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November 7, 2022

Media mistakes and rulings: Ofcom raps BBC over reporting of anti-Semitic bus attack

By Press Gazette

Read Press Gazette’s digest of the latest newspaper and media legal settlements, regulatory breaches, corrections and mistakes.

Included are the most noteworthy rulings from regulators including IPSO, Impress, ASA and Ofcom and any privacy, libel, contempt and other legal cases involving the media.

If you spot a media mistake we have missed, and which others can learn from, please email: pged@pressgazette.co.uk.


Ofcom | BBC News website

7/11/22: Ofcom has issued an opinion that a BBC News article about an anti-Semitic incident fell short of BBC guidelines on due impartiality and due accuracy.

The article covered an instance in which a private bus carrying approximately 40 Jewish students down London’s Oxford Street was subjected to anti-Semitic swearing, obscene gestures and a thrown shopping basket.

The story under complaint had originally reported that “racial slurs about Muslims” could be heard from inside the bus. That claim was later amended to a singular slur, and following complaints, amended again eight weeks later to acknowledge it was in dispute whether a slur was audible at all.

The BBC’s executive complaints unit already partially upheld the complaints in January, and Ofcom is unable to make binding rulings on BBC News articles because they do not fall within its broadcast remit.

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However, Ofcom is able to issue opinions on whether the BBC has met its editorial guidelines, and in this case said the corporation had failed to meet its due impartiality or due accuracy standards.

The regulator said: “The BBC received new information from reputable sources, and from its own inquiries, which very quickly demonstrated that the interpretation of what was said in the audio was disputed…

“The BBC’s failure to appropriately take account of this new evidence when it emerged soon after publication meant the BBC did not observe its due accuracy requirements in the Online Article.”

Regarding impartiality, Ofcom said the eight-week failure to acknowledge dispute over the recording “failed to give sufficient weight and prominence to the alternative views about its reporting”.

A BBC London broadcast on the same story was cleared on the same counts, largely because the “overriding focus” of the broadcast had been on the “behaviour of those outside the bus”.

The regulator could not issue a sanction, but said: “In our view, the failure to report swiftly that the audio was disputed created an impression of defensiveness by the BBC among the Jewish community. In our view, it demonstrates that the BBC has further to go in learning how to respond when its reporting is in contention.” (Full ruling)


Libel | The Guardian

2/11/22: The Guardian has settled a libel claim launched against it by two Irish fishers almost seven years ago, just a week before the trial was due to begin.

Cork-based Lenny Hyde and Pat O’Mahony, who own the vessel Labardie Fisher, sued the newspaper over a 2015 article about the conditions faced by undocumented migrant workers in the fishing industry. It featured specific allegations from a Filipino crew member who said he was “exploited as cheap labour”. The pair denied all the claims.

They have now accepted a €50,000 (£43,046) “lodgement” from the Guardian, which did not have to pay any specific costs or damages or admit liability to settle the case. The payment was first offered in 2016 but was not accepted until now.

A Guardian News and Media spokesperson said: “We have vigorously defended our journalism since publication in 2015, and were prepared to go to court to defend it further. Reporting on the conditions in which labour exploitation can take hold is a matter of the highest public interest.

“The investigation remains online, in full, and entirely as originally published, without amendment or correction.”


Libel | City AM

1/11/22: City AM has agreed to pay a substantial sum in damages and legal costs to a City trader who it wrongly claimed had lost his job following a mistake in his unit that wiped billions off share values.

In fact, a statement read in the High Court on Tuesday said, Citigroup’s Ali Omari was on holiday at the time of the inputting error, it was not in his trading unit, and he had not been sacked but had been headhunted for a position elsewhere.

Omari’s solicitor told the High Court the article, published in May and headlined “Citi top dog loses job after fat fingered trade wiped billions off European companies”, had caused him “considerable and inevitable distress” and “went to the core” of his “reputation built up over many years”.

City AM took down the article within 16 hours and its solicitor repeated its “apology and its regret that the statement was ever made”.


Impartiality | BBC

14/10/22: The BBC’s executive complaints unit (ECU) has ruled that Match of the Day’s Gary Lineker, the BBC’s highest-paid presenter, broke impartiality rules with a tweet relating to Russia in February.

The tweet, which is still live, questioned whether the Conservative Party should give back money from Russian donors in response to Liz Truss suggesting Premier League teams should boycott the Champions League final in Russia.

The ECU said that although Lineker is not a journalist, he has an additional responsibility for impartiality under the BBC’s guidance which states high standards apply to those “who nevertheless have an additional responsibility to the BBC because of their profile on the BBC”.

The guidance states: “We expect these individuals to avoid taking sides on party political issues or political controversies and to take care when addressing public policy matters.”

Lineker argued that the tweet was prompted by an article about football, his area of expertise, rather than politics and BBC Sport management suggested that by framing the tweet as a question it may have limited the extent to which readers saw it as a political opinion from him.

But the ruling said: “Whatever the mitigating effect of these factors, however, the ECU judged that they could not entirely erase the impression that one of its purposes was to highlight a perceived inconsistency in the Conservative Party’s approach, at a time when relations between the UK and Russia were the subject of significant public debate.

“For this reason, we found the tweet was in breach of the relevant guidance and did not meet the BBC’s editorial standards on impartiality.”


