Time for another rethink at the PCC

15 June 2004 – Most people who make use of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) are dissatisfied with the outcome, according to independent research conducted by the media ethics charity MediaWise.

Sixty-four percent of complainants questioned by freelance journalist Rich Cookson last autumn said they were unhappy with the PCC, in sharp contrast to the PCC’s claim (also based on a survey in autumn 2003) that 62% were satisfied.

The results of the survey appear in Satisfaction Guaranteed?, a MediaWise study of complaints procedures to be published on 22 June.

The study concludes that PCC procedures and the newspaper industry’s Code of Practice are in need of a thorough overhaul. In his introduction Sir Louis Blom-Cooper, the last chair of the Press Council, supports calls by leading journalists for a fourth Royal Commission on the press.

The MediaWise survey, based on a comprehensive questionnaire and interviews, considered complainants’ views about the outcome of their complaints as well as PCC procedures. The PCC concentrates on satisfaction with its procedures for handling complaints.

Most of those contacted had complaints about inaccuracy (51%), and 67% said they were unhappy about the way in which journalists had collected information. Surprisingly, most (79%) had no idea they would feature in the press before the stories were published.  In the satisfaction stakes the PCC scored higher than editors. Only 12% of those who first approached editors with their complaint were pleased with the outcome.

Satisfaction Guaranteed? includes bouquets as well as brickbats.

MediaWise Director Mike Jempson compliments Sir Christopher Meyer on the reforms he has initiated since becoming PCC Chair last year. He goes on to lay out a raft of proposals to improve PCC procedures and the Code of Practice, backed by evidence from ten years of assisting complainants whose lives have been wrecked by unethical journalism.

The study also contains a scathing analysis by Professor Julian Petley of how the PCC has handled various complaints – including one of his own; a detailed account of the PCC’s response to a complaint about The Sun’s infamous ‘Swan Bake’ allegations against asylum-seekers; and reviews of other complaints procedures including the BBC and Ofcom.

MediaWise is grateful to The Camden Trust for contributing to the cost of the survey and this report.

Satisfaction Guaranteed? Press complaints procedures under scrutiny
Edited by Rich Cookson & Mike Jempson
MediaWise, £15.00

For further information, review copies, requests for interviews, please contact Di Fricker
tel: 0117 941 5889, email: pw@presswise.org.uk, fax:  0117 941 5848

(Bulletin No 103)

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