The Council considers complaints against newspapers, magazines and periodicals in public circulation in New Zealand (including their websites). The Council retains the discretion to decline a complaint if the publication has limited readership or the circumstances make the complaint inappropiate for resolution by the Council.
The Council accepts complaints made in good faith by third parties not directly aggrieved, subject to the requirement set out in Complaints Procedure 13 below. The complaint procedure is free. Hearings are not open to the public, but complainants who apply to be heard in person are usually given that opportunity.
The Council's decisions are based on ethical considerations and the Council does not recover debts or seek monetary recompense for complainants. Its sanction is to require an offending publication to publish the essence of the decision upholding a complaint (in full or part), giving it fair prominence.
- A person bringing a complaint against a publication (namely newspapers, magazines and periodicals in public circulation, together with their websites) must, unless exempted by the Executive Director of the Council, first lodge the complaint in writing with the editor of the publication.
- The complaint (which should be clearly marked as a letter of complaint) is to be made to the editor within the following time limits, time being of the essence:
(a) A complaint about a particular article: within one calendar month of the date of publication of the article.
(b) A complaint arising from a series of articles: within one calendar month of the earlier of the date from which the substance of the complaint would have been reasonably apparent to the complainant, or the publication of the last article in the series.
(c) A complaint concerning non-publication of any material: within two calendar months of the date on which the request to publish was received by the publication.
(d) A complaint arising from matters other than publication; within one month of the incident giving rise to the complaint.
- If the complainant is not satisfied by the editorís response or receives no response from the editor within a period of 10 working days from the date on which the editor received the complaint, the complainant may then complain to the Council. In the case of the complainant not being satisfied by the editorís response, such complaint shall be made within ten working days of the complainant receiving the editorís letter.
- Complainants are requested where possible to use the online complaint form appearing on the Councilís website or on a form provided by the Council. The Council will however accept complaints by letter. Whether the complaint be on the online complaint form or in writing, it must be accompanied by the material complained against and copies of the correspondence with the editor. The main thrust of the complaint is to be summarised in approximately 300 words. Any other supporting material may be supplied. Legal submissions are not required.
- The time limits which will apply on receipt of a complaint are:
(a) The Council refers the complaint to the editor of the publication and the editor has 10 working days from receipt of that complaint to reply.
(b) On receipt of the editorís reply the Press Council will refer the reply to the complainant. The complainant may within 10 working days of receiving that reply, briefly in approximately 150 words, reply to any new matters raised by the editor in the reply. The respondent should not repeat submissions or material contained in the original complaint.
- The Executive Director of the Council has the power to extend time limits but will not extend those time limits which are of the essence unless there are exceptional circumstances.
- In appropriate circumstances, the Council may request further information from one or both of the parties. In obtaining further information the Press Council will adhere to the rules of natural justice.
- Once submissions have been exchanged in accordance with the above timetable, the Press Council will at its next meeting consider and usually determine the complaint. Most complaints are determined on the papers. However, if a complainant wishes to make personal submissions, the complainant may apply to the Executive Director of the Council for approval to attend and make such submissions. If approval is given, the editor, or a representative of the editor, will also be invited to attend the hearing. No new material may be submitted at the hearing, without the leave of the Council.
- If a complaint is upheld the publication must publish the adjudication, giving it fair prominence. If the decision is lengthy the Press Council will provide a shortened version for this purpose. If the complaint is not upheld the publication may determine whether to publish the decision.
- If the complained-about article has been further published on the publicationís website, or distributed to other media through NZPA or syndication, the Council requires that:
(a) in the instance of a website, the article is flagged as being subject to a ruling by the Press Council and a link to the decision at www.presscouncil.org.nz is to be provided.
(b) in the case of further distribution to hard-copy media, the Council will provide a short statement to be published in each publication known to have published the original item.
- All decisions will also be available on the Councilís website and published in its relevant annual report, unless the Council on its own volition or the request of a party agrees to non-publication. Non-publication will only be agreed to in exceptional circumstances.
- In those cases where the circumstances suggest that the complainant may have a legally actionable issue, the complainant will be required to provide a written undertaking that s/he will not take or continue proceedings against the publication or journalist concerned.
- The Council may consider a third party complaint (i.e. from a person who is not personally aggrieved) relating to a published item. However, if the circumstances appear to the Council to require the consent of an individual involved or referred to in the article, it reserves the right to require from such an individual his or her consent in writing to the Councilís adjudication on the issue of the complaint.
- The above procedure will apply to all complaints.
- No provision has been made for publications to complain because such complaints are so rare. Complaints will still be considered but each will be dealt with on an individual basis.