Number of PCC complaints outnumbers complaints to courts

The number of complaints to the Press Complaints Commission last year outnumbered the amount of press complaints to the courts according to the commission's annual report.

The PCC received 3,325 complaints in 2006 and satisfactorily resolved 418, 20 per cent more than in 2005. The majority of complaints, 78 per cent, concerned the accuracy of articles, enshrined in clause one of the editors' code of conduct.

The self-regulatory body dealt with a record 231 privacy complaints, most concerning the regional press, and the commission chairman Sir Christopher Meyer said that despite recent legal rulings apparently strengthening privacy law, the commission remains the "only place to go" with complaints of press intrusion.

He said: "People think the shift in gravity is going to be away from the PCC to the courts because of this sequence of decisions. But far from seeing a [decrease] in the number of privacy complaints we have investigated and resolved more than we have ever done.

"It is absolutely wrong to see the law and PCC as competitors. While every year you get three or four privacy cases rumbling through the courts, we have the speed and flexibility to deal with several hundred."

Meyer also warned against efforts by government and judges to curb journalists' freedom of expression. "The threat is real," he said.

"If the trend continues, there will inevitably be calls for the freedom of the press to be entrenched in a similar way to the First Amendment of the US constitution."

The PCC has been receiving some complaints about newspapers' online material and audio-visual reports since it began regulating newspaper websites in February.

The first such complaint came from murderer Peter Sutcliffe, known as the Yorkshire Ripper but has changed his second name to Coonan, who objected to recordings of his private telephone calls made from prison being posted on the News of the World website. The PCC ruled in the paper's favour, citing the public interest in the story.

Meyer said the results of the commission's investigation into the News of the World's royal editor Clive Goodman is "going well" and the results will be published next month. Goodman was sentenced to four months in prison in January for intercepting mobile phone messages of people including celebrity story-broker Max Clifford and Rebekah Wade, editor of the The Sun.

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