BC Press Council Meetings and Events

Complaints Procedure

Step 1

  1. A complaint must be filed within 45 days from the date on which the article giving rise to the complaint was published.

  2. The complainant is required to forward to the newspaper or online media a letter addressed to the editor with a copy to the publisher.  The letter should contain the following information:

    a. A copy of the article which is the subject of the complaint. If the article has been published in a newspaper a copy of the article as published should be included. In the case of an online publication, a copy of the online article should be included.

    b. The section(s) of the Press Council’s Code of Practice which have allegedly been breached by the article.

    c. A statement from the complainant outlining why he or she believes a violation of the guidelines set out in the Code has occurred, along with any supporting material relevant to the complaint.

  3. A complainant is required to also send a copy of the above material to the Executive Director of the Press Council.

  4. Failure of a complainant to comply with the above conditions may result in the complaint being invalidated.

  5. The newspaper or online media, on receipt of the complaint, is required to respond within 45 days to the complainant and to also send a copy of that response to the Press Council.

  6. Failure by a newspaper or online media to respond to a complainant in the manner described above will result in a complaint automatically proceeding to a Review Board (see Step 2).

  7. The time limit expressed in points 1. and 5. above may be extended at the discretion of the Press Council. 

 Step 2

If as a result of the process described in Step 1, a complaint is not resolved, the following procedure will apply:

  1. The Executive Director of the Press Council shall attempt to mediate a settlement of the complaint.

  2. The Executive Director will work with the parties in an attempt to foster communication and resolution between the parties.  Each situation will dictate the forum or process to be utilized by the Executive Director to promote meaningful attempts at a reconciliation of differences.  The BC Press Council encourages the parties to willingly participate in any discussions aimed at resolving the dispute.
  3. If mediation is successful, the complaint will be considered resolved and the file closed.

  4. The Executive Director will discontinue the mediation process if it is unproductive or fails.

Note:  The process described in Step 2 is designed to allow newspapers and complainants to attempt to resolve their differences without direct intervention on the part of the Council.  Only if this process is unsuccessful will the procedures outlined in Step 3 come into play


Step 3

  1. If mediation does not succeed, the Executive Director will then assign the file to a Review Board comprised of three directors.
  2. The Review Board shall review the complaint within 14 days of the referral, taking into account the article, the Code of Practice, the evidence and arguments of the parties and any other material it deems relevant and then shall make a recommendation as to whether adjudication by the Directors of the Press Council is warranted.

  3. When a Review Board recommends that an adjudication be held with respect to the complaint, the Review Board shall notify the Executive Director. The Executive Director shall then notify the parties who shall submit in writing any further arguments they wish considered by the Directors. The Directors of Council shall then consider the matter and make a decision based on the submissions filed by the parties and any other material it deems relevant. The Directors will then decide that (a) there is no breach of the Code of Practice (b) there is a breach of the Code of Practice, or (c) the matter requires an oral hearing by the Directors of the Press Council.

     If the Directors decide that no breach has occurred the matter shall be concluded. If there is a finding that the Code of Practice has been breached, the parties will be notified and the full written decision of the Directors will be published in the newspaper or online media within 45 days of the decision date.

    If the Directors after considering all of the evidence decide that the matter warrants an oral hearing, the Executive Director shall notify the parties and set a date for a hearing under Step 4.

  4. When a Review Board recommends an adjudication not be held, the Chair of the Press Council shall immediately be notified by the Executive Director.  The Chair or the Chair’s designate may after a full review, decide that a review of the matter by a quorum of Directors of the Press Council is warranted.  In such event, the Chair shall notify the Executive Director, who shall then arrange to present the Review Board decision to the Directors of the Press Council for consideration.  Taking into account all the factors outlined in step 3(2) above, the full Council will either confirm the decision of the Review Board, in which case the matter will be concluded, or reverse the decision of the Review Board and instruct the Executive Director to notify the parties that the full board will be adjudicating the matter under step 3(3) above.  If the Chair or his designate confirms the decision of the Review Board, the matter will then be concluded and the parties will be so notified within two (2) weeks after the Review Board decision.

Note:  The participants in a complaint procedure are encouraged to resolve their dispute at any time during the complaint process, including during reviews, adjudication and oral hearings.

Oral hearings will only be held in exceptional circumstances when the Directors decide that they need to hear witnesses in order to make a sound and reasoned decision. 


Step 4 - The Hearing

  1. Oral hearings are informal and will be held by a quorum of Directors of the BC Press Council.  The Chair will preside over the hearing and all procedural matters will be decided by the Chair from the point the Review Board decision is forwarded to the Chair to the conclusion of the hearing.
  2. Each party will have equal opportunity to be heard, call witnesses and to exchange written material, if desired, subject to time limits set by the Chair and communicated by the Executive Director prior to the hearing. The Chair has the discretion to set procedure for each Hearing.
  3. The full written decision of the Directors will be published in the newspaper or online media being the subject of the complaint within 45 days of the decision date.

Note:  Press Council decisions are final and not subject to further review.



Because of the speed at which internet publication is achieved, a procedure slightly varied from that applied to the print press will be applied:

  1. The Executive Director will notify the relevant website as soon as is practicable after a complaint is received and the complaint has been given a file number by the Executive Director.

  2. Once the website publisher is advised that a complaint has been received, the publisher has the option of removing the item, affixing an indicator on the item to the effect that it is disputed, or taking no action pending processing of the complaint by the Press Council.

  3. The complaint if accepted for adjudication by the Council will be processed according to the usual complaint procedure.

  4. Any action taken by the website after notification of the complaint can be taken into account if the Council adjudicates the complaint.

The Press Council will not deal with matters out of the control of the member such as letters to the editor, commentary, blogs or member content that is republished by others. 

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© BC Press Council 2003-20011