replied that the piece was a political story about the use of tax payers money. It was an example of robust comment and was clearly presented as opinion. They apologised if the complainant was upset by this, but they wished to defend the right of journalists to comment on such political matters.

Not Upheld


The Commission has been asked on a number of occasions to consider complaints that articles, which do not refer to any particular individual, are racist. A prominent example was the set of complaints received by the Commission about coverage in several newspapers of the Euro 96 football tournament. The complaints raised questions of discrimination. In rejecting them, the Commission noted that the clause of the Code which deals with discrimination was worded in a tightly defined way to allow the British press to make pointed and where necessary critical comment about events and people in a variety of circumstances. The Code is deliberately framed in this way; indeed, the Code Committee has looked at the wording of the clause which deals with discrimination on a number of occasions and has always decided that it should remain as it is.

That said, the Commission has always made clear that it will not tolerate racism in reporting and it is always swift to uphold any complaint of discrimination where it is found that a piece discriminates against an individual, and that individual has asked the Commission to investigate the matter. The Commission recently upheld a complaint that a profile piece about a named complainant contained references to his Jewish background which were irrelevant to the story and were prejudicial and pejorative. The Commission agreed that the references were in breach of the Code and censured the newspaper.

The Commission has quite frequently been asked to consider complaints concerning comments in the press about the Welsh, similar to the complaint under consideration here. However, where the article in question is not about individuals but is a general comment piece, the complaints clearly fall into the same category as those the Commission received about the Euro 96 coverage. In this case, the article was clearly presented as the named writers personal opinion on a political issue - that is, the possible costs of translation at the Welsh Assembly and the related question of the status of the Welsh language in the UK. Although the writer's views were expressed in robust language and were perhaps intentionally provocative, they did not refer to any particular individual. The Commission accepted that there may be some readers who objected strongly to the views expressed and may have found them offensive. However, the Commission did not find that the reporting was in breach of the Code. Questions of taste and offensiveness are matters for editorial judgement, rather than for the Commission.

Although the Commission rejected the complaint, it wished to set on record again that it will not hesitate to censure discriminatory reporting or comment about an individual - in any of the terms set out in Clause 13 - if that individual concerned asks the Commission to investigate the matter.


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