Ofcom | GB News

12/10/22: Ofcom has opened an investigation into an episode of Mark Steyn’s 4 October programme on GB News after it received 411 complaints from viewers about comments made by author and journalist Dr Naomi Wolf in relation to Covid-19 vaccines.

Ofcom said: “Specifically, our investigation will consider whether this programme broke our rules designed to protect viewers from harmful material.”

Wolf was banned from Twitter last year for spreading unfounded theories about vaccines.

Ofcom is already investigating Steyn for a potential breach of standards on 21 April when he claimed people who had a Covid-19 booster vaccine were three times more likely to die than those who had two doses or fewer.


Libel | Corriere della Sera

12/10/22: Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper has paid a “substantial sum” in compensation to British financier Raffaele Mincione over what were alleged to be defamatory accusations of embezzlement, fraud and corruption.

Read more here.


Libel | Channel 4/ITN

7/10/22: Sir James Dyson and his companies Dyson Technology and Dyson Limited launched libel action against Channel 4 and ITN, the producer of Channel 4 News, at the High Court in London on Thursday.

He is bringing the case over a Channel 4 News broadcast on 10 February that made allegations of abuse and exploitation of workers at a Malaysian factory that used to supply goods to Dyson.

Dyson argued the broadcast falsely said he and his companies were complicit in systematic abuse and exploitation of the workers.

Mr Justice Nicklin was asked to decide several preliminary issues in the claim, including whether the two companies were referred to in the broadcast and if the programme defamed them and Dyson.

Hugh Tomlinson KC, for Dyson and the companies, argued that a claimant does not need to be referred to by name for the programme to be defamatory.

Adam Wolanski KC, for Channel 4 and ITN, argued that the two Dyson companies were not referred to in the programme.

“There is nothing in the words in the broadcast that identifies the second claimant or the third claimant and that is the end of it,” he told the court.

The barrister added that if the two companies were the ones referred to, the programme featured issues of opinion rather than factual allegations against them.

“The broadcast raises the question as to whether Dyson is responsible for abuses of labour rights at a company within its supply chain,” Wolanski said in written submissions. “This question is inherently recognisable to the viewer as a matter of opinion.”

Wolanski also argued that the broadcast did not defame Sir James, saying in written submissions that there is “no suggestion whatsoever in the broadcast that [he] has any knowledge of or culpability for Dyson’s relationship with its supplier”.

Mr Justice Nicklin will give his decision on the preliminary issues in writing at a later date.


Correction | Mirror

3/10/22: Mirror editor-in-chief Alison Phillips said the website “will be re-looking at our processes and systems” after a picture in an online story about Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng was wrongly captioned as him on Saturday.

The picture used was of Bernard Mensah, president of international for Bank of America.

In an email to staff, seen by Press Gazette, Mirror editor-in-chief Alison Phillips said: “We have personally apologised to Mr Kwarteng and on Twitter to him and our readers but I’d also like to apologise to you, the staff.

“I know many of you will be disappointed we have let ourselves down in this way and that you have taken flak on social media and elsewhere for the mistake.

“When we do well at the Mirror, we do well together. So when a mistake happens it is not the fault of one individual, but the responsibility of us all.

“As a result we will be re-looking at our processes and systems to see what should be done to minimise the risks of such errors happening again and to ensure we take useful action.”

The Mirror had said in a public statement on Saturday: “This morning a picture in a story about Kwasi Kwarteng was wrongly captioned on the Mirror website.

“This was a terrible error and we apologise to Mr Kwarteng and all our readers.

“The Mirror has a long history of working against racism and we will redouble our efforts on this.”


IPSO | MyLondon

23/9/22: IPSO has rapped MyLondon for an inaccuracy that came about because it relied “on a claim published on an unofficial Twitter account”.

It was also published before the deadline given in the right to reply email to David Morris MP, the subject of the story.

The January 2022 story was headlined “Taxpayers angry at MP who expensed £229.20 first class train ticket to London rather than travelling standard class” and reported that Morris had been criticised for the “expensive fare”.

However Morris said it had not been a single ticket, but he, his wife and his baby had all been travelling.

The claim that it was a single ticket had come from the MP Expenses Twitter account, which has just over 2,000 followers and posts details of expense claims once they have been published by IPSA.

Ruling that the article breached Clause 1 (accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, IPSO said: “The publication was entitled to rely on the information included on the IPSA website, but it was obliged to take care not to publish inaccurate or misleading information in doing so… The IPSA website did not specify how many train tickets the expense covered, and the Committee therefore considered that the publication should have sought this information prior to publishing the article.

“Relying on a claim published on an unofficial Twitter account that the expense covered a single ticket did not amount to sufficient care taken over the accuracy of the information.”

The regulator added that publishing the story before the deadline given to the MP meant he had “inadequate opportunity” to respond.

IPSO also said the publication “should have apologised” but refused to do so.

A further breach of the code, it said, resulted from the description of the fare by a member of the public as “expensive” when “it was not clear to what extent, if any, those comments were informed by an accurate understanding of how many tickets had actually been purchased”. Full ruling here.


BBC | Accuracy

20/9/22: The BBC’s executive complaints unit (ECU) has said the use of female pronouns for a murder suspect who had only recently begun to identify as a woman fell below the corporation’s standards for accuracy.

