Decision of the Complaints Committee 00134-19 Edmonds v The Sun on Sunday
Summary of complaint
1. Noel Edmonds complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Sun on Sunday breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice in an article headlined "I'M A CELEB KIWI" published on 6 January 2019.
2. The article reported that the complainant was so "crushed" following his exit from the television programme I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Here!, that he had put his house up for sale and was looking to move to New Zealand. The article featured comments from a source which claimed that being voted off the show had left him "devastated", "smashed to pieces" and that he viewed the programme as a "chance to repair his image"; he felt "unappreciated by the British public as a result". The source went on to claim that the complainant had "slipped into a bit of a depression" and was terrified that this was "the end for him in the UK" and that no further work would come his way. The source also claimed that the complainant was "very upset at the thought of leaving his animals especially his swans". The article featured a quote from the complainant's spokesman which rebutted the source's claims, explaining that the complainant had always planned to live part of the year in New Zealand, that he was "full of energy", that he was considering a number of work offers and that he was "not down".
3. The article also appeared in much the same format online under the headline "I'M A CELEB KIWI! ‘Crushed’ Noel Edmonds plans move to New Zealand after being upset by I’m A Celeb rejection" published on 5 January 2019.
4. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate and disputed all the claims made by the source. He said that he had always planned to move to New Zealand, this was not a reaction to his being voted off the show, his house had been up for sale before he accepted the offer to feature on it and this had been widely reported. The complainant said the article's references to his state of mind were all inaccurate and unfounded; he was in a positive frame of mind and had been since he was voted off, he did not feel "unappreciated" and he was not concerned about work opportunities; this was confirmed by his spokesman prior to publication. The complainant provided witness statements from professional colleagues and family members, which he said confirmed this position.
5. The publication did not accept a breach of the Code. It said that the complainant had given an interview to another publication expressing his "shock" and "abject disappointment" at being voted off; this contrasted with the complainant's assertion that he was not, and never was, adversely affected. The publication questioned the accuracy of the complainant's letter of complaint and requested that the Committee decline to adjudicate on this basis.
6. The publication said that it had been notified by a well-informed source that the complainant was house hunting in New Zealand and that he was "crushed" at his exit from the programme. The publication emphasised that the claims in the article were attributed to the source and that the complainant's publicist had confirmed the accuracy of the two key aspects of the article, that the house was up for sale and that the complainant planned to spend some of the year in New Zealand. The publication said that the complainant's publicist's denial that he was down contradicted its source. It highlighted that no representative would admit to their client being in a negative state of mind in the circumstances, and questioned how the witnesses who made statements could be in a position to know what the complainant was feeling at the time. The publication said that it was irrelevant that he had been planning to move for some time, as he had not moved in this time; the complainant had not disputed that he was actively searching for New Zealand properties. Further, despite the complainant's representative not providing an official response to the publication, it had included the publicist's denial of the sources claims.
7. Notwithstanding its position that there was no breach of the Code, the publication offered to publish a clarification on page 2 in print in its Corrections and Clarifications box and on the Corrections and Clarifications page of its website, with a link appearing on the home page for 24 hours. The publication suggested the following wording:
An article headlined ‘I’M A CELEB KIWI!’ (6 Jan) reported that Noel Edmonds had put his house in Bristol up for sale and was planning to move to New Zealand. We are happy to clarify that the house was put up for sale before he went into the jungle, and he says he has always had plans to live in New Zealand for part of the year. We apologise for any upset caused.
8. The complainant highlighted that the previous article referenced by the publication was published weeks before article under complaint, yet the terms used to describe the complainant's state of mind were in the present tense; that he had been "down" some weeks before was irrelevant. In any case, the complainant did not consider being "down" as being synonymous with the terms used to describe his state of mind in the article and disputed that the publication had been informed by a source.
9. The publication rejected the complainant's offer of a clarification and asked for IPSO's Complaints Committee to adjudicate.
Relevant Code Provisions
10. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.
iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.
iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
Findings of the Committee
11. The publication requested that the Committee decline to adjudicate on the ground that the complainant's letter of complaint was inaccurate, as it was contradicted by previous comments the complainant had made to a national newspaper. The Committee considered that the principal complaint concerned a dispute over whether the published claims were inaccurate or misleading in light of comments which had previously been made by the complainant on the same subject matter. As the complainant disputed that the published claims had accurately reflected his previous comments, the Committee declined the publication's request not to adjudicate.
12. The article presented a number of claims which were clearly attributed to the publication's source; the claims were not reported as undisputed fact. The Committee could not make a finding about the complainant's state of mind at the time of publication of the article, but it was not in dispute that the complainant had previously voiced his shock and abject disappointment at being voted off the programme to a national newspaper which had reported his reaction in an earlier report. Whilst the Committee noted the complainant’s position that he had intended to move to New Zealand and had put his house up for sale before participating in the programme, in light of the comments previously made by the complainant, the Committee did not find that the publication’s presentation of the claims about his reaction to being voted off the programme was misleading. However, a newspaper cannot necessarily rely upon previously published reports in order to meet its obligation to take care not to publish inaccurate information. The Committee noted that the publication had also contacted the complainant's representative for comment, prior to publication, and had adequately set out the nature of the claims which it intended to publish. The complainant's position that he denied the source's claims, including the claim that he was moving to New Zealand as a result of his exit from the programme, was included in the article. Readers would, therefore, understand that the claims had been made by an unnamed source and that they were disputed by the complainant. For these reasons, the Committee was satisfied that the publication had complied with its duty to take care not to publish inaccurate information, but welcomed the publication's offer to publish a clarification. There was no breach of Clause 1.
13. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial action required
Date complaint received by IPSO: 06/01/2019
Date decision issued: 23/05/2019
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