Decision of the Complaints Committee 01243-19 Haycox v The Sunday Times
Summary of complaint
1. Matt Haycox complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Sunday Times breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined, “I’m not back in business, says banned lap-dancing king” published on 3 February 2019.
2. The article reported that the complainant was listed on Companies House as an ‘officer’ of a film company. The article reported that his previous lap dancing business had gone into administration in 2008, and as a result, the complainant had been banned from being a Company Director for 12 years. It stated that a source close to the complainant accepted he should have terminated his membership of the film company, but stated that he played no active part in the business. It went on to report that the complainant was one of three Board members in another business that offered support to entrepreneurs.
3. The article also appeared online and was substantially the same as the print article.
4. The complainant said that the headline was inaccurate, as he was “back in business”, albeit subject to certain legal constraints. He noted that the article accurately reported the new business for entrepreneurs he was involved in, and said that the headline therefore was not supported by the text. He also said that it was inaccurate to report that he was a Board member of this business. While he accepted that he was listed as a board member on the company website, he said readers would understand this to mean that he was a Director, which he was not. He said that the Board referred to on the website was merely an advisory Board.
5. The newspaper did not accept that it had breached the Code. It said that the headline accurately reported the complainant’s positon in relation to his involvement in the film company. It said that the article set out the complainant’s explanation of this, namely that he did not have any current involvement with the company. Therefore the headline was supported by the text. Further, it provided a screenshot of the website of the entrepreneur support business, which showed the complainant’s name, photograph and description of his role under the heading of “Our Board”. Therefore it did not accept it was inaccurate to refer to him as a Board Member.
Relevant Code Provisions
6. 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.
Findings of the Committee
7. The basis for the headline’s assertion that the complainant was “not back in business” was made clear in the article – namely the complainant’s denial that he was involved in the film business of which he was listed as an ‘officer’. The fact that the complainant was actively involved with another, separate business as reported in the article, did not render the headline inaccurate; the headline was supported by the text. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.
8. The complainant accepted that he was listed as a Board Member on the entrepreneur support business’ website. This was accurately reported in the article. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.
9. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial action required
Date complaint received: 04/02/2019
Date decision issued: 29/05/2019
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