BC Press Council Meetings and Events

How Your Complaint is Handled

The Press Council's mandate is to consider "unsatisfied" complaints from the public about the conduct of its member newspapers in gathering and publishing news and opinion against its Code of Practice. The Code of Practice was developed by the Press Council to encourage the highest standard of professionalism and ethical standards of journalism. The Council is concerned with newspapers and their online news sites only. Complaints about television and radio and complaints about advertising should be directed to the bodies set up to deal with such complaints.

Council will deal with a complaint after:

  1. The newspaper has been given opportunity to resolve the complaint.
  2. The action taken by the newspaper has failed to satisfy the complaint.
  3. Mediation efforts by the Executive-Director have failed to resolve the issue.

To be considered, a complaint must be detailed and relate to a specific conduct of the newspaper that violates the Code of Practice.

Council will generally not consider a complaint filed more than 45 days after the occurrence given rise to it, but at the discretion of a majority of the full board of the B.C. Press Council, may extend the time period in an exceptional and important case in the opinion of the BC Press Council.

Council will not consider a complaint in which legal action is involved or contemplated since the Council was established and designed to serve as an inexpensive and informal alternative to legal action. Complainants are required to sign a waiver prior to the scheduling of a hearing agreeing not to pursue legal action.

Most complaints normally only involve modest expenses for stationary and postage. Council will reimburse complainants for reasonable travel expenses related to attendance at a hearing.

Frivolous complaints
Council may at its discretion decline to consider or cease an inquiry if the complaint is deemed to be frivolous, vexatious or made in bad faith.

Complaints that reflect mere differences of opinion will be considered only in exceptional cases. See Policy Statements.

Letters to the editor
Complaints about non-publication of letters will not be considered except in exceptional cases. See Policy Statements.

Who may complain
Any individual or organization directly affected by matters of which they are complaining may file a complaint. Anonymous complaints will not be accepted.

Third-party complaints
Occasionally, the Press Council may consider complaints from third parties (people not directly affected) but only where the complainant raises a significant issue of press ethics and a prima facie breach of the Press Council Code of Practice. A third-party complaint must be accompanied by waivers (where obtainable) from directly effected parties agreeing not to pursue legal action, and accompanied by written consents from the Parties directly effected. The decision to order a hearing in the case of a third-party complaint will be made by a quorum of the Board of Directors and not by the Review Committee.

Hearings and decisions
1. When a hearing is scheduled, a complainant and the newspaper are required to submit all written evidence 14 days in advance of the hearing date. Submissions after this time will not be accepted.

2. All hearings are in public. No legal representation is allowed. Witnesses are sworn in and no verbatim record of the proceedings is taken. Both the complainant and the newspaper will be given the opportunity to present their case and question each other's evidence. Council directors may also pose questions to witnesses. In the event of a procedural question, the chair shall determine the manner to be followed to proceed to the conclusion of the hearing. Upon conclusion of the hearing, Council directors will deliberate in camera. Their decision will be announced in a press release. The newspaper involved is required to publish Council's decision in full. Press Council decisions are final and not subject to appeal.


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