Decision of the Complaints Committee 03108-14 Aston v Belfast Telegraph
Summary of complaint
1. Brenna Aston complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Belfast Telegraph had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Sisters making a boob by bullying us into equality”, published in print and online on 19 December 2014.
2. The article was an opinion piece, commenting on modern feminism. It made reference to the No More Page 3 campaign, stating that its supporters wanted to “ban boobs” from The Sun newspaper. It included a brief section of lyrics from a song it said was released by the campaign, with the writer commenting that such songs were not an effective way to promote feminism.
3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate. No More Page 3 did not want to “ban” page 3; they lobbied for the voluntary removal of the feature. Furthermore, the song lyrics included in the article were not those of the Christmas campaign song of 2014, as stated, rather they were from a different song written in support of the campaign.
4. The newspaper did not accept that the article was significantly inaccurate. It said that the issue of whether or not No More Page 3 wanted to “ban” the feature was a matter of semantics, stating that the organisation strenuously campaigned for its removal, and that its founder had been quoted as saying “we can’t have naked women in a newspaper”. It said that the organisation was clearly calling for an executive decision to remove, i.e. ban, pictures of naked women. It accepted that the writer of the piece had mistakenly quoted lyrics from a 2013, rather than 2014, campaign song. However, it noted that the songs were highly similar in style, content and purpose.
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.
iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
Findings of the Committee
6. The article was a comment piece, addressing what the writer perceived to be failings in the feminist movement. It included a brief reference to the aims of No More Page 3, a campaign the publication of photographs of topless models in The Sun newspaper. The Committee acknowledged that the term “ban”, was a sensitive one, carrying implications for the suppression of freedom of expression. However, as a passing reference in the context of the comment piece under complaint, it was satisfied that the phrase “ban boobs” would not materially mislead readers as to the aims of No More Page 3.
7. A brief section of lyrics from a campaign song was included in the article, as background for the journalist’s critique of such songs as a means of promoting feminism. It was unfortunate that the lyrics included were not those of 2014 song Now’s The Time, but came from another song, written in support of the campaign. However, given the context, and the fact that the aims of the two songs were similar, the error did not constitute a significant inaccuracy meriting correction.
8. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 20/12/2015Date decision issued: 02/03/2015 Back to ruling listing