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September 2018
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Getting a reasonable right of reply

Most editors recognise the need to give readers the right of reply if they have been criticised in a publication or a broadcast. But you may be sold short in terms of space, prominence and wording.

The Press Complaints Commission’s code of practice says:

A fair opportunity for reply to inaccuracies must be given when reasonably called for.

However, there are also EU guidelines that go further and are more specific.

They say rights of reply:

  • Apply to online and offline media, newspapers, magazines and other print media, radio, television and the internet. This can be helpful for websites that are not covered by the PCC Code or Ofcom.
  • Should be published rapidly.
  • Should correct information that is incorrect, or that affects someone’s personal rights, but especially their Reputation and good name, when they have been affected by an assertion of fact. Note: this doesn’t apply statements of opinion.
  • Should not exceed the length of the original article.
  • Should only correct facts.
  • Should be provided in the same language as the original article.
  • Should be given the same prominence as the original article, both in the publication as well as in any electronic archive.
  • It’s worth bearing these points in mind when asking for a right of reply, you may find you have more power than you realise.

    If the editor of a newspaper or printed magazine (or their websites) does not agree to the wording, position or prominence of a right of reply, then you can complain to the PCC. They will usually be able to negotiate an agreed package for you.

    Cleland Thom delivers media law training and consultancy to a number of corporations and public authorities, including GPSJ, United Utilities, World Trade Group, Herts County Council, London Borough of Brent and Three Rivers District Council. See: workshops.ctjt.biz/workshop/media_law_consultancy.html

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