U.K. Press Commission: Number of Complaints With Merit Dropped in 2012

The organization received more overall complaints though as Rupert Murdoch's "The Sun" put a picture of a naked Prince Harry on its front page.

LONDON - Britain's Press Complaints Commission (PCC) said Tuesday that it received 12,191 complaints last year, up from the 7,200 recorded in 2011 when the phone-hacking scandal erupted.

However, the watchdog said that it judged a total of 649 complaints to have merit, down slightly from 719 such cases in 2011.

One key driver of the increase in complaints was a front-page nude picture of Prince Harry published in tabloid The Sun, which is part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. The picture attracted 3,800 complaints, but the PCC issued no ruling because the royals did not submit a complaint.

PHOTOS: Rupert Murdoch's Family Photos

The industry self-regulator said it issued rulings or brokered resolutions in 1,937 cases last year, up from 1,713. It also said it resolved the issue to the complainant's satisfaction in 535 cases.

In 101 complaints, the organization ruled that the newspaper industry's so-called Editors' Code was breached, with the publication in question having offered or taken "sufficient action to remedy the breach" even though a settlement with the complainant could not be reached.

In 2011, the PCC had recorded 102 such cases.

PCC chair David Hunt highlighted the successes of the organization but also mentioned the need to launch a new regulatory body.

"I have always made clear that the present system of press self-regulation needs to change," he said in reference to last year's conclusions of the Leveson Inquiry into U.K. press standards. "The evidence in the Leveson Inquiry showed the need for a genuine regulator with a new remit, strong investigative powers and robust, meaningful sanctions."

STORY: U.K. Phone Hacking: Rebekah Brooks's Former Bodyguard Charged

The government and the newspaper industry haven't agreed on the best setup or powers of a new press regulator.

Said Hunt: "Whilst we continue to move towards the construction of a new regulator, the PCC's valuable complaints and pre-publication services remain available to the public.... Significant reform of press regulation is needed and will be delivered."

He added that the PCC's "existing services should be preserved and built on as the new regulator that is desperately needed in the U.K. is constructed."

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com
Twitter: @georgszalai