Ian Monk - Ian Monk Associates
There remain few forces as potent as newspapers in building or demolishing reputations of individuals, be they of private citizens or individuals whose stardom in whatever fi eld attracts media attention.
Thus the importance of the role of the PCC in regulating press excesses and offering redress to those wronged by it can never be underestimated. The body attracts some criticism for the fact that it is funded by the newspaper industry and that consequently, its powers as a regulator are allegedly limited.
Nevertheless, I believe it offers a valuable service to all those involved in reputation management and in what may loosely be termed the "PR industry".
Expensive media lawyers are occasionally derogatory about its ability to right newspapers' wrongdoings, but the PCC plays a crucial role in offering redress to victims of published inaccuracies as well as protection to those threatened with intrusion and harassment.
For a start the PCC is enormously accessible. Its team is available most hours to offer informal and knowledgeable advice on how best to handle situations potentially damaging to a client, be he or she famous or the "ordinary person" caught in the spotlight of the news agenda.
The PCC has a strong voice and constant access to editors and decision makers in the newspaper world. I have found that this works effectively for example, in curbing harassment before its fruits, in the shape of intrusive photographs, appear in print.
Equally if an inaccuracy has been published, the PCC is capable of flexing its muscle to ensure that its critical adjudications are published prominently and promptly in the offending newspaper.
Often, too, the PCC's skills can be utilised alongside those of the smart media lawyers who occasionally criticise it.
I will continue to use its services on behalf of clients, both famous and previously unknown to the public.
The PCC's service is available to all whether celebrity or non-celebrity. Over 90% of complaints are from ordinary members of the public.
However, the service provided by the PCC is also regularly used by public relations consultants. They often contact the PCC - on behalf of their clients - before and after publication. The idea is that a conciliatory system, which can be fast-moving and immediate, is a useful means by which PRs can obtain protection and redress for those in the public eye. PCC staff members often give presentations to public relations consultancies and practitioners to help them use us better.
One area where celebrities use the PCC is to communicate their concerns about paparazzi harassment. The PCC makes editors aware of specific problems, and asks them to ensure that they do not publish material that is not compliant with the Code. Decisions not to publish photographs affect the market for them, and therefore reduce the paparazzi presence.
The PCC is designed to be complementary to the legal system, and many lawyers either advise their clients to come to the PCC direct or represent them in complaints. There are many occasions when use of the PCC will prevent the need for expensive and antagonistic legal action.
‒ Press Complaints Commission
Janice Troup - Head of ITV Programme Publicity, Drama and Soaps
We have a hotline to the PCC! Maybe not exactly a hotline, but sometimes it feels that way. As the ITV Press Office which represents Coronation Street and Emmerdale in all press matters, we often fi nd an awful lot goes well, but there are occasions when inaccuracies creep into reporting and we feel the need to make our feelings known and clarify our position on behalf of the Company, the programme or an individual actor.
Wherever possible, clearly we'll attempt our own mediation, but if this fails to reach a satisfactory resolution and there's a fairly strong point still to be made we'll consult the Press Complaints Commission for impartial, informative, accurate and practical advice. No matter how convoluted the issue we'll work it through, consider all angles, repercussions and implications before deciding whether to proceed with a formal complaint. Consequently, we don't make a complaint lightly and really appreciate the conscientious and dedicated approach the PCC applies to resolving each complaint and the swift way in which the team liaises with newspapers to reach the root of a situation.
Over time we've had our fair share of complaints based on inaccurate reporting, privacy issues, harassment of high profile individuals, newspapers intent on revealing medical conditions and we've also had to protect bereaved actors at their most vulnerable times. Subsequently, much of the work we invest in these situations is unseen as newspapers accept that the Code of Practice is in place. We wouldn't be as successful in our daily work without the guidance of the PCC who strive to uphold fair, accurate and just reporting.
Polly Ravenscroft - MD, PR Squared Ltd
The PCC has been an invaluable service to me; I have found that they are fair minded when dealing with both PRs and the newspapers so you know you can rely on them for honest answers.
They have been most useful on offering advice for our clients whether they be for a medical or privacy issue. They also help enormously on bigger TV shows where duty of care is of paramount importance for the production company. Contestants of shows often fi nd themselves and their families thrown into the spotlight and the PCC's guidance is always gratefully received.
Nick Armstrong - Partner, Charles Russell LLP
An essential aspect of the PCC's work which is underrated is the assistance it can provide behind the scenes, as part of the negotiation process which underlies the successful resolution of the majority of media-related issues. By defi nition, this 'behind the scenes' work is less known than the more public process of complaints and adjudications.
In my role as a media litigation solicitor advising clients about contentious media issues, having a flexible range of options is key to dealing effectively with cases where the facts and tactical considerations vary widely. Only rarely is immediate recourse to law appropriate. Far more often, the essentialelement is to seek to persuade the press that what they are proposing to publish or have published is not (or not wholly) appropriate, and to negotiate a suitable resolution.
The PCC, in being available to broker or inform such discussions, warn of potential breaches of the Code, and participate in negotiations at an editorial level, can provide a valuable extra element enabling such resolutions to be achieved. In addition, their hotline service for dealing with situations where clients are harassed by a press 'scrum' is a crucialextra resource.
Working with the PCC has often contributed much to obtaining the best outcome for clients faced with press-related difficulties.
Roderick Dadak - Partner, Head of Defamation, Media, Brands and Technology, Lewis Silkin
It is all too easy to criticise self-regulation by the media which is the task of the Press Complaints Commission. Nobody would pretend that it doesn't have shortcomings or that mistakes have not been made - and they get plenty of publicity. But it is in fact remarkably successful.
With a robust Code of Practice it provides a public service which, apart from being free, is fair and is relatively quick. The Code is respected by the Courts, and indeed is specifically relied upon as a guide to the application of the balancing exercise between freedom of expression and the right to a private life. However, ultimately its best advertisement is the number of complaints that are successfully concluded. There is a false assumption that most members of the public who complain against the media want money. They don't. The majority want an apology. All the evidence suggests that the PCC succeed in achieving a satisfactory outcome, through mediation or adjudication, without falling foul of allegations of bias or giving inadequate consideration to complaints made.
The media take the PCC and the Code very seriously, both nationally and regionally, and that also demonstrates its effectiveness. There have been calls for statutory controls to be introduced in place of self-regulation but in the face of a proven track record in the vast majority of complaints and determined, and substantial, strides over the last few years to improve the Code, and its implementation, by addressing shortcomings, adapting and amending it where appropriate, there isn't really any need to replace it. The PCC has the flexibility to adapt and change which a statutory body could never achieve. It isn't perfect but overall it works. There is still room for improvement but credit should be given where credit is due and in a cash-strapped society the free and fair service the PCC offers should be supported.