PCC Statistics Explained
A Glossary of PCC terms
This document is intended to provide a comprehensive explanation of complaints terminology used by the PCC. We have tried to make it as straightforward as possible, but if any of it is not clear, please do contact us. Please note that there is a separate glossary for the monthly complaints summaries, more information about which can be found here. Statistics can be difficult to understand, and we are always happy to explain our work to anyone who is interested.
If you intend to publish anything based on these figures, you may find it helpful to speak to a member of PCC staff. Please call on 020 7831 0022 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This article, published in the PCC ’s February 2009 newsletter, also seeks to explain the PCC ’s facts and figures.
This website publishes details of resolved and adjudicated complaints dealt with by the PCC since 1996. This information can be found here. The website also provides an advanced search function, which will enable you to search PCC complaints by clause number of the Code, publication name or keyword.
Information about complaints before 1996 is only available in hard copy – please contact Tonia Milton for further details: email@example.com.
The following general points about methodology should be borne in mind when interpreting statistical information:
2. Explanation of terms
Total of all complaints
This is the global figure for all complaints received in writing by the PCC in a given timeframe. It is a useful starting point for understanding the PCC ’s workload, but it is important not to place too much emphasis on this figure, for two main reasons:
This is a much more useful figure on which to focus. It comprises all cases on which the Commission is able to rule. It includes:
In 2011 the PCC issued 1713 rulings.
Complaints made under the Code
The Commission can elect formally to adjudicate on any unresolved complaint. This means that the Commission issues a public ruling on the substance of the complaint. Adjudications fall into two categories:
Resolved or sufficient action offered to resolve
These are complaints which the PCC resolves to the satisfaction of the complainant, or where the Commission has judged that an offer of remedial action by the editor was sufficient to remedy any possible breach of the Code. An example might be: the publication of a correction or an apology; a follow-up piece or letter from the complainant; a private letter of apology from the editor; an undertaking as to future conduct by the newspaper; or the annotation of the publication’s records to ensure that the error is not repeated.
Not pursued by complainant
These are cases where complainants have chosen (for any number of reasons) at some stage of the complaint, not to take it any further.
No case under the Code
This figure relates to complaints where the Commission judges that there has been no breach of the Code but where there is no need for a public ruling. The complainant and the editor of the publication in question will receive a full explanation of the Commission’s decision, but the substance of the complaint is not published on the website.
Complaints not investigated under the Code
The PCC can only take complaints which engage one or more of the Clauses of the Editors' Code of Practice, so complaints in this category are those which fall outside the PCC's remit. Such cases might be related to matters of taste or decency, concern advertising (as opposed to editorial material) or TV, or be about a contractual matter. Wherever possible, the PCC will try to assist members of the public by giving the contact details of the appropriate organisation or body with which they can raise their concerns.
Disallowed on grounds of unjustified delay
The Commission will not generally accept complaints more than two months after the date of publication of the article (or incident that has given rise to the complaint), except in exceptional circumstances.
Material that is still freely available on a publication's website can generally be complained about, even if the piece was not first published within the previous two months. However, the Commission will consider the length of time that has elapsed between the date of first publication and its receipt of the complaint. A long delay may affect the extent to which the Commission is able to reach a finding and the nature of any action that may be necessary by the publication to remedy any breach of the Code of Practice which is established by the Commission.
"Third party" complaints: who can complain to the PCC
Wherever possible, the Commission will take forward complaints it receives, including those about factual inaccuracies from concerned readers. However, when the Commission receives a complaint from a member of the public that relates directly to a named or identifiable individual or group, it will - where appropriate - endeavour to contact the relevant person or group to explain its services and to ask whether they wish to complain. Where no complaint is made by the directly affected party (for whatever reason), it may not be appropriate to take forward a complaint from an unrelated individual for some or all of the following reasons:
In such cases, it is not possible to know what the party concerned would consider to be a suitable resolution without their involvement. Further, the Commission acknowledges that individuals have a right not to complain about matters that concern them.
The Commission may continue with an investigation or consideration of a complaint in such circumstances, either through a complaint from an unrelated individual or on its own behalf, when it believes that such an investigation or consideration is appropriate and in the public interest.
Complaints not formalised
This figure refers to cases where complainants have made a very general criticism of a newspaper or article but – despite the PCC ’s attempts to engage them further and to establish how the individual’s concern might be framed under the Code – have opted not to pursue the matter past this introductory stage.