Do I have to complain to the publication first?
Yes, you do. You need to complain in writing to the editor concerned (not the reporter). This is because it allows the editor the opportunity to resolve the complaint directly with you, which will provide a quicker resolution that the complaints process.
You should head your complaint “Formal Complaint. Not for Publication”. It can be helpful to outline what you see as a suitable resolution.
If you are not satisfied with the response from the editor you amy then bring the complaint to the Press Council.
In exceptional circumstances the Executive Director may be able to exempt you from this first step.
How are conflicts managed?
Most complaints going to adjudication are considered by the full Council. However, on occasions, there may be a complaint against a publication for which a member works, has had some input into the complaint or has some link. On these occasions the member declares the interest, leaves the meeting and takes no part in the consideration of the complaint.
Members representing the Newspaper Publishers Association are not expected to stand down simply because a complaint is against a publication from their stable. These members are on the Council to represent the industry as a whole, not their company, and they are only expected to stand down if they have a conflict with a particular complaint. Council’s decision-making benefits from the industry knowledge these members bring.
Occasionally a Council member declares a personal interest in a complaint and leaves the meeting while that complaint is under consideration.
I have been defamed – can I get damages through the Press Council?
The Press Council does not deal with legal issues. These must be taken up with a lawyer.
The Press Council’s adjudications are based on ethical Principles. It does not recover debts or seek monetary recompense for complainants.
Isn’t the Press Council just a rubber stamp for the industry?
No. The Council is an independent organisation.
Each complaint will be measured against the Statement of Principles. On receipt and after assessment it will either be referred to the Chair, a Committee of Council, or the full Media Council. Members will determine whether the complaint should proceed and whether there has been a breach of the ethical principles of journalism.
The Council comprises six public members, including the Chair (a retired Court of Appeal judge) and five members representing various sectors of the industry. The industry members are all senior members of their profession and are well-able to spot a defective story.
Committees of the Council comprise the Chair, one public member and one industry member.