Press Complaints Commission
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The Press Complaints Commission closed on 8 September 2014 and has been replaced by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO). You can find full details of the new organisation, and how to complain, at www.ipso.co.uk

Please note that, though the Press Complaints Commission is no longer active, this site will continue to be maintained for a period in order to provide a record of the organisation's work.

Please contact IPSO for any other queries.


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introduction

The Press Complaints Commission is an independent body, which has been set up to examine complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines (and their websites). We are here to help you and our services are free.

This section of our website explains what we can deal with - and what we can't. It explains how our complaints procedures work and sets out what you can expect from us.

If anything is not clear please call us on 020 7831 0022 or 0845 600 2757 (a local-rate number). The FAQs page on this website should help to answer some of the most common questions people ask us. Additionally, this section provides guidance on particular aspects of the Code of Practice, including media harassment, discrimination and court and inquest reporting. We would also strongly advise you to read through our Procedures for the Consideration of Complaints.

Please remember that we are happy to offer informal advice prior to you lodging an official complaint. Contact us any time. For emergencies only (usually relating to harassment by journalists) please use our 24-hour helpline: 07659 152656.

If your first language is not English, information is available in a range of other languages. Please click here for more information.

Remember too that editors are often happy to deal with complaints directly. You may, therefore, like to try a direct approach before considering a formal complaint to the PCC. Any such approach should be made promptly. If you do not receive a reply within a week - or if you are dissatisfied by the editor's response - please write to us as soon as possible.

Our remit

The PCC deals with all editorially-controlled material in UK newspapers and magazines (and their websites). This can include:

  • Articles and pictures
  • Words and pictures (including video) on newspaper and magazine websites
  • Audio material on newspaper and magazine websites
  • Readers' letters
  • Edited or moderated reader comments on newspaper and magazine websites

We also deal with the physical behaviour of journalists. This can include:

  • Persistent pursuit of individuals
  • Refusing requests to stop taking photos or asking questions
  • Using hidden cameras to obtain material
  • Failing to be sensitive when dealing with cases involving grief and shock
  • Failing to obtain the proper consent before speaking to children or people in hospital

Please remember, however:

  • Complaints have to be judged against the Code of Practice. Before making your complaint we strongly advise that you consult the Code. If you need help in doing this, please contact us for assistance;
  • We do not generally accept complaints made more than two months after the date of publication (or over two months after the end of direct correspondence between you and the editor, provided that correspondence was entered into straight away). If the article remains available on the publication's website, this rule does not usually apply.

There are some things we don't deal with. For example:
  • Complaints about TV and radio (Ofcom is the regulator for the broadcast industry)
  • Complaints about advertising - the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is the regulator for the advertising industry. Please note that if the material you send us in your complaint appears to relate to an advert (rather than editorial content), we will generally pass this on to the ASA.
  • Concerns about matters of taste and decency
  • Legal or contractual matters that are dealt with more appropriately by the courts
  • Complaints about books
  • Complaints about online material that is not on newspaper or magazine websites
  • Complaints about the delivery of newspapers and magazines (both to home and office addresses). If your newspaper has been delivered late, for example, or has been damaged during delivery, you will need to contact your newsagent or the publisher directly.

The Links section of this website provides information about other regulatory and advice bodies that might be able to help.

Our Complaints Procedure

When making a complaint please send us a copy of the article in question (if there is one) and a letter or email outlining your concerns. If there are other relevant letters or documents which would help us to assess the complaint, please send us these as well. For us to take your complaint forward it will need to engage one or more of the numbered Clauses of the Code of Practice. We can send you a hard copy of the Code if necessary. We advise that you read our Procedures for the Consideration of Complaints.

Checklist - what to check before sending in your complaint:

  • Have you sent us a copy of the complete article, if available, and a note of the publication date?
  • Have you told us the name of the publication concerned?
  • Have you provided us with a brief summary of your complaint which explains how you believe the article has breached the Code of Practice?
  • Have you included copies of relevant documentation (e.g. any previous correspondence with an editor etc)?

In the steps below we take you through the basic stages of our complaints procedure. Please note that each case is treated on its merits and the following guide is not exhaustive.

1. Assessing your complaint

If your complaint falls within our remit - and is neither delayed nor subject to related to legal proceedings (see 'Important points to remember', below) - we will assess whether it raises a possible breach of the Editors' Code of Practice. If we think it does not, we will explain why. If we think it does, we will initiate an investigation by writing to the editor of the relevant publication.

2. The investigation

When we write to the editor we will send him or her a copy of your complaint and a copy of the article about which concerns have been raised. We will ask the editor to respond to your complaint and a copy of his or her reply will be sent to you. It if still appears that there may have been a breach of the Code, our primary aim will be to a find a satisfactory resolution to your complaint. Editorial Commission members do not consider complaints relating to titles over which they exercise editorial control, or relating to titles with which they have close links (e.g. sister titles). If they report to an Editor-in-Chief, they will also not consider complaints against any titles under that executive's control.

