Dear Editor, I was surprised to read the reported comments of Tom Watson (Lab West Brom East) regarding the Press Complaints Commission in the Birmingham Post of April 14.
Mr Watson was a member of the Culture Media and Sport select committee which, in February 2010, publicly commended the staff of the PCC, and acknowledged that the PCC “does a great deal of valuable work both in preventing breaches of the Code and in addressing complaints”.
The select committee further stated that “many people have benefited from a free and discreet service in exactly the way the PCC’s founders envisaged”.
The PCC offers a public service: one that has stood the test of time and is well placed to adapt to future needs and developments. It has stood the test of time because it serves everybody, from those affected by a bereavement reported in their local paper to a celebrity being pursued by paparazzi.
In 2010, the PCC issued approximately 1,700 rulings on complaints framed under the Editors’ Code; it acted to prevent media harassment 100 times; it made proactive contact with those at the centre of media storms 25 times; it settled over 540 complaints amicably. It made some precedent-setting rulings that will impact on editorial decisions in newsrooms, and therefore the lives of people who might be featured in the press in the future.
It hosted 60 seminars to reinforce those rulings, and to educate the industry and so raise standards.
A lot of the effective work performed by the PCC is below the surface. It is reflected in the articles that do not appear, the journalists that do not turn up on someone’s doorstep, and the stories that are not pursued. Many people contact us to use our anti-harassment mechanism whereby messages to editors to call off their photographers and reporters are passed on. It has a near 100 per cent success rate.
Public support for the PCC remains buoyant and recent nationally weighted polling shows that of the general public 79 per cent have no concerns over confidence in the PCC (were either very confident, confident or neutral about it). Awareness of the PCC is high (80 per cent).
We are obviously pleased that there is public confidence in the PCC but are not complacent and would welcome the chance to talk to Tom Watson and inform him about the work of the PCC. We have attempted to arrange meetings more than once, but unfortunately without reply so far.
Director, Press Complaints Commission