Decision of the Complaints Committee 02343-19 Harvey v Bristol Post
Summary of complaint
1. Francis Harvey complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Bristol Post breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Growing Pride as celebration moves home”, published on 4 March 2019
2. The article reported that Bristol Pride celebrations were relocating following an increase in popularity. It reported that the event had grown “in the ten years since it began”, when the celebrations originally featured a march through the city centre ending with a festival on College Green. However, the article said that it had since moved to a bigger venue, and last year took over the Millennium Square as well. It quoted the CEO of Bristol Pride, who said “It’s been an incredible ten years”.
3. The article appeared online under the headline “Bristol Pride moving to new site and will double in size”, published on 1 March 2019. It was longer than the print article, and went into detail about the acts which were booked to perform at this year’s festival and about the event’s sponsors. This article also stated that “This year is the tenth anniversary for the current Pride team”.
4. The complainant said that it was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) to report that Bristol Pride was only ten years old. He said that in fact, smaller gay pride festivals or events had occurred in Bristol in previous decades; for this reason, it was also inaccurate to describe the man quoted in the article as the event’s founder. The complainant said that sources first mentioned a Bristol Pride occurring in the summer of 1977, and this was revived in 1992. He said that there was also a Bristol Mardi Gras (Pride) festival which folded in 2007, and provided a photograph of an event held in 2005
5. The complainant also said that nevertheless, 2019 was the 9th rather that the 10th anniversary of the current Bristol Pride celebrations, as the first revamped festival occurred in 2010. He also said that for the past 9 years, the event was usually held in Castle Park and only took place on College Green in 2012, and 2018 was not the first time it spread to Millennium Square.
6. The publication did not accept that the article was inaccurate. It said that the article was based on Bristol Pride’s own website, which said “It’s our 10th anniversary and we’ve got big plans”. It said that the online article made clear that this was the 10th anniversary for the current team, and on receipt of the complaint, the publication contacted the CEO of Bristol Pride, who confirmed that this was the case, and his team were not claiming to celebrate any anniversary of the beginning of LGBT movements in Bristol. Nevertheless, he said that the 1977 event was in protest at a blasphemy trial, and although it reflected pride in gay identity, it was not widely known as a Pride event and subsequent events and festivals were ad hoc and irregular; although various LGBT venues had organised events, there was no central city-wide Pride until the current team’s involvement in 2009, and the festival in 2010. In addition, he said that there was no one definition or trademark for Pride, and his team had never claimed exclusive ownership of the term.
7. The publication accepted that the print version of the article omitted the sentence “for the current Pride team” but did not accept that this represented a significant inaccuracy. However, it offered to print the following clarification on page 2 of the print edition of the publication, as a gesture of goodwill, in resolution of the complaint. This was rejected by the complainant.
“Our article ‘Growing Pride as celebration moves home’
published on 4 March 2019, reported that the festival will be celebrating its
10th anniversary this year between 29 Jun and 14 July. We are happy to clarify
that this celebration marks the 10th anniversary of the festival as run by its
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.
Findings of the Committee
9. The Committee recognised that the term Pride is used to denote a wide range of events and celebrations; in this case, the article was referring to the organisation named Bristol Pride, which was celebrating its 10th anniversary. The question for the Committee was whether the article took care to avoid giving the misleading impression that this organisation’s celebrations marked the beginning of all LGBT festivities in Bristol.
10. In this case, the article was entitled to report Bristol Pride’s claim that it was celebrating its 10th anniversary, and took care not to give any misleading impression that the celebrations representing an anniversary of all Pride-related activities in Bristol; the article referred to “the Bristol Pride celebration” as an event and single entity, and quoted its CEO. The article did not give any misleading impression that Bristol Pride denoted all LGBT events in Bristol and it was not misleading or inaccurate to describe the CEO of Bristol Pride as its “founder”. In addition, the Committee noted that the online version referred to the 10th anniversary as one for “the current Pride team”. There was no breach of Clause 1(i), and no inaccuracies requiring correction under Clause 1(ii).
11. The article had accurately reported Bristol Pride’s own website which said that it was celebrating its 10th anniversary, and so there was no breach of Clause 1(i). Furthermore, where it was not in dispute that this was the 10th event since the first celebration in 2009, or that Bristol Pride had relocated due to its expansion after occupying various sites around Bristol, any inaccuracy on these points did not create any significantly misleading impression of the overall story, and thus did not require correction under Clause 1(ii).
12. The complaint was not upheld
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received by IPSO: 12/03/2019
Date complaint issued: 10/05/2019
Independent Complaints Reviewer
The complainant complained to the Independent Complaints Reviewer about the process followed by IPSO in handling this complaint. The Independent Complaints Reviewer decided that the process was not flawed and did not uphold the request for review.
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