Press council: how it will be composed


An appointments committee is to seek independent members of the proposed new Press Council. The council is to operate as the overseeing body for a new press complaints system, and will act as an ultimate decision-making body on complaints.

Seven of the 13 places on the new council will be held by independent members, including the chairperson, according to plans for the council published yesterday.

The remaining six places will be filled by representatives of the national and regional newspaper proprietors; one member from the magazine and periodical sector; and a member nominated by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).

Industry nominations will also have to be approved by the appointments committee, comprised of four persons independent of the media.

This committee will be chaired by former provost of Trinity College Tom Mitchell. It also includes the president of the Irish Human Rights Commission Maurice Manning; the former chairman of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission Miriam Hederman O'Brien; and the former ombudsman and information commissioner Kevin Murphy.

It is envisaged that the new procedure will allow members of the public to make complaints about published articles which they believe breach a new press code of conduct.

The procedure includes a new office of Press Ombudsman, which will be financed by the newspaper industry. The ombudsman will act as a mediator, aiming to resolve complaints as quickly as possible, which may involve an apology or clarification from a newspaper or magazine.

If a complaint cannot be resolved through mediation, the ombudsman can make a determination either for or against a complainant, and can require an apology to be printed in a prominent place in a publication found to have breached the code of conduct.

In relation to the most serious complaints, the ombudsman can refer a complaint directly to the Press Council for adjudication. The council will act as an appeals body on ombudsman rulings. The council or ombudsman will not have the power to impose fines, but full judgment in a finding against a publication will have to be published by the offending publication.