The Press Councilís scope applies to published material in newspapers, magazines and their websites, as well as other digital sites with news content, including blogs characterised by news commentary. Published material includes audio and video streams. The Council retains the discretion to decline a complaint if the publication has limited readership or the circumstances make the complaint inappropriate for resolution by the Council.
The Councilís adjudications are based on ethical considerations: it does not recover debts or seek monetary recompense for complainants.
- A person bringing a complaint against a publication (namely newspapers, magazines and their websites as well as other digital sites with news content, including blogs characterised by news commentary) must, unless exempted by the Executive Director of the Council, first lodge the complaint in writing with the editor of the publication.
- The complaint (to be clearly marked as a letter of complaint) is to be made to the editor, online author or publisher within the following time limits:
(a) A complaint about a particular article, within one calendar month of its publication.
(b) A complaint arising from a series of articles, within one calendar month of the earlier of the date from which the substance of the complaint would have been reasonably apparent to the complainant, or the publication of the last article in the series.
(c) A complaint concerning non-publication of any material, within two calendar months of the date on which the request to publish was received by the publication.
(d) A complaint about an online article or blog, within one calendar month of the date of first publication, with the complaint option kept open for two years if the offending article remains uncorrected electronically, or longer at the Chairperson of the Councilís discretion.
(e) A complaint which does not arise from the publication or non-publication of any material, within one month of the incident giving rise to the complaint.
- If the complainant is not satisfied by a publicationís response or receives no response within 10 working days from the date on which the editor or online publisher received the complaint, the complainant should then complain promptly to the Council.
- Complainants are requested where possible to use the online complaint below or on a form provided by the Council. The Council will, however, accept complaints by letter. All complaints must be accompanied by the material complained against and copies of the correspondence with the publication. The main thrust of the complaint is to be summarised in up to 500 words. Other supporting material may be supplied. Legal submissions are not required.
- The time limits which will apply on receipt of a complaint are:
(a) After the Council refers the complaint back to the publication, the publication has 10 working days from receipt of that complaint to reply.
(b) On receipt of the response, the Press Council will refer it to the complainant. The complainant may then, within 10 working days, in approximately 200 words, reply to any new matters raised by the publication. The complainant should not repeat submissions or material contained in the original complaint
- The Executive Director of the Council has the power to extend time limits but will not do so without compelling reason.
- In appropriate circumstances, guided by rules of natural justice, the Council may request or receive further information from one or both of the parties
- Once submissions have been exchanged the Press Council will at its next meeting consider and usually determine the complaint. Most complaints are determined on the papers but, if wishing to make a personal submission, a complainant may apply to the Executive Director of the Council for approval to attend. If approval is given the editor, or representative of the editor or publisher of an online article will also be invited to attend the hearing. No new material may be submitted at the hearing without the leave of the Council.
- Timeliness of a publicationís response will be taken into account in a judgment, and may itself be the subject of a Council ruling.
Publication of adjudications
- If a complaint is upheld the publication, print or online, must publish the adjudication giving fair prominence. Where an offending print article has been published on pages 1-3, the Council may direct the adjudication to run on page 3, to a maximum of 400 words. If the decision is lengthy the Press Council will provide a shortened version.
- A short pointer is to run on page 3, with the full adjudication further back if it relates to an article published on a later page.
- A website or blog should publish the adjudication in the section in which the original story ran.
- Magazines should publish a pointer on the first available editorial page with the full adjudication appearing on a later page.
- The decision must be published unedited and unaccompanied by editorial comment, though publications are not proscribed from commenting on the decision elsewhere. If a complaint is not upheld the publication may determine whether to publish the decision and where it should be published.
- All ruled-against electronic copy that is enduring and deemed to be conveying inaccuracy must be noted as having been found incorrect and why. In cases where a potential harm outweighs the need to keep public record intact, the Council may require the removal of story elements or the taking down of a story in its entirety.
- If a ruled-against article has been further published on a publicationís website, or distributed to other media, the Council requires that:
(a) In the instance of a website, the article is to be flagged as having been found to have breached Press Council Principles, and a link provided to the decision on this website
(b) Where there has been further distribution to other news media, the Press Council will provide a short statement to be published in each publication known to have published the original item.
- The Council reserves the right to direct a right of reply, correction, or retraction. In egregious circumstances, with a unanimous decision, the Council may censure a publication. Such a censure must be published in the publication or website giving due prominence.
- All decisions will be available on the Councilís website and published in its relevant annual report, unless the Council, on its own volition or at the request of a party, agrees to non-publication. Non-publication will be agreed to only in exceptional circumstances.
- Where the circumstances suggest that the complainant may have a legally actionable issue, the complainant will be required to provide a written undertaking not to take or continue proceedings against the publication or journalist concerned.
- The Council may consider a third party complaint (i.e. from a person who is not personally aggrieved) However, it reserves the right to require the complainant to first seek written consent from the individual who is the subject of the article complained of.
- Publications, websites and blogs must not give undue publicity to a complaint until it has been resolved or adjudicated. However, the fact a complaint has been made can be reported.
- Editors are to publish, in each issue of the publication, the Councilís complaints process. This should be by way of a brief at either the foot of a news briefs column, or on the editorial or letters page; on the contacts page for websites and blogs and on the imprint page for magazines.