The PCC (The Press Complaints Commission) - Explain what it is

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The PCC (The Press Complaints Commission)

Explain what it is

Who Chairs it / Sits on it

Why/When was it set up

Consider any high profile cases before and after its set up

By Chris Barnard

The Press Complaints Commission is an independent body, which deals with complaints from members of the public about the editorial content of newspapers and magazines. Their service to the public is free, quick and easy. They aim to deal with most complaints in just forty working days - and there is absolutely no cost to the people complaining.

During the 1980's there was mounting concern about press standards, notably as regards the moves downmarket of the 'gutter press', as well as much concern about the invasion of privacy, in particular the relentless hounding of the younger members of the royal Family, as well as various politicians.

The Conservative government therefore appointed Sir David Calcutt to run a Departmental Committee of enquiry. Calcutt Committee reported (1990) that there should be a new, non-statutory Press Complaints Commission. The Press were given eighteen months to see if it could work. If it failed, then the Government was urged to introduce legislation. The Press were warned by Government that they were 'drinking at the last chance saloon.

In the event, the PCC was set up with great speed by the press in order to avoid statutory controls. It is a matter of debate whether the press have improved their standards. David Mellor MP, the first Minister for the National Heritage in John Major's post-1992 government was perhaps the first in the new government to find him exposed across the front pages. Some ministers would probably argue that it is unwarranted invasion of privacy to print stories of a politician's dalliance with an actress. The Press argue that it is in the public interest to expose such matters-the 'fourth estate' argument.
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Despite the claimed success of the Commission, Lord wakeham continued to warn as late as April 1995 that privacy legislation was still on the agenda and he urged newspapers to avoid destroying the excellent work of the PCC by 'a crisis of our own making'. (The Guardian 05/04/95)

The PCC completed the investigation of 2,445 complaints in 1999 - of which six out of ten were about accuracy in reporting. About one in eight related to intrusion into privacy. All complaints are investigated under the editors' Code of Practice, which binds all national and regional newspapers ...

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