Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Research into public opinion

  5.  Partly to measure how successful the PCC's strategy has been to date, and partly to assess how we might most effectively deploy resources in the future, the PCC commissioned some opinion research in January 2003 to look at:

    —  public knowledge about the Commission;

    —  the problem of media intrusion; and

    —  what members of the public expect of a body like the PCC.

  6.  The full results of this poll conducted by MORI among a representative sample of 2,058 adults aged 15 and over in the United Kingdom between 23 and 27 January are set out in Appendix X.

  7.  They underline three key facts—that:

    —  very few people have themselves been personally affected by breaches of newspaper ethics;

    —  despite which, the Commission is a widely recognised name with significant numbers of people knowing of its existence; and

    —  the public believes the key characteristics of a newspaper complaints system are that it should seek quickly to resolve disputes, and that this service should be free to the public, paid for by the newspaper industry. That is, of course, exactly what the PCC delivers.

  8.  Numbers affected by inaccurate or intrusive reporting. The poll asked whether individuals themselves had ever had cause to register an official complaint about an article or programme that related to them personally.

    —  The overwhelming majority—93%—had never had cause to complain.

    —  Only 4% had ever had cause to complain about a newspaper or magazine article, while 3% had about a radio or TV programme.

  9.  Name recognition of regulatory authorities. The representative sample was also asked what it knew about different media regulatory bodies. The survey suggested that there was a high name recognition for the Press Complaints Commission.

    —  Eighty per cent of the sample had heard of the PCC. Fourteen per cent knew a lot or a fair amount about it, 33% knew a little, while the remainder knew little but had heard of the organisation. Given how many people are directly affected by media intrusion (see para 8), this is an encouraging result.

    —  By way of comparison, just 23% had ever heard of the telephone chat line regulator ICSTIS, and only 54% had heard of the Radio Authority. Name recognition for the Broadcasting Standards Commission was very similar to the results for the PCC.

  10.  Running a complaints system. Individuals were asked a number of questions about the service of the PCC and what they expect from a complaints handling system.

    —  Questioned about the most important characteristic of a media complaints organisation, 52% replied "quick resolution to complaints" with 40% adding that it should be free.

    —  Asked specifically on who should fund the Press Complaints Commission, the overwhelming majority—64 %—said the newspaper and magazine industry. Only 12% thought it should be paid for by taxpayers—the statutory option—while 7% thought it should be funded by a levy on complainants.

  11.  The PCC notes these findings, in particular the fact that the public seems to support the basic characteristics of a self regulatory system with speed at its heart, and that people are by and large aware of the PCC's existence. But there is always more to do. We will therefore use these results to target our information work even more effectively, and to act as a benchmark for further improvements



  1.  The Commission recognises that some members of society are more likely to feature in newspaper and magazine articles because of national or international events, or because they are part of minority groups about whom there is curiosity or even ignorance. Moreover, vulnerable people may feel intimidated about "taking on" a newspaper by complaining, even if they have a legitimate complaint. But the protection of the vulnerable is crucial to our work—and it is important in these circumstances for the Commission to ensure that, in case things do go wrong, these groups are aware of the Code and enabled to complain. This Section outlines this part of the Commission's public information strategy, including which groups are targeted for special advice and what the Commission does to help them. We also set out how we complement this work with key adjudications on complaints.

Those affected by coverage of refugee and asylum issues

  2.  Newspaper scrutiny of such issues is intense, and coverage voluminous. Where newspapers highlight individual cases the people concerned can be particularly vulnerable. Not only is there the fear—based on reality or otherwise—that critical coverage might provoke hostility against them, but there is also the problem that asylum seekers might well not have the language skills to be able to complain about the coverage.

  3.  The Commission therefore embarked in 1998 on a strategy to make sure that representatives of asylum seekers had as much knowledge as possible about how to deal with the media and, if necessary, complain. In particular, the Commission has:

    —  contacted and visited regional Refugee Councils and maintained close links with them;

    —  engaged in dialogue with the National Coalition of anti-Deportation Campaigns;

    —  participated in the Refugees, Asylum and the Media (RAM) forum;

    —  liaised with local authorities—such as in the Midlands, in Scotland and on the South Coast—which have a high concentration of asylum seekers in their boroughs;

    —  translated the Code into a range of suitable languages to make the complaints process easier. [75]

  4.  In addition to underlining the importance of making complaints to the process of raising standards, the dialogue with these groups has also helped the Commission to appreciate the range of issues involved.

  5.  The Commission has entertained a number of complaints from the representatives of asylum seekers. Section B3 sets out how newspaper standards can be raised through the issuing of adjudications. To that end, the Commission has made a number of key adjudications aimed at improving the coverage of such matters. These include:

    —  Kenewa v Sunday Mercury, Report 50. The Commission made clear that although a local newspaper was entitled to report on a local authority's policies towards housing asylum seekers, it must not be to the detriment of the children of the family at the centre of the article. It concluded that as "the subject of the article was clearly very sensitive and likely to provoke a strong reaction in some people" the newspaper should have taken more care to protect the privacy of the children.

    —  Harman and Harman v Folkestone Herald, Report 47. The newspaper was criticised for using a photograph out of context to imply that police in riot gear had raided a house where some refugees lived. In an important adjudication the Commission "took the opportunity to remind editors of their responsibilities in covering such topics and of the danger that inaccurate or misleading reporting may generate an atmosphere of fear and hostility which is not borne out by the facts".

    —  A reader v Daily Express, Report 56. The Commission took the opportunity of this complaint about a comment piece to issue guidance to editors to the effect that "editors must make sure that material is accurate and that comment is distinguished as such; that there is no discrimination on the grounds of race or religion against a named individual; and that when disputes of fact do arise a fair opportunity to reply is given."

  6.  It is clear that many of the objections to reporting on asylum matters relate to accuracy, rather than, as is widely believed, discrimination. Newspapers have a valuable role in educating members of the public about this subject and, given the potential impact of inaccurate reporting in this volatile area, it is essential that complaints are forthcoming whenever a significant inaccuracy in reporting is spotted. To this end, the Commission has pledged to continue its ongoing programme of liaising with asylum groups to ensure that the disadvantaged status of those who they represent is not a barrier to their right to complain. This issue is further discussed in Annex 3.


  7.  The number of communities and individuals affected by all aspects of the reporting of racial issues is potentially overwhelming. Despite this, the Commission has made meaningful contact with key organisations to ensure that we are aware of the media issues most important to the communities they represent and that awareness of the Commission's service is tirelessly promoted.

  8.  Those groups with whom we have been in contact recently include:

    —  the Creative Collective;

    —  the Ethnic Media Group;

    —  Commission for Racial Equality;

    —  Race Equality seminar.

