Robert Pinker, The Press Complaints Commission

During a visit to University College Falmouth, Robert Pinker ex-member of The Press Complaints Commission spoke about his experience in the commission, giving Journalism students an inside look to the commission.

The Press Complaints Commission is an independent self-regulatory body which was set up in 1991 to deal with complaints within the UK press. They were set up after a series of scandals were published in the British tabloid newspapers. In 2007 they grew, setting up an online area allowing members of the public to complain through E-Mail.

The P.C.C deal with elements of inaccuracy within a newspaper, as well as intrusion of privacy. These complaints are then adjudicated with further action taken if needed with some complaints of inaccuracy leading to court proceedings. Pinker commented that around 99% of the complaints resolved are dealt with on a voluntary basis and are usually resolved within thirty-six days.

The company is recognised under the Human Rights Act 1998. This allows the UK to live in a free and stable democracy with a free press under the code of practice which must coincide with the law.

Journalism students were introduced to ‘The Editors Code of Practice’ during the talk. This consists of sixteen clauses made up of independent editors of National, Regional and Local newspapers. It is reviewed every year, changing any part of the code if necessary.

In recent years there have been two major changes to the code mainly due to the ever-increasing fixation of celebrity culture in the British press.

Two changes under Act 6: Children, were added to the code.
i) A child under 16 must not be interviewed or photographed on issues involving their own or another child’s welfare unless a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult consents.
ii)Editors must not use the fame, notoriety or position of a parent or guardian as sole justification for publishing details of a child’s private life.

Robert Pinker commented about the code as a whole saying: “It is the best code in the world.” Directing the code at Journalism students saying: “It is your code not our code.”

He went on to tell us the P.C.C is unable to take action unless a member of the first party comes forward with an official complaint. A recent example of this surrounds Journalist Jane Moir and the article titled ‘A strange, lonely and troubled death’ she produced for The Daily Mail on the death of Boyzone member, Stephen Gately. Pinker confirmed that around 21000 complaints had been made about the article published, but the P.C.C could not take any action until a first party member made a complaint.

Another issue he brought forward to us was based around the parents of Madeline McCann. Pinker informed us that the PCC were unable to take action on many of the British newspapers, which had used false information in their news stories based around the McCann’s, because they decided to take action in court, rather than to sort the scandals in a quick and quiet manner without any media attention.

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