Pressing need for change
The Press Council needs to update for the digital age, according to Associate Professor Selene Mize (Law), who is researching the council’s handling of complaints about what newspapers, magazines and digital media publish on their websites.
Mize initially became interested in the subject when helping the La Leche League complain about newspaper coverage of the controversy over a television advertisement that included footage of All Black Piri Weepu bottle-feeding his baby.
“While the Press Council has done some good things, its performance with respect to complaints about online content has been sub-standard,” says Mize.
“It has applied print rules to the online forum and that is inappropriate.”
She gives the example of people having only a month from the time something first appears online to complain to the publisher.
“For a newspaper, that makes sense,” says Mize, “but online items are still being accessed many years later. This policy has been improved recently, but still does not permit people to complain for as long as an item remains online."
She is also troubled by websites continuing to note that an article “was the subject of a Press Council complaint”, rather than clearly stating that the council upheld the complaint.
The Press Council recently decided to extend its coverage to complaints against new digital media, including bloggers. Mize doubts that the council is best suited to handle such complaints – even if bloggers were willing to pay the council’s voluntary annual membership fee, abide by its statement of principles and accept its complaints processes.