The Independent Press Standards Organisation has published its first set of adjudications after receiving nearly 3,000 complaints in its first three months.
Accuracy complaints have been upheld against the Edinburgh Evening News and the Press and Journal.
Meanwhile, complaints against the Metro, Swindon Advertister and The Daily Telegraph have not been upheld by the new press regulator.
The complaint against the Press and Journal, in part upheld, saw IPSO use its power to direct on how prominently a correction should appear.
IPSO chair Sir Alan Moses has also today written to publishers instructing them on how to handle complaints internally before they are referred to the regulator. Under the new system, publishers are given a maximum of 28 days to try to resolve the complaints without IPSO.
Moses said: “In its first three months IPSO has received nearly 3,000 complaints, many of which have been resolved between publication and complainant, showing that the new system is working well. Our complaints staff provide an efficient and sensitive voice to those who seek to complain about a breach of the standards set in the Editor’s Code.
“For the future, we will strive to act in accordance with the principles we established in September, 2014. Now that we have agreed IPSO’s budget for 2015 and found new offices, we can start to shape IPSO’s standards function and set out to find the best means by which those who cannot afford court proceedings may seek resolution and redress from publications.
"We also expect to agree with the industry changes to IPSO’s rules and regulations that will simplify our procedures, and ensure that we can act as an effective independent regulator for the benefit of the public and the press.”
He laid out the following requirements:
- Each member publication – print or online – should contain information indicating to whom complaints about editorial issues should be directed.
- Complainants raising concerns that, in the view of the publication, appear to raise a potential issue under the Editors’ Code of Practice should be informed of the existence of the Editors’ Code of Practice (if it is not cited in the complaint).
- Complainants raising concerns that, in the view of the publication, appear to raise a potential issue under the Editors’ Code of Practice should be informed that the publication is regulated by the Independent Press Standards Organisation and provided with relevant contact details.
Edinburgh Evening News
The complaint against the Edinburgh title, under clause 1 (accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, was the only one upheld in full.
The front page of the title’s 13 September edition featured a photograph of a house with the caption: “Who lives in a house like this?”
Readers were then referred to pages four and five of the paper, which carried an unrelated story about a man convicted of sexual offences. The story about the inhabitants of the house was in fact on pages six and seven.
The Edinburgh Evening News published a page two apology when the error was pointed out and offered to pay £50 to a local charity.
The correction said: “An item on our front page on September 13 2014, featured a picture of [the complainant]’s house displaying a giant Yes banner alongside the headline “Who lives in a house like this?” Readers were incorrectly referred to pages four and five for the full story, where there was a report about a sex offender, rather than to pages six and seven where the report about [the complainant] actually appeared. We are very sorry for the error and any embarrassment caused.”
IPSO judged that this was a sufficient remedy but noted that the complainant did not like the fact the apology linked his name with the offences. IPSO noted that the newspaper was willing to remove the correction from its website.
The regulator said: “The newspaper should have checked on which pages the article about the complainant’s house would appear, and made sure that the front page accurately reflected this.”
Press and Journal
The Press and Journal had a complaint under clause 1 upheld in part against it, but a complaint under clause 2 (opportunity to reply) was rejected.
The complaint against the Press and Journal was made by Douglas Wilson on behalf of Highland Titles, an organisation which sells plots of land in Scotland to help fund conservation projects. IPSO noted: “Purchasers of the plots are then, according to the company, entitled to style themselves as ‘Lord, Laird or Lady of Glencoe’.”
He complained that a story reporting critical comments about Highland Titles from “Clan Donald Worldwide” had “deliberately confused” a Facebook group by this name with Clan Donald itself.
This complaint was upheld by IPSO, which said: “The newspaper’s failure to distinguish comments made by a Facebook user from a communication by Clan Donald demonstrated a failure on the newspaper’s part to take care not to publish misleading information.”
However, IPSO dismissed complaints that the newspaper had misreported him describing Highland Titles as a charity. But the regulator expressed concern that the reporter was not able to produce notes in which he described the organisation as a charity. IPSO “did not agree that the article had implied that he had acted unlawfully in his presentation of the status of the company”.
The regulator accepted that a clarification offered by the newspaper, which was not accepted by the complainant, was sufficient.
But it told the newspaper that placing it on pages five or six – where it said corrections were ordinarily placed – was not sufficient and ordered that it should be put on page three, where the original story had been, or further forward. It also said it would need to be on the homepage of the website for at least 48 hours.
The correction said: “On September 10, we reported incorrectly that the company Highland Titles had been criticised by “a Scottish clan”. In fact, Clan Donald Worldwide, which was quoted in the story, is a Facebook-clan group which promotes interest in Clan Donald around the world. It has no formal connection with the official Clan Donald. We are happy to clarify the matter.”