Saturday 19 October 2019

One-third of complaints against press are resolved by mediation

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

ONE-third of all complaints received by the Office of the Press Ombudsman were successfully resolved last year by conciliation or mediation.

Press Ombudsman Professor John Horgan says he believes the system of press regulation in Ireland has "bedded down well" with more complaints being resolved by conciliation.

At the launch of the annual report of the Press Council of Ireland and Office of the Press Ombudsman, Prof Horgan said that publications – especially those titles that are members of the Press Council – were continually improving their internal systems of complaint-handling.

Prof Horgan, who decided on 40 complaints in 2012, upheld 43pc of those complaints. In 23pc of cases, sufficient remedial action was deemed to have been offered or taken by the publication. One-third were resolved by conciliation, typically on foot of the office's case officer contacting the relevant editor.

In the five years since it was established, the Press Council of Ireland and Office of the Press Ombudsman has received some 2,000 complaints.

A total of 575 complaints were received last year, but some 250 of these were multiple complaints about two articles and only four of those complaints were formalised.

"Whereas the total volume of complaints can often float up or down, the total number of complaints resolved, either by determination, conciliation or mediation, is probably the best guide to the work we do," said Prof Horgan.

PREJUDICE

Some 35pc of complaints last year related to truth and accuracy; 26pc to prejudice, fairness and honesty; while distinguishing between fact and comment accounted for one in 10 complaints.

Daithi O'Ceallaigh, chairman of the Press Council, said that digital journalism – whether on the websites of established print media or on digital-only websites – should fundamentally be judged by the same criteria that have been elaborated, on the basis of hard-won experience, by the print media.

Conor Brady, former member of the Garda Ombudsman Commission and former editor of the 'Irish Times', was guest of honour at the launch.

Mr Brady queried how newsrooms of the future could be funded and said there could be a role for philanthropic support for serious project journalism.

"It may be time to make a fresh look, almost in an experimental way, at sponsored content," said Mr Brady, who added that Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte should consider initiatives such as bringing back into traditional media funding from huge, internet-based organisations that "make fortunes out of their content".

Irish Independent

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