The BBC online story of 14 March, headlined “Pensioner arrested after dismembered body found”, said Harvey Marcelin, who previously served more than 50 years in prison for killing two women in the US, had been charged with a murder carried out since her release. The BBC received complaints that the article did not make clear Marcelin had only recently begun to identify as female and had identified as male at the time of the previous killings.

The BBC’s ECU has now said “the omission of this information may have given readers an incomplete understanding of the murderer and their crimes (particularly because gender had been cited as a factor in an earlier parole board hearing) and fell below the BBC’s standards of accuracy”.

However it added that it was satisfied with the addition post-publication of a reference in the 11th paragraph that Marcelin “recently identified as a woman” and that the complaint was therefore resolved.

The BBC previously responded publicly to complaints by stating the use of female pronouns had been within its style guide, which says the term and pronoun “preferred by the person in question” should be used, and that it “may also be appropriate to refer to a transition to make sense of some stories”.


Sky News | Misidentification of protest march

12/9/22: Sky News and one of its reporters have apologised after mistakenly identifying a protest march for Chris Kaba – an unarmed black man shot dead by the police – as a procession for the late Queen.

Sky anchor Sarah-Jane Mee attracted substantial ire online after describing footage of a crowd passing through Trafalgar Square as “an incredible sight. They’ll work their way up the Mall very slowly, meeting new friends along the way – so many people talking to each other about their journey here, why they wanted to come, their memories of the Queen, their good wishes for the new King.”

The Independent Office for Police Conduct says it is investigating Kaba’s killing as a homicide. A Sky spokesperson said: “We apologise for a mistake made earlier today which accidentally misidentified aerial pictures of a protest march for Chris Kaba as a large gathering paying tribute to Queen Elizabeth. We have also issued a correction on air to clarify the footage previously shown.”

Mee also apologised in a Tweet.


IPSO | Mirror.co.uk and Express.co.uk

6/9/22: IPSO has rapped the websites of the Mirror and Express for failing to “distinguish clearly between comment and fact” in two articles covering domestic abuse allegations.

Mirror.co.uk and Express.co.uk published articles in September and November 2019, respectively, covering women who fled the UK to escape abusive former partners. The articles both featured or focused on testimony from the same unnamed woman, who fled to Cyprus with her children after her ex was reportedly granted access to them. The ex, who was not named by IPSO, complained, disputing key facts in the articles, in particular that he had been abusive.

The Mirror and Express said they would not confirm to IPSO whether the complainant was indeed the father in the article, so as to protect the identities of the mother and children. For the same reason, they said they could not hand over the documents they gathered to verify the mother’s claims, which they said included “social work reports, counselling notes, police reports of domestic violence, psychiatric reports, Court Orders, and relevant communications from the abusive partner such as text messages”.

IPSO, stressing it “was not making a finding on the accuracy of the allegations, but whether there had been a breach of the Editors’ Code”, determined there had been one. The sites, IPSO said, “had stated as fact that the ex-partner of the woman featured in the article had abused her… which the publication was not in a position to demonstrate as true.”

IPSO said this represented a failure to separate fact from comment, and instructed both websites to publish its adjudication online. (Full rulings here and here)


BBC | Charity payout

2/9/22: The BBC has donated a total of £1.42 million to seven charities linked with Princess Diana following its investigation into how journalist Martin Bashir secured his infamous 1997 Panorama interview with her.

The money donated comes from the commercial sales proceeds of the interview footage, rather than any licence fee payments.

The BBC said in a statement: “Given the findings of Lord Dyson, we think this is the right and appropriate course of action.” The Dyson report last year found Bashir had used “deceitful behaviour” in a “serious breach” of producer guidelines to secure the interview.

Diana was involved in the Centrepoint, English National Ballet, Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, The Leprosy Mission, National Aids Trust, The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity at the time of her 1996 death while The Diana Award, the seventh equal recipient, was created in her memory.

The BBC has already pledged never to air or license the Panorama interview, in which Diana said there were “three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded”, again except potentially short extracts for a journalistic purpose when cleared by the executive committee.


Ofcom | Sky News

30/8/22: A “notorious conman” has lost an Ofcom complaint against Sky News after he accused it of breaching his privacy.

The broadcaster reported in August last year on the conditions “serial fraudster” Mark Acklom faced upon his release from jail.

The news reports were accompanied by images that he claimed were “private family photographs”. His family members were obscured in the photos.

Acklom said the photos had been obtained without his knowledge or consent. Ofcom said he did have a legitimate expectation of privacy in relation to these photos but that this “did not, on balance, outweigh the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression and the public interest in including the material in the programme in which the family photographs appeared”.

Ofcom also said Acklom did not have a legitimate expectation of privacy in relation to a photo of him on a plane during his extradition to the UK in 2019.

Read the full Ofcom ruling here.


Libel | Mirror

3/8/22: The Mirror has paid out £18,000 in libel damages, plus costs, to ex-Unite union general secretary Len McCluskey.

The Mirror quoted an unnamed Labour source who falsely claimed that Unite had almost gone bankrupt under McCluskey’s ten-year leadership which ended in 2021.

The newspaper also published an apology, in which it said: “This is incorrect. In fact, at the time of Mr McCluskey’s departure from Unite, the Union’s assets totalled almost £500m, which had increased significantly under his leadership.”

