BBC Home
Explore the BBC


Teachers: Citizenship:

Last Updated: Monday February 20 2006 11:39 GMT

Worksheet: Privacy; the law and the PCC code

Actress Sienna Miller
In October 2000, the European Convention on Human Rights, was incorporated in to UK law.

It says:

"Everyone has the right for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence (meaning letters, emails etc)."

AND "Everyone has the right of freedom of expression."

Newspapers, magazines etc follow a set of self-imposed rules called the code of conduct.

This code, which is overseen by an organisation called the Press Complaints Commission, says:

"Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence. A publication will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent. The use of long-lens photography to take pictures of people in private places without their consent is unacceptable. "

But it also says

"There may be exceptions where they can be demonstrated to be in the public interest."

The PCC code of conduct goes onto state that:

"The public interest includes, but is not confined to:

  • Detecting or exposing crime or serious impropriety.
  • Protecting public health and safety.
  • Preventing the public from being misled by an action or statement of an individual or organisation.
  • There is a public interest in freedom of expression itself.
  • The PCC will consider the extent to which material is already in the public domain, or will become so."

You are members of the Press Complaints Commission.

You have received a complaint from a celebrity regarding an intrusion into their privacy.

Your job is to weigh up the privacy against freedom of expression arguments and decide which are the most important.

Kate Moss

You can either research a real case, examples are listed in the blue box


Invent a situation.

This involves one member of the group taking on the role of the celebrity and answering the following questions.

  • How was your right to privacy breached?
  • Where were you?
  • Who were you with?
  • What do you want the newspaper to do? E.g. print an apology
Another member of the group should take on the role of the newspaper photographer and answer the following questions:
  • Why is the photograph/story in the public interest?
  • Why didn't you arrange a photo shoot/interview with them, involving their consent?
If you agree with the celebrity, suggest what the newspaper should do to make amends.

The PPC code of conduct says:

"Any publication judged to have breached the Code must print the adjudication in full and with due prominence, including headline reference to the PCC."


adjudication = judgement

with due prominence = making the apology as visible as the original story. E.g. if the story was splashed all over the front page and the apology was squeezed into a tiny corner of page 26, this would not be judged to be "with due prominence."

Extension activity

Write a newspaper apology based on the case they examined during the main activity of the lesson.