Resolution Statement – 00396-21 Khan v Birmingham Mail
Summary of Complaint
1. Asaf Khan complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Birmingham Mail breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “'Very few in one of city's worst hit areas vaccinated'”, published on 9th January 2021.
2. The article reported on uptake of the Covid-19 vaccine in Lozells and that “HARDLY anyone in Lozells has received a Covid-19 vaccine, even though it is consistently one of Birmingham’s worst hit areas”. It stated that “local research” had shown that only one GP practice had received doses of the Pfizer vaccine but that there were plans to open another location as the vaccination programme continued. The article also reported on a survey conducted by a local councillor that “nine out of ten [residents in Lozells] have neither been called for a vaccine nor are even aware of anyone being called for a vaccine”.
3. The article also appeared online in substantially the same format under the headline “Frustration as vaccine 'yet to reach Covid hotspot Lozells'”.
4. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) because there were tweets that he said suggested that more than one GP practice had received doses of the Pfizer vaccine at the time the article was published. The complainant also provided a spreadsheet that listed the GP practices in Lozells that were participating in the Covid-19 vaccination programme and showed to which Primary Care Networks (PCNs) each GP practice belonged. He said that the article had only focused on those practices within one PCN and hadtherefore overlooked the other PCN’s that existed within Lozells with regards to the claim about vaccine avaiability.
5. The complainant also said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 because of the nature of the research which formed the basis for the claim that “Research carried out among elders and families in Lozells reveals hardly anyone has yet been called for vaccine”. The complainant said that this research had been conducted by a local councillor who had sent a link to a survey to his WhatsApp contacts. The sample size was small – only 105 people had been asked – and anonymous, meaning that it could not be certain how many people in the most at-risk categories had been included in this survey.
6. The publication said it did not accept that the article had breached Clause 1. They explained that they had been made aware of concerns that few elderly people had been called to receive a vaccine by a local councillor. Subsequently, the reporter had contacted a PCN Hub directly to ask about the vaccination programme in light of the councillor's concerns. The reporter had specifically asked if they could provide data of how many people living in Lozells had received the vaccine. The publication said that a spokesperson for the West Birmingham and Black Country Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) had responded and that this response had been included in the article. The article had reported that “the Modality Primary Care Network (which includes a GP practice in Lozells) went live in Wave 1 and they have vaccinated 'a proportion' of their over 80s. She said a further site which covers Lozells is preparing to go live in the next few days, with more details to follow”. The publication said it was reasonable to rely on information provided by the relevant CCG.
7. The publication said it also did not accept that there had been a breach of Clause 1 regarding the complainant’s concern about participation levels in the “local research”. The publication said that it had sought clarification on the matter raised from a verified and reliable authority, as outlined above, and it was reasonable for the publication to rely on the information provided. They said it was also worth noting that information concerning GP/PCN/ward/area level data about vaccination uptake and numbers vaccinated had still not been made available, despite pressure from local and national politicians and media organisations.
Relevant Code Provisions
8. 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.
9. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
10. During IPSO’s investigation the complainant proposed the following footnote correction as a way to resolve their complaint:
“A previous version of this article stated that 'Hardly anyone in Lozells had received a vaccine, according to local research.' We are happy to clarify that the local research consisted of a survey sent by Cllr Zaffar rather than the NHS, asking if residents had, or knew someone who had, been called to get the vaccine. It was completed by 105 people and was not necessarily answered by only older residents. The petition data was anonymous."
The subheading would also be changed to say:
“Research carried out in an anonymous petition among 105 people in Lozells reveals hardly anyone has yet been called for vaccine - but health chiefs say more is coming”.
11. The publication confirmed they would be willing to publish this correction and the amendmnents.
12. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.
Date complaint received: 12/01/2021
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 27/04/2021Back to ruling listing