McCluskey gave all of the damages he received to children’s charity NSPCC in July.


Ofcom | BBC World at One

25/7/22: Superseding a decision by the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit, Ofcom has ruled that BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme did breach impartiality rules in a February 2021 interview with Ruth Davidson.

The programme covered a continuing dispute between the Scottish Government and former Scottish National Party leader, Alex Salmond, who had been accused of sexual harassment while in office. (Salmond was cleared of all charges relating to the allegations in 2020.) In February 2021 the former First Minister pulled out of an appearance before the parliamentary inquiry into the claims after part of his written submission to it had been apparently redacted from the Scottish Parliament website post-publication.

For the programme, World at One interviewed Ruth Davidson, who then led the Conservatives at the Scottish Parliament. Davidson charged that the redaction “got to the structure of democracy in Scotland and whether our institutions are robust or whether they have been corrupted”. The programme did not hear from a representative of the governing SNP, although the BBC told Ofcom its staff made repeated attempts to secure an interview.

The BBC argued to Ofcom that the show did not breach impartiality standards because later broadcasts the same day did feature a range of views, and that both BBC and Ofcom rules permit impartiality to be achieved across different programmes.

Ofcom disagreed: “Given the gravity of Ruth Davidson’s accusations regarding the Scottish Government, her strong and continued criticism and the fact that she was able to express her views at length, we did not consider that alternative perspectives were given due weight within the programme.”

Ofcom said the interviewer could have “used robust questioning or provided stronger challenge to Ruth Davidson’s statements during the interview. Instead, in the programme as broadcast, reference to Nicola Sturgeon’s position on the allegations made against her and the SNP was scant”. (Full ruling here)


IPSO | Tom Gauterin vs Jewish Chronicle

14/7/22: IPSO has instructed the Jewish Chronicle to publish a correction after it claimed without evidence that a man lost his job for being an anti-Semite.

The complaint centred on a July 2021 opinion article titled “Time for direct action on social media”. In it, former JC editor Stephen Pollard recounted an experience complaining to a Twitter critic’s employer over what he characterised as anti-Semitic tweets. Following the complaint, the Twitter user, Tom Gauterin, departed his job, leading Pollard to concluded Gauterin “suffered the consequences of his bigotry”.

Gauterin raised a complaint with IPSO, disputing the allegation he was an anti-Semite and saying that while his termination had indeed been linked to concerns over his Twitter activity, he had not been made aware of allegations that activity was anti-Semitic.

IPSO said that Pollard’s characterisation of the tweets as anti-Semitic, because it was clearly distinguished as opinion, did not breach accuracy standards. However, the regulator said that Pollard’s conjecture Gauterin had lost his job over the anti-Semitism complaint had been misleadingly presented as fact.

To this end, IPSO said the Jewish Chronicle had breached standards regarding the separation of fact and opinion, and required a correction below the original article. Another portion of Gauterin’s complaint, alleging his privacy had been breached by Pollard contacting his employer, was not upheld. Full ruling here.


IPSO | Katie Hopkins vs Cornwall Live

7/7/22: Katie Hopkins has won an IPSO complaint against Reach-owned Cornwall Live over a claim, which she said was inaccurate, that she “was recently ejected from a pub in Portreath after being ‘very rude’ to staff”.

IPSO said the claim had wrongly been reported as an established fact rather than an unverified allegation, considering it was based on the claim of one pub landlord who had not recognised her at the time of the alleged incident. Read more detail on Press Gazette here.


Libel | One Taste vs the BBC

6/7/22: One Taste, a wellness company centred on “orgasmic meditation” training sessions, is asking the High Court to allow defamation proceedings against the BBC.

The libel claim relates to “The Orgasm Cult”, a ten-part Radio 4 podcast broadcast in November and December 2020. Picking up on reporting done by Bloomberg in 2018, the podcast reported the meditation practice had led “to isolation, debt and abuse” among members and staff, as well as an FBI enquiry regarding allegations of sex trafficking.

The libel claim is being brought by One Taste, its chief executive Nicole Daedone and another One Taste executive named Rachel Cherwitz. The group will on Thursday 7 July ask the court to allow their libel claim to continue, despite its being brought after the one year deadline.


IPSO | O Reilly vs dailystar.co.uk

23/6/22: The website of the Daily Star has accepted that jackals are not invading the UK.

The site published an article in December 2021 titled: “Violent jackals set to invade UK as experts warn of ‘fastest expansion ever witnessed'”, which reported that “Scientists have warned that jackals are coming to Britain in huge numbers after rapidly expanding across Europe – and experts say the beasts will howl and hunt all through the night”.

Scientists had not warned that jackals are coming to Britain. One ecologist quoted in the piece said the animals had spread across continental Europe, but he did not mention the UK.

As well as this, the complainant noted the article was illustrated with pictures of foxes, not jackals.

IPSO determined the site should have verified its jackal claims before publishing and that there had been a breach of the Editors’ Code.  The Star offered to publish a correction atop the article making clear that “scientists had not specified that jackals would head to Britain, but that there is a possibility due to the ‘fastest expansion ever witnessed'”. Full ruling here.


