Almost 600 of the near 4700 complaints received by the Press Complaints Commission concerned an article by Times columnist, Matthew Parris – according to the PCC's annual report for 2008.
The article – published just before January 1 last year, on December 27 2007 – drew some 584 complaints mainly because of a suggestion by Parris that cyclists be decapitated, using piano wire strung across roads, as a punishment for littering the countryside.
The article contributed towards a record number of complaints (4698, to be exact, up eight per cent on the previous year) being received by the PCC.
Meanwhile, the report furthermore noted that the Commission made rulings on 1420 different cases: up by 16 per cent on the year before.
Last year, the PCC also issued 57 'desist' pre-publication notices to the media, following up individuals’ concerns about harassment by photographers or potential intrusion in articles. Says the PCC: “They almost always result in the problem disappearing so that a formal complaint is not necessary.”
Adds PCC chair, Sir Christopher Meyer, who is stepping down: “These figures set all-time records in every category. There could be no clearer evidence of strong public confidence in the PCC and our ability to put things right quickly when inaccuracies or intrusive details are published, whether online or in print. 2008 has, as never before, underscored the range and flexibility of our services to the public, including confidential pre-publication advice, our 24/7 anti-harassment service, the negotiation of corrections and apologies, the rapid removal of online material, and, where necessary, the public censuring of newspapers and magazines.
“As I prepare to step down after six years chairing the PCC, it is particularly gratifying that we are now able to help record numbers of people to protect their privacy. Compared with 2007, there was a greater increase in privacy rulings than in any other category; and thanks to the expansion of our pre-publication activity, we have more than ever been able to prevent intrusions arising in the first place.
“At the same time, as the recent publication of the revised edition of the Editors’ Codebook makes clear, the PCC has been able further to develop the necessary distinction to be made between the protection of ‘genuine’ privacy and unacceptable attempts at image control by, for example, people in the public eye.”
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