2. The Press Complaints Commission. System of industry self-regulation Breadth of roleFacts and figures - Total number of complaints including those that did not need to go to full investigation/ adjudication in 2006 = 3325 Formal investigations = 740 (up 11%) Time taken = average 42 days (rela
1. 1 Media Law The Press Complaints Commission
‘Fast, Free and Fair’?
2. 2 The Press Complaints Commission System of industry self-regulation
Breadth of role
Facts and figures - Total number of complaints including those that did not need to go to full investigation/ adjudication in 2006 = 3325
Formal investigations = 740 (up 11%)
Time taken = average 42 days (relatively quick)
PCC Annual Review 2006 - Chairman Christopher Meyer, describes the PCC regime as ‘flexible, mature regulation delivering common-sense results’
3. 3 Effectiveness & Credibility? The PCC regulatory framework is, in the view of its Chairman, a system that has:
the co-operation and respect of the industry; freedom from the state;
the ability to respond quickly to external changes;
adequate checks and balances to ensure transparency & accountability;
importantly, it provides a service that is free and accessible for everyone.
PCC logo – ‘fast, free and fair’
4. 4 Background to PCC Kaye v Robertson  FSR 62
Report of the Committee on Privacy and Related Matters, Cm1102, 1990 (The Calcutt Report)
Led to the replacement of the Press Council with the Press Complaints Commission in 1991
5. 5 The Code of Practice 16 clauses addressing issues relating to:
right to reply
intrusion into grief or shock
children in sex cases
9. reporting of crime
10. clandestine devices and subterfuge
11.victims of sexual assault
13. financial journalism
14. confidential sources
15. witness payments in criminal trials
16. payment to criminals
6. 6 All ‘good practice’ requirements balanced against public interest in freedom of the press
1. The public interest includes, but is not confined to:
i) Detecting or exposing crime or serious impropriety.
ii) Protecting public health and safety.
iii) Preventing the public from being misled by an action or statement
of an individual or organisation.
2. There is a public interest in freedom of expression itself.
3. Whenever the public interest is invoked, the PCC will require editors
to demonstrate fully how the public interest was served.
4. The PCC will consider the extent to which material is already in the public domain, or will become so.
5. In cases involving children under 16, editors must demonstrate an exceptional public interest to over-ride the normally paramount interest of the child.
7. 7 Example ? Clause 1: Accuracy The press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate – an apology published.
iii) The press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
iv) A publication must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.
8. 8 Clause 3: Privacy i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications. Editors will be expected to
justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent.
ii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals in a private place without their consent.
Note - Private places are public or private property where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Note 2006 Review & privacy
9. 9 Remedies The PCC may rule that the offending publication
should, for example:
Publish a retraction, correction or apology;
Send a private letter of apology to complainant;
Discipline journalist(s) / organise appropriate re-training;
The PCC states that it posts a ‘full record’ of the complaint & the outcome of the adjudication on its website – a permanent public record….BUT…
Note the limited nature of the remedies available
Enforcement? financial penalties?
10. 10 Effectiveness of PCC
Who is on the Commission?
What incentives are there to moderate condemnation of bad journalistic practice?
PCC …suspect practices in adjudication
Policemen and Coca Cola……
A cosy editors’ club?
11. 11 And if you are not happy with the Commission’s ruling?
Complaint to the Charter Commissioner – Brian Cubbon
Role & powers
Intervention in the Will Hutton case re reports about this ‘leading critic of housing profiteers’ enjoying the benefits of being married to a property developer alleged to have ‘made a fortune out of selling and renting inner-city properties, often at rates which local council housing officers described as exorbitant.’
Inaccurate reporting; damage to reputation of company, First Premise.
Complaint to Sunday Telegraph editor – offered to print a letter about the matter but refused to apologise or publish a correction.
Complaint to PCC – fast, free and fair? Not really!
Cubbon ultimately overruled the PCC ruling, forcing paper to carry clarification …. But five months later by then.
A case of ‘justice delayed, justice denied’?
12. 12 If you are not happy with the Commission’s ruling? Judicial Review & the PCC How do the courts view attempts to challenge
R v Press Complaints Commission ex p. Stewart-Brady (1997) 9 Admin. LR 274
R v Press Complaints Commission, ex parte Ford  EMLR 5
PCC as a public body for purposes of section 6(1) HRA 1998
13. 13 Solutions?
Private Member’s Bill: The Right to Reply and Press
Standards Bill 2005 ? proposed an Independent Press
Clarification and strengthening of the ‘due prominence’ requirement
But the PCC has improved journalistic and editorial practice….
14. 14 Suggested reading The PCC website http://www.pcc.org.uk/index2.html
PCC’s Annual Review 2006 - http://www.pcc.org.uk/annualreport/2006.html
Jonathan Coad (2005) ‘The Press Complaints Commission – Are We Safe In Its Hands?’, Entertainment Law Review, 16(7), pp.167-173.