BUSINESS
07/15/2011 10:51 EDT | Updated 09/14/2011 05:12 EDT

Ontario Press Council Denies Sun Media Allegations Of 'Politically Correct Mentality'

Flickr: qmnonic

THE CANADIAN PRESS — TORONTO - The Ontario Press Council is denying allegations of a "politically correct mentality" after Sun Media withdrew its membership from the provincial print-media watchdog.

Earlier in the week, Sun Media vice-president Glenn Garnett said the editorial direction of the chain's newspapers was "incompatible with a politically correct mentality" that informed the press council's decisions.

The Ontario Press Council investigates complaints about some of the largest newspapers in Canada, including the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star.

In a response letter sent Thursday, press council chairman Robert Elgie says the council goes to great lengths to make sure its conclusions are objective.

Elgie, who has been a member of the council for 10 years and its chairman for five, says he has never detected ideological motives behind the council's decisions.

He says the media watchdog does not entertain "frivolous" complaints.

"A much more frequent criticism is that the vast majority of claims received are rejected," says Elgie.

He adds that less than 10 per cent of the complaints the council receives result in a hearing, and, historically, only half of those claims referred to hearings are upheld.

The press council has for years overseen 37 dailies, including 27 Sun Media newspapers such as the Toronto Sun, the Kingston Whig-Standard and the London Free Press.

The council is primarily made up of members of the public, and also includes representatives of its member newspapers. Until this week, Sun Media staff were on the council.

Last year, Sun Media's parent company Quebecor announced it was withdrawing from the Quebec Press Council.

Sun Media also owns daily newspapers in Manitoba and Alberta, but they do not belong to their respective press councils.

Elgie says he'll be meeting with Garnett to discuss the issue and that he hopes Sun Media will reconsider the split.

"In my experience, there has been no 'common cause' exhibited by either public or professional members adverse to the views of the Sun's representatives," Elgie writes to Garnett.

"Membership in the council is, of course, voluntary, and I fully respect your right to withdraw, but I hope there is an opportunity for Sun Media to reconsider its decision."