  9.  As the Commission is primarily a dispute resolution service, its success in regulating media coverage of issues relating to racial concerns is measured in no small part by the complaints that have been resolved. Recent examples include:

    —  complaints against four national and regional newspapers from the parents of a boy from an ethnic minority who was identified as suffering from suspected tuberculosis. The newspapers explained why the child was identified and apologised for any distress caused;

    —  a woman from Exeter who complained that an article and accompanying editorial had contained inaccurate and pejorative references to her degree course. The editor apologised for any offence caused to the complainant and invited her to submit a letter for publication;

    —  a Councillor's complaint on behalf of a constituent about the inaccurate reporting of a charge of aggravated racial harassment. The newspaper published a full correction and apology alongside a photograph of the complainant.

  10.  The PCC also liaises with the CRE on a regular basis and former Chairman Lord Wakeham presented a keynote speech on the media and race at the CRE's Race in the Media Awards in 1996. Meetings have also been held with the Home Secretary's Race Relations Forum.

  11.  We recognise there is still much to do and further initiatives are planned for 2003, including:

    —  attendance at a Chinese in Britain Forum conference in Birmingham in February;

    —  publication of an article in the Chinese in Britain Forum newsletter;

    —  further meetings with refugees' organisations.


  12.  While the Commission's staff have been meeting with representatives from the Muslim community since 1998, dialogue with this group of people has been particularly appropriate and constructive since September 2001. There is much concern among the Muslim community about some aspects of reporting—particularly in connection with the ongoing war on terrorism.

  13.  Specifically, the Commission:

    —  attended the Muslims in the Community conference in Manchester in 2002;

    —  meets regularly with Muslim Councils all over the country;

    —  is represented on the Media Consultative Committee Working Group organised by the Muslim Council of Britain and chaired by Lord Weatherill.

  14.  It is essential that the Commission continues to develop its co-operative working relationship with Muslim groups and the Commission will continue to seek opportunities to engage in dialogue with them.

The travelling community

  15.  Although not currently prominent on the national news agenda, the Commission is aware that issues surrounding travelling communities remain sensitive in individual localities. The Commission has established contact at a national level, to ensure that our service is promoted throughout the travelling community, and in the regions where appropriate. Included in the Commission's programme to liaise with community leaders have been:

    —  attendance at the Third Annual Conference on Traveller Law Reform;

    —  contact with ACERT (Kent Traveller support group);

    —  attendance at meetings of the Traveller Law Reform; and

    —  visits to various Travellers' groups in Northern Ireland.

  16.  The Commission has considered one specific complaint on this issue when it adjudicated on a complaint lodged by Asylum Aid, Cardiff Gypsy Sites Group, Dr Evan Harris MP and others against a number of articles published in The Sun in 2000[76]. The Commission took the opportunity to outline its general policy in this area. It stated that:

    "The Commission recognises that in covering such topics there is a danger that inaccurate or misleading reporting may generate an atmosphere of fear and hostility. Although it did not find in this case that the complaints were justified, it took the opportunity to remind editors of their responsibilities under the Code to avoid discriminatory reporting".

  17.  While the complaint was not upheld the success of its reminder to editors can be measured by the fact that no further complaints about the issue have been made to the Commission.

  18.  The Commission has undertaken to maintain links with the travelling community.

Emergency services

  19.  The Commission is in regular contact with the emergency services for obvious reasons—the sort of incidents that they cover are very likely to end up being reported in newspapers. They often care for victims of crime or accidents and relatives of the deceased. It is the Commission's priority to protect such vulnerable groups of people from inaccurate or intrusive reporting and newsgathering. Liaising with local emergency services can therefore provide a direct route to those people. To this end, the Commission has in 2002 been in contact with or met, among others:

    —  the Association of Chief Fire Officers in Tamworth;

    —  Kent Police Press Officers;

    —  Forensic Science Service Press Office;

    —  British Red Cross;

    —  Coroners' Society, in whose annual review an article on the Commission's work was published (See Appendix XI) (not printed);

    —  Leeds Bereavement Forum;

    —  the Scottish Police College;

    —  Regional Victim Support groups—including exhibiting at their national conference.

  20.  The purpose of such dialogue is to ensure that problems can either be prevented entirely or dealt with directly by editors, ensuring that a formal investigation into a matter is a last resort at such difficult times.

  21.  Nonetheless, the Commission has recently dealt formally with an important complaint from one of the emergency services. In 2002 the Commission upheld a complaint against the London Metro from Thames Valley Police on behalf of a rape victim who had been identifiable from information contained in the article (although her name and address was not published)[77].

  22.  In most similar cases, however, the Commission is in a position to resolve problems quickly. Details of resolved complaints from 2002—which can be found in Appendix I—reveal that many of the complaints made to the Commission concern accidents, emergencies or untimely deaths. However, a few examples are included here:

    —  articles discussing the World Trade Centre attacks in the Mail on Sunday and Hello! putatively identified an individual in a photograph of the twin towers. Both publications published prominent apologies to the family of the individual;

    —  a woman complained that reports of the death of her father in the Newbury Weekly News and the Newbury and Thatcham Chronicle contained inaccurate and insensitive details. The editor wrote personally to the complainant to express his regret at any distress the article had caused; and

    —  the parents of a young man who died in a club complained that an account of the tragedy in The Sun (Scottish edition) contained inaccuracies. The editor wrote personally to the complainant to apologise for the errors, and a clarification and apology was published in the newspaper.

  23.  The Commission already has a number of further relevant meetings planned for 2003, including one with North Wales police, military, emergency services and local authority press officers in February.

The Elderly

  24.  The Commission recognises that older members of society may find the complaints procedure problematic for a number of reasons. Some may suffer from the physical effects of old age. These individuals have benefited from initiatives undertaken to make it easier to find out information about the Commission and to lodge complaints—including our Textphone, our large print and our audio literature—which are detailed in Section A3.

  25.  In addition, the Commission has established communication with a number of organisations that represent the interests of the elderly. In particular, Commission staff have attended conferences arranged by Help the Aged Conference and talked to the University of the Third Age. This dialogue ensures that our procedures are promoted to this potentially vulnerable section of society.

  26.  The Commission has used its adjudications to reinforce the rights of the elderly. In A man v Daily Mail, Report 58, the Commission made clear that residential homes for the elderly where residents were supervised for medical conditions were "hospitals or similar institutions" in the sense of Clause 9 (Hospitals) of the Code.

Those affected by mental illness

  27.  The Code pays particular regard to individuals affected by mental health issues in a number of Clauses. While the provisions on accuracy and privacy apply here equally as they do to all members of society, Clause 9 (Hospitals) covers "similar" institutions, and Clause 13 (Discrimination) refers to prejudicial, pejorative or unnecessary reference to mental illness. These two specific references emphasise the care journalists must exercise when researching and writing on potentially sensitive mental health issues.

