'Give better coverage to adjudications'

The charter compliance panel that audits the Press Complaints Commission has recommended that greater prominence should be given in newspapers when publicising adjudications against them.

Its annual report said it had noticed a number of examples of an "excessive disparity between the prominence given to the adjudication and the original article that gave rise to it".

It continued: "We have also noticed headlines for adjudications that hardly catch the eye. However prominent the adjudication, the heading ‘Press Complaints Commission' or the name of a littleknown complainant will not attract the attention of the reader. We recommend that this should be pursued."

It was agreed that adjudication decisions should be widely disseminated among editors to help act as a deterrent against bad practice and also to indicate cases where media organisations avoid breaches.

According to the report, better communication was needed between the commission and complainants, after 57 per cent of complainants surveyed said they were unhappy with the outcome of "no breach"

adjudications and could not understand the reasons that had been given. The panel, which consists of charter commissioner Sir Brian Cubbons and Dame Ruth Runciman, recommended that the commission aim to reduce the figure.

"We suggest that more could be done to explain the wider background to the commission's practice"

said the report. "While the commission takes the code as its starting point, many complainants start further back down the track and simply believe that the newspaper has been unbalanced in its reporting or irresponsible."

The panel welcomed a full guidance note that was issued by the commission to newspapers about responsible reporting of mental illness.

The PCC received 45 complaints last year about how it handled the complaints process, according to charter commissioner Cubbons'

third annual report.

Four of the complaints referred to the compliance panel resulted in a "substantial change" in the original outcome, while in 12 cases it was agreed that further action was needed.

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