Changes made to Press Council's code of practice


A NUMBER of changes have been made to the Press Council code of practice in the interests of clarity, according to its latest newsletter.

The changes include separating Principle 2, dealing with comment, into two, stating that newspapers and periodicals are entitled to advocate strongly their own views, but also stating that comment, conjecture, rumour and unconfirmed reports shall not be reported as if they were facts.

They also include changes to Principle 8, which had been entitled “Incitement to Hatred”, and which included both incitement to hatred and publication of material thought to be “likely to cause grave offence”.

It was considered potentially misleading to single out the most extreme breach of the code as a title for this principle, and accordingly the title has been amended to “Prejudice”.

The changes were agreed by the code committee in consultation with the Press Council. The code committee is composed of six editors, the Press Ombudsman and a representative of the National Union of Journalists.

Changes have also been agreed to the publication guidelines. The Press Council pointed out that people who complain to the ombudsman about articles in newspapers or periodicals frequently cite more than one and sometimes up to six or seven different principles of the code in the belief that this will increase the chance that at least one of their complaints will be upheld.

In practice, however, it is very rare that a complaint is upheld under more than one principle.

The publication concerned is required to publish an adverse decision of the council, but because each element of a complaint has to be the subject of a separate decision, such a decision can contain lengthy material about complaints that have not been upheld.

In future, however, where a complainant cites several principles of the code, and the complaint is upheld under some but not under others, newspapers and periodicals will be required to publish only the part of the decision upholding the complaint.

They will remain free to publish, at their discretion, the other parts of the decision, as long as they publish them in full.