  28.  The Commission has long recognised the particularly vulnerable position of people suffering from mental health problems and has done what it can to help to change the climate in which such matters are reported. In 1997 the Commission, following a fruitful dialogue with the Mental Health Act Commission under Dame Ruth Runciman, issued a Guidance Note which identified the sort of language that would be inappropriate when describing sufferers of mental health conditions—including those who had committed criminal offences. The Guidance Note is attached in Appendix XII (not reproduced here).

  29.  The Commission has also undertaken other work in this area, including:

    —  attending discussion groups with Mental Health media;

    —  an address at a Capita on mental illness and the media;

    —  a visit to Broadmoor and a Question and Answer session with the Patients' Council there;

    —  visits to Mental Health Trusts—including Homerton Hospital in Hackney; and

    —  meetings and regular liaison with the mental health charity MIND, as well as the Mental Health Act Commission.

  30.  A landmark adjudication in 1997 set out the Commission's strict approach in dealing with discriminatory reporting of mental health matters. Adjudicating on an objection to pejorative language in Time Out magazine, the Commission concluded that, although intended to be humorous, a columnist's remarks "had misfired. They were clearly distressing to the elderly and to those with mental health problems. As such, this was clearly not in the spirit of . . . the Code, or of the Commission's own guidance on the portrayal in the press of person's with mental illness" (Peck v Time Out, Report 40).

  31.  The strength of self-regulation over any form of legal regulation was underlined when the Commission considered a complaint from the mother of a 17 year old boy, details of whose mental health problems had been given in a court case and which, legally, the newspaper was entitled to publish. However, the Commission made clear in its adjudication that the Code affords greater protection to such vulnerable people than the law and upheld the complaint. (A woman v Hastings and St. Leonards' Observer, Report 41).

  32.  On the back of these complaints, the former Chairman of the Commission, Lord Wakeham, outlined how far reporting of mental health issues had improved over the years and how standards could be raised further in a conference on these issues in February 2000. He underlined, in particular, the benefits of a conciliatory complaints process:

    "editors and journalists can sometimes have the same irrational fears that others have. You can change their views by explaining things to them—not in a hostile or even very public manner, but by taking things up with them when they have got something wrong, and explaining what the consequences of inaccuracy or discrimination are" (Capita Conference, London, 24 February 2000).

  33.  In that vein, the Commission has also successfully resolved a number of complaints in this area. One recent example concerned a complaint from Trafford Mental Health Advocacy Service on behalf of a client that an account of a previous relationship had contained inaccuracies and intruded into her private life, and that she had been harassed. The magazine apologised and undertook to ensure that the article would not be published again by agreeing not to circulate it to any other publication.

  34.  The Commission has worked to encourage a culture of accurate and informed reporting on mental health matters. It is reassuring to note that the MIND Annual Media Awards have lauded the increasingly informed and sensitive treatment of mental health issues in the press, a view which chimes with the Commission's own private monitoring of the situation.

  35.  The Commission has plans for a further set of visits to Special Hospitals this year—in particular a return to Broadmoor and a visit to Ashworth.


  36.  Those who are resident in hospitals or similar institutions are protected by Clause 9 (Hospitals) of the Code. This covers methods of newsgathering in such environments and reminds publications that "the restrictions on intruding into privacy are particularly relevant to enquiries about individuals in hospitals or similar institutions".

  37.  Among other measures designed to heighten awareness of the Commission in the NHS, representatives from the PCC have:

    —  regularly attended the NHS annual conference;

    —  met representatives of local Trusts when PCC regional tours have been underway (See Section D3); and

    —  written articles for NHS managers such as the Health and Community Care Journal (See Appendix XIII) (not reproduced here).

  38.  Buttressing the rights of those in hospital—and also the rights of hospitals as institutions—the Commission has previously upheld complaints about approaches by journalists. The Code directs journalists to identify themselves to a responsible executive in order to obtain permission to enter non-public areas. There are in fact very few breaches of the Code in this area and the Commission has had cause to uphold just two complaints on this subject since 1996 (see Section C2).

  39.  In this area the Commission has benefited in particular from the wide range of health expertise among current and lay members of the Commission. These include Lord Chan (Paediatrician and Director of the NHS Ethnic Health Unit 1994-97), Vivien Hepworth (former Chairman of the Surrey & Sussex Health NHS Trust), Arzina Bhanji (Dental Surgeon and former Director of the Royal Hospitals NHS Trust), Dame Ruth Runciman (former Chairman, Mental Health Act Commission), and Professor Lesley Rees (Dean of St. Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College 1989-95). The significant contribution of the health sector among the PCC's lay membership underlines the importance attached to this area.

The Gay community

  40.  Although society is of course changing in its attitudes towards homosexuality, the Commission recognises that homophobia still affects many gay people. There may be some delicate issues affecting gay people—such as employment tribunals, matters of health and parenting—that might lead to complaints about the press. However, some gay people might be reluctant to complain, being either fearful of how a newspaper might react or perhaps embarrassed about the subject matter of the complaint.

  41.  The Commission therefore took the opportunity of an invitation from the editor of Gay Times to write an article for the magazine addressing the Clauses of the Code that might help its readers and setting out how the Commission has previously dealt with complaints about gay issues. The article is reproduced in Appendix XIV (not reproduced here).

  42.  In addition, the Commission has upheld or resolved a number of complaints about issues concerning gay people.

    —  The Commission upheld a complaint against The Sun in 1997 about an article that confused comment and fact in a critical piece about gay lifestyles[78].

    —  It upheld a complaint in 2002 from a pregnant lesbian, concluding that matters to do with her health that the newspaper published were intrusive[79].

    —  It resolved a complaint from four gay people who complained that an article in a Scottish newspaper intruded into their children's privacy.

    —  It also resolved a complaint from Hampshire Constabulary on behalf of an officer about misleading, intrusive and discriminatory material in a report on a potential support network for gay, lesbian and bisexual officers. A newspaper that published an article which included pejorative references to his sexuality was persuaded to resolve the matter.

Transsexual and transgendered community

  43.  Following concerns about the reporting of issues involving the transsexual and transgendered community, the Commission contacted a number of interested organisations to explain how the Code applied to the special concerns of this group in society.

  44.  Specifically, members of the Commission's staff have:

    —  attended meetings with the Crosslinks transsexual group in Glasgow to explain to community members at a grass roots level how a good complaint can be made out, what individuals can expect from the Commission, and how to encourage positive reporting on these issues;

    —  attended the Beaumont Society Annual Conference, where they debated how newspapers report issues involving the transsexual and transgendered community and explained how the Commission could be best used to raise standards in this area; and

    —  written an article in the Tartan Skirt, a magazine for Scottish transgendered people. The article is attached in Appendix XV (not reproduced here).