IPSO | Centre for Media Monitoring vs express.co.uk and dailystar.co.uk

20/6/22: IPSO has rapped the websites of the Daily Express and Daily Star for publishing unsubstantiated content about a paramedic who was allegedly “refused entry to a mosque” to treat a heart attack because he was gay.

Each site covered the same radio interview, in which a man identified himself as a paramedic and claimed to have been barred from a healthcare emergency because of his orientation. The Star carried a write-up of the interview and the Express carried a standalone video clip of it. Both were published in March 2021.

The Centre for Media Monitoring, a media watchdog specialising in rebutting misrepresentations of Muslims, contacted the local ambulance service and found they had no record of such an encounter or an employee who matched the description.

Once informed, both the Star and Express deleted the offending content and replaced them with clarifications. However, the Centre for Media Monitoring pursued its complaint, charging the sites had not taken care to verify the claims they were reporting were true.

IPSO agreed, saying the 39 minutes the Star gave the ambulance service to respond before publishing was not an “adequate amount of time” and that both sites should have amended the errors quicker once the ambulance service responded. (Full rulings here and here)


Ofcom | Ghislaine Maxwell vs Channel 4 News

13/6/22: Ofcom has dismissed a fairness complaint by law firm Leverets made on behalf of Ghislaine Maxwell against Channel 4 News.

Maxwell’s complaint centred on a June 2021 Channel 4 News broadcast about the Metropolitan Police Service. The first half of the programme had investigated allegations of corruption against the police as it pertained to the unsolved 1987 axe murder of private investigator Daniel Morgan. The second half looked at the Met’s alleged failure to investigate accusations that Maxwell, along with late billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein, had sexually abused women in the UK.

Leverets argued that the programme’s format linked the allegations against Maxwell with the unrelated story of Morgan’s murder, and that it left viewers with the impression that Maxwell had been corruptly allowed to get away with criminal offences in the UK.

Ofcom disagreed, ruling “there was no unfairness to Ms Maxwell”. The regulator said “it would have been clear to viewers that the two investigations conducted by the programme makers were distinct” and “at no point did the programme state that the decision by the Met not to investigate serious crimes in which Ms Maxwell was alleged to have been involved was made corruptly”. (Full ruling here)


Ofcom | LBC News

13/6/22: Ofcom has rapped LBC News over a series of broadcasts in which a reporter referred to the Israeli Embassy in London as the “Jewish Embassy”.

The offending segment was broadcast three times across approximately two hours in May 2021, during an outbreak of violence in the Israel-Palestine conflict. In London, a major protest marched on the Israeli Embassy.

An LBC News staffer reporting from the protest said he was “About 40 metres down the road from… the Jewish Embassy”, that the protest had started at Hyde Park Corner “and then walked all the way here to the Jewish Embassy” and that “The Jewish Embassy’s gates are closed.” Another broadcast, approximately an hour before the first reference to “the Jewish Embassy”, had correctly referred to the location as the “Israeli Embassy”.

LBC News said the reporter “tripped over his words in error during the heat of the moment… from what was a stressful and tense situation” and that it had removed the programme from catch-up services upon realising the issue.

Ofcom determined LBC News had nonetheless breached Broadcasting Code rules on both due accuracy and avoiding offence: “The references to a ‘Jewish Embassy’ were an inaccurate description”, it said, and the reference to the “Israeli Embassy” in the earlier broadcast did not address the inaccuracy of the latter three.

The regulator added that the mistake was additionally significant because it “conflated Jewish people and the state of Israel as the focus of the protests… at a time of escalated conflict between Palestine and Israel and [when] reported attacks on Jewish people in London rose significantly”. Full ruling here.


IPSO | Extinction Rebellion vs The Spectator

10/6/22: IPSO has not upheld a complaint made by environmentalist campaign group Extinction Rebellion against The Spectator.

The activists complained about an article published online as “Net zero is a disastrous solution to a nonexistent problem”. The piece was a companion to a dissenting article headlined “No choice; The urgent case for net zero”.

Extinction Rebellion took issue with two claims in the anti-net zero article: that “many more people die each year from cold-related illnesses than from heat-related ones” and that “increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere [helps] to stimulate plant growth”.

The campaigners argued that research had shown a rise in temperature increases mortality through, for example, food insecurity and greater prevalence of diseases including skin cancer and asthma. It said the second claim was misleading as research had indicated increasing carbon in the atmosphere produced “less and less benefit” in plant nutrients.

The Spectator pointed to research published in The Lancet concluding that approximately 8.52% of global deaths were associated with cold-related illness, versus approximately 0.9% associated with head-related illness. The regulator said: “While other papers might reach alternative conclusions, the commentator was entitled to rely on the findings of this study”, and that while increased CO2 could harm plant nutrient density, The Spectator’s article had not claimed otherwise. Full ruling here.


BBC | ‘We’re being pressured into sex by some trans women’

1/6/22: The head of the BBC’s executive complaints unit has ruled in response to a “significant number” of complaints that an article headlined “We’re being pressured into sex by some trans women” did not meet the required accuracy standards.

He said that although it was a “legitimate piece of journalism overall” the headline gave the “misleading impression” that “the focus of the article would be on pressure applied by trans women, whereas its focus was at least as much on internalised pressure experienced by some lesbians as a result of a climate of opinion (as they perceived it) within the LGBT community, rather than pressure directly applied by trans women”.

