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News & views

Plain English Campaign Ltd: another year, another loopy ceremony

[5 Dec 2012] Hopes have been dashed that 2011’s Plain English Campaign Ltd awards ceremony was the last, as the company has announced it will be doing something very similar on 14 December 2012.

Last year’s event, described by one who attended as ‘a cross between the worst panto you’ve ever seen and the worst team-building meeting you’ve ever attended’,  took place at the Cavern Club, Liverpool. Instead of the usual minor celebrity presenting the prizes, that honour went to the company’s in-house accountant (times must be hard).  

We make no apology for re-running our article from 2011 below. It gives a bit of background to this tawdry show.

[9 Dec 2011] Today the media will probably give their usual uncritical coverage to the charade that is the Plain English Campaign’s annual award ceremony. At the risk of giving this hokum even more publicity, here’s our view of the event.

Once upon a time the awards were a genuine competition with independent judges. Since the mid 1990s, though, PEC has not published a judges’ list, and the suspicion has grown that many of the winning entries for good writing are actually from PEC’s own customers. Our article ‘The Plain English Scandal’ has stayed on our website since 2007 telling the story of how companies, local councils and government departments paid PEC hundreds of thousands of pounds and then picked up awards. Absent from PEC’s press releases about the awards has been any mention of the firm’s business connections with the winners.

So why has only Private Eye been brave enough to cover this story? One of the reasons is that PEC has artfully given awards to numerous media outlets for things like best radio programme, best regional TV programme, best news programme, and best newspaper – which one year went to Metro, arguably the biggest pile of guano ever to be smeared on newsprint.

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