Schools and children

  45.  This submission makes clear how the Commission and the Code give strong protection to children. (See Sections B2 and 3, and C2 and 6). It is important that schools are aware of their rights under the Code—detailed in other Sections—and how to complain if things do go wrong.

  46.  This area is covered in many of our significant number of meetings with local authorities—which are set out in more detail in Section D3—many of which are responsible for education and social services.

  46.  In addition to our local authority work, the Commission has arranged a meeting with the Secondary Heads Association for early 2003, and has a rolling programme of co-operation with the Independent Schools Council and various children's charities.


  47.  For some years now the Commission has embarked on a strategy of identifying particularly vulnerable groups of people for whom complaining might be an ordeal. It has undertaken a range of initiatives to help such people, to educate them about the Code and to maintain fruitful communication with them. This strategy has been successful in generating complaints and helping the vulnerable in their relationships with the press, and is something that the Commission is committed to pursuing.


  1.  One of our aims is to ensure that people from every region of the country know about the work of the PCC and are able to complain. A regional breakdown of complainants shows a fairly even geographical spread[80]—but there is always more to do. That is why we are committed to taking information about the PCC to the countries and regions of the UK—which involves attendance at a wide range of regional conferences, discussion forums and other interested groups. Many of these are concerned with the interests of vulnerable groups and are outlined in Section D2 above.

  2.  In 1998 the Commission embarked on a co-ordinated programme activity across the country to promote the work of the PCC at the local level. The core of these visits are meetings with local authorities, local voluntary groups and so on. In conjunction with these meetings the Commission undertakes interviews on local radio and television, holds information sessions at libraries to talk to people, and establishes and maintains contact with key local groups. In each case our aim is to:

    —  explain the work of the PCC—and that its service is quick and free;

    —  raise awareness of the Code;

    —  explain how people can get in touch; and

    —  highlight our services both with groups of vulnerable people and organisations such as local authorities who represent many different interests (including, importantly, schools and social services) that might have cause to complain.


  3.  The Commission is keenly aware of the need to ensure its services are known to the people of Scotland. The Scottish press is different from that of the rest of the UK in some important ways—although it is bound by the terms of a Code which is universally applicable—and it is right to recognise that.

  4.  That is why there is always one editor from Scotland on the Commission—along with lay members such as Baroness Smith of Gilmorehill and Jenny Brown of the Scottish Arts Council. Elizabeth Smith now serves on the PCC's Appointments Commission[81]. Scottish editors also sit on the editors' Code Committee, and Scottish publishers on the Press Standards Board of Finance. The special interests of Scotland are therefore very well represented throughout the self-regulatory system.

  5.  Currently, one in 10 complaints come from Scotland—and separate statistics about the Scottish press and the outcome of these complaints are published in the Annual Review. However, we can always do more to publicise our work and this Section sets out how we do it.

  6.  To begin with, the PCC has a special Scottish Helpline—0131 220 6652—to ensure that individuals ringing us from Scotland can do so at the cost of a local call. This number is widely publicised.

  7.  Recognising the importance of the Scottish language to an admittedly small group of people, the PCC also publishes its Code in Gaelic—an initiative that was welcomed by Comunn na Gáidhlig.

  8.  In the past few years the Commission has co-operated with a variety of different groups in Scotland—in addition to liaison with individual newspapers there. For instance, in 2002 the PCC:

    —  attended the Citizens Advice Bureaux Scotland Conference in Dundee and exhibited there;

    —  undertook seminars with Aberdeenshire City Council;

    —  met with the Students Association and Rector of St Andrews University[82]; and

    —  undertook training seminars with the Scottish Police College in Lothian.

  9.  These visits in 2002 were part of an ongoing programme of information, which in previous years has also included:

    —  talks to Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Inverness City Councils, with displays at the local libraries in those areas;

    —  interviews with BBC Radio and Scot FM about the PCC;

    —  attendance at the Scottish Parliament Conference in Edinburgh; and

    —  liaison with Comunn na Ga"idhlig prior to publication of Code in Gaelic.

  10.  Copies of our Bulletins and half yearly Reports are also sent to all Members of the Scottish Parliament.

  11.  A number of meetings for 2003 have already been scheduled, and the Commission is keen to maintain links with key organisations in regular meetings, as well as establishing new contacts in Scotland. Our programme for the coming year and beyond includes:

    —  meetings with the Scottish Civic Forum;

    —  a seminar with Glasgow City Council; and

    —  attendance at all the Scottish party political conferences.

Northern Ireland

  12.  As with Scotland, the press in Northern Ireland faces its own set of challenges—and the Commission is keen to ensure the people there have full access to our services. The PCC was particularly pleased in 2002 when Edmund Curran, Editor of the Belfast Telegraph, became the first editor from the Province to serve on the Commission.

  13.  A recent roadshow in Northern Ireland covered the cities and provinces of Belfast, Derry, Omagh and Coleraine. Commission representatives met with the local councils in these regions, exhibited in relevant local libraries and promoted the visit on BBC Radio 4 and Radio Foyle.

  14.  In addition, the Commission has held constructive meetings with:

    —  a number of Belfast groups representing the interests of the Travelling community in Ulster;

    —  Steer, a mental health information group based in Derry; and

    —  the Equality Commission of NI.

  15.  In 2003 we will undertake further meetings in Northern Ireland. A meeting with PR practitioners in Northern Ireland is already scheduled, under the auspices of the Institute of Public Relations, at a seminar in Newry and Mourne in March.

The North of England

  16.  The Commission is keen to spread information about itself across the regions of England as well—and, again, targets its resources on groups and organisations to which potential complainants might turn for help.

  17.  In 2002 the Commission undertook a number of engagements in the North of England. This included:

    —  seminars with Copeland, South Lakeland, Allerdale, Carlisle and Eden local authorities as part of a Cumbria roadshow (which took place in the wake of the "Foot and Mouth" outbreak);

    —  displays at relevant local libraries and Citizens Advice Bureaux;

    —  attendance at the Local Government Authority conference in Harrogate; and

    —  seminars and meetings with Granada TV in Manchester to discuss some of the issues relating to more high profile complaints.

  18.  In previous years, other important work in this part of the country has also included:

    —  the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux Conference in York;

    —  meetings with Yorkshire Television in Leeds;

    —  seminars with Liverpool and Manchester local authorities during a North West roadshow; and

    —  exhibitions in local libraries in Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle, promoted by BBC Radio interviews.

  19.  The Commission has two main visits to the North of England planned for 2003. It is hoped that these major projects will establish new contacts as well as strengthening existing links with key organisations in these regions. Plans include:

    —  a Leeds and Sheffield roadshow to include meetings with local authorities, media, libraries and Citizens Advice Bureaux; and

    —  a programme of seminars and exhibitions in the North East encompassing meetings in Newcastle, South Shields, Sunderland and Gateshead.