He also said the article did not make sufficiently clear that the survey it was based on, which had been conducted by the organisation Get The L Out which believes “transactivism erases lesbians”, “lacked statistical validity” and should have been treated with more scepticism.

The headline and text of the article have been amended to reflect the decision. Full ruling here.


BBC | Front Row

30/5/22: The BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit has agreed with a complainant that a presenter should not have described “gender-critical” views as “very unpopular”.

The complaint related to an episode of Radio Four’s Front Row that was broadcast in March 2022. Interviewing an author on whether art can be considered separately from the artist, presenter Tom Sutcliffe mentioned “the case of JK Rowling who clearly has a very unpopular opinion regarding gender identity”.

The ECU said it was “potentially misleading” to describe Rowling’s views on gender as “very unpopular” because “while it had clearly proved objectionable to some, there was no conclusive evidence that the objectors represented a majority”.

Sutcliffe had already conceded as much on Radio Four’s Feedback programme, so the ECU did not recommend any further action.

The ECU also dismissed another part of the complaint which argued it was inappropriate to discuss Rowling alongside artists such as R. Kelly, Eric Gill and Adolf Hitler, because it was “in the context of distinguishing between expressing opinions (as JK Rowling had done) and committing criminal acts”. Full ruling here.


IPSO | Grubb vs mirror.co.uk

19/5/22: IPSO has sided with a member of the public over an accuracy concern at mirror.co.uk, but ruled the website’s own remedy to the error was satisfactory.

The December 2021 article in dispute was titled “New Year’s asteroid bigger than Big Ben to crash into Earth’s atmosphere” and opened by claiming the celestial body would “burn through Earth’s atmosphere”. The article subsequently made clear it would pass Earth by.

Made aware of the complaint, the Mirror changed the headline to “New Year’s asteroid bigger than Big Ben to come close to Earth” and added a note saying: “This headline and article have been amended after publication to correct the claim the asteroid would ‘crash into Earth’s atmosphere’. It is due to pass over 3 million miles away.”

Although the complainant wanted the Mirror to go further and explain “how the error had occurred”, IPSO said it was satisfied with the correction offered. Full ruling here.


IPSO | Horner vs express.co.uk

19/5/22: IPSO has upheld an accuracy complaint by a member of the public over an express.co.uk headline originally headlined “Army sent in as border crisis explodes – desperate EU forced to beg UK for help”. The article was subheadlined: “BRITAIN will send 140 military engineers to Poland to support its efforts to deal with a crisis at the border with Belarus, as the EU desperately attempts to stem the influx of migrants entering the bloc.”

The EU had not made a request for help with the border struggles, however. Instead, the request had come from the governments of Poland and Lithuania, both of which are EU states. Upon receipt of the complaint, the Express altered the headline to say that “EU nations”, rather than the EU itself, had made the request.

IPSO determined this was insufficient, describing the claim as “inaccurate, misleading, and unsupported by the text of the article” and saying it “did not accept that direct actions undertaken by member states equated to actions undertaken by the union as a whole”. The regulator ruled that a standalone correction should appear on the Express website. Full ruling here.


Impress | Edwards vs Waltham Forest Echo

22/4/22: Impress has upheld a complaint against the Waltham Forest Echo made by a freelance about her own article.

The freelance columnist, Michelle Edwards, said that the paper had distorted an aspect of her story when it edited a passage describing a tower block fire warden’s actions during a blaze.

Edwards had written that, according to an interviewee she spoke with, one warden “materialised, stood in the doorway and is said to have shouted the word fire and fled’.” The Echo edited the account to say that the interviewee “did recount seeing a warden raise the alarm as she left her flat but, when her fire alarm remained silent, she still felt the need to knock on her neighbours’ doors herself”.

Edwards said that this change of emphasis constituted an inaccuracy because it obscured an alleged dereliction of duty by the council-employed fire warden. The Echo said it had deliberately edited the passage because it had judged that those claims were “unsubstantiated defamatory opinions, from two anonymous sources, about someone performing their professional duties who had not given a right of reply”.

Impress ruled that the Echo breached clause 1.1 of the code (“publishers must take all reasonable steps to ensure accuracy”) because “if the publisher had any doubts as to the accuracy of the statement or the risks involved by its inclusion in the article, it should have taken further steps before deciding to publish the article at all”. Full ruling here.


IPSO | Power vs Mail Online

7/4/22: IPSO has ruled that Mail Online did not report a “significant inaccuracy” in a February 2021 article describing asylum seekers entering the UK irregularly as “illegal migrants”.

The article reported on asylum seekers who had allegedly received Covid-19 vaccines ahead of more vulnerable people and who were being housed in “plush” quarantine hotels, which the Mail contrasted with comparatively Spartan accommodation for British returnees from red list countries.

Mail Online repeatedly described the asylum seekers as illegal migrants, including in the headline. A complainant disputed this, arguing that under the UN Refugee Convention contracting states agree not to impose penalties on anyone entering a country through extra-legal means, provided that they promptly present themselves to authorities as asylum seekers.

The Mail argued “that it was not mutually exclusive” to describe such entrants “as being both asylum seekers and illegal migrants”. IPSO agreed, saying that while the terms were “not interchangeable”, the migrants had entered the country illegally, and the article had besides been clear that they were asylum seekers.

