· Decision of the Complaints Committee 01765-14 Wishart v Daily Express
Summary of complaint
Summary of complaint
1. James Wishart complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Express had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Britain to face Arctic winter as mild autumn triggers polar gales and heavy snow”, published on Express.co.uk on 28 October 2014, and an article headlined “Polar Vortex warning: Latest winter weather models show UK faces months of heavy snow”, published on Express.co.uk on 12 November 2014.
2. Both articles reported on long term weather forecasts that had been made for the winter of 2014/2015, and included claims that the UK was forecast to have unusually heavy snowfall and low temperatures. The 12 November article explained that forecasters feared that an “unprecedented combination of low pressure, above-average rainfall and a freak polar vortex will come together in a perfect storm of misery for Winter 2014”.
3. The complainant said that weather forecasts were untrue, and that the articles were misleading and contained false information. He said that there is no solid evidence that the UK will be affected by a “polar vortex” or very bad storms, and the Met Office long-term outlook did not indicate that there would be a polar vortex or extreme weather. He also referred to a blog post from the Met Office news team, which stated that recent claims that the UK would have the coldest winter on record in 2014/2015 were not based on information from the Met Office. The blog post also noted that there were articles claiming that the Met Office were forecasting the wettest winter in 30 years; it said that this was not the case, and the claims appeared to be a misunderstanding of its three-month outlook for contingency planners.
4. The newspaper said that the claims in the articles were not presented as conclusive, but as the predictions of some forecasters and experts. The 12 November article acknowledged that “not all models agree” and that “the Met Office outlook paints a less chilly picture”. The article went on to report the comments of a Met Office spokesman who provided an overview of its three-month outlook. The newspaper denied that the articles gave the impression that a polar vortex or an arctic winter was a certainty.
Relevant Code Provisions
5. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published. In cases involving the Regulator, prominence should be agreed with the Regulator in advance.
iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
Findings of the Committee
6. Weather forecasts are predictive by their nature, and long-term weather forecasts are well-known to be particularly uncertain. The articles did not suggest that the severe winter weather was a certainty, but that it was the prediction of some forecasters, using certain weather models.
7. Whilst the Committee noted the complainant’s concern that the articles contained forecasts which were at variance with the long-term outlook provided by the Met Office, it was not suggested that the forecasts concerned had been made by the Met Office, or that they had been derived from information provided by the Met Office. The 12 November article had made clear that the Met Office three-month outlook did not make the same predictions. The fact that the Met Office long-term outlook differed from the forecasts presented did not constitute grounds for establishing that the publication had failed to take care over the accuracy of the articles, or that the articles contained significantly inaccurate or misleading information.
8. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 12/11/2014Date decision issued: 13/02/2015 Back to ruling listing