Separate rulings relating to the Daily Telegraph and The Times
Press regulator IPSO has required newspapers to publish front page references to corrections in two separate recent rulings.
In both cases IPSO upheld complaints in relation to clause 1 of the Editor’s Code of Practice – Accuracy.
Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published.
IPSO found that an article headlined “Sturgeon’s secret backing for Cameron” was inaccurate in breach of clause 1. The article reported the contents of a leaked government memo which stated that in a meeting with the French Ambassador, First Minister Nicola Surgeon had said that she would rather see David Cameron win the general election than Ed Miliband as Ed Miliband was not “prime minister material”. The Office of the First Minister said that this was categorically untrue. The newspaper included Ms Sturgeon’s denial in its second edition, and added it to the online version that following afternoon.
IPSO found that the memo was not a first hand or contemporaneous account of the conversation, indeed the author of the memo recorded that she had wondered whether something might have been lost in translation. Whilst the newspaper had confirmed the authenticity of the document, its sources were not able to comment on the accuracy of its contents. The newspaper was entitled to report on the memo, but as the account was contentious and its implications serious, reporting it as fact without have taken additional pre-publication steps to verify its accuracy – such as contacting the parties involved for comment – meant the article was significantly misleading.
The remedial action required by IPSO consisted of publication of the full adjudication on page 2 of the newspaper, with a reference to this on page 1. The full adjudication should also be published on the newspaper’s website, with a link to the adjudication appearing on the homepage for 48 hours.
IPSO found that an article headlined “Labour’s £1,000 tax on families” was in breach of clause 1.
The newspaper accepted that the passages complained of were inaccurate, and said that staff had been reminded of the dangers of misinterpreting statistics. It published a correction in the Corrections and Clarifications column on its Letters page (page 24) which is the usual place for corrections and one of the most read pages of the newspaper. The newspaper said that the inaccuracy had caused no personal harm to an individual and the article was not wholly inaccurate. The complainant was satisfied with the text of the correction but not its prominence.
IPSO recognised the value of publishing corrections in the newspaper’s established column, however given the prominence of the original article the prominence of the correction was not sufficient and the requirement of due prominence in clause 1(ii) had not been met. IPSO noted that there are circumstances in which a front-page correction may be required by the Editor’s Code, but that IPSO should act proportionately, with front-page corrections generally reserved for the most serious cases.
IPSO required The Times to republish the correction in the Corrections and Clarifications column together with a reference to the correction on the front page which included the word “correction” and reference to IPSO’s upheld ruling. A stand-alone correction on the newspaper’s website with a link on the homepage for at least 48 hours was also required.
The requirement for front page references to corrections and to the IPSO rulings themselves may indicate that IPSO is taking a different approach to due prominence than the PCC previously had done. It is of interest both for its implications for potential future complaints under the Editor’s Code, and as it may inform what a judge will consider to be an appropriate “manner, form and place” for publication of a summary of the court’s judgment under section 12 Defamation Act 2013. As yet there have been no cases in which an order under that section has been made. Section 12 gives the court the power to order a defendant to publish a summary of its judgment where it gives judgment for the claimant.