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Sacked S4C boss loses privacy complaint over ‘signed off with stress’ story

Sian Doyle told publication of her medical information was in the public interest.

By Charlotte Tobitt

The former chief executive of Welsh-language public broadcaster S4C complained to the UK’s biggest press regulator about a story saying she had been “signed off with stress”.

Sian Doyle said the story, published by Welsh non-profit news website Nation.Cymru in October when she was still CEO, breached her right to privacy.

Doyle argued that the contents of the article, including bullying allegations and the dismissal of her “close ally” chief content officer Llinos Griffin-Williams, did not justify the publication of her private medical information without her consent.

At the time of publication the fact that Doyle was unwell and off work had been shared internally at S4C but the specific reasons had not been shared publicly.

However the Independent Press Standards Organisation found that there was “considerable public interest” in the story.

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It also noted that the amount of detail published was “proportionate”, with Doyle’s medical information “described only in broad terms” and only where it was “directly relevant” to the reason for her absence from her high-profile role.

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“Significant concerns about the culture of the organisation and the impact this had on staff had been expressed publicly,” its complaints committee said.

“The fact that the complainant herself was suffering from stress to the extent that she was unable to continue to work contributed to that story in circumstances where she was a senior member of the organisation.

“Taking into account the limited nature of the disclosure; the disclosures previously made within S4C that the complainant had been signed off work; the public interest in the broader story concerning events at the organisation; and the relevance of the disclosure to illustrate the difficulties being faced by the organisation, a publicly funded body, the Committee concluded that publication was in the public interest, and there was no breach of Clause 2,” the ruling said, referring to the privacy clause within the Editors’ Code of Practice.

The code states: “Everyone is entitled to respect for their private and family life, home, physical and mental health, and correspondence, including digital communications.

“Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual’s private life without consent. In considering an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy, account will be taken of the complainant’s own public disclosures of information and the extent to which the material complained about is already in the public domain or will become so.”

Doyle was sacked in November after an investigation into claims of a “toxic culture” at S4C. She was widely reported to have entered hospital after being found unresponsive the following month.

Read the full IPSO ruling here.

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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.
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