Thursday, 21 April 2011

A league table of press complaints

The Press Complaints Commission publishes annual reports summarising the number of complaints it receives and how it deals with them [1]. For a substantial proportion of complaints received, the PCC decides that the issue is either outside their remit (23% of complaints in 2009, by my count) or there was no breach of the code (20%). The remaining cases (i.e. those within the PCC remit and where there was a breach of the code) are divided into those which were resolved by some action of the newspaper (such as a printed apology or correction) or a much smaller number of cases on which the PCC chose to adjudicate and issue a formal ruling (see the PCC's explanation of its statistics for more detail).

The PCC lists these 'resolved' and 'adjudicated' cases on its website along with the name of the newspaper or magazine in question, but as far as I can see it doesn't tally these up by title so that we can see which titles racked up the most infractions. So I thought I'd do a league table covering the recently concluded 2010/11 financial year. The chart below shows those papers with four or more resolved or adjudicated complaints (expect where the adjudication didn't uphold the complaint) over the 12 month period. There is a long tail of papers not shown with one to three complaints, most of them local or regional titles.

As you can see, The Sun and the Daily Mail are way out in front, with the Mail coming out on top with 68 resolved complaints over the year and the Sun on 52. Everyone else is far behind, with the Sunday Mail third on 24. The Evening Standard turns in a creditable score for a regional title of 15, while the more left-wing papers will need to take a long hard look at themselves after finishing in mid-table mediocrity or, in the case of the Independent, firmly in the relegation zone.

I'm no expert on how the PCC works, so I'd be interested to hear what people think of these figures. Do they reflect a different propensity to overstep the mark, or could it be that the Sun and Mail just issue corrections and apologies more readily? I've got my own views on which it is but I'd be interested to hear yours.

[1] Or at least it did publish these reports - no sign of the 2010 edition yet.


  1. Could also partly be the higher readerships? Would be interesting seeing a chart which took that into account.

  2. Could also partly be due to quantity of lies? The Mail prints way more lies than any other paper which gives it an unfair advantage

  3. I'm sure readership plays some role, but seeing as even the Independent (for example) has hundreds of thousands of daily readers it seems somewhat implausible to me that there are lots of stories in it which would have attracted complaints if only the right person had noticed, given how controversial stories get passed around by word of mouth (and online, these days).


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