Press Complaints Commission figures for 2012 suggest a slight improvement in overall press behaviour compared with the previous year.
There was a reduction in the number of critical adjudications published by the watchdog and in the number of cases, including those involving media scrums, where pre-publication help was sought from the body.
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Overall, the PCC found that there were 649 complaints which it judged to have 'merit' (which raised a likely breach of the Editors' Code), compared with 719 such complaints in 2011.
The PCC received some 12,191 complaints in 2012, compared with 7,300 in 2011. The large increase in the total was partly down to The Sun’s decision to publish a picture of a naked Prince Harry on its front page – which attracted some 3,800 complaints alone. No ruling was issued because Prince Harry chose not to complain.
The PCC issued rulings or brokered resolutions in 1,937 cases (versus 1,713 in 2011).
There were 101 complaints where the Editors’ Code had been breached and the publication had taken sufficient action to remedy the breach (compared with 102 such cases in 2011).
There were a further 13 cases were publications had seriously breached the Editors’ Code prompting the PCC to issue critical public rulings (compared with 20 such cases in 2011). Some 535 cases were resolved by mediation.
Of the 1,937 cases the commission dealt with, it found that on 1,274 occasions there had been no breach of the Editors' Code.
Members of the public complaining about harassment, intrusion and inaccuracy on a pre-publication basis were assisted by the PCC 136 times in 2012, compared with 157 such instances in 2011. This included issuing ‘desist’ notices to editors were complainants were concerned about media ‘scrums’ gathering outside their homes.
Complaints by type:
- 92.6 per cent – Accuracy & Opportunity to reply (Clauses 1 & 2)
- 40.9 per cent – Privacy issues (Clauses 3 – 9 & 11)
- 1.8 per cent – Subterfuge (Clause 10)
- 2.3 per cent – Discrimination (Clause 12)
- 0.06 per cent – Others (Clauses 13-16)
Complaints by sector:
(Where investigation by the PCC was warranted i.e. the PCC requested a response from the relevant editor because the complaint appeared to raise a possible breach of the Code)
- 49.4 per cent – National newspapers
- 33.7 per cent – Regional and local newspapers
- 11 per cent – Scottish newspapers
- 2 per cent – Irish newspapers
- 2.9 per cent – Magazines
- 0.1 per cent – Press agencies
- 0.1 per cent – Publications not subscribing to the self-regulatory system
The PCC said that in 2012, 96.1 per cent of PCC-negotiated corrections were published no later than five pages further back than the material complained of, or in a dedicated corrections column.
Some 371 complainants responded to a PCC survey in 2012. Of these, 78 per cent said they “felt that taking everything into account about the service provided by the PCC that their case had been handled satisfactorily, well or very well”.
PCC chairman Lord Hunt said: “I have always made clear that the present system of press self-regulation needs to change. The evidence to the Leveson Inquiry showed the need for a genuine regulator with a new remit, strong investigative powers and robust, meaningful sanctions.
“Whilst we continue to move towards the construction of a new regulator, the PCC’s valuable complaints and pre-publication services remain available to the public. Last year’s figures testify to the thousands of people who have been offered practical help by the PCC’s committed staff, round the clock, and entirely for free.
“Significant reform of press regulation is needed, and will be delivered. These existing services should be preserved and built on as the new regulator that is desperately needed in the UK is constructed.”