On a separate matter brought up by the complainant, IPSO also accepted Mail Online’s argument that “it was not significantly inaccurate to refer to a breakfast of bread, butter and jam as an ‘English breakfast'”. Full ruling here.


Privacy settlement | Hitchin vs Channel 5

4/4/22: Channel 5 has apologised and agreed to pay a man “substantial damages” for breach of privacy over an episode of bailiff documentary series Can’t Pay? We’ll Take it Away!

Optometrist Brian Hitchin, 88, sued the channel in November 2021 after he was depicted in an episode of the show broadcast in October 2016. Hitchin, then aged 82, had owed money to a supplier, and High Court Enforcement Agents attended his premises to enforce the debt accompanied by a camera crew.

The crew remained on the premises despite Hitchin’s opposition, and their footage was supplemented with footage from the agents’ bodycams. Law firm Hamlins said the episode featuring Hitchin was broadcast “to over 5.7 million people in a form in which our client’s face was shown, and to an additional 6.2 million viewers in a form in which his face was blurred and his name removed.” High Court statement here.


Libel | Andrew Neil vs Jennifer Arcuri

31/3/22: A High Court judge has granted Andrew Neil permission to serve a libel claim on US businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri over tweets he claims contained allegations he is a “paedophile” and was “complicit in the abuse of children” with Jeffrey Epstein.

Neil believes the alleged meanings of the two tweets made by Arcuri in December are “gravely defamatory and wholly false” and he denies ever meeting the deceased billionaire, PA reported the court was told.

Neil is is seeking damages and a court injunction preventing Arcuri from repeating the allegations he claims she made, according to PA.

Master John Dagnall said Neil had a “good arguable case” and that the alleged meaning of the tweets is “potentially an extremely serious one”. The judge permitted Neil to bring the claim against Arcuri, who lives outside the jurisdiction in Florida, but stressed he had not decided “at all” any “underlying matter of fact” in the case, which is still at “an extremely early stage”.


Libel | The Sun

31/3/22: Sun publisher News Group Newspapers has paid a “very substantial” five-figure sum to solicitor Uma Rajasundram, whose firm was falsely accused of “shamelessly touting a price list to help migrants stay in the UK”. The newspaper later admitted the article “confused” two types of fees.

The newspaper agreed to remove hundreds of “racist and threatening” reader comments from two articles on its website and then also took down the main article in question, according to Doughty Street Chambers.

The Sun then published a statement in print and online which clarified the fees “are for private clients only, not for legal aid”, adding: “We did not and do not suggest that Ms Rajasundram and colleagues act in any way outside the law or professional conduct and we are happy again to make this clear to readers.”

Rajasundram said: “What The Sun falsely claimed about my firm and I would have involved a serious breach of our professional ethics. Instead, this was unprofessional reporting. The gratuitous way that it chose to illustrate the article with a photo of me in a sari made the threatening and racist comments that it published underneath the article only too predictable, and left my team fearing for their safety.”


Complaint | BBC News

30/3/22: BBC News has responded to complaints about an article that referred to a pensioner arrested for murder with female pronouns, saying this was within its style guide. It has now added a line to clarify the suspect “recently identified as a woman” (read more).

The BBC News style guide says the term and pronoun “preferred by the person in question” should be used, and that it “may also be appropriate to refer to a transition to make sense of some stories”.


Correction | BBC News

28/3/22: BBC News has edited an article about endometriosis to replace the word “people” with the word “women” and remove the phrase “who are assigned female at birth”.

The BBC said the edits were intended to “make it clearer to the audience how the condition affects women” (read more).


Libel | Laura Murray vs The Telegraph

17/3/22: The Telegraph has apologised and will pay “substantial” damages after falsely suggesting ex-Labour staffer Laura Murray was an “anti-Jewish racist” and part of the “vile anti-Semitism of Corbyn’s Labour”, allegations it now accepts are untrue.

The comments were made in an opinion piece by former Labour MP Ian Austin, who also apologised, in December (read more).

IPSO | Various vs Daily Express

10/3/22: IPSO agreed that the Daily Express had broken the Editors’ Code provision on accuracy with two August 2021 articles, one published online and one in print, which claimed that Brits were being charged to enter the EU in “revenge for Brexit” and as a “new Brexit punishment”. In fact, the new £6 charge was being applied to visitors from more than 60 non-Schengen countries – something not mentioned in the Express’ article. The Express corrected the article to make clear that the “revenge” and “punishment” claims were a reflection of the Express’ view that the UK should get “preferential treatment” from the bloc as a recent member of the EU. Because it published its online and print corrections soon after being alerted to the errors, IPSO said no further action was necessary (full ruling).


Ofcom | BBC News at Six

7/3/22: Ofcom ruled that BBC News at Six on 26 February 2021 breached the Broadcasting Code with Scotland editor Sarah Smith’s statement that: “Alex Salmond said he believes Nicola Sturgeon has misled Parliament and broken the Ministerial Code, which he thinks means she should resign.” However Salmond had actually said “no doubt that Nicola broke the Ministerial Code, but it is not for me to suggest what the consequences should be”.

The BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit acknowledged that the broadcast did not meet the required standard of accuracy but said the BBC took sufficient steps to correct the error by noting it on its website, while Smith also posted a clarification on Twitter. However Ofcom said there should have been an on-air correction as it was a “significant” mistake on an issue of “significant public interest”.