  20.  As set out in Section A2 (para 12), the Commission is keen to expand on its information programme in Wales to complement the work the PCC has already undertaken there.

  21.  As part of its commitment to Wales, the PCC publishes its Code and information on how to complain in the Welsh language—something that is promoted on every tour. From time to time, the PCC will receive complaints in Welsh and is always happy to handle them accordingly.

  22.  A recent roadshow in South Wales resulted in meetings with the following organisations:

    —  City Councils in Newport, Cardiff, Bridgend and Swansea;

    —  an exhibition at local libraries in these cities in conjunction with BBC Radio interviews; and

    —  attendance at the Media and Film 2002 Conference in Cardiff.

  23.  The Commission has also exhibited at the Welsh Local Government Association Conference in Llandudno.

  24.  In 2003, we are hoping to shore up existing contact in both North and South Wales with two major roadshows.

    —  A North Wales roadshow planned for February will include meetings with Conway, Denbyshire, Gwyneth and Anglesey local authorities, accompanying libraries and CABx.

    —  The South Wales roadshow in mid-Spring will establish contact with the Welsh Assembly Press Office, and will involve meetings with local councils and CABx and library displays.

    —  We will also attend a meeting of the six North Wales local authority press officers, including liaison with police and emergency services in those areas.

The Midlands

  25.  The Commission has established firm links with the UK's second largest city. Our first roadshow to Birmingham in 2000 included local authority and press visits, library displays and three radio interviews. A year later we followed up this visit with a second roadshow. In addition, Commission representatives met with other local authorities, combined with exhibitions, in:

    —  Dudley; and

    —  Sandwell.

  26.  The Commission has arranged extensive visits throughout the rest of the Midlands in recent years, including the following:

    —  Nottingham roadshow, involving talks to Nottinghamshire County Council and Nottingham City Council, library exhibition, BBC Radio Nottingham interview and meetings with local press;

    —  meetings with County Councils in Shropshire and Leicestershire;

    —  English Speaking Union in Leicestershire; and

    —  participation in Nottinghamshire Police "Veto on Violence" Conference.

  27.  In 2003 we plan to take the roadshow to Derby and surrounding areas.

The South of England

  28.  The Commission has recently undertaken roadshows in key parts of the South of England most affected by issues relating to asylum seekers and refugees[83]—this included a tour of Kent, including Shepway and Dover District Councils, and other local authorities in the area.

  29.  In addition, the Commission has over the last few years undertaken a comprehensive programme of meetings with local authorities across London and the South of England. These include:

    —  the London Boroughs of Brent, Hackney, Bromley, Redbridge and Hounslow;

    —  Wiltshire County Council;

    —  Hampshire County Council;

    —  West Sussex County Council;

    —  Hertfordshire County Council;

    —  Kent County Council;

    —  Essex County Council;

    —  Gloucestershire County Council; and

    —  Bedfordshire County Council.

  30.  Last year, the PCC undertook a roadshow in Norwich, involving meetings with Norfolk County and City Councils and the central Citizens Advice Bureau, and live phone-in on BBC Radio Norfolk to promote library exhibition.

  31.  Plans for 2003 include seminars and exhibitions as part of a roadshow in Devon and Cornwall—as well as ongoing initiatives in London and the rest of the South of England. A separate tour is planned for the Isle of Wight and the Channel Islands.


  32.  This Section has demonstrated the wide range of activities the PCC has undertaken to take information about itself to the countries and regions of the UK—work to which we continue to be committed. The map on the following page underlines the point by highlighting those areas of the country the PCC has recently covered.


  1.  In 1993, the National Heritage Committee made the very sensible recommendation that the training of journalists "would fall suitably within the remit of the Press Commission". The task, of course, fell to the PCC—and it has been our clear aim since then to create a culture in which the next generation of journalists is versed in the terms of the Code and the important issue of press ethics. The Commission therefore now plays a large—and ever-increasing—role in the training of journalists across the country.

  2.  This involvement has, in turn, been fostered and encouraged by the industry itself. Newspapers now expect their journalists to have a grounding in the terms of the Code of Practice and an awareness in the procedures of the PCC. The commitment therefore exists to raise professional standards within a framework that the PCC has established.

  3.  One good example of the importance of the PCC's role in training is apparent in the assessment structure of the National Council for the Training of Journalists. The NCTJ has placed awareness of the Press Complaints Commission and the terms of the Code as a necessary criterion before a journalist can be qualified. Below is reproduced the relevant section of its performance criteria for examinations, which must be fulfilled by the trainee to ensure that he or she "has demonstrated the ability to establish and maintain professional relations with members of the public".

    —  "Awareness is shown of the newspaper's important role in the community.

    —  Awareness is shown of the principles of the Press Complaints Commission and of the codes of practice of the PCC and other organisations.

    —  A responsible and objective approach is shown in writing about crime and its effect on victims.

    —  Responsibility and objectivity are shown in writing about racial matters and ethnic minorities.

    —  Responsibility and objectivity are shown in writing about disabled people.

    —  Office policy is followed on confidentiality of sources, treatment of information offered off the record, and if and when to conceal one's identity.

    —  Inquiries, comments and complaints from members of the public are handled according to office policy"[84].

  4.  Of course, the PCC's status as a classroom topic would only have a limited effect without more direct involvement by its members of staff. In fact, the PCC visits colleges regularly, with Professor Robert Pinker, the current Acting Chairman, often lecturing at training colleges, accompanied by an experienced Complaints Officer or External Affairs Officer. These lectures are always followed by discussion with the students, in which any questions can be answered about the workings of the PCC.

  5.  Further information is, of course, also available on the PCC website. A section, specifically designed to help students, has been recently overhauled. This includes detailed answers to frequently-asked questions, a run-down of the development of the Code of Practice and information about interesting cases. It is an extremely useful, and well-used, resource which supplements and assists the colleges' teaching.

  6.  Issues raised on the website, or in the colleges, can be further discussed on the telephone with a designated and experienced Complaints Officer. The PCC always seeks to make itself accessible and receives a number of calls from students every week, to which it is always happy to respond.

  7.  The PCC is committed to its role in training journalists of the future, in the future. 2003 will see an increase in its college visits and a maintenance of its involvement in all stages of the training process. It is very much aware that, by ensuring that a generation of journalists are familiar with, and accept the importance of, the Code of Practice, it is acting to improve standards within the industry on a long-term basis. Its involvement in journalist training will also ensure that the institution of self-regulation, so crucial to a democratic way of life, is strengthened and made increasingly effective in years to come.

