|KEY BENEFITS OF THE SYSTEM OF SELF REGULATION
Quick and free
The main role of the Press Complaints Commission is to serve members of the public who have complaints about newspapers and magazines. In order to do this effectively, the PCC offers a service which is both quick and free.
It costs nothing to complain to the PCC - you do not need a solicitor or anyone else to represent you. (Indeed, thanks to the commitment of the newspaper industry to tough and effective self regulation, there is no burden on the taxpayer either.)
Our main aim is always to try and resolve disputes amicably and quickly. Excluding complaints where no breach of the Code is established, or no further action is required, nine out of ten complaints are resolved; and it only takes us, on average, just 35 working days to do so.Accessible to all
It is our aim to ensure that the PCC is accessible to all. That is why we: operate a local rate helpline to assist members of the public in making complaints; publish details on how to make a complaint in a range of minority languages - including Welsh, Urdu, Bengali, Arabic, Somali and Chinese; maintain this Internet site so that information is available 24 hours a day; have a 24 hour Advice line to handle emergency complaints around the clock; and operate a Textphone to assist deaf or hard of hearing people with enquiries. Details of the Helpline, Advice line and Textphone are available here.
Proof of the accessibility of the Commission is the increasing number of complaints to it. In 2010, the PCC received well over 7,000 complaints in writing, although this figure includes multiple complaints (where more than one person complained about the same article), as well as those that did not fall within the Commission's remit or were not pursued after an initial contact.
An industry committed to standards and an independent Commission
Self regulation works because the newspaper and magazine publishing industry is committed to it. Throughout the twenty years of the PCC, every critical adjudication against a newspaper or magazine by the Commission has been printed in full and with due prominence. When the Commission receives a complaint, editors now never do anything other than seek to defend themselves in terms of the industry's Code of Practice - a sign of their commitment to it. A further sign of this commitment is that adherence to the industry's Code is written into the contracts of employment of the vast majority of editors in the country - something which gives the PCC real teeth.
The reason for this commitment is that the Press Complaints Commission administers a Code written by editors and for editors. But that does not make the PCC simply a tool of the newspaper industry. Far from it: the Commission has a decisive majority of lay members on it - ensuring that, although it is funded by the industry for the benefit of the public, the PCC is clearly independent of it.
Protecting the vulnerable
Central to the work of the PCC and to the Code of Practice is the added protection it gives to particularly vulnerable groups of people. The Code gives special protection to children, innocent relatives and friends of those convicted of crime, victims of sexual assault and patients being treated in hospital. It also includes rules on discrimination to protect individuals at risk of racial, religious, sexual or other forms of discrimination. For information about how specific clauses of the Code can be relevant to particular groups of people click here.
The PCC also does an increasing amount of proactive work with groups of people like to need to know about our work, such as Coroners, the police, witness services and bereavement support groups. There is more information about this work in the Dialogue with the Community section of the site.
The PCC from time to time issues special guidelines to editors which are designed to add even further to this protection. In 1997, for instance, the Commission issued guidelines on the portrayal in the media of persons suffering from mental illness. Other specific areas the PCC has tackled include the identification, against their wishes, of lottery winners. In 2001, the Commission produced practical advice to help people suffering from press harassment and acted to emphasise the need for care in the reporting of matters involving race and religion. In 2009, the Commission published briefing notes on the reporting of suicide; and on the payment to parents for material about their children, in the wake of the Alfie Patten case.
Maintaining a free, responsible press
One of the central benefits of press self regulation is that it combines high standards of ethical reporting with a free press. Statutory controls would undermine the freedom of the press - and would not be so successful in raising standards. A privacy law, too, would be unworkable and an unacceptable infringement on press freedom. It would be of potential use only to the rich and powerful who would be prepared to use the Courts to enforce their rights - and would be misused by the corrupt to stop newspapers from reporting in the public interest. Self regulation has none of the problems of the law - yet still provides a system in which editors are committed to the highest possible ethical standards.