Big fall in number of press complaints

The press, once memorably warned it was "drinking in the last chance saloon", appears to be cleaning up its act, says the Press Complaints Commission.

The press, once memorably warned it was "drinking in the last chance saloon", appears to be cleaning up its act, says the Press Complaints Commission.

The number of complaints that went as far as adjudication has fallen to its lowest level, the annual report of the watchdog showed yesterday. Just 49 complaints had to be adjudicated in 1999, of which 26 were upheld. The previous year, 86 complaints received adjudication.

Since 1992, when the "last chance saloon" warning was given by David Mellor as National Heritage Secretary, press conduct appears to have improved. The commission, which covers newspapers and magazines, also reported a drop in the proportion of complaints about accuracy and opportunities to reply, which made up 60.8 per cent of the complaints investigated, a record low. The number of complaints about accuracy was down 2 per cent.

However, the number of investigated complaints dealing with intrusion into grief and shock has risen by 70 per cent in the past year, although, at 5.6 per cent of the total, they still make up only a small proportion. The commission puts this down to a change in the code of practice in 1997, which included actual publication of material at such times, rather than simply the way it was gathered.

The commission received 2,427 complaints last year - 78 fewer than the previous year. Of the complaints dealt with in 1999, no breach was found in 38 per cent of cases while 27 per cent were resolved or not pursued. A further one-third were judged inadmissible.

Lord Wakeham, who chairs the commission, an independent body, praised editors for sticking to the code of conduct. In the report he paid tribute "to the entire industry - and to its commitment to independent and self-regulation".

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