  8.  In recent years, the Commission has visited the following colleges:

  Bacon's College

  Bournemouth University

  Bridgwater College

  Brighton Centre for Journalism

  Brunel University

  Caledonian University and Bell Higher Education College (Glasgow)

  Cardiff University

  Teachers' Media Conference in Cardiff

  Chiswick Community School

  City University

  Cornwall College

  Crawley College

  Darlington College

  East Devon College

  East Surrey College

  Falkirk College

  Guildhall University MA

  Gwent Tertiary College

  Harlow College

  Harrow College

  Hastings Editorial Centre

  Media Studies VI Form conference at Camden Town Hall

  Napier University

  Newcastle University

  Nottingham College

  Nottingham Trent University

  Palmers College

  St Leonard's Editorial Centre

  St Mary's, Blackburn

  Sheffield College

  SE Essex College

  Staffordshire University

  Strathclyde University

  University of Sussex

  Sutton Coldfield College

  Trinity and All Saints College, Leeds

  Trinity Mirror trainee journalists in Glasgow

  University of Ulster

  Warrington College

  West Herts College

  Wolverhampton College


  1.  The Commission is aware of the importance of promoting awareness of its services beyond those groups of individuals who may wish to complain and the next generation of journalists. Self-regulation of the press is an important aspect of public policy—and many interested groups at home and abroad require information about it. The PCC's duty is to ensure that it is available easily and quickly—and that we respond constructively to all requests for information.


  2.  One of the most straightforward ways of publicising the Commission is through the use of advertisements in newspapers and magazines. As part of its commitment to the system of self-regulation, the industry has undertaken to publish regular adverts for the PCC without charge. The adverts contain information about what people can complain about, how to complain and how to get in touch with the Commission. New advertisements—a copy of which is in Appendix XVI (not reproduced here)—were distributed in 2002.


  3.  An increasingly important part of the Commission's strategy to make information widely known is through the web, and the PCC is committed to maintaining a comprehensive and user-friendly website.

  4.  The PCC first went online with its website——in 1996. It was substantially overhauled in 2000 to improve its efficiency and at the start of this year is now receiving an average of 240 visits per day—a figure denoting considerable consumer and industry recognition. Some of its main elements are set out here.

    —  A complete history of all adjudications since 1996. Users are able to search through the Commission's decisions of the last seven years. This means that not only is the consistency of the Commission's rulings open to constant scrutiny, but also that interested parties—the complainant or, indeed, the newspaper—can appreciate the context in which a complaint is framed. Given the importance with which PCC jurisprudence is now regarded in the industry, and indeed by the Courts, this is an essential element of the site.

    —  A summary of all resolved complaints since 1996. An additional benefit of a complaint being resolved through the Commission's offices is that a summary of the case is published on the website. This ensures that there is a public record of the complainant's concerns and the action taken by the newspaper.

    —  Details about how to make a complaint. As well as details about how to submit a complaint in writing, the site also provides an on-line complaints form (an initiative taken in 2000), together with answers to frequently-asked questions. This explains what the Commission can and cannot do and means that a user will easily find all the information necessary to make a complaint.

    —  The Code of Practice. Complainants will be able to identify the area under which their concerns might fall and also get an idea of the reasoning behind, and the development of, the Code with which newspapers are obliged to comply. The Code in Welsh is also on the site, along with details of how to obtain literature in minority languages.

    —  The history of the PCC. A whole section of the website is devoted to the constitution and development of the organisation. It includes: details of Commission members and the machinery by which they are appointed; key benefits of the system; an on-line version of every annual report since 1996; and an historical overview of the last 12 years.

    —  A student section. We have responded to the considerable academic interest in the Commission and the philosophy of self-regulation and developed the site accordingly. It contains details about the organisation, answers questions that have been frequently asked over the last few years, and generally acts as a useful guide to all those interested in the more theoretical aspect of the PCC.

    —  PCC Guidance Notes. From time to time, the Commission issues guidelines about pressing issues that have come to its attention. A full catalogue of these texts is on the site—on issues such as the reporting of mental health issues or the identification of lottery winners.

    —  Press releases and breaking news. The site is updated regularly with all news relating to the PCC, including importantly the most recent adjudications. People can sign up to a mailing list to guarantee that they will receive up-to-date information about the PCC and currently over 800 people receive weekly news bulletins from the Commission.

    —  Diary. All the engagements undertaken by the office are listed.

    —  Links. The website provides links to useful online resources, such as other regulatory bodies and the Citizens' Advice Bureau. Links to the PCC's website have also been co-ordinated with a number of interested organisations, which are listed in Appendix XVII (not reproduced here).

  5.  One useful site to which the PCC's site is linked—and in the development of which, indeed, the PCC was at the forefront—covers Press Councils around the globe: This site provides information about international press issues and includes a forum for discussion, among registered users, about the relevant matters associated with self-regulation worldwide. This site will be increasingly useful for UK newspaper readers who want to complain about a foreign publication (or foreign newspaper website) and need details of the relevant regulatory authority[85].

Lawyers and other professional groups

  6.  Recent developments relating to media law, most notably the incorporation into UK law of the European Convention on Human Rights in October 2001, are set out in detail in Section C5. This has meant that there has been considerable demand to address groups of lawyers and other professional organisations, including think tanks, about the work and case law of the PCC. There is no need to produce a full list here—it would be voluminous—but seminars in the last few months include:

    —  Hogarth Chambers on privacy;

    —  S J Berwin seminar on media law and privacy;

    —  conference organised by Justice on Human Rights;

    —  the Media Law Networking Conference Project in Oxford;

    —  the Institute of Public Relations;

    —  UCL conference on Human Rights, Privacy and the Media; and

    —  the Institute of Public Policy Research.

Civic groups

  7.  The Commission has utilised invitations to speak at events hosted by individual organisations and civic groups to talk about how the service it provides can make a difference to their industries and to set out key points about its work. By way of illustration only, the Commission has arranged and attended conferences, seminars, private meetings and other events with, among others:

    —  the National Union of Students;  

    —  Chartered Accountants in Business Group;

    —  English Speaking Union and Probus Clubs in East Midlands, Sussex and Surrey;

    —  CSN conference on co-ordinating services to the public;

    —  UNISON Conference;

    —  English and Wales Cricket Board;

    —  Rugby Football Union; and

    —  Newcastle United Football Club.

  8.  In addition, the PCC responds to requests from broadcasters and others who wish to discuss issues that relate to more high profile public figures. In recent years these have included seminars and talks to Granada Television in Manchester, the BBC at Elstree, LWT in London and Yorkshire Television in Leeds.

