Resolution Statement: Complaint 02280-14 A man v Canterbury Times
Summary of complaint
1. A man complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Canterbury Times website had published an article, headlined “‘Fracking in Kent is unsafe’ says EU Commission adviser”, on 20 November 2014, that raised a breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
2. The complainant was concerned that the article had misleadingly referred to Mike Hill as an “EU Commission adviser”. In fact, Mr Hill was a member of a Technical Working Group reviewing EU rules on the management of extractive waste, which was managed by the Commission; he had no right to speak on behalf of the Commission.
3. The newspaper said Mr Hill had been billed as an EU adviser by the university hosting the event at which he had spoken, and Mr Hill appeared to have introduced himself as an EU adviser on many occasions. As soon as it became clear that Mr Hill had been involved with the Commission, but not to the extent he had claimed, the online article was amended.
Relevant Code Provisions
4. 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.
5. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore instigated an investigation into the matter.
6. The newspaper said it had already published the following clarification, under the heading “Fracking point”, on page three of its print edition:
“CANTERBURY: In last week’s article ‘Accusations and walk-out during fracking debate’, Mike Hill was described as a campaigner. This followed enquiries about Mr Hill’s status on the panel as an EU Commission advisor. A spokesman for the EU Commission said: ‘Mr Hill cannot speak in the name of the Commission. He is an active expert on shale gas, and a member of a Technical Working Group working on the review of EU rules on the management of extractive waste, but as a representative of the civil society. He is not currently advising the Commission per se, he is representing stakeholders’ views in this Technical Working Group managed by the Commission,’ added the spokesman.”
7. It also offered to append the following footnote to the online article:
“In our original article Mike Hill was described as an expert adviser to the EU. Following an enquiry into the validity of this status, the Canterbury Times contacted the EU Commission. A spokesman for the Commission said:
“Mr Hill cannot speak in the name of the Commission. He is an active expert in shale gas, and a member of a Technical Working Group working on the review of EU rules on the management of extractive waste, but as a representative of the civil society. He is not currently advising the Commission per se, he is representing stakeholders’ views in this Technical Working Group managed by the Commission.”
The Commission has received advice from Mr Hill via his role as one of the members of the Technical Working Group but the spokesman said Mr Hill is not an official EU adviser and not entitled to use such a title.”
8. The complainant said the publication of the clarification and footnote would bring the matter to a satisfactory resolution.
9. 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: 10/12/2014
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 30/01/2015Back to ruling listing