Press Council chairman Julian Disney says little weight is given to the number of complaints made about an article, as it was revealed 77 objections had been made about The Daily Telegraph’s ‘‘Kick this mob out’’ front page headline on the first day of the election campaign.
Professor Disney would not comment on the article, as the matter could potentially require adjudication, but said the council’s role was not to decide on what was desirable.
“The council is only concerned with things that breach its principles, not with things that may be desirable or undesirable for other reasons,” he said.
“We don’t put a huge lot of emphasis about how many people complain, because we know that firstly a lot of people who are greatly concerned won’t go to the length of complaining, and also people may just be very effective in triggering people to send a standard form complaint.”
Professor Disney said News Corp had been informed that complaints had been made.
Press Council executive director Derek Wilding had earlier confirmed the number of complaints for the editorial was about 10 per cent of the number usually received in a year.
The Press Council website said it received more than 450 complaints each year, but Mr Wilding said this was based on 2010-11 figures, with a much greater number made the following year.
There had been 19 complaints received about Thursday’s Daily Telegraph front page depicting Kevin Rudd and Anthony Albanese in German military uniforms in a parody of the 1960s television show Hogan’s Heroes.
Press Council executive director Derek Wilding said there had been one article this year that had received more than 100 complaints.
Professor Disney would not identify the article but said it was not one that would be of general interest or significance.
“It’s an example of why we don’t put a lot of weight on how many people complain.”
He said the Press Council was drawing all editors’ attention to its guidelines on election coverage, developed in 2009,that did accept a publisher’s right ‘‘to favour the election of one party and to oppose the election of another’’, with importance placed on distinguishing advocacy from news.
The ‘‘Kick this mob out’’ editorial said the September 7 election gave Australians an opportunity to “put an end to two terms of political chaos and economic decline”.
“On September 7, Australia will indeed find a new way – by throwing out a government that has completely lost its way.”
A reference to the alternative Coalition government was made only in the final paragraph, where readers were assured the paper would “place Coalition policies under exactly the same level of scrutiny”.
Mr Wilding said as at mid-Friday there had been one complaint about the day’s Courier Mail front page headed Send in the Clown, criticising the parachuting of former Queensland premier Peter Beattie into a marginal seat held by the Liberal National Party.