Liaison with the industry

  9.  Crucial to the proper functioning of self-regulation is, of course, liaison with the newspaper and magazine industry. The PCC and its officers regularly attend conferences and training seminars across the different parts of the industry to ensure that editors and journalists are aware of developments in the PCC's jurisprudence. These include, again simply by way of illustration, meetings with and speeches to:

    —  the Society of Editors;

    —  Newspaper Society;

    —  Periodical Publishers Association;

    —  British Association of Journalists;

    —  National Council for the Training of Journalists;

    —  Scottish Daily Newspaper Society;

    —  London Press Club; and

    —  individual publishers' training conferences.

  The Commission is committed to maintaining this regular liaison—and responding constructively to all requests for information and training.

The International Community

  10.  There is considerable interest abroad in the work of the PCC—as Section F outlines in more detail. That means that the Commission receives many requests for information and talks from the international community in London, and others who are visiting. For instance, the Commission regularly undertakes seminar programmes for foreign educational establishments based in the UK, including:

    —  University of Arkansas.

    —  University of Bergen.

    —  University of Missouri.

    —  University of Nebraska.

    —  Southern Illinois University.

    —  University of Southern Mississippi.

    —  Syracuse University.

  11.  Many other requests come through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and over the last year the Commission has briefed substantial numbers of individuals. A list of these is in Appendix XVIII (not reproduced here).

  12.  We are mindful that the representatives of foreign governments in the UK sometimes have need to complain about coverage of their countries. We maintain an informal programme of meetings with individual Embassies, which have recently included those from:

    —  Australia.

    —  Belgium.

    —  Denmark.

    —  Japan.

    —  Norway.

    —  The United Arab Emirates.

    —  The United States.

  Meetings have also been organised with the European Commission offices in London.



  1.  This Section deals with a number of issues relating to the PCC's procedures, in particular seeking to outline how they are as open and transparent as possible. It covers appointments, the various structure of the self-regulatory system, sanctions, "own volition" and third party complaints, and the issue of media monitoring.

An independent Commission

  2.  It is—regrettably—a common misconception that the PCC is "dominated" by newspaper editors. Of course, newspaper and magazine editors must play their part: it is, after all, a system of self-regulation which could not work without input from the industry being regulated. And, similarly, there is industry funding for the system—which means that people can make complaints free of charge.

  3.  But—and it is a hugely important "but"—the PCC itself, the body which determines whether or not a newspaper or magazine editor should be censured for a breach of the Code, is dominated by lay people.

  4.  Since 1995, when the appointments process was fully reformed (part in thanks to the constructive suggestions of the 1993 Select Committee report), there has been an inbuilt majority of "public" or lay members on the Commission. Of 16 members, nine—including the Chairman—are lay people, totally unconnected with the press. Seven are senior serving editors, or editors in chief, from across the newspaper industry. This combination guarantees the independence of the PCC, at the same time as ensuring that its decisions take full account of the day to day practicalities of the industry.

  5.  It is worth noting here, in passing, that no members of the full time staff at the PCC—who investigate complaints and seek to resolve—have any connection with the newspaper industry either (unlike the old Press Council).

How appointments are made

  6.  Crucial to the independence of the lay members, of course, is the fact that they are themselves appointed by a body which is also independent of the press. This ensures that they are not, in any way, responsible to the industry—and that their independence is guaranteed by a clearly independent appointments process.

  7.  To that end, the PCC maintains an Appointments Commission—itself reformed in 1995—which is responsible for all appointments to the PCC and the Code Committee.

    —  Editorial appointments to the PCC are proposed through the relevant newspaper and magazine trade associations (as set out in para 15 below) but the Appointments Commission must scrutinise and ratify them before an editor becomes a member of the PCC.

    —  Lay appointments, however, have nothing to do with the industry. Nominations come from within the Appointments Commission—which decides on appropriate individuals, and sets a term of service for them.

  8.  There are five people on the Appointments Commission. Only one of these five is in any way connected with the newspaper industry—and that is the Chairman of Pressbof, currently Sir Harry Roche (who is also Chairman of PA News).

  9.  The other four members are all lay people. They are:

    —  the Chairman of the PCC (currently Professor Pinker);

    —  Lord Mayhew of Twysden QC (Attorney General 1987-92; Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 1992-97);

    —  Mr David Clementi (Deputy Governor of the Bank of England 1997-02; Chairman of Prudential plc 2002-); and

    —  Baroness Smith of Gilmorehill (Chairman, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 1995; President of Birkbeck College, London 1998- ; President of Scottish Opera 1997-).

  10.  Appointments to the Appointments Commission are made following agreement between the Chairman of the PCC and the Chairman of Pressbof, and individuals who serve must have no connection with the newspaper or magazine publishing industry. Appointments are made to ensure, as far as possible on a small body, gender, regional and (if appropriate) political balance.

  11.  Previous members of the Appointments Commission, under the Chairmanship of Lord Wakeham, have included:

    —  Lord Irvine of Lairg QC;

    —  Mrs Mary Francis;

    —  Sir Geoffrey Holland;

    —  Sir Denys Henderson.

The Chairman

  12.  The Chairman of the PCC is appointed by the Press Standards Board of Finance. The PCC's Memorandum and Articles of Association states that the Chairman must "not be engaged in, or otherwise than by his office as Chairman, connected with or interested in the business of publishing newspapers, periodicals, or magazines" (para 6.2). This is to ensure that the Chairman is independent of the industry. The current Acting Chairman is Professor Robert Pinker, Professor Emeritus of Social Administration at the LSE; the Chairman-designate is Sir Christopher Meyer, currently British Ambassador in Washington, who takes up the post later in the year. The previous Chairmen have, of course, been Lord MacGregor of Durris (1991-94) and Lord Wakeham (1995-02).

The Commission

  13.  The full list of current members of the Commission is set out in Appendix XIX. In Appendix XX there is a list of former members for information.

  14.  As far as possible, the Appointments Commission seeks to ensure a fair balance of individuals on the PCC—including ethnic and women members, and a geographical balance.

  15.  There are—as set out above—seven editors on the PCC. These comprise individuals drawn from across the national, Scottish, regional and periodical press, recommended by their four trade associations, and approved by the Appointments Commission:

    —  the Newspaper Publishers Association—which nominates three national newspaper editors;

    —  the Newspaper Society—which nominates two editors from the local and regional press in England, Wales and Northern Ireland;

    —  the Scottish Daily Newspaper Society—which nominates an editor from a Scottish publication; and

    —  the Periodical Publishers Association—which nominates a magazine or periodical editor.

  16.  Over the years, the regional editors in particular have ensured that there has been a good balance of regional interests on the Commission. Editors have come from newspapers in Northern Ireland, Manchester, Newcastle, Surrey, Liverpool, Portsmouth, Suffolk, London, Shropshire and Sunderland. There is—as noted above—also always an editor from Scotland: editors from there have come from Aberdeen, Glasgow, Dundee and Edinburgh.

