Press complaints soar tohit record high in 2007

Complaints to the press watchdog reached record numbers last year, due in part to outrage over a magazine which mocked the disabled son of the glamour model Jordan.

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) dealt with 4,340 complaints in 2007, a rise of 31 per cent from 2006.

The increase was partly attributable to two cases, the PCC said. One was Heat magazine publishing a sticker which bore a picture of Harvey, Jordan's five-year-old son, with the words: "Harvey wants to eat me!" Harvey suffers from septo-optic dysplasia, a condition that causes blindness and weight problems.

The sticker prompted 143 complaints to the PCC, which resolved the case after Heat apologised and made a donation to charity.

The second case involved a Daily Mirror column by Tony Parsons, headlined "Oh, up yours, senor", regarding the Portuguese police investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. One of the complainants was the Portuguese ambassador to Britain, who had been urged by Parsons in his article to "keep your stupid, sardine-munching mouth shut".

The column attracted 485 complaints and is set to be resolved, the PCC said.

Even without those two cases, the number of complaints received in 2007 would represent an all-time high. The PCC chairman, Sir Christopher Meyer, said: "These figures reflect three things: the PCC's greater visibility from a permanent campaign to publicise its services throughout the UK; the extension of the commission's remit to cover more information than ever before, including video material on the websites of newspapers and magazines; and growing confidence among the public in what the commission has to offer.

"This now ranges from confidential settlements, through published corrections and apologies, to formal rulings against newspapers and magazines, many of which took forward our case law on the vexed question of where to set the boundary between private life and information that is legitimately in the public interest.

"Beyond this, we placed an increased emphasis in 2007 on sorting out problems before publication, which could otherwise have led to a formal complaints. This included in particular deploying our anti-harassment service and dispersing media scrums."

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