(i) Fall 2008
BC Press Council Meetings and Events

Complaint Policy

The B.C. Press Council adheres to the general principles that have been commonly followed by all Canadian Press Councils. These Policies are set out for information purposes. The policies evolve over time.

A. Opinion
Council emphasizes that it does not deal with complaints based only on differences of opinion between complainants and newspapers. Most often these include letters to the editor, columns, editorials and cartoons.

Since inception in Canada, Councils have defended freedom of the press on behalf of the public and the press and have advocated full freedom of public expression and speech both oral and written. Since freedom of the press is an extension of the individual rights to freedom of speech, any derogation of the right affects the other.

Council regards newspaper editorials, columns, critiques, commentaries and the editorial cartoons as journalism of opinion and examples of freedom of the press. Council also believes it is appropriate for newspapers to exercise wide latitude in expressing their opinions in editorials, no matter how controversial or unpopular the opinions may be, and to give columnists and others the same latitude in expressing personal opinions.

B. Letters to the Editor
Complaints about non-publication of letters to the editor will not be considered except in exceptional cases. The policy decision follows the consensus by Canadian press councils that each newspaper is solely responsible for the publication of the content of "letters to the editor" sections of the newspaper.

Letters to the editor are not composed by journalists. They are the work of readers communicating issues to the public. Each newspaper elects to publish such letters under its own guidelines. These letters serve the purpose of letting the readership become more involved by raising issues of common interest in the community. The newspaper always looks to ways of increasing interest of readers in its product and thus generating sales.

The editor reserves the exclusive authority to shorten such letters to fit available space, to publish such letters, or not to publish such letters.

The decision is subjective and wholly within the criteria important to each newspaper. The newspaper may have professional guidelines as to what it will publish from time to time in the letters to the editor portion of the newspaper.

The content of the letters written by members of the public are not subject to journalistic standards enforceable by the B.C. Press Council. It is not expected that the newspaper will research any background material presented in such letters, nor adopt any of the opinions as its own.

Typically, the newspaper will run a letter and response, or it may run a series of letters on a topic, depending on the flurry of interest received from the readership.

Internet news sites, blogs, and other Internet communication by our newspaper members is currently under study by the B.C. Press Council. Policy statements will be included in future updates to our web site.

The Executive Director (the Mediator) assists the Complainant and the Newspaper to mediate a complaint. This assistance is voluntary and the actions of the Executive Director are provided by the B.C. Press Council on a Without Prejudice basis, whatever the result of the mediation. The actions of the Mediator during the mediation process shall not be considered in any subsequent Review Panel decision or Hearing.

Conduct of Hearings
Procedural questions that arise after mediation is concluded, to the time documents are exchanged between parties, the setting of a hearing date, and during the hearing of a complaint that are not settled are referred to the Chair. The Chair's decision is final. The Decisions may be guided by precedent but are not legally bound by precedent.

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