3. Resolution by mediation

Depending on the seriousness of the case, there are a variety of ways in which complaints can be resolved. For instance, if a serious error has been published, a correction or apology in the paper may be required.

Alternatively, we can seek assurances about future coverage or perhaps look to have online material amended or deleted. We cannot generally obtain financial compensation. If your complaint is resolved, we will publish a summary of the case on our website. Click here to see examples of complaints that have been resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant.

4. Taking stock

If it proves impossible to find a way of settling your complaint the Commission will evaluate the case. It will first decide whether there has, in fact, been a breach of the Code of Practice. If there has, it will decide whether the newspaper or magazine has taken - or offered - sufficient remedial action.

5. Complaint upheld

If the Commission concludes that the Code has been breached (and the breach has not - or cannot - be remedied) it will uphold your complaint in a public ruling. The newspaper or magazine is obliged to publish the critical ruling in full and with due prominence. This is a serious outcome for any editor and puts down a marker for future press behaviour.

Important points to remember

When we write to the editor we will have to identify you (unless there are exceptional circumstances). If you do not wish for your address details to be passed on to the newspaper or magazine, please say so at the outset of the complaint. However, you may remain anonymous in any public ruling or summary of your case.

  • The Commission can only consider evidence that has been made available to both sides.
  • The system of self regulation overseen by the PCC requires good faith on both sides. In order for the PCC to be able to investigate complaints effectively, it is essential that neither party to a complaint, complainant or newspaper/magazine, publishes information which has been provided as part of the investigation - most notably correspondence - without the consent of the other party. Publication, without consent, may affect the PCC's ability to continue to deal with a complaint or may be considered by the PCC when it reaches a decision as to whether the Code has been breached. Material provided by both complainants and publications during a PCC investigation must only be used for the purpose of the complaint being considered by the PCC.
  • A summary of every resolved complaint will be published on our website as will the full details of all upheld cases.
  • Even where the Commission does not rule in your favour, a copy of your complaint (and the Commission's decision) will be sent to the editor of the publication in question.
  • All decisions about whether there has been a breach of the Code or about the adequacy of remedial action will be made by the Commission. PCC staff will, however, advise you about likely outcomes.
  • Not all decisions made by the Commission are made public. However, all upheld complaints and other case which raise an important point of principle are made public, and can be seen here.
  • The Commission cannot deal with any complaint which is the subject of legal or other associated proceedings. You should let us know immediately if you decide to take legal action in regard to the matter under complaint. You should also tell us immediately if you decide to withdraw your complaint for any reason.

Who can complain to the PCC

Wherever possible, the Commission will take forward complaints it receives, including those about factual inaccuracies from concerned readers. However, when the Commission receives a complaint from a member of the public that relates directly to a named or identifiable individual or group, it will - where appropriate - endeavour to contact the relevant person or group to explain its services and to ask whether they wish to complain. Where no complaint is made by the directly affected party (for whatever reason), it may not be appropriate to take forward a complaint from an unrelated individual for some or all of the following reasons:

  • the Commission may not be able to investigate effectively: that is, to understand the full circumstances and determine whether any breach of the Code had occurred;
  • the investigation might do harm: in cases where the subject has co-operated with apparently intrusive coverage, for example, a PCC investigation might cause embarrassment and in itself pose an intrusion (where none had occurred previously); and/or
  • remedial action undertaken by a publication might do harm (for example, by causing upset or posing an intrusion).

In such cases, it is not possible to know what the party concerned would consider to be a suitable resolution without their involvement. Further, the Commission acknowledges that individuals have a right not to complain about matters that concern them.

The Commission may continue with an investigation or consideration of a complaint in such circumstances, either through a complaint from an unrelated individual or on its own behalf, when it believes that such an investigation or consideration is appropriate and in the public interest.

Our service commitments

When you make an enquiry or complaint to the PCC, we will seek to deal with your concerns as effectively as possible. In particular:

  • We will respond quickly to your enquiries. For instance, we will acknowledge complaints we receive in writing within 3 days.
  • We will deal with your complaint as quickly as possible. We will explain any delays and keep you informed of the progress of our investigations. Overall, we aim to deal with complaints in an average of 35 working days.
  • Our procedures will be transparent.
  • We will process your complaint at no cost to you.
  • We will be as open and accessible as possible. Our staff will identify themselves by name and be courteous and polite.

The PCC surveys complainants on an ongoing basis to assess the level of service it provides to complainants. You can see some of the feedback we have received by clicking here.

The Independent Reviewer

If, at the end of the process, you have concerns about the way your complaint has been handled by the Commission and its staff, you should write - within one month of being told the outcome of your complaint - to the Independent Reviewer.

He will investigate your concerns and report any finding and recommendations to the Commission. He cannot investigate complaints about the substance of a decision made by the PCC.


 
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