Category: Press Council

Press Council privacy seminar in Cork

Press Council and Ombudsman logoFrom today’s Irish Times:

Press Council seminar on privacy

The Press Council is hosting a seminar on the relationship between the press, the internet and privacy at Jury’s Western Hotel in Cork on Friday.

Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes, businessman Ben Dunne and Irish Daily Mirror editor John Kierans are among the speakers at the seminar, which hopes to generate an exchange of views between members of the media and the public.

The seminar, which is free and open to the public, begins at 2pm.

Film classification and press regulation

Two pieces in yesterday’s Irish Times caught my eye. The first relates to the retirement of the man who has probably the most recognised signature in Ireland. The second relates to the responsibility of those who write other words that many of us read.

IFCO logoFor the past six years, every movie released in Ireland has been classified by his office with a certificate signed by him. He is John Kelleher, and he has just retired as Director of the Irish Film Classification Office:

‘I don’t believe in censoring for adults’

He’s seen nearly 2,000 films personally and supervised the watching of 55,000 others, yet the film censor John Kelleher only banned one film. Mr Kelleher, the director of the Irish Film Classification Office (Ifco), stepped down yesterday just two days short of his 65th birthday. …

He says his biggest achievement in office was to be involved in last year’s Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, which changed the name from the Irish Film Censor’s Office to the [the Irish Film Classification Office] Ifco. The Act changed his job title to reflect his primary role in classifying rather than censoring films. The phrase “likely to cause harm to children” was introduced into the legislation for the first time. [He said:]

I don’t believe in film censoring for adults, I believe in film classification for minors. I hope that people realised that I was trying to ensure that adults could look after themselves, that it was the welfare of children which was paramount

Press Council and Ombudsman logoEstablished in 2007, the Office of the Press Ombudsman is part of a system of independent regulation for the printed media in Ireland which provides the public with a quick, fair and free method of resolving any complaints they may have in relation to newspapers and periodicals. Prof John Horgan is the Press Ombudsman and he spoke yesterday of the responsibilities of reporters and editors to the their readers:

Press ombudsman stresses duty of journalists to their readers

The credibility of the media is best defended by journalists who recognise that their loyalty to their readers is at least as important as their loyalty to their employers, the Press Ombudsman, John Horgan, has said.

The licence to print is now ultimately granted by the public and can be withdrawn if credibility, reliability, fairness or honesty was put at risk, he warned. “Credibility is like an iceberg: once it melts, it is impossible to reconstitute it.

Prof Horgan, who was speaking at the launch of a memoir by former Irish Times journalist Dennis Kennedy, said journalists were paid to exercise best judgment, though this could be elusive. Editors could find on occasion that such judgment could put them at odds with advertisers or owners, and journalists could find themselves at odds with editors. …

Revising the Press Council Code of Practice

Press Council and Ombudsman logoPrinciple 10.2 of the Press Council’s Code of Practice provides “The content of this Code will be reviewed at regular intervals”. A piece by Carol Coulter in today’s Irish Times reports on the first revisions of the Code since the establishment of the Press Council:

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 revised Code of Practice is available here.

The benefits of the Press Council

Toy pellet gun, via the BBC websiteUsing the Press Ombudsman and Press Council mechanisms will allow media complaints to be settled without lawyers, as expensive legal processes will be invoked much less frequently following the enactment of the Defamation Act, 2009 according to the Press Ombudsman, Prof John Horgan. On the one hand, he would say that wouldn’t he? On the other, I hope that he’s right; it’s much too early to tell, of course, but that is the intention behind the establishment and recognition of his office.

However, not only is bringing a complaint to his office cheaper and quicker, it’s probably also safer than going to court. According to the Irish Times breaking news service, a judge was accidentally shot in court; but the facts were rather more prosaic, and the later print version of the article explained that pellets from a toy gun struck the judge at a family law hearing.

The template for journalism?

Irish Times clock, image originally hosted on Irish Times websiteA Leader in today’s Irish Times welcomes the passing of the Defamation Bill, 2006, and argues that it will set an appropriate template for the practice of journalism in Ireland:

The template for journalism

The Defamation Bill has concluded its passage through the Oireachtas, with a few deserved wobbly moments on blasphemy, and now awaits the signature of President McAleese. It will set the template for the practise of journalism in the years ahead. …

The new regime for journalism will operate on twin pillars. The Bill attempts – quite successfully – a balancing of constitutional rights: between the public’s right to know and the citizen’s right to a good name. … The concession to the practise of journalism is the new defence of “reasonable publication” allowing newspapers to publish stories of public importance for the public benefit if they can be shown to have been thoroughly investigated and done in good faith – even if allegations made in them turn out to be untrue.

The quid pro quo for these changes is the Office of Press Ombudsman and an independent Press Council which are given legal privilege for their findings in the Bill. These offices give readers a formal and free complaints system which has been in operation for more than a year. The Irish Times supports them wholeheartedly. They face a huge challenge to stem the slide in standards in Irish journalism. …

Read all about it here.

Pressing statistics

Press Council and Ombudsman logoThe statistics for the first six months of operation of the Press Ombudsman make for interesting reading.

According to Ruadán Mac Cormaic in the Irish Times over the weekend:

Press Ombudsman gets 200 complaints

ALMOST 200 complaints were made to the Press Ombudsman in the office’s first six months in operation, new figures show. … Statistics published by the ombudsman’s office yesterday show that, of the 20 cases decided upon, one was fully upheld, six were partially upheld and 12 were not upheld. In the final case, the newspaper offered sufficient remedial action to resolve the complaint.

Here is a sample of some of the data:

• Total number of complaints received: 193
• Number of complaints decided upon by Press Ombudsman: 20

Complaints made under the Code of Practice
• Principle 1: Truth and Accuracy: 63
• Principle 5: Privacy: 28

• Total number of decisions by Press Ombudsman appealed to Press Council: 12

So, you want to complain about a press story?

Press Council and Ombudsman logoWell, now you can. The Press Ombudsman and Press Council of Ireland are now fully up and running. They launched a new website on New Year’s Day (it’s not just a new-look site, it’s a whole new website, with new urls for everything, which – annoyingly – meant that I have had to recode the links in my earlier posts on this topic). More to the point, the Ombudsman and Council are now ensconced in their new premises at 1, 2 & 3 Westmoreland Street, Dublin 2, and following yesterday’s formal launch (Blurred Keys | Irish Examiner | Irish Independent | Irish Times (sub req’d) here and here | Press Gazette) they are now (eventually! thankfully!!) open for business. So, if you think that a print publication has breached the Press Council’s Code of Practice for Newspapers and Periodicals, you can now make a complaint to the Ombudsman and thereafter to the Press Council.

The shiny new website comes complete with a shiny new slogan:

New Press Ombudsman slogan, via his website.

Time will tell whether this process really is a new Charter – the claim strikes me as a tad grandiloquent. However, after too much vacillation, it is now at least well begun; and, as my Irish teacher taught me:

tosach maith leath na h-oibre!

(For the non-Irish speaking reader, this translates as: a good start is half the work).

New Year, new PC

Press Council and Ombudsman logoThe Press Ombudsman and Press Council seem to be shaping up to try to hit the ground running in the new year. For example, Mark Hennessy in the Irish Times (sub req’d) recently reported that the Press Council will accept complaints from the public from 1 January 2008 about any articles published since 1 October last. However, Ronan McGreevy in the Irish Times (sub req’d) subsequently reported (also here) that meeting of the Press Council will take place next month, at which a decision will be taken as to when it will start taking complaints from the public, but the aim is still for 1 January. (more…)