  17.  As far as the national press is concerned, there has also been a balance to ensure representation across publishing houses. A note on this is set out in Appendix XXI.

  18.  For the lay members, the Appointments Commission seeks individuals from different walks of life who are (a) demonstrably independent of the press and (b) of sufficient standing to play a fully independent part in discussions at meetings of the Press Complaints Commission on some of the complex issues that arise from complaints. It also seeks to achieve, as far as possible, a gender and ethnic balance.

  19.  Of the current eight lay members on the Commission (there is one vacancy at the time of submission of this Report), there are four women and four men. Two of the eight members—Lord Chan of Oxton and Mrs Arzina Bhanji—are from ethnic minorities.

  20.  Lay members are from a number of diverse backgrounds. Current members—including the Chairman—come from the following backgrounds:

    —  a Professor Emeritus of Social Administration at the LSE;

    —  a former Chairman of an NHS Health Trust;

    —  a Church of England Bishop;

    —  a former teacher, and General Secretary of a schools organisation;

    —  the Chief Executive of a big City trade body representing insurers, and former Treasury civil servant;

    —  a distinguished paediatrician from Merseyside and former member of the Commission for Racial Equality;

    —  a former Director General of a well known consumer organisation; and

    —  a dental surgeon who is a former Director of a large Health Trust in London.


  1.  Both the Code of Practice Committee and the Press Standards Board of Finance (Pressbof) are likely to make separate submissions to the Committee. This short Section is just to set their own roles in the self- regulatory system in context.

The Code Committee

  2.  As it set out in Section B, the Code is kept up to date and practical by a Committee of national, regional and periodical editors. These are nominated by the same trade associations set out in para 15 above and appointments are approved by the Appointments Commission. A list of those currently serving on the Code Committee is set out in Appendix XXII.

  3.  As with the Commission's editorial members, the industry has sought to ensure a good regional balance among the Committee's members. Current members come from Bradford, Portsmouth, Rotherham, Hampshire, Gloucestershire and Aberdeen. National editors also come from a broad range of publishers. A note on this is in Appendix XXI.

  4.  To ensure smooth liaison between the PCC and the Code Committee, the Chairman and Director of the Commission attend its meetings in an ex-officio capacity. The Commission also has a small sub Committee of lay members which takes part in the consultation process on any potential changes to the Code—principally because it is the independent Commission which has to ratify the Code before any changes are made to it.

  5.  Over the years the Commission has made a number of its own proposals for changes to the Code to the Committee, as a result of its own handling of complaints. One set of important changes, for instance, came about when the Commission asked the Code Committee to extend the range of Clause 5 (Intrusion into Grief and Shock) of the Code so that it could deal with more complaints about the publication of material at such times.


  6.  The Press Standards Board of Finance co-ordinates the industry side of the system of self-regulation. It is responsible for the appointment of the Chairman of the Commission, the collection of revenue to fund the PCC, overseeing the Code, ensuring appropriately balanced editorial recommendations for the Commission and nominations to the Code Committee are made to the Appointments Commission, and dealing with public policy issues that may impact on the industry's own self-regulation.

  7.  The main liaison between Pressbof and the Commission is, of course, over revenue. Pressbof's own mechanisms for raising revenue are entirely separate from the PCC which has no involvement in, or knowledge about, the matter. The PCC submits a detailed budget, agreed by the members of the PCC's Business Committee (which is made up of lay members), to Pressbof once a year to fund its activities for the coming year. Although the PCC is of course responsible to the Board for meeting that budget, and answering questions about areas of expenditure, Pressbof has never interfered with the PCC's own spending plans, as an independent body, and has always met the requests made of it generously and in full. Without that commitment, the PCC could never meet the high standards of service that are set out in Section A, or fulfil the substantial programme of public information that is detailed in Section D[86].


  1.  One consistent theme recurs in any criticism of self-regulation—indeed it was the leitmotiv for the 1993 Select Committee report—and that is the alleged lack of sanctions available to the PCC. This Section outlines the strength of the system as it stands, and addresses those criticisms.


  2.  The original blueprint for the PCC's system of sanctions came from the Calcutt Report. As such, this was in line with the sanctions available to what was then the Broadcasting Complaints Commission which, although a statutory body with legal force, had no power to fine but to issue adjudications. (Indeed, neither does its successor the Broadcasting Standards Commission.)

  3.  Allied to this was another recommendation of Calcutt—the abolition of the old Press Council's so-called "legal waiver." Under the Press Council, complainants were asked to waive their right to legal redress. No such waiver exists under the PCC: complainants are free, should they so wish, to pursue a legal action (and any claim for damages) once the Commission has finished dealing with their complaint[87]. The fact that barely a handful of complainants out of the 25,000 complaints we have dealt with since 1991 has done so suggests that there is no significant desire among ordinary complainants to seek monetary compensation.

  4.  The reason behind this choice of sanction for the Commission is clear—and, indeed, much of the debate (when it arises) about sanctions misses the point—that the PCC is at heart an alternative dispute resolution mechanism. It is intended as a forum in which complaints can be conciliated and resolved without the panoply of legal apparatus that makes such conflict resolution impossible.

The power of the adjudication

  5.  A critical adjudication against a newspaper or magazine is a powerful weapon—as any editor will testify. It must be published in full and with due prominence in the publication criticised, which is an admission to the readers that the editor broke the rules which he or she had helped to frame and by which he or she had agreed to abide.

  6.  Because of the role of publishers in the system, a critical adjudication—which is tantamount to an individual being criticised by his or her own professional body—also becomes an issue within a newspaper. Publishers regularly monitor the decisions of the Commission and investigate the background to breaches of the Code on their publications.

  7.  Furthermore, because of the competitive market place in which most newspapers and magazines operate, a critical adjudication against one editor swiftly becomes a weapon in the armoury of that newspaper's competitors. Editors regularly give coverage to critical adjudications against their rivals in a way which is calculated to challenge the loyalty of readers to the offending publication.

75   See Section A3 para. 4. Back

76   Asylum Aid v The Sun, Report 50. Back

77   Thames Valley Police v Metro, Report 60. Back

78   Crompton v The Sun, Report 41. Back

79   BBC Scotland v Scottish News of the World, Report 60. Back

80   Map of UK Roadshows & Exhibitions 2001-02. Back

81   See Section E1 paras. 6-11. Back

82   See Section C3 paras. 19-21. Back

83   This is part of a wider initiative on this subject-see Section D2, paras. 1-6. Back

84   Source: NCTJ 2002. Back

85   See Section F3 para. 8. Back

86   It is worth, perhaps, pointing out that a survey shows that 64% of people agreed that the PCC should be funded by the industry-see Section D1 para 10. Back

87   The Commission is debarred only from dealing with an action which is the subject of current legal proceedings. Back

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