· Decision of the Complaints Committee 02626-15 Scott v Bedford Times & Citizen
Summary of complaint
1. Helen Scott complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Bedford Times & Citizen had breached Clause 13 (Financial journalism) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Solar farm could raise £1m for community projects”, published on 11 December 2014.
2. The article reported on plans for a community-run solar farm, Harrold Renewable Energy (HARE), in the local area and outlined some of the potential benefits of the project.
3. The complainant said that one of the directors of HARE is an employee of Johnston Press, the newspaper’s publishing group; she was concerned that he could have worked with the newspaper in the preparation of the article. She said that the employee in question would benefit financially if the plans for the solar farm were successful. The complainant is involved in an opposition group to the solar farm, and so she therefore considered that she was directly affected by the alleged breach of the Code and asked IPSO to consider her complaint on that basis. She said that the opposition group was not asked for comment prior to publication, but when articles criticising the solar farm were published, HARE’s comments were always included.
4. The newspaper explained that the employee who is a director of HARE has no influence over the newspaper’s editorial content, nor of any other newspaper or website within the same publishing group; he works in the marketing and research department. The information for the article had been supplied by HARE following an interview with another director of the organisation, following submission of its planning application. Since publication of the article under complaint, other articles had been published which reported critical views of the solar farm plans; the newspaper believed that its coverage was balanced. It offered to publish a reader’s letter from the complainant in which she could set out the views of her campaign group.
Relevant Code Provisions
5. Clause 13 (Financial journalism)
i) Even where the law does not prohibit it, journalists must not use for their own profit financial information they receive in advance of its general publication, nor should they pass such information to others.
ii) They must not write about shares or securities in whose performance they know that they or their close families have a significant financial interest without disclosing the interest to the editor or financial editor.
iii) They must not buy or sell, either directly or through nominees or agents, shares or securities about which they have written recently or about which they intend to write in the near future.
Findings of the Committee
6. There was no suggestion that the journalist who had written the article was in any way connected with HARE, or had a financial interest in the organisation. The concern that an employee in the publishing group’s marketing and research department had provided information for the article, which was purely speculation, did not raise any issues under the Code. In any case, the article under complaint was a news item, and did not encourage readers to buy or sell shares or securities. The terms of Clause 13 were not engaged.
7. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 09/04/2015
Date decision issued: 26/05/2015Back to ruling listing