01390-14 Dalton v The Times Literary Supplement

Decision: No breach - after investigation

Decision of the Complaints Committee 01390-14 Dalton v The Times Literary Supplement

Summary of complaint 

1. Dr Ruth Dalton complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that a photograph published on the front cover of the Times Literary Supplement’s 3 October 2014 edition, and an article summarising the issue’s contents on page 2, had breached Clause 3 (Privacy) and Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The complaint was made with the consent of the complainant’s daughter. 

2. The complainant was specifically concerned about the front cover of the magazine, which included a photograph of a number of young women celebrating receiving their exam results. One of the young women in the photograph was the complainant’s daughter, and her name was also published on page 2 of the magazine. The complainant said that the photograph was taken when the young women were aged 15 and 16 – they are now adults - and was re-published without their permission being sought first. She was concerned that there might have been a sexist motivation behind the choice of photograph and objected to her daughter’s identification – both through the photograph and by name in the accompanying article – in this context. 

3. The newspaper said that the complaint was primarily one of taste and judgement. It noted that the photograph had been taken two years previously and published in a national newspaper at the time; there was no suggestion that that publication had breached the Editors’ Code. It said that the photographer had sought the consent of the school authorities and argued that, as the young women in the photograph were now all adults, Clause 6 would no longer apply in any case. It said that re-publication of a photograph which was willingly posed for at the time of capture could not breach the terms of Clause 3. Lastly, it said that the freedom of the magazine to use publicly available images to address serious topics of social significance outweighed the right of any individual to control the use of wholly innocuous photographs originally taken and published with their consent. It did not accept that the use of the photograph had been sexist; it had chosen to name the young women specifically in order to recognise that they were individuals. 

4. However, the newspaper removed the image and the women’s names from the online article, and also removed the image from its archive. It further liaised with the picture agency and arranged that the agency would remove the photograph from its own library, along with other photographs from the same set. 

Relevant Code Provisions

5. Clause 3 (Privacy) 

i)  Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications. 

Clause 6 (Children) 

i)   Young people should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion. 

iii)  Pupils must not be approached or photographed at school without the permission of the school authorities. 

Public interest 

iv)  The Regulator will consider the extent to which material is already in the public domain, or will become so 

Findings of the Committee

6. The young women photographed, including the complainant’s daughter, were depicted celebrating receiving their exam results outside their school. The photograph had not been taken in a private place, and did not show the women engaged in any intrinsically private activity; indeed, they were evidently posing for the photograph. While the complainant was concerned that consent should have been sought in order to re-publish the photograph, especially in circumstances where it was used to illustrate an article about sexism, the photograph had not revealed any private information when it was originally taken and published, and its re-publication did not intrude into the complainant’s daughter’s privacy. While the Committee noted the complainant’s objections to its re-use in this context, it did not consider that this re-use was gratuitously embarrassing or humiliating such that it constituted a breach of Clause 3. Further, the inclusion of the women’s names did not represent an intrusion into their private lives, although it was acknowledged that they had not been included with the initial publication of the photograph in 2012. There was no breach of Clause 3. 

7. The Committee understood that the photograph had been taken with the permission of the school authorities, and no complaint had been received at the time of its first publication. As the complainant’s daughter was now 18 years of age, the publication of the photograph could not have intruded into her time at school. There was no breach of Clause 6. 

8. While the complainant had wider concerns that the use of the photograph was sexist and sought to commodify women, these concerns did not constitute a breach of the Code. 

Conclusions

9. The complaint was not upheld. 

Remedial Action Required

N/A 

Date complaint received: 20/10/2014

Date decision issued: 03/02/2015

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