Case Number: 982

Council Meeting: JUNE 2004

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: The Press

Ruling Categories: Bias
Editorial Discretion

Mark Sadler complained to the Press Council about the selection of letters for publication in The Press. His lengthy complaint dated 19 April 2004 explained his general views, backed up by specific examples. The catalyst for his complaint was a letter he had written on 9 March, which did not get selected for publication.

Mr Sadler has been submitting letters for publication for 40 years and estimates he has had a thousand or so published. His complaint, whilst prompted by the non-publication of his recent letter, promoted the wider issues that there should be adequate public discussion of important issues, and that the importance of issues should be taken into account when selecting letters for publication. He felt this had not been done correctly with his letter.

There is no dispute about these worthy ideals. Both The Press and the Press Council agree with Mr Sadler that fair public discussion of important issues is vital to the health of a democracy and that some consideration should be given to the importance of an issue being selected for publication.

Mr Sadler alleges that large amounts of space are often given to fairly trivial issues, while letters like his on larger issues are not given space at all. The basis for his complaint is, therefore, that Mr Sadler disagrees with the choices made by the letters editor.

The Press Council has never wavered from its position that decisions about which letters should be published, and on which topics, are entirely in the hands of editors. Their papers live or die by these decisions. More importantly, to allow an individual, group or regulatory body to interfere in the selection of letters would amount to censorship.

The complaint is not upheld.