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Weekly rapped over delayed response to PCC

A weekly newspaper has been criticised by the Press Complaints Commission over an ‘unacceptable’ delay in responding to the watchdog.

The PCC has upheld a complaint made by the Forest of Dean Council against the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley Review over accuracy relating to an article and editorial comment about a farmer facing a court order to prohibit odour nuisance.

The council said various aspects of the articles headlined “Knackered!” and “Dead end” were inaccurate including the claim it was trying to force the permanent closure of the farmer’s business.

And the PCC said it was ‘seriously concerned’ it had taken more than 11 weeks for the title to respond to it and it would be seeking confirmation of measures the independently-owned paper had taken to ensure there was no repeat of the problem.

The council complained the coverage was inaccurate because the farmer had not been given a 10-day period to implement odour controls but rather a two-week period to submit a defence to the application and it had not ‘backtracked’ on agreed measures to contain odour.

In its response, which took more than 11 weeks, the newspaper said its article had been based primarily on an interview with the farmer and a separate individual and the council had refused to comment publicly on the issue as it said that court proceedings were underway.

The newspaper remained of the view that the ultimate aim of the legal action would be the closure of the premises.

In its ruling, the Commission ruled the newspaper was unable to provide evidence to support a number of serious claims it had made, resulting in a breach of Clause One of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

It found the delay in responding was a rare example of a failure of proper co-operation with the PCC, which reflected badly on the editorial standards of the newspaper.

PCC director Stephen Abell said: “A key factor in the system of press self-regulation independently overseen by the PCC is full co-operation from the industry.

“This editorial lapse at the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley Review is a rare example of bad practice which the Commission regards seriously.

“It is in the process of taking the matter further and seeking confirmation of the measures the paper has introduced to ensure that there is no repeat of the problem”.