The Genesis of QC

Holding unregulated media accountable

The British journalist Michael Leidig has spent eight years fighting for the right to be heard over a false story made by unregulated media bodies about his award-winning, globally respected international agency.

When he took this to court, the one-sided stories and social media attacks continued, and with no-one to put his side of the story, he was denied his day in court when the judges refused to send it to trial.

In the past eight years he has been on a Kafkaesque journey through labyrinthine complaints procedures where these unregulated media like The Guardian and Buzzfeed insisted they had done nothing wrong.

This is the story about the creation of QC set up to tackle this one-sided system, causing irreparable polarisation in society. This is the story about a regulator that does not wait for the other side to come to the table, a guardian that will now hold the guardians to account.

Man talking
Woman with suitcase

We need QC

If anyone wants to know why we need this project QC, from the expression ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes’, which means ‘Who guards the guardians’, then look no further than my story.

It started eight years ago when I achieved the Holy Grail of sustainable independent news free from advertising, PR, or marketing.

All that was needed was to scale up, but on the eve of the launch of our Fourth Estate Project to realise that dream, everything collapsed when I was ludicrously, and falsely, accused of running a fake news factory on a global scale.

Overnight, my investigations bureau closed down, my network of local media sites was taken offline, and the substantial investment we had been offered to make this independent news initiative global vanished in a moment.

In the intervening years, we climbed slowly up from the pit, and our original solo agency is now six agencies.

The breaches of even the most basic code of conduct in the preparation of the story about me are too numerous to mention here, and this complete disregard of editorial standards was not confined only to BuzzFeed, which made the original allegations.

When BuzzFeed staff moved elsewhere to other media like The Guardian newspaper, they spread the same poison there. The twists and turns could, and in fact did, keep lawyers busy round the clock.

We need protection

If these publications had been regulated like the Times, Telegraph or Daily Mail, it could have been sorted out quickly with independent arbitration, but they are not. They have their own staff that decides if they made a mistake, and once again last month the Scott Trust, owners of The Guardian, rejected my latest complaint, and made me wait a year before they told me.

The constant challenges and repeated allegations meant that when my case finally went to the US second circuit with a request that it be sent to trial, they refused after BuzzFeed’s lawyers were able to quote The Guardian, a ‘paper of record’, confirming that I was continuing to run my fake news factory.

The fact that this fake news, and believe me the irony isn’t lost on me, was written by a former Buzzfeed reporter who’d also been involved in the original flawed story and had a vested interest in seeing it buried seemed not to matter.

The suggestion that he had possibly wanted to help his former bosses or cover up his involvement in the original flawed report was, of course, inconceivable at such a high-minded, morally pure publication as The Guardian.

I warned The Guardian at the time that the story breached their own code of conduct on eight points. I warned them that it would be used in the BuzzFeed case against me, and that was exactly what happened.

Despite yet another setback, we will continue to challenge what they and any unregulated media do, and will not stop until they do the decent thing and agree to join an independent press regulator so they can be made to honour the same standards they demand of others.

These organisations need to be reminded  that the media is a double-edged sword, with the power to damage those who try to use it for their own benefit just as much as it can damage those they seek to expose. It has the power to cast down a reputation, strip away public admiration and turn the limelight into a spotlight that leaves no hiding place.

Man talking

Want to find out more?