UK Press Regulator to Review Its Rules

16 January 2004

The Press Complaints Commission, Britain's much criticized self-regulating press invigilator, is to review its own rules in a bid to avoid mandatory constraints -- a growing threat after its failure to curb violation of individual privacy and similar intrusive actions by newspapers and magazines.

The PCC's code of practice, unchanged since a radical rewrite was triggered by press frenzy over Princess Diana's death in 1997, will commence a review in February. Fourteen newspaper and magazine editors will sit in judgement on themselves and their publications in an attempt to ensure that the code remains "valid and vibrant".

Says PCC code committee chairman Leslie Hinton: "We believe the code has performed very well over those years [since Diana's death] but it is important that it should be constantly reviewed to maintain its effectiveness in the face of constantly changing challenges."

Hinton is also chief executive of News Corporation's UK unit News International, publisher of best-selling daily tabloid The Sun, criticized by outsiders as one of the most persistent offenders against the PCC code.

Complaints to the commission soared by 39% to 3,649 in 2003. A total of 889 people whose complaints fell under the terms of the code of practice were surveyed anonymously.

However, a consumer satisfaction survey published by the PCC Wednesday, indicated that 62% of these complainants believed their problem was dealt with "satisfactorily or very satisfactorily". An improvement of 3% on the 2002 figure.

In another ameliorative move, the PCC this week announced the appointment of former senior civil servant Sir Brian Cubbon as its first independent charter commissioner -- or quasi ombudsman.

He will consider representations from complainants who believe their problem has not been adequately handled by the PCC. Unlike a bona fide ombudsman, however, Cubbon is unable to rule on the substance of the complaint.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff