How did privacy law impact the British Press?
The following three cases from different countries offer a striking example of the
different results that may arise depending upon whether a court recognizes a plaintiff’s
right to privacy. In the first case, the son of a famous stage actor was hospitalized in
France. Several reporters stormed the private hospital room, photographed the nine-
year-old boy, and conducted an interview. In the second case, a woman in the United
States was hospitalized with a severe and unusual eating disorder. A reporter broke
into her hospital room, took pictures, and ultimately printed her story in a nationally
published magazine. In the third case, a well-known actor was hospitalized in England
after having been treated for a severe head injury. While the semi-conscious patient
was recovering, journalists ignored several restricted entry notices on the door,
conducted an interview, and took several pictures of the patient. While the factual
similarities in these cases are striking notably, none of the patients had consented to the
media intrusion only in the first two cases were the plaintiffs granted relief for the
invasion of their privacy. In the third case, the English Court of Appeal discharged the
lower court’s injunction enjoining publication, and regretfully informed the plaintiff that
English law does not recognize a right of privacy.
Media Standards Trust criticism
The Media Standards Trust weighed into the debate
adding that the PCC should not have serving editors on
its board and revealing that newspaper and magazine
editors are not bound to follow advice from the PCC.
Furthermore figures from the 2008 PCC Annual Report
indicate that of the 4698 complaints that were brought
only 45 were adjudicated. Even though the PCC claim
that a considerable number of those complaints were
“resolved”, one is less confident of their ability to
provide adequate redress.
Further, the PCC has no power to fine offending
publications and even in successful complaints, victims
are not provided any form of compensation.
Based on what you see here. How effective has the PCC been in regulating the press?
Limits of Self-Regulation under
English law. Arguments against:
Self-Regulation involves media organisations
forming an independent body, setting up their
own code of conduct and operational
structure as well as raising their own funds.
In Britain, the Press Complaints Commission
(PCC) is an independent self-regulatory body
which adjudicates complaints from the public
and acts as an “informal conciliator, leaning
on newspapers to admit mistakes or
Theorists against self regulation
Robertson and Nicol who have entertained the view
that the PCC is “an ineffective regulator which fails to
offer adequate redress in a great many cases”.
Stokes and Reading (1999:156).
Newspapers argue for freedom of expression, but in
doing so they suggest that newspapers alone, other than
other public bodies should stand above international law.
Quiet clearly for some newspapers the ability to snoop
and poke into peopleʼs private lives is infinitely more
important than carrying out serious journalism
Theorists against self regulation cont..
A similar view was echoed by the ECHR decision in
Peck v United Kingdom (2003) ECHR when it was
found that “The PCC rejected the applicantʼs [Peck]
complaint without a hearing...” Mr Peck was caught on
CCTV when he attempted to commit suicide in a
public place. This footage was publicised without his
permission and the ECHR upheld his claim for invasion
of privacy notwithstanding the PCCʼs earlier rejection
of the same complaint
Arguments for self regulation
In 2008 Labour MP Jim Sheridan was arguing the case
for the PCC to be replaced in the House of Commons .
Sheridan was introducing the new bill, which would be
the latest attempt to “introduce a statutory method for
protecting the general public from inaccurate and, at
times, inflammatory reports in the press and media” .
The new proposed regulatory system said it would not
have any effect on the freedom of the press and that it
was the duty of a free press to “balance commercial
considerations with its responsibilities to individuals and
to society as a whole” .
Arguments for self regulation cont…
The main thrust of the argument is that the PCC should have more
power to enforce its code and ensure that members correct their
mistakes when proved to have transgressed. Apparently the
National Union of Journalists has been calling for the PCC to
become a public body which would allow its practices to be
scrutinised through the Freedom of Information Act 2000 . The
argument is that if the workings of the PCC were more transparent,
then there would be less cause for complaint, in particular with
regards to the amount of complaints that are actually upheld.
Sheridan goes on to state that “there is an increasing body of
anecdotal evidence to suggest that in situations in which victims feel
that they have a strong case, they are brought off with minimal out-
of-court cash settlements, and with a small retraction buried in the
depths of the newspaper” .
A 2009 Select Committee report into "Press Standards, Privacy and
Libel" stated that "self-regulation of the press is greatly preferable
to statutory regulation, and should continue
What problems have the internet brought in regulating the press?
Social networking sites have no limits so people are have freedom to
write whatever they want about press issues. Blog websites allow the
public to have their own op An Ipsos MORI poll commissioned by the
PCC in March 2008 revealed that 42% of web users aged 16-24
knew someone who had been embarrassed by information uploaded
on to the internet without their consent inions on the press and
celebrities. 89% of web users thought there should be clear
guidelines about the type of personal information that can be
published online so that they can complain if the material is wrong
Internet does it mean the only way is
PCC director Stephen Abell, in an interview in June
2010, said the Commission believed that the
proliferation of information online "militates against
statutory regulation, as the content is so diffuse that
it cannot be easily constrained."
The PCC felt therefore that only self-restraint and
self-imposed standards from newspapers,
magazines and their websites could really work
The Internet is not immune to
Forget self regulation- is statutory regulation already regulating the
How libel law is effecting regulation
Libel law is when a person writes a defamatory untrue statement about
a person, a broadcast statement is called defamation. Newspapers are
normally subject to libel laws but recently, this law has been applied to
Ranting in 140 characters has cost Courtney Love $430,000
(£265,000) after she was accused of libelling a fashion designer on
Twitter. The singer agreed to settle Dawn Simorangkir's libel suit rather
than face a jury in a courtroom showdown. It is thought to have been the
first libel settlement prompted by tweets. Love had used Twitter and her
MySpace account to declare Simorangkir, who is behind the Boudoir
Queen designer label, a thief and a criminal. Love's ire is said to have
been sparked in 2009 by the designer's decision to send Love a bill for
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