Accuracy not privacy the biggest concern

Ordinary people, not celebrities and politicians, continue to make up the majority of complainants – 91 per cent in 2002 – to the PCC.

“There is a widespread but mistaken belief that the issue of intrusion into privacy affects just the rich and famous,” says the PCC’s 2002 annual report, published this week. Yet under a quarter of the total complaints are about privacy.

Most of the 2,630 complaints, 56 per cent, are still about accuracy in reporting, though even this has fallen steadily, from 70 per cent in 1997.

There were full adjudications in 36 cases, with 17 upheld. The remainder were either resolved directly or not pursued. No breach of the Editors’ Code was established in 26 per cent of the cases or no further action was required after the editor concerned took remedial action.

The report emphasises the commission’s work with ordinary members of the public.

In the past year, complaints against national daily and Sunday newspapers made up 51 per cent of the total complaints to the PCC, down from 56 per cent the previous year.

Just over a third of complaints were about regional and local newspapers in England and Wales (28 per cent) and publications special to Scotland (7 per cent).

Magazines accounted for 5 per cent of complaints, with the remainder applicable to Northern Ireland and news agencies.

The global political situation, as well as the continuing debate about issues such as asylum seekers and refugees, meant the commission received a significant number of complaints about discrimination. One growing area of privacy complaints within the 56 per cent, the report states,is about intrusion into grief and shock.

The year saw a record number of complaints resolved in record time, before they ever got to adjudication by the commission.

A third of complaints turned out to be outside the remit of the commission, some were legal issues or matters of taste and decency and a handful were third party complaints (none of these are part of the Commission’s areas of responsibility) and another handful were made too late to be investigated.

Even in the cases where the PCC took no action, it drew the newspapers’ attention to the concerns of the complainant.

By Jean Morgan

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