IPSO publishes The Covid Report: New analysis demonstrates essential role of accountable news says IPSO Chair Lord Faulks QC

IPSO has today published THE COVID REPORT: How the British Press is Reporting on the Pandemic, an analysis of press reporting during the height of the Covid period

The report examines trends in press complaints, highlights key areas of editorial decision-making and explores IPSO’s response to this unprecedented period. It also gives insight into how Covid affected regulated publishers’ operations. 

Key findings include: 

  • IPSO received almost 32,000 complaints from March 2020 to April 2021, encompassing the period running up to the first national lockdown through to the beginning of easing of measures after the third national lockdown.
  • Less than 10% (9.7%) of complaints received related to reporting of Covid despite it dominating the news agenda.
  • Of Covid-related complaints, 83% were made under Clause 1 of the Editors’ Code which covers accuracy.
  • IPSO opened 77 investigations into Covid-related complaints, resulting in 47 rulings and 38 corrections.*
  • Key themes around complaints made by the public included: use of photography, coverage of science and research, social media, opinion pieces and concerns about possible discrimination. 

Fiona Fox, Chief Executive of The Science Media Centre said: 

“Unlike in other countries the UK press has managed to hang onto its science and health specialist journalists and this was critical to the high standards of reporting we witnessed during the pandemic. Research showed that what readers wanted was in-depth reporting that they could trust and the simple explainers that would help them understand all aspects of a complex new virus. The scientific community I work with understood and appreciated the value of responsible science journalism more than ever before. When the public needed the very best standards of journalism the UK press rose to the challenge.” 

Chairman of IPSO Lord Faulks QC said: 

“I have no doubt that journalism published by IPSO-regulated titles over the last 18 months saved lives, in the UK and around the world.  I hope that this report will help to inform editorial decision-making over the next period of the pandemic and beyond, as well as highlighting the important role that IPSO regulation plays in ensuring a quality, accountable press”. 

Chief Executive of IPSO Charlotte Dewar said: 

“There is no doubt that Covid will continue to present challenges for press regulation and the newspaper and magazine industries. While IPSO identified some cases where individual pieces of journalism had fallen short of the standards set by the Editors’ Code, there is also much to be positive about. The pandemic has demonstrated the value of accountable news in an unprecedented way. IPSO will continue to do its part to ensure that readers can find accurate information on critical issues like public health”.

*Corrections relate to both corrections ordered by IPSO and those agreed by the publisher and complainant to resolve a complaint. 

Published 23 November 2021