View all newsletters
Sign up for our free email newsletters

Fighting for quality news media in the digital age.

  1. Media Law
July 26, 2023

Dyson wins right to pursue exploitation libel claim versus Channel 4 News

Sir James Dyson himself is no longer pursuing the case after a judge ruled his claim out.

By Charlotte Tobitt

Update 26 July: Two Dyson companies have won the right to pursue Channel 4 and Channel 4 News producer ITN in a libel claim.

The Court of Appeal found that the “hypothetical reasonable viewer” acquainted with Dyson Technology Limited and Dyson Limited would have believed the news programme in question referred to them, meaning they are able to take action.

The appeal judges set aside the High Court’s previous finding that the programme did not refer to the companies.

A Dyson spokesperson said the case “will now continue in the High Court”.

Original story 27 June: Two Dyson companies have taken their libel claim against Channel 4 and Channel 4 News producer ITN to the Court of Appeal.

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

The companies’ founder Sir James Dyson is no longer pursuing the case on his own behalf after a High Court judge said the broadcaster’s reporting did not defame him.

Content from our partners
Pugpig named best media technology partner of 2024 by AOP
Cannes Lions: The world's best creativity all in one place
L'Equipe signs content syndication deal with The Content Exchange

Dyson Ltd, the brand’s UK trading company, and Dyson Technologies Ltd, which holds Dyson’s intellectual property, technology, and brand rights, sued Channel 4 and ITN over a Channel 4 News report that aired on 10 February 2022.

The report presented allegations of exploitation at a Malaysian factory that supplied the vacuum cleaner manufacturer, and revealed workers were planning to sue Dyson for negligence.

A High Court judge last year found that the broadcast did not refer to Dyson Ltd or Dyson Technologies Ltd so they could not have been defamed, but a Dyson spokesperson maintained that “misleading and defamatory allegations” had been made about the companies.

Hugh Tomlinson KC, representing the Dyson companies, told the Court of Appeal on Tuesday: “The question to be asked is simple and appears now to be uncontroversial, which is does the broadcast reasonably lead persons acquainted with the applicants to believe that they are the Dyson companies referred to. The judge did not apply that test.”

Channel 4 News’ ‘ordinary reasonable viewer’

Tomlinson said that although Mr Justice Nicklin in the High Court did think about what the “ordinary reasonable viewer” would conclude, it would be wrong to suggest this person would be sitting watching Channel 4 News trying to puzzle out which part of Dyson’s corporate structure were involved.

Instead, Tomlinson said, they would use their passing knowledge of the company to “form an impression – and we say the impression they form… is that they [the appellant companies] are the subject of this broadcast”. They would also be thinking, he suggested, “‘Dyson, what are you doing, this is appalling'”.

He said the High Court judge had made “a sensible analysis” of “which company might be involved in which activities [but] that is not what the reasonable reader does”.

The broadcast referred several times to Dyson being a British company. The introduction stated: “Dyson’s slogan is the ‘vacuum that doesn’t lose suction’ but has this iconic British brand lost credibility, following the alleged treatment of its workers by ATA, a Malaysian company that helped make Dyson’s high-end vacuum cleaners and air filters.”

A voiceover stated that “Dyson is a household name globally and a flagship company in Britain” and the end of the report added: “Britain’s favourite vacuum maker [is] left having to clean up its reputation.”

Tomlinson said: “We say that an ordinary reasonable viewer acquainted with one or more of these [companies] would believe it was the British company being referred to and would believe, correctly, it was the British company about to be sued.” The two companies making the claim are said to be the only companies within the Dyson group that interact with UK customers.

Referring to the High Court judgment in which Mr Justice Nicklin said the Dyson case is “somewhat opaque” because they had not explained the group’s corporate structure, Tomlinson said: “We simply do not understand that. We are not bringing a claim on behalf of all the companies in the Dyson group. We are not explaining how that group operates. We are approaching this from the view of the ordinary reasonable reader,” adding that they would have “no idea” about the corporate structure.

Asked by the panel of appeal judges whether it could be said the broadcast did not refer to the companies because their full corporate names were not used, Tomlinson said this was “not the right analysis at all” and it depended purely on what the reasonable acquainted viewer would think.

The High Court judge found that whether a Dyson company had a claim was dependent “on the ultimate factual situation”. But Tomlinson said: “We say that is the wrong way round.

“The ultimate factual situation does not matter. It is what the reasonable viewer understands the factual situation to be.”

Adam Wolanksi KC, representing Channel 4 and ITN, said Mr Justice Nicklin had carried out the proper “ordinary reasonable reader” test.

He agreed with the original judge that he could not have concluded the broadcast referred to Dyson Ltd or Dyson Technologies Ltd specifically.

He said it “would have been impossible for [Mr Justice Nicklin] to find [the broadcast] referred to these specific corporate claimants based on the information he was provided with”.

He pointed out that the reporting did not claim that “consumers are being misled about vacuum cleaners or being ripped off or anything like that… [it is] about a supplier company and whichever Dyson company has a relationship with the supplier company… the question for the judge is which company is that. Answer: I don’t know, I’m not told, the claimants are not giving me that information.”

Asked by the appeal judges about the emphasis in the broadcast on Dyson being a British company, Wolanski said: “The broadcast mentions ‘British brand’, ‘British company’, but the judge’s finding was that the real focus of the broadcast was on that relationship” with the supplier in Malaysia. He added: “There is reference to ‘British company’ but it is a long broadcast.”

A judgment will be published at a later date.

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

Websites in our network