The main roles which News Cop may undertake when handling complaints include:

  • Investigating and considering the complaint
  • Seeking to facilitate an outcome acceptable to the complainant and the publication
  • Providing information and comment about the relevance of News Cop’s Standards of Practice to the circumstances
  • Making an adjudication, where appropriate, as to whether the publication has breached the council’s standards of practice

News Cop has no power to order compensation, fines, or other financial sanctions. Where a complaint is upheld, the adjudication may also include a reprimand or censure, and may explicitly call for (but not require) apologies, retractions, corrections, or other specified remedial action by the publisher. News Cop may also call for specific measures to prevent recurrence of the type of breach in question.

News Cop’s procedures for handling of complaints can be divided into the following three stages:

1. Reception of Complaints

Initial Assessment

After receiving the complaint, a member of News Cop’s complaints-handling staff obtains any further details which he or she considers necessary at this stage. The Executive Director then decides whether the complaint should not be considered further because:
  • It does not meet the requirements about what can be complained about, or who can make a complaint, or when and how a complaint should be made; or
  • It is more appropriate for consideration by some other process (such as News Cop considering whether to issue or amend a relevant Standard of Practice; or referring the complaint for consideration by another organisation); or
  • News Cop has facilitated a form of redress and/or has sufficiently remedied the matter.
  • Even if the facts alleged in the complaint are correct, it is unlikely that a breach of News Cop’s Standards of Practice has occurred; or
  • The extent to which consideration of the complaint might require the commitment of greater resources by News Cop or the complainant than is reasonably proportionate to the significance of the likely breaches; or
  • For some other reason, the complaint is in appropriate for further consideration by News Cop

Secondary complaints

Where the complainant is not personally identified or directly affected by the published material, the complaint may be considered as a “secondary complaint”.

In this situation, the Executive Director also takes into account the following considerations, in addition to those mentioned in the previous paragraph, when deciding whether the matter should be considered further:

  • The risk of aggravating any possible invasion of privacy or other harm caused to people or organisations which are directly affected by the material; or
  • The extent to which informing the complainant, the media industry, and the public whether a particular type of breach has occurred may provide an important example of the application of News Cop’s standards, even if people or organisations directly affected by it do not wish to make or endorse a complaint themselves or they cannot be contacted; or
  • The extent to which consideration of the complaint might require the commitment of greater resources by the council, the publication, or the complainant than is reasonably proportionate to the significance of the possible breaches; or
  • The extent to which the matter requires the primary person’s input and/or participation.

2. Consideration by News Cop

Confidentiality

All evidence and other material provided by News Cop to the complainant must remain strictly confidential until the complaint is finally dealt with unless it has already been made public or has been obtained from another source. If the complainant has signed a confidentiality agreement, documentation or information obtained from News Cop or another party for the first-time during News Cop’s handling of the complaint will be permanently confidential.

Informal consideration

The Executive Director or another member of News Cop’s complaints-handling stuff undertakes informal consideration. There may be further communication with the complainant to clarify the issues and, where appropriate, explore the possibilities of an outcome which both are willing to accept.

Possible outcomes from discussions with publications which may fully or partially address complainants’ concerns include:

  • An explanation of why the material was published
  • An informal expression of regret by News Cop
  • Publication of balancing material (e.g., a reply by or on behalf of the complainant)
  • Publication of a correction, clarification, or apology in an agreed form:
    • Amendment or removal of material on a website
    • Commitments about future coverage of particular people or issues
    • Commitments to standards training and education

Consideration of a complaint is discontinued if the Executive Director decides:

  • The complainant has withdrawn the complaint or has not responded to communication from News Cop within a reasonable period; or
  • It is more appropriate for consideration by some other process (such as News Cop considering whether to issue or amend a relevant Standard of Practice; or referring the complaint for consideration by another organisation); or
  • Even if the facts alleged in the complaint are correct, it is unlikely that a breach of the Council’s Standards of Practice has occurred; or
  • For some other reason, the complaint is inappropriate for further consideration by News Cop

3. Referral to an adjudication process

If the matter has not been discontinued or resolved during the Informal Consideration stage, the Executive Director will consider whether it should be referred to an Adjudication process. To do so, the Executive Director will prepare a summary of issues taking into account information and comments provided by the complainant and the publication. The summary will include:

  • The relevant wording or other aspects of the published material in question
  • The relevant parts of News Cop’s Standards of Practice
  • Facts and issues relating to the complaint

In appropriate circumstances, guided by the rules of natural justice, News Cop may request or receive further information from one or both of the parties.

A Letter of Advice may identify factors which increased or reduced the risk of breach in the case and provide advice about any action which may reduce the risk in future. To provide general guidance for other publications and for members of the public, any such advice may subsequently be made public without identifying the publication or complainant.

Direct Adjudication

In most instances, where matters are referred for Direct Adjudication, the News Cop panel will make its decision on paper, without the requirement for oral submissions from the complainant.

The normal procedure involves:

  1. Consideration of a summary of issues and any relevant supplementary materials provided by the Secretariat
  2. Members of News Cop panel then deliberate privately and determine the issues, and
  3. A draft adjudication is finalised and issued for publication

Direct Adjudications will be published in the form of a summary (on the order of 200 words) highlighting the nature of the complaint and the resulting outcome (upheld/dismissed), with a link to the full text of the adjudication on the website. All adjudications will continue to be published on the website and publicised through media releases and via social media outlets. Complainants may also publicise the outcome through their own communication channels.