Ofcom said the error breached Rule 5.1 – “news, in whatever form, must be reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality” – and 5.2 – “significant mistakes in news should normally be acknowledged and corrected on air quickly. Corrections should be appropriately scheduled” – of the Broadcasting Code (full ruling).


IPSO | Brewerton vs thesun.co.uk, express.co.uk, telegraph.co.uk, liverpoolecho.co.uk and dailyrecord.co.uk

3/3/22: IPSO dismissed complaints against five news sites made by Keith Brewerton, father of Aled Brewerton, a one-time councillor for Handforth Parish Council who resigned his position following a Zoom brouhaha with Cheshire Association of Councils chief executive Jackie Weaver. Both men featured in the resulting viral video, with the younger Brewerton in particular becoming infamous for calling for Weaver to “read the standing orders”.

Keith Brewerton complained that videos of the altercation posted by the sites had been misleadingly cut, that because the Brewertons had been in their homes in the footage their privacy had been breached, that the recording had been made clandestinely and illegally and was thus harassment, and that the video intruded into grief or shock. IPSO dismissed all complaints against all five websites. (Full rulings here for The Sun, The Express, The Telegraph, Liverpool Echo, and the Daily Record)

Update 10/3/22: IPSO dismissed complaints made against mirror.co.uk and Mail Online by Brewerton over their reporting of the same incident. (Full rulings here for the Mirror and Mail)

28/2/22: IPSO upheld a complaint by Interlink, a foundation representing Orthodox Jewish organisations, over a February 2021 Daily Telegraph article titled “Forced marriage has no place in Britain, says PM”. IPSO agreed with Interlink that the article gave the misleading impression the prime minister’s remarks had referred specifically to forced marriage among ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities. An Interlink complaint about a second article, “Not anti-Semitic to tackle forced marriage, says Jewish group”, was not upheld (full ruling).

IPSO | Goemans vs Ely Standard

18/2/22: The press regulator rejected a complaint by artist Melanie Goemans, who said the Ely Standard had misrepresented her descriptions of her art and the  gallery she set up in the front window of her home. The newspaper provided IPSO with a recording of the phone interview it conducted with Ms Goemans, which showed that, while the publisher did change her quotes in places, it substantially preserved the meaning of her statements. Ms Goemans subsequently complained that she had not been aware the Ely Standard was recording the interview. IPSO ruled, however, that “the publication’s decision to record the conversation did not breach the terms of Clause 1 of the Code; it enabled the publication to demonstrate its compliance with the Code” (full ruling).


IPSO | Matinvesi vs Mail Online

10/2/22: IPSO upheld a complaint by Esa Matinvesi that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code with an article headlined: “Number of EU citizens living in UK is now HIGHER than before Brexit with 4.6million people granted right to remain – compared to 3.1million before Britain left bloc.” IPSO said the claim that 4.6 million people had been granted the right to remain in the UK after Brexit was “an inaccurate representation of official statistics” (full ruling).


Defamation | Rebel News Network vs Al Jazeera

8/2/22: The Court of Appeal for Ontario has dismissed an appeal brought by the Rebel News Network against a decision to dismiss its defamation claim against Al Jazeera for $600,000. The right-wing news provider sued over an episode of the Listening Post in which Al Jazeera connected Rebel News Network coverage with violent acts against Muslims (full ruling).


IPSO | Soulsby and Sommerland vs Mail Online

4/2/22: IPSO has rejected a complaint brought by Sir Peter Soulsby and Lesley Summerland claiming that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge) and Clause 12 (Discrimination) in an article headlined “Leicester’s Labour mayor Sir Peter Soulsby, 71, who has criticised ministers over city’s new lockdown broke Covid rules himself to visit his girlfriend”, published on 30 June 2020. IPSO found the article did not claim Sir Peter had broken the law (full ruling).


BBC | Today transphobia complaint upheld

4/2/22: BBC’s executive complaints unit held that an edition of Today programme on 13 October 2021 in which its presenter said Sussex academic Kathleen Stock was accused “falsely, of transphobia” was not duly accurate as it made it sound like the accusations were disproved (full ruling).


BBC | Antisemitic bus attack report wrong

27/1/2022: Media watchdog Ofcom has launched an investigation after the BBC upheld complaints made about the accuracy and impartiality of its coverage of an antisemitic attack on a Hanukkah party bus. The complaints were “particularly in relation to the claim that an anti-Muslim slur had been heard from inside the bus” (read more).


Privacy | Mail on Sunday pays £1 privacy damages to Meghan

6/1/2022: The publisher of The Mail On Sunday has agreed to pay the Duchess of Sussex £1 nominal damages for misuse of private information plus an undisclosed but “substantial” sum for copyright infringement after their court battle (read more).


IPSO | Mail Online wrong to report ‘no-go areas for whites’

24/12/2021: Neil Vass complained that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code in an article headlined “British towns that are no-go areas for white people: Muslim author’s study of mosques reveals children ‘attacked for being white’, parents making families live under Taliban-like rules and women who can’t leave home without permission”, published on 4 June 2021. The complaint was upheld. IPSO said the headline claim was not supported by the article (full ruling).

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