No need for an enforceable right to reply, says Meyer

By Dominic Ponsford

The Press Complaints Commission, rather than the courts, remains the
favoured forum for tackling privacy complaints against the media.

According to the PCC’s annual report, it dealt with 281 privacy
complaints last year, of which 127 involved possible breaches of the
Editors’ Code.

PCC chairman Sir Christopher Meyer said: “Despite
the wilder prophecies of some commentators, there has still been no
rush to the courts to test extending the law of confidence and the
application of the Human Rights Act.”

The PCC dealt with 3,618 complaints in 2004 (compared with 3,649 in 2003) of which 382 involved a breach of the code.

Of
the 713 accuracy complaints the PCC received last year, 333 raised a
possible breach of the code and 327 were resolved through mediation by
PCC officers. Just six were upheld by PCC adjudications.

Meyer
said: “These figures are a clear riposte to those who believe that
there should be a legally enforceable right of reply. There is simply
no need for one.”

Meyer added that the figures only tell part of the story of the PCC’s work.

He
said: “The success of self-regulation of the press and the Code of
Practice are in some ways invisible and cannot be recorded here.

“It
is to be found in the true but intrusive stories that are not
published, in the harassment that is stopped and in the problems that
are settled directly with complainants.”

● Meyer has decided to
lose out on book serialisation rights worth tens of thousands of pounds
rather than compromise his position. The UK’s former ambassador to
Washington has penned a memoir called DC Confidential which will deal
with his time in the United States following the 11 September terrorist
attacks and the run-up to the war in Iraq.

Rival newspaper groups are understood to be bidding for the serialisation rights.

Meyer
has confirmed that he will take no part in deciding which newspaper
serialises the book and that he will receive no cash directly for the
serialisation.

Instead he will donate any serialisation fees to charity.

In
this week’s PCC annual report, he said: “The commission treasures its
independence and does not employ people who have been professional
journalists.”

Rulings under the code by clause

COMPLAINTS BREAKDOWN

Clause 1 Accuracy 56.2%

Clause 2 Opportunity to reply 3.5%

Clause 3 Privacy 11.4%

Clause 4 Harassment 2.6%

Clause 5 Intrusion into grief or shock 4.6%

Clause 6 Children 2.8%

Clause 7 Children in sex cases 0.4%

Clause 8 Clandestine devices and subterfuge 2.5%

Clause 9 Hospitals 0.2%

Clause 10 Reporting of crime 2.2%

Clause 11 Misrepresentation 1.4%

Clause 12 Victims of sexual assault 0.1%

Clause 13 Discrimination 13%

Clause 14 Financial journalism 0.2%

Clause 15 Confidential sources 0.4%

Clause 16 Witness payments in criminal trials 0.2%

Clause 17 Payments to criminals 0.4%

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