November 19, 2009
If you are concerned that there has been a specific and serious injustice, inaccuracy, or breach of accepted standards in the media, you can make a complaint.
The Press Complaints Commission is an independent body, which has been set up to examine complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines (and their websites).
They are happy to offer informal advice prior to you lodging an official complaint -0207 831 0022 or 0845 600 2757
Remember too that editors are often happy to deal with complaints directly. You may, therefore, like to try a direct approach before considering a formal complaint to the PCC. Any such approach should be made promptly. If you do not receive a reply within a week – or if you are dissatisfied by the editor’s response – please write to the PCC as soon as possible.
The PCC deals with all editorially-controlled material in UK newspapers and magazines (and their websites). This can include:
Articles and pictures
Words and pictures (including video) on newspaper and magazine websites
Audio material on newspaper and magazine websites
Edited or moderated reader comments on newspaper and magazine websites
They also deal with the physical behaviour of journalists. This can include:
Persistent pursuit of individuals
Refusing requests to stop taking photos or asking questions
Using hidden cameras to obtain material
Failing to be sensitive when dealing with cases involving grief and shock
Failing to obtain the proper consent before speaking to children or people in hospital
Please remember, however:
Complaints have to be judged against the Code of Practice. Before making your complaint the PCC strongly advises that you consult the Code.
They normally accept complaints only from those who are directly affected by the matters about which they are complaining. They do not generally accept complaints made more than two months after the date of publication (or over two months after the end of direct correspondence between you and the editor, provided that correspondence was entered into straight away). If the article remains available on the publication’s website, this rule does not usually apply.
There are some things the PCC doesn’t deal with. For example:
Complaints about TV and radio (Ofcom is the regulator for the broadcast industry)
Complaints about advertising (The Advertising Standards Authority is the regulator for the advertising industry
Concerns about matters of taste and decency
Legal or contractual matters that are dealt with more appropriately by the courts
Complaints about books
Complaints about online material that is not on newspaper or magazine websites
Our Complaints Procedure
When making a complaint please send the PCC a copy of the article in question (if there is one) and a letter or email outlining your concerns. If there are other relevant letters or documents which would help them to assess the complaint, please send these as well.
1. Assessing your complaint
If your complaint falls within the PCC’s remit – and is neither delayed nor subject to related to legal proceedings – they will assess whether it raises a possible breach of our Code of Practice. If they think it does not, they will explain why. If they think it does, they will initiate an investigation by writing to the editor of the relevant publication.
2. The investigation
When they write to the editor they will send him or her a copy of your complaint and a copy of the article about which concerns have been raised. They will ask the editor to respond to your complaint and a copy of his or her reply will be sent to you. It if still appears that there may have been a breach of the Code, their primary aim will be to a find a satisfactory resolution to your complaint.
3. Resolution by mediation
Depending on the seriousness of the case, there are a variety of ways in which complaints can be resolved. For instance, if a serious error has been published, a correction or apology in the paper may be required.
Alternatively, they can seek assurances about future coverage or perhaps look to have online material amended or deleted. The PCC cannot generally obtain financial compensation. If your complaint is resolved, they will publish a summary of the case on their website.
4. Taking stock
If it proves impossible to find a way of settling your complaint the Commission will evaluate the case. It will first decide whether there has, in fact, been a breach of the Code of Practice. If there has, it will decide whether the newspaper or magazine has taken – or offered – sufficient remedial action.
5. Complaint upheld
If the Commission concludes that the Code has been breached (and the breach has not – or cannot – be remedied) it will uphold your complaint in a public ruling. The newspaper or magazine is obliged to publish the critical ruling in full and with due prominence. This is a serious outcome for any editor and puts down a marker for future press behaviour.
Press Complaints Commission
London EC1N 2JD
Helpline: 0845 600 2757
Switchboard: 020 7831 0022
Facsimile: 020 7831 0025
Textphone: 020 7831 0123